Hamas playing the long game

At the beginning of the current ceasefire in Gaza, I predicted that Hamas would employ a “trickle” strategy of releasing hostages, dragging the process out for as long as possible. Their motivation was obvious, but Israel was left without other viable options under the circumstances. That strategy continues today, as Hamas released another list of twelve hostages being released in exchange for 30 Palestinian prisoners and another extension of the truce. The hostages being released include 10 Israelis and two Thai citizens. This is obviously welcome news to be celebrated, but Israel still has to be looking at the long game, realizing that this process can’t be allowed to drag out forever. 

From the NY Post:

Hamas has provided the Israeli government and families with the list of the sixth set of hostages expected to be freed in the cease-fire deal, CNN reported Tuesday.

Wednesday’s release will be the second one within the extension of the truce, which is now in its fifth day.

Hamas released 12 hostages, including 10 Israelis and two Thai citizens, on Tuesday.

Israel released 30 Palestinian prisoners as part of its end of the deal.

The more we learn about the events unfolding in the Middle East, the more obvious Hamas’ strategy becomes. It’s part of their overarching plan, orchestrated by Iran, of course, part of which succeeded and part of which failed. The attack on October 7 was so blatantly evil, chaotic, and aggressive that Hamas knew if was going to draw a harsh response from Israel. In fact, they were counting on a counterattack. It was part of the plan.

The hostages were the backup plan. It seems clearer than ever that the original scheme was to provoke Israel into a massive attack on Gaza. Then, countries more sympathetic to the Palestinians would become outraged. Hamas and Iran were hoping that those other countries would join in the battle and help them eliminate Israel once and for all. Iran knows that there is a weak American president in the White House who lets China walk all over us, so we might not come in to save Israel in a worst-case scenario. They decided to roll the dice while they had the chance.

Fortunately, enough of the rest of the world stood with Israel, at least initially, so other Arab states have been unwilling to join the fray and expand the conflict in that fashion. That left Hamas with only Plan B… the trickle strategy. They could have simply released all the hostages at once with no problem. But they knew that if they did that, Israel would resume the attack the following day. So they are trading them ten or twelve at a time with each deal buying them more time to resupply by stealing the aid flowing into the country, reorganize, and recruit more fighters.

Meanwhile, the more time they run off the clock, the greater the chances that global patience and support for Israel will wane. That’s where their global propaganda network and the support of the international press comes in, Pressure is already mounting on Israel to make the ceasefire permanent once all of the hostages are freed, or at least the ones that are still alive. Joe Biden is clearly wavering. I heard one analyst on CNN yesterday complaining that while Israel may have been justified in its initial response, they have now “taken more than their pound of flesh from the Palestinian people in return.” If enough of that sentiment grows and Israel feels pressured to back out of Gaza, a fully replenished Hamas will be able to go back to business as usual.

That brings us to the question of why no Americans were released after the first American-Israeli child. This was also done for a reason. Releasing that little girl gave Americans hope that the rest of our hostages were also alive. And they probably are. Hamas knows those people are their most valuable bargaining chips and they’re going to need them for the end of the game. Americans want their own people released first and foremost. But if they all come home quickly, there is little reason not to support the continuation of Israel’s work to destroy Hamas. The longer this drags out, the more pressure will build on Joe Biden to do something to get the hostages back. And he doesn’t have much to offer in return beyond pressuring Bibi Netanyahu to call off the war permanently. And that pressure is already getting to Biden. Hamas may be evil but they’re not stupid. They’re playing the long game. Let’s hope Israel doesn’t cave in and let it happen.

Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher (aka HP Pundit) is not a Democrat or Republican. He is a free thinking independent bringing you news and commentary with a dose of much needed common sense.

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