The ostensible purpose of the war in Gaza is for Israel to wipe out Hamas and eliminate its capacity to rain rockets down on its citizens. Both the dovish leaders in the current Israeli government -- Prime Minister Olmert, Foreign Minister Livni, and Defense Minister Barak -- and the international diplomatic community want to get rid of Hamas and leave the more moderate Palestinian Authority as the sole negotiating agent for the Palestinians. So the Israeli attacks have not received the kind of international condemnation and vitriol that they usually attract.
But the real purpose of this war is to get Livni elected prime minister and defeat Bibi Netanyahu. It is no accident that after years in which 8,000 rockets have been fired from Gaza on Israel (3,000 in 2008 alone) that the Israeli government chose a moment six weeks before the Feb. 10 election to retaliate.
Livni and her likely coalition partner Barak need to show that they are tough enough to lead Israel. And the international community, desperate to avoid a Netanyahu government, is determined to let them.
But it won't work for one basic reason: Livni and Barak are weak compared to Netanyahu and won't bring the degree of force to bear necessary to accomplish their objective. Instead, they will wage the war with one eye on the international reaction and will pull the punches needed to bring Hamas to submission. They will not close the Gaza border to supplies, and they will cave in to demands to suspend the ground war long before it has silenced Hamas.
Livni and Barak will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by giving up before final victory is achieved. And their obvious failure to persevere will be all Netanyahu needs to win the election.
After all, Livni, Olmert and Barak have set a very high standard for success. Having triggered the war in order to stop Hamas' rocket attacks, they cannot stop it and declare victory unless the attacks do, in fact, stop. Hamas cannot let Israel silence its attacks while it still breathes and has life.
So the attacks won't stop. With 1.5 million homes to hide in, the Israeli Army cannot hope to destroy every rocket and every launcher, and kill every terrorist. The attacks will continue, as they have continued, day after day, even during the invasion. And, faced with international pressure and the dissatisfaction war is causing in their internal party ranks, Livni and Barak will lose their gamble.