The Ehud Olmert-Tsipi Livni-Amir Peretz government is incapable of learning. This is the only possible explanation for its handling of the Palestinian assault on southern Israel, which has seen some 200 rockets and missiles fall on Sderot, southern Ashkelon and the surrounding areas in the past week alone.
On Sunday, the Security Cabinet met and discussed options for contending with the situation. At the outset, it nixed launching a large-scale assault on Gaza in favor of continuing pinpoint air strikes against Hamas leaders.
The Cabinet defined Hamas as Israel's enemy in the current campaign. Yet the government discussed the option of transferring more arms and money to Fatah, which serves as a junior partner in the Hamas "unity" government. Such a move would simply follow the government's move last week to allow up to 500 Egyptian-trained Fatah fighters to enter the Gaza Strip.
By doing so, in its definition of the parameters of its debate and policy options, the government displayed clearly that it has learned nothing from its defeat at the hands of Iran's proxy army in Lebanon — Hezbollah — in last summer's war.
In the first instance, by limiting its definition of Israel's enemy in Gaza to Hamas, the government obfuscates the true strategic reality which confronts it. Hamas does not fight Israel alone. It fights in full partnership with the Fatah terror group. Indeed, Fatah has carried out more terrorist attacks against Israel over the past seven years of the Palestinian jihad than Hamas. Throughout the now seven-year-old war, Fatah and Hamas have willingly collaborated in terrorist attacks against Israelis.
Fatah members, including thousands of gunmen of the official Palestinian Authority security forces, often also serve in Hamas. Weapons that Israel has transferred to Fatah through various Palestinian Authority security forces over the past 13 years have been used to murder Israelis by Fatah, as well as Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists. And, of course, Fatah now serves as Hamas' junior partner in the Palestinian "government."
Yet the Israeli government does not merely refuse to acknowledge that Fatah is also Israel's enemy. It actively supports Fatah and upholds it as Israel's ally. In this, it is repeating — and indeed, aggravating — its strategically disastrous treatment of the Lebanese government last summer.
Fatah is far from an unwilling collaborator with Hamas. Like Hamas, Fatah leaders openly call for Israel's destruction. Fatah uses the same techniques as Hamas to indoctrinate Palestinian society to seek the genocide of the Jewish people.
Then there is the issue of the goal of the current campaign. As was the case last summer, Olmert's Cabinet has not set for itself the goal of defeating Hamas. Rather the goal of the current operations in Gaza is to send Hamas a message. Like last summer, today the government hopes that by killing a sufficient number of Hamas terrorists, it will induce the organization to stop attacking Israel.
But of course, by limiting its goal in such a way, the message that Israel is sending is not that Hamas should stop attacking Israel. By refusing to fight to victory, Israel is telling Hamas that it cannot lose, which is to say, it can go on fighting forever.
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the government's refusal to understand the lessons of the last war and to apply them in the current battle is that Israel has far more options for defeating its enemies in Gaza than it had in Lebanon.
Gaza is a small territory and in contrast to Lebanon, Israel has the ability to take control of ingress and egress from the area. So too, Israel's intelligence capabilities are far greater in Gaza than in Lebanon. Then, too, in Gaza, the enemy Israel confronts is not as well-armed or well-trained as Hezbollah.
Aside from all that, Israel controls Gaza's economy. Israel sells Gaza its water and electricity. Were Israel to decide to stop selling water or electricity to Gaza, its enemies would be hard-pressed to function.
All of these relative advantages that Israel can bring to bear in Gaza would enable Israel to cause long lasting damage to all of its enemies operating in the area while minimizing losses to its forces and civilians. But to take proper advantage of any of its strategic and operational assets, the government must first learn the proper lessons of the last war. Its refusal to do so bodes ill for the future.
Caroline Glick is a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.