The radicals - Hamas and the right wing settlers do not want peace in Palestine. Israel can only beat them through steps toward peace. Peace could come as follows:
1. Peace with Syria would be pretty easy - Israeli would give back the Golan Heights and there
would be some sort of demiliterized control of the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee. But Syria won't make peace
while Israel is butchering civilians in Gaza. Israeli was close to peace with Syria before, but the prospect ended
when Ariel Sharon invaded the Temple mount with hundreds of police to show his power - the result was Muslim stone throwing that led to the second Intifada and much bloodshed. I was in Tel Aviv at the time.
2. Peace with the West Bank would require that Israel withdraw the settlements. It is ridiculous to
have little Israeli enclaves all over the West Bank. The Israelis could make all the Palestinians Israeli citizens
with the right to vote, but this would give the Palestinians the balance of power in Israel's contentious
political atmosphere. I assume that the Israelis (except for a few nut cases) don't plan to either
expel or exterminate the Palestinians from the West Bank. (Olmert did say recently that some of the West Bank settlers recent actions against Palestinians were similar to a pogram - didn't seem to be reported in the US press for some reason but was reported by BBC). The only realistic road to peace is to withdraw the settlements. Israel could and should start doing that to show that it is willing to consider peace as an option. Many of the people in the settlements are there because they were convenient and cheap places to live, though there are some religious fanatics that may think that as in Jericho in the bible - they should kill all their enemies based on God's will. Probably the majority of Israelis are not religious and certainly a majority do not support the fanatics - those who parade around in 17th century Polish costumes, won't even permit American kosher meat in Israel and won't recognize modern American Jewish religious congregations as legitimate. The cross dressers include some super radicals - the murderous types that killed an Israeli Prime Minister for attempting peace (like the Egyptians who killed their President for making peace with Israel). Not a lot of difference between Jewish and Muslim religious fanatics - both have a tendency to be violent and dangerous. American Jews often feel that they have to support the most violent options - become like the overseas Irish - more Irish than the Irish. All people of good will from every religion and background should seek to find a route away from war and toward peace.
Israel doesn't need agricultural land - agriculture is less than 2 percent of the Israeli economy. Israel needs to withdraw the settlements - probably with some monetary compensation. The radical nut cases should be left to stay under Palestinian rule if that is what they want.
Similarly, there should be monetary compensation to the grandchildren of the Palestinians who fled or were
forced out of Israel for the houses and land they left. I understand there was a commission that managed the houses for a long time, so there are some records. The exception is for the settlements near Jerusalem. I don't think Israelis will abandon those, but they need to give Muslims control over and adequate public access to the Dome of the Rock. Jerusalem will probably become recognized eventually as Israel's capital. Muslims in Jerusalem should be offered citizenship.
Hamas is fighting with Fatah. Abbas of Fatah criticized Hamas' role after the first Israeli raid. Fatah might win majority support if there were a real prospect of peace. Israel could demonstrate its will to peace by starting to withdraw the settlements in West Bank.
Israel was probably right in the first strike as a response to missles- killing 200 people in Gaza - mostly Hamas police. But if it seriously thinks that Hamas will back down now, it is mistaken. Hamas would probably prefer to see as many civilians killed as possible so that backing for Hamas will increase. This will shatter the prospect of peace (and thus encourage the Israeli radical settlers as well). I think that Israel does need a wall - but it should not be a wall that annexes new territory. Also, there should be a motorway between Gaza and the West Bank (sort of like the Chunnel between France and England - with no exit en route).
The United States has suffered greatly from the lack of peace. Not only have we given Israel huge sums of money every year for weapons, but we have lost friends around the world. Ossama Ben Laden would have not have had
much support against us if not for what has been seen as unfairness to the Palestinians. The Iraq war and our difficulty in winning the peace is also linked to our support for Israel. Israel doesn't need to trust the Palestinians - it needs to separate from them. The Arabs can help them through foreign aid. If Israel
pulled out of the West Bank, the Palestinians would in majority support Fatah over Hamas. But if this fighting is very protracted, almost all Arabs will end up supporting Hamas, and opposing the United States.
Today, by provoking the Israelis to excessive action, Hamas is on the verge of winning - and their win means perpetual struggle. It is foolish to think that the Israeli's can wipe out Hamas through military action. As civilans are killed by Israeli weapons, support for Hamas will grow. Israel looks like it will repeat the same mistake it made in
invading Lebanon - and to some degree the United States is being dragged into the morass. We had a new image in the world - and Israeli excesses could put a big dent in our hopes for creating a more peaceful and fair world. There are certainly interests in Israel that want war instead of peace and want to exterminate or expel the Palestinians. But hopefully the Government of Israel is simply suffering from an excess of zeal, rather than undertaking a conspiracy to prevent peace through excessive violence. Hard to think that they really expect Hamas to agree to stop when they are on the verge of winning the ideological war in world opinion.