It is amazing to see how a small and determined organization like Hamas imposes its preferred way of action and forces the most powerful nation in the Middle East into the bunkers, and not for the first time. And it is painful to see for the umpteenth time how the government of Israel repeats the same steps, over and over again achieving absolutely nothing except an almost certain guarantee that what was will be. The effort expended to keep this exchange a military engagement and not, heaven forbid, turn it into a diplomatic process is extraordinary and borders on the pathological.
There is no argument that Hamas in Gaza is on the ropes: Out of money and out of allies the organization is on its own and down for the count. Unable to pay salaries to the civil servants in its employ it would have been a perfect target for a peaceful takeover: Israel could have permitted Quatar to pay the salaries (as it was offered) making our agreement conditional on quiet along the rocket front. But no, it was not to be. We had to use the botched kidnapping operation that resulted in the murder of three Yeshiva students to paint Hamas in the blackest of terms, casting a pall on the new unity government in the PA and, of course, scuttling the attempt to finance Hamas’ civil service. Being under attack in the West Bank what choice did the organization have except to act up and make itself heard through the roar of rockets? Now, being pounded by the Israel Air Force 24/7, it will rack up sympathy and support, thanks in part to the collateral damage always caused by Israel’s attacks. At the same time it will be able to accuse the PA of standing by idly while Israel is bombing the Palestinian people. And for our claim that we need to reestablish deterrence ? There is no deterrence for an organization which has nothing to lose and is armed to the teeth. None. Hamas will use all the means at its disposal until there is a good reason not to. Military deterrence is not one of them but Israel, apparently, will not consider anything else.
If there ever was an opportunity to strangle Hamas softly, this was it – they needed the money and there was no alternative. They were part of the unity government and it would likely have been possible, over time, to manipulate the organization into taking much more reasonable positions, more aligned with the PA. Turkey with which we want to reconnect and which has interests in the Gaza strip could have been brought into play to help along. But this government isn’t going to exploit opportunities which are not military in nature. We pride ourselves in the number of rocket intercepts and sorties of fighter aircraft. But just like it was with Hizbollah in 2006, the rockets will keep coming, until the last day of this time around.
This government is singularly unable to take any effective action to prevent rocket bombardments on Israel. Military action is not efficient and diplomatic action is unacceptable. Israel’s government doesn’t want peace, it doesn’t want a peace process, it wants Hamas out of the game, something which is patently not achievable even if the IDF will go into Gaza on the ground. After authorizing the mobilization of 40,000 combat soldiers, the government of Israel is about to make a clear statement to the world: No peace with Israel. Not with this government. It’s a bold statement and there will be a price to pay. Not only by the people in Gaza and the citizens in the South of Israel. This government, apparently, doesn’t really care.