The Gaza campaign: News analysis // Ben FrankelGrowing rift among Israeli leaders about war's end-game

Published 14 January 2009

The Israeli military campaign in Gaza has so far been a success — if brutal success — by any objective measure of war: relative destruction and the number of dead and injured on both sides; Hamas, though, is not going to raise the white flag of surrender regardless of these objective measures; Israelis debate on how to end a war with an adversary that does not sign surrender agreements; we should watch carefully, because the war we see in Gaza shows us the future of armed conflict

We wrote yesterday that the Israeli campaign in Gaza, planned and orchestrated to the smallest of details by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, reflects the adoption of a strategic approach advocated by David Ben Gurion, Israel’s founding father and its first prime minister. This approach may be summed up thusly: Israel should pursue moderate goals, but pursue these goals ruthlessly (see Ben Frankel, “Back to Ben Gurion? Israel at the Gates of Gaza,” HS Daily Wire, 13 January 2009).

The campaign so far has proven that. Israel’s stated goals do not include the destruction Hamas, its removal from power, the imposition of the PLO and Muhammad Abbas on the Gazans, or the reoccupation of the Gaza Strip. Rather, the three goals of the campaign are modest and attainable: An end to the firing of missiles and rockets from the Gaza Strip on Israeli towns; and end to the smuggling of huge quantities of weapons and arms — mostly from Iran — into Gaza; and the release of Yigal Shalit, and Israeli soldier kidnapped in June 2006 and still held captive in Hamas hands.

Israel has pursued these modest goals with ferocity and grim determination that have taken aback even some of the Jewish state’s friends (note, though, that in contrast to previous campaigns, there is a near consensus in Israel, from right to left, on the necessity of the campaign and the justification of its method; see Ethan Bronner, “Israelis United on Gaza War as Censure Rises Abroad,” New York Times, 12 January 2009).

Lop-sided campaign
Here is but two measures of the ferocity of the Israeli assault: To date (Wednesday, 14 January), the Palestinians have suffered 1,001 dead and nearly 4,000 injured; about half the dead (including more than 100 children under 14 years of age) and about two-thirds of the injured are civilians. Israel has suffered 12 dead (4 civilians and 8 soldiers) and about 140 injured (32 civilians and 108 soldiers, of which 9 are seriously injured).