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Some Americans wonder why Israel didn’t just go into Gaza and bring him back. Again, the answer lies on the Left. When Israel withdrew from Gaza, it lost most of its intelligence assets on the ground. Short-term operations and hit and run strikes have failed as a result. Nothing short of a full-scale reclamation of Gaza would have sufficed to find and free Gilad Shalit.
Prime Minister Netanyahu does not have the same powers as the President of the United States. The Israeli Minister of Defense is Ehud Barak, a former left-wing rival, who is part of a coalition of parties that forms the Netanyahu government. Imagine if Bush had been forced to run military operations through Secretary of Defense John Kerry, who could at any time bring down the administration and force new elections if something displeased him, and you get some idea of the awkwardness of the arrangement.
While Barak isn’t the major player he used to be, in combination with a number of other prominent ex-military and ex-intelligence players on the Left, and a hostile administration in Washington, that was enough to checkmate any long-term military operation.
Previous attacks on Hamas had failed because they were only temporary strikes that did not make any serious effort to drive it out of Gaza and restore the rule of law to the area. Like the Taliban or Hezbollah, its leaders knew that all they had to do was hang on and wait till the Left’s propaganda and war crimes allegations took enough of a toll that the operation would end.
The only practical option for dealing with Hamas and its rocket attacks was to retake Gaza, but Israeli conservative politicians, like their American counterparts, rarely do much to reverse the destructive policies of the Left. Instead they try to make the status quo manageable.
Netanyahu did not believe that the odds of a temporary military operation finding Shalit had gotten any better, and he was unwilling to commit to reclaiming Gaza and expelling Hamas, which would amount to months of conflict and outrageous claims of war crimes by the Left.
The Israel of Entebbe and Osirak would have gone for it, but that era has given way to nuanced politicians concerned with the country’s public image. And so five years later, the deal was finally made. The Left has pointed out that the deal could have been years ago, and they are correct. But they are the only reason that the deal had to be made at all.
The Left had strengthened Hamas and undermined Israel. The terrorist release is Hamas’ reward, but the Left’s victory.
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