- The IDF fought brilliantly during Operation Cast Lead, defeating Hamas troops whenever it met them and doing great damage to the Hamas infrastructure with minimal IDF and — despite enemy propaganda — civilian casualties.
- The IDF Spokesperson did a good job of responding to false claims and in showing how Hamas stored weapons in schools and mosques, used human shields, etc. Although the overall Israeli information effort could have been improved, it was much better than in the past.
Nevertheless, the operation was terminated without putting an end to Hamas weapons smuggling, without stopping the rockets landing in Israeli towns, without weakening Hamas’ hold on Gaza and without freeing Gilad Schalit. Indeed, negotiations for a huge ‘prisoner exchange’ to get Schalit back are continuing.
Although Israel’s objectives were stated in a deliberately vague way, we can say that the operation did not meet any reasonable set of goals. In addition, the anti-Israel propaganda assault spearheaded by Aljazeerah and many other media worldwide was highly effective in creating a false image of Israel and the IDF as brutal war criminals. The damage done to Israel’s future diplomatic efforts was huge, as was the effect on policy in countries that support Israel to some extent, such as the US. For example, anti-Israel groups in the US are presently mounting a campaign to reduce military assistance to Israel.
This means that not only did the operation not meet its military goals but that the net effect was negative.
Although it’s impossible to prove, it’s fair to assume that the operation was terminated early due to international (particularly US) pressure. Why else would the decision have been made to stop when achievable goals had not yet been achieved?
This leads to the pessimistic conclusion that no matter how well the IDF performs and how disreputable its enemy — in this case Hamas, clearly an outlaw terrorist entity — Israel will simply not be allowed a definitive victory over Arabs.
This is not the first time this has happened. Possibly one of the most fateful occasions was the end of the first Lebanon war in 1982, when Yasser Arafat was given safe passage out of Beirut.
As I’ve argued before, the root of the conflict is not refugees, borders, the occupation of 1967, but the Arab (and now Iranian) rejection of any Jewish state in the Mideast. As long as they believe that Israel can be destroyed, they will continue to try to do so. And the world keeps their hopes alive.
This guarantees that the conflict will never end. It’s ironic that the governments that speak the loudest about the need for peace in the Mideast are the ones that work the hardest to restrain Israel.