“This is not your usual Hamas-Israel dust-up,” says Thomas Friedman in The New York Times. It is, first and foremost, “a disaster for Israel”. That a tiny terrorist force was able to overwhelm the country’s supposedly “impenetrable” 37-mile border with Gaza is a shocking intelligence failure. And while Benjamin Netanyahu has promised a “crushing blow” in retaliation, the Israeli PM’s politics of division have “fractured Israeli society and its military”. Just last week a former director general of Israel’s defence ministry told a pro-democracy rally in Tel Aviv he had “never seen our national security in a worse state”.
Yet as bad as Netanyahu has been for Israel, Hamas has been a “deadly curse” for the Palestinian people. The “billion-plus dollars” it has received in aid from Qatar alone could have turned Gaza into a productive society with decent schools, universities and infrastructure. Instead, Hamas spent the cash digging tunnels into Israel and building shonky rockets. Saturday’s attack will have wider geopolitical consequences, too. The real goal of the incursion, which was sanctioned by Hamas’s paymasters in Iran, is to blow up the “budding normalisation of relations” between Israel and Saudi Arabia. This deal, now in the “deep freeze”, would have forged an alliance between the Jewish state and the Sunni-led states of the Persian Gulf against Iran – likely boosting Hamas’s more moderate rival, the Palestinian Authority. Ultimately, Hamas can never be a genuine partner for peace. The best hope now is that this “Islamist mafia” will be ousted for good. Because otherwise, sooner or later, “we’ll be right back in the same situation – only worse”.