At the time I write these words, the kidnapped boys have yet to be released. I hope this sentence will no longer be relevant when these words are read, but the rest of the article may still be relevant.
Alongside the patrol and extensive search, another military operation, a nameless one, is taking place in Judea and Samaria with the purpose of destroying the Hamas infrastructures. It is starting to remind those of us who have a good memory, like me, of the first Lebanon War, Israel's most unnecessary, foolish and ongoing war.
Obviously, the present and the past are never identical. In order to justify the first Lebanon War, then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Defense Minister Ariel Sharon and Chief of Staff Refael Eitan used the assassination of Israel's ambassador in London. Although the Palestinian Liberation Organization led by Yasser Arafat was not involved in the assassination, the Israeli government used it as an excuse to "destroy the PLO's terror infrastructures" in southern Lebanon.
Now Israel is operating against Hamas' terror infrastructures based on information (credible information, we hope) that the organization is deeply involved in the abduction of the three teens. While the PLO was considered a national liberation movement, Hamas has been defined in the world as a fanatic Muslim organization. So the invasion of Lebanon was immediately condemned by most Western countries, while the actions against Hamas are welcomed by many.
Moreover, Begin, Sharon and Eitan were trigger-happy. They prepared the army for war and were only looking for a reason to start it. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, on the other hand, are not rushing into war. The composition of the Netanyahu government is completely different from the Begin government: It has a solid sane majority.
And after presenting and detailing all these differences, there is still cause for concern today over the loss of decision makers' inhibition ability. Political and defense officials are already declaring openly that this is not a limited operation neither in its goal (finding the kidnapped) nor in time (until the Ramadan holiday). This is an evolving cleansing operation aimed at dealing Hamas a final blow. It will "last as long as it lasts"; months, years.
Such statements sound familiar: These were the words used by those who turned the 40-kilometer operation in southern Lebanon into a pointless war which lasted years.
Israel will not succeed in removing Hamas from the Palestinian Authority territories. It can deal it a painful blow, weaken it, crush some of its strongholds – but not erase its existence.
This organization is deeply rooted into the Palestinian reality, and the Palestinians themselves are the only ones capable of freeing themselves of its burden one day. There is no external force which could have blocked the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt; this was done by the Egyptian army.
An endless cleansing and destruction operation in the territories will not serve the State of Israel's interests. It will reemphasize the brutal aspect of the Israeli military presence in the Palestinian Authority territories, it will make it difficult for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to cooperate with us, it will generate growing international criticism and strengthen the radicals.
A public denied the hope to free itself of the violent hand of an occupation army soon tends to join radical resistance and terror organizations.
Today the IDF's activity discourages terror; tomorrow it will serve as its catalyst. We must not reach that tomorrow. We should let a wounded, haunted and persecuted Hamas lick its wounds, and make sure that the Palestinian population feels disgusted by it and opposes its methods. Only then, Hamas' wounds will fail to heal.
In the Second Lebanon War, the Israeli government was wise enough to stop the fighting without the IDF "completely destroying" Hezbollah's infrastructures, and that it precisely why it had long-term, unprecedented strategic achievements.
Now, under different circumstances, we are once again threatened by the danger of deteriorating to the cursed model of the first Lebanon War, although the lesson from that war is known and clear: It's easy to sink into swampy mud; it's very difficult to get out of it.