The latest round of air strikes and rocket volleys between Israel and Gaza could wind up being another setback for Hamas, the militant Palestinian group in Gaza whose funding, alliances, and political power of late are in decline, a Palestinian statehood advocate told Newsmax TV
"Sooner or later, there'll be a cease fire. The question is, does Hamas emerge with any benefit from it? Right now there's no sign of that," Hussein Ibish, senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP) in Washington, D.C., told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner.
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The latest violence, said Ibish, is the culmination of a "desperate" bid by Hamas to regain lost stature.
"Hamas found themselves in recent months in a terrible situation," said Ibish, "Shut down by Egypt entirely, unable to access money that was promised them by Qatar, the economy in freefall, high unpopularity for Hamas in Gaza, and growing irrelevancy."
"They're looking for a way to kind of break out of this box," he said.
So Hamas, according to Ibish, set in motion events — beginning with the kidnapping and murders of three Israeli teenagers
— that would guarantee another Israeli crackdown in the Palestinian territories.
In Hamas' calculation, an Israeli military campaign would in turn trigger a new uprising — an intifada — in another Palestinian enclave: the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Ibish explained that the West Bank is territory where Hamas craves but lacks influence, and has struggled to assert itself over the more moderate Palestinian Authority. By Hamas' reasoning, a West Bank in flames is more likely to sack the Palestinian Authority and embrace the violent radicals of Hamas as leaders.
Like a lot of things involving Hamas lately, It hasn't worked out that way.
"In spite of all the anger and instability and rage and whatnot, most Palestinians in the West Bank had no interest in another uprising against Israel," said Ibish. "And that's why it didn't happen. And that's why Hamas has kind of sunk back into this old pattern of rocket exchanges … where almost all of the death and major destruction is falling into Gaza."
Meanwhile, in Gaza, "people are increasingly fed up," not only with Israel but Hamas, said Ibish.
But Ibish said it would be premature to put an expiration date on Hamas.
"Hamas has a monopoly of weapons and the only people who challenge them politically are people even more to the religious right than them — Islamic Jihad and some even more extremist groups that are small but deadly," said Ibish.
For Israel, that makes Hamas the lesser evil.
"They [Israeli leaders] fear, and with all reason, that if Hamas went, something even more extreme might come up," said Ibish. " … So for them degrading Hamas is one thing, but actually getting rid of them entirely is something else. I don't think they want to do that, which is why they're doing this only remotely [with air strikes]."
Ibish said of the latest violence, "It's dangerous but it's contained."
"The Israelis are trying to secure their goals only through air power and not to re-enter Gaza [with troops]," he said.
The net effect, in the absence of a cease fire, could be a bloody stalemate, said Ibish.
"Really, neither side is likely to secure its aims through this set of attacks, and this can go on for quite a while without necessarily escalating any further," said Ibish. "It's very grim, but we may have hit a kind of a plateau for the next few days."
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