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The Good Fight in Gaza

3:52 PM, Dec 29, 2008 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Seeing Gaza from the lookout on the Israeli side of the border, it's not obvious that the Palestinian enclave is among the most miserable spots one could possibly live. Still, we know it to be true. But perhaps it is lost on many Americans that living next to Gaza is likewise a miserable experience. The Israelis who cope with a daily bombardment from the crude but increasingly sophisticated rockets produced by Hamas endure what no American would ever abide. Barack Obama was uncharacteristically succinct when he described the situation last summer:

If someone was sending rockets on my house where my daughters were sleeping at night, I would do everything to stop it, and I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.

Yes, and it's evidence only of the extreme paralysis of Israeli politics that it took so long for the Israelis to actually do something. There is no reason to believe that the Israelis are lashing out in some ill-conceived manner -- using their superior military infrastructure to exact revenge for years of unanswered attacks (though such a response would be understandable). In fact, the operation has been in the works for at least six months as the Israelis gathered intelligence on the Hamas leadership and its infrastructure in Gaza. Roggio worries that this looks like a repeat of the 2006 war against Hezbollah. I'm more optimistic.

As Noah Pollak points out, the war against Hezbollah in 2006 did succeed in stopping the rocket fire on Israel's northern border -- at least for the time being. The problem was not solved permanently, and that was indeed a tremendous and unfortunate failure. But as Jeffrey Goldberg writes, the goal here is not the destruction of Hamas -- that doesn't seem possible at this point -- but for the Israeli government to fulfill its fundamental obligation to its citizens: "to use all of the tools of national power to stop attacks on its citizens." That can be achieved by restoring Israel's deterrent through a massive show of force. As Marty Peretz writes:

So at 11:30 on Saturday morning, according to both the Jerusalem Post and Ha'aretz, as well as the New York Times, 50 fighter jets and attack helicopters demolished some 40 to 50 sites in just about three minutes, maybe five. Message: do not fuck with the Jews.

The problem with this, however, is that if Israel doesn't finish the job, Hamas may accrue some benefit from the additional suffering of the Palestinian people. Hamas doesn't care whether the residents of Gaza live or die, whether they prosper or starve, it cares only that the Arab world and Iran support the organization with money and weapons, that the Palestinian people are united in their hatred of Israel, and that a moderate Palestinian faction is unable to pursue peace. If Hamas is left as the dominant force in Gaza, then their tactical defeat may also be a strategic victory -- as was the case for Hezbollah in Lebanon. Barak is promising a war with Hamas "to the bitter end." I'll believe that when I see it.

Still, the Israelis' fight in Gaza is a good fight. It is supported by the Israel's left-wing parties and more than 80 percent of its citizenry. While the American left kvetches about the disproportionate use of force, their silence when Hamas announced an end to the cease fire was far more revealing. And this time the American left cannot claim to be in solidarity with their ideological allies in Israel. They are on their own, and they speak only for themselves.