Powder Keg in Gaza

(Washington Institute for Near East Policy) Michael Herzog - Hamas sees itself as an Islamic jihadist organization committed to Israel's destruction through "armed resistance." At the same time, Hamas has domestic and external responsibilities as a government. The scars of Israel's Operation Cast Lead in 2009 remain fresh in its mind, and Egypt has been pressing the group for restraint. With the loss of Syria as an anchor and the resulting rift with Iran, Hamas is even more dependent on Cairo and therefore more careful not to undermine relations with it. Cairo is now demanding that Hamas maintain better control over jihadists in Gaza, halt its cross-border activities in and through Sinai, and prevent escalation. Nearly four years after Cast Lead, it is clear to Israelis that their deterrence in Gaza is eroding. The rockets and mortars falling daily in southern Israel have been driving hundreds of thousands of people into shelters. Accordingly, Israeli forces have stepped up their pinpoint airstrikes against jihadist and Hamas targets in a bid to compel Hamas to impose a ceasefire on the other militant groups. The situation in Gaza is explosive, with Hamas and other armed groups lighting matches on the powder keg. Hamas should be made to understand that it is miscalculating Israel's willingness to continue taking fire and could face undesirable consequences, to the point of losing its hold on Gaza. The international community should use its leverage over key Hamas backers - namely Egypt, Turkey, and Qatar - to convince the group to clamp down on jihadists and enforce a ceasefire. Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Michael Herzog, a fellow of The Washington Institute, served as chief of staff to Israel's minister of defense.

2012-11-12 00:00:00

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