Ironically, perhaps the most important long-term benefit which may emerge from the confrontation in Gaza is Israel’s maturation. This is true, militarily, diplomatically, and psychologically. While all of these factors could still self-destruct, it does appear at this point that Israel is indeed handling this war very differently than it has previously.
The military phase of the operation was clearly conceived and, to date, almost flawlessly executed. While Israel would like to eliminate all of Hamas’ rocket launchers, the arms caches, and the military leadership, it appears that the IAF is moving methodically and carefully to accomplish most of the job without necessitating a ground invasion. Result is dramatically reduced number of casualties on both sides, but a significant reduction in Hamas’ arsenal.
In the diplomatic arena Israel also has kept the voices of condemnation to the usual suspects. Arab nations, Russia, and the non-aligned bloc have voiced their protests, but the Security Council has yet to be convened and the U.N. moved to the arena of conflict resolution and problem solving, not just pontificating and grandstanding. Meanwhile the West, led by the U.S. repeatedly has voiced its support for Israel’s right to defend itself, its citizens, and its borders. This too could change if the apparent negotiations to broker a ceasefire proceeding in Cairo breakdown.
Despite very heavy handed efforts by Hamas and many Arab leaders, Israel appears to be winning the media and PR war as well—at least so far. On the home front and within the world Jewish community Bibi’s statesmanship is receiving high praise. Despite the election pressure, Netanyahu seems have to have kept all the potential hot heads in his coalition under wraps, and has built a very tight circle of voices to articulate Israel’s goals. While Hamas persists in trying to suck Israel into a land operation through belittling, and degrading Israel’s military successes, Bibi has allowed all the Arab badgering and badmouthing to roll off his back.
Israel will never be permitted to be seen as the winner here unless a ceasefire is quickly in place and a land invasion is avoided. On one level the Arabs know that; while on another level they recognize that the new Egyptian Government needs to be secured by showing itself to be a serious regional player under Morsi. All sides need him, at least one major Arab player, to come out a winner.
All of this must happen very quickly. If Obama looks good; Morsi is seen as a broker; the threat to Israel is dramatically reduced; and the Israeli people avoid significant casualties, this war may be the most important confrontation to test Israel’s place in the world since 1967. If it drags on or if there is a land war, all the good markers for Israel could rapidly disappear.