Gaza’s Hamas movement wanted a showdown with Israel because its leaders are high on something called the Arab Spring and competing to become martyrs to the Palestinian cause.
Or, from another perspective, cynical Israeli politicians think a Gaza offensive will be a walkover that will assure re-election in January and at the same time provide a death-blow to Palestinian statehood moves at the United Nations.
Those are two ends of a spectrum of theories among Israelis and Palestinians about what has propelled the two sides towards their second war in four years, escalating a low-level, slap-for-slap conflict to the brink of an Israeli invasion of Gaza.
Without going back 2,000 years to the origins of the dispute, the roots of the latest high-explosive crisis can be traced in a series of “red lines” that have been crossed.
Specifically: firing a Russian Kornet anti-tank missile on Nov. 10 against Israeli soldiers; Israel’s assassination of top Hamas commander Ahmed Al-Jaabari on Nov. 14 after both sides appeared to have agreed to a tacit ceasefire deal, and then Hamas firing long-range rockets at Tel Aviv on Nov. 15.
These were big steps that wrecked a fragile status quo.
RULES OF THE GAME
Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip seven years ago and has regularly used its airpower to deter Hamas and other Islamist groups from firing their rockets into the Jewish state. The militants do not recognise Israel’s right to exist.
In a bruising 2008-2009 three-week campaign, Israel first bombarded then briefly invaded Gaza, hoping to put a halt to the rockets for once and all. Operation Cast Lead left 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead.