All I can say is: what a relief — the Israel-Gaza border is calm today. Last night, at almost 10 PM, expecting the worst, the Israeli embassy in Washington took the unusual step of issuing a preemptive statement on what was believed to be an impending public-relations disaster:
Hamas is behind an intentional action that yet again places Palestinian civilians on the front lines. Israel does not interfere in demonstrations taking place inside the Gaza Strip, but Israel will protect its borders and will prevent any violations of its sovereign territory. Israel is acting to prevent any deterioration of the situation but wishes to unequivocally clarify that if this does happen, the sole responsibility lies directly on Hamas’ shoulders.
An Israeli government contact who I spoke with last night was anxious, saying that the IDF and police were anticipating a horrible turn of events: a massive attempt, orchestrated by Hamas, to push civilians by the thousands into Israel. The Israelis would be forced to choose between two terrible options: either contain the incursion through force of arms, or let it through — there would really be no middle choice. Would the IDF and police send rubber bullets and tear gas into a crowd that included women and children? Would they have any other choice, short of simply permitting a Hamas invasion of Israel?
All of this was intended by Hamas and its Iranian patron to take the fight to Israel in the most reliable arena that exists for them today: the media. Put images of tear-gassed Palestinian children on the front pages of the world’s newspapers, and enjoy, for a few blissful days, watching Israel get engulfed by paroxysms of false moral outrage. It would have been a brilliant strategy — if only the crowds had shown up. Perhaps today the people of Gaza feel that they don’t owe so much to Hamas, after all.