Why did the Israelis attack Hamas now, and what do they hope to achieve. The Israelis are probably gambling that blasting Hamas will help the official Arafat forces, with whom they hope to negotiate a deal involving a Palestinian state. They chose this time to attack, because over the Christmas holidays, most of the journalists are away. What they have got to do to decapitate the Hamas leadership necessarily involves a lot of civilian casualties, and they want to minimize coverage of this. Also, they are probably not sure that the incoming President will be as reflexively supportive of them as Bush has been. So now is the time to move. Hamas isn't Hizbollah, and will not be able to put up a serious resistance to the Israelis. Which is good, because the IDF has become an army which cannot take a lot of casualties. (Or rather, Israel has become that kind of society.) The real question is: even if the Israelis give the official Palestinian leadership everything they want, i.e. a state in the West Bank and Gaza, withdrawal of all the Israeli settlements, a capital in Jerusalem, loads of cash for the PA gangsters to send to Switzerland, will that bring some sort of peace to the region? Maybe it would have, a few decades ago. Now, I doubt it. It may be the best shot Israel has, but I think we will just see the spread of Iranian/Syrian influence in the new Palestinian state, with moderates bumped off like in Lebanon, and Iranian training and arming and funding of Palestinians who want to complete the job. Because we have to ask ... why have Palestinians been so intransigent? Lots of other people have had part of their homeland grabbed by someone else, and have learned to live with it. Europe in the 20th Century had lots of ethnic cleansing, and no one is trying to re-adjust borders. Even the mad nationalists in the Balkans have settled down, with the Serbs grudgingly accepting the two Muslim states set up by the Americans. In North America, the Indians are quiet on their reservations. The Mexicans have accepted the loss of half their country to us. Why are the Palestinians different? I think the answer is: the relationship of forces. Where a people is decisively defeated and driven off its land, if it sees there is no realistic chance of going back, it settles down and gets on with life, making the best of it in its new location. But the Palestinians, and the Arabs more generally, don't think that, in the long run, Israel has the strength to hold them off. Not forever. So they don't accept that they have lost that part of Palestine now held by the Jews. In addition, they have the toxic addition of religion to inspire them: no land once held by Islam can be ceded to infidels. For a long time, Israel was the stronger party, because her advanced social organization and advanced technology, gave her the edge over her more numerous Arab foes. But that is changing. For one thing, demographics are against Israel. The Palestinians (and other Muslims) are out-breeding her. For another, Israel's technological lead is narrowing. Iran has shown that you can remain in the grip of a backward medieval religious ideology, and yet master the advanced technology originally developed by Jews and Christians. And finally: Israel's only friend in the world is the US. As Europe becomes even more Islamic, she will lose what little suport she has in the EU. The Chinese, the rising power, couldn't care less about Israel. It's the Arabs who have the oil. That leaves us. Right now, that counts for a lot. But as American power declines, relative to other countries, it will count for less and less. And I suspect that we will see growing disenchantment with the idea of supporting Israel within the US, since it is not really in our long-term self-interest to do so. Eventually, the logic of distancing ourselves from the embattled Jewish state will begin to make more and more sense. Of course, given the strength of the Israeli lobby in the US, it would be political suicide for a politician to say this out loud. But we will probably see this attitude become more and more widespread among the political class, even though not spoken of officially. Just as no American politician could advocate recognizing Red China, for fear of the rightwing backlash, until Nixon suddenly did it, we will probably have a new attitude towards Israel -- i.e. something besides knee-jerk unconditional support -- suddenly sprung on us. However, the existence of nuclear weapons is a kind of wild card. No matter how strong the Muslims become militarily, they cannot wipe out Israel in a conventional war, because Israel has nuclear weapons. But the Arabs will have nuclear weapons too, within a few decades or even sooner. They will have to develop them to counter Iran, which is working full-out to get nuclear capacity and will soon have it. A Shia/Persian state with nukes will force the Arabs to get them too. This will introduce extreme instability into the situation. The great fear on the parr of the Israelis will be that some rogue element in one of the Muslim nuclear-armed states will help the crazies get a small atom bomb, which will end up being detonated in Tel Aviv, with no obvious return address. The best the Israelis could do to counter this is to have a "second-strike" capacity -- like a missile-launching submarine -- so that even an all-out Arab sneak attack couldn't destroy her retaliatory capacity, and then quietly let the Arabs and Persians know that if Tel Aviv goes, no matter how, then Cairo, Baghdad, Damascus, Tehran all go too. But basically, the future of the Middle East looks bleak. If the Arabs had been rational, they would have welcomed the Jews in, in 1948, for all the skills, money, connections, etc. they would bring. Jewish intelligence and enterprise, connected to Arab labor, would have turned the place into an economic paradise, a Middle East Hong Kong. But life ain't that way. So it will probably all end in tears.