Hamas much touted “million man march of return” this Saturday failed to live up to its billing. Like all terror groups, Hamas’ stock in trade is not just mayhem, violence, and murder, but well-staged murder. Every act of terror is a theatrical production first and foremost, a carefully choreographed event designed to elicit certain favorable responses from weak-minded and corrupt parties like the progressive left-wing governments in the European Union and blackmail corrupt Middle Eastern governments like that of Qatar into sending more suitcases stuffed with greenbacks.
The latest such production began two weeks ago when the Hamas “mistakenly” fired a rocket into central Israel. The attempt was abortive, however, because the rocket, though not intercepted, landed in an empty lot and caused no damage. This allowed Israel to limit its response to bombing a few empty lots in Gaza. That was not what the Hamas was hoping for, so a few days ago they made fired off another one of those “errors”. This time, they hit the intended target: Israeli civilians. A family home was destroyed and a family of six barely escaped with minor injuries.
Israel had to react and of course this was what Hamas wanted. They expected a massive series of air strikes, hoping to sacrifice their own civilians so that the mob they were going to send to storm the border fence on Saturday would be larger and more enraged than ever. Their hopes were dashed again. Rather than play according to the old playbook, Israel changed the rules. It set about carefully and methodically demolishing important pieces of Hamas military infrastructure, but only after giving ample warning which buildings would be hit, so that human casualties could be avoided. Israel ignored the Hamas’ and the factions’ fake declarations of “cease fire” and continued its assault until significant damage had been done. In parallel, Israel advanced to the border three of its best brigades, including the famed Golani Infantry and the Seventh Armor. Fearing a ground invasion, Hamas refrained from massive rocket fire.
These Israeli actions spoiled the run-up that Hamas was hoping to have for the piece of theater it had planned for the border fence. Hamas leaders were hoping for funeral processions along Gaza streets on Friday, they were hoping for Israel to feel stressed and weakened by international indignation, and they were hoping for a combination of enraged Gazans and weak and hesitant Israeli leadership to produce a localized border breach. Such a breach would necessitate a massive live fire response from Israel, leading to mass Arab casualties and giving the Hamas a huge propaganda victory and resulting in wall to wall condemnations against Israel by the “international community”. It would also complicate the Trump administration position as Israel’s main ally and force the Arab states, especially Egypt and Qatar into giving the Hamas more money and more concessions.
None of this happened. Israel’s calm and determined response, its credible threat of a ground maneuver in force inside of the Gaza strip, and its massive military presence on the border combined with low casualties on both sides to result in nothing more than the regular weekly rioting and “only” three Arab casualties on Saturday. No Israelis were injured.
Additionally, Israel offered, via the Egyptian mediators, a number of concessions, all geared towards making the lives of regular Gazans a little easier. These included extending the fishing zone in the waters off Gaza, improving the electricity supply, and removing restrictions on import of “dual use” goods from Israel. Since the Hamas and the other terror factions in Gaza care nothing about the wellbeing of their citizens, these “concessions” were not what they wanted. What they wanted was grandstanding about the right of return and the rights of Arab terrorists imprisoned in Israel. About Jerusalem and Jihad and ending the “Occupation”.
All the puffery, all the grandstanding, all the talk about “occupation” and Jerusalem and prisoners that the Hamas engaged in, all the victory signs in front of empty lots where office buildings once stood cannot hide the simple truth: in the face of a smart and determined Israeli action Hamas had nothing to offer. Whether Hamas wants it or not, this round of warfare is over and it has concluded with a decisive Israeli victory. Hamas achieved none of its objectives. It killed no Israelis, nor has it caused any real property damage in Israel. It managed to sacrifice only a few of its own citizens and failed to draw Israel into killing more, thus failing to win the sympathy sweepstakes. It suffered major damage to its own infrastructure at a time when it scarcely has the money to feed its citizens and prevent further food riots.
Continued rocket fire against Israel will now be seen by Egypt and Qatar as petulant and weak, placing Hamas at a crossroads. They can sign a year-long cease fire with Israel in exchange for concessions that make the lives of their citizens easier, but achieve none of the objectives that they really wanted to have, or they can opt for another round of warfare, this time against the wishes of the Egyptians and likely without their mediation, a service on which they very much depend, since no direct channels between them and Israeli authorities exist. The next few days will tell which way we are headed; continued warfare or a fragile cease fire.