Israel has moved ground troops into Gaza. On CNN at the gym, an Israeli Major seemed to be suggesting that the offensive could go on for a protracted length. This is really, really bad.
Officials have stated repeatedly that the aim is not to fully reoccupy Gaza. But it was clear that the military was leaving the door open for a long-term operation; a spokesman said Saturday that the ground push “will continue on the basis of ongoing situational assessments.” And it remained an open question whether Israel would try to eliminate the Hamas government.
Considering the degree to which the Muslim world has ralied around the cause of the Palestinians already, it hardly seems prudent to occupy parts of Gaza when the main gripe against Israel has been that they are indeed occupiers. Perhaps more troubling is the belief that Hamas can somehow be eradicated. Hamas is the militant organization at the moment, but it draws strength from perceived Israeli oppression. I’m not quite sure how a ground invasion with the possibility of long-term engagement is going to lessen the desire amongst Palestinians to be rid of illegal settlements and a near de facto blockade that has crippled any Gazan economy. The most likely scenario of a protracted occupation will be a protracted insurgency that Israeli’s — much like Americans vis-a-vis Iraq — will tire of and ultimately force a withdrawal that will allow Hamas to claim victory. Further, the greater need for outside assistance will open more space for Iran to exert influence throughout the Middle East. Needless to say, this isn’t a desirable outcome.