To Halt Hamas, Win 'Confidence War'

Psychology is at center of current struggle
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Jan 6, 2009 11:31 AM CST
A shattered window is seen after a rocket fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza hit the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, Monday, Jan. 5, 2009.    (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
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(Newser) – The Arab-Israeli conflict was once about reaching some kind of long-term land settlement—but for extremist groups like Hamas, a “handshake on the White House lawn” is no longer a goal, writes David Brooks in the New York Times. Now, “both sides seek the destruction of the other, but neither has the power to achieve it.” For Israel, that means “psychology matters most."

“This new game isn’t a war of attrition. It’s a struggle for confidence, a series of psychological exchanges designed to shift the balance of morale,” Brooks writes. When Israel shows its “prowess,” it can, for a time, quell violence, as with its 2004 attacks on Hamas chiefs. But lately, some Israeli leaders seem to have misplaced their aims. They won’t find the “permanent solution” they seek—instead, they should finish a quick attack and “let the psychological reverberations begin.”