Escalation and Desperation in Gaza?

“The victory march will continue until the Palestinian flag flies in Jerusalem and in all of Palestine” – Yasser Arafat

Frequent readers will know that I’m apparently not very good at predicting election outcomes. I can’t help but suspect that my capacity for analyzing the complexities, subtleties, and interconnected relationships of international politics, including the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, is much the same. That won’t stop me though.

This morning a bus was bombed in Tel Aviv, only 12 hours or so after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived to try to broker a peace deal. It looks to me like both escalation and desperation.

When I first saw that Hillary Clinton was heading in, I figured a peace deal was already in the books and she was just showing up for the photo-op. That, coupled with the heavy fighting just before her arrival, had me convinced. (Heavy fighting implies “get your licks in now before it’s too late” – much like the heavy shelling in the minutes before the Korean War cease-fire took hold.)

The notion that a cease-fire was coming seemed to me to be an indication that (a) Hamas was running out of missiles and (b) Israel’s Iron Dome defense system was far more effective than Hamas had envisioned and the missiles were having minimal effect. Perhaps both are true – and perhaps Israel has no need to press for a cease-fire because of them.

And perhaps both are behind the latest bus bombing. Running out of missiles, and having no success with them anyway, Hamas (or somebody on their side of the conflict) had to find a different way to strike. One has to assume though that the latest bombing makes a cease-fire somewhat less likely. If the act is from desperation, Israel both knows it and has ample cover to expand the operation. And even if it is not an act of desperation, Israel knows better than to be cowed by terrorist aggression, which would only invite more.

Time will tell, and events are unfolding quickly. I suspect there is still some hope of averting a ground invasion. But that hope seems to be dwindling.

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