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Photo by: REUTERS/Suhaib Salem
Would failed cease-fire push Israel to topple Hamas?
By YAAKOV LAPPIN
11/22/2012
Analysis: Operation Pillar of Defense was a message to Hamas.
 
The attempt at a cease-fire now under way is, in many ways, an experiment to see whether ideology can be trumped by deterrence. If the cease-fire does not hold, that would mean that Hamas cannot be deterred, or that it cannot control the other terror factions in Gaza, leaving open for Israel only the option of toppling the Hamas regime.

Since sweeping to power in a violent coup in 2007 in Gaza and ejecting Fatah, Hamas has clung tight to its fanatical ideology, cultivating a mass culture of jihad and death, and arming itself with thousands of Iranian long-range and medium-range rockets and other deadly weapons.

An indication of the indoctrination under way in Gaza can be found in a broadcast on Hamas’s Al-Aksa TV, which, in response to the Tel Aviv bus bombing, declared, “God willing, we will soon see body bags. The residents of Gaza are bowing down to Allah for this offering.”

While converting Gaza into a rocket-launching base, Hamas has gradually also entrenched itself as a regime, with all the trappings of a sovereign entity, including a domestic security force and government structures. It has attempted to strike a delicate balance between keeping its newfound power and maintaining its old terrorist ways.

At times, it targeted hundreds of thousands of Israelis with indiscriminate rocket attacks while at other times, Hamas made some attempts to reign in the other terror factions in Gaza, primarily Islamic Jihad, which receives its orders and weapons directly from Tehran, and smaller al-Qaida affiliated groups.

All of these radical violent factions have mushroomed in Hamas-run Gaza, as the enclave became a hornet’s nest of jihadi terrorism.

In recent months, Hamas, encouraged by the rise of its parent movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, in Egypt, had again taken the lead in launching rockets and deadly unprovoked cross-border raids on IDF patrols.

Operation Pillar of Defense was a message to Hamas, that it must choose between acting on its depraved ideology, or holding on to power. After more than 1,500 air strikes, 30 killings of senior Hamas operatives, and the loss of a major chunk of its rocket arsenal and command centers, Israel took the decision to stand back and see if the message has sunk in.

Senior IDF officials say Hamas has been shocked by the pounding it received, despite the public messages it is sending.

They believe the cease-fire has a decent chance of holding, but are far from convinced that this is the only outcome of the operation.

It is safe to assume that contingencies are in place in case the rockets start flying again. One of those contingencies must involve an extensive ground offensive into Gaza for the purpose of toppling the regime, a measure that would reverberate across the entire region.
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