Just last weekend, Gazans started rioting once again at the border fence, and current assessments state that the situation will only deteriorate further. The time out from riots that Hamas gave us for our good behavior after the latest tranche of Qatari funds came through is over. Hamas is no longer reining in the protests at the border fence, nor is stopping Gazans from breaching the barrier. Incendiary balloons are also back on the menu, and even rockets made a comeback last week.
Hamas is currently pushing for a gradual escalation, not as a response to some Israeli political move or another — an intolerable situation in itself — but just because they’re angry at the Egyptians and their policies.
Just two weeks ago, Hamas felt like it had made some major gains. The United Nations and Egypt were assumed to be taking charge of the rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip, with the help of the money from Qatar, and independent of the Palestinian Authority and Israel’s interests.
But the joy was premature, for Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel soon made it clear that Hamas was mistaken. Nothing was going to change — the Rafah crossing at the Gaza-Egypt border wasn’t going to be a free trade zone, nor would there be free passage in and out of the Strip without the knowledge of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who also heads the PA. In other words, Egypt was not about to acknowledge the Hamas regime in Gaza as an entity independent of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
The Egyptians also said they weren't about to allow Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh to leave Gaza for Moscow, where he would attend a summit of Palestinian leaders from both the West Bank and Gaza, to discuss reconciliation. Russia has been trying to bypass Egyptian-American mediation in regards to this internecine Palestinian conflict, but Cairo is quite clear that it will not be going along with that plan.
So who ends up bearing the brunt of Hamas' wrath? Why Israel, of course. The terror group's rage has already cost Gaza two lives and several wounded in the riots unleashed at the border fence last weekend, but this has not stopped the organization from promising an even more disruptive show next weekend.
A sovereign state that sees itself as a regional power can’t keep living according to the whims of a hostile entity like Hamas, which in reality is actually dependent on Israel. The Israeli security establishment must stop scaring the public with terrible predictions of Somalia-style chaos and turmoil in Gaza should Hamas fall.
It’s time to stop protecting Hamas. Perhaps the kind of chaos predicted by Israeli officials is actually needed to jolt the Arab world into taking action to help their Gaza cousins. As long as Israel allows Hamas to stay in power, and allows Gazans to keep living in such dire conditions, it allows the world to ignore the humanitarian crisis in the Strip and absorbs all the global criticism over the situation there.
Another option is deciding to open the Strip’s gates, and allow thousands of Gazans to work in the nearby Israeli communities. It’s unlikely that the Gazans who depend on this labour would then set those same fields alight. But our defense officials oppose this, most of all the Shin Bet. Everyone is busy explaining the moves Israel can't make, and claiming that the so-called status quo is a worthy cause to fight for, even as this approach leads us again and again into a state of war — with terms and timetable decided by Hamas.