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The seven truths about the violence

THERE are many lies being told about the current conflict between Israel and Hamas. Here are seven things that are true.

1. This most recent outbreak of violence represents the opening round of the third Palestinian intifada. The first intifada, which began in 1987 and petered out in the early 1990s, was an uprising of stones and Molotov cocktails. The second intifada, which began 12 years ago, was an uprising of suicide bombers. 2. Hamas's strategy in this latest conflict makes perfect sense. Hamas, which is the Palestine branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, is theologically committed to the obliteration of Israel and believes, as a matter of faith, that Jews are Allah's enemies.

This strategy only works because Hamas leaders believe that the deaths of Palestinians aid their cause. As we have seen in this latest iteration of the Arab-Israeli war, every death of a Palestinian civilian is a victory for Hamas and a defeat for Israel.

3. Hamas's decision to increase the tempo of rocket attacks at Israeli civilian targets -- the cause of this latest round of violence, as President Barack Obama and most Western leaders have asserted -- emerged not only from a desire on the part of the group to terrorise the Jewish state out of existence.

It also emerged from a cold political calculation that the Arab Spring (or, in the eyes of Hamas, the Islamist Spring) means that the arc of history is bending towards them and away from the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas and its more moderate Arab supporters. This analysis has encouraged Hamas to assert itself now as the main player in the Palestinian "resistance".

4. The Jews aren't abandoning ship. One of the reasons Hamas's strategy so far hasn't worked is because Israel's Jews are more patriotic, and braver, than Hamas ideologues admit. The majority of Israelis believe that they are finally home.

5. Israel, unlike Hamas, has no strategy in Gaza. It has only tactics. Israel is justified in defending itself. It isn't tenable for a sovereign state to allow its citizens to go unprotected from rocket attacks.

But for Israel, military victory over Hamas is impossible, which is why a ground invasion of Gaza is a bad idea. So long as Hamas maintains the capability to fire even one rocket into Israel, or dispatch one suicide bomber to a Tel Aviv cafe, it will view itself as having won this round.

6. There also is no direct political solution for Israel. If Hamas were willing to negotiate with Israel about anything more than prisoner exchanges or ceasefires, it wouldn't be Hamas. It is impossible for Israel to do serious business with an organisation that wishes it dead. But there is an indirect political solution for Gaza. The Palestinians are currently split between the moderate camp of Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority, on the West Bank, and the extremists of Hamas in Gaza. Successive Israeli governments have undermined the Palestinian Authority government on the West Bank by expanding the Jewish settler presence.

7. Opinions on both sides hardened in the first intifada and hardened further in the second. Here in the third, they will harden some more. Palestinian society is infected with dreams of physically eliminating its enemy. Parts of Israeli society, too, are succumbing to fever dreams of total victory. The most likely outcome of this round: A ceasefire, a period of quiet and then a gradual return to shooting.


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