IDF inches closer to ground war in Gaza
One gets the sense that Prime Minister Netanyahu is reluctant to order ground troops into Gaza, considering the probability of collateral damage to civilians and the resulting outcry from even some of Israel's nervous friends.
But he also appears determined to strike at the ability of Hamas to kill Israeli citizens. For this, he will probably need to send in the troops to take out the missile sites as well as destroy Hamas' missile stockpile.
Egypt, which might be expected to try and use the crisis to exit the Camp David accords, has been relatively quiet. Has President Morsi gotten pragmatic all of a sudden?
If Israel goes back into Gaza, both Egypt and Jordan - the only two Arab countries with peace treaties with Israel - would come under pressure from their people to break off ties, a move that would undoubtedly strengthen Hamas.
But to the relief of Obama administration officials, Mr. Morsi so far has not hinted at such a move, which would threaten the 1979 Camp David peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, a linchpin for stability in the region in Washington's view. And administration officials say Mr. Morsi has indicated that he will try to calm the situation in Gaza before it worsens.
Whether that effort extends to lobbying for Hamas to crack down on jihadist groups that have been launching attacks on Israel, as Israel would like to see Mr. Morsi do, is not clear. But at the moment, the relative quiet out of Cairo is being viewed in Washington as a positive first step.
"If Morsi wanted to use this for populist reasons, he'd be adopting a different posture," said Martin S. Indyk, the former American ambassador to Israel and the author of "Bending History: Barack Obama's Foreign Policy."
"If he wanted to take apart the peace treaty, this is his opportunity," Mr. Indyk said. "The fact that he's not and is instead apparently working with President Obama to calm the situation is important."
Morsi's pragmatism is not due to any soft feelings toward Israel, but rather his own position at home. Despite cleaning house in the army, there are elements of the old regime who still wield considerable influence. At the moment, Morsi has weighed what he would gain from ditching the peace treaty against probable push back from Mubarak era holdovers as well as elements in the military who realize an end to the treaty would mean an end to American military aid.
But if events spiral out of control in Gaza and a prolonged ground assault ensues, all bets are off. This no doubt plays on Netanyahu's mind as he inches toward a decision on whether to send in the troops.