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With elections looming, Lapid’s Gaza gamble seems to have paid off

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Caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid took a gamble with his preemptive strike against the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group in Gaza, less than three months before he is to compete in general elections to retain his job.

Lapid had counted on Gaza’s Hamas terrorist rulers to stay out of the fight, thus enabling Israel to weaken its smaller sister-rival group while avoiding a full-blown escalation. At the same time, he may also have gained political ground ahead of the polls.

With a ceasefire between the sides holding on Monday, after three days of violence, the calculation appears to have been accurate.

Hamas remained on the sidelines as Israeli jets pounded targets in Gaza, killing two Islamic Jihad leaders in targeted attacks, and Israel’s Iron Dome missile shield intercepted many of the hundreds of rockets fired by Islamic Jihad at cities across southern and central Israel.

Long-suffering Gaza civilians once again bore the brunt of the violence, with 44 Palestinians killed, among them 15 children and four women. Israel says some fatalities, including as many as 12 of the children, were victims of PIJ’s own rockets falling short inside the Strip.

In Israel, three were injured and tens of thousands were repeatedly forced into bomb shelters as rocket sirens alerted them of incoming attacks, while residents of border communities spent three days sheltering.

The Egyptian-brokered ceasefire, which took effect late Sunday, capped one of the shortest rounds of fighting since Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007. Israel and Hamas fought four wars over the past 15 years, as more than 2 million Gazans endure a suffocating Israeli-Egyptian border blockade. Israel says the blockade is needed to curb Hamas’s efforts at bringing weapons into Gaza.

Since the last war in May 2021, Lapid and his governing partner Naftali Bennett have tried to create more incentives for Hamas to maintain quiet along the Gaza border, with the implied acknowledgment that this would cement the group’s rule.

As part of this strategy, Israel issued permits for 14,000 Gaza workers to enter Israel, with the promise of........

© The Times of Israel

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