To understand whether Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intends to send ground troops into Gaza, it might help to scrutinize one of his decisions from this week.
While the Islamic Hamas group pummeled Israel with rockets and took deadly hits from Israeli warplanes, the cabinet announced that it had authorized the army to mobilize 40,000 reservists – a huge force by any measure.
A large operation against Hamas would certainly involve reservists. But when Israel genuinely prepares for military campaigns, it does so quietly, often censoring information about call ups and imposing gag orders on journalists.
Announcements, by contrast, are made when Israel is trying to send a message – to quell Hamas without having to put its own troops at risk. In reality, the army has called up only a few hundred soldiers to date.
In his long political career, Netanyahu has shown little appetite for ground campaigns and for the right reasons. Gaza is a messy place to wage war, with two million people crammed cheek-by-jowl into a tiny space.