By John Solomou
Nicosia [Cyprus], August 15 (ANI): Israel's three-day "Operation Breaking Dawn" in Gaza was unleashed on August 5 against the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) - in which 49 Palestinians, including 14 militants and 17 children were killed and hundreds were wounded, while PIJ responded by firing more than a thousand rockets and mortars against Israel but without causing any casualties- ended in an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire. It appears that, because of the offensive, both Hamas which rules Gaza, and Israeli caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid emerged as winners, while the PIJ and the Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas ruling the West Bank were the losers.
The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) has struck more than 200 Islamic Jihad targets and killed Taysir al-Jabari and Khaled Mansur, PIJ's top commanders in northern Gaza and Southern Gaza, respectively. As other leaders of the Islamic Jihad had been arrested earlier, and as the PIJ has fired most of the rockets in its arsenal, it is expected to need some months to reorganize itself, manufacture hundreds of new rockets,, and replace the military commanders it has lost.
It should be mentioned that IDF claims that several PIJ rockets misfired and have killed more than a dozen persons, including children, in the latest offensive.
The fact that Hamas did not join the fray and only verbally condemned the Israeli offensive, allowed the IDF to carry out a short, targeted campaign against the Islamic Jihad and decapitate the organization, without causing great casualties or considerable damage to Palestinian infrastructure.
With the Palestinian Islamic Jihad considerably weakened, Hamas will be in a better position to control the Gaza strip and avoid unnecessary escalation moves with Israel. Thus will not risk Israeli retaliation for attacks carried out by members of the Islamic Jihad. Such attacks, apart from causing loss of life, invariably destroy Gaza's infrastructure, which Hamas finds quite difficult to replace, due to lack of money or the necessary materials.
From now on Islamic Jihad will find it harder to disobey Hamas and launch a new round of violence against Israel from Gaza on its own. Hamas must be secretly happy with the fact that its main (although much smaller) rival in Gaza has been substantially weakened.
Another reason why Hamas stayed out of the conflict is that just before the IDF operation started, Israel delivered to Hamas the message that "Operation Breaking Dawn" was not directed against the movement. It urged Hamas not to join Islamic Jihad in the fighting and in exchange Israel would not attack Hamas' positions inside Gaza.
Obviously, Hamas realizes that it must avoid unnecessary confrontation with Israel if the Jewish state is to allow the transfer of money to pay salaries and if it wants more Gaza inhabitants to secure permits to work in Israel. Moreover, it is essential for it to keep funds from Qatar flowing so as to keep its administration running and rebuild Gaza's destroyed infrastructure.
One of the tangible benefits for Hamas for staying out of the conflict was that Israel removed all the restrictions it imposed on Gaza just before the operation, allowed the entry of Gazan workers into Israel and renewed the movement of goods.
According to a report on Hamas' website, Ismail Haniyeh, head of Hamas' political bureau, through the Egyptian intelligence services and the Qatari Foreign Minister, had contacts with Egypt and Qatar and also spoke with the United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Tor Wennesland. Apparently, the object of the talks revolved around a ceasefire.
Another winner from the successful operation against PIJ is the caretaker Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who was accused by Likud and the right-wing parties as inexperienced in military matters and not tough enough to face Palestinian "terrorist attacks".
In four polls published last week, Lapid's Yesh Atid party will get in the forthcoming elections 23.5 seats in the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament) up 1.5 from the previous week. In the latest poll, the gap between Netanyahu's Likud party and Yesh Atid was down to just eight seats, with Yesh Atid's getting 25 seats, its best performance in four years.
Although Benjamin Netanyahu still leads the polls as best in the role of Prime Minister with 42 percent of those polled, after the successful operation against PIJ, Lapid has managed to narrow the gap with 31 percent.
However, he may find it quite difficult to succeed in forming a government if given the mandate to do so by the Israeli President, as Meretz, one of the parties with which he formed the previous coalition government, has failed to pass the 3.25 threshold and even the Labor party may also fail to pass the threshold.
Now, in addition to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, one of the major losers in the recent conflict was the Palestinian Authority (PA) which rules the West Bank. The PA, under President Mahmoud Abbas, has not done anything in this and other recent conflicts between Israel and Palestinian groups and is becoming increasingly irrelevant.
Mahmud Abbas has been losing his influence as representative of the Palestinian people and has been exercising less and less control over parts of the West Bank, particularly the refugee camps in Tulkarem, Nablus, and Jenin. Growing numbers of Palestinians now feel that the Palestinian Authority does not represent them any longer and regard Hamas as the true face of the Palestinian people. (ANI)