Regardless of how one refers to it, we have seen a sort of ceasefire between Israel and Hamas for some eight months now, since August 2011. The group fired a few Grad rockets at Israel for the last time during the round of escalation following the terror attack near Eilat. Since then, Hamas has adhered to the rule it set for itself – no attacks initiated against Israel. The group only responds when IDF troops cross the fence.
And so, for example, during the last round of Gaza escalation in March, after Israel assassinated the Popular Resistance Committees’ secretary general and other group activists, Hamas did not join the retaliatory attacks, but rather, sought a way to calm the tensions. Here and there we saw “private initiatives,” but the Hamas establishment showed disciplined restraint.
According to recently published and apparently credible reports, Hamas formed in Gaza a special police force tasked with thwarting rocket fire by various “rogue organizations.” The force has already started to operate, and according to rumors its members are adopting a firm hand and working effectively.
Meanwhile, on the civilian-economic front, we have recently seen a gradual increase in the number of trucks transporting goods and fuel from Israel into the Strip as well as Gaza goods exported via Israel’s ports.
The days of the Messiah have not yet arrived. The Hamas movement constantly states that it has not renounced the “liberation of occupied land via armed struggle.” Israel too has not changed its declared policy, which rejects contacts with Hamas as long as the group does not accept the principles set out by the International Quartet. However, direct contacts are taking police in the field, among low-level officials, while indirect negotiations are occasionally held in Cairo with Egyptian mediation.
In fact, this is a classic hudna (temporary ceasefire) in line with the principles of ancient Islam. It will continue as long as Egypt, Hamas’ new patron, will want it, and end once Hamas’ leadership will decide that renewing the violence against Israel serves the organization’s objectives more than the lull does.
The Iron Dome factorHowever, Hamas is not the only player in town. The large “rogue organizations,” headed by Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Strip, have complied with Hamas’ and Egypt’s orders, but have also attempted to carry out attacks via the Sinai. Yet Hamas usually refrains from Sinai activities that anger the Egyptians.
In their talks with Gaza groups, one of the most powerful arguments used by Hamas officials in favor of the lull is the success of the Iron Dome anti-rocket system. According to a well placed source, Hamas argues that every round of fighting boosts Iron Dome’s efficiency and the public pressure in Israel to acquire many more batteries. Hence, says Hamas, it would be better to minimize the fighting and accumulate very large quantities of rockets and launchers of various types. The group believes that mass fire will “flood” the Iron Dome systems and neutralize them (or at the very least, impose a heavy financial burden on Israel.)
In any case, there is almost no doubt that Hamas at this time has a strong interest in maintaining the hudna, for the following reasons:
• The urgent need to win international and Western diplomatic recognition. Hamas needs it in order to receive more money, and also in order to make it harder for the IDF to operate. Firing rockets at Israeli citizens certainly does not promote this objective.
Part 2 of analysis to be published Monday
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