One thing can be concluded from the passing week’s developments and the relatively quiet week along the border with Gaza: Hamas is deterred, or discouraged, from escalating hostilities into a high-intensity conflict because it understands that Israel, more than before, has an operational option that doesn’t consist of putting boots on the ground in Gaza.
Even the most extreme option being weighed by the cabinet, which has been attributed to Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett, calls for hitting Hamas with a short, powerful blow without a ground operation. This means Hamas has fallen behind over the past two years. It can cause us damage by firing its missiles, but the response by the Israel Defense Forces will cost it far more casualties and asset losses, while Israel is able to mitigate its losses considerably. Even in the quick half-round of fighting in the wake of the rocket strike in Beersheva, we barely noticed that dozens of strategic Hamas targets were hit and removed from the equation—and that’s just for one missile.
Israel, therefore, finds itself in an alternate campaign—one that the public and government seemingly consider more comfortable to deal with than another large campaign whose diplomatic results are far from certain. For the time being, everyone is again awaiting the arrival of Egyptian intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Kamel.
The question is whether an “arrangement” with Hamas is possible. If so, the problem becomes Israel’s as well. The situation in Gaza has never been subjected to such an unjustified political game. Before the weekend, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman discussed hitting Hamas hard, but was no longer referring to a comprehensive campaign exactly. Yet even as Lieberman took a more hawkish tone, Bennett suddenly emerged as dovish and negated the option of embarking on a wide-scale operation.
The demand from the left, as expressed by Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay, is simply unfeasible—that Israel defeats Hamas and hands Gaza on silver, blood-stained platter to the diplomatic con man Mahmoud Abbas, who is today more dangerous than Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas’s military wing.
Abbas, as leader of the Palestinian Authority, bears more responsibility than anyone else for the debilitating stranglehold on Gaza and the suffering of its residents, yet the left’s mouthpieces continue shining his shoes. One joins the PLO delegation to the United Nations; others make a pilgrimage to Ramallah and grant legitimacy to the destructive leader. It seems that despite the ideological bear hug from Gabbay and Tzipi Livni, Abbas lowered the flames because of the messaged he received from the Egyptians and Jordanians.
Netanyahu, therefore, is the least wavering variable in the equation. His ability to withstand the waves of pressures from the media and the street is a phenomenon the security echelon can scarcely recall.
From the Palestinian side, they see the generous proposal of the Americans at the beginning of the year. This is apparently part of the “bulletin board of objectives” to which the prime minister has referred. It’s a billion-dollar investment, which includes water desalination plants, electricity infrastructure, expansion of the Erez industrial zone and perhaps a supervised seaport in Cyprus.
Such a step would make Gaza an independent entity and would alleviate its permanent humanitarian crisis. It also shatters a foundation of the Palestinian national project, by severing Gaza from the Palestinian Authority. Abbas’s legacy won’t be one of steadfast resistance to any concessions, rather of losing nearly one-third of the Palestinian state’s territory.
Amnon Lord, is an Israeli journalist with the daily newspaper Makor Rishon. His articles and essays about media, film and politics have been published in The Jerusalem Post, Mida, Azure, Nativ and Achshav.
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