The storm before the storm 

Source: The storm before the storm – Israel Hayom

Prof. Eyal Zisser

It did not take long for Hamas and Islamic Jihad to ‎deny any involvement in Wednesday’s rocket fire on ‎Israel, and the two Gaza Strip-based groups rushed ‎to express their commitment to Egypt’s efforts to ‎broker a cease-fire between Israel and Gaza. ‎

Hamas could be lying – it wouldn’t be the first time ‎‎– and its operatives may have been the one to fire ‎two Grad rockets at Beersheba and central Israel. At ‎the very least, Hamas probably encourage the rogue ‎groups in Gaza to fire on Israel. ‎

One must remember that while Hamas has no real ‎interest in provoking a full-fledged war with ‎Israel, it has every interest in improving its ‎position in the Egyptian-led mediation and maybe ‎even forcing Israel to accept a reality in which ‎sporadic rocket fire is a part of any future deal in ‎Gaza.‎

What is particularly troubling, however, is the ‎possibility that Hamas had nothing to do with ‎Wednesday’s rocket fire and that the attack was ‎mounted contrary to its direct orders.‎

This would mean that Hamas has lost its notorious ‎iron grip on the situation on the ground in Gaza. ‎Moreover, it would mean that any deal Israel signs ‎with it may not be worth the paper it is written on, ‎as it will not guarantee any calm on the border. ‎

Achieving some form of quiet on the border is a ‎prominent Israeli interest, as it wants to focus its ‎attention on the northern sector, where efforts to ‎curtail Iran’s attempts to cement its presence in ‎Syria and curb Hezbollah are paramount.‎

Iran, we must remember, is the only one that stands ‎to gain from a conflagration in Gaza, as it would ‎divert everyone’s attention from what it is doing in ‎Syria and what it is trying to do in the region.‎

Reaching a cease-fire is also in Hamas’ interest, as ‎it would grant it legitimization and all but ‎guarantee that it will rule Gaza for many years to come. ‎This is why Israel must ensure that in return to any ‎concessions offered Hamas, it would be guaranteed ‎absolute calm on the border. ‎

Israel will most likely choose to contain ‎Wednesday’s incident both because it did not result ‎in fatalities and over Hamas’ denouncing it. ‎But this does not bode well for the efforts to ‎achieve a cease-fire, as one cannot survive if one ‎of the parties involved has no intention of meeting ‎it. ‎It is important that Israel not lose sight of this ‎when it comes to the Gaza Strip, but also when it ‎comes to Judea and Samaria. ‎

The Trump administration is gearing up to present ‎the “deal of the century,” for the Israeli-‎Palestinian conflict, which would undoubtedly ‎require not only Israeli concessions but also a ‎demand to contain and tolerate the Palestinian ‎Authority’s incompetent counterterrorism efforts. ‎

Experience, however, has taught us that any deal ‎that does not guarantee security will not last.

Eyal Zisser is a lecturer in the Middle East History Department at Tel Aviv University.

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