Israel employs a classic strategy against Gaza. Beaufre’s third option, it was practiced successfully by the USSR: military, economic, and diplomatic pressure combined with a threat of force. Why doesn’t it work here? Very simply, because Israel actually employs none of the above.

The effort to isolate Hamas diplomatically failed. The terrorist group enjoys formal relations with Russia, Syria, Iran, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. The EU also tacitly recognizes it and negotiates on the level of advisers. Israel herself is in a constant communication with Hamas.

Economic pressure on Gaza is akin to sanctions on any slum that depends on subsidies rather than economic activity. Whatever meager productive income Israel curtailed in Gaza through border closures, the UNRWA and Iran have compensated for through subsidies. Gaza’s life is close to paradise in that it is free: no taxes, no need to work, no responsibilities.

Israel emasculated its military pressure. By limiting attacks to the guerrillas, how can we expect to exert pressure on the population generally? Israel managed to temporarily turn the Lebanese against Hezbollah by considerable civilian destruction in 2006; Hezbollah recovered its public image by paying for the damages with Iranian money.

Israel’s threat of force is non-existent. Made non-credible by procrastination during the seven years of rocket attacks from Gaza and by disengagement, it was not very dangerous in the first place. Every Gazan with a TV set knows the scenario of Israeli invasion: pinpointed strikes, urban fights with heavy Jewish casualties and terrorist heroics, and speedy withdrawal under the pressure of international condemnation.

Israel tried limited war in Gaza but forgot that limited war can only succeed if backed by credible threat of an all-out war, such as the Chinese operations against India near Tibet. Once Gazans realize they are not at risk of a Dresden-type carpet-bombing campaign, they have no reason to submit to Israel’s demands for regime change.

In tactical terms, Gaza is one big obstacle. There are no pockets of least resistance to be invaded and exploited, no seams between the enemy armies, no home front to be terrorized, nor any soft industrial underbelly to be destroyed. Gaza is a densely settled urban area seething with terrorists. No sensible commander would bring his troops there, unless for a very short assault before the police descend on the place for routine work. But that would mean re-occupying Gaza. Short punitive raids would have been a nicer option, but small Israel cannot sustain hostilities between the raids: even sporadic fire from Gaza would disrupt industry and investments in the Negev, Ashkelon, and Ashdod.

Gaza cannot be modeled on Fallujah. It’s not even certain that the calm would continue. The Iraqi town had many reasons to cooperate with the Americans and no reason to oppose them. The Americans don’t intend to take Iraq’s land. They brought money and perhaps some freedom. They tried to establish safety. Not so with Gaza, whose residents remember full well that Jews took their land. The peace process currently in the offing won’t return Gazans to their previous homes in Haifa, Yaffo, and other places in Israel proper. Hamas, rather than Israel or her collaborators from Fatah, provided a semblance of law and order in Gaza. People there feel natural loyalty to Hamas, which honestly works and fights for their benefit.

Moderation is hardly forthcoming in Gaza. The Palestinian bourgeoisie can form a party and even gain significant support, but who would fight the militants, from PIJ radicals to the 80,000 well-armed sinecure holders in the Fatah police? Palestinian society has not developed the level of law obedience required for moderation. Arafat’s example shows that even a strongman cannot afford moderation politically.

Hamas wages an immense propaganda campaign which Israelis mistake for a terrorist war. Following Mao’s classics, Hamas “fights not merely for the sake of fighting, but in order to conduct propaganda among the masses.” The longer Israel fights Hamas, the more PR points Hamas scores.

Israel destroyed the Fatah-PLO in Lebanon, but Peres brought the powerless Arafat from Tunisia. After the PLO failed to dance to Israel’s tune, she nurtured Hamas as an alternative to Fatah. Hamas is an honest organization, decent in its own sense, which seeks the Palestinian good rather than Israel’s destruction. Incidentally, it’s about the same thing.

Every prime minister of Israel since Rabin had a hand in the rise of Hamas. Disengagement from Gaza sealed the group’s victory, and Sharon, the only successful military governor of Gaza, knew that better than anyone.

Jews have created the monster. No one else can kill it.