Middle East authority Efraim Inbar, Shillman/Ginsburg Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, is director of its Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies. He briefed the Middle East Forum in a conference call on August 12, 2014.
Israel's goal in the current confrontation was to restore long term calm to its cities and villages by debilitating Hamas's terror infrastructure (or "mowing the grass" as this strategy is commonly known) through the destruction of its rocket launchers, production facilities and terror tunnels. While a temporary truce hangs in the balance, Israeli society, which overwhelmingly unified behind Operation Protective Edge, continues to be resilient and ready to carry on the fight against this deadly enemy. Should the Cairo negotiations collapse, the war will escalate and Israel will exact a higher price from Hamas.
While due to budgetary constraints untrained reservists lacked sufficient armored personnel carriers and anti-missile systems for tanks, Israeli soldiers prevailed in each encounter with Hamas fighters who were more combat-ready than in 2009. Likewise, Israeli troops, though untrained in subterranean military warfare, dealt effectively with the tunnel problem.
Egypt, a key regional actor pursuing its national interest, considers Hamas a terrorist organization and is likely to collaborate with Israel in curbing its military potential. President Sisi's recent visit to Moscow underscores Washington's misguided policy of seeking to involve Turkey and Qatar in ceasefire negotiations. Indeed, the Obama administration's estrangement from the Sisi regime may well restore the old Russian-Egyptian alliance, thus reversing four decades of close US-Egyptian collaboration established by Anwar Sadat and Henry Kissinger.
Hamas's unyielding demands in the Cairo negotiations indicate that the organization hasn't been hit hard enough. A hudna, temporary truce under Islamic law, is the most that even a weakened Hamas could entertain; and while the extent of Palestinian support for the organization makes its complete destruction unlikely, damaging its military wing by capturing and killing its leaders remains a viable option. Ensuring that Hamas's violence is unequivocally defeated is critical because any failure of Israel's deterrent posture will have wide ranging implications not only for Palestinian-Israeli relations but for the entire Middle East. Whichever side proves more resilient will win the third Gaza war.
Summary account by Marilyn Stern, Associate Fellow with the Middle East Forum