For 25 years Israel and Hamas have fought, and for 25 years neither has prevailed. Hamas has scored many victories: it began as a small terrorist organization in 1987 and steadily grew in size and importance. In 2006, it won elections in Gaza and seized power there in 2007, becoming the Strip’s de facto government and emerging as an equal to Fatah, which dominates the West Bank. Israel, however, has prevented Hamas from gaining further ground in the West Bank while, over time, forcing Hamas to realize, in practice if not in rhetoric, that the Jewish state is here to stay.
The problem, then, with trying to end the fighting and prevent another recurrence is that both sides believe that using force advances their interests. Now, they each want more, and both face domestic pressure to demand more.
Rocket attacks from Gaza have increased in 2012, making life miserable for Israelis near the Strip. The goal of Israel’s most recent campaign, “Pillar of Defense,” is to force Hamas to end its own rocket attacks and to compel other Palestinian groups to do so as well. As Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, declared, “Hamas is responsible for the rocket fire and all other attempts to harm our soldiers and civilians, even when other groups participate.” Israel is demanding what all governments demand: that its own people be safe.