Paul Greenberg

Despite their reluctance, the Israelis are back in Gaza -- for the third time in a decade, and for who knows how many times to come. It's become almost a regularly scheduled round trip by now. Their reluctance is understandable; Gaza has been a trap since the old days. Specifically, the Old Testament days. ("The Philistines are upon thee, Samson!" --Judges 16:20.)

All of which may explain why the Israelis didn't invade this time until Hamas rejected their (and the Egyptians') repeated offers of a truce. Now they're back to block the tunnels Hamas was using, or rather planning to use, to burrow under Israeli lines and augment its indiscriminate rocket attacks all over Israel with new guerrilla raids. The ground war Israel had been trying to avoid was no longer avoidable.

Welcome to the real world. It's not exactly the neat picture all the critics love to draw. It gets murky after a while. For it tends to wind up covered with blood.

No longer eyeless in Gaza, the Israelis may finally have learned that they must not only strike back but keep striking back if they are ever to have any hope of peace and quiet at home.

The fabled two-state solution, largely an invention of the Israelis themselves, is continuing to prove, yes, a fable. And a fable it has always been. As is shown by the history of Gaza, and maybe of the whole Arab-Israeli conflict.

Lest we forget -- the way so many diplomats, mediators and kibitzers in general do -- the Israelis cleared out of Gaza lock, stock and not just barrel but to the last farm, hothouse, dining hall, synagogue and Jew back in 2005. The withdrawal was carried out over the settlers' vigorous protests, as if they could foresee the disaster their oh-so-enlightened government was inviting. They did foresee it; the world didn't.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.