The strategy was intended to cement the notion that there was no viable Palestinian partner for peace. Certainly, a partner was hard to find, with Hamas committed in its Charter, if not always in its shifting statements, to the destruction of Israel. Many Palestinians drifted toward a one-state idea that most Israelis read as code for the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state.
“Without a peace track — and there has been none for way too long — bouts of escalation are easy to predict,” said Mr. Fayyad, the former prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, a moderate whose reforms fleetingly made Palestinian statehood look plausible a dozen years ago.
Mr. Gitzin, like many Israelis, has experienced “a feeling of devastation, of being killed from within,” since the Hamas-led slaughter of more than 1,400 people.
Among the more than 200 hostages believed to be held in Gaza is Vivian Silver, 74, a Canadian-Israeli peace activist who was a founding member of the Israeli-Palestinian Women Wage Peace movement, founded in 2014.
For activists like Ms. Silver and Mr. Gitzin, allowing settlers to establish unprotected homes in the West Bank, drawing in Israeli troops to their defense, reflected a growing settler stranglehold on policy. There are now more than 450,000 Israeli settlers in the territory that has been occupied by Israel since 1967, excluding East Jerusalem, where 220,000 others live.
“The most extreme elements of the settler movement are in this government,” Mr. Gitzin said. “That makes any progress toward peace impossible.”
Promise in the Pain
For the bridge builders, the worst setbacks have always held, tucked deep in their pain, the promise for change. If peace looks impossible today, it also looked remote in 1973, when a similarly blithe and distracted Israel was taken by surprise in the Yom Kippur War, only to recover and prevail.
Within four years, in 1977, Anwar Sadat, the Egyptian president, was in Jerusalem addressing the Knesset. Within six years Israel had made peace with Egypt, giving up Sinai to that end.
Those, of course, were different times. There was bold Arab leadership, and bold Israeli leadership, accompanied by determined American diplomacy in a world not driven to lurching paroxysms of outrage by the cacophony of social media.
Still, the current disaster also appears to be a watershed moment, with near unanimity that something must give.
“The trauma and pain have to stop,” said Gershon Baskin, a longtime peace activist. “One day a new generation will stand up and say enough.”