What Israel hopes to achieve with the present military offensive – beyond influencing the coming Israeli elections – is not clear. For if a long-anticipated ground operation, leading to a partial reoccupation on the ground, is to follow these air strikes – as it did in the war in Lebanon in 2006 – it will have to achieve what neither Hamas nor its rival Fatah can: unifying Palestinian society once more against a common enemy, as Gaza was once united against Israeli settlements inside its boundaries.
If that is not the intention, it is hard to see what Israel’s actions are meant to achieve in a community that cherishes its martyrs; where violent death is intended to reinforce social cohesion and unity.
For in the end what has happened in the past few hours is simply an expression of what has been going on for days and months and years: the death and fear that Gaza’s gunmen and rocket teams and bombers have inflicted upon Israel have been returned 10, 20, 30 times over once again. And nothing will change in the arithmetic of it.
Not in Gaza. But perhaps in a wider Arab world, becoming more uncomfortable by the day about what is happening inside Gaza, something is changing. And Israel has supplied a rallying point. Something tangible and brutal that gives the critics of its actions in Gaza – who say it has a policy of collective punishment backed by disproportionate and excessive force – something to focus on.
Something to be ranked with Deir Yassin. With the Sabra and Shatila massacres. Something, at last, that Israel’s foes can say looks like an atrocity. [Peter Beaumont, The Guardian]