Amira Hass has an article up about how if only Israel would be nice to the Gazans, Hamas would disappear. I wouldn't even know how to begin arguing with her, but perhaps I don't even have to. Go back and read everything she has written in her career (25 years?) and you'll see that at any given moment she was always advocating that Israel should be nice and whatever problem was acute would go away. Some people find such thoughts comforting, which is why they persist.
Most Israelis, however, assume the conflict can't be ended, only managed. Yet managing is a delicate art, not easily given to evaluation let alone perfection. It's a never-ending on-going process of multi-level trial and error, in the hope the errors won't cause too much damage, and can be learned from as you go along.
Just in the past few days we've heard how Iran and Syria are moving missiles into Hezbullah's Lebanon (so much for United Nations Resolution 1701), and the Nigerians (!) have intercepted a shipment of Iranian armaments towards Gaza. Yossi Melman, meanwhile, Haaretz' expert on intelligence matters, explains how having the data and understanding it are two separate things, neither of which is easy to do. Martin Kramer, via Michael Totten, shows how this works also in the opposite direction: the more Israel contemplates the growing Iranian threat, the more of its strategic command centers and such it puts underneath Jerusalem, daring the Iranians to even think of attacking the holy city of al-Quds.
(I would tell you more about these excavation projects, but The Economist this week explained that blogging in the Middle East is becoming ever more hazardous, so I'll stay on the safe side and not tell).
The upshot of all this is not, as you might expect, an ever intensifying arming and bolstering of Fortress Israel. On the contrary. Long term conflict management means forever gauging what the precise correct balance is, including trying conflicting measures simultaneously. See, for example, the story from earlier this week about how the PA is beginning to ask the IDF to stop arresting terror suspects in the Palestinians cities since this limits Palestinian sovereignty; the IDF seems willing to acquiesce and is preparing for the day it happens. Another facet of the exact same story is that the IDF and the PA together are looking into ways to enable exports from Hamas-controlled Gaza in ways which will benefit the Gazans, the Israelis and the PA, but not Hamas. There will be folks out there - the Mondoweiss gang comes to mind - who will spin this into a story of Israeli perfidy and PA servility, but it seems me that if you've got an Amria-Hass frame of mind, anything that makes the lives of ordinary Palestinians more pleasant must be a key to peace and thus worthy of trying.
And so, in an unexpected turnaround, at the end of this post I'm going to suggest a Hass-ian thesis of my own.
A negotiated peace between Israel and the Palestinians is not achievable at the moment. On the other hand, in the past few years, and especially since the IDF operation in Gaza succeeded in mostly putting an end to rocket fire from there, a calm has settled upon Israel and the Palestinian territories that is good for almost everyone. The longer it goes on, the more it can be reinforced, by opening roadblocks, collaborating in combating terrorists, growing economies in all three political units. So here's my suggestion: let's stop trying to negotiate what can't be negotiated, and let's strengthen the processes that are already happening. If we could prolong the present 20-month calm by ten years, we might all discover, to our great surprise, that renewed final-status negotiations actually could lead somewhere.
True, no-one wold get any Nobel Peace Prizes for the time being - but ordinary people might lead better lives.