The widely-predicted ground attack by Israel into Gaza occurred on Sunday. The response of the media and mealy-mouthed politicians has been predictable. On the one hand a section of the media, backed up by supporters of terrorism around the world, has been to attack the immorality of the Israeli attack often without mention of the past and continuing bombardment of Israel by missiles from Hamas. This is one-eyed hypocrisy given the avowed intent of Hamas to wipe-out Israel. A milder version of this critique is to assert that the Israeli punishment (in terms of military attack or casualties inflicted) exceeds the crimes of Hamas so that Israel is 'overreacting'. But Israel is not merely trying to inflict reciprocal damage on Gaza as a payback but trying to prevent the missile attacks. It can only do this by seriously damaging Hamas.
Mealy-mouthed politicians (including our own Julia Gillard and the toothless UN - this is particularly disgraceful) have participated widely in these forms of hypocrisy as well as by launching the standard response that both sides should stop the conflict, kiss and go home. This is unhelpful.
The more serious complaint about Israel's ground actions are that it might experience substantial losses in terms of casualties as it did in its conflict with Hezbollah in Lebanon. The Hamas terrorists it is claimed have greater knowledge of the local geography and will, in their usual cowardly fashion, conceal themselves in heavily populated areas - not difficult in densely populated Gaza. The body bags created by the Hamas cowardice will weaken public resolve in Israel to continue to prosecute it.
While this is a serious problem it is difficult to come up with alternative viable responses from Israel. Hamas is employing the standard technique of terrorists by holding a civilian population to ransom and then provoking an attack. The Palestinian casualties are due to Hamas (and its backers in Syria and Iran) not to Israel. The Palestinian deaths are a human input to the military objectives of Hamas and provide a further radicalisation of the local surviving population in its resentment of Israel. The predicted Israeli deaths are a problem because Israel's government - like most other civilised governments - is concerned with deaths of its citizens. Hopefully Israel's retrained and better-equipped army will do a better job than it dis against Hezbollah.
But despite the real probability of substantial Israeli costs I do not believe it is possible to deal in a reasoned way with Hamas. Israel needs to make it clear to the Palestinians that electing terrorists and prosecuting an ongoing conflict with Israel is a costly strategy for Israel's enemies. Above all Israel needs to establish its military credibility and not be black-mailed by the terrorists.