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How Hamas is altering Israeli politics

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So far the Israeli operation in Gaza is receiving broad public support among Israelis – a political boon for the incumbent Kadima Party.

The government has learned important lessons from the 2006 Lebanon war and executed this operation with more precision and caution than its fight with Hezbollah, says Avraham Ben Tzvi, an international relations commentator for Israel Radio.

But, he cautions, "One missile unfortunately can change the whole picture.... We're not even at halftime."

In 1996, the government of Prime Minister Shimon Peres launched Operation Grapes of Wrath against Hezbollah in Lebanon – a 16-day war that also ended in an inconclusive cease-fire. But because the carnage in southern Lebanon alienated Israeli Arabs, Mr. Peres lost support from a crucial constituency, giving Mr. Netanyahu his first victory as prime minister.

Still the underlying weaknesses for both Mr. Barak and Ms. Livni rest in the fact that they couldn't stop Hamas's rocket fire over the past three years, since Israel's pullout from the coastal enclave.

In the war in Lebanon two years ago, electoral politics were seen as one of the primary factors in the heated rhetoric leading to the war – much the same way it is adding to calls today for the complete toppling of Hamas.

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