It is no secret that Qatar and Turkey are very close to Hamas, the de facto ruler of the Gaza Strip, and that this trio’s relations with Egypt under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi are marred by tension, if not outright hostility. Previously, former President Mohammed Morsi, who led the Muslim Brotherhood project in Egypt, was the fourth complement of the trio. Iran is Hamas’s ally, and supplies it with rockets not because it is fond of the Muslim Brotherhood, but because it sees Hamas as an important part of its strategy of “resistance for the sake of one-upmanship” with the Palestinian Authority and its President Mahmoud Abbas, as well as other Arab governments. Iran converges with Qatar and Turkey in the desire to block Egypt’s bid to restore its leading regional role and anything that can help it restore the Arab weight in the regional balance of power, particularly since Egypt has the backing of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in this endeavor. Israel also converges with Iran and Turkey in their desire to exclude the Arab weight from the regional balance of power, and therefore does not want Egypt to regain the ability to have an exceptional Arab and regional leadership role. Developments related to the Egyptian initiative for ceasefire between Israel and Hamas and for negotiations over Gaza, in light of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad’s rejection of the initiative, no doubt have reasons related to Israel and its military machine that has killed more than two hundred civilians. But there are also reasons related to axes and their competition over positions not only in the traditional balance of power, but also over influence on militant groups, like the military wings of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad.
The problem in competing over mediation is that it will prolong the conflict, which has cost Palestinian civilians in Gaza heavily because of the Israeli bombardment of civilian sites where Israel accuses Hamas of embedding its rockets. Clearly, there can be no comparison between the limited damage of the rockets fired by the Izz al-Din al-Qassam – Hamas’s military wing – due the advanced Israeli anti-missile system, and the damage inflicted by the Israeli military machine, including killing hundreds and causing widespread devastation.
Israel and Hamas are caught in a predicament, no matter how much it may seem to them that they can achieve some kind of victory. Even if Israel destroys thousands of rockets and kills hundreds, Hamas would still have thousands more rockets, and Israel cannot kill the entire population of Gaza. And beyond Hamas’s attempt to boast of symbolic if not illusory victories in challenging the might of the Israeli military machine, Israel will remain a major military power capable of destroying Gaza's infrastructure, along with the destruction of half of the missile arsenal in Hamas’s possession.
What has Israel achieved during Operation Protective Edge? Of course, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was able to end his isolation locally and internationally, rallying behind him the U.S. Congress and the U.S. public opinion, which shows immediate bias in favor of Israel as soon as a rocket is launched at Israel. The European public opinion sympathizes more than its U.S. counterpart with the Palestinian victims, but European governments stand against Hamas’s rocket fire.
However, Israel needs Hamas, no matter how much it claims to be its arch-foe. For Israel, Hamas is the security valve that prevents more radical groups from emerging in Gaza. In doing so, Hamas resembles the Palestinian Authority in fulfilling its obligations in accordance with the agreements signed with Israel – i.e. security coordination to prevent extremists from reaching Israel. It is no secret that direct communications between Israel and Hamas had taken place repeatedly.
Israel’s dilemma is that it needs Hamas to prevent the arrival of groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to its doorstep, while at the same time, it insists on destroying Hamas’s military capabilities and infrastructure in Gaza, and toppling the national reconciliation government that included members from both Hamas and Fatah in the Palestinian Authority.
Hamas for its part has given ammunition to the Netanyahu government and the Israeli far right, including its political, pro-settler, and military components. On the one hand, Hamas understands that the Israeli right needs it to be very militant, and wants it to become even more militant, to use it as a ready pretext to justify its demographic schemes, namely, the forcible transfer of Palestinians from Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza to implement the project of Jordan as the Palestinians’ alternative homeland. On the other hand, Hamas fulfills the requirements of this project carelessly, while believing or claiming to be challenging it.
Perhaps Hamas can claim to have staged a comeback on the international media arena and in the collective Arab mind, which awakens when it sees the scenes of Israeli brutality against innocent civilians, and perhaps sees rockets launched against Israel as honorable resistance and strength. But the problem is that Hamas’s wager on automatic Arab sympathy is misplaced, and the Egyptian public opinion is the best example as it holds Hamas responsible. The problem is that this approach is costly for the Palestinians, as things will go back the way they were before without any achievement of victory to speak of.
Some may say that the third Gaza war should lead Israel to lift the siege on Gaza and end its arbitrary and punitive measures against the coastal enclave. This is something that Israel must indeed do; however, unfortunately, there is no sign that the United States and the international community plan to put pressure on Israel to end these practices. Instead, Hamas’s brandishing of its arsenal could increase sympathy with the Israeli blockade of Gaza, and herein lies the dilemma.
There are those who believe that Hamas would like it if Israel invades Gaza by land, as this would force the United Sates to intervene in earnest to find political solutions, and force the Arab countries to seriously revive their interest in Palestine.
Perhaps what Hamas wants most of all is to force Egypt to open the Rafah crossing to gain access to various kinds of aid, especially those that