A military campaign against the Islamic Jihad was needed, however, it’s doubtful the death of the terror group's commander Tayseer al-Jabari, which sparked the current round of fighting in Gaza, is likely to change anything in the long term.
Less than three years ago, Al-Jabari’s predecessor, Baha Abu al-Ata, was killed by Israel in a very similar manner, and was described at the time as the group's most extreme element, whose removal will quiet down the Gaza border.
The same happened 10 years ago, when Hamas’ military wing chief Ahmed Jabari, was killed in a targeted assassination. It happened 20 years ago, when Jabari's predecessor Salah Shehade was killed, and it also happened 30 years ago, when Hezbollah chief Abbad al-Musawi was assassinated by Israel as well.
Their assassinations did not change much, if anything it made things worse. The reason for that is because killing people is a tool that is only relevant to enact changes in policy. And policy, some say, is what Israel is lacking when it comes to Gaza.
The truth, however, Israel has had a clear policy on Gaza for over a decade: “quiet at the border at almost any price." All the while strengthening Hamas’ rule in Gaza for the sake of having someone to negotiate ceasefire with after yet another military campaign, and killing the option of a two-state solution.
The first part of that policy will be put to the test in the coming days, after the ceasefire came into effect. Israel has achieved almost everything it could by killing al-Jabari. Since he belonged to the Islamic Jihad, it’s doubtful that Hamas feels sorry for him.
The policy of “quiet at any price" actually comes with a price. The first is the inevitable normalization of ties with Hamas, which has become the legitimate and “moderate” ruler of Gaza, the one Israel turns to for ceasefire talks.
The consequences of strengthening Hamas in Gaza are dire. In the eyes of the Palestinians, it legitimizes the belief that violence and terror are the only ways to get anything out of Israel, be it money or status. That policy almost became official during the tenure of Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister, and its objective was to weaken the Palestinian Authority in order to make the option of the two-state solution dead in the water.
Netanyahu also signed the Abraham Accords, which proved to him that relations with other countries in the Mideast can be cultivated while ignoring the Palestinian issue entirely. The current government is following directly in Netanyahu’s footsteps.
Is there an alternative policy for Gaza? To use connections with other countries in the region to place a wedge between them and the terror organizations who rule over them by backing the Palestinian Authority.
To present a far-reaching plan, which includes developing the economy in Gaza with partners like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. To show the people of Gaza they could have a different life, with independence and freedom, and the ones holding them back from it are Hamas and the Islamic Jihad.
Without a similar policy we’re condemning ourselves to more military operations in the future, more empty talks about military and intelligence achievements, and many more years of Israelis in the south living in fear.