Israel Learns from Experience in 'Operation Cast Lead'

There are many similarities between Israel's ongoing Operation Cast Lead in Gaza and its Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006. In both cases, Israel is bombarding and inserting ground troops into territory from which it had withdrawn on the understanding that withdrawal would lead to peace; in both instances, withdrawal, in fact, was seen as a sign of weakness and actually precipitated further rocket attacks upon Israeli cities, in the north in the case of Hezbollah in Lebanon, and in the southwest, especially the town of Sderot, in the case of Hamas in Gaza.

There are of course significant differences. Gaza is a small, dense, and urban area about which Israel has an intimate knowledge and good intelligence, while Lebanon is geographically larger and less dense in population, and Israeli intelligence on Hezbollah has always been weak when compared with its grasp of the workings of Hamas, Fatah, and other Palestinian groups. Significantly, too, there is pressure on Israel to restore its credibility as an unbeatable military force, much diminished by the nebulous and ultimately unachieved goals set for the Lebanon war two and a half years ago.

Hamas is also, in military terms, a less formidable enemy than Hezbollah and lacks an explicit connection to Iran, with the training, intelligence and weaponry that the latter provided in the 2006. Already, communications for Hamas have been reduced to walkie-talkies, as cell phone coverage has been destroyed and much of the landline infrastructure as well. Opposition to the IDF is also hampered in Gaza by the intense hostility between Hamas and Fatah. Even in the midst of an open conflict, Hamas is diverting time and energy to pursuing its feud with Fatah, accounting for at least some of the rapidly mounting Palestinian casualties in Gaza.