4. Expectations, the real problem: Unlike the two previous confrontations or even the second intifada where Israel and Hamas squared off, this crisis is driven by expectations on each side that will be hard, if not impossible, to meet. Even if the two sides wanted to stand down, they have raised the hopes among their respective publics that can only constrain each of them and prove disappointing to Israelis and Palestinians as well. Netanyahu wants to avoid a massive ground incursion, yet he’s identified an endgame — demilitarization of Hamas — that would require the forceful disarming of an organization that isn’t going to agree to give up its weapons voluntarily. And the Israeli public, which has backed the current strategy of trying to pummel Hamas into submission, expects an outcome that is more decisive than in previous rounds. Hamas, on the other hand, seems — in a cosmic roll of the dice — to be holding out at all costs and somehow banking that if it does so, Israel will be forced to agree to open up Gaza (or will do so willingly), release Hamas prisoners and expand fishing rights and that Egypt will agree to open up the Rafah crossing. The more death and destruction in Gaza, the more Hamas needs an explanation at the end of the day to justify the sacrifices and the pain of Gaza’s 1.8 million residents.
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