In the Lebanon war, Israel lacked political objectives, thus the Winograd report asserts that the army led the government. The IDF staff knew what should be done on a tactical level, but the lack of strategic planning doomed the war to indecision. I argued that in July 2006.

Hamas plays the northern scenario in the south and piggybacks on Hezbollah’s every move: digs tunnels, brings dozens of tons of explosives, launches massive numbers of cheap primitive missiles, and openly trains its quasi-government militia. Just like Hezbollah, Hamas won the elections and nurtures popular loyalty through welfare programs, the clear and appealing objective of reclaiming Arab land and punishing the Jewish state, and an anti-foreign-influence anti-corruption stance. Hamas and Hezbollah tested Israel’s nerves with low-level violations of cease-fire while hiding behind supportive Arab civilians.

Israel reacts to Hamas just like she reacted to Hezbollah: with a sledgehammer against a sliver. Dead Arab civilians make great advertisements for the guerrillas. In Gaza and Lebanon, Israel fought ostensibly over nothing: Hamas and Hezbollah demanded what Israel had already agreed to – a withdrawal from Arab lands. Hezbollah had only demanded the ridiculously small Shebaa farms and perhaps the Golan Heights, which even the lame hawk Lieberman agreed to return to Syria. Hamas demands Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, which Israel has agreed to long ago.

If Israel withdraws from Shebaa, the Golan Heights, Judea, and Samaria, peace won’t ensue. Hamas and Hezbollah have no reason to abandon the tactics that have proved so effective. If rocket attacks forced Israel to abandon relatively huge territories, then all the more will the continued shelling make Israel transfer East Jerusalem to the Palestinians, especially since they control much of it, anyway. Hamas and Hezbollah have no reason to end the attacks, but will resume them after every Israeli injustice from the closure of her borders to Palestinian migrant workers to prosecution of Arab traitors like Bishara. Israel confronts Hamas and Hezbollah superficially over nothing – things that are already agreed to – but substantially over everything.

Minuscule Israel cannot sustain wars. Even primitive Arab militias shell her cities. Iran and Syria could surely do better than that with their arsenals of mid- and long-range missiles. Israel’s only feasible choice is credible deterrence. Whether the enemy’s demands are sensible or not,doesn’t matter. Israel has to periodically remind her enemies that attacks on her cities are a big no-no. Retaliatory bombing of south Lebanon or Gaza won’t solve the political problem of Israel’s half-hearted withdrawal from the territories. In strategic terms, the IDF’s incursion in Gaza will achieve nothing: Hamas, a popular party, cannot be eradicated with a gentlemanly invasion; only massive, cruel repression of civilians will eradicate popular support for the insurgents. In strategic terms, a military operation in Gaza could drive a lesson back home to Arabs: don’t shell Israel.

The Israeli government resists the invasion of Gaza because of the international pressure to continue the peace process under the fire. Hamas and Hezbollah, faithful to their voters, don’t give way to international pressure, which therefore concentrates on Israel. Foreign governments don’t care about Israeli security, and Israeli rulers value their European contacts and American aid above Jewish interests. The invasion of Gaza would stamp the destruction of Gush Katif as a security error: the settlements provided a security belt for Israel proper, and the army was protecting Israel rather than the settlers. In the garbled political milieu of Israel, brainwashed voters would keep silent about a withdrawal from Judea and Samaria even after the military operation in Gaza, but leftists don’t want to take chances, and so they try to avoid the invasion.

Hamas has overplayed its hand. It’s not a Hezbollah. Hamas lacks a reliable supplier of weapons, such as Syria is for Hezbollah. Gaza’s external borders are short compared to Lebanon’s, and the IDF can substantially close off Hamas’ arms trafficking. Hamas lacks Hebollah’s independent financing such as heroin, and will run out of funds soon after the IDF takes over Gaza. In Lebanon, the IDF relied mostly on army intelligence, but in Gaza, the Shabak will efficiently identify the guerrillas. In Lebanon-2006, the IDF had to do the entire job itself; in Gaza, Israel will have Abu Mazen’s equivalent of the South Lebanon Army, trigger-happy against Hamas members.

The ease of invasion makes it easy to ruin. If the government, satisfied with the immediate result of stopping the rocket attacks, decides to end the invasion without substantially eradicating Hamas, Arabs would claim a victory as they did in Lebanon. Israel should invade Gaza only if she firmly resolves to crush Hamas.