Should Israel and Hamas achieve their stated objectives, the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians, as a whole, will take a dramatically different turn, change the nature of the conflict, and substantially improve the prospect for peace. The question is: Will their political circumstances and the reality they face lead to such an outcome?
In his recent meeting with Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he was "committed to the vision of peace for two states for two peoples." That sounds nice. But if he'd been pressed, Netanyahu might have admitted that the two states he had in mind were Israel and the U.S., not Israel and Palestine.
The new ceasefire between Israel and Hamas has immediately raised the same old question: Will it last, or is it merely just another pause, providing the prelude for the next round of fighting à la previous ceasefires? I believe the current ceasefire is different as it was achieved under completely different circumstances and may well last.
Extolling the virtues of a ceasefire in the Gaza war that collapsed barely two hours after it took effect, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry inadvertently highlighted the root cause of the failure of international efforts to silence the guns in the Palestinian territory and resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The war between Hamas and Israel has exposed the folly of both sides. Hamas' long-standing objective to destroy Israel has come back to haunt it, which may eventually spell its own demise. Conversely, Prime Minister Netanyahu's unwillingness to end the occupation and the blockade has also shown the folly of his policy. The sad irony is that Hamas' leaders know that they will never be able to seriously threaten Israel existentially, and every time they challenge Israel, they subject the Palestinians in Gaza to the horror of war, destruction, and death. Similarly, Netanyahu does not recognize that continuing the occupation and the blockade is unsustainable and there is no such thing as secure borders in the age of rockets, regardless of how fortified they may be.
At a time when hundreds of rockets are fired by Hamas and Islamic Jihad from Gaza against Israel -- threatening population centers, including Jerusalem and Tel Aviv -- criticizing Israel's occupation of the West Bank would seem inappropriate at best. Many Israelis justify the continuing occupation in light of the intensifying violence. They argue that Israel cannot allow the West Bank to become under any circumstances like Gaza -- a staging ground for rocket attacks that could cause unimaginable death and destruction. The repeated acts of violence emanating from Gaza and the relative calm in the occupied West Bank are used to "validate" this claim. In reality, the occupation itself is the root cause behind the unending Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the current deadly flare-up between Israel and Hamas.