Foreign and Defense Policy, Middle East and North Africa

What was Hamas thinking?

An Iron Dome launcher fires an interceptor rocket near the Israeli city of Ashkelon November 19, 2012. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside

An Iron Dome launcher fires an interceptor rocket near the Israeli city of Ashkelon November 19, 2012. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside

Can Hamas win militarily against Israel? Of course not, and while Hamas’ leaders are certifiably bad men, they are not obviously stupid. But their aim isn’t to win, it’s to be relevant in the modern Middle East.

Look at what’s happening in Gaza from Hamas’ perspective. If you don’t care about human life, governance, or infrastructure – and that was manifest well before the outbreak of current hostilities – then Hamas’ decision to launch a war on Israel might look like a winner. Think about it this way: Hamas split from Iran and Syria after Bashar al Assad began killing his own people with abandon. A period of coolness between Hamas and Tehran, once an ardent sponsor, began. The Iranian leadership didn’t appreciate Hamas’ moralizing over Assad. That meant finding a new political sponsor; Iran was still ok with arming the Palestinian terrorist group. Et voila, a new sponsor has emerged in Cairo. Turkey too. And Qatar, which had been there all along, but quietly.

Now let’s look at Egypt. We can spare a little pity for Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s new president. Sure, Hamas is an offspring of the Brotherhood that now governs, and we should have little doubt that Morsi and all his Brotherhood, er, brothers would love to join in and rain missiles on the Zionist enemy. But… he can’t do it. He can lend rhetorical support, but even there, not so much. Because the Brotherhood is now dancing to the tune of international donors, the US among them. And so he must choose between governing an Egypt in economic collapse responsibly or going with his heart. And unless he’s crazy, the heart’s going to have to lose.

What about Turkey? At the head of the vast realignment of the Sunni Arab world away from secular dictators toward an Islamist model, Turkey has been playing hardball with Israel for some time. Surely the Turks will champion Hamas and Gaza? Not so fast. Like Morsi, we have a good idea where Turkish leader Erdogan’s heart is. But he’s busy with the Syrian war on his border and isn’t going to do much for Hamas other than send love and kisses.

Then Qatar. Qatar has always been the loose woman of the Middle East. Flirting with Iran. Flirting with the US. Flirting with Israel. Flirting with Hamas. The problem for Hamas? You can never count on women like that for sustained support or lots of cash.

Circling back to Hamas and how this could have looked like a good moment to start a war with Israel… On second thought, bad idea.

A few more footnotes to think about: Many believe this war began because Hamas thought a) the new Middle East order would be congenial; and b) because Fatah, which leads the other Palestinian government in the West Bank, was getting an unfair share of attention with its bid for Palestinian recognition at the United Nations.

So what’s going to happen next? Israel has called up tens of thousands of reserves; a ground incursion into Gaza looks likely. Many more Palestinians will perish. And the vanguard of the new Sunni order? They’re going to betray the Palestinians of Gaza, because they always do. Worse still, all those angry and impotent members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference are going to head for the United Nations and support Fatah’s foolhardy quest for recognition.

Cui bono? No one. And what of Barack Obama? That’s another story for later today.

9 thoughts on “What was Hamas thinking?

  1. By any standard… and you can think Hamas is the most godawful, terrorist, genocidal, irrational organization all you want… by any standard this was a war of Israel’s choosing.

    Sporadic rockets have been the norm since 2008. Tensions were rising before last week but the real escalation came when Israel CHOSE (before the election) to target and kill the Hamas military chief Jabaari – which led to a Hamas escalation of rocket fire (including on Tel Aviv) that killed 3 Israelis, which in turn led to another Israeli escalation in the form of heavy air-strikes.

    This is not a judgment call of whose right, who is wrong, merely a factual timeline…. Objectively Hamas did not “choose to launch this war”

    A basic modicum of analytical integrity is generally respected.

    • you say sporadic rockets have been the norm since 2008? And Isreal had not knocked anyone’s block off until now?

      Sounds like Isreal is getting tired of being kicked in the groin. I dont blame them.

  2. Danielle Pletka, you are just the kind of schmuck that Israel uses to further their abominable ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. Did you ever stop to think about what is really going on? Hamas, as in Habermas, is nothing more than a zionist founded — by “Yasser Arafat in 1988, of all dates, even though Arafat was a member of Fatah — “party” to be used by Israel to blame/take credit for Israel strikes on Israel that, in the insane thunking of zionists, justifies attacks on civilian targets. How is it that the “Qussam” rockets — yes, that’s what they are called — are gotten into Gaza? They aren’t fired from Gaza! Instead, they are fired by the Israeli “IDF” from within Israel, by Israelis, at Israel, from US made F-16′s, with ASRAAMs — I’m not making these names up — “Sabot Shedding Rocket Assisted Munitions,” to gain rabid “public” support for zionist “reprisal” atrocities. And, lo and behold, all right around election time. Yet you, without a thought, chime in with support for more war crime atrocities against Palestinian children. What a lousy thunk-tanker stunker schmuck thou art!

    You probably also thunk 9/11 was done by the Saudis alone, without the Mossads; and that there were WMDs in Iraq, etc., etc…

    • Yes, the Joos are terrorizing their own population, in order to target Palestinian civilians. But you forgot to mention the powerful Jewish lobby in the US, control international banking, Holocaust industry, ritual use of the blood of arab children. Or maybe your prescription has run out.

  3. …while Hamas’ leaders are certifiably bad men, they are not obviously stupid.

    That may be true but let us keep in mind what Lord Acton reminded us when in his letter to the Bishop of London he stated, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”

    The fact is that the ‘leaders’ on both sides want more power and will do what they must in order to gain it. As has been pointed out by a number of libertarian analysts they all pursue the ring of power and that ring will corrupt any that posses it.

  4. Ah, Jin – you find the scope too short so pull back, but not quite far enough. Jabiri was eliminated, but that was after an intense escalation in rocket attacks on Israel – more than 130 in the preceding 72 hours alone.

    And no one has yet mentioned what was cooking in Sudan.

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