MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Maria Appakova) - "In many respects, the war in Gaza has compensated for the shortcomings of the Second Lebanon War. This time around, the decision to launch the offensive was calculated and reasoned, and the army has shown impressive capabilities." This quotation from the Israeli Haaretz daily describes the prevailing attitude in Israel.
Almost two and a half years have passed since the war which Israel conducted in Lebanon against the Shiite Hezbollah. During all this time the Israelis were disappointed in their generals, politicians, logistics officers and themselves.
Today, everything is different from the way it was then, although the situation seems similar. There are only two differences: Now it is the country's south rather than the north that is subjected to rocket fire, and it comes from the Palestinian Hamas rather than Lebanese Hezbollah. These rockets are reaching the areas which have been considered invulnerable before. However, the public attitude is radically different today, although the world's response makes the Israeli position much more vulnerable than it was during the Lebanese war. On the whole, the public position is rather consolidated on the eve of the parliamentary elections.
This may seem cynical - the election race at the cost of almost a thousand lives in Gaza, particularly since two thirds of those killed had nothing to do with Hamas. A considerable part of the victims were women and children. It would be unfair to say that Israelis do not care about this but they would never have forgiven their government for delaying the offensive if the number of victims in Israeli cities had grown geometrically, if Hamas rockets had fallen on Tel Aviv, thereby paralyzing life not only in the country's south but also in its center.
Many people in the south of Israel and the rest of the country are praying for the government to carry the military operation through to the end.
The Israeli government's official goal is to stop attacks by Hamas and deprive it of the opportunity to obtain weapons, which come primarily via Egypt. But opinions on the tactical methods of reaching this goal differ both in the elite and among the public. The defense and foreign ministers believe that the military operation is coming to an end, and diplomatic accords are not far off, whereas other members of the elite insist on expanding the offensive with a ground operation and Gaza's partial reoccupation. There is no consensus on this score in the public, either.
Should Israel agree to a ceasefire with vague political dividends, such as the deployment of peacemakers, and monitoring of the prohibition on weapons supplies? Israel knows from its Lebanese experience that such measures are ineffective and short-lived no matter how great they may sound on paper.
But what is the alternative? Would it be realistic to hope to completely destroy the Hamas leaders, keep Gaza under siege, or re-occupy it? Hardly so. Today, criticism of the government's decisions is muted but it is bound to be voiced in the near future, and will sound the strongest during the election campaign.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.