Israel's operation in Gaza is meant to compel Hamas to stop shooting rockets into Israel and to better police its territory. But with Hamas unable to bend to Israeli pressure, and Israel unable to escalate or back off, it will be up to outside states to end the fighting.
Two factors pushed Hamas to ramp up its bombing campaign: belief that its strategic environment had improved in the wake of the Arab Spring and competition from Salafi groups.
The latest round of fighting in Gaza gave Hamas room to paper over growing rifts between its Gaza-based leadership and its leadership in exile. But eventually the group will need to resolve internal disputes over working with Iran, working with Arab capitals, and negotiating with Israel -- or face decline.
An Israeli uses binoculars at an observation point overlooking the northern Gaza Strip. (Ronen Zvulun / Courtesy Reuters)
Israel and Hamas are once again locked in a shooting war. Each day, hundreds of missiles fly toward Israeli cities and villages. Meanwhile, the Israeli Air Force has been systematically pounding the Gaza Strip, carrying out no less than 1000 strikes on Hamas military targets in the last several days. As indirect negotiations over a cease-fire progress at this moment, with active U.S. involvement, it is time to chart a course to end this round of hostilities.
Israel has set fairly modest goals for its campaign, dubbed Operation Pillar of Defense. It does not seek to topple the Hamas regime in Gaza, as it has sought in the past, nor does it want to bring about the total collapse of Hamas' military wing. As statements from senior Israeli officials indicate, the objective is a long-term cease-fire along the Israel-Gaza border. Hamas, for its part, has one objective: to stay on its feet. It is trying to inflict maximum damage and casualties in order to prove that Israel's military superiority alone will not force it to back down. With the right kind of a no-victors formula, sponsored by the United States and other international players, a deal can be reached to ensure a long-term calm.
Previous conflicts between Israel and Hamas, including the 2009 war, have been resolved, with Egyptian faciliation, through a simple formula: each side commits to refrain from opening fire as long as its adversary does the same. But these calm periods -- or tahdia, as they are called in Arabic -- have historically not lasted very long. Hamas has increasingly allowed other heavily armed terrorist groups in Gaza, such as the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, to launch attacks on Israel. And in the past few months, despite Egyptian warnings, Hamas has targeted Israeli soldiers and military outposts along the border, too...