The Israeli campaign is being led not by a single commander in chief, but by a triumvirate of politicians. The three are known to mistrust one another deeply, but all have staked their futures on a highly risky military operation aimed at breaking Hamas's capacity to fire rockets at Israel.
With national elections just over a month away, two of the three are vying for Israel's top job. Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni both have led high-profile but fruitless efforts to achieve peace with the Palestinians; now, each is trying to win favor with Israelis by going to war.
All campaigning for the Feb. 10 vote has been temporarily suspended. But Barak, a former prime minister and ex-army commando, is expected to make the case that he can defend the country in times of crisis. Livni, meanwhile, is seeking to overcome concerns that as a woman who never served in the armed forces, she is not tough enough to lead Israel.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will not be a candidate in the elections and may be indicted on corruption charges. But the Gaza offensive could be his last chance to rehabilitate a legacy badly tarnished by Israel's failure to achieve a clear-cut victory against the Lebanese Hezbollah movement in 2006.
Can there be a more crass reason for the aerial bombardment of Gaza? It's no wonder there doesn't appear to be any meaningful military objective to warrant the inevitable fallout because this isn't about Hamas or Gaza or the Palestinians who are getting slaughtered. It's about the political aspirations of two prominent Israelis and erasing the stigma of failure that clings to the outgoing leader.
Now it all makes sense. My god, it's come to this.