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Gaza conflict

Israel and Hamas, an unholy alliance

The moment a ceasefire began in Gaza on Friday morning, both Israel and Hamas got to work on “constructing competing narratives of victory”, says Oliver Holmes in The Guardian. The Israeli military says 11 days of airstrikes killed scores of terrorists, destroyed weapons and rocket stores, and “obliterated” the network of secret tunnels known as the “Metro”. As for Hamas, the militant group claims it has proved once again that it is the “foremost defender of Palestinian interests”. But in “big picture terms”, this brief but bloody conflict – which has left at least 230 Palestinians and 12 Israelis dead – has changed nothing.

The truth is, the two sides are mutually dependent on each other, says Adam Raz in Haaretz. Israel’s PM, Benjamin Netanyahu, wants to “keep Hamas as a key player” so he can undercut the Palestinian Authority, its less extreme counterpart in the West Bank. With Hamas as the terrorist bogeyman, Netanyahu can ignore talk of a “negotiated solution” to the Palestine question and keep his hardline supporters happy. Hamas obviously likes this arrangement, too – there are rumours of “cash-filled suitcases” from Israel – and “very much fears” Netanyahu losing power.

That mutual dependence was the cause of this latest cycle of violence, says Thomas Friedman in The New York Times. After Netanyahu failed to form a government earlier this month, “a national unity coalition was taking shape” that would have seen Israeli Jews and Israeli Arab Muslims in cabinet together for the first time. This would have “broken the mould of Israeli politics”, undermining the “Hamas narrative that the only hope for Israeli Arabs is the destruction of the Jewish state”. Netanyahu and Hamas obviously didn’t want that. So they fired up their war machines – and, sure enough, the coalition talks fell apart.

Israeli and US officials will no doubt “tout the return of calm” now the ceasefire has kicked in, says Ishaan Tharoor in The Washington Post. “But experts fear the opposite.” There is “no meaningful dialogue” between the “enfeebled” Palestinian Authority and Israel’s right-wing government, many of whose members “now openly reject the idea of an independent Palestinian state”. And Israel’s “creeping annexation of Palestinian lands” could provoke more angry resistance. Even some of those who “staked their careers” on a two-state solution “recognise that the facts on the ground make it a fantasy”. As one Jordanian diplomat put it this week: “I’m a two-stater by training. I’m a one-stater by reality.”