Middle East peace process itself among casualties of Gaza fighting
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."
Efraim Halevy, former chief of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, said that Israel had three alternatives in Gaza: to destroy Hamas, leaving the enclave to its more radical groups; to reoccupy the area after evacuating it in 2005; or to start a process where the hostile environment is slowly reduced by preventing the influx of new weapons into Gaza while allowing Hamas to increase its civilian political role.
"After the elections are over, Israel will have to sit down and ask itself, 'Where do we go from here?"' Mr Halevy said in an interview.
"If you aim for deterrence rather than trying to destroy your enemy, that means you accept his legitimacy, I think."
The most promising prospect for any sort of compromise appears to be between the Palestinian factions, rather than with Israel, and comes after four reconciliation agreements in recent years failed to yield results. But there are mixed messages on this front as well.
Ahmed Yousef, an analyst close to the Hamas leaders, said in an interview Friday that Mr Abbas had spoken frequently in recent days with Khaled Meshal, the political head of the party who brokered the cease-fire, and that "the whole mood has been changed."
But at a news conference with Arabic-speaking reporters yesterday, Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas official, was full of venom for Abbas, blaming him for the Israeli blockade on Gaza and the factional divide, and accusing him of capitulating to Israel and the United States.
With momentum not only from the recent fighting but also from increased regional support that began with the visit to Gaza last month by the emir of Qatar and his $400 million purse, Hamas is likely to have the upper hand in any such reconciliation, and even moderate West Bank leaders last week said the vision going forward is about resistance rather than negotiation.
Still, Mr Yousef, a former Haniya adviser who now runs a research organization, House of Wisdom, offered some hints at moderation himself. He said Hamas, which has opposed the United Nations bid almost as vociferously as Israel, would no longer
speak against it. Asked about his vision for a Palestinian state, Mr Yousef's contours echoed those of Mr Abbas: 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as the capital.
As for recognizing Israel, he said, "We'll talk about it when we have a Palestinian state." The official in the Israeli prime minister's office was careful to speak of the cease-fire as a negotiation with Egypt and not Hamas, which it has long refused to deal with directly. That policy could change, he said, if Hamas were to renounce all violence and recognize Israel's right to exist. But, he added, "At the moment, that's not likely."
New York Times