If you’re currently experiencing a terrible pain in your lower extremities, that’s because Israel has just shot us all collectively in the foot.
Whatever happens in the next few days in the Israel-Hamas smackdown, the winner will be al-Qaeda. As Marc Lynch points out, AQ and the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Hamas evolved, are fierce rivals; and whether the outside world likes it or not, Hamas has been the only power capable of blocking AQ’s forays into Gaza:
Even if Hamas emerges weakened, as Israeli strategists hope, all the better (from al-Qaeda’s point of view, that is). In general, where the MB is strong (Egypt, Jordan, and Palestine for example), AQ has had a hard time finding a point of entry despite serious efforts to do so, while where the MB is weak (Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Lebanon) it has had more success. Up to now, AQ-minded groups have had little success in penetrating Gaza, because Hamas had it locked. Now they clearly have high hopes of finding an entree with a radicalized, devastated population and a weakened Hamas.
UPDATE: John Robb:
Israel is locked in a strategic vise that will get tighter and tighter. What is the vice? DIY missiles and a strategic barrage. DIY missiles are proving much cheaper and easier to deliver than using human beings as the terminal guidance systems for explosives (unfortunately, radical improvements in accuracy are in the offing making them comparable to human delivery). Israel can’t ignore the missiles due to their impact on psychology and economic activity. Walls don’t help either. It can’t adopt Hama rules (razing enemy territory) without incurring isolation/economic collapse. It can’t engage the enemy without high collateral damage which boosts recruitment and solidifies support for its enemies (Van Creveld’s paradox or broadening the conflict to include missiles from Hezbollah).