The sanctions regime had a number of demonstrable effects. It made it impossible for Hamas to deliver on its social and welfare promises. As a result, its rule appeared much inferior to Palestinian Authority rule in the West Bank, which lately has enjoyed the economic benefits of increased cooperation with Israel. Reports from Gaza suggested a simmering discontent with isolation and economic hardship. The sanctions also had symbolic value, by branding the Hamas regime as illegitimate.The question now is whether Israel will be able to hold onto that control:
After the military campaign is over, Israel's control of Gaza's economy will be its principal lever for translating its military achievements into political gains - above all, the continued degradation of Hamas control. Gaza will be desperate for all material things. Whoever controls their distribution will effectively control many aspects of daily life in Gaza.With all the talk of what Israel's goals were in Operation Cast Lead, the sanctions appear to be the means of depriving Hamas of legitimacy--and that, after all, was one of the goals of the operation to begin with:
This is a card Israel must be careful not to trade, either for a cease-fire or for international anti-smuggling cooperation on the Egypt-Gaza border. To that end, it must act now to affirm its adhesion to the sanctions. Israel should be willing to ease sanctions only if an international consortium for reconstruction is established, which has the legitimate Palestinian Authority as its sole agent within Gaza. In any cease-fire agreement, Israel should agree to open the crossings only to emergency food and medical aid - as it has during the fighting itself.
Ultimately, Operation Cast Lead will be judged not only by whether it produces an end to rocket fire - which it will - but whether it sets the stage for a shift of power within Gaza, away from Hamas "resistance" - a deceptive misnomer for Palestinian jihadism. This long-term goal should not be sacrificed to achieve short-term objectives.
Unfortunately, once matters enter the diplomatic phase--which is not concerned with Israel's needs and the goals of Operation Cast Lead--it is not clear that Israel will be able maintain that control. Israel surprised everyone not only with its willingness to enter such a broad operation as this, and has continued to surprise with its apparently intent not to stop and withdraw at the first mention of a ceasefire.
But once Israel enters completely into the diplomatic realm, will it be able to maintain the same backbone and determination?