Calculations and questions


It''s all economic. Not so much about money as profit and loss, benefit and cost.

Prominent in the calculations:

  • How many soldiers likely to be killed are worth a ground operation that can achieve what amount of value added? Which goals are feasible? Which are likely to be attained? And which are marginal in terms of the capacity to achieve them at reasonable cost? How much can be achieved without the risks of a ground operation, perhaps rendered moot by the time this is read?

Prominent among the goals that have been mentioned:

Stopping the rockets

  • Disarming Hamas and other organizations, and overseeing the disarming with reliable international supervision Turning Hamas into a responsible party that can govern Gaza, with equal or greater benefits to residents as are received on the West Bank, without threatening Israel

Relevant to the last point is the reputation of Hamas as less driven by personal corruption than Fatah, and more inclined to win support via the provision of social services.

An ideal, perhaps not achievable in the near future, is Gaza as a peaceful neighbor, buying from Israel and selling to it, with workers free to enter Israel on a daily basis.

Also relevant are Israel''s relations with other actors in its environment.

  • The US remains Israel''s primary consideration, despite what has become the flaccid reputation of its political leadership.
  • European countries have been considered lap dogs of the US with respect their postures toward Israel and the Arabs, but that may be changing due to the record of Bush and Obama international politics.
  • Egypt is a major factor in Israel''s calculations, especially with al-Sisi''s rescue of the country from the bungling of the US. Its initial offer of a pro-Israel cease fire, which Hamas rejected, may be viewed as showing Egypt current posture in Middle Eastern politics.
  • Is peace, or even a cease fire possible with competition among those offering mediation? Turkey and Qatar, allied with Hamas, are competing with Egypt, currently closer to Israel. Reports are that Qatar and Turkey have urged Hamas not to accept Egyptian offers, and to wait for what they can accomplish. Saudi Arabia joins Egypt as a moderate influence, opposed to Islamic extremists. None of which prevents some
  • Saudis from using their considerable personal resources to support the most radical of the Islamic extremists.
  • Jordan, with its record of careful kings, is a source of stability. It is deserving of Israeli support, kept low key or perhaps only potential, in order to accommodate the delicate balances within Jordan, made even more difficult by an inflow of refugees from Syria and Iraq.
  • Fatah is a corrupt organization, with a bloated bureaucracy not highly valued by the West Bank Palestinians, but it is what exists. Its leadership is welcome, supported financially, and even lionized as the great hope for peace, both in western circles and among Israeli leftists. The Israeli government must take it into consideration insofar as it is the most acceptable Palestinian player, warts and all.
  • Iran is a major problem due to its nuclear and missile aspirations, and its support of undesirables. However, it seems capable of dealing with Catherine Ashton, John Kerry, and Barack Obama. Complicating assessments and actions are its supporting the bad guys, but not the worse ones, in Syria, and opposing the worse who have moved from Syria to Iraq.
  • The UN is serving itself, is a caricature of the politically correct, but is of questionable weight in affecting what happens. Typical is the recent announcement of UNWRA, the organization that has coddled Palestinian "refugees" since the 1940s, saying that 79 Gazan schools and 23 medical facilities have been damaged, without noting how many had been also serving as storage sites for Hamas munitions.
  • International media is an actor of questionable credibility and influence. Despite its fascination with Palestinian suffering, it has not produced any great pressure from western governments that Israel must stop attacking. Disasters happen in war. Within minutes of the deaths of five children on a Gaza beach, without any time for inquiry, all began to blame Israel. Hamas as well as the media, treated it as a gift assuring an audience.. An Israeli journalist noted that one-sixth of the missiles fired from Gaza fall on Gaza, and asked if it could have been one of theirs.

Israel''s population and economy are as important as anything as supplying pressures and constraints, but it is not easy to summarize their demands, or their impact on policymakers. Commentators are all over the map. People from the street interviewed on camera express with great emotion the same range of views.

The professional commentary (from academics, journalists, retired politicians and military officers) as well as from the street range from

  • An insistence on pursuing a military operation until Israel can control Gaza, the destruction of Hamas and other terrorist organizations, the destruction of their munitions and the institution of a regime that will assure demilitarization
  • Against this posture are assertions that it is impractical to demand anything beyond a cease fire and promises to behave. Associated with this are demands for a cease fire in order to relieve the suffering of Israelis kept close to shelters, and the casualties among Gazan civilians.

The stature, style, support and criticism directed at Prime Minister Netanyahu provide a focus and a microcosm of the larger disputes in Israel.

Among the points of praise and criticism are his moderation in so far avoiding a ground attack.

Supporters see Netanyahu as cautious, while critics see him as afraid of international criticism. He is ridiculed for the contrast between bold expressions of extreme intentions, and the mildest of activity. Prominent here are his declarations about preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, especially that speech at the UN with a drawing of a bomb and his red line beyond which Iran must not be allowed to go, and subsequent years of accepting what others have done--or not done--about Iran''s intentions. Supporters praise Netanyahu''s willingness to accept the Egyptian declaration of cease fire. Cynics say he did so for tactical reasons, pretty sure that Hamas would reject it and thus give him a free hand with support from western governments.

There is support from the center and left for Natanyahu''s firing Deputy Defense Minister Dany Danon, for being too harsh in criticizing government policy in the midst of war (for being timid, leftist, and at the service of Tsipi Livni). Netanyahu''s critics chide him for picking on one of the lesser lights among his opponents, and avoiding any discipline of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, whose criticism of government policy has been no less extreme.

The current balance of casualties at 200 to 1 is both a measure of success and a cause for concern. Israelis are not salivating over the record of kills. Quite the contrary. There is substantial concern, both for the civilians caught up in the conflict, and for the impact of the statistics on international opinion and politics.