Part One of analysis by Ron Ben-Yishai
The rocket attacks at Israel originating in the Gaza Strip at this time are not coincidental. Hamas is allowing the firing of Qassams as a sort of preparation for December 19th, the date which in the group’s view marks the expiration of the understandings and lull vis-à-vis Israel. According to all indications, Hamas has an interest in securing yet another period of lull that would last for a few more months; however, it does not wish to do it at any price.
Hamas wants the second lull to be managed in line with its terms: The group wants Israel to completely lift the economic siege on the Strip so that the organization can reinforce its regime and grow stronger. It also demands that the IDF refrain from operating against Hamas men who are preparing terror attacks near the Gaza fence. Hamas also wants Egypt to open the Rafah Crossing without any restrictions.
By allowing the attacks on Israel, Hamas wishes to create a balance of terror vis-à-vis the Jewish State in a way that would prompt it to accept its demands. This policy of walking on the edge – via sporadic rather than massive fire – stems from the organization’s assessment that the Israeli government is paralyzed due to the upcoming general elections and the transition period between US administrations.
The government doesn’t want Negev residents bitter over the Qassam fire to vote against it and its leaders, yet on the other hand it’s unwilling to embark on a “large-scale operation” that would cause many casualties, thereby also affecting the election results, the chances to release Gilad Shalit, and the relationship with the Obama Administration. It is completely clear that Hamas identified a “window of opportunity” that is intends to exploit fully, via “moderate rocket pressure.”
It is much less clear or understandable why the Israeli government is willing to play this game with almost no response – which creates the possibly accurate impression among Hamas ranks that Jerusalem is scared of utilizing the military options available to it.
Many members of the Israeli public attribute the restraint to the hesitation and fears of Defense Minister Barak, IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, and Prime Minister Olmert. According to this argument, the hesitations stem from the trio’s desire to refrain from repeating the mistakes made during and at the end of the Second Lebanon War, because of election considerations.
There may be some truth to these arguments, yet no more than that. Barak’s and Ashkenazi’s real failure is their inability to make clear to the Israeli public that the strategy adopted by Israel is not prompted by their personal caprices, but rather, by a thorough assessment undertaken by the defense establishment whose conclusions were approved by the security cabinet.
For understandable reasons, we cannot detail all the military considerations and plans, but in the next part of the analysis we will briefly discuss several basic assumptions.
Part two of Ron Ben-Yishai’s analysis to be published Wednesday afternoon