Middle East peace process itself among casualties of Gaza fighting
The eight days of fighting between Hamas and Israel left more than 160 Palestinians and six Israelis dead, but there may be another casualty from the sudden burst of violence: whatever small chance there was for reviving a long-moribund peace process.
Emboldened by landing rockets near Tel Aviv and Jerusalem - and by the backing of Egypt and other regional powers - Hamas, the militant Islamist group that rules the Gaza Strip, has emerged as the dominant force in a divided Palestinian leadership, its resistance mantra drowning out messages of moderation.
The word "peace" has hardly been heard in public here since the shelling stopped, never mind the phrase "two-state solution."
In a sermon-like speech Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya promised on Thursday to "establish an independent state on all Palestine land," foreboding words from the leader of an organization whose charter prophesizes Israel's elimination.
And that leaves Israel, which along with the US and Europe considers Hamas a terrorist organization, with an adversary it has long been unwilling to engage - which might suit its hawkish leadership just fine.
Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long insisted that negotiations are stalled because he lacks a willing Palestinian partner for peace, and it will be easier for him to argue against engagement if Hamas is the group he is supposed be sitting across at the bargaining table.
"Israel and the Palestinians have been far from any deal for some time, and this just makes it farther away," said Nathan Thrall, Middle East analyst for the International Crisis Group.
"Prospects for a two-state solution are on the losing end," Thrall's group said in an after-action report published Friday.
"Then again, what else is new?" Hamas' strengthened position might even pave the way for unilateral actions by Israel sought by some on the right - annexing parts of the West Bank, for example, or shutting off Gaza more completely - that redraw the political landscape, analysts say.
"I see many on the Israeli right who have an interest in this reality," said Shlomo Brom, director of the program on Israel-Palestinian relations at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.
"If, like Netanyahu, you don't want an agreement or you don't believe in one, it is very comfortable for them that Hamas is there."
Left in the rubble after a week of relentless rocket fire into Israel and the Israeli bombing of more than a thousand targets in Gaza was the type of introspection that might lead to compromise.
The violence, instead, exposed one of the unsettling realities of a conflict that has defied resolution for decades. Both sides deeply believe they are winning, and that they are right.
This latest round of hostilities seems only to have reinforced those ideas, causing Palestinians even in West Bank universities with little Hamas presence to raise the faction's signature green flag, and leaving some Israelis asking whether the assault on Gaza stopped short.
Even the intervention of Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi - an Islamist praised by the Obama administration for his pragmatism in helping halt the fighting - could in the end reinforce the status quo.
He held out the promise of helping to negotiate a long-term cease-fire, and perhaps bring a better standard of living to Gaza by opening borders and easing other restrictions.
But Mr Morsi, who shares Hamas' roots in the Muslim Brotherhood, did not talk about a two-state solution, instead giving rhetorical support to Hamas and its ideology.
The Obama administration held out hope that in the future Mr Morsi could be a voice for change, but officials were most intent on the practical prospect of having a partner in maintaining stability in the absence of a real push for peace on the ground.
"Egypt now has a degree of responsibility for preventing violence between two actors over which its control is very, very limited," Daniel Levy, a left-leaning analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations, wrote in a commentary published Friday.
Mr Morsi, he added, "is likely to remind his western friends that if they are unable to use a period of quiet to deliver broader progress on Israeli de-occupation, then he cannot be held fully responsible for the consequences later on."
In Israel, Mr Netanyahu and his ultranationalist foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, seem to have shifted their approach in response to the redrawn regional map. While in 2009 they included as part of their coalition agreement a vow to topple Hamas' rule of Gaza, they are now heading into elections in January on a joint ticket heralding the far more limited achievement of restoring quiet and reducing the enemy's weapons cache.
Dan Meridor, a centrist who sits in Mr Netanyahu's security Cabinet, said the reality is, "Hamas is in control of Gaza - we may like it or we may not."
Analysts say the leadership lacks a long-term strategy either for dealing with Hamas and Gaza or for re-engaging with the moderate president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, who is expected to head to the United Nations on Thursday seeking largely symbolic status as an observer state.
Mr Lieberman has denounced that bid as "diplomatic terrorism," and threatened countermeasures as drastic as trying to collapse the Palestinian Authority. After the recent conflict, an official in the prime minister's office said, "it is almost ridiculous that Abbas is going to the United Nations for recognition of his state when he has no control whatsoever over what goes on in Gaza."