George Orwell once quipped, "The quickest way of ending a war is to lose it."
Since Tuesday it has become clear that the Olmert-Livni-Barak government has decided to end the war with Iran's Hamas proxy army in Gaza as quickly as possible. That is, the government has decided to lose the war.
Most Israelis are unaware of this state of affairs. In an obvious attempt to bolster the popularity of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak ahead of the February 10 general elections, the local media have spent the six days since the government launched Operation Cast Lead praising the government's competence and wisdom, and declaring victory over Hamas after every IAF sortie in Gaza.
What the media have declined to notice is that the outcome of the war will not be determined by the number of Hamas buildings the IAF destroys. The outcome of this war - like the outcome of all wars - will be determined by one factor only: Which side will achieve the goals it set out for itself at the outset of the conflict and which side will concede its goals?
Depressingly, the current machinations of the Olmert-Livni-Barak government demonstrate that when the fighting is over, Hamas and not Israel will be able to declare that it accomplished its goals.
Hamas reinstated its attacks against southern Israel on December 19. It did so after a six-month hiatus that it used to restock its arsenals and strengthen its military forces. As it resumed its terror offensive against Israeli cities, Hamas announced that it will continue its current round of terror war until it wins full control over Gaza's land and sea borders.
Israel, for its part, has been less clear in stating its operational goals. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Livni and Barak have said that the goal of Operation Cast Lead is to compel Hamas to end its attacks against Israel, but they haven't said how they intend to affect that outcome. They have rejected Hamas's demand for control over Gaza's land and sea borders and in turn demanded that Hamas end its weapons smuggling operations across the Egyptian border.
Somewhat disconnectedly, the Olmert-Livni-Barak government has demanded that in the event it reaches some sort of mediated accord with Hamas, an international monitoring force must be deployed to Gaza to enforce its terms. Since Wednesday, this appears to have become Israel's main demand in relation to any mediated cease-fire talks with Hamas.
Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, where this article first appeared.
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