An Israeli official was listening a few days ago to the familiar critique that Israel doesn’t have any strategy in Gaza, just periodic tactical assaults on Hamas. The official finally exploded: “That is our strategy. Don’t you understand? We don’t have any other choice except to punch our adversary in the face every few years.”
The most depressing aspect about the latest Gaza war is that it dramatizes this “no-exit” aspect of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Wars recur every four or five years, but they never seem to settle anything. The Israelis pound the Palestinians until they accept a cease-fire, but it’s temporary. The emotional state of war continues.
The first time I watched this movie was 1982. Israel invaded Lebanon to stop the rockets that were then harassing northern Israel. The invasion was called “Operation Peace for Galilee,” and the Israeli army rolled all the way to Beirut. With their massive firepower, the Israelis assumed the Palestinians would cut and run, as Arab armies had in previous wars. But the Palestinians stood their ground.