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A path to the defeat of Hamas

Bret Stephens has a piece in the WSJ today that cuts through much of the defeatism regarding Israel's actions in Gaza. He outlines clearly the main pitfalls that cause the doom and gloom predictions, but he also points out that there is a path to something approaching victory. A way to ensure if nothing else that Hamas comes out of this with less ability to act against Israel and ant further aggression can be met with immediate, proportional and deadly accurate response.

Then there is the matter of the war itself. Israel has already demonstrated that it has learned the principal lessons from the war with Hezbollah. It did not wait too long to begin the ground campaign. It resisted the lure of a premature cease-fire, engineered by others. It did not promise ambitious goals at the war's outset only to walk away from them amid military and diplomatic complications.

On the contrary, the stated goal of a "quiet" border with Gaza has the dual advantage of suggesting a degree of restraint while allowing Jerusalem to preserve its options as the battle unfolds. "Quiet" does not require the destruction of Hamas. But neither does it exclude it.

In other words, instead of being forced publicly to ratchet its aims downward, as it did in Lebanon, Jerusalem can now ratchet them upward, putting Hamas off-balance and perhaps tempting it to cut its losses by accepting a cease-fire on terms acceptable to Israel. Doing so would not quite amount to a defeat for Hamas. But it would be an unambiguous humiliation for a group whose greatest danger lies in its pretension of invincibility. Burst balloons aren't easily reinflated.....

Israel also has much to gain by avoiding a frontal assault on Gaza's urban areas in favor of the snatch-and-grab operations that have effectively suppressed Hamas's terrorist infrastructure in the West Bank. A long-term policy aimed squarely at killing or capturing Hamas's leaders, destroying arms caches and rocket factories, and cutting off supply and escape routes will not by itself destroy the group. But it can drive it out of government and cripple its ability to function as a fighting force. And this, in turn, could mean the return of Fatah, the closest thing Gaza has to a "legitimate" government.....

Israel will also have to practice a more consistent policy of deterrence than it has so far done. One option: For every single rocket that falls randomly on Israeli soil, an Israeli missile will hit a carefully selected target in Gaza. Focusing the minds of Hamas on this type of "proportionality" is just the endgame that Israel needs.

Israel, contrary to the yowlings of hateful Palestinians and their supporters, is the last country likely to engage in genocide, so they must force the Palestinians to behave in a way that allows coexistence. Although the current actions will radicalize some, it also has reminded many that poking the lion with a stick will get you bit. Israel will remain the lion, and if it takes regular reminders, well...OK. In addition Stephens reminds us that Israel is quite good at identifying and snatching bad guys as well as liquidating them from the air. A little cloak amd dagger could make a position in Hamas leadership about as attractive as the job of al Qaeda's #2 in Iraq, life expectancy in hours.

The end game he envisions must be a carrot and stick affair. Right now the Gazans have earned a heaping helping of stick, by voting for and supporting a group that advocates the destruction of a UN member state. Bad idea, and the ass-whooping they are getting is the reward for that. Once they have been defanged, there must be an outreach that offers them the carrot, through humanitarian efforts such as medical aid, food and infrastructure. But there is no reason to simply give these to the savages who are Hamas. Perhaps a demilitartized zone in the north, where the rockets have been lunched from, with clinics staffed by UN or Euro docs, but secured so that Hamas cannot infilitrate. Eliminate the launch sites and replace them with sweetness and light. Let's see what the world thinks when Hamas rockets a UN hospital.

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