Israel can reoccupy the Strip if it decides to do so, and Hamas has rockets capable of reaching Tel Aviv. Nonetheless, neither side is eager to use its ace because of the heavy price it will have to pay. Also, neither side sees any clear gain in seriously escalating the situation.
However, an informal cease-fire, even if it is achieved, will be less stable than the situation that dominated relations between the two sides after Operation Cast Lead in early 2009. The control that Hamas exercises over the small Palestinian factions of militants in Gaza has weakened. Meanwhile, the group’s political wing has had a tough time influencing decision-making by the group’s military wing.
Because the situation remains tense, especially among the local cells of militants who hope to avenge the deaths of their comrades (more than 20 Palestinians were killed in the latest round of fighting ), there is the danger that continued rocket attacks will result in civilian casualties. This would automatically reignite the front.
If there had been funerals in Be’er Sheva and Ashkelon due to the Katyusha rockets fired at those cities – the ones that were intercepted by Iron Dome – Benjamin Netanyahu’s government would have been under tremendous public pressure to respond with a ground offensive.
Contrary to the confident rhetoric, the Israel Defense Forces has been very careful about using force in recent days. This too signals a lack of interest in a broad confrontation at this time.