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Agree With Headline Of Article But Diverge On Some of Substance

Reader comment on item: Israel's Strategic Incompetence in Gaza

Submitted by Mark Kalmansohn (United States), Jan 13, 2009 at 14:41

Agree with headline but disagree with most of the analysis. It was Sharon's decision (not Olmert's) to withdraw from Gaza. As PM, Barak at least unmasked Arafat twice, ultimately at Taba. I agree with him that Olmert and Bibi's years as PM were not very successful.

Olmert blew it in the war with Hezbollah in 2006. The problem again may be that,in launching this Gaza operation, Israel had no concrete, critical goals that could be accomplished.

We knew Hamas would not be dislodged from running Gaza. Their military leadership would not be decapitated. (Their political leadership – including Khaled Mashaal -- sits comfortably esconced in Damascus, thanks to their hosts, the Syrians.) Hamas' ability to launch rockets appears to have been diminished for the moment. But can that ability be destroyed or nearly destroyed? Probably not. And, even if so, what does this mean? Even with Israel sealing off Gaza, Hamas managed to obtain ever-sophisticated, long-range rockets putting 1 million Israelis within their sights.

Will a ceasefire prevent this? Not. They would need an ironclad seal on the Egyptian side, including all tunnels. And, if they bow to international pressure and unseal the Gaza Strip, more rockets will come in. If they don't, more will be manufactured and launched.

Meanwhile, as predictable, Israel's operation as received nearly completely one-sided international media coverage. And, as with Hezbollah in 2006, Hamas' esteem in the eyes of some Palestinians may be enhanced.

I don't trust Olmert's military/strategic decisions. The jury is out as to whether this operation will prove futile, or yield any tangible results. The odds are better than the disastrous retaliation invasion against Hezbollah in 2006 (ill-fated from the start, and still has not freed the captured IDF soldiers!) But I will be pleasantly surprised if Israel accomplishes anything concrete. Since Fatah cannot overthrow Hamas, the situation it is nearly intractable unless:

(1) Hamas leaders stage their own coup, and a new group embraces the PA's posture toward Israel (highly unlikely but possible at some point); or,

(2) Ahmadinejad loses elections in June, replaced by moderates who rein in the IRG and its support of Hezbollah; and/or Syria finally leans West,boots all the terrorists out of Damascus, accepts a demilitarized Golan Heights and stops supporting Hezbollah (leaving it to shrivel in Lebanon which can be become fully independent). The result? Hamas, the rejectionists, are isolated, cut off from weapons and military supplies and will collapse.

Is #2 feasible? Yes, it is. Nearly every Arab nation is pulling for it. Iran's oil-dependent economy is collapsing and the basically young population is pro-West, educated, Persian (not Arab) and has a huge underground existence. Without Iran as a sponsor, Syria (which has no oil) is stranded.

This eventually also would undercut, if not doom, Hezbollah … and Hamas.

Some of this was eloquently addressed by your later update the same day, quoting Anthony Cordesman. He poses the questions that remain unanswered.

Submitting....

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