5. Will Hamas Upstage the PLO? Even with an arsenal of more lethal rockets in its possession, Hamas has no way of winning a war with Israel. If past is prologue, Hamas' leaders know that drawing Israel into conflict will elicit punishing reprisals. So why bother? One plausible explanation is that the war is just as much about Hamas' domestic arch-rivals, the PLO, as it is about Israel. The PLO is preparing to upgrade its mission at the United Nations later this month, and in the process, claiming to speak for the Palestinian people as a whole. This current round of violence steals the thunder of the PLO; has anyone even talked about the U.N. maneuver since this round of violence erupted? It also sends a pointed message: while the PLO concocts crafty legal schemes in New York, Hamas is doing battle with Israel in the name of the Palestinian cause. Was this the intended message? If so, Washington needs to be paying closer attention to what's happening on the ground.
6. Where's Washington? Despite long-standing tensions between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the White House has come out in full support of the Israeli operation in Gaza, citing Israel's right to respond to the hundreds of rockets that Hamas and other jihadis have fired off in recent days. Admittedly, many administration officials appear to be in Asia right now, but the overall message is a green light for Israel. How long will this support last?
7. Will this impact the Israeli elections in January? Netanyahu detractors charge that the Israeli leader is using the operation in Gaza as a means of increasing voter support ahead of the upcoming elections. In reality, Bibi is the front-runner by a wide margin, and scarcely needs to rally the Israeli public around the flag. If anything, military missteps could weaken his position. As a shrewd student of Israeli politics, Bibi has undoubtedly been weighing the costs of the Gaza operation every step of the way. The Israeli voting public will tell him how he did in about two months' time.
8. Can a ceasefire last? On Friday, Israel's ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, stated that the Israelis had knocked out most of the long-range missiles they were hunting, indicating that perhaps the primary mission had been accomplished. The Israelis say they want a ceasefire, even as they call up 75,000 ground troops. They say it all depends on Hamas halting the rocket fire. But even if the two primary actors agree, will the other factions in Gaza acquiesce? The Iran-sponsored Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Popular Resistance Committees, along with Salafi groups and even the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade -- a splinter of the secular Fatah faction under PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas -- have been firing rockets on a freelance basis. Will they continue to fire on Israel even if Hamas halts? If so, the conflict could last a lot longer.