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Analysis: Positions remain entrenched after Gaza conflict

Neither Israel nor Hamas has budged on long-held principles that make coexistence difficult and the prospects for lasting peace remote.

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Israeli surfers gathered offshore near the city of Ashkelon Nov. 24 to mark the end of a week of fierce fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas militants.

Amir Cohen/Reuters

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(Editor's Note: This story ran in the Monitor's print magazine as an analysis of the immediate aftermath of the latest Gaza conflict.)

The roar of Gazan rockets and the rumble of Israel's missile-defense system have been silenced by a cease-fire that has held up better than expected but which neither side considers a permanent solution.

Both Israel and Hamas showed more restraint than in their last conflict four years ago. Israel, which faced less domestic pressure for war thanks to the Iron Dome missile shield, stopped short of a ground incursion. Hamas, perhaps emboldened by the support of regional powers and its self-declared victory against Israel, has surprised Israelis by its efforts to keep Gazan militant groups in check – a key part of the Nov. 21 cease-fire agreement.

But neither side has budged on long-held principles that make coexistence difficult and the prospects for lasting peace remote.

Hamas's charter describes all of historical Palestine as a Muslim possession, thereby denying Israel's right to exist and forfeiting participation in any peace negotiations. And Israel – which characterizes Hamas as a terrorist organization whose attacks pose an "unacceptable" threat to its civilians – remains committed to a primarily military strategy in Gaza. Israel's basic modus operandi, referred to as "mowing the lawn," is to launch periodic military operations to keep Hamas's capabilities in check.

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