Now that a tentative cease-fire has been agreed upon by Hamas and the Israelis, it is by no means an end to a continuing problem that has morally paralyzed the international community for the last 65 years: this is nothing but the lull before the next war (the latest shooting by IDF and a civilian death already confirms this). The last time Israel conducted an all out assault on this tiny swatch of densely populated land was four years ago, and a UN report concluded that Israel committed war crimes during that war.
This sort of operation by IDF has a predictable cycle: it seems to conveniently coincide with Israel's parliamentary elections. Ariel Sharon left Likud for being too hard line (even Sharon who was an ex Haganah member and a military hawk thought Likud was not for him!) to form the Kadima party. Its hopeful, Tzipi Livni, who was a foreign minister at the time, was quite a vocal proponent of the last Gaza war. She won by a small margin to become the next Kadima leader, and after Ehud Olmert resigned, she tried to form a coalition government. After Kadima won most Knesset seats, even then it was unable to form a coalition because the ultra right-wing faction of Israeli politics, which is comprised of newly immigrated Jews from former soviet block, cast her aside for a coalition with the Likud along with ultra orthodox party: they think Kadima is too centrist and moderate. As a result Benjamin Netanyahu ended up being the prime minister representing Likud: the second most popular party then.
With the next Israeli election just around the corner, Likudniks are trying to appear strong on national security issues vis-à-vis the Palestinians, and are taking a page out of Kadima's playbook: the unleashing of the mighty Israeli military's air superiority to pummel Gazans -- who are literally hemmed in on all sides as if it were a prison -- will no doubt get them the desired election result. Granted there are some casualties on the Israelis' side as well, with the newer rockets that Hamas has, but the respective devastation is not even remotely comparable. Israel arguably being the world fourth military power is nothing Hamas can scoff at.
The killing of civilians along with children and babies is something Israel has successfully sold to the western press as collateral damage or the current theme: we are justified in our (heinous) acts because we are a democracy, but they are not because they are terrorists -- as if Israel's state sponsored atrocities are somehow baptized by the holy water of democracy! Incidentally, Hamas was democratically elected at the behest of Israel which pressured U.S. to expedite that election in Gaza. But they already knew Hamas would win: a perfect foil against Fatah.
This current Israeli talking point of civilized vs. terrorists was primed in an ad by hate mongering persona non grata Pamela Geller (of Birther fame): her group put out an ad in New York City and San Francisco which read, "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad." Likudniks talk about Palestinians like they were some sort of animals, using phrases such as 'cutting down the grass' to explain the IDF operation in Gaza and equating the killing of civilians to lawn maintenance, or making comments like "superfluous young men of Gaza". It is no wonder the well of their youth's psyche gets poisoned at an early age and the cycle of violence continues.
Hamas used to be a small splinter group of Fatah who didn't think Fatah's methods were effective in securing a Palestinian nationhood, and if the current regression towards that end is any indication, they are quite right. Despite the détente between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Israel has offered nothing to Abbas but bupkis. In fact, Israel continues to seize more and more land from West Bank, building settlements in the face of all international opposition. They are further tattering Jerusalem, with highways exclusively for Jewish use, and settlements in and around East Jerusalem with a majority Arab population are being slowly encroached upon gradually.
But Hamas has gone through several iterations, and they are now established power brokers in this triangulation. Case in point, Hamas did negotiate a deal to release the Israeli soldier Gilad in exchange for a hundred or so Palestinians who were in Israeli prisons. After the current cease-fire, Israel made some minor concession on Hamas' demand to loosen its oppressive death grip on Gaza. So while Israel brags to the west of its successful hard line propaganda of doing no negotiations with so-called terrorists, behind closed door it is doing exactly that! What is Mahmoud Abbas to do -- grovel in front of UN for recognition; get vetoed by United States and a cowardly abstention from the United Kingdom?
Hamas is also a donation goldmine for Israel: they raise hundreds of million dollars from Jewish communities around the world to defeat Hamas, and Christian Zionists in U.S routinely conduct pro-Israel donation drives in their churches. Hamas is also the perfect enemy whose acrimonious rhetoric, fiery nihilistic talking points, and public relations skills are perfectly ill suited for western press. Although their tactics play well with its supporters in Gaza, and may now have overreaching appeal into the West Bank.
Anyone who thinks that there is a possibility of peace between Israelis and Palestinians is either delusional or just hasn't been paying close attention to that part of world for the last 65 years. The land grab continues in the name of self preservation, safety, and a buffer zone. The land that Israel is after is what the Zionists refer to as Judea and Samaria, and as an atheist I find it difficult to fathom a land claim based on a religious book written over two millennia ago, with many of its earlier entries based on orally passed on stories that were undoubtedly retold with embellishments.
When Israel talks about having no partner in peace, they are partially right. Every time a
possible partner does come forward, he is either extra-judicially assassinated or maligned as terrorist with whom there can be no negotiations: and if all else fails, the goalpost is moved. This current conflagration in Gaza started with the assassination of a relatively moderate Hamas leader Ahmad Al-Jabari, the very guy who negotiated the release of Gilad Shalit, and had supposedly sought some sort of truce with Israel according to several news sources. The answer to this logic-confounding act is simply this: Israel has no intention of making peace. To paraphrase a famous quote, only the dead have seen the end of this war.