From a Tablet interview with Nathan Thrall of ICG:
What makes this different from other rocket barrages from Gaza, which have been going on for months?
What is the difference this time? This time we had hundreds of thousands of residents of southern Israel who are going into shelters and their kids weren’t going to school. Forget about left and right in Israel. Basically, the entire political spectrum in Israel was saying very clearly that this was unacceptable and was in favor of doing something. And you had the various analysts and commentators and security officials saying things like, ‘there’s no good solution and if there was one, you would have seen it already.’
There are no good solutions for Israel for this problem and the fact is that nobody in Israel believes that whatever they do, whether it’s another Cast Lead or something strong but short of that, if they go in with ground troops in a limited way, if they go in with ground troops all over Gaza, if they occupy just the border between Egypt and Gaza, if they split Gaza into three and occupy little strips, or if they occupy the whole thing, everyone believes that at the end of that, Egypt’s not going to take it and Abu Mazen is too weak to be put back there, so what you’re left with is Hamas control of Gaza again.
I think it’s not unfair to say that the real difference this time is that we have a Likud primary in two weeks and Israeli elections coming up very shortly. It’s simply untenable for there not to be a response as there had not been a response in previous rounds of these escalations.
So you absolutely see the influence of the upcoming Israeli elections in this operation.
I don’t see any other explanation. Given that the other escalations have been even bigger, there have been more rockets. Not only that, but this thing started after people were already talking about a ceasefire. The front page of Haaretz this morning was talking about a ceasefire and there was a lull at four in the afternoon when Jabari’s car was hit.
Likud looked very impotent the last few days. Everyone I talked to in Israel—whatever their political persuasion—was of the view that something had to be done. I don’t see how it could have been ignored. I don’t want to overthink it by saying ‘well, this is the eve of Olmert’s announcement of his reentering the race and he is someone who actually did quote-unquote “take care of Gaza,” he is someone who actually did eliminate a nuclear program instead of just talking about it. Whether Olmert specifically plays any role, it’s certainly the case that the elections made a difference.