In the past four years, Hamas in Gaza has gotten been used to the cash-for-quiet status quo. Prior to every election, they bomb Israel with up to 3000 rockets, Israel pays them off and they wait for the next moment when it might be important for Israel to quiet the attacks and for the US to keep attention on the important things: Donald Trump.
This morning, Hamas had a rude awakening. Three weeks before the Biden administration is to be sworn in, the new American administration was felt half the world away as bombs landed in Gaza in response to just two rockets aimed at the border city Ashkelon in Israel.
It is a common assumption that the Republican administration has a harsher treatment of Palestinians than the Democrats. They withheld funds and recognized Jerusalem and Golan heights. However, in reality, things have been very different.
While Democrats do not mince words when it comes to Israel and Palestine, they also have a hands-off approach when it comes to Israel’s defense and expect Israel to also be hands-off when it comes to American politics. This agreement was broken in 2015 by Benjamin Netanyahu excoriated the President of the United States on American ground when he criticized the Iran deal. American Republican Jewish community was already livid at Obama’s actions in Egypt, failing to visit Israel during his tour of the Middle East and his criticism of the settlement expansion. Those same critics were silent however when Trump made the exact same demand, on-camera standing next to Bibi. This was a sign from Trump: do not cross me and do as I say.
For the next four years, the Israeli fox, Benjamin Netanyahu, resembled a British Show Corgy rather than the Pitbull of the Obama years. There was no more strong response to the Hamas bombing the way we saw during the Obama years. Trump loves cameras and there is nothing that would displease him more than the weeks-long Israel vs Palestine debate in the world press that swells whenever hostilities flare in the Holyland, sucking out the media air that his ego requires.
As Iran forces moved into Syria with American forces retreating, abandoning their Kurdish allies, Israel took its planes into the air, risking war with Russia rather than say one cross word at Donald Trump for his actions that moved Revolutionary Guard into the neighborhood.
However, all things shall pass, and Netanyahu is an expert at spotting weakness. With Trump on his way out and a strong understanding between him and Biden that Democrats will not stand in the way of military options, the response to the small attack compared to what Israel saw in the past year, was swift and powerful. Israeli jets pounded Gaza in a sign to Hamas and Fatah: Democrats might give you cash and nice words, but there will be no more Trump to hold back the IDF. No more Mr. Nice Guy Hanieh, the hawks are back.