The core case of those of us who found the Israeli pulverization of Gaza so troubling was its vastly disproportionate toll on civilians, and what seemed like a policy of permanently and collectively punishing all Gazans for Hamas. The idea that it was vital self-defense - when the threat was so puny (see the graph above) and the response so massive (around 800 Palestinian civilians including 300 minors or children) - never rang true to me. While I was sick, a new Wikileaked memo was leaked from a few months before Cast Lead that casts some light on Israel's calculations:
Regarding the Tahdiya [the truce between Hamas and Israel], Hacham said Barak stressed that while it was not permanent, for the time being it was holding. There have been a number of violations of the ceasefire on the Gaza side, but Palestinian factions other than Hamas were responsible. Hacham said the Israelis assess that Hamas is making a serious effort to convince the other factions not to launch rockets or mortars. Israel remains concerned by Hamas’ ongoing efforts to use the Tahdiya to increase their strength, and at some point, military action will have to be put back on the table. The Israelis reluctantly admit that the Tahdiya has served to further consolidate Hamas’ grip on Gaza, but it has brought a large measure of peace and quiet to Israeli communities near Gaza.
Daniel Luban notes:
The memo does not say that the Israelis believe “military action will have to be put back on the table” because at some point Hamas will break the ceasefire, but rather because Hamas would like to maintain the ceasefire to strengthen its position. Thus if the memo accurately reflects the Israeli government’s thinking, it would appear that the Israelis were, from relatively early on, contemplating breaking the ceasefire in order to cut Hamas off at the knees.
Which they did. And then some. All timed perfectly between the US election day and Obama's inauguration. But all in self-defense, of course.