The Israeli attack on Gaza is far from a simple operation to stop homemade rockets being fired into Israel. According to the Israeli media, it has been planned for six months and is expected to destroy the Hamas infrastructure as well as much of the remaining Gazan economy. So far, the death toll is over three hundred Palestinians vs one Israeli killed by a retaliatory rocket and more is coming as tanks and infantry gather. Critics of Israel have noted that the Palestinian rockets have been in response to recent Israeli efforts to starve Gaza and destroy its economy, so what we are seeing is the normal cycle of violence begetting violence with the Israelis using overwhelming force and US provided weapons in an attempt to make the political problem arising out of their suppression of the Palestinians go away.
The only problem is that Hamas will not go away and will only be strengthened by the Israeli action, something that the Israeli leadership surely knows, so there must be another objective. With Israeli elections looming it is almost certainly intended to make Kadima look strong on security to turn back the right wing challenge from Bibi. But I also have to think of Obama. Is this a deliberate attempt to create a widening conflict that will draw in Iran among other players? Iran is already calling for volunteers to fight the Israelis and there are large demonstrations throughout the Muslim world. Is it an attempt to confront Obama with a fait accompli in which he will have to weigh in on the side of Israel (note the comments by Pelosi and other leading Dems endorsing Israel’s action and blaming the Palestinians)? Is it a test for Obama to see where he comes down, which is predictable, and to bind him irrevocably to the Israeli actions? I cannot imagine that the Israelis would initiate a major destabilization of the situation vis-a-vis the Palestinians withous a strategic objective and without reckoning the likely impact on the new POTUS.