nb_cid nb_clickOther -tt-nb this.style.behavior='url(#default#homepage)';this.setHomePage('http://www.aol.com/?mtmhp=txtlnkusaolp00000051 network-banner-empty mtmhpBanner
Search AOL Mail
AOL Mail
AOL Favorites

AP: 'If the Israel-Hamas fighting feels like a rerun, that's because it is'

If the Israel-Hamas fighting feels like a rerun, that's because it is.

This is the third round of Hamas rockets and Israel airstrikes since the Islamic militant group seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. And issues each time seem much the same: How can Hamas be compelled to stop firing rockets? Does Israel really have the will to reconquer a Hamas-ruled Gaza and oust the militants? Can the world tolerate Israel reacting with far deadlier force than the rockets themselves, as evidenced in the hugely lopsided casualty count that each time appears anew?

This round of violence came after peace talks collapsed, Israel tried to scuttle a Palestinian unity government and violence ratcheted up. With the Gazans now suffering more, one might expect internal pressure on Hamas to end the rocket fire, which would likely bring the airstrikes to a stop. But in a region where honor is key, and with the two sides not talking, outside mediation is badly needed for a mutually face-saving cease-fire.

In a strategic stalemate where neither side seems able to accept or defeat the other, here are some key issues at play:


The Israeli point of view is that Hamas has grown accustomed to firing rockets and no country would tolerate such attacks. Doing nothing is not an option, and pounding Hamas hard enough seems to eventually win some quiet. It views civilian deaths in airstrikes as regrettable but blames Hamas for locating launchers and weapons at civilian sites. Israel's makes efforts to minimize "collateral damage," like warning calls to residents and preceding big attacks on buildings with smaller bombs, a practice dubbed "roof-knocking." Beyond this, Israelis see Hamas as a ruthless mortal enemy that cannot be accommodated and, due to its radical Islamic tenets, can barely be reasoned with.


Palestinians cast a wider net. For them the very situation in Gaza is unacceptable: since the Hamas takeover Israel has blockaded it by land from the north and the east, and by sea from the west, preventing air travel as well. Egypt completes the siege by keeping a tight leash on its border with Gaza to the south. The strip's 1.7 million people are crammed into low-rise shanty towns in a territory no more than 20 miles (35 kilometers) long and just a few miles (kilometers) wide. And even though Israel pulled out all soldiers and settlers in 2005, claiming this ended its occupation, Gazans depend on the Jewish state for electricity, water, communication networks and even the currency.

For many Palestinians, even those who do not support Hamas, non-conventional means like rocket fire against their perceived tormentors are an acceptable response. At least, some reason, the world will take notice. Some 20 years of peace talks failed to yield an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza, and with the collapse two months ago of the latest round led by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, some fear the occupation of the West Bank may be permanent. Coupled with the dire situation in Gaza, the other part of the would-be Palestinian state, it is a situation that breeds despondency and despair.


Israel is a society so divided that normally it's hard to describe the Israeli point of view - but not so when it comes to Hamas and its rockets. That's a rare opportunity for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Many Israelis dislike his policies toward the Palestinians in general, and some truly abhor the Jewish settlement of the West Bank which Netanyahu continues to promote. But the vast majority of Israelis distrust and despise Hamas - perpetrators of countless suicide bombings targeting civilians and plainly aimed, over the years, at derailing peace efforts by more moderate Palestinians. For Netanyahu, each round with Hamas offers him a genuine popularity that's otherwise elusive.


Arab politicians will heap condemnation on Israel but few genuinely shed tears for Hamas. The Palestinian group is the local chapter of a wider political Islam that in the wake of the Arab Spring is under siege in much of the region, firstly in Egypt but also in much of the Gulf and beyond. Even one-time ally Iran has backed away, funding sources have dried up, and the West largely views it as a terrorist group. The Palestinian Authority recently set up a joint government with Hamas, but its animosity with the secular Fatah group of President Mahmoud Abbas runs deep. Hamas also has not accepted the conditions set by the world community to become a legitimate player: recognize Israel, abide by past agreements and renounce violence.


In the battle for global public opinion, Israel may be a victim of its own success in preventing domestic casualties. Its Iron Dome missile defense system has shot down incoming Hamas rockets, leaving many in Tel Aviv with the conflicting sensation of fear and the desire to post videos of the interceptions online. No Israelis have been killed in the past week, while more than 160 Gazans have died, many of them civilians. Similar ratios were posted during the last round, in late 2012, and also during the largest mini-war, that began in late December 2008. That buys Netanyahu time with domestic opinion - but international pressure can soon be expected for Israel to find a way to stop. And in the end Hamas may get renewed relevance and even some of its prisoners released. After all, part of its motivation currently is gaining the release of supporters who were recently rearrested in a West Bank sweep that followed the kidnap-killing of three Israeli youths that Hamas did not claim but was blamed on the group.

