Daniel Levy writes: The absence of determined mediation between Israel and Hamas was one reason that Israeli operation Cast Lead against Gaza in the winter of 2008-9 lasted so long: 22 days. Rapid Egyptian and US-led ceasefire efforts in November 2012 helped ensure that the then Israeli operation “Pillars of Defence” would last only eight days and with far less devastating consequences. But that was under President Morsi, who had good relations with Hamas and included high-level Egyptian and Arab League delegations to Gaza, which also helped ease tensions. This time, the Egyptian and Hamas leadership are at loggerheads, inter-Arab divisions are more rife, and hostility to the Muslim Brotherhood (to which Hamas is affiliated) is a defining faultline and mediators are scarce – all of which may embolden Israel further. Any international mediation will need regional interlocutors with good enough ties to Hamas.
And finally there is Binyamin Netanyahu himself. The Israeli prime minister tends to avoid military adventures, but that has more to do with risk aversion than Solomonic wisdom. Netanyahu is sometimes mistakenly credited with being a pragmatist. He is an ideologue. He is also facing a domestic political challenge (mostly from the right) unprecedented since his return to power in 2009. Netanyahu has little to show for his cumulative eight years in office and his endless un-acted-on military threats against Iranians and Palestinians are beginning to ring rather hollow. Netanyahu may decide that the political risks associated with inaction trump all other considerations.
This past April, nine months of US-led peace talks predictably failed. Israel was again not budged from its settlements and occupation. Those talks have now been replaced by a new round of violence and killing. If the alternatives to meaningless talks and tragic violence – namely peaceful resistance, Palestinian recourse to international law and sanctioning of Israel in response to continued occupation – are given short shrift, then expect more of the same and a continued bleak outlook for both Palestinians and Israelis.