Hamas content to let Israel and Islamic Jihad duel it out

Analysis: Gaza ruler’s decision to sit out conflict between Israel and Islamic Jihad could prove beneficial in the long run, as it serves to buy it more time to build itself militarily and financially, while Israel weakens its main competition for dominance in the Gaza Strip

Avi Issacharoff|
It may come as no surprise that Hamas, Gaza's most prominent militant organization, has decided to stay out of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). Sure, they might be providing a certain form of support to PIJ behind the scenes, but have decided to avoid taking an active part in this latest skirmish.
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One might assume that Hamas had every reason to join this conflict, considering Israeli bombardments from the air have inadvertently killed multiple civilians, men, women and children alike, and it would present yet another opportunity to rally the Palestinian people behind their cause while declaring their unanimous opposition to the "Zionist occupation".
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יחיא סינוואר, מנהיג חמאס בעזה
יחיא סינוואר, מנהיג חמאס בעזה
Sinwar has learned how to take lemons and make lemonade
(Photo: EPA)
Hamas knew what they were doing. While standing by and supposedly doing nothing while Islamic Jihad is forced to bear the brunt of Israel's military prowess, a full-scale confrontation with Israel would likely put them in a far less advantageous position.
In that regard, one might say that Hamas has been able to turn lemons into lemonade. It's basically your average win-win situation: Islamic Jihad launched hundreds of rockets toward Israel with the blessing of Hamas firmly in tow, which means they can get away with saying that they are a part of this conflict and have by no means abandoned the Palestinian cause of resisting the Israeli occupation.
From the Israeli perspective, the IDF, Shin Bet and the State of Israel at large, have been able to focus their attention and aggression toward one enemy, Islamic Jihad. In other words, Israel is doing Hamas' work for them, as Israel is weakening their main competition inside Gaza.
That being said, it is far from unimaginable that in some way or another, Hamas might pay a certain price for avoiding active engagement, as it erodes Hamas' image as the premier resistance movement against Israel.
Israeli plane refrains from attacking after recognizing children
(Footage: IDF spokeperson unit)
The majority of the Palestinian public understands that as far as Hamas is concerned, a certain sense of calm inside the Strip is preferable to another round of fighting that would likely end with no substantial results or achievements that they would be able to flaunt.
Certain sections of the Palestinian public might view this as a shrewd maneuver by Hamas, while others might hold it against them. After all, they haven't exactly been at the ready to defend the honor of late hunger-striking prisoner Khader Adnan, nor the three senior PIJ commanders who were liquidated by Israel just days ago.
The strategy employed by Hamas has remained unchanged since the conclusion of Operation Guardian of the Walls two years ago. Hamas persistently strengthens its presence in Gaza while attempting to execute additional terrorist attacks from the West Bank, all in an effort to undermine the Palestinian Authority's status.
Although the Gaza Strip's economic situation has improved, Hamas has no interest in an all-out conflict with Israel. Israel's decision to solely target PIJ hastened the end of the conflict, but it may lead to more significant complications in the future when confronting Hamas at large.
The Netanyahu government can rightfully celebrate the success of its recent operation. The precise attack on Islamic Jihad leaders without escalating the conflict will undoubtedly be viewed as a victory by the majority of the Israeli public.
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Iron Dome continues intercepting incoming rockets successfully
Iron Dome continues intercepting incoming rockets successfully
Iron Dome continues intercepting incoming rockets successfully
(Photo: Reuters)
Islamic Jihad, on the other hand, will emerge from this campaign defeated and humiliated if it ends at this stage. However, it is important to note that even if PIJ agrees to a ceasefire, it is unlikely to last long.
The terrorist organization will seek vengeance, regardless of whether it is from Gaza, the West Bank, or even Lebanon. It will attempt to create a symbolic "victory" by inflicting mass casualties on Israelis, even if it is not immediately successful.
All that is left for us to do is trust the Shin Bet and the IDF will successfully prevent such attacks from occurring.
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