A History of the Israeli-Gaza conflict
The roots of this violent tale derive from a feud between the Fatah party and a radical political party supported by Iran, called Hamas. Hamas wished not only to obtain complete independence, but also to reclaim all of Israel for a Palestinian state. Their irredentist goals were disputed by the more moderate Fatah party, which sought to seek out a compromise with Israel and live in peaceful, if uneasy, coexistence. Following Hamas' victory in 2006 legislative elections, factional fighting between the Fatah and Hamas broke out. Saudi Arabia managed to broker peace between Fatah President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. However, tensions continued to brew until they reached a head in the summer of 2007, as both sides began to increase the tempo of operations against one another. On June 14, Abbas declared a state of emergency, dismissed Haniyeh from his position, and dissolved the unity government. Both Gaza and the West Bank were ruled by martial law, under the direct auspices of Presidential Abbas. However, Palestinian Authority forces proved unable to maintain control of the Gaza Strip. By June 15, Hamas had obtained mostly undisputed control of the territory.
What makes the conflict finicky is the lack of a clean political divide. There exists a somewhat sizable Hamas supporting base in the West Bank, and Fatah supporters still exist in Gaza. Each party merely outnumbers the other in their respective territories, enabling each to establish political dominance. As such, it becomes dangerous to identify with your territory's minority party. Following Hamas' success in unseating the Palestinian Authority, factional fighting began occurring within territories, not between them. Each side is preoccupied with quelling internal dissidents and consolidating power, with Israel serving as a physical buffer between both territories.
Why Hamas and Israel do not want this to pass the 'rubicon'
In political science parlance, 'passing the rubicon' refers to a point where conflict is inevitable between two actors. Neither Hamas nor Israel wish to pass the rubicon, as neither have an interest in seeing conflict escalate to the level of a Third Intifada. Gazans, racked by economic destitution due to the Israeli blockade, are primarily concerned with social and economic revitalization in the strip. Hamas rose to political prominence partially because of its emphasis on social welfare programs. Many in America and elsewhere hold a myopic view of Hamas, as if its only element is militancy. In reality, it's actually a multifaceted organization responsible for a wide range of projects. Aside from its vitrolic Islamist pursuits, the group also routinely builds hospitals, schools, and shelters. They also host community organizations, increase social capital, and possess public relations departments to work with citizen's needs. Their political base was build upon social activism, and Gazans increasingly want them to return to their roots. Without broad-based support of confrontation with Israel, Hamas will likely stick to rhetoric and sporadic missile attacks.
As a former Israeli Admiral noted after Operation Pillar of Defense, while military operations come with military gains, they can also come with political consequences. Following Operation Cast lead from late 2008 to early 2009, Israel experienced severe condemnation from the international community. While Israel is no stranger to criticism, their position is severely undermined when the IC works overwhelmingly against it. Furthermore, it's likely that Netanyahu does not want to be drawn into a close-quarters ground war. The confined spaces of Gaza constrain the maneuverability of Israeli forces, and conflict is an economically poor decision at this point. It's ultimately better for Israel if deescalation occurs in the near future. With that said, Netanyahu has also declared Israel's intent to resist international admonishment of its actions. The mobilization of 40,000 soldiers along Israel's border with Gaza is meant a clear warning sign to Hamas: We don't want ground operations, but we will launch incursions if necessary.
While both sides may be exchanging blows, it's likely that conflict will begin tapering off in the near future. Israel does not want to get bogged down in moral condemnation and street-to-street fighting, and Hamas lacks broad domestic support for internal confrontation with Israel. However, should conflict continue to escalate, no one should question Israeli resolve to step in and target Hamas with ground forces.