With the tentative truce agreement between the Hamas and Israel not yet signed or ratified, Israel’s southern border is primed for escalation
I have already written on these pages that Hamas took a big loss in its latest exchange with Israel. The border mega-riots were a bust as far as the Hamas was concerned. Not only have they failed to trap Israel into killing many Arabs, the presence of three IDF brigades made up of top regular troops was so menacing as to cause the Hamas to do Israel’s bidding and actively dampen the ardor of the masses it had so diligently incited to violence only a few hours earlier. A few Gazans were killed, more were wounded, significant damage to Hamas command and control infrastructure was sustained. The damage included both iconic Hamas government buildings and other buildings were Hamas tried to hide its activity from both Israel and its own citizens.
No Israelis were killed and only a few minor injuries were recorded. Infrastructure damage was limited to one family dwelling. The concessions that Israel negotiated with the Egyptians acting as mediators were all concessions that Israel is happy to give and can at any time take back. Expansion of the fishing zone, better power supply, more dual-use goods flowing through the border, all of these cost Israel nothing and if anything put the Hamas in a bind. Rejecting these concessions would make Hamas reveal its true colors as a criminal organization that cares nothing about the quality of the lives of the people it is supposed to represent. Accepting them makes Hamas appear weak in front of its real masters, the terrorist regimes in Doha and in Tehran. These sponsors of terrorism don’t send Hamas suitcases stuffed with greenbacks so that they can improve the lives of regular Gazans, they pay them to wage a war of attrition against Israel.
When Hamas is unable, as it has so far been, to exact from Israel “marquee” concessions that have nothing to do with Gaza such as the status of the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem or the conditions under which Arab terrorists serve their sentences in Israeli prisons, it loses face and lost face is lost revenue. The loss is so stinging that as we have predicted Hamas may be unable to take it. The deal that is on the table would require Hamas to stop its harassment activities along the Israeli border such as the launching of incendiary balloons and other hand-crafted hellish devices, as well as refrain from the more traditional rocket fire on Israeli civilians, all for a full year. In return, Hamas gets nothing of what it really wants or what it has promised its sponsors that it would get.
Current indications are that Hamas is going to punt on this deal even at the expense of alienating and angering their Egyptian neighbors who had worked so hard to broker it. In recent hours, Israel was forced to retaliate against balloon-transported IED launches and the Hamas prisoners in Israeli jails are getting ready to declare a hunger strike in protest of certain conditions that they perceive as “too harsh” such as cell phone interference. In Israel, cabinet ministers have been complaining that PM Netanyahu has not presented the deal that was reached with the Hamas to the cabinet and thus has not yet obtained its approval.
With Israeli elections slated for next Tuesday and the rhetoric from both sides getting more heated with every passing hour, Hamas may try to scramble the tentative agreement and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat or at least fight Israel to a draw as it had often done in the past. This means that we are likely entering a period of extreme danger on Israel’s border with Gaza.
Providing Gaza with dual use goods such as concrete for Hamas tunnels is all well and fine as long as Israel keeps finding the tunnels and destroying them before they can be used to murder Israelis and kidnap Israeli citizens.
As far as supplying Gaza with chemicals that can be used for rocket fuel or warheads, I would hope that Israel would cut off all of them, or allow them through in such small quantities that it would be impractical to manufacture the rockets.
Yes, it’s always a delicate balance.