We won. That’s the joyful message conveyed by Islamic Jihad Tuesday following the ceasefire announcement. The group added a warning: Should Israel attack, we will fire missiles even deeper than Tel Aviv.
Gaza residents also believe that Islamic Jihad won the latest round of fighting, and the scathing criticism of Hamas for failing to join in is growing.
In the latest round of escalation, Jihad managed to push Hamas into a corner. In recent months, Islamic Jihad gained much strength – not only militarily, but also publically. Iran provides it with money and arms, while the difficult state in Gaza, with problems in the supply of electricity and water, are prompting criticism against the Hamas government.
Hence, Jihad has become a major force threatening Hamas’ hegemony, at least in all matters pertaining to the struggle and resistance against Israel. “We have no other option; certainly no diplomatic option,” explained one merchant in a phone call from Gaza. “That’s why we support Islamic Jihad.”
Hamas is confused. Sitting on the fence in recent days while holding its fire wasn’t good for the organization. Some group leaders attempted to voice their support for the fighting, yet in practice, since Saturday they acted via Egypt to secure a ceasefire. Hamas had no power to put an end to Jihad’s fire, and truce talks were managed far from the public eye.
Support for Hamas waning
Hamas, unlike Islamic Jihad or the Popular Resistance Committees, is a group that wishes to hold power. Hence, its leaders in Gaza and abroad decided to promote a truce at this time. Meanwhile, Jihad and the PRC offer a very simple ideology: War, war and more war against Israel in order to annihilate it.
Hamas wants Islamic rule and wants to take over the Palestinian Authority; it also wants Arab and international legitimacy, and hence it tries to conduct itself responsibly. And so, Hamas has become a mediator between Israel and Islamic Jihad, prompting Gaza residents to chuckle. “This is not the Hamas we know,” they say.
Support for Hamas on Gaza’s streets has declined. For Gazans, Islamic Jihad has become a new alternative and in recent days the group gave them some hope and encouragement. The result is that Gaza is becoming more radical.
When will the next round of fighting erupt? That’s only a matter of time. The ceasefire, just like all the temporary truces of recent years that didn’t last, is merely a time-out between rounds of violence. Even after the latest round, it’s clear that Israel won’t be able to show restraint in the face of new terror plots in Gaza.
Islamic Jihad and the PRC won’t be able to contain themselves for long either. They will use the time-out in order to restore their missile arsenal and prepare for the next round.