Hamas is not going to give up its dream of an Islamic state in place of Israel. It is not going to become ‘moderate’, it is not going to be controlled by a satellite Palestinian Authority, and it is fully focused on war:
“In the two years since the IDF left the Philadelphi Corridor (along the border between Gaza and Egypt), Hamas has leapt forward by a generation,” a senior IDF officer said in a briefing.
The relative quiet in Gaza in the past month has been maintained by Hamas only in order to be able to build up its forces and arsenal more easily, he said. “Sooner rather than later, there will be Katyusha rockets in Gaza. If they already possess missiles 115 mm in diameter, Katyushas are only a matter of time.”
Hamas has built a de facto army, the officer added, noting that their forces number from 12,000 to 13,000, with a clear command structure and training regime.
“Hamas already has four trained divisions… It also has forces specializing in various types of combat. An additional element is the hundreds of operatives traveling to Iran in order to acquire new (military) knowledge to bring back to Gaza.” — YNet
Since Israel gave up control of the border between Gaza and Egypt, the flow of weapons and explosives to Hamas has been massive. The international boycott of Hamas has not prevented Iran and Syria (and possibly other Arab states) from building up Hamas’ fighting ability, even while civilians suffer shortages. Hamas has been building fortifications like those in South Lebanon, and may also have antiaircraft and antitank weapons.
This situation cannot get better by itself, and it cannot be solved by any imaginable diplomatic activity. Every day Hamas gets stronger. And it’s impossible to consider Hamas in isolation: when war comes it may also involve Hezbollah, which has not been sitting still either.
We should also keep in mind that at some point, the Fatah army being built in the West Bank by the ill-conceived US plan to “bolster” the Palestinian authority will become a threat.
And I haven’t mentioned the Iranian threat to provide a nuclear umbrella to protect Hamas and Hezbollah. How much time is left before this becomes a deterrent?
Israelis really hate war and the idea of war, despite the propaganda coming daily from their enemies. But if war is inevitable, then it’s best to fight at a time and place of one’s choosing, and to have the advantage of surprise (as in 1967).
Israel needs time to correct the problems in the army and in “home front” defense that were made apparent in the war last summer. Israel must also find a way to deter Hezbollah and other forces from joining the fight, or neutralizing them if they do. But the time available is not unlimited.
Let’s hope Israel’s leadership is thinking in these terms.