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The Israel-Hamas War and the Suicide Strategy: How Arab Forces Expect to Launch Losing Wars and Still Win

True, there is a higher level of civilian panic about rockets and missiles. This is quite understandable in the areas being hit; less so in other places. Yet that won’t bring any significant pressure for Israel to give up and declare defeat, especially as Hamas runs out of things to shoot at Israel’s civilians.

-- There are now so many issues in the Middle East—more of them simultaneously than at any time in living memory--that they distract both international and regional attention from the Hamas-Israel war. The Arab-Israeli and even the Israel-Palestinian conflict can hardly be said with a straight face to be the core or major issue in the region.

-- The “Arab Spring” may help Hamas a lot in the long run but not in the short run. Hamas tried the old PLO gimmick of starting a war with Israel as a way to force Arab regimes to do what you want. This didn’t always work for the PLO. Given Syria and Iraq being out of the conflict due to a priority on internal issues, the potential base for this strategy has been weakened.

Iran is far away, though it can send rocket and missile motors; Jordan doesn’t want trouble; and Lebanon, even though dominated by Hizballah, is now on the Shia side and on the verge of a new civil war of its own.

-- Egypt, of course, is Hamas’s great hope. Yet the Hamas leaders should have listened to their counterparts in Cairo who do not want a confrontation right now. The Muslim Brotherhood has not consolidated its power. The status of parliament is unclear, the constitution has not yet been approved, and the army is not yet fully under the regime’s thumb. Of special importance is the Islamist regime’s effort to finalize around $10 billion in aid from the European Union, United States, and International Monetary Fund.

Thus, while Egypt’s new rulers love Hamas, they don’t love it enough to do more than issue passionate statements. On the contrary, Egypt and perennial troublemaker Qatar want the fighting to end.

Hamas is free to ignore its allies and go on shooting rockets, missiles, and mortars at Israeli civilians. It can hope, with good reason, that the West will stop an Israeli ground operation. And Hamas can certainly expect to survive the war no matter how badly it loses and how much damage its policies inflict on Gaza’s people. Hoping that it will be even more popular—a gambit that has often worked in the past—may be too much of a stretch this time.

Yet the gains Hamas can make by trying to force Israel to bomb it are less than the Hamas leadership expects. Even many people in the West seem to be catching on to the masquerade of staging aggression and then pretending to be the victim. Some may comprehend that it is Hamas that is responsible for the suffering of Gaza’s people even if they aren’t prepared to do anything about it by bringing to an end a regime that seized power in a violent coup, wages a war without end, preaches genocide against its neighbor, forces all Christians to flee, represses dissent, turns women into chattel, and trains children to be suicide bombers. It is possible, though, that Western regimes will try to do something that will bring about an effective ceasefire for a few years.