5
Dec
By James Jay Carafano

At some point, Hamas and Israel will have had so many armed confrontations that they’ll have to stop naming the operations and just give them numbers. But don’t think these future conflicts will be indistinguishable from what’s happened so far. At some point, these flare-ups could get worse—a lot worse.

Serious Standoff

So far the duels between the Israeli military and Hamas and other armed factions in Gaza have been tactical skirmishes. Neither side has had any notion that they are trying to grab some kind of decisive advantage that would change the standoff that has prevailed—and hardened—since Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007.

After all the back and forth of the last few weeks, Israel can claim that it has decimated Hamas military infrastructure and depleted its war stocks. So what? Hamas can rearm. Hamas can preen that it wrestled some concessions from Tel Aviv, that it garnered pats on the back from Egypt and Turkey and that its stock is on the rise on the Arab Street. Again, so what? The people of Gaza are still caught in the crossfire and saddled with a corrupt regime that can’t deliver peace or jobs. So the two sides are back to the status quo, but with more innocents killed and maimed on each side.

Don’t get complacent. There are plenty of reasons to worry that the stasis will not hold forever.

History Lesson

The Peloponnesian Wars were another nearly endless conflict. That ancient Greek struggle was protracted because neither side could hit at the other’s strength. Sparta could march its armies to the gates of Athens, but it couldn’t breach the walls. At the end of the campaign, all they could do was head home. Athens could sail its fleets to Sparta’s coast, but couldn’t land troops for fear of annihilation at the hands of the Spartan infantry. So Athenian armadas sailed out and sailed back.

While today’s conflict between Israel and Palestine resembles that endless ancient war of nerves and attrition, it may not stay that way forever. And the most likely catalyst to spark change is Iran. Read more…

James Jay Carafano is director of the Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation.

As published in nationalinterest.org on November 29, 2012.

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