• Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Subscribe
  • RSS

Israel Seems Headed Toward An Invasion Of Gaza

All of the signs in Israel and Gaza point toward increased escalation that seems destined to lead to some kind of ground invasion of Gaza:

Near the Israel-Gaza border (CNN) – Israel hammered the headquarters of the Hamas-run government in Gaza and rockets soared from Gaza toward Israel, including one that was blocked by a missile defense system as it headed straight to Tel Aviv.

Air raid sirens screamed in Tel Aviv, and Hamas’ military wing claimed responsibility for shelling the city. But the Israel Defense Forces said its Iron Dome missile defense system blocked a Tel Aviv-bound rocket.

This comes after Israeli warplanes Saturday leveled the Palestinian Cabinet headquarters where a day earlier Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil met with Hamas officials, according to Hamas TV.

The strikes targeted the office of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas Ministry of the Interior, a police compound and a Hamas training facility, according to a statement released by the IDF.

The conflict took a grim turn after when rockets fell on Jerusalem, Israel’s seat of power.

As Palestinian fighters and Israeli soldiers traded fire, Israeli troops and tanks massed near the border of the besieged Palestinian territory Saturday, raising the specter of an imminent ground invasion.

Convoys carrying tens of thousands of Israeli soldiers rolled toward the Gaza border Saturday, part of what the IDF described as 30,000 troops that were being mobilized along the Israeli-Gaza border.

The Israeli government has authorized the call up of 75,000 reservists, the latest move in Israel’s days-old military campaign to stop daily rocket attacks from Gaza.

“We are in the process of expanding the campaign,” Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, an Israel Defense Forces spokesman, told Israel’s Channel 2.

On the whole, I have to say that I cannot fault Israel for its latest campaign against Hamas rocket launchers and other assets inside Gaza. For weeks before this latest round of attacks took place, Hamas was launching rockets at will at targets all over Southern Israel. Air raid sirens had become a daily occurrence in towns and villages throughout this area, and the Hamas government in Gaza showed absolutely no willingness to put a stop to it. By the time the campaign had begun, some 200 rockets had been fired without a response from Israel. If people were launching rockets into your country and terrorizing your civilians, what would you do? Based on the evidence, it seems clear to me that Israel not only had the right to launch the air raids that it has undertaken over the last week, but that it had the obligation to do so in order to protect its citizens. Aggression such as that simply cannot go unanswered. The fortunate thing for Israel is that their air strikes are far more accurate than Hamas’s rockets, and that the Iron Dome missile defense system seems to be doing an excellent job of protecting the country.

At the same time, though, it’s worth recognizing that these air raids are, at best, a temporary solution to the problem. Apparently because the technology used to make them is relatively simple, Hamas terrorists are able to create them at a will and launch them from a wide variety of locations throughout Gaza. It’s entirely probable that these rocket attacks will resume at some point after the Israeli campaign ends. This is one of the reasons, obviously, why there’s so much speculation that all those troops sitting on the Israel/Gaza border are the harbinger of  a land invasion of the densely packed region. As The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, though, such an invasion would be a very bad idea:

A ground invasion of Gaza is a bad idea. The temptations are many — Gaza is controlled by an anti-Semitic Muslim fundamentalist organization committed to Israel’s destruction, and it obviously harbors many men who are actively plotting ways to kill Jews. But there is no military solution to Israel’s political problem in Gaza, short of some sort of World War II-style Tokyo campaign, or Putin-style Chechnya campaign (or, for that matter, an Aleppo-style Assad campaign). If Israel were to go into Gaza, and get lucky, it could avoid creating masses of civilian casualties. But the Israeli attitude, after the Jenin experience in 2002 — in which soldiers lives were lost precisely because the army, for humanitarian reasons, chose not to bomb the Jenin camp from the air — is that it will not put its soldiers in undue harm simply to avoid creating the civilian casualties that the cynics of Hamas hope they would create (and work assiduously to to help Israel create).

Israel does not have the freedom of action to wipe out Hamas’s armed wing (plus the armed wings of other groups that may or may not fall under Hamas control or influence). Plus, it shouldn’t lay waste to Gaza, both because this is immoral, and because Gaza will, the day after, still be Israel’s neighbor.

The air campaign against Hamas rocket sites is understandable and defensible. A ground invasion will lead to misery and woe; to a total rupture with Egypt; to a further loss of legitimacy, and thus, deterrent capability — and, at the end of the day, does anyone actually believe that Israel would be able to fully neutralize the Hamas/Islamic Jihad threat? These groups might need time to rebuild, but they would be rebuilt.  And then what? Another ground invasion?

