Saturday, December 20, 2008

Hamas: the Likud's Best Friend


Hamas has declared that it will not renew the six month old ceasefire with Israel. The cease fire agreement expired last week, and rockets are again being lobbed at southern Israel with disturbing regularity: fifty in one day last week. So far they have caused little damage, but fear and anger have returned to the Israeli communities that border Gaza. More and more Israelis are calling for a tough response, and more and more are coming to the conclusion that the Kadima/Likud coalition is weak, or incompetent, or both.

Why did Hamas do this now? Well of course it is the formal expiry date of the cease fire signed last June. But Hamas could have unilaterally extended it while negotiating re the long awaited prisoner exchange, or let it laps but not immediately heated up the border. Could it be that Hamas reads the Israeli papers, and reads the Israeli electorate?

In 1995 a series Hamas bus bombing in Jerusalem, in the month leading up to the national elections, helped the Likud under Bibi Netanyahu defeat the incumbent Labour Party under Shimon Peres. Now, with Israeli elections scheduled for early February, Hamas may be trying again to influence the outcome of the Israeli elections - this time helping Bibi defeat Tzipi Livni of the incumbent Kadima party

Hawks and intransigents need hawks and intransigents on the other side in order to justify their own position. Hamas could turn out to be the Likud's best friend in the coming six weeks.

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