EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: What should the strategy regarding Hamas be –make concessions or initiate a fourth round of fighting? It is best for Israel to prolong the negotiations as long as possible, concede as little as possible, and wait until the sanctions against Iran come into full force. Then Israel should prepare for the next big round – not to defeat Hamas, but to tame it and keep the Palestinians divided.
Israel’s leading politicians, Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have been engaged in a fierce debate with Minister of Education Naftali Bennet over how to react to Hamas’s venture since the March of Return to change the status quo – from Hamas’s relative submission to a return to the situation of tit-for tat attacks and counterattacks that prevailed for most of the period between Hamas’s takeover of Gaza in 2007 and the third large round of fighting in the summer of 2014.
Netanyahu and Lieberman want to reach understandings with Hamas to restore the relative calm that prevailed for nearly four years since 2014. They are willing to make humanitarian concessions and probably acquiesce to a sizeable prisoner release of hard-core terrorists in order to restore the calm, even temporarily. Bennet, by contrast, is bitterly opposed to making concessions and seeks a fourth round of confrontation that will considerably weaken the organization.