The unlikeliest peace: Why Hamas and Israel have mostly stopped fighting

In some ways, Israel might prefer for Hamas to control Gaza (for the moment, anyway) simply because, from the Israeli perspective, the likely alternatives are far worse. These includes the “opposition organizations,” a number of radical groups such as the Iran-backed Islamic Jihad, other smaller Jihadist groups, and the Popular Resistance Committees, an umbrella of several Palestinian militant factions. Hamas’s biggest goal within Gaza right now is to consolidate its rule through improved economic growth, rule of law, and hegemony over the conflict with Israel. But the opposition organizations have no clear political or social platforms. Militants often challenge Hamas’ authority by attacking Israel from Gaza or from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, where lawlessness has drastically increased since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak last February…

Hamas seems to have little interest in escalating with Israel, either. Previous escalations have cost the movement men and vital infrastructure, including weapons caches and smuggling tunnels. Over the past year, excepting of course this recent attack, Hamas did not actively participate in fighting, and negotiated with the opposition organizations to stop violence that could have dragged Gaza into self-perpetuating conflict. Hamas’ conduct seems to reflect a new strategy of its own: no to initiating attacks against Israel; yes to checked retaliation and only if Israel attacks first. (Again, this recent attack was an exception.) Hamas even established a special unit to prevent members of the opposition organizations from shooting rockets into Israel. The Qūwat Dabt Al-Maydaan (Field Control Force) mandates the arrest or shooting of any militant who violates this order. Considering Hamas’ own reputation of launching thousands of such rockets in the past decade, its new official measures to not just stop its own shelling of Israel but to aggressively deter others suggests that its leaders’ understand that maintaining a calm border advances Hamas’ goal of consolidating rule in Gaza.

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