Analysis: Gaza ground war wouldn't cure Israel's Hamas headache

Mon Nov 19, 2012 1:49pm EST
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By Crispian Balmer

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - An Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip will not provide any long-term solution to the problem posed by the Islamist group Hamas, and this will make the government think long and hard before sending in the troops.

After six days of intensive military strikes against the Palestinian enclave, which Israel says are needed to halt regular militant rocket fire, thousands of Israeli soldiers are massing on the border awaiting orders to attack.

But aware that an assault on the densely populated coastal territory could backfire militarily and diplomatically, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will probably accept a ceasefire if he can draw half-decent terms from Hamas.

"I have never believed in the notion of definitive solutions per se," said Einat Wilf, who sits on the Israeli parliament's foreign affairs and defense committee and is a member of Defense Minister Ehud Barak's Atzmaut party.

"If there is the possibility to reach a reasonable situation, even if it is not an ideal one, where at least for a while Hamas no longer shells our towns and civilians, then this will be the course of the government," she told Reuters.

However, the rightist coalition, seeking re-election in January, is facing strident calls from some of its allies for concerted action that could yet influence the decision.

Moreover, any hopes in Europe that the conflict might help to revive moribund peace talks with the Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is despised by Hamas for renouncing armed resistance, look certain to be dashed.

Dreams that Israel might one day live in peace with all its neighbors have long since evaporated, and most Israelis seem to accept that their army, the most powerful in the region, will have to wage war regularly to defend their interests.   Continued...

Israeli soldiers stand near a mobile artillery unit after it fired a shell towards northern Gaza from its position outside the Gaza Strip November 19, 2012. REUTERS/Amir Cohen