Hamas will certainly claim victory from having survived Israel’s latest onslaught and from striking fear into Israelis by firing missiles as far north as Tel Aviv, as well as advancing its strategic goal of lifting the blockade. But a truce that requires Hamas to enforce the peace with Israel also poses challenges to a movement that claims the mantle of “resistance.” While the smaller Iran-aligned Islamic Jihad in Gaza has signed on to the truce as well, Hamas will be forced to restrain Salafist groups– possibly even violently. That will be a test. Many of these militant organizaitons are composed of former Hamas fighters disillusioned by what they see as the movement’s abandonment of resistance.
There is another irony. Rather than marginalizing and isolating Hamas–a stated U.S. and Israeli goal–Israel’s operation “has only enhanced the centrality of that organization,” notes Council on Foreign Relations analyst Robert Danin. “That by-product is entirely consistent with Israel’s aim — to compel Hamas to take responsibility for developments in Gaza… Israel’s goal now is not to destroy Hamas, but to compel it to behave more responsibly and keep order in Gaza. Much of the mortar fire over the past year against southern Israel has been launched by groups more radical than Hamas. By holding Hamas responsible, Israel inadvertently bolsters Hamas’ standing and legitimacy as the ultimate power-broker and arbiter in Gaza.”
That opens interesting possibilities. If things are normalized in Gaza with Hamas in charge, Hamas effectively becomes a second Palestinian mini-statelet. Some Israelis believe that would be a very good idea.