By tomorrow evening in Israel, it will most likely be determined whether Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense will end in an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire with Hamas or if it will expand into a ground invasion of Gaza.
Over at Ha’aretz, Ari Shavit makes a good case for Israel stopping now:
If the operation had ended four days ago, the message that would have been received in Gaza, Beirut, Damascus and Tehran would have been clear and sharp: Israel has excellent intelligence, decisive aerial capabilities, resolute leaders, brave citizens and surprising international support. It’s not worth messing with Israel. You’d be better off letting it live its life without provoking the country or awakening it again from its slumber.
But just as in 2006 and again in 2008, Israel did not stop in time. Israel did not quit while it was ahead. And so, over the past three days, the impressive achievements of Operation Pillar of Defense have faded away while the operation’s negative consequences have become more clear-cut.
To this, I’d add that many have noted that there is no military solution to this problem. Hamas cannot be surgically removed from Gaza. They are rooted in the divots left by Israel’s unilateral withdrawal.
As Egypt, yes, the post-Mubarak Egypt, works to broker a ceasefire, a ground invasion would undermine Israel’s relationship with Egypt as it hangs most in the balance. Negotiations are continuing through the night in Cairo. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will travel from there to Israel tomorrow, where he is set to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. He will also travel to Ramallah to hang out with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas–which might be the first meeting Abbas has had all week. Let’s hope that favorable enough terms can be reached through negotiations.
The alternative to the ceasefire is, of course, a ground invasion with its high risks to IDF soldiers, civilians in Gaza, and the specter of broad international condemnation. Add that to very unclear benchmarks for what success in Gaza would look like and you’ve got more trouble than it’s worth.