What is the strategic purpose behind Israel’s assault on Gaza? That’s the question asked by CSIS’s Anthony Cordesman, who warns of the potentially dangerous knock-on effects of what he sees as Israel’s misguided military venture, one that is unlikely to alter the Israeli-Palestinian strategic calculus in any meaningful way.
“After two weeks of combat Olmert, Livni, and Barak have still not said a word that indicates that Israel will gain strategic or grand strategic benefits, or tactical benefits much larger than the gains it made from selectively striking key Hamas facilities early in the war. In fact, their silence raises haunting questions about whether they will repeat the same massive failures made by Israel’s top political leadership during the Israeli-Hezbollah War in 2006.”
“If Israel has a credible ceasefire plan that could really secure Gaza, it is not apparent. If Israel has a plan that could credibly destroy and replace Hamas, it is not apparent. If Israel has any plan to help the Gazans and move them back towards peace, it is not apparent. If Israel has any plan to use US or other friendly influence productively, it not apparent.”
Cordesman points out the perils of waging these complex wars among the people: “The growing human tragedy in Gaza is steadily raising more serious questions as to whether the kind of tactical gains that Israel now reports are worth the suffering involved… each new Israeli air strike or advance on the ground has increased popular support for Hamas and anger against Israel in Gaza.”
“As we have seen all too clearly from US mistakes, any leader can take a tough stand and claim that tactical gains are a meaningful victory. If this is all that Olmert, Livni, and Barak have for an answer, then they have disgraced themselves and damaged their country and their friends.”
Iran and Hezbollah are capitalizing on the conflict, Cordesman says, and anti-American protests are spreading across the Islamic world.
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