Strenghten Hamas and come close to destroying it.
That, as best as a close outsider can determine, is what Israel is trying to accomplish with its bombardments and its negotiations.
The problems in analysis and accomplishment should be clear.
I''m making these guesses in Jerusalem, within site of the barrier that separates us from Palestinian areas of the West Bank, without access to the people planning the operations and making the difficult decisions, but with nearly 40 years experience with Israeli media, having had close contact with people involved in such things and occasional participation. I trust my guesses about what is happening now, but they are guesses.
Why strengthen Hamas?
To create the most effective government likely to be attained in Gaza. There are 1.5 million people there, Many are intense about their religious fantasies and have connections to governments that supply money, motivation, and munitions. The multiplicity of extremist organizations or gangs is the greatest danger, insofar as any one of them can act in a way to threaten Israelis, and bring about an Israeli retaliation that provokes others to join in the fray. Hamas appears to be the best option of imposing order on the area.
Those who want Israel to push Gazans into Egypt, or into the sea, are not part of this conversation. They are in the same dreamland as Islamic extremists, urging something that is not going to happen.
Why bring Hamas to the point of seeing the possibility of its own destruction, without quite getting there?
The explanation should be more obvious than why to strengthen Hamas.
It is appropriate to kill senior Hamas operatives, whether they call themselves the political or military leadership, and destroy as many of the facilities as feasible throughout Gaza used to store or fire munitions, as well as facilities used by the Hamas administration and the infrastructure that enables all of the above to operate. It is regrettable that many targets are close to or within structures that also house civilians, but that is part of the price that Hamas must pay. The people who look to it for leadership must see enough rubble around them, including their own possessions, acquaintances and family members, to realize that attacking Israel has a price that they do not want to pay again.
It is common among people who claim to be concerned about the Middle East to blather about Israel''s disproportionate responses, to accuse the Jews of barbarity or--slightly less offensive--being bullies.
That''s the point, you self-appointed humanitarians of limited wisdom, some of you close to or over the border of the great sin called anti-Semitism which renders you outside the pale of individuals Israelis will include in the conversation. That some of you are Jews does not keep you from that netherworld of being ignored on account of foolish ideas or a foolish way of expressing yourselves.
The point of unleashing violence is to make it persuasive. To bring those who want to destroy us close to their own destruction, and to actually destroy many of the individuals and their assets. Ideally, Israel will do all of this with the minimum cost of its own military and civilian personnel. Best to do it with air and artillery bombardments, without a ground invasion that will cause greater casualties to Palestinian civilians and to Israeli soldiers.
If there is collateral damage of individuals called innocent, that is regrettable but unavoidable despite all appropriate efforts to avoid it. "Innocents" is a term commonly assigned to women and children, but it is not appropriate for many of the women and not for many of the "children" over the age of whatever it is when they join in the violence.
None of the above argues against Israeli efforts to achieve a cease fire. I perceive no aspiration to solve this problem once and for all times. That is beyond the edge of what is feasible. Israeli officials demand maximum protections for its civilians and soldiers, but also want to maintain membership in the community of civilized nations and all that provides by way of economic, cultural, and political opportunities. Israel is also governed by Jews motivated by the values brought to the world by earlier generations of Jews. Government and military personnel are serious about avoiding unnecessary or undesirable carnage. In all the nuances involved in the mixture of values and purposes, however, the operative goals are to produce as much destruction as necessary in order to delay as much as possible the next time of having to do the undesirable.
Those who see in this uptick of violence as an opportunity to settle the Israel-Palestine dispute should take a more powerful pill and go back to a deeper sleep.
Indications are that strengthening a weakened Hamas will actually work against a larger arrangement, and push the fantasy of a Palestinian state even further from reality.
Nothing is more intense in this neighborhood than the conflict between Hamas and Fatah. Remember the estimates of 200-400 deaths in their most recent transfer of power in Gaza.
What is likely to result, for the future that it is possible to imagine with a high degree of realism, is two non-states with high levels of autonomy alongside of Israel. One in the West Bank and one in Gaza, with nasty relations between our Palestinian neighbors. They may hate us more than they hate one another, but it is possible to argue about those degrees of hatred.
Secretary of State Clinton''s meeting with Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah may be politically correct, but has no utility. He is persona non grata in Gaza.
There are no Israeli settlements in Gaza. There are settlements that complicate things on the other side of the security barrier in the West Bank. The present conflict will reduce whatever sentiments were among Israelis for withdrawing those settlements, with the possible exception of the tiny ones inhabited by our own extremists.
So here we are. Not optimal, but with an economy and services for health, higher education, and other facilities among the best. And better weather--especially in Jerusalem--than almost everyone else.