Amir Owen thinks the Gaza assault may be meant to show the world that Israel means business, that "the dark cloud in the Gaza skies might serve as an alternative, or preface to, an Iran operation":
In theory, a force which is able to strike against Ahmed Jabari would be able to pinpoint the location of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. And a force that destroyed Fajr rockets would be able to reach their bigger siblings, the Shihabs, as well as Iran's nuclear installations. So as not to leave a shred of doubt, the IDF Spokesman emphasized that "the Gaza Strip has become Iran's frontline base." At first glance, Operation Pillar of Defense seems to be aimed at the Palestinian arena, but in reality it is geared toward Iranian hostility against Israel.
Gregg Carlstrom examines a more domestic angle:
Netanyahu wants to declare victory after a quick military campaign. He wants to address the Israeli public over the next few days and say, we killed the Hamas leader who kidnapped our soldier, Gilad Shalit; we seriously degraded Hamas' ability to strike at Tel Aviv; and we restored deterrence in the Gaza Strip. (Nevermind that, as Gershon Baskin points out, Ahmed Jaabari was Israel's best chance for a long-term cease-fire with Gaza.) Once it's over, Netanyahu gets to play the victorious wartime prime minister.
Carlstrom notes a ground war would likely negate such a plan. Shalom Yerushalmi looks at how the conflict has impacted the upcoming elections:
The ballot box is likely to be dominated now by a security agenda. Israel has entered a state of existential anxiety and concern for its residents, mainly those in the south. At this time, there is no room for opposition, only patriotism. Anything that the left wing might say will be construed as criticism, and any criticism will be interpreted as an anti-national act that undermines the collective morale. Already, yesterday [Nov. 14] the leaders of the left and centrist parties made their way to the TV studios only to express positions in support of the government’s military course of action. None of them dared ask questions that could swing voters away. Silence, a war is on.
Gershom Gorenberg is unsure about the ultimate political consequences:
The initial response of the Israeli public when the IDF is ordered into a major offensive is to rally around the government, to see the action as essential. Later, after the deaths on both sides, after an ambiguous resolution, neither victory nor defeat, a political hangover often sets in. If regret comes this time, no one knows whether it will take less than two months or more.
(Photo: Palestinian Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Ismail Haniya (L) and Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil (R) visit a person who was wounded in an Israeli air strike on November 16, 2012 at the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City. By Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images)