It often seems as if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict exists to serve as a constant reminder that things can always get worse. Over the weekend, they did. For those preoccupied with laying blame, there seems to be plenty to go around. Hamas’ decision to celebrate the end of the six-month-long ceasefire with a shower of rockets on Sderot would be a good place to start, were it not for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza that has worsened in plain sight but to the apparent disinterest of the world. The humanitarian crisis is a result of the Israeli blockade, which in turn is an effort to keep Hamas from rearming with rockets, ad infinitum, ad nauseum.
This is why I tend to refrain from much commentary on the conflict, and will outsource to Marc Lynch on how reaction in the Arab press reflects regional faultlines (here and here), and Daniel Levy on both how we got here and what comes next. MDC at Foreign Policy Watch adds some thoughts here.
Clearly both Hamas’ decision to force the issue with a volley of rockets and Israel’s decision to deliver a devastating riposte are diplomatic cables of a sort to the incoming Obama administration. Levy argues that they should be cause for an aggressive effort to seize back the initiative, rather than shelving advance plans for tackling the issue early on.
How big a mess Obama will ultimately have to wade through depends on whether Israel carries out the ground invasion it is now threatening with its tanks massed at the border. But I like the counterintuitive nature of Levy’s argument. Nothing is going to be easy for Obama, that’s for sure, so if things just got more complicated, that’s little reason to shy away from the ambitious agenda he’s outlined.