Goldberg’s argument are difficult to refute. It’s hard to see what strategic goals a land invasion would accomplish in the long run for Israel given the fact that it’s unlikely that they’d be able to completely wipe Hamas and its affiliates off the map. He’s also right that the country simply cannot engage in the type of campaign that would be most likely to wipe Hamas out to begin with because it would lead to a humanitarian disaster that would weaken Israel’s credibility throughout the world, as well as raising tensions with the nearby Egyptians, whose position in this entire affair seems murky at best at the moment. There’s also the possibility that an assault on Gaza could lead to retaliation against Israel by terrorists and by Hezbollah in Lebanon, which would mean conflict on the country’s northern and southern borders.

I’m not going to pretend to know what the answers are here, largely because this is a conflict that has confounded foreign policy experts for going on a half century now. As I said above, Israel has the right and the obligation to defend its citizens from these air attacks. It also has to deal with the reality that the government in Gaza is controlled by a faction of Palestinians who refuse to accept Israel’s right to exist and have vowed to wipe the country off the map. One can argue that Hamas doesn’t have the power to do that, but one cannot deny that they have the power to inflict pain on Israelis both with their rockets and with the suicide bombs that they have a history of deploying in civilians of Israel. It’s difficult to negotiate rationally with such an organization and, indeed, it wasn’t until the PLO dropped those provisions of its platform that called for Israel’s destruction that they were able to become a serious bargaining partner. Today, the West Bank is governed by the PLO’s political successor, and you’ll notice that they’re aren’t any rockets headed into Israel from the West Bank. When the other side of the conflict doesn’t accept your right to exist, talking to them about peace is usually a waste of time. So, until. Hamas changes its tune or Gaza comes under the control of more rational leaders, I’m afraid that this is going to continue.

Related Posts:

About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Ben Wolf says:

    @Doug Mataconis

    I’m not sure Israel can change course now. So many opportunities have been lost the country seems locked into the current paradigm by sheer path dependency. It intervenes militarily which costs it international support, generating a siege mentaility among its citizens which then reinforces the odds of a future military intervention. In a sense this cycle plays directly into the hands of Hamas, which then publishes photos of dead infants and destroyed homes to gain sympathy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  2. 11B40 says:

    Greetings:

    How’s about running this up your flagpole: Islam is the millstone. If your plan doesn’t include constraining or eradicating Islam, you don’t have a plan. What you have is a hope.

    And many thanks for the magnanimity of your not finding fault with Israel’s defending itself. How Christian of you to take time away from your lawyerly duty to concoct more “Rules of (ridiculous) Engagement” in order to hollow out military efforts to put the Islamaniacs back in their box.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 20

  3. Modulo Myself says:

    Citing the West Bank’s condition as something Gazans should aspire to doesn’t really work. It’s an apartheid state. Living there is no doubt better than living in Gaza, but Hamas did not emerge from a void. Israeli policy has always been that Palestinians are second class citizens without any real rights.

    Right now, if you live in Gaza and a missile explodes in your house killing your child, you don’t even have the right to hold the ones who launched the missile responsible. No, the real villains are the awful government in charge of Gaza. Israel was only acting like the free hand of the market or something.

    As a way to peace, this is lunacy, which points to the fact that Israel doesn’t really want peace with the Palestinians, they just want them to go away forever.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  4. Modulo Myself says:

    @11B40:

    I’m guessing that the Palestinian version of you, living in Gaza at this moment, is staring at images of dead children and wishing the same on Israeli children. Hate and unoriginal minds are universal currency.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  5. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Modulo Myself: And Gaza has been rendered Judenfrei beyond the Nazis’ fondest dreams.

    Right now, if you live in Israel and a rocket explodes in your house killing your child, you don’t even have the right to hold the ones who launched the rocket responsible.No, you’re largely anonymous, because the world considers that there is a certain acceptable level of bombardment that you just have to put up with — because demanding that your government retaliate and try to prevent more attacks would be “provocative” and “disproportionate” and “endanger the peace process.”

    Gaza is supposed to be a hellhole of deprivation — but there never seems to be a shortage of rockets, missiles, bombs, guns, and other weapons. There’s a UN Security Council Resolution — 1701 — that says southern Lebanon is to be demilitarized. That one was ignored almost from day one.

    The Palestinians, as has been often said, “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

    Here’s a solution for Israel: announce that they now recognize Gaza as a sovereign nation, with Hamas as the official government. Then the next rocket constitutes an act of war. Then wage war as one sovereign nation does on another.

