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Israel's Coping Mechanism

4:56 PM, Jan 15, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Good news:

Hamas's interior minister, Said Siam, was killed along with his brother Iad and his son, as well as another senior Hamas man in an IAF strike on a house in the Jabaliya neighborhood in Gaza City, Israeli defense officials told The Jerusalem Post.

Siam was the Hamas political echelon's liaison with the group's military wing, and was responsible for the various security apparatuses in the Strip, including the police and the naval force. Siam was considered a radical and was in contact with Hamas's political leadership in Damascus. He was also considered close to Iranian officials.

...Siam was the most senior Hamas man to be killed in almost three weeks of fighting.

Who even knew that Hamas had a Navy? The piece goes on to quote Khaled Mashaal, the Damascus-based leader of Hamas, as saying that "Israel has totally lost it," and that the strike was evidence that the Israeli leadership "couldn't cope with the Palestinian resistance activists in the Gaza Strip battlefield." Apparently the Israelis are coping with the Palestinian resistance by completely decapitating its leadership structure. This is also the second Hamas leader who's been killed along with members of his family -- I'm sure J Street is preparing a petition right now in solidarity with the six percent of Israelis who oppose what increasingly looks to be a major Israeli victory against Hamas.

There has been talk of a cease fire sometime in the next week, and one expects that the current conditions on the battlefield will dictate that the Israelis get most, though not all, of the concessions they seek -- including some kind of help from Egypt and the international community in policing the border with Gaza so as to prevent the smuggling of weapons and the rearming of Hamas. It could be a mistake for the Israelis to sign a deal before Obama takes office, thus denying the new president a chance to score some easy points for brokering a deal in his first 100 hours, but that may be the outcome.

All things considered, it's hard not to judge the Israeli media operation during this war a success as well. In comparison to the 2006 war in Lebanon, the Gaza operation has produced few images or stories that have negatively affected public opinion in the West. There was much outrage in Europe, of course, but so far there has been no incident that shocked the conscience of those who were inclined to support Israel, or at least give the country the benefit of the doubt. However, there may yet be a backlash.

When Israeli troops do pull back from Gaza, and when the press is finally able to travel the territory freely and report on the events that have taken place the last few weeks, there is likely to be a sudden surge in negative press. Surely some number of civilians, likely used as human shields by Hamas, have been killed and their bodies not yet recovered owing to the continuing hostilities. The press will have an opportunity to photograph these perhaps badly decomposed bodies as they are pulled from the rubble. To accompany those photos will be a new round of stories about Israeli "atrocities."

Bad things happen in war, some of the bad things that happened in this war probably haven't been reported yet. Still, as things look now, the IDF has exceeded expectations, and Hamas will not walk away from this with anything like the propaganda victory secured by Hezbollah in 2006. The rocket fire should come to a halt -- for a while anyway. And the Hamas leadership will have been reminded that the Israelis are willing to do what is necessary to protect their citizens.