By Jonathan Cook – Nazareth
".....Even if Israeli tanks do lumber into the enclave, will they dare to move into the real battlegrounds of central Gaza? Or will they simply be used, as they have been in the past, to terrorise the civilian population on the peripheries?
Israelis are aware of the official reason for Mr Barak’s reticence to follow the air strikes with a large-scale ground war. They have been endlessly reminded that the worst losses sustained by the army in the second Intifada took place in 2002 during the invasion of Jenin refugee camp.
Gaza, as Israelis know only too well, is one mammoth refugee camp. Its narrow alleys, incapable of being negotiated by Merkava tanks, will force Israeli soldiers out into the open. Gaza, in the Israeli imagination, is a death trap.....
Despite the popular rhetoric in Israel, no senior official really believes Hamas can be destroyed, either from the air or with brigades of troops. It is simply too entrenched in Gaza.....
Israel apparently hopes to persuade the Hamas leadership, as it did Arafat for a while, that its best interests are served by co-operating with Israel. The message is: forget about your popular mandate to resist the occupation and concentrate instead on remaining in power with our help.
In the fog of war, events may yet escalate in such a way that a serious ground invasion cannot be avoided, especially if Hamas continues to fire rockets into Israel. But whatever happens, Israel and Hamas are almost certain in the end to agree to another ceasefire.
The issue will be whether in doing so, Hamas, like Arafat before it, loses sight of its primary task: to force Israel to end its occupation."