Many believe Hamas is therefore not entirely averse to provoking Israel into its attacks. Public opinion matters somewhat less in the strip, which is hardly a democracy, than in Israel. And it is hard to see a scenario in which the populace rises up and topples the militants: Gaza is small enough to control and the alternatives have essentially been stamped out.


Israel could probably change the game quickly by invading Gaza and rooting out its Hamas rulers, and Sunday already saw a small version of it with a first land skirmish inside the strip. But a true invasion would probably be a bloody affair and Israel has little stomach for great numbers of casualties. If it does go that route, a ground incursion likely would repeat the strategy of 2008-9, in which there was some ground fighting but the heart of Gaza City was not retaken and the Hamas leadership essentially left intact. And from the perspective of the longer term, Israel has no desire to again occupy the strip, as it did from 1967 to 2005. That leaves Israel with few attractive choices, which might explain why Hamas continues to fire the rockets: to poke Israel in the eye, and live to tell the tale.

More news coverage on AOL.com
Riot rocks Argentina after loss to Germany in World Cup final
Mysterious odor prompts evacuation of 100 homes in Pa.
Have a rash? Check your iPad.

Join the discussion

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
Milton July 14 2014 at 9:32 AM

I agree that this is a re-run, but bringing into the discussion the lopsided death toll is a red herring. Israel values lives as evidenced by several things. 1) They maintain the iron dome protective shield for all residents of Israel - Muslim, Jews and Christians. 2) They have freely opened their hospitals to the injured from Gaza, & 3) They give a warning every time they plan on targeting a building. In contract, Hamas forces civilians at gunpoint to stay in residential buildings where they have launched rockets from simply in order to cause deaths among their own people. Apples and oranges.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
1 reply
clark8642 Milton July 14 2014 at 1:37 PM

So the civilians held hostage, to use your term, at gunpoint, are legitimate targets?

Flag Reply 0 rate up
windyoak July 14 2014 at 4:37 AM

need an answer...a good one please'''.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
Herbst Family July 14 2014 at 10:34 AM

Well written and objective description of the situation.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
fennris July 14 2014 at 2:41 PM

If Canada or Mexico had a persistent and unapologetic habit of lobbing missiles over the border into populated US cities, I think either of those countries would be replaced by wide expanses of dust very quickly.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
skitzlpk July 14 2014 at 11:01 AM

The writer poses some excellent questions. I'll only say that in some parts of the world, "democracy" can't or won't work due to tribal mentality. When it's honorable to die for a lost cause & in the name of conflicting religious reasoning, democracy only strengthens the demise of a nation which votes against it's own self interests. When a fledgling & militant government controls the will of all the people, there is no forward motion to any constructive reasoning. When there is no productive leadership within the ranks of a nation being slaughtered, the slaughter continues. This can't be settled by a mighty outsider such as the U.S., the collective input of moderates like Jordan, Turkey & the UAE have to finally say enough is enough & involve themselves with the process. Resentment of the west only escalates, collective reasoning comes from within..

Flag Reply +1 rate up
sun1045 July 14 2014 at 12:51 PM

Israel needs to go in and cleanout all the weapons, terrorists this time for the Paletinians and their future, as well as, the soveignty of Israel..

Flag Reply +1 rate up
wbearl July 14 2014 at 7:19 PM

Maybe if Israel had finished it last time they wouldn't have to be doing it again. I realize that the Humanitarians like these never ending wars, they think it's better to kill people on a continuing basis instead of just getting it over with once and for all.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
windyoak July 14 2014 at 3:11 PM

RERUN...more effective than the previous ones.......different scales....HAMAS WEAPON? SUICIDE BOMBERS........later.....ROCKETS WITH LIMITED DISTANCE......now?....ROCKETS THAT REACHED CITIES........If there is a truce due to idiotic world pressure..THE NEXT ROUND WILL BE MISSILES SO ADVANCED, IT WILL TAKE MANY MANY LIVES....

logic states...YOU CANT ALLOW CANCER TO GROW AND GROW AND GROW WITH EACH PASSING YEAR,,,,,,,,seems like people care about the cancer's well being..(hamas ) then the stricken VICTIMS

Flag Reply 0 rate up
1 reply
rdklakers windyoak July 14 2014 at 3:54 PM

well said...Israel knows how to deal with TERRORISTS!! This time finish the job...

Flag Reply 0 rate up
excav July 14 2014 at 6:56 PM

Love the left's logic. If the death toll were comparable on both sides, then it would be fair. Israel, throw a couple hundred citizens to the animals and the press will get off your back!

Flag Reply 0 rate up
aol~~ 1209600


More From Our Partners