A failure at state-building, Hamas sticks to military build-up in Gaza

July 24, 2018 by Yaakov Lappin - JNS.org
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Tensions between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip remain high, following a period when Gazan terror factions fired large numbers of projectiles at southern Israeli regions, drawing return Israeli airstrikes. Mass arson attacks targeting Israeli farms and villages that were orchestrated by Hamas appear yet to have stopped, and an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire looks uncertain.

Yaakov Lappin

The very issue that caused Hamas to escalate tensions in the first place—Gaza’s isolation and faltering economy, and Hamas’s desire to change these things—remain in place, meaning that conflict could flare up  even more in very little time.

Ultimately, these events appear to be symptoms of a larger failure by Hamas to turn Gaza into a viable, civilian state-like entity, due to its fixation on armed conflict with Israel, and building up its military wing at the expense of the needs of ordinary Gazans.

“Since it has completely failed in civilian state-building Gaza, its only instrument to exercise any influence is its military build-up,” Professor Benny Miller, an expert on international relations and conflict management from the University of Haifa, told JNS.

“Hamas will continue to build up its military wing because this is its only instrument to have any effect on key processes in the region and to exercise pressure on Israel, and continue its armed struggle, even if [this occurs] between extended ceasefires,” said Miller.

In addition, having a significant armed force in Gaza is Hamas’s ticket to being “relevant at all in the eyes of Egypt and the Palestinian Authority,” he argued.

Hamas members take part in a rally marking the Palestinian terror group’s 29th anniversary Dec.16, 2016, in Gaza. Credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.

And yet, Hamas’s refusal to compromise on its armed wing is exactly what is causing the Palestinian Authority to isolate Gaza, to reduce funds to the enclave to a bare minimum and to view Hamas as a dangerous enemy.

That, in turns, means that efforts at reconciliation between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have so far been doomed to fail. Egypt too has not changed its basic suspicion of Hamas. Israel, though keen to improve Gaza’s economy, remains highly threatened by Hamas’s activities. As a result, Gaza remains isolated, and the countdown to an economic collapse continues.

‘Hamas is incapable of providing basic services to Gazans’

“The Hamas leadership in Gaza is in an ongoing crisis situation, which is getting more severe,” said Professor Boaz Ganor, founder and executive director of Israel’s International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya.

While Gaza is not experiencing a humanitarian crisis, its levels of unemployment, economic distress, health care and welfare problems are deteriorating, he warned. “The Hamas leadership is incapable of providing basic services to the population—electricity, water and more.”

A substantial portion of Gazans who lost their homes due to the 2014 conflict between Hamas and Israel have not yet received permanent new housing.

These developments are causing real fractures in Palestinian society, particularly in Gaza, observed Ganor.

Added to this is Hamas’s all-time low status in the international arena. Qatar, a traditional Hamas supporter, now faces accusations by Arab states that it is supporting radical Islamist terrorists.

“Gulf states and Saudi Arabia have ceased their support of Hamas long ago,” explained Ganor. “The Egyptian government sees Hamas as an ally of the opposition that threatens it—the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt. It even forced Hamas to change the organizations’ covenant and leave out the sentence that establishes it as a Muslim Brotherhood movement in Palestine.”

Today, he added, Hamas is left only with non-Arab supporters—Turkey and Iran—whose assistance to Hamas actually complicates matters with Arab states.

In the meantime, Israel is successfully destroying Hamas’s cross-border attack tunnels “one after the other, and all of Hamas’s efforts to dictate new “rules of the game to Israel have failed to bear fruit,” assessed Ganor.

In this state of affairs, Hamas’s leaders have placed their hopes on Egypt and other Arab states to broker a new ceasefire agreement with Israel, and ease the security blockade on Gaza, at least from the Egyptian side. Hamas also hopes that Egypt can lead to a breakthrough reconciliation with the Palestinian Authority.

No interest in a security escalation

In light of this complex state of affairs, neither Hamas nor Israel has any interest in a real security escalation.

Nevertheless, Ganor cautioned that if Hamas sees that its attempts to court the Egyptians, the Saudis and the P.A. end in failure, it could resort to escalation as a desperate last measure. “Until then, it seems they will try to limit the fire and restrain rebellious elements in the Strip,” said Ganor.

Israel, for its part, would also like to avoid any major escalation, according Miller, “let alone go to full-blown war.”

At the same time, he said, a failure by Hamas to decrease its arson attacks would lead to increased domestic political pressure on Israel for the government to resort to force, “even if the professionals in the military will oppose it.”


One Response to “A failure at state-building, Hamas sticks to military build-up in Gaza”
  1. David De Bruin says:

    Frightening how depraved these savages have become.I feel sorry for the average man,woman and child living in Gaza.
    Once again the world witnesses barbarity and remains silent.

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