WASHINGTON – Predictably, Israel’s offensive against Hamas in the Gaza strip has been loudly condemned by international public opinion. The news coverage is only about the large number of Palestinian civilians killed or wounded by Israeli fire. It is about the destruction of homes, schools and hospitals.
So, there you have it. The cruel Israelis used a pretext to invade Gaza in order to inflict horrible pain on poor and defenseless Palestinians. This is the official, universally accepted narrative; and there is no way of changing it.
To the extent that the world acknowledges that there are Hamas hostile actions against Israel, they are immediately condoned on the basis of the fact that people under perennial military occupation are driven to take desperate counter measures. Yes, Hamas launches a few rockets here and there into Israel. But who wouldn’t, under the circumstances?
The broader context does not matter
Never mind that Israel does not occupy Gaza, having withdrawn from the area years ago. Never mind that Gaza was supposed to be demilitarized. Never mind that the Gaza Palestinian population created the preconditions for this state of permanent warfare with Israel by voting for Hamas, a terror group, (with a political wing), openly committed to the destruction of Israel.
So, given all this, can Israel “win”, now or at any time in the future, against Hamas? I very much doubt it. Victory could be achieved only through the complete delegitimization of Hamas.
Hamas will stay in charge
In other words, the Gaza Palestinians –and the rest of the Arab world– would need to have the strength and the cohesion to say: “Enough. We want to live in peace. To the extent that Gaza is deliberately used as a staging area for rocket assaults against Israel and/or other aggressive actions, we shall never have peace. Hamas, you are out of here. No more money. No more weapons”.
Well, this change of heart would be nice. But I would not count on it. And do not count on Hamas all of a sudden becoming reasonable. Hamas leaders live in their own world in which there is only violence and conflict, until Israel is destroyed.
Israel cannot win
This being the case, Israel cannot win against a determined enemy that is totally embedded among civilians, in a densely populated area. Victory would be possible only through a prolonged and nasty fight that would entail the virtual destruction of Gaza, with thousands and thousands of civilian casualties.
And Israel simply cannot do this, because of the universal condemnation that such a campaign would provoke. (By the way, this is exactly how President Vladimir Putin won his war against the separatists in Chechnya in 2000. He destroyed the province, completely. Its capital, Grozny, was called by the United Nations in 2003 “the most destroyed city on earth”. But the international media did not tell us much about that ruthless campaign that costs thousands of Chechen lives. After all this was “just” a Russian internal matter, right?)
Tactical success, and then back to conflict
In the end, unless Israel wants total international isolation, the most that can be achieved through the current Israeli military invasion of Gaza is a blow to Hamas and the destruction of a few more tunnels that the terror group planned to use to infiltrate Israel.
Once a cease-fire is in place, you can count on Arab friends to resupply Hamas, so that it can start all over again.