As soon as the 11-day Israeli war on Gaza ended in May, preparations began in Israel and in the Strip for a new confrontation. It was clear from the start that the ceasefire brokered by Egypt was fragile and might not last long. The temporary truce was concluded under pressure from the United States, but it did not resolve the most pressing issues between the two parties. As a result, the conflict between Israel and Hamas could easily be reignited in the near future.
From a Palestinian point of view, the sponsors of the ceasefire did nothing to stop the Israeli aggression on Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque, which provoked Palestinian anger and ultimately led to Hamas firing rockets on May 10. In occupied Jerusalem, as well as the incursions of Israeli settlers continued under Israeli security protection for the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound where the mosque is located.
Despite international pressure on the Israeli government to stop these raids on Islam’s third holiest site, it has continued to enable it. One of the main reasons for this is its fragility. The new Israeli government is an uneasy coalition of disparate political forces that is now under fierce political attacks by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after he was ousted from power. Facing accusations of being a “leftist,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett intends to prove his right-wing credentials and will not risk angering the Israeli settler community or the Israeli far right by halting raids on Al-Aqsa.
The same applies to the forced eviction of Palestinians from their homes in occupied Jerusalem. Ethnic cleansing of the city of its Palestinian residents and making it Jews-only has been a top priority of the Israeli far right for decades. Bennett likely feared that putting an end to these crimes would destabilize his alliance. This ongoing violence against Palestinians and the violation of Al-Aqsa could lead to another conflict if left unaddressed.
From the Israeli point of view, it was difficult to accept Hamas, which emerged as the victorious party in the eleven-day war. Hamas rockets fired at Israel were welcomed by Palestinians throughout historic Palestine, not just Gaza, and increased support for the movement. This caused great frustration in the ranks of the Israeli army and it is likely that its leadership will pay to allow even the outcome and polish its tarnished image.
Meanwhile, to counter the growing popularity of Hamas, Israel intensified its blockade of Gaza, closed the crossings to the Strip, restricted the entry of aid and the export and import of foodstuffs, and reduced the supply of electricity.
As a result, the humanitarian situation in Gaza has deteriorated dramatically. As the Palestinians in the Strip face worsening conditions, they are increasingly putting pressure on Hamas to provide for their needs. But Hamas has no answer to these legitimate humanitarian demands. If it finds itself in this difficult situation, Hamas may try to export its internal crisis to Israel through another round of hostilities.
One of the important economic issues that Hamas seems unlikely to give up is the monthly financial grant provided by Qatar since October 2018, after the movement and Israel reached an understanding under the auspices of Qatar, Egypt and the United Nations.
As part of this deal, Doha sends $30 million per month distributed across several economic sectors in Gaza, including the transfer of $100 at the beginning of each month to tens of thousands of Palestinian families. The money given to Gazans helps revive the Strip’s economy and mitigate the effects of the Israeli blockade.
Israel and the United States pushed for the termination of the Qatari cash grant and proposed to exchange it for purchase vouchers of the same cash value. This proposal was categorically rejected by Hamas, because it understands that many Gazans live on these cash grants and that their loss will likely lead to an explosive situation in the Strip.
There also appears to be an impasse regarding another issue: the prisoner exchange. Although there has been talk for some time that such a deal is imminent, there are serious disagreements that have led to the failure of indirect negotiations. This is another problem that could reignite hostilities between the two sides.
For its part, Hamas has expressed its desire to exploit any military confrontation with Israel to increase the number of Israeli soldiers it has captured to gain more influence and the ability to replace them with more Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.
While the forces pushing for a new conflict are significant, there are some factors that have so far prevented another war in Gaza.
First, the same reason that keeps the new Israeli government’s hands tied in its raids on Al-Aqsa and the forced eviction of Palestinian Jerusalemites from their homes – its fragility – also prevents it from launching another attack on Gaza. If it were to, one of its coalition partners – the Palestinian Ra’am Party – would likely withdraw its support. Others may also abandon the ship if Hamas’ retaliation is successful, especially if it manages to strike the Israeli interior.
For this reason – at least for the time being – the new government prefers to engage in indirect talks with Hamas, raise its negotiating demands, and engage in brinkmanship without necessarily falling into a direct confrontation.
Second, Hamas realizes that both its fighters and Gaza civilians may not be able to survive another Israeli campaign of mass destruction. As soon as he got out of the last war, his armed wing began to restore its military capabilities, but it was clear that his fighters needed a “break”. Given the difficult humanitarian situation in the Strip, its residents are severely exhausted from the war.
Awareness of “conflict fatigue” among Palestinians in Gaza was evident in Hamas’ response to the march organized by settlers through occupied Jerusalem after the new Israeli government took power.
Instead of a military response to the march, as happened last Ramadan, Hamas contented itself with denouncing it.
Third, the United States does not want to see any confrontations in the Palestinian territories. In May, it sent its envoys to the region to pressure all parties to abide by the ceasefire so that there would be no new hostilities while trying to conclude a nuclear deal with Iran. The United States also wants calm in the region because it needs to devote itself to its confrontations with China and Russia.
Although these factors have so far prevented another conflict between Israel and Hamas, the situation is unstable and unpredictable. At any time, each side’s calculus could change and the benefits of another war could be seen as greater than adherence to the current ceasefire. A more permanent truce will not be reached until the major outstanding issues between Israel and Hamas are resolved.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.