While Israel's top defense and political echelons debate whether to attack Hamas or agree to a ceasefire, at least one top general feels a third option is available: Doing nothing.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and the other ministers of the security cabinet are to meet later Wednesday to decide how to respond to the nearly-daily Hamas rocket-and-shelling attacks on southern Israel. A possible ceasefire has been on the table for months, as has an all-out military option. The drawback of the former is that it will enable Hamas to gear up and strengthen itself for the next round of fighting, while the second option is liable to cause many IDF casualties - and re-energize Hamas.
General Yoram Yair, who has headed several military inquiries in past years, such as the death of the soldier Madhat Yusuf at Joseph's Tomb during the early days of the Oslo War and the performance of the army's Division 91 during the Second Lebanon War, says there is a third option. "Gritting our teeth and leaving the current situation as is can lead to the collapse of Hamas," he told Arutz-7's Hebrew newsmagazine.
Hamas continues to attack Israel, firing at least 18 mortar shells at the western Negev on Tuesday, causing no injuries.
"Our problem is that we don't have a long-term policy,"Gen. Yair said, "but rather respond to momentary pressures without seeing the whole picture. The true picture in Gaza today is that the population there is in terrible straits. People are fueling their cars with cooking oil instead of gas, there are shortages of food and the like, and the suffering is great. Hamas is dependent on public support, and it is in big trouble. For the first time in a while, a Palestinian Authority poll has found that support for Fatah's Abu Mazen is greater than that of Haniyeh of Hamas."
"It won't be us that will topple Hamas," Yair said, "but rather the [people of Gaza] themselves."
He explained that the two options currently being considered would only help Hamas: "A ceasefire would enable the opening of the crossings into Gaza and the delivery of food and the like, taking all pressure off Hamas, while an Israeli attack would cause the population to rally around Hamas and thus strengthen it - which is something that no one in Israel wants to see."
"In my opinion," Yair said, "a few months more of the status quo - with targeted killings, military pressure on Hamas, etc. - and Hamas will collapse."
Negev Residents Must Bear the Yoke
Asked how he can ask the residents of Sderot and the Negev to continue to grit their teeth and tolerate rockets and having to run for their lives to the shelters several times a day, Yair said, "I am well aware of the suffering of the residents. For one thing, I often work in the area, and in addition, I went through this in the [Lebanese-terrorists besieged] north when I commanded that district... But we must understand that when a nation is in a military struggle, each time a different sector has to bear the load. For this year or two, it has been decreed upon the people of the Negev that they must bear the yoke of the State of Israel's security."
"Will conquering Gaza again stop the mortar shells? We will conquer it and then leave - will there then be quiet? Our experience shows that this is not the case. Hamas wants us to attack them, because this will unify them... We can act with anger and fury, but that's not a strategy. When there is a war of nerves, the side with the stronger nerves wins."