The battle for Gaza did not begin yesterday. It is one in a long series of battles that stretches back for decades. On this point, both Israelis and Palestinians agree – even if the mass media tends to have a much shorter memory.This battle is the latest stage of a war that is entirely about whether a Jewish state will be allowed to exist in the land of Israel. On this point, both Hamas leaders and the Israelis are in agreement.A strong case can be made that this battle is part of the endgame in that war. The decades-long conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors is slowly coming to an end. And Israel has won...The first and most important consquence of Israel's military victories was the peace agreement with Egypt. It was the Egyptian army more than any other which posed an existential threat to Israel's existence. Once it was taken out of the picture, an Arab victory in the long war was no longer possible.This was followed a decade later by the PLO decision to embrace a two-state solution, which lead directly to the Oslo accords. Israel now finds itself in the extraordinary situation of having its former worst enemy, Fatah, as its strategic ally.It is in this context that Hamas' weakness and isolation must be understand. They are weak because they are the last redoubt of what was once a mighty enemy – an enemy that could deploy divisions across several fronts, and whose tanks and aircraft once threatened to reach Tel Aviv.The defeat of Hamas and the re-insertion of Palestinian Authority control over Gaza – possibly enforced by a pan-Arab peace-keeping force including Egyptian troops – would the best possible outcome of the current fighting.Were that to take place, the conditions for a renewal of the peace process in 2009 would be in place. With a Kadima-Labour government in power in Jerusalem and Obama in the White House, Fatah controlling both parts of the Palestinian territories – it would be the best chance in years for a final agreement on a two-state solution.
Of course, if the current operation only kills a lot of people without accomplishing anything at all, it would be a tragedy for peace as well as for Israel. If Israel's goals are frustrated because well-meaning "peace" advocates insist on a "humanitarian" solution, that could well happen. World War II could have been ended with a lot less bloodshed, and much earlier, if the Western Allies had consented to let the Nazis keep their gains in the East. The British blockade of Germany would end, alleviating the humanitarian crisis in Germany. The Nazis would withdraw from France. That is not much different from a solution that leaves Hamas in control of Gaza indefinitely and allows the free flow of arms to Gaza.