Is Hamas in over its head?


Writing in the New York Times, Ben-Gurion University’s Benny Morris suggests Israelis aren’t simply scared; they’re deathly afraid—and not just for themselves, but for the future of Israel. Morris argues Israel is struggling to adapt to a new reality that includes dwindling sympathy for the Jewish state in the West and an energized Islamic opposition to Israel’s very existence:

Between 1948 and 1982 Israel coped relatively well with the threat from conventional Arab armies. Indeed, it repeatedly trounced them. But Iran’s nuclear threat, the rise of organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah that operate from across international borders and from the midst of dense civilian populations, and Israeli Arabs’ growing disaffection with the state and their identification with its enemies, offer a completely different set of challenges. And they are challenges that Israel’s leaders and public, bound by Western democratic and liberal norms of behavior, appear to find particularly difficult to counter.

Israel’s sense of the walls closing in on it has this past week led to one violent reaction. Given the new realities, it would not be surprising if more powerful explosions were to follow.

Also in the New York Times, Stephen Farrell writes that Hamas likely ended the cease-fire it agreed to six months ago because its commitment to violent struggle against Israel was being undermined by the truce. The group’s leadership ostensibly believes that a return to highly-visible armed resistance will swell its base of support in both Gaza and the West Bank: “It may also have calculated that the rockets into Israel – 60 in one day – would restore its status among Palestinians as the champion of ‘resistance’ against the Zionist enemy, whose soldiers and settlers are no longer in Gaza within reach of Hamas’s military wing.”

Still, Hamas may have gotten in over its head with its repeated rocket attacks against Israel, argues Hassan Haidar in an Op-Ed for Dar Al-Hayat. Hamas likely viewed the political jockeying ahead of the Israeli elections as an opportunity to make a splash, but the group now finds itself embroiled in a fight it wasn’t necessarily prepared for, and facing off against an emboldened opponent looking to send a strong message to the rest of the region:

Hamas thought it could improve its negotiating position with Israel which has repeatedly violated the truce, benefiting from the divergent Israeli positions in the run-up to the general elections with the rivals competing within the government, and Livni and Barack attempting to pull the rug each to his side. In addition, Hamas assumed that a relative and limited security trouble in Gaza will strengthen its internal Palestinian cards and prompt the authority to respond to its demands, namely cease its negotiations with Israel on the basis of Annapolis. Syria and Iran too encouraged the movement to break its ties with the Arab moderate camp represented by Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

On the other hand, Israel was trying – according to statements by its military chiefs – to regain a very important deterrent card, based on an enormous military superiority. It knew in advance that Hamas’ regional commitments will make the movement – sooner or later – abandon the Egyptian umbrella and revoke the truce. Thus, it seized the opportunity to launch a very painful strike, while at the same time addressing a message to Hamas’ allies, particularly in Lebanon, that a new war with Israel will be unaffordable.

The video above comes from the Israeli Defense Forces’ (IDF) new channel on YouTube. The IDF are using the online video site to broadcast their bombing exploits in Gaza, though they’re finding some of their videos aren’t staying up on the site for as long as they wished:

We are saddened that YouTube has taken down some of our exclusive footage showing the IDF’s operational success in operation Cast Lead against Hamas extremists in the Gaza Strip. As the State of Israel again faces those who would see it destroyed, it is imperative that we in the IDF show the world the inhumanity directed against us and our efforts to stop it. It is also worth noting that one of the videos removed had the highest number of hits (over 10,000) at the time of its removal.

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