    The alternative? Fight until another “cease-fire” is declared, which has always meant a certain level of Palestinian attacks on Israel that must be tolerated. And that’s worked out SO well in the past.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  6. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Modulo Myself: You really swallowed up the Paliwood propaganda, haven’t you?

    Here’s a hint; a Palestinian child killed by Israel is an accident.

    An Israeli child killed by Palestinians is a great victory.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 6

  7. Ben Wolf says:

    @11B40:

    How Christian of you to take time away from your lawyerly duty to concoct more “Rules of (ridiculous) Engagement” in order to hollow out military efforts to put the Islamaniacs back in their box.

    The christianly thing to do is “turn the other cheek” when provokes, so I’m thinking you might be confusing religions. Plus I think Doug is an atheist, so I doubt he gives a damn.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  8. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Turns out the U.S. liberal media’s self-proclaimed “Arab Spring” once again is coming up smelling like burnt bodies. Not at all surprising.

    That aside, the war between Israel and Hamas always was inevitable and at a certain level is long overdue. Hamas wants to destroy the State of Israel and to exterminate all the Jews in the land of Israel. The Israelis for their part have been down that road before; “never again.” Something has to give.

    Lastly, it always bears repeating that leftism is an illusion produced by a reality deficiency.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 9

  9. Just Me says:

    There is no easy answer other than there isn’t a functional government in Gaza and the Israeli’s shouldn’t be obligated to suffer constant bombardment because of it.

    Problem for Israel is I don’t think they really want to occupy or take over Gaza-they might like to see the government deposed, but deposing those in charge would just leave likely equally incompetent people to take charge.

    It is a mess. I don’t think there is a solution and there is no win situation for Israel whether they invade or stay put and continue to exchange fire.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  10. @Just Me:

    I get the impression that nobody wants Gaza to be honest.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. Modulo Myself says:

    @Just Me:

    Actually, I think most people in Israel are quite content with the current situation. Israel is not a country under siege; it’s not a place where people live in terror. It’s a rich developed country that happens to be incredibly small and surrounded by places that are definitely as not as nice.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  12. Modulo Myself says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Dude–I stopped at the name ‘Bob Owens’..does it ever occur to you that in your constant quest to overturn liberal propaganda (climate change, skewed polls, photographs from places you will never visit) you are basically starring as your own personal Road Runner?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  13. John Burgess says:

    Reports of missiles being launched from Egyptian Sinai into Israel are greatly troubling. Morsi needs to put a stop to that immediately. If he doesn’t, ‘escalation’ is going to move to an entirely different level.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  14. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Jenos Idiotian #13:

    Here’s a hint; a Palestinian child killed by Israel is an accident.

    No, it is collateral damage. An accident is what happens when somebody loses control of their vehicle, not when they bomb the sh!t out of your building. If you can’t tell the difference, you’re probably a Republican.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  15. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Lastly, it always bears repeating that leftism is an illusion produced by a reality deficiency.

    So how is President-Elect Romney’s transition coming, Tsar?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  16. Andre Kenji says:

    Simple facts:

    1-) World War I was fought largely due to a small territory, Alsace-Lorraine. There is no way that the Arabs would peacefully cede the territory where they managed to have their greatest military victory against the Europeans.

    No one gives away these territories unless they are forced to.

    2-) Israel CAN´T exist peacefully with it´s neighbors and still be a Jewish State. Otherwise, Jews and Arabs would miscegenate among themselves.

    3-) The only way that a State that is potentially at war with ALL of it´s neighbors to survive is to bully all of them.

    4-) There is no way to make any real economic activity in Gaza or in the West Bank.

    5-) On the other hand, a state that´s mostly a desert and that´s in permanent state of war can only be viable if it gets billions of dollars of subsidies from the United States.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  17. Andre Kenji says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Reports of missiles being launched from Egyptian Sinai into Israel are greatly troubling. Morsi needs to put a stop to that immediately. If he doesn’t, ‘escalation’ is going to move to an entirely different level.

    The Egyptian Army is one of the best armies in the region, probably only behind Turkey. Egypt is not the West Bank or Lebanon.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  18. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    The Egyptian Army is one of the best armies in the region, probably only behind Turkey. Egypt is not the West Bank or Lebanon.

    Andre… Huh? I said that a child dying due to an act of war is not an accident. What does that have to do with the Egyptian Army?

    Or were you trying to respond to @John Burgess: ?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  19. Latino_in_Boston says:

    I’m shocked this thread doesn’t yet have 100 comments all going back and forth accusing Israel and Palestine for the mess.

