Analysis |

Gazan Rocket Shows the Quiet Isn’t So Quiet

Israel, like Hamas, doesn’t currently want another war. But nonetheless, it is unlikely to let Tuesday's rocket-fire pass with no response.

Amos Harel
Amos Harel
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Palestinian Hamas security forces display their military skills during a police academy graduation ceremony in Gaza City, Thursday, May 21, 2015.
Palestinian Hamas security forces display their military skills during a police academy graduation ceremony in Gaza City, Thursday, May 21, 2015. Credit: AP
Amos Harel
Amos Harel

The launch of a Katyusha rocket at Gan Yavne on Tuesday quickly turned out to be the result of an internal Palestinian dispute. So for now, Israelis still scarred by last summer’s war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip can calm down.

Both Israeli defense officials and sources in Gaza provided identical explanations for what happened. The head of Islamic Jihad’s military wing is currently trying to impose a new local commander on his men in northern Gaza. The field operatives oppose his appointment, and a violent conflict has erupted between the sides – one of which then decided to escalate it by launching a rocket at Israel.

But Hamas didn’t approve the launch, and will presumably take steps to restrain the smaller faction.

Consequently, Israel’s response will be limited. True, this is the first time a relatively long-range rocket has been fired at Israel from Gaza since the war ended last August. But Israel, like Hamas, doesn’t currently want another war. Thus while the rhetoric will be harsh and official spokesmen will declare that Hamas is responsible for all fire from the territory it controls, in practice Israel is likely to make do with a symbolic retaliation, one calculated to avoid provoking further escalation.

Nevertheless, Israel is unlikely to let the incident pass with no response. After all, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s declared policy is to respond to all fire. Moreover, this is the first security incident in the south since his new government was sworn in two weeks ago – and this is a government that faces a constant challenge from the right, in the form of Yisrael Beiteinu, now in the opposition. Netanyahu cannot allow himself to look weak against the Islamist organization.

Hamas, which is apparently no less concerned than Israel by the uncontrolled rocket launch from Gaza, will continue digging tunnels, testing missiles and training its fighters for the next war. But two assumptions that have been in force since the last war ended remain valid.

First, neither side wants another war right now. But second, that was also true last summer – yet a series of miscalculations led to war anyway.

Because the efforts to reach a long-term cease-fire haven’t yet succeeded, and because Gaza’s economy continues to be just as wretched as it was last summer, long-term quiet seems unlikely. There are too many secondary characters in the Gaza drama, like Islamic Jihad, that are liable to have both the desire and the ability to drag Hamas and Israel into another war.

Comments

SUBSCRIBERS JOIN THE CONVERSATION FASTER

Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

Already signed up? LOG IN

ICYMI

The Orion nebula, photographed in 2009 by the Spitzer Telescope.

What if the Big Bang Never Actually Happened?

Relatives mourn during the funeral of four teenage Palestinians from the Nijm family killed by an errant rocket in Jabalya in the northern Gaza Strip, August 7.

Why Palestinian Islamic Jihad Rockets Kill So Many Palestinians

בן גוריון

'Strangers in My House': Letters Expelled Palestinian Sent Ben-Gurion in 1948, Revealed

AIPAC

AIPAC vs. American Jews: The Toxic Victories of the 'pro-Israel' Lobby

Bosnian Foreign Minister Bisera Turkovic speaks during a press conference in Sarajevo, Bosnia in May.

‘This Is Crazy’: Israeli Embassy Memo Stirs Political Storm in the Balkans

Hamas militants take part in a military parade in Gaza.

Israel Rewards Hamas for Its Restraint During Gaza Op