Israel is signalling that if a ground maneuver in Gaza becomes inevitable, it will be done with the objective of full occupation of the territory
Against the background of recent clashes with the Hamas government in Gaza and with its even more extreme siblings, Israel has just reviewed and approved the final plans for the IDF to (re)occupy the territory. There are no illusions that are harbored by anyone in Israel that such a move is the absolute last resort. It will doubtlessly cost hundreds of casualties, quickly become a public relations nightmare, and may trigger a larger regional conflict with Iran and its proxies in Lebanon and in Syria.
Even more unappealing is the prospect of what is to be done the day after Israel takes full military control of the territory, a thin strip of land with one of the highest population densities anywhere in the world whose population is extremely hostile to Israel’s very existence. Nevertheless, if the choice is short term pain versus long term survival of Israel and its ability to protect its sovereign territory and its citizens against foreign aggression, there really is no choice at all.
In the end, the relentless hostility of the terrorist factions in Gaza, the Hamas tenuous grip on power as expressed in last week’s food riots, and Iran’s ceaseless fanning of the winds of war create in Israel the realization that the next round of warfare, regardless of its trigger, will be “to the end”. If the IDF is forced to enter Gaza on the ground, this time it will not stop until it has full control of the entire territory.