    Personally, I think the Palestinians have always gotten the short end of the stick, but there’s plenty of blame to go around. The problem is that the problem, for the most part, revolves around that very thing, who can we blame, instead of how can we move forward?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  20. Just Me says:

    Reports of missiles being launched from Egyptian Sinai into Israel are greatly troubling. Morsi needs to put a stop to that immediately. If he doesn’t, ‘escalation’ is going to move to an entirely different level.

    This is true.

    Gaza and Egypt trading missiles or even Israel sending ground forces into Gaza is a completely different ballgame than Israel and Egypt exchanging missiles or more.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  21. Andre Kenji says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Yes, exactly.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  22. Jenos Idanian Who Has No Pony Tail says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: No, it is collateral damage. An accident is what happens when somebody loses control of their vehicle, not when they bomb the sh!t out of your building. If you can’t tell the difference, you’re probably a Republican.

    No, “accidental” as in “not intentional.” On the other hand, the slaughter of Israeli children by Palestinians is always something to celebrate.j

    Israelis reduce their weapons’ warheads to minimize casualties. Palestinians pack their weapons with ball bearings, nails, and rat poison to maximize casualties.

    And I repeat: if conditions are so bad in Gaza, how the hell do they manage to have so many rockets and missiles to fire into Israel?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  23. Anyone else think this is really about deterring Iran? “Killing a chicken to scare the monkeys” as the saying goes?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  24. @Stormy Dragon:

    Or, it could be about pre-emptively softening the ability of one of Iran’s surrogates to retaliate against an attack on Iran.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  25. @Doug Mataconis:

    Except Hamas, which is Sunni, isn’t one of Iran’s surrogates. You’re thinking of Hezbollah, which is Shia.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  26. Andre Kenji says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Anyone else think this is really about deterring Iran?

    No. Hamas wants to provoke fear among the Israeli population and they know that they could kill Israeli troops in the case of a ground invasion. Israel sees itself in a terrible situation. Specially considering that they lost two allies, Egypt and Turkey.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  27. swearyanthony says:

    Without in any way defending Hamas and the idiots flinging rockets into Israel, the upcoming election in Israel can’t be ignored as a cause for the current escalation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  28. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Except Hamas, which is Sunni, isn’t one of Iran’s surrogates. You’re thinking of Hezbollah, which is Shia.

    Reality begs to differ.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  29. @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Yes, Hamas gets some money from Iran. It gets far more from Sunni Saudi Arabia, who they’re actually the surrogates of. Indeed, what funding Iran did give them was largely cut off about a year ago because Hamas took Saudia Arabia’s side over Iran’s side with regards to the civil war in Syria.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  30. An Interested Party says:

    How’s about running this up your flagpole: Islam is the millstone. If your plan doesn’t include constraining or eradicating Islam, you don’t have a plan. What you have is a hope.

    How Christian of you to advocate genocide…unless you know of some other way to “eradicate” Islam…

    Lastly, it always bears repeating that leftism is an illusion produced by a reality deficiency.

    That’s quite profound coming from someone as delusional as you…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  31. @Stormy Dragon:

    Except there is evidence of Iranian weapons shipments to Hamas

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  32. Jenos Idanian Who Has No Pony Tail says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Which raises the interesting question: If Iran can get weapons into Gaza, what else could they get in there that they aren’t?

    Food? Oil? Agricultural equipment? Industrial equipment?

    In short, if Iran really wanted to help the Palestinians, they could send pretty much anything besides weapons, and it would make their lives better. Instead, they send the weapons — guaranteeing that they will be used against Israel, killing Israelis. And then guaranteeing Israeli retaliation, killing Palestinians.

    In cases like this, it’s important to look beyond the words and at the deeds — and the entirely predictable consequences of said deeds. In this case, Iran’s “help” is doing nothing more than guaranteeing more death and destruction (on both sides).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  33. Rob in CT says:

    I think Ben had this right in the first post. Path dependency. It applies to everybody involved. Including us.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  34. grumpy realist says:

    It’s things like this that make me want to drop an asteroid on the entire Mideast….

    One of my friends pointed out the problem: For 2000 years, the Mideast has been a place where if you cared more about the lives of your children than getting caught up in revenge feuds, you left. So what we’re left with is a really fanatic population on both sides.

    Or, as a friend of mine who emigrated from there said: “everybody in the Mideast is nuts.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  35. @Doug Mataconis:

    Except there is evidence of Iranian weapons shipments to Hamas

    I’m not saying that there’s no relationship at all between Iran and Hamas. I’m saying Iran is not the party ultimately in control of Hamas. Hamas is mostly controlled by Saudi Arabia; Iran provides some support because there are places where their interests align with Saudi Arabia. But whenever those interests diverge, Hamas always takes Saudi Arabia’s side over Iran’s.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0