For years, Hamas has fought a war of attrition against Israel. It has fired rockets, dispatched armed drones, arson balloons, tried to kidnap Israelis, dug a sophisticated military tunnel system under Gaza, trained tens of thousands of children each year in live arms while also waging a social media campaign that portrays the militant theocracy as a victim of Israeli aggression.
Tensions boiled over earlier this month in Jerusalem after the Palestinian Authority cancelled elections in the West Bank – preventing Hamas’s candidates from gaining further power in the PA controlled cities. Meanwhile, Arabs protested the proposed eviction of families in an East Jerusalem neighborhood near the Old City. Those events, during Ramadan, combined with riots on the Temple Mount and at the Damascus Gate, where Palestinians battled with Israeli police, led to Hamas firing a barrage of rockets and missiles. Since May 10, nearly 4,000 rockets have rained down on Israeli cities.
Militarily, Israel has come out ahead – destroying Hamas’s underground military tunnels, its rocket production centers, while killing top Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad commanders.
But with its onslaught of rockets and missiles, Hamas has further solidified its position as the Islamic guardian of Jerusalem and owns the Palestinian street. Just as disturbing for Israel, this blend of militancy and religion has opened up a new frontline in mixed Jewish and Muslim cities such as Jaffa, Lod, Acre and Haifa. In these communities, where a tenuous coexistence has held for decades, roving bands of Arabs – who are Israeli citizens – attacked police, burned Jewish businesses, cars and synagogues, and killed a Jew in Lod, and badly beat an IDF soldier in Jaffa.
Hamas does not recognize Israel, and at every chance reiterates its goal to destroy the country. Its grip on Gaza continues, and its recent attacks bring it closer to ruling West Bank Palestinians. Israel will have to contend with this reality in the coming years. But in the days and weeks ahead it must also ponder how to advance coexistence in the mixed Arab-Jewish cities. There are 1.9 million Arab-Israelis in Israel – or 21 percent of its total population. That threat of internal Israeli-Arab violence is as much of a danger to Israeli society as Hamas rockets.