It is a depressingly familiar scenario, a cycle of provocation and reprisal that periodically escalates into full-blown war. There is no simple account of events leading up to the current confrontation that does justice to the amassed sense of grievance on both sides. But two specific events have played a decisive role: the decision earlier this month by Hamas to end a six-month ceasefire and elections in Israel due in February.
In reality, the "ceasefire" was a tempering of aggression on both sides rather than a cessation of hostilities. Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni has declared the rocket attacks "unbearable" and asserted that the Hamas administration in Gaza must be
Ms Livni's hawkish stance is conditioned in part by the aspiration to become prime minister. Her Kadima party is trailing in opinion polls, behind Likud, led by Binyamin Netanyahu, a determined hardliner.
Even those Israeli and Palestinian politicians who are minded to negotiate are boxed into uncompromising stances, and for both the main reason is Hamas. But attempting to remove the problem with military power will not work. Hamas craves confrontation because its support increases when ordinary Palestinians are collectively punished, as has happened under the blockade. There are compelling reasons why Israeli politicians do not try to talk Hamas out of its militancy. But the near certainty of failure is also a more compelling reason not to try force instead.
Now, I agree that tit for tat attacks don't work. Yet, this column presents a false choice. The choice is between a never ending cycle of violence and dialogue. The piece doesn't say what this dialogue will be or how it will accomplish anything. Hamas' charter calls for the destruction of Israel. Hamas' doesn't want a two state solution but rather a solution in which there is no Israeli state. How exactly do you carry on a dialogue when the goal of one side is your own destruction?
Then again, the piece makes it seem as though the only alternative is never ending violence. That is just nonsense. The other alternative is overwhelming force that doesn't merely degrade but destroys Hamas. The problem with military force from the perspective of Israel is, in my opinion, that it doesn't go far enough. Israel has been fighting a never ending war with Hamas. What Israel should do is use overwhelming force and destroy Hamas once and for all.
Dialogue is not an option because there is frankly nothing to discuss. Simply degrading Hamas's capabilitiy through mostly air assaults also does little. While it may degrade their capabilities for the time being, it will leave Hamas to rise again. The only option is to once and for all totally destroy Hamas.