For now, the fighting has stopped in Israel and Gaza. But let’s be honest, this is the latest round in a long and bitter struggle. In the future, more bloodshed is likely.
After eight days of clashes, Hamas’ claim that it is the true leader of the Palestinian resistance has gained strength. Long-range rocket attacks on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem have made Israelis increasingly wary of a two-state solution. And the deaths of 140 Palestinians, one-third of them combatants, compared to five Israelis, one of them a soldier, will be seen across the Middle East as U.S.-abetted Israeli aggression.
Don’t expect those dynamics to improve anytime soon. In the months ahead, Hamas’ popularity among Palestinians is likely to rise. The more moderate Fatah faction of Mahmoud Abbas will be seen as increasingly impotent. And Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s conservative government will likely fare well in January’s parliamentary elections. As so often happens in conflicts, one side’s right wing abets the other’s.
The last eight days have brought a number of subtle shifts that make peace seem more distant than ever. From where I sit, here are the major changes:
THE RISE OF THE ROCKET: As Jeffrey Goldberg pointed out in Bloomberg View on Monday, this may represent the beginning of the “third Palestinian intifada.” In this round, rockets are the weapons of choice, replacing the stones of the first intifada and the suicide bombers of the second. While much has been made of Israel’s vaunted “Iron Dome” defense system, it is not a cure-all. Even if Israeli missiles prevent deaths, hundreds of missiles being fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip or southern Lebanon does not create stability in Israel.