The IDF attack on Gaza stems from the convergence of everyone’s interests. Kadima and Avodah would have lost the elections handsomely if Hamas had continued pounding Israel with rockets at the December rate of dozens a day. A successful campaign in Gaza seriously improves the leftists’ chances in the elections. Fatah stood to lose its president, as his term expires in two weeks; defeating Hamas’ military is Fatah’s only way to continue Abbas’ rule beyond his legal term. Hamas failed to deliver prosperity to Gaza, and military success against the Zionists is its only way to remain popular. Syria needs to show its strength in a proxy war with Israel before launching direct talks with her. Egypt loves to show the West that no one else can sustain local peace: once the Egyptian-mediated Israeli-Hamas talks failed, war ensued. Iran needs to embroil Israel in a Lebanon-type military debacle in order to distract the Jews from attacking Natanz.

The IDF operation shows that people don’t learn from their mistakes; not Jews, at any rate. We had exactly the same problem in the two Lebanese wars: to conquer is easy, but to maintain the quiet is impossible. Israel can bomb everything into dust, but guerrillas lurk in devastated buildings. They have the advantages of surprise, human shields, and human rights. Most of all, they have time on their side: in a few days and probably immediately, the world will start pressing Israel to agree to a ceasefire. Israeli Arabs have already erupted in riots. Hamas will come out from its tunnels and claim victory. The US-trained Fatah battalions will prove powerless against the lawless Hamas guerrillas—or transform into a lawless bunch themselves.

An Israeli attack can destroy Hamas’ shacks. What about PIJ, PLFP, and PRC, who don’t have many buildings to retaliate against? There are militant clans such as the Dughmushes which span residential neighborhoods; conceivably, an army concerned with human rights is powerless against them.
There are several ways to defeat deeply entrenched guerrillas. The most historically common and reliable way is depopulating their living-area; the Israeli government has not the guts to do that.

Then there is the police way: occupy the place and start hunting down the militants. Sharon did that successfully when he was Gaza’s military governor. A police operation is inherently long-term, and requires full control of the territory and tens of thousands of agents. In short, the disengagement should be reversed, Gaza re-occupied, and Jewish soldiers endangered daily in urban combat. The Israeli government has no guts for that, either. Leftists believe everything has a solution, and are loathe to admit that some situations take centuries to settle down.

Also, there’s the SLA way, or quislings’. Israel propped up the South Lebanon Army to do the most dirty work against the Palestinians. But in Gaza we lack natural associates—every group is against us. If Jews prop up Fatah, Palestinian voters won’t forget their collaboration; a short-term victory would spell long-term defeat for Fatah. Even if Fatah fights and—unrealistically—destroys Hamas, it cannot touch PLFP and PRC, which are PLO-type secular nationalist fighters.

Machiavelli also discussed the theoretical option of winning an enemy to your side with goodness, but I cannot imagine what Jewish goodness short of sailing off to Canada would placate Hamas.

Whether Hezbollah would support Hamas with concurrent attacks is a matter of guesswork. Probably not, as Syria doesn’t want to antagonize Israel too much, and Lebanese government—which is now one with Hezbollah—is afraid of massive retaliation. Palestinian terrorist groups in Lebanon can launch rockets at Israel sporadically.

The Israeli operation in Gaza will confer international legitimacy on Hamas the way the Second Lebanese War conferred it on Hezbollah. From a terrorist group, Hamas becomes a recognized combatant, and thus a legal army in its own right. Today was the first time that the prime minister’s office confirmed that a ceasefire with Hamas had in fact existed. Before then, Israel denied any formal agreement with Hamas, and referred to it as an understanding only.
Gazan civilians, largely immune from Israeli attacks, have no reason to rescind their electoral support for Hamas.

In military terms, the operation is very far from being successful yet. A thousand-plus Palestinian casualties have already provoked the world’s outcry, even though the collateral deaths have been remarkably few. Destroying all the security compounds in Gaza hardly diminished Hamas’ arsenals—the Muslim group would be stupid to store its weapons inside the obvious targets of Israeli attacks. The demolition of all the police installations in Gaza increases the chaos and works against Hamas’ year-long attempt to instill any kind of order in the unruly territory.

After the first shock, Palestinian guerrillas will re-group and ready themselves for the IDF invasion. At best, the army won’t repeat its glaring errors of 2006—such as sending tanks into urban combat without helicopter cover—and will sap the road before the advancing tanks. But Hamas has stocked significant arsenals of anti-aircraft rockets, which are useful against Israeli helicopters. IDF didn’t equip most of its tanks with active defense, and they remain vulnerable to cheap RPGs.

Hamas will increase its rocket attacks on Israel, and more importantly, their precision and deadliness. Today’s rocket-toll of ten casualties is very high by the standards of the ceasefire period. As IDF pushes rocket launching squads away from the border, they will start using deadlier Grad-type missiles.
As the IAF runs out of targets in Gaza, Olmert’s government will have to declare an interim victory and accept a ceasefire, or invade Gaza. The last option is not election-friendly for Kadima because of the potential personnel losses and absence of a clear-cut victory. A large-scale invasion of Gaza is unlikely: Israel will stick to the discredited shock-and-awe tactics.

Alternatively, Down with Gaza.