Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Israel-Hamas - What the bus bombing means

Today's bomb attack on an Israeli civilian bus, apparently conducted by the Al-Asqa martyrs brigade, will weaken the short term prospects for a peace deal. That Al Asqa would conduct such an attack suggests the group is concerned with Hamas taking ownership of 'the resistance'. Al Asqa's links to the Fatah movement of President Abbas further accentuate my impression that there is a Palestinian political motivation behind this attack, as much as there is an anti-Israel component. As I have argued over the past few days (please see previous posts), Israel does not want a cease fire that has little durable meaning and power. Hamas does not want to be seen as weak, but also neither can continue to suffer such significant military losses. Fatah does not want to be seen as an impotent bystander. There is little question that Israel retains the upper hand with negotiations. The IDF is degrading Hamas power infrastructure and is thus affording a great deal of flexibility for Netanyahu's policy options. Israel can demand major concessions from Hamas as a condition for peace-expect a final cease fire to address Israeli concerns over Hamas smuggling operations from Egypt into Gaza.

In conclusion, I expect that today's bus bombing will cause an escalation in near term violence but that Hamas will ultimately make greater concessions over the next few days- leading to a cease fire. Hamas cannot continue to absorb the damage that they are suffering.

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