See, here's the thing. Hamas and Israel had agreed a peace treaty that expired only a few weeks ago. You'd think that the problem was Hamas wouldn't renew it but the truth is that Israel violated it back in November, on the night of the US presidential election when most people were looking the other way. Israeli forces assassinated a number of leading Hamas members. What's more, the Israelis never implemented the terms of the treaty, which included lifting the horrific and illegal siege of Gaza, that has turned it into the world's largest open-air prison.
So, the idea that Israel was interested in peace with Hamas or is motivated by concern for the ineffectual rocket attacks on southern Israel is a non-starter. The present asymmetrical slaughter is motivated by two things:
1) Israel wants to restore its prestige after being humiliated by Hezbollah during its last invasion of Lebanon in 2006. As Mark Heller, a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University put it: “There has been a nagging sense of uncertainty in the last couple years of whether anyone is really afraid of Israel anymore.” And, when you're a settler regime which owes its existence to the expulsion and continued exclusion and oppression of the indigenous Arab population - and you're surrounded by tens of millions more Arabs who understand that Israel's role is as America's enforcer - well, you better believe that maintaining fear is important. A bully who doesn't inspire fear isn't much of a bully. And if Israel isn't an effective bully, what use would it be to the United States, which forks over 1/3 of its entire direct foreign aid budget to Israel every year, plus billions more in indirect aid, loan forgiveness or just plain military hardware.
2) The present assault on Gaza has to be understood as part of the long term Israeli zionist project of all out genocide against the Palestinians. There have been detours, temporary pauses and the occasional minor reversal but Israel's leaders have never faltered in the long-term project to "spirit the penniless Arab population" out of greater Israel. This present assault is merely one more stepping stone on the way.
Will it work? The Palestinians are a proud and tenacious people who have endured generations of Israeli brutality (with the full support of the United States of America, history's most powerful and most vicious empire). The present bloodletting is unlikely to break them now. In fact, if anything, this will probably strengthen the hand of Hamas in the West Bank, now ruled by the quislings of the Palestine Authority under "president" Mahmoud Abbas. There is the danger that the strengthening of Hamas will provide an excuse to extend the horror from Gaza into the West Bank, to drive forward the genocide project.
But Israel is on increasingly thin ice regionally. The Palestinians never stood a chance on their own. They need the power of the Arab masses, particularly those in Egypt. Israel and the United States know this, that's why Egypt's ruling elite gets a fat paycheque from the US government every year - to keep their population down. But the Egyptian workers and peasants are increasingly restive, with strike waves and a burgeoning independent union movement, alongside a growing sense that Mubarak's pathetic dynasty must go. If Israel pushes too far they may topple the only Arab regime that really matters for their survival. Revelations that the Egyptian government may well have aided the Israelis in tricking Hamas into thinking an attack was unlikely will further inflame ordinary Egyptians. Already thousands are protesting around the Arab world. Israel is playing with fire, with its usual arrogance, we can only hope that, like 2006, its fingers get burned.