Israel shrugs at Hamas saying it will cancel Weekly Gaza riots - Analysis

The announcement did not lead the news broadcasts, which was dominated by weather news and Likud primaries.

Swastika hung next to Palestinian flag on Gaza border fence during March of Return June, 2018 (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
Swastika hung next to Palestinian flag on Gaza border fence during March of Return June, 2018
Hamas announced Thursday that it was suspending its weekly rioting along the Gaza border fence for three months, and that when these “protests” resume in March, they will be monthly, not weekly occurrences.
And the collective Israeli response was... a yawn.
The announcement did not lead news broadcasts, which was dominated by weather news and Likud primaries. Israelis in the communities near the Gaza Strip were interviewed and did not express relief. And parents of soldiers were not taking to the airwaves to give thanks, now that their sons and daughters would not have to face rioters week after week.
Aren’t Israelis pleased that the IDF will not have to confront – often with live fire – violent rioters hurling Molotov cocktails, firing rocks through slingshots and trying to cut through the fence protecting communities from possible terrorist infiltration?
Sure they are – but, they are also being realistic.
Hamas’s move reflects a tactical change on their part, not a strategic one. The organization realizes that the “Great March of Return” that began in March of 2018 has not achieved anything: Israel’s naval blockade is still in place – and there is no way in the world this type of activity is going to lead Israel to allow the “return” of Palestinians to their “ancestral homes,” which is one of the stated goals of the march.
So, what’s the point?
An AFP report in late October quoted the relative of someone killed in the riots, Alaa Hamdaan, 28, saying essentially the same thing. “Shame on you,” she screamed into a television camera, apparently addressing herself to Hamas’s leadership. “Every day ‘return, return, return [marches].’ You killed us with your return. What did we get from ‘return’? Tell us.”
The answer is very little – there were some pressures on Israel, some leverage, but not much else.
Almost two years later, Hamas has come to the conclusion that it can get more in terms of easing the blockade through arrangements being negotiated by Egyptian, UN and Qatari officials than through these protests. As a result they decided to “suspend” the protests.
In the beginning, the riots attracted tens of thousands of people and put the situation of Gaza – at least for a little while – back on the international agenda. But that was then, when the riots were novel. Now, fewer Palestinians are attending the riots that have achieved so little, and there is limited attention from around the world.
For most Israelis, the “Great March of Return” was just another tactic in the battle against the country, waged between full-blown wars – tactics that over the years have included hijackings, stabbings, intifadas, suicide bombings, katyushas, kassams, terror tunnels, inflammable balloons and, most recently, the weekly riots on the Gaza border. Same goal, different tactic.
A resilient country, Israelis have proven the ability to withstand each Palestinian tactic, but have no delusions that the passing of one tactic means that the goals have changed. Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, in a speech he delivered Wednesday at IDC in Herzliya, made an interesting distinction between having a sense of security and security itself. “The role of the army is not only to provide security,” he said. “The role of the army is also to provide a sense of security.”
The situation facing the residents living near the Gaza border was a good example of the difference between the two, he elaborated. “We are providing security in [the communities near] the Gaza Strip. We are shooting down, in the majority of cases, most of the rockets; we are stopping on almost a monthly basis infiltration attempts; we dramatically brought down the number of fires [caused by inflatable balloons] over the last year,” he said.
But with that, he added, “every time a Code Red siren pierces the quiet – or a party, or a holiday or Friday night – the feeling is one that there is not enough security. I differentiate between security and the sense of security.”
The cessation of the Gaza protests removes, even if temporarily, a thorn in the side of the IDF that had to deal with them on a weekly basis, but it is unlikely to restore a sense of security to residents who live near the Gaza fence.
Why not? Because it was not the weekly riots that created that sense of insecurity. The riots don’t help – but the source of that insecurity is the rockets from Gaza, and the Code Red sirens in their wake that send people scampering to safe rooms. And that, unfortunately, is not going to end with the cessation of the weekly riots.
The rocket fire from Gaza – as was made evident Wednesday night when a rocket was fired as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed a campaign rally – is not about to just magically cease. There are powerful forces in the region, such as Iran – which is behind Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the group apparently responsible for Wednesdays night’s rocket, who forever want instability and lack of security to reign here, and who have the ability to ignite the situation when it suits their needs.
Is it good that the IDF will not have to deal with these violent protests along the Gaza fence every week?
Is it cause of celebration, or a sign that peace and quiet is descending on the South?
Most Israelis – who have long experience with this – harbor no such illusions.