Rosner’s Domain offers this analysis of why Israel had to undertake a ground operation. Note that it begins with a perception by Israelis but quickly turns to the perception now within the Hamas, Hezbollah and other Arab Street minds:
Previous polls have shown that Israelis are apprehensive about the kind of ground operation in Gaza that has just begun. This is a direct reflection of Israelis dwindling confidence in the IDF’s ability to emerge victorious from a ground war in this dense and treacherous territory. And this very skepticism is a key factor in Israeli leaders’ decision to go in on the ground last night.
If Israelis, traumatized by the 2006 Lebanon war, have a hard time believing they can win a ground war against Hamas, so do Israel’s neighbors. Hamas spokespersons were bragging last week that Israel would not dare invade Gaza, and promised that the Jewish state would pay a high price if it did. If the Gaza war ended without a ground operation, Hamas leaders would have crowed that Israel was deterred by Palestinian forces, and this would have led to a further erosion of Israel’s reputation as a nation that cannot be intimidated. If Arab terrorists perceive Israel as a country wary of conflict, terrorist groups will only attack more in hopes of defeating the paper tiger.
So – the IDF and Israel’s leaders have three goals in launching this ground war: First, they want to make Hamas pay a price that will force it into a renewed ceasefire. Second, they must prove to the Arab world that Lebanon 2006 did not turn Israel into a country afraid of war. And third, they must engender renewed Israeli confidence in the country’s armed forces.