soldiers gaza leaving 248.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Israel clearly won the latest round with Hamas, but could have gone deeper into Gaza and done greater damage to the organization, according to military analysts in the US media who were visiting the region this week.
"I think you achieved what one Israeli general called 'changing the reality' in which Hamas operates, but I think you were too restrained and could have gone deeper into Gaza," Lt.-Gen. Thomas McInerney, a 35-year veteran of the US Air Force and a Fox News military analyst, told The Jerusalem Post Monday after touring the Gaza periphery and receiving briefings from Israeli officials.
The military analysts' trip was organized by the New York-based Project Interchange, affiliated with the American Jewish Committee.
The Gaza fighting is seen in the US as a healthy demonstration of Israel's capabilities, according to Lt.-Col. Rick Francona, a former US Air Force intelligence officer in several theaters and military analyst for NBC News.
Unlike in the wake of the 2006 Second Lebanon War, "the conversation in the US revolves around Israeli decision-making - what's the endgame? Are they going to remove Hamas? It doesn't question Israel's capabilities. You've won the battle," Francona said.
Both analysts said Israel seemed ready to face down Hamas in a long-term fight.
The cease-fire was "just the end of this round, and that seems to be Israeli policy right now. The best Israel can go for is to manage the conflict until Hamas can be made to go away," said Francona.
"The Israeli public's support for this war mutes global opinion," noted McInerney. "When a nation is united in its right to defend itself, it makes it more difficult for Europeans, the Left or the Arab media to counter that."
Even so, said McInerney, "your leadership is too sensitive about world opinion. I know why Israel didn't [drive deeper into Gaza] - you have an election coming up and a new [US] president taking office, but you need to gain the freedom of operation in Gaza that you have in the West Bank." Commenting on the unilateral cease-fire announced on Saturday, he suggested that "Israel did not want to destroy Hamas. I believe you should have."