"Until next time" is the theme heard from military officers and commentators wrapping up the weekend''s dust-up with Hamas and its allies/competitors in Gaza.

That is also a summary history of Israel.

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There is no clear answer to the question, "How many wars?" insofar as some "operations" are hardly different from "wars,"  and this weekend''s events did not even amount to an "operation." 

Israel''s responses to the uprising that began in 2000 has not been defined as a war, but involved numerous events that resulted in more than 3,000 Palestinian deaths.

This weekend''s events reinforce the view that the process will continue without end.

The targeting of a yellow school bus with an anti-tank missile was the trigger that resulted in Israeli responses that killed some 20 Palestinians and injured several score. It passed without a name (like Defensive Shield against Jenin in 2002 or Cast Lead against Gaza in 2009), so it will not enter the history books on the same page as the "wars" or "operations."

Palestinians say that they did not know that there were passengers on the school bus. (The 16-year old is still in critical condition.) Some say that the group that fired the missile did so without the authorization of Hamas.

Assuming the second point is true, that gets to one of the elements that will keep this going, through next time and the time after that.

Macho is the name of the game. The word derived from Spanish imported to the Middle East describes the drive for heroism, bravery, in-your-face, one-ups-manship, or whatever label you want for the competition between groups with intense political, religious, and personal motivations to prove that none are greater than they in opposing the Jews.

A Hamas spokesman claimed the firing violated their policy of keeping things within limits.

Perhaps, but their limits included firing rockets toward Israeli towns.

Are not 20 deaths and perhaps 60 people injured a disproportionate response to the serious injury of one boy and a few other minor injuries?

Yes. Purposely so. The point is to impose a heavy enough price on Hamas et al to delay the next time it is necessary to make a disproportionate response. Indications are that Palestinians do not like to die, or see their family members die, and use the ways available in nondemocratic regimes to pressure what stands as their government.

The end to this event brokered with the help of the United Nations, Egypt, and European governments is not a "cease fire" but a "period of quiet." Hamas views that as allowing continued opposition to "occupation" (read that "Jews"). 

History indicates that such fluff will last only until the IDF kills someone Hamas or another group does not want to die while responding to attacks Palestinians consider legitimate, or until a rocket fired by an out of control affiliate of Hamas or some other organization lands on something other than a empty field.

Once an event gets underway, the difference between Muslim extremists and moderates melts away. Mahmoud Abbas condemned the IDF actions this past weekend, and called on the United Nations to stop Israel''s aggression. I did not notice that he mentioned the targeting of a school bus.

The star of the weekend was Israel''s anti-missile missile, which managed to work as designed 8 out of the 9 times it was employed.

"Iron Dome" is designed to operate against short range missiles, and should not be confused with the "Arrow" meant to deal with longer range and more deadly missiles, like what may come with nuclear warheads from Iran.

Iron Dome has gotten a lot of attention in the international press. Reporters are calling it an Israeli home grown item that is the first battlefield demonstration of an anti-missile missile. Also doing well under battlefield conditions is an anti-missile device designed for tanks, which has been shown capable of knocking out a weapon that could penetrate the tank''s armor and roast the soldiers inside.

The success of these devices calls into question the ridicule of Ronald Reagan''s investment in "Star Wars," as well as the skepticism of Israelis who calculated that it was not good economics sending a missile that might cost several hundred thousand dollars against a missile costing $50.

The device is better than imagined by the skeptics. Its electronics--along with trained operators--can distinguish between an incoming missile likely to land in a crowded area as opposed to an open field, so every $50 firing is not met with a missile costing more than a thousand times as much. The damage to life and property saved by Iron Dome is said to justify the price. Also important from an economic perspective, the success should do wonders for Israel''s defense industries. Reports are that Singapore has already ordered a set, and that South Korea and the United States are interested.

Israelis are having to swallow some of their ridicule of Amir Peretz. He was the head of the Labor Federation and then the Labor Party, without a serious military background, who became Defense Minister due to Ehud Olmert''s coalition politics. Soon after he entered office, Peretz had to preside over a "war" (Lebanon II). A widely distributed picture showed Peretz, peering intently and idiot-like at military activity through binoculars, without having removed the lens caps.

Now it is conceded that Peretz took the crucial decision about developing Iron Dome against the insistence of senior military officers that the money should be spent on other projects. It may help him in his current effort to regain control of the Labor Party. Peretz is a little man with a big mustache. Macho also works on this side of the wall.

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