Israel's latest strikes on Gaza are an audacious move. The general consensus - fueled by a well-run PR campaign - is that the aim is to "change conditions on the ground", provide for a paradigm shift - if you will - that will allow Israel to renegotiate a truce with Hamas from a position of strength. If Israel does obliterate Hamas' infrastructure - through air strikes initially, though there do seem to be signs that they are moving towards a ground invasion - then it might force Hamas to the table. The problem is not only that they are walking into a situation which will likely result in massive international pressure against their actions, fueled by media reports of civilian deaths that Israel will find difficult to argue with, but also that they are, in a sense, re-opening Pandora's box (for the umpteenth time). If Israel does invade Gaza, it will find it difficult to leave. Logistically speaking, they will have to plan another troop withdrawal from a very difficult and dangerous part of the world. They also will not be able to leave unless they get what they want from Hamas - which is never certain. They will then have to be seen handing power in Gaza towards their worst enemy, as opposed to the 'legitimate' Fatah-led government of the PA. Another dimension, from Israel's point of view is the question of Gilad Shalit - if they do invade Gaza, they will be under enormous pressure to physically rescue him from his captors, even if they don't invade, they are running the risk of provoking his captors - although i don't think that the wellbeing of one soldier in captivity should override a strong case for action, i'm just not sure how strong a case there is for action. There is a chance that Israel gets everything it wants out of this operation - and that Ehud Barak can use its success to improve his and Labor's standings in the polls - but this is measured against the similar chance that it all goes horribly wrong, and ends up handing victory in the upcoming elections to Netanyahu on a silver platter. It seems really to be a case of damned if you do, damned if you don't, from Israel's point of view, and i'm not sure what other options they have. From Hamas' point of view, this could be used for PR purposes - although i'm not sure how much they'll feel they need it, but if it does decimate the organisation, they will have little option but to agree to a new truce. Still, Hamas' ideology is not one of surrender, and it seems likely that Ismail Haniyeh would rather fight to the bitter end than agree to dialogue and a cease-fire. One really ought to remind oneself that the real losers in all this are the innocent civilians from both sides who lose loved ones, and the hope is that something constructive can come from it, at least so that those deaths were not in vain.
P.S. My title refers to the brilliant collection of short stories by Etgar Keret and Samir el-Youssef.