Dec 30, 2008 11:20 am


It should not listen. Two years ago Israel promised to crush Hezbollah. It did not. It did cause enough damage to make Hezbollah think twice before attacking Israel. Nassrallah knows the Lebanese would not forgive him if he exposes them again to Israeli bombardment. So, at the moment, Northern Israel is quite. Olmert is looking for a similar deal with Hamas. Concluding that bombastic rhetoric hurt Israel's case in 2006, he toned it down this time. This does not please many of Israel's supporters. Brett Stephens writes:

Hamas believes, in short, that while Israel will do many things, and do them well, it will not do the main thing. And that, in turn, means that as Israel exhausts its target list, as eventually it will, the storm will pass. Then the green flag of the movement will fly defiantly over the tallest building left standing, its prestige hugely boosted -- and Israel's commensurately diminished -- throughout the Muslim world.

Does all this also mean that Israel's attacks amount to a fool's errand? Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert likes to point out that no Hezbollah rockets have fallen on Israeli soil since August 2006 -- never mind that Hezbollah is both politically and militarily more powerful today than it was before the war. A similar outcome in Gaza would be equally disastrous.

This is not a counsel of restraint, of which Israel has shown more than enough through years of provocation. It is merely to point out that no ingenious conceit can disguise the fact that war offers no outcome other than victory or defeat. This is one big thing that Hamas understands, and that Israel must as well. The fox cannot beat the hedgehog. But the bigger hedgehog can -- and in this case must -- defeat the smaller one.

The problem is that Hamas is not the hedgehog Israel needs to defeat. Iran is. Shedding Israeli blood in Gaza will do nothing to weaken it, it would merely strengthen the hands of Abu Mazen and his Al Aqza brigades.

So, sorry to disagree. Israel should tame Hamas as cheaply as it can and keep it's eye firmly on the Iranian ball. Once Iran goes nuclear Israel will be as helpless in face of terror and rockets as India is today.

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