Hamas has run out of credit
Op-ed: The IDF is done giving Hamas leeway and is ready to retaliate to any provocation within minutes. With Israel on the verge of general elections, Hamas should not take its cue from the Israeli leadership, but from the public. Elections time triggers military pyrotechnics, and not just on the Gaza front.
These are the instructions the IDF's top leadership is conveying to the troops, and these are probably also the recommendations it makes to the political echelon.
Hamas, meanwhile, can keep on laughing, since it was threatened with destruction many times before. And even Avigdor Lieberman resigned from his post as defense minister, because he did not believe that a similar plan—which he presented before the Security Cabinet—would be approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
However, this time Hamas better not listen to the Israeli leadership, but to the wishes of the Israeli public. The rules have changed not because the interests changed, but since Israel is on the verge of calling general elections. Election time triggers not only verbal pyrotechnics, but also military pyrotechnics—and not only on the Gaza front.
When the prime minister implies he accepted the recent ceasefire agreement with Hamas due to strategic problems elsewhere, one should wonder how urgent these strategic problems are, and whether they can cause problems for no reason. Lieberman defined Netanyahu's insinuations as "excuses not to do anything." It would be a shame if someone insists on proving him wrong.
The army advised the political leadership to accept Hamas's request for a ceasefire due to strategic reasons (on which Netanyahu implied) but also because of tactical-operational reasons.
In an attempt to differentiate itself from the political echelon—which turned Gaza into a political, rather than a professional, argument—the IDF is trying to show the public its recommendations are strictly professional.
When interim solutions are discussed—ranging from bombing Hamas assets to launching an all-out war— the issue of targeted assassinations of Hamas leaders immediately arises. In government meetings, the IDF has recommended to halt the targeted killings. Because if the political leadership wants a weakened Hamas to continue ruling the strip, what would be the point in liquidating its leadership and risking anarchy? This question led the IDF to advise the government to suspend targeted assassinations, which are not only an act of deterrence, but also an invitation for an all-out confrontation.
As far as Hamas is concerned, the killing of seven of its men during a botch IDF operation last week, was a targeted killing. According to Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, the IDF gun he brandished during the funerals of the seven men killed was the one that took out most of them. As opposed to the Israelis, Gazans are sure the assassinations are still ongoing.
Hamas continues to play with fire—just this past weekend some 13,000 rioters demonstrated along the Gaza border, with five explosive devices hurled at IDF soldiers. It's less than before, but the fuse is still lit. The terror organization did not commit to halt the riots, but rather to avoid coming closer than 100 km from the border.
Israel says the direction is positive, explaining why border crossings remain open, fuel continues entering the strip and Qatari money is still being transferred to Gaza. Since Qatar has committed to continue sending money to the strip over the next six months, maintaining the calm at least for that long is worthwhile to Hamas.
So what's next? Nobody knows. The incoming chief of staff, Aviv Kochavi, has returned from abroad and is already up-to-speed on everything. Will he be on board with the current IDF view that Hamas's credit has run out? How will he cope with the public and political pressure during election time?
Lieberman will not let go. The former defense minister will continue claiming the Qatari money and fuel are used by the terror organization's military wing, and that the national security advisor is deceiving the Security Cabinet by telling them there are mechanisms to prevent it from happening.