by Oded Granot
Hamas would sign a ceasefire deal in a heartbeat if it were offered the opportunity. Its members understand the balance of force in this latest round of fighting has begun to clearly lean in Israel's favor, and their situation is getting worse by the minute.
|Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip Ismail Haniyeh and Yahya Sinwa | File photo: AFP|
Abu Hamza, Islamic Jihad's spokesman in the Gaza Strip, stood before the cameras, Wednesday, and said his organization was willing to fight Israel as long as necessary. "Our struggle will not cease," he said. Despite Hamza's boasting, there is no chance of that happening. Had Israel responded to attempts to mediate a ceasefire, and it's a good thing it didn't, Gaza's terror groups would have signed a ceasefire deal yesterday.
There are two main reasons for this. The first is that according to those in the joint Hamas-Islamic Jihad command center in Gaza, the organizations have already achieved their public relations victory against Israel: They took the Jewish state by surprise, fired rockets at Jerusalem and succeeding in changing the path of the traditional Jerusalem Day Flag Dance that normally sees attendees march through the Arab Quarter of the Old City, and sending Knesset members running from the Knesset plenum at the sound of sirens. They have proven they have the impressive ability of launching over 1,000 rockets, hundreds of which targeted the center of the country and "bombed Tel Aviv." They've killed several Israelis and wounded dozens, and they succeeded in achieving a direct hit on a military jeep in Netiv Haasara with an anti-tank missile.
Just as importantly, they believe they have succeeded in establishing the perception among Palestinians that it is Hamas and not the Palestinian Authority that is now defending the Al-Aqsa Mosque, leading the struggle for Jerusalem and efforts to "liberate Palestinians from the yoke of Israeli occupation," and that they are the only ones capable of enlisting radical Arab Israelis to their efforts.
Another, no less important, reason Hamas would now quickly sign a ceasefire deal if it were offered the opportunity has to with the increasing understanding in Gaza that over the past day, the balance of force has begun to clearly lean in Israel's favor. The perception of a Hamas victory is slowly dissipating, and their situation is getting worse every minute.
It's not just the precise intelligence that allows for the targeted killings of senior Islamic Jihad and Hamas officials, including Bassem Issa, commander of Hamas's Gaza City, those responsible for the launching of rockets into Israel, their cyber teams, and the direct hits on at least four cars with terrorists inside that have struck a nerve.
Alongside the terrorist organization's institutions, buildings, and facilities that were destroyed, the Israel Defense Forces toppled multi-story apartment buildings that house, among other things, Hamas headquarters, offices, and weapons caches. This was the case with the Hanadi tower, which collapsed, and later the al-Jawhara tower, which housed, among other things, the offices of Hamas' media outlet and its cyberwarfare unit. The same is true of the collapse of the Al Shorouk tower.
Gaza appears to be in a state of shock over the forcefulness of the Israeli response and the incessant airstrikes by the Israeli Air Force. Hamas would have liked to end this round for reasons mentioned above, but in the meanwhile, it has been forced to respond with massive rocket barrages at Israel's center in the hope of incurring mass casualties.
Israel acted correctly when it rejected offers for a ceasefire and has succeeded in tipping the balance in its favor. Nevertheless, we cannot be confident the air strikes and assassinations of senior figures from the air will be enough to restore confidence among Israel's residents or deterrence against Gaza's terrorist groups in the long term.
For one thing, the heads of the terrorist organizations in Gaza are still largely hiding in command centers dug deep into the earth and situated directly under residential buildings in what is known as "Underground Gaza." The same is true of their ammunition and weapons stockpiles. Assuming Israel has the necessary information, a strike on these targets would lead to mass casualties, something Israel has been trying to avoid. Ms. Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, has already warned Israel against "the possible commission of crimes."
However, Israeli decision-makers are themselves still on the fence, and rightfully so, as to whether to issue the order for a ground operation, without which it won't be possible to completely collapse the Hamas regime.
As a result, this current round of fighting may not be the last, and the next round of fighting will await the next Israeli government, which may succeed in consolidating a clear strategy that answers the question: What do we do about Gaza?