On Monday, the Israel Air Force struck at Palestinians who were apparently planting a bomb at the Gaza security fence; meanwhile, rioting continued along the Israel-Gaza border and a grenade, borne by a balloon from Gaza, landed in Israel. And this was but a single day of Hamas’s attacks, which have continued on and off since March. Yaakov Lappin notes that at several points Israel and Hamas have come close to all-out war, which remains a possibility. Since Hamas has no intention of desisting from its terrorist activities, Lappin asks, does Jerusalem have anything to gain form a short-term cease-fire with the terrorist group?
Hamas’s negotiation tactics have alternated between talks and mortar shells, but its short-term goal remains the same: to open up Gaza to the world while holding on to the terrorist army it has built. . . . Hamas’s efforts to break its isolation was a major factor behind the outbreak of the 2014 conflict with Israel. Today, the very same factor could spur a new war. . . .
Yet despite Hamas’s radical Islamist ideology, its leadership is keen to preserve its rule in Gaza, and it is aware that a new war with Israel would jeopardize that. [The head of the regime in Gaza, Yahya] Sinwar, seems to recognize the futility of any new war with Israel at this juncture, particularly in light of the effectiveness of Israel’s Iron Dome air defenses and new anti-tunnel technology. . . . At the same time, Hamas’s rocket- and mortar shell-production efforts have been intensifying over the past year. . . .
Israel, [for its part], has its reasons for wishing to avoid a major Gaza conflict at this stage. One reason is that a full-scale conflict would mean fewer resources would be at Israel’s disposal against the bigger and significantly more dangerous threats that are developing in other arenas. . . . Stopping Iran’s takeover of Syria is Israel’s foremost immediate goal, and a Gaza conflict now would serve as a distraction from the more dangerous threat developing to the north.
In addition, it seems unlikely that Israel would be able to find viable substitute rulers to replace Hamas in Gaza. That means that containing and deterring Hamas, so long as this is possible, is preferable to any full-scale conflict. . . . The chances of a broad truce arrangement remain low, but a limited ceasefire that is still firmer than the current unstable setup might be within reach.