The current Israel-Hamas war will have broad strategic implications that go far beyond the immediate results on the battlefield.
Israel’s reluctance to inflict a decisive defeat of Hamas in Operation Pillar of Defense indicates its desire for a new arrangement for the Gaza Strip. A preferred outcome would be an Egyptian role in Gaza, providing Israel with a real government with whom it could negotiate.
Many of Israel’s detractors on the left argue that Israel’s democracy is in a state of decline. A closer look shows that it is thriving, with decentralization of political power, a strong judicial system, the end of party-affiliated journalism, more minorities in public positions, and a more professional and less-politicized army.
A protective or defensive diplomatic strategy is the right strategy in light of Israel’s bitter experiences with Middle East peace processes. Israeli “initiatives” of the past 20 years have produced such dismal results that any purported Israeli diplomatic initiative holds more pitfalls than promise.
The impending Israeli elections played a role in the decision to go on the offensive against Hamas; and this partially explains why the Israeli media was supportive of the war. For its part, Hamas completely misread the Israeli political mindset.
Israeli society is often conceived of as deeply divided, characterized by profound chasms separating many sectors of society. The victory of the centrist Kadima Party in the 2006 Israeli elections suggests that Israel is far less divided than presumed. Kadima’s victory indicates the existence of a strong political center in Israel. The success of Israel’s new government may depend on the prime minister’s comprehension of this fact and his ability to build upon it.
The Religious Zionist community in Israel has been significantly affected by Israel’s disengagement from Gaza, with some expressing a feeling of betrayal by the government. There are three alternative political approaches: secularization, fundamentalism, and an alternative political approach calling for the establishment of a new ruling Israeli elite.