Question: "Has the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians become a purely religious one? Does the rise of Hamas mean that a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become impossible?"
It is difficult for me to consider the Israeli-Palestinian issue as one based on Religion for several reasons. The first reason is that the issue is based on land, and has been emblazoned by the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian people, the brutal Israeli oppression of the Palestinian civilian sectors, and the ethnic cleansing and illegal settlement building (considered illegal by a majority of states on the international stage) on confiscated Palestinian lands (over demolished Palestinian homes). What started as a land conflict between the newly established (after WWII) state of Israel and the displaced Palestinian population (and refugees) has, with the assistance of decades of western and U.S. monetary, political and military support to Israel (secured by Zionist and Christian Zionist lobbyist organizations on Congressional decision making), has transformed the situation into one of a brutal aggressor/oppressor state (internationally recognized) and an oppressed population (internationally ignored and media vilified as sponsors of terror). The Israeli-Palestinian issue is not a conflict; it is the longest military occupation in the modern era.
The second reason that the issue is not a religious conflict is that Judaism is a religion based on ethnicity, meaning one needs to be ethnically Jewish or a fool to claim Judaism because the entire concept of the so-called religion is based on an exclusive ethnic bloodline. In addition to this socio-religious phenomenon of ethnicity guised in religion, it must be noted that there are both Christian and Muslim Palestinians. A Palestinian is a Palestinian, not an automatic member of an ethnic religious group.
If the problem between the state of Israel and the Palestinian people has become impossible to repair peacefully, I do not view the rise of Hamas as the reason that a peaceful resolution is unachievable. Hamas is a “political and social organization” (Klein, 2007, p. 444) that views the “voice of the masses, in its view, is the expression of God’s will (Klein, 2007, p. 444). Sounds like Islamic democracy, does it not? Klein spends quite a bit of time comparing the Islamic Charter of 1988 and the 2006 Hamas-sponsored political platform of Change and Reform, but in my opinion this is a reflection of change over nearly two decades. Keep in mind that in the United States during the year 1855, slavery was still an economic system of exploitation. In 1872, it was not. In the United States in 1860, racial segregation was law. In 1978, society had changed (somewhat).
If a peaceful solution to the problem is no longer possible, the main reason is due to the fact that the U.S. (along with western allies and private sector organizations) has provided Israel with over 3 billion dollars a year in foreign aid for over five decades now, and Israel has utilized this monetary and military aid in their military occupation and oppression, ethnic cleansing and brutalization (and humiliation) of the Palestinian people. Each time the Palestinian leadership attempts to utilize the proper international channels, the world turns a deaf ear to their request for justice or recognized statehood. The U.S. vetoes every UN resolution condemning Israeli aggressions against the Palestinian people (while continuing to criticize Iran for human rights violations while funding the human-rights violating Israel).
Again, I do not view the Israeli-Palestinian issue as a conflict, no more than I ever viewed the U.S. occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan as “wars” after the existing regimes were overthrown during the initial invasions. The Issue is an injustice to humanity and quite frankly displays the hypocrisy of civilized states in the west.
Klein, Menachem. 2007. Hamas in Power. The Middle East Journal 61 no.3 (Summer 2007): 442-459