Gaza ceasefire leaves Israel and Hamas exactly where they were before

Gaza ceasefire leaves Israel and Hamas exactly where they were before

The latest flareup and truce were born of Jerusalem’s past capitulation to extortion by the rulers of the Strip

Avi Issacharoff

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

Illustrative: A picture taken in Gaza city on May 5, 2019, shows rockets fired toward Israel from the Gaza Strip. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
Illustrative: A picture taken in Gaza city on May 5, 2019, shows rockets fired toward Israel from the Gaza Strip. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

The morning after the latest round of fighting between Israel and Hamas looks exactly like the morning before it began. It’s as if nothing had happened.

In two days of conflict, more than 700 rockets were fired toward Israel; four Israelis were killed, along with 29 Gazans (at least 11 of them members of the terror groups); and considerable damage was done to Hamas and Islamic Jihad infrastructure in the Strip.

But as usual, Israel and Hamas find themselves in a shaky truce without the situation having changed in the slightest. As they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Neither side has any substantive achievement to boast of, nor have they made a move that has altered the status quo.

A car bursts into flames after it was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod on May 5, 2019. (Flash90)

Hamas has shown that its military capabilities have improved, with the lethality of the rocket attacks and their ability to overcome the Iron Dome missile defense system on multiple occasions, as well as the minimal harm sustained by members of the terrorist organization.

This attests to constant improvements to the terrorists’ military wing in the run-up to the next campaign.

On the other hand, the Israel Defense Forces improved its list of targets and managed to hit important Hamas military facilities. It also showed its ability to carry out a targeted assassination against a member of the terrorist group who had tried to remain under the intelligence radar, with a missile strike on the car of Hamed Hamdan al-Khodari, who funneled Iranian money to Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian emergency personnel try to put out the fire on a car belonging to Hamas terror group senior member Hamed Hamdan al-Khodari after it was hit by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City on May 5, 2019. (MAHMUD HAMS/AFP)

There are, nonetheless, many causes for concern on the Israeli side.

It is clear that Hamas has learned to defend itself. Most of its senior operatives took cover in the subterranean bunkers and tunnels the terror group has dug underneath the enclave, and escaped the flareup unharmed. Its missile launch and command and control capabilities were impressive.

All of these things should ring warning bells in Israel.

The big problem for Hamas is that on the first morning of the holy month of Ramadan, it cannot present any hope of an economic solution to the people of Gaza — and certainly not of a political one.

This failure on Hamas’s part comes despite the fact that many Gazans expressed willingness for a major military operation, if only to bring about a change in their situation.

While Qatari money may enter Gaza in the coming days, it will not alleviate the overall crisis: Unemployment stands at 51 percent and there is abject poverty.

Postal workers aid Palestinians who arrived at the central post office in Gaza City on January 26, 2019, to receive financial aid from the Qatari government given to impoverished families. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Hamas does nothing to help the local population. Instead, it imposes more and more taxes, which it uses for military infrastructure (including the aforementioned tunnels and bunkers for senior Hamas officials) rather than improving the overall situation in Gaza.

Gazans are starting to show signs of discontent with Hamas — although not enough to bring them out to the streets as was the case earlier this year. But there is now criticism of the terrorist organization on social networks.

The latest round of fighting was likely also an attempt by Hamas to divert Gazan public anger away from the organization and toward Israel.

Ultimately, both sides are hostages to Israel’s decision six months ago to approve the transfer of Qatari money to pay the salaries of Hamas employees.

That money was interpreted in Gaza in only one way — an Israeli surrender to Hamas’s extortion.

It is clear that whoever on the Israeli side made the deal with Hamas — whether they were from the Mossad or the Prime Minister’s Office — did not understand this.

An apartment building hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, in Ashkelon, southern Israel, on May 5, 2019. (Noam Rivkin Fenton/Flash90)

What appeared to those on the Israeli side as an opportunity to cut a deal with Hamas was interpreted on the other side as sign of a weakness that could be exploited.

Thus, when the Qatari money was delayed last weekend, not due to any fault of Israel, Hamas immediately triggered a broader conflict than usual, thinking and believing that what had worked six months ago would work again this time.

And it seems that Hamas was right.

While the Qataris didn’t get involved initially, the money is expected to be transferred to Gaza shortly — just in time to ensure a Ramadan kareem.

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