The Middle East Times
February 9, 2009 - 1:00am

Both Israel and Hamas are playing dangerous games, the outcome of which could lead to a major confrontation in the Middle East.

First, Hamas: Encouraged by their "victory" in the last confrontation with Israel, Hamas continues to lob the occasional rocket on Israel. Perhaps it's their way of reminding the Israelis that they remain a force to contend with. However, it would benefit Hamas to study carefully Israel's last two wars - the war with Hezbollah in 2006 and the recent war with Hamas in Gaza.

What one learns from studying those two conflicts is that Israel could not win them. While both Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza cried victory, despite the massive destruction suffered and the large loss of human life, the two Islamist groups claimed victory only because they managed to survive the Israeli onslaught.

Second, Israel: As Israel's general staff will run replays of both the south Lebanon and the Gaza wars they will realize, if they have not already, that small wars are harder to win than major ones. Ultimately what this means is that Israel may not elect to fight any more small wars. Rather, it will gear itself up to conduct major warfare – battles it can wage on its own terms, and win them, given their superior armament, air force and tactical weapons.

Hamas on the other hand can conduct small wars but they can hardly sustain major conflicts. They are simply not geared up for it.

In hoping to trap Israel in another small war where it can keep Israel's military mired down in guerilla warfare, much as the U.S. military found itself in Iraq, Hamas may well miscalculate and find that Israel will refuse to play the game, except on their own rules.

Third, Israel may conclude that the answer to their security needs is found in going to war, but here too, it would be a grave mistake. The only long-term security Israel can find is in a negotiated peace settlement with the Palestinians, a two-state solution, and in a peace treaty with Syria. The rest of the Arab world will follow suit.

Short of a comprehensive peace treaty, both sides will end up getting burned by playing this very dangerous game.

The Palestinians and the Israelis must take advantage of the new U.S. administration's renewed interest in brokering a just peace in the region. This may be their last chance.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017