Despite numerous efforts, backed by Egypt and other regional powers, the Palestinian Authority (PA), which governs parts of the West Bank, and Hamas, which governs Gaza, have been unable to come to any sort of mutual understanding. Meanwhile, writes Ehud Yaari, Jerusalem seems close to arriving at a long-term cease-fire with Hamas, even as the PA president Mahmoud Abbas is making ever-more-persistent threats to end relations with Israel. Yaari explains Hamas’s motivations:
Since becoming the top Hamas leader in Gaza two years ago, Yahya al-Sinwar has concluded that the group cannot afford an all-out military escalation with Israel, let alone achieve its demands for a free sea- and air-port in the Strip by that route. He spent 22 years in Israeli jails, speaks fluent Hebrew, and follows the Israeli media religiously, so he understands that Netanyahu’s response to another major confrontation would be far more devastating than Operation Protective Edge in 2014. Meanwhile, Hamas has lost most of its cross-border attack tunnels into Israel and is struggling to maintain its rocket arsenal after Egypt cut its smuggling routes through the Sinai Peninsula.
Given these military disadvantages and the PA’s refusal to shoulder responsibility for Gaza’s economic crisis, Sinwar has decided to build his strategy upon the Israeli leadership’s clear preference for containment over war. Backed by the Israel Defense Forces general staff, Netanyahu has repeatedly signaled his readiness to help ease Gaza’s humanitarian crisis once calm is restored. . . .
Today, both sides want a ceasefire. Netanyahu has received growing domestic criticism for his restraint, while Sinwar was excoriated for sending teenagers and unarmed demonstrators to be killed or injured. Both would like to silence their detractors by ending the [fighting].