I went back and read what Defense Minister Ehud Barak said, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looking on, at the start of Operation Pillar of Defense. What Barak promised in precise and dull language has been achieved by the Israel Defense Forces over the past week. Now, four days before the Likud primaries, Likud ministers have heard disappointed views by party members about the military operation. These people have the right to their opinions; But if they take into account past promises by politicians to crush and destroy the enemy in the Gaza Strip (or in Lebanon) that did not come to fruition, how can they complain about the current government's more realistic approach?
Netanyahu and Barak, as well as the other ministers in the Forum of Nine, have made measured promises regarding the current operation in Gaza. They are not selling hot air, but are rather looking to achieve the maximum possible, given the prevailing conditions.
In the upcoming Knesset election, you could take the steering wheel away from Netanyahu, Barak, Benny Begin, Moshe Ya'alon, Avigdor Lieberman and Dan Meridor and give it to rightists Michael Ben-Ari, Aryeh Eldad and Naftali Bennett to continue the war against Hamas. But that would cause Israel's isolation to reach an all-time high.
You could also listen to Leader of the Opposition Shaul Mofaz, who sat in the Channel 2 studio on Tuesday night and reminded viewers that as defense minister under Ariel Sharon he led Operation Defensive Shield, which dealt a lethal blow to terrorism in Judea and Samaria. This is true. Mofaz is now calling for the IDF to be given a free hand to act. So why is Kadima not proposing a ground operation in Gaza? Does Mofaz support such an incursion? He should tell us.
One can argue that the government should have expanded the operation in Gaza, but three facts must be understood.
First, Hamas has taken a body blow. Senior operatives have been killed, rocket arsenals have been pulverized, terrorist infrastructure has been destroyed and the Iron Dome has been largely successful in protecting the Israeli homefront. The media hysteria over one apartment in Rishon Letzion that was hit by a rocket in fact highlighted how successful Israel's defense of the homefront has been and how smartly Israeli civilians have responded when the warning sirens have sounded.
Second, for the first time in many years, Israel has struck a heavy blow against terrorists in Gaza without losing the support of the world's enlightened nations. The Palestinians and their supporters have been futilely trying to stoke the flames by presenting horrible images on television. Those who remember the discomfort in Israel when criticism began coming in from capitals throughout the world, and committees such as the one led by Judge Richard Goldstone, understand the significance of this achievement.
Third, it is easy to launch a ground operation, but it is hard to end one. There is no need for a ground operation, unless Israel wants to topple the Hamas government in Gaza. Israel would need a national unity government in order to undertake such a task. Reserve soldiers, who have been mobilized and want to enter Gaza, deserve our respect and honor. It's good that Israel has such citizens. But their motivation to go into action should not be used as a reason to initiate a ground operation.
The signs are that the operation is in its final stages. The length of the cease-fire will be determined not by the Egyptian-sponsored talks, but rather the strength of the blow that the IDF has delivered.