Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi has consistently demanded that the political leadership formulate clear objectives for a Gaza Strip operation – also known as an exit strategy.
It now seems that such objectives have been laid down. The realistic goal of any military operation should not be to oust Hamas, which would take too long and cost too much, but rather, to undermine its military capabilities and weakeni its regime. Such an operation must end with a clear bilateral truce based on terms Israel can live with.
The IDF is delivering powerful surgical blows, simultaneously, from the air, the ground and the sea, against selected prime targets in the Gaza Strip in a manner that would jeopardize the Hamas regime in Gaza.
For months, military analysts have seen that Hamas was creating a full-scale army in the Gaza strip. This may create substantial difficulties for a massive Israeli ground operation, if it is conducted according to expected military procedures, using access routes already known by the enemy and prepared with IEDs.
However, if reliable, accurate and (as far as possible) real-time intelligence is available, it's possible to achieve strategic success against an enemy who has known and identified military installations. Targets such as training camps, supply depots, weapon construction facilities, command and control centers are legitimate high-value targets, which once destroyed weaken the former guerilla organization considerably.
Moreover, a military-style organization can be robbed of its cohesive operation if its senior leaders are targeted and its communications network is disrupted or effectively jammed. One should not forget the immense effect of the 2004 assassination of Sheikh Yassin and his replacement Rantissi on Hamas’ activities, which virtually ceased for nearly six months.
Hamas and its partners will no doubt respond with massive rocket fire at Israeli communities while attempting to carry out other terror attacks. Israel has already anticipated this by enforcing martial law concerning civilian defense in all targeted areas and keeping people under cover for the duration.
With no further time to waste, Israel has now taken the initiative. It wishes to end Hamas' hold on Palestinian government institutions before it is too late, as new elections in the Palestinian Authority are challenging Abu Mazen in early 2009. A strategic concern: if the Second Lebanon War paralyzed the port of Haifa, due to Hezbollah rocket attacks, the next clash with the Palestinians could create a similar threat to the port of Ashdod - an intolerable threat to the nation.