As rumors swirl about the possibility of a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, an important fact bears note: Israel has been ramping up its military operations for nearly a week. Yet time is not on Israel's side. Every day brings more international pressure and more animosity from the Arab world. In 2008, Israel pursued airstrikes and ground strikes simultaneously. With any operation in Gaza, Israel is racing against a diplomatic clock. Yet its timeline of escalation has been extended for nearly a week. What explains this puzzling behavior?
The answer is that Israel is reluctant to enter into a ground war in the Gaza Strip. The Prime Minister knows that such an operation would be a risky move, and the IDF is likely apprehensive about repeating the ordeal of Operation Cast Lead. Israel's slow mobilization indicates its genuine desire to avoid an invasion if possible. Regardless of whether rumors of a cease fire are true, Israel has not rushed into war, as it did in 2006 when the discussion preceding the war lasted only a few hours.
To the government's credit, it has explored alternatives to full out war. The coming hours will tell if that hesitance is enough of a credible signal to Hamas that it is willing to abide by the terms of a negotiated agreement.