According to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s spokesman Mark Regev, the onslaught against the Gaza Strip over the past weekend has revitalized the cabinet, saying “there was an energy, a feeling that after so long of showing restraint we had finally acted.”
Indeed, as the attacks seem unlikely to unseat Hamas from the Gaza Strip, the body count being racked up is as much about restoring domestic and international face after the largely failed 2006 invasion of Lebanon. It’s already done much to repair the image of Labor Party head and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
But it’s value on the front of deterrence is questionable, at best. The Gaza Strip is far from a difficult opponent for the heavily armed Israeli military, and what it will prove by killing hundreds of people in a densely populated sliver of land that has had little access to food or medicine for months now is unclear. It may have reinforced the notion that Israel is willing to kill enormous numbers of people for nebulous reasons: one of the few things that wasn’t in doubt after the Lebanon War.
What it has accomplished, rather, was to destroy what few peace talks Israel had going for them. The enormously significant early stages of peace talks with Syria were ended yesterday. Even the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority, which had hoped to use the Israeli attacks as a means to recover control of the Gaza Strip from rival Hamas, has suspended the US-sponsored talks to protest the high death tolls.