As Israeli soldiers have massed to enter Gaza in force, the defense minister has promised them, “You see Gaza now from a distance; you will soon see it from inside.”
Yet despite this vow from the minister, Yoav Gallant, it is not clear when Israel will mount a ground invasion. And if the government appears hesitant to enter Gaza — more than two weeks since the Hamas attack that killed more than 1,400 Israelis — there are good reasons to be.
What lies ahead is a kind of sustained urban warfare that the country’s military forces have not encountered for nearly a decade, and in pursuit of a political end that remains unclear aside from vanquishing Hamas, which controls Gaza, so that it can never again threaten Israeli citizens.
By itself, that is a tall order that will require the Israelis to establish control over Gaza for themselves, and one which will cost significant amounts of blood, treasure and international outrage over civilian deaths.
And hovering over everything is the political conundrum of what happens to Gaza after the war ends. Once in, how does Israel get out? Once it has dismantled Hamas, if it can, to whom will it hand the keys? If Hamas no longer governs Gaza, who will?
For the moment, Israeli officials say, those questions are not their immediate concern. But they will be unavoidable, even if Gaza becomes the responsibility of a new Israeli government.
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