What is the 'limited calm' Israel expected with Gaza? – analysis

Dozens of rockets and explosive balloons and condoms have been launched to Israel since the IDF said to expect a 'limited calm.'

Palestinians protest against Deal of the Century Middle East peace plan in Gaza, Jan. 31, 2020 (photo credit: MOHAMMED SALEM/REUTERS)
Palestinians protest against Deal of the Century Middle East peace plan in Gaza, Jan. 31, 2020
It has been less than a month since the IDF’s annual intelligence estimate said Israel should expect limited calm from Hamas this year.
But with over a dozen rockets launched in a week, what does “limited calm” actually mean?
In early January, the IDF concluded that as long as the situation serves the interests of the terrorist group, Israel could expect a modicum of violence from Gaza in 2020.
The Intelligence Directorate noted in its assessment that Hamas is wary of war and instead made the strategic choice to work toward a long-term calm with Israel to maintain its grip on the blockaded coastal enclave.
After several weeks of quiet, the military publicly recommended to the political echelon to take significant steps to help relieve Gaza’s dire humanitarian situation.
In a speech at IDC Herzliya in December, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi said he recognized a “unique opportunity” in Gaza, adding that Hamas wants to improve the welfare of its citizens.
Israel, he said, is “in the process of assisting the Egyptians, within which we will facilitate civilian relief. This is the policy of the Israeli government, and I support it.”
Since then, a number of measures have been approved: the import of rubber tires, an increase in the number of entry permits for Gazan merchants, the sale of agricultural produce in Israel and, for the first time in five years, a shipment of cement, which Israel is concerned could be used by terrorist groups to build cross-border attack tunnels.
But since the measures were approved, dozens of rockets and countless explosive balloons and condoms have been landing across southern Israel, in agricultural fields, playgrounds and busy streets.
In response, Israel shut it all down on Saturday.
A senior Hamas official said the recent spate of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) launched from the Gaza Strip was a signal to Israel to accelerate the unofficial agreement between the two sides.
The unofficial agreement has been in the works for months, with leaks to the press saying significant progress has been made between the two foes thanks to Egyptian mediation.
But with all that progress, Hamas – in contrast to Israel – does not include the return of remains of IDF soldiers Lt. Hadar Goldin and St.-Sgt. Oron Shaul and the two detained Israeli civilians, Abera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, as part of the arrangement. Hamas also thinks Israel is not implementing all steps at the agreed-upon pace.
While the Islamists are not interested in a full military confrontation against the IDF, defense officials have said Hamas will not hesitate to fire rockets at Israel during short rounds of violence lasting no more than several days, similar to the 12 rounds seen over the past year.
Though the IDF has been responding to the rocket fire and the launching of IEDs by striking Hamas targets, there is little support for a major military campaign in Gaza.
The awful reality of residents in the South living through incoming rocket sirens and having IEDs land in their schoolyards is not enough to drive the government to another ground invasion, knowing full well that the status quo would likely remain the same – only that many mothers would have to bury their sons.
Israel has been able to get Hamas to crack down on those who launch the rockets and balloons in the past without a military campaign, albeit for a limited amount of time.
In his December speech, Kochavi said one of the military’s roles is to ensure there are periods without war.
“Winning wars isn’t enough,” he said. “We have to manage security in a way that doesn’t test the public every two or three years. We have to make sure we reach a decisive result that ensures there will be an interval of deterrence.”
And that is exactly what is going to happen if and when an agreement is signed between Israel and Hamas. The agreement will not bring peace to the two sides, but rather an extended interval of quiet.
But until the ink is dry, southern Israel will continue to explode.