The Gaza imbroglio
The Gaza imbroglio

At 5:19 a.m. on Monday, March 25, the sound of a loud explosion was heard in Israel, in the Sharon coastal plain community of Mishmeret. A rocket launched from southern Gaza's Rafiah area landed on a private home, injuring seven members of the Wolf family and killing their two dogs. Miraculously, the father heard the sirens and managed to get most of the family into the home's mandatory "protected space", saving their lives.

It does not take a fertile imagination to realize what would have happened had the family not made it to the protected space before the rocket landed on its home.

The attack brought on an Israeli response in the form of the bombing of tens of Hamas targets all over the Gaza Strip, including the private offices of Ismael Haniyeh. Several people were injured. Clearly, Israel did not respond as strongly as it is capable of doing, or there would have been a great number of people killed in Gaza.

Why was the rocket launched? There are one or more reasons:

1.  The activation of a mobile phone conversation scrambler in Israel's Ktziot Prison, preventing Hamas prisoners from telephone contact with their friends via phones smuggled into the prison.

2. The attack on wardens in Ktziot Prison on Sunday, March 24, as a reaction to their activating the scrambler, in which two wardens were injured.

3. A test launch of the new 120 kilometer range missile manufactured in Gaza.

4. An attempt to disrupt Netanyahu's US visit.

5. Disputes within Hamas between the military, political and administrative echelons.

The latest incidents once again bring to the fore the long list of Israel's dilemmas regarding Hamas:

First, should Israel destroy the Hamas government in Gaza completely or let it continue? There are a many good reasons for bringing the Hamas government to a final collapse:

1. The organization took over Gaza in June 2007 by means of horrendous violence directed at the Palestinian Authority security forces – whose members fled in fear to Israel.

2. Hamas is a terror organization running a dark dictatorship which tries to harm its tranquil neighbor Israel, although Israel has never initiated any aggressive measures towards it.

3. Hamas members believe that they are in a holy and eternal jihad against the Jewish State, so that there is no possibility whatsoever of their choosing to live peacefully beside Israel.

4. In the Hamas lexicon, the "occupied territories" comprise the entire the state of Israel, so that the only meaning to their expression "liberating Palestinian land" is the elimination of Israel.

5. Hamas does not differentiate between soldiers and civilians and actually aims at peaceful citizens, including women and children, giving Israel every right – and even the obligation – to destroy this murderous organization.

6. The organization shows no mercy to its own subjects: Just last week all of us saw the cruelty with which the Hamas security forces dispersed a peaceful demonstration of citizens protesting the high cost of living in the Strip.

7. Hamas is designated a terror organization the world over, and allowing it to remain in control of Gaza is, in effect, handing a state to a terror organization. This is a dangerous precedent that may repeat itself in Lebanon, where Hezbollah basically controls the country already. In the future there will be no lack of people who blame Israel for creating these terror states, although, in fact, Israel  is the main victim of Hamas and Hezbollah terror.

Hamas is designated a terror organization the world over, and allowing it to remain in control of Gaza is, in effect, handing a state to a terror organization. This is a dangerous precedent that may repeat itself in Lebanon...
On the other hand, there are quite a few reasons to avoid launching an operation to destroy Hamas:

1. Hamas won a democratic election in 2006 and its members have filled most of the seats in the Palestinian legislature since, so that its rule is legitimate.

2. Removing Hamas from the government will entail house-to-house fighting in order to take control of the entire Strip, and this may come at the cost of many IDF lives.

3. The Israeli public is not in favor of retaking the Strip because of the danger to IDF soldiers and also because it does not want to annex an area containing two million Arabs.

4. Bringing about the collapse of Hamas rule will force Israel to care for the Gaza Strip's population, from education to health concerns, from food to building supplies – and Israel has no interest in assuming responsibility for two million Gazans.

5. Hamas took apart the Palestinian Authority, justifying the claim of Israelis that there is "no partner" with whom to hold peace negotiations because whatever the PLO agrees to will  not be upheld by Hamas and vice versa.

6. Hamas rule in Gaza serves as a precedent for what can happen in Judea and Samaria, if a Palestinian Arab state is established there. This region can also fall victim to a terror organization, as occurred in the Gaza Strip in June 2007, so that a state is not feasible..

These reasons, in fact, allow one to say that Hamas rule in Gaza is good for Israel's interests, helping to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria.

The extreme tension between the reasons to eliminate Hamas and the reasons to let it continue to survive are the reason for Israel's hesitant response to the recent rockets rather than its engaging in a wide military operation. Israel tries to achieve quiet on a day by day basis by using the deterrence afforded by skirmishes and bombings that are intended to make it clear to the Hamas leadership that Israel is determined to defend itself at any price and will not allow any rockets, missiles or artillery to be launched against it without their paying a price.

Hamas, however, has found other ways to shatter Israel's tranquility and perhaps its nerves: Organizing demonstrations near the security fence and launching incendiary and explosive kites, balloons and gliders over towards Israel, taking advantage of the West winds that prevail along the fence, blowing from Gaza to Israel.  

In addition, they established the "nighttime disturbance unit" which disturbs  thousands of Israelis living in the Gaza Envelope and trying to get a normal night's sleep like everyone else in the world. These units – at best – set off bombs near the security fence, and at worst, attach them to the fence so as to injure IDF soldiers.

Hamas is trying to drag Israel into a strong reaction by its activities along the border fence. That will allow them to run to the UN, the Human Rights Council and to other international organizations to complain about Israel's malevolent deeds and present them as criminal, evil and sinful. Unfortunately, there are quite a number of people in the world – both Jewish and non-Jewish – who buy this stuff with their eyes closed and then join the BDS movement against Israel.

The real objective of the Gazans is a matter of debate in Israel's government:

1. Does the Gaza Strip have to remain under Hamas control or should it be under central Palestinian Authority control, probably emanating from Ramallah?

2. How should Israel respond to the rocket launchings? Kites? Balloons? Explosive balloons?  Is it permitted to kill a teen launching a set of balloons carrying explosives which are sure to kill anyone who gets near them?

These and other similar questions make it difficult for Israel's government to plan a coherent policy towards the Gaza Strip.

President Trump and the Golan Heights

I am sorry to spoil the party for some Israelis, including Netanyahu, but President Trump's recognition of Israeli sovereignty in the Golan does not create that sovereignty. The only legal way to annex the Golan under Israeli sovereignty is an agreement between Syria and Israel approving it and the UN Security Council's ratification of that agreement.

Trump's declaration has two significant points:

1. America's government, citizens and military will be able to visit the Golan legally without getting into trouble with American law. Firms, organizations and American citizens will be allowed to invest in businesses in the Golan or donate to its residents.

2. The US will be able to act publicly and politically in aid of Israel's demand to achieve sovereignty in the Golan, although Syria is free to refuse as it has done up to now.

That is why the joy expressed by Netanyahu and his friends over Trump's declaration was somewhat overdone and came before its time. The reason behind it was political, to help Netanyahu in the elections to be held in two weeks' time.

Written for Arutz Sheva, translated from Hebrew by Rochel Sylvetsky.