When Israel invaded Gaza, most analysts and observers around the world were left scratching their heads. What could Israel possibly gain by invading Gaza?
Why send your troops into an urban meatgrinder where the resident population absolutely hates you? Why escalate a war which you know will infuriate much of the rest of the world? Why commit your military to a very costly campaign when you will just have to pull out again at some point anyway?
What is to be gained from all of this?
The truth is that Israel feels that it has a lot to gain from all of this.
With the backing and permission of the United States and Europe, Israel has launched an all out effort to destroy Hamas in order to pave the way for a Palestinian state and (what they hope will be) lasting peace.
You see, the United States, Europe and a large segment of the Israeli leadership are convinced that a Palestinian state is a huge part of an ultimate solution for lasting peace.
However, right now the Palestinian areas are under the control of two separate factions.
Gaza is under Hamas control, while Fatah controls the West Bank.
Israel and the western powers believe that a Palestinian state controlled by Fatah is ultimately what they think will bring true and lasting peace.
But there was something standing in the way of that.
The total control of Gaza by Hamas.
You see, Hamas has refused to ever recognize the state of Israel, and it continues to maintain that it will fight forever to take away every inch of land in Israel from the Jewish people.
Just consider this quote.....
"Israel is not a legitimate entity, and no amount of pressure can force us to recognize its right to exist."
-Dr. Mahmud Al-Zahar, Hamas leader in Gaza, Washington Times, February 4, 2006
Hamas will never, ever accept a compromise. There is no negotiating with them. It is either the destruction of the state of Israel or nothing.....
"Neither the liberation of the Gaza Strip nor the liberation of the West Bank or even Jerusalem will suffice us. Hamas will pursue the armed struggle until the liberation of all our lands. We don't recognize the state of Israel or its right to hold onto one inch of Palestine. Palestine is an Islamic land belonging to all the Muslims."
-Dr. Mahmud al-Zahar, Hamas leader in Gaza, The Jerusalem Post, August 18, 2005
So with Hamas in control of Gaza it would not be possible for Israel and the United States to give the Palestinians a state.
Who can negotiate with someone who is 100 percent fanatically committed to your destruction?
But if Hamas was destroyed, then Fatah would have the opportunity to gain control over both the West Bank and Gaza and that would pave the way for a Palestinian state.
After all, Israeli leadership has been incredibly eager to give up land for peace - they just have not been able to negotiate with Hamas. Ehud Olmert has repeatedly said that Israel must hand back land for peace with the Palestinians.
In fact, Olmert has insisted that Israel must eventually withdraw from "almost all" of the land captured during the 1967 war.
Olmert has even gone so far as to say that Israel must give up parts of Jerusalem.
Olmert represents a large section of the Israeli leadership that is willing to make massive concessions for peace.
But to do that they had to get Hamas out of the way and they had to get Fatah in control.
Perhaps you have noticed that Fatah has not jumped into the fray?
As Hamas gets hammered, Fatah is saying the right things, but they are staying out of the conflict.
It is because they know that they are going to benefit from this conflict and that makes them quite happy.
So if Hamas gets destroyed and Fatah gains control over both Gaza and the West Bank it is likely that we could see a Palestinian state sooner rather than later.
The world will think that it has found a peace solution.
But it won't work.
No matter what the world tries, war will continue in the Middle East.
In fact, a wider war involving Israel, Hezbollah, Syria and possibly even Iran could erupt at any time.
When that happens things might even get nuclear.
These are going to be harrowing times for the Middle East.
Let us pray for peace.