The fighting between Israel and Hamas has not yet abated, but it’s possible that this round of conflict is coming to an end. Yet even if Israel succeeds in deterring Hamas from further attacks, writes Amos Yadlin, the result will be what he calls an “asymmetric strategic tie.”
Hamas has been able to erode the Israeli deterrence that was established since Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014, to breach the calm that prevailed in [Israel’s] south, and to try to define new “equations” and rules of engagement. To be sure, Hamas did not plan the March of Return or the kite- and balloon-based arson attacks, but it found in them attractive tactics and turned them into two central operational efforts. . . .
Israel has undoubtedly scored impressive achievements: its borders were not breached and its citizens were not harmed. Hamas weapons factories, training camps, and storage facilities were wiped out by the air force. Yet Hamas still has a sense of achievement. It has once again put the Gaza issue—both its humanitarian and political aspects—on the international agenda, damaged Israel’s image, undermined the sense of security among the Israeli population in the communities near the Gaza border, and challenged Israeli sovereignty in the Gaza environs.
In order to break this ongoing tie, Israel must adopt a proactive rather than a reactive strategy. It must take an approach designed to change the reality and not sanctify the status quo. . . . [First], efforts can and must be made to promote more modest understandings, namely, a limited hudna [Arabic for a temporary truce]. A fundamental condition for such an arrangement is a total halt of terror from Gaza and the return of Israeli civilians and bodies of the fallen soldiers held by Hamas. . . .
If the moves toward an arrangement are unsuccessful and Hamas clings to its position and continues to challenge Israel militarily, there will be no choice but to prepare for a broad military operation in Gaza. The minimum objective will be to cause very serious damage to Hamas, particularly its military wing, and reestablish long-term deterrence to facilitate the enforcement of a more stable arrangement with parameters that address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza while ensuring quiet and security on the Israeli side of the border. Meanwhile, effective mechanisms must be established to ensure that Hamas is neither building new military capabilities nor scoring points that will strengthen it in the Palestinian political arena.