[GS] with bulldozers.” For his part, Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said that “sooner or later” another GS war will be launched, and that it will be “swift and painful.”
Therefore, tension increased due to this escalatory tone that was coupled with some Israeli provocations which prompted the resistance factions to retaliate. A report issued by Israel Security Agency showed that 30 Palestinian military operations were launched from GS during December 2011 compared to 11 in November of the same year. This, accordingly, revived the idea of launching an Israeli war against GS.
The Israeli Justifications for Launching a War on the GS
1. Israel’s discomfort with Hamas persistent control of the GS. For Hamas is an enemy that does not recognize Israel and is against the peace process.
2. Hamas and other Palestinian factions’ continuous rearmament and accumulation of weapons and ordnance.
3. The continued threat of rockets from GS which has a negative impact on the security of around a million Israelis in the vicinity of GS and on the possibility of building a stable economic life.
The Israeli Justifications for Maintaining the Status Quo
1. The disruption of the peace process due to Israel’s refusal to stop settlement building activity, which is considered a violation of the conditions of the PLO, the PA and the Quartet. This has also weakened Israel’s relation with the PA and led to its isolation on the international level. Ultimately, any war launched by Israel would exacerbate its position. Thus, Israel wants a breakthrough in the peace process, where Mahmud ‘Abbas would return to the negotiating table.
2. The overthrow of the Hamas-led government in the GS and the consequent transfer of power to the PA in Ramallah might not be desirable in the current stage. In fact, Israel still favors the Palestinian schism and seeks to undermine reconciliation in order to impose its conditions on the Palestinian side or to claim that there is no unified side which represents all the Palestinians.
3. There is no justification for war in the current time since there is no real threat given the lull which prevailed since Operation Cast Lead. This is clear from the number of rockets and mortar shells launched from the GS, where Israel counted 680 during 2011 compared to 3720 in 2008 prior to Operation Cast Lead although the latter year witnessed a six-month truce. In addition, there was an average of 50-70 daily rockets launched after the end of the truce.
4. The continued GS siege and the failing attempts to break it. Israel maintains land and maritime restrictions on GS coupled with the Egyptian restrictions on the Rafah crossing.
5. The relative success achieved by the Iron Dome in intercepting Palestinian rockets. The Israeli army reported 75% success of the system during the escalation period at the end of 2011.
6. The lack of an Arab environment suitable for war in light of regime change in some countries including Egypt. Thus, the resort to war by Israel might lead Islamic trends to unite their efforts to serve the Palestinian cause and the resistance factions especially Hamas, a development which Israel strongly fears.
7. The lack of international environment suitable for war as the US administration is busy with the attempts to rearrange its priorities in the region, particularly after pulling out its troops from Iraq. In addition, the US is busy with the preparations for presidential elections and the attempts to overcome its economic crisis.
The Palestinian Conduct
After operation Cast Lead, most of the Palestinian factions were committed to calm with Israel. Despite Hamas’ control of GS, the movement did not want, and perhaps was not able, to prevent some factions from retaliating to Israeli assassinations. Besides, there are some small groups which cannot be controlled. Their conduct may lead to a mutual military escalation but it has not developed to a war yet.
The calm environment in GS allows the military factions, especially Hamas, to develop their capabilities and focus on breaking the siege and the reconstruction of GS. Further, the popular and factional atmosphere in GS does not want to rush into paying prices for another war without tangible results on the ground.
It seems that the Palestinian side, especially Hamas which is directly involved in the administration of GS and whose military readiness is mainly of defensive nature, is unwilling to go to a war which seems to bring more harm than good at the current stage.
Based on the above, it is not likely for Israel to wage an all-out war on GS or reoccupy a part of it in the foreseeable future. Apparently, such a step would conflict with other political and tactical calculations not to mention the lack of domestic, regional and international environment. Therefore, the possible scenario is for Israel to proceed with launching limited strikes on GS and to limit the impact of missiles on the settlements and cities through the use of the Iron Dome system.
Al-Zaytouna Centre thanks Wael Sa’ad for authoring the original text on which this Strategic Assessment was based.
The Arabic version of this Assessment was published on 11/2/2012.