Rockets launched out of Gaza at a southern Israeli town. (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90/File)
No euphemisms now: Hamas has started a war with Israel.
That is what it means to fire hundreds of rockets at major Israeli population centers from Hamas’s redoubt in Gaza, the Palestinian area on the Mediterranean Sea from which Israel withdrew entirely in 2005.
Yesterday, Hamas rockets targeted Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, even as the group sent operatives to kidnap Israelis.
Two such operatives were apprehended at the gate of a kibbutz yesterday, only weeks after the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers. Five others were caught trying to infiltrate Israel by boat.
The rockets are tools of conventional warfare; the kidnappings, tools of unconventional warfare. One is designed for indiscriminate slaughter, or to paralyze Israelis via the threat of indiscriminate slaughter.
The other is meant to terrorize Israelis with the thought that their children might be stolen and killed.
Yesterday afternoon, every one of the 3.4 million residents of greater Tel Aviv was told to fix up a bomb shelter at home or locate a public one nearby. That’s 43 percent of Israel’s population.
As for kidnapping: There are 2.2 million Israelis under the age of 18. Every one of them is theoretically a target.
Hamas will do whatever it can to avoid engaging on the ground, because it will be decimated if it does.
But it has stockpiled thousands of rockets, and has a paramilitary filled with thousands of terrorists who view every Israeli, from a baby to an octogenarian, as a murder opportunity.
Hamas is using the tools at its disposal. That includes its political tools. It appears to have instigated this war for the purpose of seizing control of the entire Palestinian polity—divided between the 1.7 million in Gaza and the 1.8 million on the West Bank — from the Palestinian Authority.
The PA is in charge of the West Bank and has been in a cold standoff with Hamas for seven years. After the collapse of Secretary of State John Kerry’s ludicrous “peace process,” PA head Mahmoud Abbas went into a hasty power-sharing concord with Hamas that he’s now regretting.
Hamas seems to have chosen this moment because it needs to change the status quo, but has no way of doing so other than to instigate this war.
As part of its unity deal with Abbas and the PA, it expected that 40,000 Gazans would begin receiving PA paychecks. Abbas has refused to pay up.
Hamas’ Muslim Brotherhood allies have been ousted from power in Egypt, and the new regime there has closed the border with Gaza and is systematically destroying the hidden tunnels through which Hamas smuggles goods to bolster Gaza’s economy.
The group’s former patron, Iran, is distracted by negotiations with the United States (both in nuclear talks and in Iraq) and has shifted much of its funding to Islamic Jihad, an even bloodier terror group in Gaza.
And so, isolated and weakened, Hamas can paradoxically act at will. And it has seized the chance provided by the chaos of the past week — with the discovery of the three murdered Israeli teens, followed by the murder of a Palestinian teen and ensuing riots — to do so.
It has already fired hundreds of rockets at Israel.
And this is the danger to Hamas: If the rocket fire continues, especially the use of scarce long-range missiles that can reach Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, the group’s cache will be depleted with little hope of resupply.
And if Hamas scores a significant hit on a population center, Israel’s political and military leaders may decide they have no option but to start a ground war.
So what’s the point of all this? Hamas can’t prevail. Israel has the ability to decimate its ranks, use drones to kill its leaders, and root out its weapons. Pushed to the wall, Israel will do so. And it is being pushed to the wall.
Israel has zero desire to go into Gaza now. It’s reeling from the kidnappings and murders, and fearful of what will emerge from the US-Iran nuclear talks, which have a deadline of July 20.
Worse still, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his people know any sustained action against Hamas will lead to unjust and disgusting worldwide condemnation — and, even more depressing, to fence-sitting, thumb-twiddling and lip-curling on the part of President Obama.
Hamas may be calculating that it will suffer mightily at Israel’s hands, and that its martyrdom will make Abbas’s PA look morally puny and compromised by comparison. It might also believe that, in the wake of its failure, it will still be able to secure concessions from Israel (not to mention the PA) as part of a ceasefire agreement.
Thanks to Palestinian political culture’s bizarre celebration of failure and death and destruction, and to the shameful ongoing failure of the West to back Israel in its fight against this evil, Hamas might win by losing.