Analysis: Squandering the victories of Operation Cast Lead

Six weeks since the end of Operation Cast Lead, Palestinian groups are still launching missiles, Hamas is busy replenishing its arsenal and Gilad Shalit remains incarcerated. Israelis are beginning to ask if it was all worth it.

Brigadier-General (res) Shmuel Zakai, former commander of the Gaza Division, fears that politicians will waste the IDF’s military victory . “The political leadership has, in the past, proved incapable of taking advantage of the opportunities afforded it by the IDF’s achievements.”

The main problem is, he says, “the unrealistic expectation that we can topple Hamas. This is a dangerous concept. We should concentrate on things we can achieve, like, perhaps, bringing Hamas to a point where they recognise Israel.

“There have to be trust-building steps too. We have shown Hamas that they pay a heavy price for attacking us. Now we have to prove to the Palestinians that they can gain from acting differently.”

Zakai believes that the Gaza war can still work in Israel’s favour. “The momentum in talks between Fatah and Hamas is positive, as it may create a degree of pragmatism within Hamas. The international commitment to rebuild Gaza may mean that Hamas will have less motivation to renew attacks.”

And what about Shalit? “If we are using the closure of the crossings to pressure Hamas to release him, that is legitimate. The problem is that some think that this will topple Hamas. But there is a limit to how much pressure you can put on a civilian population. All we will achieve will be another round of fighting, which the IDF will win on the tactical level, but gain nothing strategically besides being stuck again in Gaza.”

    Last updated: 12:24pm, March 5 2009