אליאור לוי
Elior Levy
ynet
IDF strikes in Gaza on Monday

Israel's Gaza delusion

Analysis: Jerusalem is trying desperately to broker some kind of long-term agreement with Hamas, but the terror group is making minimal concessions and all the while letting its unruly partner Islamic Jihad do the dirty work

Elior Levy |
Published: 02.24.20 , 23:27
It all started last Tuesday, when the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) announced a series of unprecedented concessions to Hamas as part of Israel's ongoing efforts to reach an "agreement" with the terror group.
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  • Israel expanded the fishing zone off the Gaza Strip's coast to 15 nautical miles and issued an additional 2,000 entry permits from the Strip. This raises the number of permits to 7,000 – a number unseen in nearly 13 years.
    הפצצות של צה"ל בדרום רצועת עזההפצצות של צה"ל בדרום רצועת עזה
    IDF strikes in Gaza on Monday
    (Photo: Reuters)
    And what did Hamas give in return? Nothing really, just an end to the plague of balloon bombs against southern Israel.
    Somehow, despite all these gestures, peace did not fall over the region.
    On Wednesday, just a day after the COGAT announcement, Islamic Jihad dispatched a sniper team from one of its watch posts to attack IDF soldiers on the border fence.
    The attack was unsuccessful. The IDF did not respond, the fishing zone remained as was, Gazan workers came and went into Israel and it was all quiet on the southern front.
    Another day passed and Israel kept the treats coming.
    חלוקת הכסף הקטארי בעזהחלוקת הכסף הקטארי בעזה
    The Qatari allowance money for Gaza
    This time it was the Qatari envoy who entered the coastal enclave with nearly $12 million, an extraordinary amount given the practice of carrying cash into Gaza in briefcases in order to more easily hand out the money to its residents.
    A quiet and spring-like weekend passed in the south, but as Sunday dawned, Islamic Jihad sent two of its militants to place an explosive charge on the border fence.
    The IDF spotted both and opened fire - killing one of the militants and injuring the other.
    Miraculously, Hamas' observation posts somehow failed to notice two grown men slowly creeping towards the fence holding bombs.
    But then came a tactical mistake on Israel's part. In accordance with a directive from Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, Israel is now holding both live and dead terrorists as a bargaining chip for the release of its nationals being held captive in the Gaza Strip and the return of the bodies of two fallen IDF soldiers.
    לאחר תקרית הירי בגבול עזה: קרב על לקיחת הגופה של הפלסטינילאחר תקרית הירי בגבול עזה: קרב על לקיחת הגופה של הפלסטיני
    An IDF digger retrieves the body of a dead Islamic Jihad militant on the Gaza border
    Instead, what ensued was a grotesque scenario in which an IDF digger tried to fight off the Palestinians surrounding the body to scoop it and away, sparking rage in the hearts of Gazans who called for revenge.
    Hamas couldn't – and actually didn't desire to – stop the tide of protests and retaliation.
    Islamic Jihad claimed the barrages of rockets that began to fly at Israel. Hamas looked the other way and wished both sides good luck.
    A week later, the generous gifts bestowed on Gaza by COGAT seem hollow.
    For perspective, this whole chain of events should be viewed from a distance.
    For the last five weeks, Israel has been chasing a deal with Hamas, even flying all the way to Qatar to make sure the briefcases loaded with money made it across the border into Gaza.
    Hamas is an organization led by a man who in a different life would have made an incredible mobster kingpin.
    Yahya Sinwar smelled the love Israeli security officials were developing for the term "agreement" from a mile away and capitalized on it, knowing that Israel had its hands tied by the March 2 elections and the IDF's ongoing battle against Iran in Syria, including its reluctance to fight a two-front war.
    יחיא סנוואריחיא סנוואר
    Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar
    (Photo: AP)
    Hamas does not have to do its own dirty work. It has Islamic Jihad, the problem child who is more than happy to attack Israel at every opportunity.
    This makes Hamas' new policy much easier to implement: No more balloon bombs, but when Islamic Jihad raises its heads to attack Israel, Hamas will turn the other way.
    Incidentally, as far as Hamas is considered, the term "agreement" doesn't even exist.
    Senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar said Sunday that there are "no understandings between the organization and Israel."
    According to him, "the resistance is putting pressure on Israel and forcing it to stand behind its commitments to the Gaza Strip. There is no peace for the price of peace."
    ראש הממשלה בנימין נתניהו בהערכת מצב בקריה ונפתלי בנטראש הממשלה בנימין נתניהו בהערכת מצב בקריה ונפתלי בנט
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holding an assessment meeting with security officials at IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv
    (Photo: Defense Ministry )
    Israel is chasing its tail. It is making a lackluster attempt to ensure that Hamas keeps the peace with all other militant groups in Gaza, mainly Islamic Jihad. But like others before it, renegade organizations never let real peace happen.
    Furthermore, it is hiding the plan from the Israeli public. Nobody from either the security or political echelons has taken responsibility for this unfolding process.
    Every concession to Hamas was either initiated under the radar or concealed in some subtle message to the media. In fact, most details were provided by media outlets in the Gaza Strip.
    Whoever is brave enough to start some sort of appeasement process should be brave enough to account for it and explain the policy and the opportunities and risks involved.
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