Analysis: With nothing left to lose, Hamas will hope to improve relations with Egypt while Israel will attempt to deal death blow to Palestinian terrorism.
“A large operation in Gaza is a real possibility even in the near future,” suggested a senior security source over the weekend.
This analysis is based on two developments over the last few days – one of which is the daily firing of rockets and mortars into Israeli territory from Gaza.
The fire is actually being perpetrated by what’s called, “rogue organizations’ led by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), and other militant Salafi Muslim organizations that are active in Gaza in constant attempts to incite further conflict between Israel and Hamas.
Hamas isn’t firing on western Negev residents but it does almost nothing to prevent or discourage the rocket fire from rogue organizations. Residents of southern Israel, in particular the heads of municipalities and local city officials addressed a letter to Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon in which they demanded that something be done about the security issue.
In private conversations, they are saying that the current situation is eerily similar to that preceding Operation Pillar of Defense.
The second reason that this viewpoint sees a quickly approaching operation in the Gaza strip, maybe even using ground forces, is that Hamas is fast getting close to being in a position in which it loses almost all of its assets in the West Bank while it remains in financial crisis in Gaza lacking the funds to pay the 44 thousand government workers there.
In addition, the Egyptians aren’t opening the crossing at Rafah as promised and the reconciliation deal with Fatah and Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazen seems further from success than ever.
All these factors are slowly leading Hamas to a situation in which it doesn’t have anything to lose, which could cause the leadership to come to the conclusion that massive rocket fire on Israel would be one of the only ways to change their situation.
Rocket fire is the first step Hamas would take in this situation which would force the IDF to pull troops away from actions against the basis of Hamas in the West Bank to meet the challenge from Gaza which would, in turn, relieve pressure on Hamas in the West Bank.
Egyptian mediators hammer out a cease-fire after every such round of violence, leaving benefits for Hamas and the population of Gaza strip. Such deals are the result of all the latest bouts in the ring with Israel including Pillar of Defense and Operation Cast Lead.
Hamas officials are also most likely hoping that a deal brokered by the Egyptians will lead to improved relations with the Egyptian government.
The IDF believes that Hamas is currently close to a situation in which it will concretely decide to follow the described course so that Israel’s security forces can carry out a large operation in Gaza in which they will try to destroy the combat infrastructure of Hamas and Islamic Jihad above and below ground including their stockpile of rockets.
The third reason that there may not be an escape from military action in Gaza is the need to renew the psychological domination of Israel’s deterring military prowess which the general staff thinks has been weakened recently in the eyes of the Gazan leadership.
One of the few results that would lead Israel to reconsider this route is the possible negative reaction abroad, namely in Egypt and Jordan. Senior intelligence and security sources in Israel, the US, and Europe are afraid the streets of Egypt and Jordan will erupt in massive protests.
A situation created after the turbulence in the Arab world includes the danger that pressure would force the two regimes – possibly also Syria – to protest in solidarity with their brothers in Gaza and that would damage today’s relative security in good relations with Jordan and Egypt, drifting in an unwanted direction.
Therefore, Israel will try and prevent launching an operation that would be considered excessive, but if Hamas begins escalation that Israel would consider unbearable, the general staff warns that they won’t have any choice but to critically harm the organization despite having no direct contact in the kidnapping of the three boys.