Early Saturday morning, Hamas launched over 2,000 rockets from Gaza into Israel, while sending about 1,000 terrorists through the border fence to commit acts of murder and barbarism. As of Sunday evening, over 700 Israelis—overwhelmingly civilians—have been killed, and over 100 are being held hostage in the Gaza Strip. Elliott Abrams examines how this war will transform the Jewish state’s situation:
For several years, and especially in the last year, it seemed that Hamas had decided to seek calm in Gaza, where it governs, while supporting violence and terror in the West Bank. And in the West Bank, terrorist attacks increased each month. Meanwhile, Israel allowed 17,000 workers to enter Israel from Gaza each day, and there was talk of raising that number to 30,000. It seemed that there was a silent agreement between Israel and Hamas to keep things quiet in Gaza.
But that view assumed that Hamas cared about the lives of the Gaza population, and the new attacks have proved yet again that it does not. Recent accounts of the Yom Kippur War of 1973 have noted the problem of the “conception” back then. Israeli security officials came to believe that after the crushing Arab defeat in the Six-Day War, an attack so few years afterward was inconceivable. Then it happened. In this case, the “conception” was that Israel could reach a modus vivendi with Hamas—because Hamas valued calm in its base, Gaza. Obviously, it does not.
Why did Hamas attack now? No recent event in Gaza explains the timing—nor do recent visits to the Temple Mount by Israelis. What seems obvious is true: the attack was timed for the 50th anniversary of the surprise attack in 1973. No doubt Hamas must be hoping as well to delay and even prevent the Israeli-Saudi rapprochement that is being discussed, but this attack has been in the planning for many months. When the planning began, Hamas had no way to know where a Saudi-Israeli negotiation would stand in October. What it did know was that the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur attack would occur this year on a Sabbath and during Jewish holy days (the last two days of the Sukkot festival). The possible delay in a Saudi-Israel deal was surely a happy addition for Hamas but was an add-on, not the original motive.
One can see other motives. This attack shows the world and shows Palestinians that Hamas is strong, while the Palestinian Authority and PLO are weak. And it shows Iran the same thing, perhaps giving hope to Hamas leaders that Iran will give them even more support.