In the dysfunctional, Alice-Through-the-Looking-Glass world of the so-called Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the sustained rocket fire from the Gaza Strip may be less about Hamas’ war on Jews and more about the Islamist group trying to regain its swiftly sliding power in the region.
Following the ouster of its ideological partner in neighboring Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas has been feeling increasingly isolated, with Egypt’s new military regime engaged in a serious effort to close its borders with the terrorist-saturated Gaza Strip.
The profitable smuggling routes along the Sinai-Gaza border have been dried up.
According to sources in Gaza, Egypt last week refused to serve as a mediator between Israel and Hamas to bargain for the release of dozens of Hamas leaders rounded up and arrested in the West Bank in recent weeks in response to the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers, one a dual Israeli-U.S. citizen.
Add to this mix Hamas’ inability to secure enough funds, either from the Palestinian Authority government or from Arab regimes, to pay its increasingly disenfranchised employees, militias and terror wing, and what’s left is an isolated, desperate organization that felt it needed to make a drastic move.
Even usual allies like Qatar, Turkey and Iran have been cool to Hamas’ overtures for financing.
Hamas believes it can use the rocket fire as a pressure tactic to bully Israel into a truce that reopens its borders, frees Hamas leaders arrested in the West Bank and sees money flowing once more from the PA and Arab countries.
The Gaza rulers are willing to take serious aerial bombardments to their infrastructure in return for the benefits of a truce.
Conditions for a cease fire include the lifting of restrictions on bringing materials into Gaza and an easing of the naval blockade around the Strip. Hamas also wants Egypt to temper the border controls and its military operations targeting Sinai-Gaza tunnels while granting Hamas a permanent official presence at the Rafah Border Crossing.
Israel is partially to blame for the Hamas belief it can achieve its strategic objectives through rocketing Israeli cities.
Following weeks of rocket barrages, the Jewish state in November 2012 agreed to a truce that, for a period at least, saw the Gaza borders reopen and the scaling back of Hamas’ international isolation.
During the height of the fighting in 2012, multiple Arab delegations from Sudan through the Arab League through even the U.S.-aided Iraqi government went on solidarity visits to Hamas in Gaza. That was not the diplomatic scene during previous Israeli operations in either Gaza or the Fatah-dominated West Bank.
After just two days of its current campaign, Lebanon, Qatar, NATO-member Turkey, and even Malaysia are rallying to Hamas’ side. On Wednesday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry called for the United Nations to take action against Israel.
With rockets raining on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will need to quickly decide whether to once again bargain with Hamas or launch a larger war against the group that exacts such a heavy price so that Hamas will learn terror will not be rewarded.