Lessons well learnt
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The past week of military action in Gaza provides a rare recent example of an Israeli operation which has been successful on every front.
First, most obviously, it has had a dramatic impact on Hamas' military capability, destroying up to 90 per cent of its arsenal and taking out some of its key personnel. Secondly, the ceasefire negotiations offer the tantalising possibility of increased security on Israel's southern borders. If that holds, the fundamental aim of the operation - ensuring that a million Israelis in the south are free from rocket attack - will have been achieved.
Thirdly, the Iron Dome rocket defence has proved to be astounding, intercepting almost 350 incoming rockets. Without it, Hamas' attempts at murdering Israeli civilians would almost certainly have been successful. It is a game-changer. Fourthly, Egypt's contribution to brokering the ceasefire is evidence that President Morsi lives in the real world rather than that of Islamist fantasy.
Fifthly, there has been near universal Western backing for Israel's right to defend itself. Even William Hague, who appears lukewarm to Israel, has been unambiguous in his support and in blaming Hamas. Sixthly, the Israelis seem to have turned a corner in their dealings with the media. In Cast Lead, they did their best to keep out and frustrate reporters. This time round, they devoted resources to keeping the media informed and took PR seriously.
Bloggers and tweeters were given tools to work with, instead of the usual frustrations. And finally, the Israelis learned some critical lessons from Cast Lead. If, in 2008, the IDF had stopped after its aerial operation, much neutral opinion would have remained sympathetic to Israel's case. The apparent relentlessness of the ground invasion was a PR disaster.
This time, the targeted air strikes were obviously justified. No conflict in which so many innocent people lose their lives - even though the IDF went out of its way, as always, to minimise civilian casualties - can ever be regarded as anything but a failure. But Pillar of Defence did what it was meant to do.