Will Israel Crush Hamas?

That appears to be the objective as IDF ground troops continue to infiltrate Gaza:

This morning’s reports that a cease-fire could occur by Friday morning are now looking much less likely. “The IDF’s objective as defined by the Israeli government is to establish a reality in which Israeli residents can live in safety and security without continues indiscriminate terror, while striking a significant blow to Hamas’ terror infrastructure,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement late Thursday, confirming it had begun a ground operation in Gaza.

“The prime minister and defense minister have instructed the IDF to begin a ground operation tonight in order to hit the terror tunnels from Gaza into Israel,” Benjamin Netanyahu’s office confirmed. “In light of Hamas’ continuous criminal aggression, and the dangerous infiltration into Israeli territory, Israel is obligated to act in defense of its citizens.” Casualties have already been reported.

Josh Marshall interprets this as a sign that Netanyahu has capitulated to his coalition’s right flank:

The backstory on the Israeli side has been a tug of war between the military chain of command and the government over whether to intensify the campaign in Gaza and whether to launch a ground invasion. The military, cognizant of 2009, has generally been trying to avoid an intensification of the campaign. And Netanyahu himself seems to have been generally siding with the generals, but with intensifying demands from members of his own government for a full out ground assault. As the rocket fire out of the strip has continued, the pressure to launch a ground invasion has escalated. That question now seems to have been answered.

While that may be the case, Yishai Schwartz argues, “the more likely explanation is that Israel just didn’t have any other options”:

Israel could have continued its aerial and artillery exchanges with Hamas, but this campaign did not appear to be damaging either the will or the capability of Hamas. It could have loosened its rules of engagement and struck Hamas more effectivelybut doing so would have inflicted unconscionably disproportionate civilian damage. It could have capitulated to Hamas’s ultimatums to release hundreds of security prisoners and reopened Gaza to shipments of arms- and tunnel-making materials. Apart from the moral implications of such a concession, doing so would simply have strengthened Hamas and ensured additional fighting. An extended cease-fire would be ideal. But so far, Egyptian attempts to broker such a cease-fire seem to have fallen on deaf ears. So Netanyahu was left with a choice that wasn’t really much of a choice.

Fred Kaplan believes Israel is no longer thinking strategically:

[L]et’s say an invasion crushes Hamas, a feasible outcome if the Israeli army were let loose. Then what? Either the Israelis have to re-occupy Gaza, with all the burdens and dangers that entails—the cost of cleaning up and providing services, the constant danger of gunfire and worse from local rebels (whose ranks will now include the fathers, brothers, and cousins of those killed), and the everyday demoralization afflicting the oppressed and the oppressors. Or the Israelis move in, then get out, leaving a hellhole fertile for plowing by militias, including ISIS-style Islamists, far more dangerous than Hamas.

Either way, what’s the point?

Mataconis speculates:

This could simply be a relatively small operation on Israel’s part designed to maximize the gains it has made against Hamas in the current conflict before a cease fire takes hold. That is not an uncommon tactic in war, of course, so it would make sense if that’s what’s going on here. For the moment at least, though, there doesn’t seem to be any indication that the military is limiting its objectives in this operation, and Hamas seems to be fighting back as vigorously as they can. Given all that, I’d put the odds of a cease fire at any time in the [near] future as being pretty slim if not non-existent.

Indeed, ceasefire talks are going nowhere fast:

Earlier in the day, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Al-Arabi conducted cease-fire talks in Cairo. The session was also attended by an Israeli delegation but it left after several hours of discussions. For the time being, Arab diplomats in New York were waiting to see whether talks in Egypt on a cease-fire progress before deciding whether to turn to the U.N. Security Council for help in stopping the fighting. “There is intense effort being made by President Abbas in Cairo in trying to finalize what would be a cease-fire,” said one Arab diplomat. “That’s where all the efforts are for the moment.”

Even if a ceasefire does takes hold, Ibrahim Sharqieh stresses, nothing will be resolved:

It is delusional to assume that when the current battle ends, both parties will return to their communities to resume normal lives. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has created two meanings of normality. The 40,000 Israeli reservists who were called up this time will, for the most part, go back to their jobs and homes when the fighting ends. But Gazans, 39% of whom are unemployed, will go back to their “normal” lives under the brutal conditions of the Gaza blockade and be at the mercy of Israel’s rules about what type and quantity of food and other basics are allowed into Gaza. The Palestinians in the West Bank will go back to their daily humiliation of roadblocks and expanding Israeli settlements at the expense of their livelihoods. …

To prevent another tragic war in the future, things must change. Palestinians mainly need two things: dignity and bread. Israel must end the occupation in general and the Gaza blockade in particular. The mistake of the 2008 and 2012 mediation efforts was that they produced cease-fires that allowed the Israelis to go back to business as usual — but left the Gaza blockade intact and perpetuated untenable conditions, which led to further and bloodier fighting.