Changing aims

 Once again we''re seeing that it''s easier to begin a war than to end one.

A brief conversation with a neighbor whose career was in the Defense Ministry reached agreement that "Shit" pretty well summarizes things.
I''m far from inner circles, but my sifting of commentary indicates that people making decisions (political and military) have changed their initial aims in response to Hamas actions and the problems apparent in efforts to produce a cease fire.
The most dramatic of the recent events is the cancellation of American and then European air traffic to Israel. It has the smell of the Obama White House, and has mobilized Israeli politicians to have it changed.
Following that announcement, Israeli media are featuring the plights of individuals isolated here or elsewhere, along with continuing coverage of Israeli casualties and interviews with family members.
The load of human interest in the hourly and half-hourly newscasts is frustrating for someone concerned to know what is happening. We know the suffering of Israelis and Palestinians. We have friends and family somewhere on the battlefields, pay attention to the names of casualties, and hope the best for all concerned.
The economic and personal pressures coming from government and/or airline decisions are just as likely to cause Israel to escalate to end this fast as to soften its demands on Hamas in order to bring them to the table. Or to combine escalation with accommodation.
Dedicated fighters, skilled planning, and wanton violation of international law taking a high toll from the IDF. The men of Hamas and its allies are not afraid to die. One of IDF''s prisoners, a 16-year old, suggests no shortage of very young men--on the border of being children--who aspire to be martyrs.
Among the violations:
  • Using ambulances to transport fighters
  • Using hospitals and schools as platforms for firing, directing fire, and storing weapons
  • Dressing fighters in IDF uniforms
  • Employing civilians as shields for fighters and their facilities.
Arguably those violations would free Israel from all legal constraints, and allow free fire on all of Gaza.
There is no sign of that on the horizon. Human rights still counts for something here, despite the resolutions enacted by those who feel that only Israel is worthy of condemnation.
Hamas has sought to prevent wounded Gazans from seeking care at the field hospital that the IDF established for that purpose alongside the border, and has shelled that hospital.
Hamas and its allies know how to exploit the crowded housing of their neighborhoods. IDF knows the costs of urban fighting, which it can reduce but not eliminate by extensive training. The prospect of more Israeli casualties is worrying military and political figures who are pondering the option of going deeper into Gaza.
We have seen, and can expect more Israeli attacks on "civilian" facilities used as launching platforms for missiles, storage sites for munitions, command centers, or as the shelters of Hamas military and political leaders.
There are no shortage of media reports emphasizing the carnage in Gaza, without balancing it with the years of rocket attacks on Israeli civilians. One can find equivalents in al Jazeera or the New York Times. Here''s one example
Missiles from Gaza have not cause much physical damage or many physical casualties, but they have caused people living near Gaza to worry about being more than 15 seconds from shelter, and pressing their children to worry. Those are not only conditions of this month, but the years since Israel''s withdrawal of Gaza settlements in 2005.
Hamas leaders say they are winning this confrontation, and so far have said no to any cease fire that does not assure their list of accomplishments, most (but not all) beyond what Israel is likely to accept.
There are Israelis who object to the civilian casualties in Gaza, and demand that their government make concessions to Hamas. Civil rights organizations have asked the Attorney General to consider charges against the IDF for violating international law.
Israel''s democracy tolerates dissonance, but it does not prevent verbal attacks against those who demand restraint while Israel''s own citizens are being attacked.
Right wing Israelis have the same rights of expression as left wing Israelis.
Public opinion polls, and the comments of politicians prominent in the opposition Labor Party suggest that there is support for a continuing and wider effort of the IDF against Hamas and allied organizations, with all that means for more IDF casualties. They are  currently at more than 30 dead and one missing (most likely another dead body held by Hamas for subsequent bargaining), and about 150 hospitalized with injuries. 
Gazan casualties are currently about 700 dead and thousands injured. Israeli and Palestinian sources differ on the proportions of civilians, children, and fighters among the dead.
Israeli policy at the beginning was explicit in not calling for the destruction of Hamas and the leaving of a political vacuum in Gaza. 
That is one of the things that may be changing.
Prominent now are Israeli demands that any settlement must assure the de-militarization of Gaza. 
The EU supports that demand, and may be willing to provide European military monitors at Gaza''s border with Egypt in order to monitor the provision.
John Kerry has raised the prospect of renewed peace talks. 
It''s doubtful that Israel''s government or population will be receptive to anything in the near future other than a cease fire, or the further destruction of Hamas and its allies.
With all the maneuvering for advantage by various Palestinians, Egyptians, other Arabs, Europeans and Americans--all on their own page--it will take a while to see what comes next. Kerry''s aspirations are somewhere in the pot, but its a big pot.
You have heard what happens to the broth when there are too many cooks.
There have been conflicting reports that various Arab negotiations and John Kerry are close or not so close to formulating a cease fire that Hamas and its allies will accept. And we have not heard lately if their draft formulation is something that Israel will accept.