Nasser Lahham is the editor-in-chief of Ma'an News Agency.
Several major news outlets have in the last week repeated numerous times what the Israeli government has announced as goals of the ongoing military operation across the West Bank.
The Israelis claim that the major operation is meant to achieve three goals: finding the abductees and abductors, weakening Hamas, and thwarting the Palestinian national consensus government.
I do not believe these announced Israeli goals, but instead think that the Netanyahu government has taken advantage of the disappearance of three teenage settlers in still-unclear circumstances to implement a major political, military, and media campaign whose targets cannot clearly be understood now.
However, based on what the Israeli forces have done so far in the West Bank, we can deduce a number of clear, but as-of-yet unannounced, goals behind the ongoing crackdown.
One important goal is to weaken the Palestinian Authority so as to ensure that a Palestinian state cannot emerge. Israel will not, however, allow a full collapse of the PA -- because Israel still needs it for more services.
Israel is also seeking to instigate a major crisis in order to use it as a pretext to open a channel for contact with Egypt and its newly elected president Abdul-Fattah al-Sisi. The leader pointedly did not invite any Israeli official to his elaborate inauguration ceremony, and Israeli officials hope to re-affirm their somewhat unclear friendship with Egypt.
The Israeli government has used the kidnapping as an excuse to redeploy troops along the Jordan River as well, citing security reasons and preemptive procedures to prevent the transfer of the three abductees to Jordan, as well as to protect the borders against possible infiltration of fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.
Furthermore, the kidnapping of three settlers has served as a good tool for Israel to use against the growing international boycott and divestment campaign against settlement products. It is an appropriate occasion to draw the world's attention and sympathy to the settlers by showing them as victims, despite the fact that they live on stolen Palestinian lands.
Another clear goal of the ongoing Israeli military operation has been to affect the perceptions of the new generation of Palestinians who have grown up in the decade since the end of the major military operations of the Second Intifada, and to foil UN recognition of Palestinian statehood. In other words, each Palestinian child knows now that it is Israel who controls the West Bank refugee camps, and not the PA security forces.
Weakening Hamas in the West Bank and keeping Hamas' control in Gaza is another goal of the Israeli campaign, which also seeks to maintain Fatah control in the West Bank. These dual moves, which the unity government had potentially unsettled, work to prolong a status quo that works for Israel.
The campaign is also providing Israel a cover to continue the crippling siege imposed on the Gaza Strip in order to prevent any stability, quiet, construction, and future planning.
Finally, the campaign shows that Israel wants to isolate the West Bank cities from each other in order to maintain the decentralization and isolation of Palestinians and to justify direct contact between the Israeli Civil Administration and individual Palestinian municipal councils under the pretext of offering services to residents.
These goals, as of yet not announced explicitly by Israeli forces, are being fulfilled on the ground as we speak.