Israeli sources: Hamas’s capabilities have hardly been dented

posted at 6:42 pm on December 29, 2008 by Allahpundit

So says Time magazine. I want to believe it’s disinformation, aimed maybe at buying Israel more time to do the job before the inevitable UN demands for ceasefire begin, but would they really choose a line of spin that echoes their chief failure in the 2006 war with Hezbollah — that they’ve acted to disarm the jihadist menace, but haven’t?

Though the rocket count was down from previous days (and well short of the 200 that Israeli officials believe Hamas is able to fire), Israeli military sources tell TIME that they believe Hamas’ military capabilities have hardly been dented. And while Israeli strikes killed a senior Hamas police official on the first morning of the assault and an Islamic Jihad military commander in Khan Younis on the third day, those same Israeli military officials believe that Hamas’ military commanders have mostly survived the first 60 hours or so and are in hiding.

Indeed, while Israelis support the military offensive by an overwhelming majority of 81%, according to a poll by Israel’s Channel 10 television station, only 6% believe it will end Hamas’ rocket attacks. Palestinians, meantime, have been buoyed by an outpouring of support and sympathy across the Arab world.

If ending the rocket attacks isn’t feasible, I’m not sure what the military objective of the operation is aside from a general reminder to Iran et al. that this is what happens when you get on the IAF’s bad side. Yossi Klein Halevi at TNR sees two objectives potentially: A limited operation designed to force Hamas into conceding greater Israeli supervision of the weapons tunnels between Gaza and Egypt, or an all-out war to dislodge Hamas, which is both unlikely and opens up the knotty question of who would take over. Roggio counters that air power alone won’t work and that the only way realistically to end the attacks is to reoccupy Gaza, which no one wants; as such, the only option is for Olmert to “act decisively” with a ground assault designed to accomplish … what, I’m not sure. Presumably it would involve all senior Hamas leaders being captured or killed, although as Roggio himself acknowledges, Hezbollah “won” the 2006 war simply by surviving intact. If Hamas is still in control of the strip after the IDF ground operation ends, I assume that’ll be received as a prestige-enhancing “victory” too. As Goldfarb says elsewhere at the Standard:

The problem with this, however, is that if Israel doesn’t finish the job, Hamas may accrue some benefit from the additional suffering of the Palestinian people. Hamas doesn’t care whether the residents of Gaza live or die, whether they prosper or starve, it cares only that the Arab world and Iran support the organization with money and weapons, that the Palestinian people are united in their hatred of Israel, and that a moderate Palestinian faction is unable to pursue peace. If Hamas is left as the dominant force in Gaza, then their tactical defeat may also be a strategic victory — as was the case for Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The only way Hamas wouldn’t still exist as the dominant force is if, as mentioned, Israel reoccupies or if Gazans themselves essentially sided with Israel by overthrowing Hamas (assuming they’re capable of doing so). Anyone see either of those as likely, especially after a punishing ground operation?

I don’t mean to be too eeyore-ish. I’m just wondering what a win will look like here. To boost the spirits, a shot of Gillermania from Hot Air’s favorite (ex-)ambassador.


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