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It has become clear once again that Hamas feels it has nothing to lose and that it is prepared to resume the armed conflict in order to force Egypt and Israel to hand it a significant achievement lifting the Gaza blockade, opening the border crossings, and constructing a seaport. Since the eruption of the current conflict, Hamas has been willing to negotiate under fire, because it realizes that it has no bargaining chips at the negotiating table. Its arsenal contains only the ability to cause damage to all the parties involved, and in particular, Israel. If in the absence of achievements in the negotiations Hamas resumes its tactics of launching rockets at Israel, Israel faces three options accepting Hamas as the party in charge of the Gaza Strip; toppling the Hamas regime; engaging in a war of attrition. As the situation unfolds and if Israel maintains its policy of weakening Hamas, then the more relevant option will be a policy based on attrition
The manner in which the negotiations are conducted in Cairo, under Egyptian auspices and with the mediation of the General Intelligence Directorate, has demonstrated to Hamas the depth of its isolation. It must contend with Egypt and Israel, which control the “gates” to Gaza. Neither one is prepared to allow Hamas the semblance of success, which would lead to the rehabilitation of its status and reinforce its control over the Gaza Strip.
Some seek a military operation that will bring Hamas to its knees and cause it to concede and accept Egypt’s ceasefire terms. Thus far, Israel has attained a number of achievements through Operation Protective Edge Gaza’s terrorist infrastructures were destroyed, particularly rocket production systems, storage sites, headquarters, and homes of terrorist operatives; over 600 Hamas operatives were killed; only 1/3 of the missile and rocket arsenal remains; 32 offensive tunnels were destroyed; Iron Dome provided effective active protection for Israel’s residents; the Israeli home front demonstrated resilience; Israel endured minimal economic damage; the strategic alliance between Israel and the regime of Egypt’s el-Sisi was consolidated, and the Arab world exhibited understanding toward Israel while it struck Hamas in Gaza.
As the situation unfolds and if Israel maintains its policy of weakening Hamas, then the more relevant option will be a policy based on attrition. Attrition need not be the exclusive weapon of the weaker party. Israel could also make use of this course of action, given its superiority in regard to resources, its ability to provide a satisfactory protective solution, and its ability to erode Hamas while abstaining from meeting its demands or easing restrictions at the border crossings, and in fact while increasing restrictions on entry of goods and the energy supply to Gaza. This would be done through close coordination with Egypt and, if possible, with the PA as well. As a result, Hamas may realize that it is in its best interest to comply with Egypt’s terms for a ceasefire and allow the PA’s integration into the Gaza Strip.
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