Two factors pushed Hamas to ramp up its bombing campaign: belief that its strategic environment had improved in the wake of the Arab Spring and competition from Salafi groups.
With Israel and Hamas once again locked in a shooting war, it's time to think about what a more sustainable ceasefire might look like.
The latest round of fighting in Gaza gave Hamas room to paper over growing rifts between its Gaza-based leadership and its leadership in exile. But eventually the group will need to resolve internal disputes over working with Iran, working with Arab capitals, and negotiating with Israel -- or face decline.
An Israeli mobile cannon, seen after it was transported to an area just outside the Gaza Strip. (Amir Cohen / Courtesy Reuters)
Israel's latest campaign in Gaza, which began on Wednesday with the killing of Hamas' military commander, Ahmed Jabari, and air strikes on the group's long-range rocket launchers, is a gamble -- and one that Israel might lose. Its goal is to compel Hamas to stop shooting rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip and to crack down on other groups who are also doing so. Hamas, however, will find it hard to bend to Israeli pressure. In turn, it will be up to outside states, particularly Egypt, to foster a deal to end the fighting.
After Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli incursion into Gaza in 2008-2009 that resulted in over 1,000 Palestinian deaths and tremendous destruction, relations between Hamas and Israel wavered uneasily between hostility and tacit cooperation. True, Hamas' rhetoric toward Israel remained hostile, but the number of rockets that went over the border plunged and most of them were launched not by Hamas, but by more radical groups such as Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas feared that launching large numbers of rockets would prompt Israel to again retaliate harshly and devastate Gaza, thus jeopardizing Hamas' political position there. At times, the group even tried to restrain its uncomfortable bedfellows. Indeed, although Hamas and Israel would both deny it, their interests were often aligned. As Aluf Benn, one of Israel's leading analysts, put it after Jabari's death, "Ahmed Jabari was a subcontractor, in charge of maintaining Israel's security in Gaza."