Amidst Israel’s overwhelming victory in Operation Protective Edge, the Hamas regime in Gaza is showing signs of vulnerability. On Tuesday, the Times of Israel, citing Israeli media sources, reported that Hamas police had killed two Palestinians who protested over food coupons, and also that Hamas had executed twenty anti-war protestors. The fact that there were anti-war protests at all is a remarkable development in totalitarian Gaza.
What may be motivating Palestinians to begin to push back is not just frustration with being used as human shields, but outrage at being lied to about the war’s progress. Throughout the conflict, Hamas has claimed to be winning, but the people of Gaza know that is untrue. They are also, perhaps, waking up to the fact that the regime that tells them to sacrifice their lives has enriched itself from their suffering and is in hiding or in exile.
If the rumblings of revolt are not just false echoes of Israeli hopes, then it is possible that Israel could topple Hamas without actually having to do the hard fighting. Hamas could be overthrown by an “Arab Spring” truly worthy of the name, or–perhaps more likely–by a rival extremist group, such as Iran-supported Islamic Jihad. That would not mean an end to the security threat posed by Gaza, but would help Israel manage it for a while.
Perhaps Israel’s government senses just such an opportunity–which further Israeli strikes could undo. That may explain why Netanyahu, while talking about a long conflict, is signaling renewed interest in a ceasefire–and tamping down hawkish members of his coalition. He also has a chance to help the U.S. save face–and he knows the strategic threat posed by Hamas’s backers (Turkey, Qatar and Iran) is too big to solve in this war.