Escalation is good for Israel
Hamas' continued preference for diplomatic action in the face of Israel's attacks on Gaza is less than convenient for those who desire an Israeli strike on Iran.
Advocates of a strike on Iran couldn't have hoped for a more convincing performance than the current exchange of fire between Israel and Gaza. "A million Israelis under fire" is only a taste of what is expected when Iran's nuclear project is completed. When that happens, seven million Israelis will be under the threat of fire and nuclear fallout.
This is what happens when "only" the Islamic Jihad fires Grad rockets, when Hamas stays out of the fight, and when the "miraculous system" that prevents missiles from falling on kindergartens still works. Under the threat of a nuclear Iran, miracles won't help, and people in Tel Aviv will also be forced to hide in bomb shelters or escape to Eilat.
Here’s the proof: There is no alternative to striking Iran and there is no better time than the present, when the weather permits and world diplomacy is preoccupied with Syria. For Israelis, there is no better proof that no harm will come to them as a result of an attack on Iran than the performance of the Iron Dome anti-rocket system, which has demonstrated a 95% rate of effectiveness. The escalation in Gaza is good for Israel – that is, for that part of Israel that wants to strike Iran.
It is hard to understand what basis there is for the assertion that Israel is not striving to escalate the situation. One could assume that an armed response by the Popular Resistance Committees or Islamic Jihad to Israel's targeted assassination was taken into account. But did anyone weigh the possibility that the violent reaction could lead to a greater number of Israeli casualties than any terrorist attack that Zuhair al-Qaisi, the secretary-general of the Popular Resistance Committees, could have carried out?
In the absence of a clear answer to that question, one may assume that those who decided to assassinate al-Qaisi once again relied on the "measured response" strategy, in which an Israeli strike draws a reaction, which draws an Israeli counter-reaction. Everything is proportionate, and Israel controls the height of the flames, while proclaiming that "Israel does not seek to escalate the situation."
Is that so?
And what IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz's statement a few weeks ago that there will be no alternative to a large-scale operation in Gaza? And what if the Islamic Jihad does not adopt the Israeli strategy and stop firing? Will Gantz's threat finally materialize, catapulting Israel into a "Cast Lead Two" scenario?
Unlike Israel, Hamas has an understandable interest in putting an end to the escalation, which caught it off guard. The organization is mired in an internal political struggle. After fleeing Syria, its leadership is looking for a new home. The dialogue with Fatah has yet to produce an agreement on a unity government, and its ideological side must deal with the willingness of the Muslim Brotherhood, its ideological umbrella organization, to carry on a dialogue with the U.S. and respect the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel.
Hamas, while it does not fully control the activities of all of the organizations in Gaza, has managed to secure important agreements with most of them, including the Islamic Jihad, which has joined the effort to reconcile with Fatah. Hamas is also dependant on Egypt regarding the passage of civilians through the Rafah Crossing and merchandise through the network of tunnels between the two territories, as well as for the fuel that enables it to provide Gazans with electricity. Even if its leadership was still located in Damascus, Hamas cannot disconnect itself from Egypt and remains shackled to its foreign policy toward Israel.
This dependence on Egypt has managed in the past to produce extended ceasefires which have proven themselves in recent months, especially after the signing of the reconciliation agreement with Fatah, which produced Khaled Meshal's declarations that Hamas would restrict itself to nonviolent forms of struggle against Israel.
However, it seems that the change in Hamas not only hasn't convinced Israel, but even stands in the way of its "no partner" policy and could sabotage its efforts to head off the creation of a Palestinian unity government, which would lead to renewed efforts at the UN to secure an independent Palestinian state.
Thus, Hamas must be dragged toward military activity against Israel, and nothing is easier, at least in Israel's estimation, than to launch a "unilateral" attack against a wanted non-Hamas man, to wait for the response to come, and hope that Hamas joins in.
So far, it hasn't happened. Hamas still prefers the diplomatic channel and has carried on intensive diplomatic contacts over the past two days with Egypt's Supreme Military Council. Israel apparently needs to wait for another opportunity. Meanwhile, however, it has already managed to turn the attention of Arab diplomacy away from Syria and toward the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
Assad must be pleased.