Analysis: Hamas unyielding on core demands; conflict to continue

According to military intelligence evaluations, Hamas is interested in using indiscriminate rocket and mortar fire as pressure lever on Israel.

Smoke trails are seen as rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Smoke trails are seen as rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
On the 47th day of the war, Hamas has not rolled back any of its core demands for Israel to lift the security blockade around Gaza and to facilitate the construction of a seaport, and there are no signs on the ground that Hamas is about to soften its position.
Most of the firepower Hamas deployed over the weekend was based on short-range projectiles, of which it is believed that fewer than 3,000 remain, as well as several dozen medium- range rockets that can be used to target greater Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. It did just that on Saturday night, to prove that it can continue to terrorize millions of Israelis at will despite a summer of war.
If it paces itself correctly, Hamas can continue firing projectiles over a lengthy period. According to evaluations in Military Intelligence, Hamas is interested in using its indiscriminate rocket and mortar fire as a pressure lever on Israel, to get Jerusalem to acquiesce to its core demands.
That goal appears to be utterly fanciful, in light of the fact that the majority of Hamas’s demands would, if reached, allow it to rearm rapidly, and pose an even bigger security threat in the future.
The Izzadin Kassam Brigades, hurt by Israel’s recent targeting of its senior leaders, remains highly functional and may be weighing additional forms of terrorism to increase the pressure on Israel.
In Gaza, the public is too frightened to speak up against Hamas, despite the fact that more than 300,000 Gazans remain internally displaced.
Nevertheless, Hamas fears the prospect of ending the war with an arrangement that lacks tangible benefits, not only for its own interests, but also for the civilian-economic interests of ordinary Gazans.
Such an outcome would naturally undermine its position as the ruler of Gaza and raise questions among Gazans over the point of launching a war with Israel to begin with.
Additionally, Hamas does not wish to allow any arrangement to strengthen the Palestinian Authority in Gaza, a development that would threaten it hold over its home turf.
As a result, there is no movement on the diplomatic front, and those who hold on to the hope that Hamas may show last-minute flexibility and accept a reasonable package deal to end the conflict appear to be clutching at straws.
Even if Military Intelligence’s assessment that Hamas wishes to end the conflict is correct, the fact that the Islamist movement cannot deescalate on terms that would make sense for Israel means the conflict is set to continue.
The one thing that Hamas does not want is a large-scale Israeli ground offensive into Gaza, which would threaten its regime.
Israel too has, by its actions this summer, made it plain that it seeks to avoid this option. But with no diplomatic solution in sight, it is difficult to envisage another outcome.
The current situation, a war of attrition, has resulted in the renewed evacuation of villages bordering the Strip, and, despite the effectiveness of the Iron Dome anti-rocket system, 47 days of war are taking their toll on the resilience of the Israeli public.
From the public’s perspective, a war of attrition would, it seems, be the least attractive path.