by: Alex Fishman
Wednesday, 7 November 2018 | Over the past weekend, Hamas dictated a new strategy for managing the “March of Return” campaign: tahfif, a sort of “wait and see” strategy. This means curbing the violent demonstrations on the Gaza border until it becomes clear what the terror organization can get from Israel and the Palestinian Authority [PA] in exchange for maintaining the relative calm.
Hamas was the one that decided to lower the flames, as the Gaza rulers estimate they are on the verge of reaching an Egypt-mediated agreement with Israel, like the agreement achieved after the 2014 Operation Protective Edge when Israel opened the Gaza border crossings, the Strip’s fishing zone was increased to nine nautical miles and international commitments were made to rehabilitate the coastal enclave.
This time, allowing fuel into the Strip was added, and by doing so, Israel is allowing Gaza’s residents to enjoy a supply of electricity for more than eight hours per day.
Furthermore, this is the first time Israel has made a move vis-à-vis Hamas while bypassing and weakening the Palestinian Authority by pressuring it not to tighten the sanctions imposed on Gaza, as well as circumventing [PA] president Mahmoud Abbas on the Strip’s fuel supply.
In addition, negotiations to transfer Qatari money into the Strip are currently ongoing—despite the PA’s objection—to pay the salaries of Hamas officials.
If Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi succeeds in convincing Abbas to allow the transferring of funds into Gaza, Hamas could dub its violent strategy over the past eight months a success and move on to the “tahfif” strategy—continue the “March of Return” protests, but cease to create provocations on the border and halt the launching of incendiary balloons.
Meanwhile, it is unknown whether an agreement has been reached with the PA regarding the Qatari funds as that would require Hamas to meet a series of conditions imposed by Abbas, which include giving up its independent military force.
But this is not the only obstacle to achieving calm: Israel’s defense establishment knows that receiving fuel and Qatari money will not be enough for Hamas to halt the violence.
The terror organization has another card up its sleeve, which it plans to reveal once it receives the money from Qatar—a demand for a seaport independent of any Israeli involvement.
For Hamas, the seaport would be the ultimate achievement, justifying the hundreds of dead and wounded Palestinians in the “March of Return” campaign.
The seaport symbolizes the lifting of the siege, and building it is not so far-fetched. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz have both spoken in the past about establishing a seaport in Gaza under Israeli supervision. As far as Hamas is concerned, it is already halfway there; only one tiny condition is yet to be fulfilled—a seaport independent of Israel.
Hamas thinks that with a little pressure applied on the Israeli government, whose sole interest is its own survival, it can achieve its goals.
Moreover, the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] has advised the political echelon not to go to war in Gaza now and has rejected Lieberman’s plan to deliver a hard blow to Hamas, fearing it would escalate into a ground operation in the Strip. Nevertheless, the army is also convinced several rounds of limited fighting are yet to come. What then? Nobody knows.
So what should Hamas understand from all of this? That it can demand more, since it is not under a real existential threat. Give them a finger, and they’ll take the whole hand.
Posted on November 7, 2018
Photo Credit: Mahmoud Navash/wikimedia.org
Photo License: Wikimedia
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