In no limit poker the strongest move a player can make is pushing their entire stack of chips into the middle of the table. The move makes a statement about the player’s confidence in the cards they are holding. It dares anyone who doesn’t believe them to risk their own chips in order to find out if they are bluffing. With no more moves left to make the player who has pushed everything into the middle simply has to sit back and wait for something else to happen. They have made their final move.
But poker players push all their chips into the middle for a range of different reasons. Some of them entirely opposite to one another. A poker player is perfectly capable of pushing all in with a very strong hand hoping to be called as well as with a very weak hand hoping that the other players will throw their cards away. So it is with Hamas, whose leaders have rejected any and all ceasefire terms placed before them. They instead insist on being guaranteed that their demands will have been met before they will agree to stop shooting. They are gambling that Israel will throw their cards away rather than risk everything.
But this isn’t poker it’s war and the currency Hamas is playing with is the lives of Gazans in the Strip. They are gambling that the civilian body count will force Israel into a position of isolation around the world, to the point where they will have to grant Hamas the concessions they are demanding. As the deputy head of the Hamas political bureau, Moussa Abu Marzouk said after the Israeli incursion into Gaza;
“What are 200 martyrs compared with lifting the siege?”
Marzouk clearly understands that if the blockade is lifted Hamas will be feted as the heroes of the resistance, regardless of the number of casualties. He certainly appears willing to sacrifice as many Gazans as it takes in order to have the blockade lifted. Should that happen Hamas will have fought a war against the vaunted IDF and won a strategic victory. Their tunnels may have been destroyed and their stockpiles of men and materiel severely depleted but these are things that can be rebuilt and replaced.
The problem with their all in push is that the opposite is also true. Israel can now only credibly claim victory by going as far into Gaza as is necessary to achieve all of their goals. With the Israeli cabinet currently discussing widening the military assault into Gaza, Hamas could find themselves having lost everything.
If the Israelis are prepared to be as ruthless as Hamas and push on to achieve their stated aims they will then be free to simply withdraw. They will have no reason to lift the blockade and no reason to pay attention to Hamas’ demands. Such a situation would be disastrous for Hamas. It would mean that they had failed in every aspect of their gamble. From that moment on every new shipment of cement that was used on a tunnel instead of rebuilding someone’s house would be resented by the people of Gaza. Hamas would find itself without the only meaningful currency it ever held. The support of the Palestinian people.