Tuesday, February 12, 2008

In order to go in, we need a way out

From an Analysis by Yaakov Katz , THE JERUSALEM POST, Feb. 11, 2008:

At Sunday's cabinet meeting, despite a number of requests, Defense Minister Ehud Barak refused to disclose operational details about what he has consistently referred to as the inevitable large-scale ground operation into the Gaza Strip.

... what can be said at this point is that it will be unprecedented in size and will also be a practical expression of one of the IDF's primary lessons from the Second Lebanon War - not to over-rely on the Air Force. This time around, the ground forces will be activated from day one.

There are several reasons why the operation has yet to be launched.

From a tactical point of view, it is wintertime and when there are clouds in the skies it is difficult to get the max out of the IAF's fighter jets, attack helicopters and reconnaissance drones. Gilad Schalit is another factor for holding off on the operation which, if launched, could postpone his release indefinitely.

The operation into Gaza will have two primary goals:

First and foremost to significantly weaken Hamas by destroying its terrorist infrastructure and removing it from governmental power.

The second goal - which has proven more urgent in recent weeks with the collapse of the Gaza-Egypt border wall - calls for reoccupying the Philadelphi Corridor, sealing it off and preventing the smuggling of weapons or terrorists into the Gaza Strip.

The operation will most likely entail the call-up of thousands of reservists, mainly to replace infantry and armored brigades that will be sent to Gaza from routine operations they are conducting in the West Bank and along the northern border....

....The idea will be to slice up the Gaza Strip into several sections and to begin cleansing them of terrorists and terror infrastructure. This, however, will not be an easy task, since Hamas has had more than two and a half years - since Israel's unilateral withdrawal in 2006 - to build up its military and prepare for D-Day....

....While the operational plans have been drafted ... the IDF, Foreign Ministry or anyone else for that matter has yet to come up with the operation's "end strategy." As one top officer recently pointed out, "I know how we get in, but I don't yet know how we get out."

For this reason, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has been pushing the idea in recent weeks of a multinational force in Gaza, although the chances of this happening are not very realistic.

The other option is to hope that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will come in and fill the vacuum that will be created by the operation. Considering his weak stature, this option is also highly unlikely.

What is certain is that the IDF has no intention of staying inside Gaza for an undefined period of time. The Winograd Committee harshly criticized the government and the military for not planning an end strategy when deciding on July 12 to retaliate to Hizbullah's abduction earlier that day of reservists Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser.

Without a clear way out, Israel is not yet running into Gaza.

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