Status Quo Minus in Middle East

I don’t regard myself as any sort of expert on the Middle East, so it’s impossible to ignore the escalation of hostilities between Israel and Hamas that could soon lead to Israeli ground excursions into Gaza, and/or a rupture of relations between Israel and Egypt. In terms of the impact on Israeli-Palestinian issues, Matthew Duss of TAP suggests any Israeli expansion of the conflict will just create an unfortunate shift in the balance of power among Palestinian factions:

[I]f the past is any guide, Hamas will still be there after the fighting has died down. After more rockets have been fired and bombs dropped, and more people have died, Israel will claim that “deterrence has been re-estalished,” and Hamas will declare victory by virtue of the fact that it had, once again, faced down the Zionists’ military might and survived. While Hamas remains officially committed to Israel’s destruction, its leaders have in the past enforced ceasefires with Israel, which has drawn the criticism of even more extreme factions like Islamic Jihad and Salafi-Jihadist groups, who consider Hamas too moderate. Indeed, if Hamas’ control of Gaza were significantly degraded, it’s most likely that these groups would rush to fill the void, which would be disastrous for all involved.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, on the other hand, may prove to be the most significant casualty of this episode. He was the biggest political loser of the last Gaza war, where the perception was that he supported the attack against his rivals. Abbas’s failure to achieve any tangible goods for the Palestinians, either through now-dead negotiations with Israel or through his half-hearted efforts to upgrade Palestine’s status at the U.N., make him more irrelevant by the day. It seems likely that this latest round of war will end with Israel’s most implacable enemy still in place, and its more moderate peace-partner even more weakened.

The 21st century has been one long downward spiral in Israeli-Palestinian relations, hasn’t it? When there’s change, it is rarely for the better.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.