Between 2008 and October 2023, a pattern was established in the relationship between Israel and its enemies in Gaza, headed by Hamas and the Islamic Jihad.
In 2005, under the leadership of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip and dismantled the Israeli settlements. In 2006, elections were held under the pressure of the Bush Administration in the Palestinian Authority, which ended in a Hamas victory.
In 2007, Hamas violently took control over the Gaza Strip and expelled the Palestinian Authority. In 2008, in response to rocket launches from the Gaza Strip into southwestern Israel, Israel launched its first retaliatory military action against Hamas, dubbed Cast Lead.
This was followed by a quiet period interrupted yet again by rocket launches from the Gaza Strip, to which Israel retaliated in 2012 with another military campaign under the title Pillar of Defence.
And so, a cycle of violence was established as Hamas and the Islamic Jihad — supported mainly by Iran — built their military capabilities and increased the range of their rockets, and Israel expanded its military responses.
Full-scale war not favoured
In Israel, a debate took place on whether the extent of Israel’s response was adequate or whether a full-scale military campaign against Hamas should be launched. By that time, Benjamin Netanyahu had returned to power in Israel, and his tendency, supported by most of the military, was to refrain from a full-scale war against Hamas.
This policy rested on three foundations. The realisation that a full-scale war would exact a high price of Israeli casualties as well as Palestinian casualties and large-scale destruction in Gaza, and the understanding that by toppling the Hamas government, Israel would remain in control of the Gaza Strip and another two million Palestinians.