Commentary Magazine


The Broken Cycle

One of the recurring memes about the Middle East – more specifically, the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts – is “the cycle of violence.” In this simplistic view, it’s a never-ending game of hit and hit back, punch and counterpunch, tit for tat and back to tit again, over and over, ad infinitum, ad nauseam, ad aeternum.

If only it were that simple.

It’s actually two different cycles, two different gears that mainly serve to trigger the next stage of the process in the other.

On the Israeli side, it’s a constant cycling through processes:

Confrontation: engaging the Palestinians through direct military force. This is the current stage with Gaza.

Accomodation: Offering “good faith gestures” and compromises in hopes of inspiring similar responses.

Negotiation: Discussing far-ranging, complicated “peace proposals” that take months and months to hammer out, and fall apart before the first few stages are fulfilled.

Separation: Building walls or withdrawing completely and telling the Palestinians “to hell with you; wallow in your own fetid mess.”

On the Palestinian side, it’s a bit simpler: it’s a cycle of violence. Sometimes it’s higher as they work themselves into a frenzy; sometimes it’s quieter as they howl about Israel’s audacity in hitting back (and covertly re-arm themselves). A complete cessation of violence, however, is pretty much unheard of.

The one thing that has seemed to work for Israel, if at least in the short term, has been the kind of massive (but targeted) assault that Israel applied to Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas now. (Of course, in the case of Hezbollah, it kind of fell apart when Israel deferred to the international community, which made all kinds of promises to rein in Hezbollah and then did nothing while it not only rearmed to levels above the 2006 war, but consolidated its hold on the Lebanese government, but it was a good start.)

So far, in Gaza, it seems to be working. Hamas (and its apologists worldwide) have sent the rhetoric levels to near-record highs, but the actual number of rocket and mortar attacks have not been anywhere near the threatened levels once Hamas declared an end to the “truce.”

Here’s hoping that this time it will actually achieve some lasting good.