Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

Hamas will go for broke in Gaza

Hamas has made a strategic resolution to escalate the situation in the Gaza Strip in a controlled manner until the embargo is removed.

Hamas in Gaza City, March, 25, 2017. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.
Hamas in Gaza City, March, 25, 2017. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.
Yoni Ben Menachem
Yoni Ben Menachem, a veteran Arab affairs and diplomatic commentator for Israel Radio and Television, is a senior Middle East analyst for the Jerusalem Center. He served as director general and chief editor of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.

According to Hamas sources, the movement’s leadership has made a strategic resolution to continue to clash with Israel “until the end” in order to bring about an arrangement whereby the embargo on the Gaza Strip will either be removed completely or at least significantly eased.

Therefore, it is putting continued pressure on Israel through its “March of Return” campaign to the border fence and firing mortars and rockets towards Israel.

The cease-fire brokered by Egypt is very shaky, and Hamas is trying to impose new combat rules upon Israel based on the assumption that Israel’s hands are tied and that Israel is not interested in an all-out war, toppling the Hamas regime and opening two simultaneous fronts—one on the northern border and the other at the Gaza border.

A history of hate

The Hamas government has caused the residents of Gaza incalculable damage over the past 11 years. Hamas is not prepared to give up its control of Gaza, which it took by force through a military coup, and to hand it over to the Palestinian Authority. The main reason for the embargo on Gaza is the fact that Hamas is a terrorist organization that wants to fight Israel and is trying to bring arms and other weaponry for this purpose by sea and land.

Israel is not interested in retaking or ruling over Gaza. It gave up on that idea when it carried out the 2005 Disengagement Plan. Hamas is living amid an absurd internal conflict. On the one hand, it wants to turn Gaza into an army base from which “the liberation of Palestine from the sea to the river” will come. On the other hand, it does not have the military power for this, so it is aiming for a long-term cease-fire arrangement with Israel so that it can recover from its wretched situation.

Fatah asserts that Hamas shooting mortars and rockets at Israel serves the purposes of the Netanyahu government, which presents Hamas to the world as a terror organization. In the meantime, Israel is deepening its control in the West Bank.

Hamas has so far failed in achieving its goals despite a violent campaign that has lasted longer than two months. Israel has stood firm, absorbing the violence and terror, but it has not given in. It is possible that the escalation from Hamas is on the orders of Iran, which controls it and the Islamic Jihad movement and seeks to take revenge on Israel after its last military defeat in Syria.

Therefore, the situation is very volatile and Hamas may bring it down to an all-out war as it is now using mortar and rocket barrages, even though it is not interested in a large military struggle.

One important key to removing the embargo or easing it is in the hands of Egypt, which is the main mediator between Israel and Hamas. Egypt is also an important player in the embargo on the Gaza Strip because it controls the Rafah crossing.

Hamas, however, is also working against Egyptian interests. Instead of calming tensions, it is fueling the fires and harming stability in Egypt.

Is there an answer?

In the end, it appears that the way to find a solution for the problems of Gaza is to restore the rule of the Palestinian Authority to the area. While Hamas is in power, there will be no solution and Israel and the international community will not assist an armed terrorist movement that calls for and tries to bring about the destruction of Israel.

Israel has nothing to look for in the Gaza Strip, but it needs a government there that it can speak to. Hamas is not that government. The only realistic alternative is the Palestinian Authority, or the Fatah Party, led by Mohammed Dahlan, if the Palestinian Authority falls apart once Mahmoud Abbas departs.

At the end of the 1990s, there was a small airport in Gaza, and advanced plans for the construction of a seaport as per the conditions of the Oslo accords. This would still be possible, but not if a terrorist organization is ruling Gaza. The Palestinians need to remember this. The solution is in changing the government in Gaza, even if takes time.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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