Jacob Katz suggests Israel can defeat Hamas but asks at what cost.
[..] The thinking within Jerusalem that a large-scale operation in Gaza is the only real way for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s peace partner, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, to return to power in the Strip has been floating around the halls of the Kirya Military Headquarters for several months now, ever since Hamas’s violent takeover of Gaza in June.
There is no question that the IDF can, if it unleashes it full power, significantly weaken Hamas, and perhaps destroy it.
Israel would first bomb Hamas positions from the air and simultaneously begin assassinating Hamas’s military, and possibly even political, leadership.
The IDF has learned its lessons from the Second Lebanon War and would fairly early on send large forces into Gaza for two purposes – to stop the Kassam rocket fire that will escalate in the first few days of the operations and to hunt down terrorists by going door-to-door on Gaza’s densely-populated streets.
It would also most likely take up positions in the Philadelphi Corridor next to Sinai to stop the weapons smuggling into Gaza, as well as in the northern Gaza Strip, the launch pad for many of the Kassam rocket squads.
But before all this begins, the question that needs to be asked is what price Israel is willing to pay for such an operation.
Official estimates talk about more than 100 dead soldiers, possibly even more than the 119 killed during the Second Lebanon War. Hamas is no longer a small terror group; it has a full-sized military in Gaza, armed to its teeth and highly-motivated to fight.
The bigger problem is the exit plan. “It is easy to go in, but more difficult to get out,” a senior defense official said recently.
With the IDF, as well as the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), not all that sure that Abbas is capable of grabbing the reins and retaking Gaza, there may not even be a reason to go in there to begin with.