Three Scenarios in the Gaza War
Today seems to be the day for presenting three scenarios. Tony Karon, writing at Time.com, presents three scenarios under which the Gaza War might end.
The first scenario is regime change in Gaza:
Given Israel’s long-term goal of ousting Hamas in Gaza, some key military and political leaders have urged that it expand the goals of its current operation, and use its momentum to take control of Gaza City and decapitate Hamas. Most vocal in advocating this option is Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, the hawkish front-runner in the race for prime minister, who will portray any outcome that leaves Hamas intact in Gaza as a failure — bad news for his chief rivals, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.
But the “regime-change” option is even reported to have support from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who sees it as a way to restore the control over all Palestinian territories of his peace partner, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
The second scenario presented is a long-term cease fire:
Israel has insisted that a cease-fire be “sustainable,” by ensuring that Hamas is unable to rearm itself. An actual disarming of Hamas’ current militias is unlikely without a full-scale reoccupation of Gaza, which would involve tens of thousands more Israeli troops over many months. Anything less will see Hamas continue to be the dominant security presence inside Gaza. So, Israel’s priority will be to choke off the supply of rockets and mortar shells, which have been smuggled through tunnels from Gaza and fired at Israel.
Considering that none of the principals in this scenario want anything to do with it, this one seems pretty unlikely.
Under the last scenario presented major hostilities end without a formal resolution:
If the offensive cannot deal Hamas a death blow, Israel may see benefit in holding its fire, in line with the first phase of the Egyptian plan but not necessarily concluding a comprehensive cease-fire. It would simply maintain the halt to hostilities and even withdraw its forces on an open-ended basis. Israeli leaders saw Operation Cast Lead as an opportunity to restore Israel’s “deterrent” power, which it believed had been damaged when it was fought to a draw by Hizballah in Lebanon in 2006. But the Gaza operation, with its almost 100-to-1 ratio of Palestinian to Israeli casualties, has issued a painful reminder of Israel’s capacity and willingness to abandon restraints and rain devastation on the heads of all challengers.
By simply stopping its operation without a formal truce, Israel can claim to have reestablished its “deterrent” on future rocket fire without “recognizing” Hamas’ authority in Gaza.
I found Mr. Karon’s analysis admirable in that he recognizes that the hostilities being carried out in Gaza are political acts and their resolution will be a consequence of domestic politics even as it shapes it. However, I wish he’d devoted more space to the political implications of various scenarios from the Palestinian side. The Israelis aren’t the only parties to what’s going on in Gaza and the political consequences for Hamas need to be considered before we’ve exhausted the possible scenarios which are almost certainly not limited to these three.