Without attempting to incite feelings of Arab nationalism or using religion as a cover for political and historical issues, recent developments in the Palestinian territories indicate that both parties are pursuing the implementation of the Samson option, which involves demolishing the temple with those inside.
Initially, the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, believed it could change the rules of the game through its unprecedented attack on the settlements surrounding the Gaza Strip. This perception was reinforced by the magnitude of the surprise that struck Israel, weakening its position and exposing its internal division resulting from legal amendments approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
To some extent, Hamas had the initiative in the early stages, as confirmed by videos revealing the disappointment in the capabilities of the Israeli army and the number of captive soldiers and civilians in the hands of Hamas. This unexpected number of captives supported Hamas’s perception. Notably, in the past, a captured soldier, Gilad Shalit, was exchanged for over 200 Palestinian prisoners. Therefore, this current number of captives, exceeding a hundred, could potentially tip the balance of power in favor of Hamas and force it to impose its conditions for reconciliation or even surrender, ultimately achieving what others have failed to achieve.
However, as history often repeats itself for those who do not study it, I recall the beginning of the war of attrition between Egypt and Israel. At that time, the political leadership believed it was necessary to escalate military action on the eastern front to signal that it was not the end. Cairo, at the time, expected the Israeli response to be limited to the same front and with a similar level of force. However, they were surprised by the Israeli leadership’s own initiative, deviating from Cairo’s expectations. During this period, Egypt experienced what were known as raids within its borders, resulting in the destruction of factories in Abu Zaabal, iron and steel complexes in Naga Hammadi, and more. As a result, the Egyptian leadership sought defensive equipment from the Soviet Union, specifically against military aviation. But that is another story.
A similar scenario is unfolding now. Hamas expected the Israeli military response to be limited due to the unprecedented number of captives in the Gaza Strip. However, it turns out that Tel Aviv also deviated from Hamas’s expectations, revealing that it had other options, including implementing the Hannibal Protocol, which involves killing both the kidnapper and the captive with the belief that a dead soldier is preferable to a captured one. Hamas found itself in an unexpected situation, where the captive card became a burden rather than a tool for leverage. In this case, Hamas would bear direct responsibility for the lives of the captives, subject to international laws.
Furthermore, Hamas’s downfall occurred when its temporary victory led it to cross the line from what is acceptable to what is unacceptable. This was exacerbated by the poor selection of videos published by Hamas to showcase that moment. Consequently, Hamas exposed the humiliation suffered by Israelis, both military and civilian, including incidents of stripping female soldiers and dragging corpses. This inadvertently provided Israel with a golden opportunity to utilize these videos and photos at the United Nations, garnering more international sympathy.
The situation has now reversed, transforming Hamas from a victim to a perpetrator due to its misguided approach. This has resulted in the perception of the Palestinian struggle for rights as a terrorist operation in the eyes of the European world.
It is now evident that there is an Israeli insistence, supported by Europe and accepted by America, to change the borders between the Gaza Strip and Israel. Although we will not discuss the alleged deportation of Gaza residents to Sinai as it is far from reality, the show of force exhibited by the United States, including the deployment of its newest, largest, and most advanced aircraft carrier, the “Gerald Ford,” along with four destroyers, a cruiser, and other naval vessels to support Israel, indicates that President Joe Biden’s administration does not want the Palestinian armed factions’ attack to escalate into a full regional war. On the contrary, the administration aims to contain the expected conflict between Israel and the Palestinian armed factions in Gaza, preventing its spread to other areas. Therefore, the American military display is a deterrent against Hezbollah, which has already initiated bombings in the Shebaa Farms to demonstrate its willingness to enter the conflict and support the Hamas movement. Hezbollah possesses 150,000 missiles that can target major cities in Israel, which would escalate the conflict not only in Gaza but also in Lebanon, drawing everyone into a full-scale war.
The deployment of US warships in the eastern Mediterranean serves not only to enhance surveillance, eavesdropping, and communication interception capabilities, or to prevent Hamas from acquiring more weapons but also to restrain Israel from expanding militarily, particularly on the northern front, taking advantage of international sympathy. This is particularly true since changing the borders would require clearing a strip of land between Gaza and the surrounding settlements after completely eliminating Hamas.
Dr. Hatem Sadek is a Professor at Helwan University