There is no peace in Israel or Gaza. There is no real solution. There is nothing either side can get behind and sell to their people. Without a final-status agreement, all negotiations between Israel and Hamas start with an act of war. To break this cycle, the Israelis and the Palestinians must decide whether they want a one-state or two-state solution, and get on with integrating their economies so that any attack will harm everyone's quality of life. It's the only way out.
With an election only months away, the Israeli cabinet rightfully wants to know when Hamas will stop firing rockets from Gaza. Unfortunately, Israel assassinated the one man who might have been able to help. It was his assassination that prompted this current round of violence.
Ahmed al-Jabari was the head of the military wing of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Jabari held a decisive amount of control over Gaza militants. On the ground he was known as a strong man who could press the more radical factions -- through negotiations and force -- to stand down when Hamas made a deal with Israel. With Jabari's death, it remains to be seen what kind of control Hamas will have in Gaza. Which was, of course, the one thing Israel truly wanted to begin with.
On face, Hamas is pushing Israel to ease the land and sea blockade of Gaza. But what's really happening is that Hamas is transforming from a disorganized Islamist group to a governing body with territory that this week hosted four visiting Arab foreign ministers and the Prime Minister of Egypt. Hamas is enjoying a much-needed stamp of public solidarity with the Arab countries, while making the moderate Palestinian Authority look like the Vichy French of the West Bank.
So what now?
Mohammed Morsi, the newly elected Muslim Brotherhood President of Egypt, is showing that he can play a positive role in ending the violence. Indeed, a cease-fire has been agreed to, and the only reason it hasn't come sooner is that both Israel and Hamas had to be perceived as victors. They must show their own people that the violence wasn't all for nothing.
Unfortunately, Operation Pillar of Defense, as the Israelis call it, will be remembered as exactly the contrary: another round of needless violence. It will go down as helping re-elect Benjamin Netanyahu as Prime Minister of Israel, and maybe open a little fishing and trade in Gaza. What this war won't do is solve any of the core issues that make this war different from the last war.
I've thought about this conflict a long time. The only solution is to create a situation wherein any attack becomes an assault on both the Israelis and Palestinians. Binding their economies is the way to do it. It's a different kind of deterrence.
Of course, holding the cease-fire is the first step in all of this. It's the first step towards bankrupting the idea that harming your neighbor makes you safer.