There is a possibility that the organization has chosen to adopt al-Qaeda's working method: Encouraging independent actions from the ground, which work according to instructions from the top but are difficult to prevent. Sometimes, as a result, the acts are authorized and responsibility is taken only after they are committed.
In the wake of the abduction, Israel faces a complicated and challenging test. From a broad, strategic perspective, I'm not sure that what Israel needs right now is a sweeping act of revenge in a military operation against Hamas in Gaza, as some people have called for.
There is no question about whether or not we should target Hamas' military infrastructures, the terrorists who kidnapped the teens and their messengers. Israel must settle the score with them, both for the sake of justice and in order to create deterrence against future abductions.
But expanding the response against the organization should be more calculated.
The alternatives: At a time when al-Qaeda is gaining momentum in the region, conquering large parts of Iraq and in fact controlling the area from Aleppo in Syria to the area north of Baghdad – and threatening to expand to Jordan as well – Israel should take into account that destroying Hamas will not create a void filled by the Palestinian Authority but rather a space usurped by al-Qaeda. For when a radical organization falls, it is usually replaced by an even more exteme one.
The reconciliation: In a scenario in which Israel manages to get Fatah to cancel its agreement with Hamas, the latter – which will lose its political legitimacy – will be pushed into a corner and reinstate itself as a terror organization operating from Gaza against southern Israeli communities. We can already see first signs of this in the recent drizzle of rockets fired from Gaza.
The offensive: The possibility of a wide-scale Israeli military operation on the eve of Ramadan, one which was not coordinated with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, could spark a third intifada, given that an escalation on the ground has been brewing for quite a long time now.
Under these circumstances, therefore, Israel must adopt a two-pronged action: Firstly, it must throw all of its might into bringing the missing boys back to their families as fast as possible; secondly, it must maximize the threat - but limit the operation - against Hamas, in order to achieve a more advantageous strategic outcome than the reality into which we have been catapulted. For example, Israel should demand that Abbas and the international community work to disarm Hamas, as the US did to force Syria to almost completely destroy its chemical weapons stockpiles.
The stick, of course, will be the threat of a wide-scale military operation that could be implemented at any moment. But Israel's real achievement will be to make Hamas disarm, recruit Abbas as a partner and prevent more radical organizations from replacing Hamas.
Major-General (res.) Israel Ziv served as head of the Operations Directorate branch in the IDF's General Staff.