At some point very soon, Israel will be approaching the point of diminishing returns. Finding fewer Hamas terrorists in an ever-expanding labyrinth of “civilians,” military action will begin to result more in global condemnation and eroding public support in the U.S. than further attrition of Hamas terrorists. If Israel thought the world would at least in this round distinguish the creepy and murderous Hamas from the PA, which worked hard to obtain the veneer of legitimate governance, it was somewhat mistaken. PA or Hamas, the world seems to care little — they are both purported victims of Jewish aggression and that is all ye need to know.
At some magical point, the IDF — 24, 48, 72 hours from now? — will begin to withdraw. What will it have accomplished? Not the destruction of Hamas, which for the most part it wisely did not boast was its real objective. Instead, it established a terrible asymmetrical equation — that in response to unilateral aggression by Hamas rocketeers, Israel rather easily could in a matter of days inflict horrendous material and manpower losses to Hamas at very little loss to the IDF. And, more importantly, it could demonstrate an ability easily to hurt Hamas again and again at almost anytime that terrorist organization wishes to renew its tit-for-tat rocket war.
True, the 2006 Lebanese fighting was not a win — too much Israeli braggadocio and inept PR given the drawn-out and often tardy military response. It did, however, inflict on Hezbollah terrible material and human costs. In the subsequent two years Nasrallah has not been willing to reengage the IDF. In an imperfect world, that is something.
Hamas has learned that for all its adept theater and victimization, its European megaphones and American sympathizers, it still was left largely hanging alone by the Arab capitals as it was systematically attrited. After the Israeli responses, note that Fatah of the early 2000s and Hezbollah after 2006, despite the rhetoric, understood that their aggression would translate into the death of key leaders, the ruin of infrastructure, and the community’s knowledge that, in cowardly fashion, terrorists deliberately used innocents as shields.
Was there anything new in this latest round of endless six-decade fighting? Sort of. Hamas was isolated and learned that Arab authoritarians worried more about Iranian influence than Arab solidarity. Suicide bombing did not resurface in successful fashion, perhaps due to both exhaustion and the barrier, and its replacement strategy of rocketeering earned a terrible response that proved unsustainable for Hamas. Tanking oil prices are hurting Iran geopolitically, as its impoverished citizens wonder why they are doing without at home in order to provide scarce cash to go up in smoke in Lebanon and Gaza.
Again, what is Israel’s ultimate goal? To decouple Hamas and Gaza from Arab solidarity, to strengthen in comparison the PA, to discredit somewhat the value of being an Iranian proxy, to reestablish credibility in the IDF and to curb (though unfortunately not end entirely) rocket barrages into Israel, and to establish a future paradigm of overwhelming response to Hamas provocations.
What next? I think just as suicide bombing gave way to rockets, so too rockets will be followed by back-to-the-drawing board reappraisals. Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iranian surrogates will have to try something newer and deadlier, maybe guided missiles or unconventional weapons. So they will continue as usual in their accustomed terrorism in anticipation of Iran soon getting the bomb and giving its terrorist appendages the sort of cover that Pakistan provides anti-Indian terrorists who are based on its soil.
Depressing, but that’s the world we live in — and the world that awaits President Obama.