Not too little, but too late

Israel will elect a new Prime Minister early next year, and two of the three main candidates are part of the “troika” that is steering the current military action against Hamas in Gaza. The two are Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. Barak has been considered a long-shot candidate at best. Thus, all eyes are on Livni, who has been running behind her main rival, Bibi Netanyuhu, in the polls.

Unfortunately, Livni (and Barak too) seem to favor ending the military operation. That, at least, is the account of “sources close to” Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the third member of the “troika.” Livni is said to believe that continuing the offensive could harm the deterrence it has achieved so far (whativer that means) and damage Israel diplomatically. Barak objects, more understandably, to inserting ground troops deep into densely populated areas of Gaza.

Meanwhile, Olmert, who was insufficiently aggressive during the 2006 war in Lebanon, is taking a hard line this time:

The pressure we are exerting [on Hamas] must not be reduced. Anyone who broadcasts weakness will earn the good will of the global community for 12 seconds, but will not change anything essential.

Just so.

Olmert may be in the minority within the “troika,” but he seems to have the support of the security cabinet. Most members reportedly support continuing the same level of military pressure or expanding the operation. At this weekend’s session, no one supported Livni, and only a few Labor ministers supported Barak’s position that Israel should reach an agreement with Hamas.

Noah Pollak finds that we are witnessing the “transformation” of Olmert into “wisdom and steel.” At a minimum, he’s been transformed into a competent war leader against whom Livni and Barak suffer by comparison.

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