The ante is rhetorically upped:
“The goal of the operation is to topple Hamas,” Haim Ramon, the deputy to Ehud Olmert, the Prime Minister, said. It was the first time since it launched its blistering offensive that Israel has openly stated that regime change is its ultimate goal. “We will stop firing immediately if someone takes the responsibility of this government, anyone but Hamas,” Mr Ramon said. “We are favourable to any other government to take the place of Hamas.”
It was not clear which party could take control if Israel succeeds in removing the Islamists. The only other party with experience of rule is Fatah, the secular movement that favours peace talks with Israel. But it is unpopular with many Palestinians, who see it as corrupt and ineffective, and was driven by Hamas from Gaza in battle 18 months ago.
Ehud Barak, the Defence Minister, said Israel was in an “all-out war against Hamas”, while Brigadier-General Dan Harel, the Israeli deputy chief of staff, said that his forces would erase every trace of Hamas from Gaza’s crowded cities. “After this operation there will not be a single Hamas building left standing in Gaza, and we plan to change the rules of the game,” the general said. “We are hitting not only terrorists and launchers, but also the whole Hamas Government and all its wings. We are hitting government buildings, production factories, security wings and more.”
Again, I’m skeptical that Hamas can be dislodged through airstrikes. I’m guessing that the IDF is also skeptical of this; it would only be sensible of them to be so. I suppose it’s possible that the IDF could pound Hamas so badly that even a backing away from these statements (and accepting a cease-fire without the removal of Hamas) would be perceived as an Israeli victory, but I don’t really see it. A ground offensive can certainly remove Hamas from power in the sense that the Israelis can install Fatah or simply govern Gaza directly, but both of these seem to be short term options; Hamas supporters will remain underground in an Israeli or Fatah controlled Gaza, and I’m guessing that Fatah’s long term political position in Palestinian life will be further weakened by what amounts to open collaboration with the IDF.
…also see this Haaretz report on the possibility of a ground offensive. Hamas is reportedly “hoping” for a ground offensive; I can see long term political gains in that event, but I really can’t see Hamas being able to prevent the IDF from seizing all of Gaza in the short run.