Hamas And Israel: CONFLICTING STRATEGIES

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  1. A.V.

    A.V. New Member

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    HAMAS AND ISRAEL:
    CONFLICTING STRATEGIES OF GROUP-BASED
    POLITICS
    Sherifa Zuhur

    http://www.StrategicStudiesInstitute.army.mil/

    FOREWORD
    This monograph considers the changing fortunes of the
    Palestinian movement, HAMAS, and the recent outcomes
    of Israeli strategies aimed against this group and Palestinian
    nationalism external to the Fatah faction of the Palestinian
    Authority. The example of HAMAS challenges much of the
    current wisdom on “insurgencies” and their containment.
    As the author, Dr. Sherifa Zuhur, demonstrates, efforts have
    been made to separate HAMAS from its popular support and
    network of social and charitable organizations. These have not
    been effective in destroying the organization, nor in eradicating
    the will to resist among a fairly large segment of the Palestinian
    population.
    It is important to consider this Islamist movement in the
    context of a region-wide phenomenon of similar movements
    with local goals, which can be persuaded to relinquish violence,
    or which could move in the opposite direction, becoming
    more violent. Certainly an orientation to HAMAS and its base
    must be factored into new and more practical and effective
    approaches to peacemaking.
    At the same time, HAMAS offers a fascinating instance
    of the dynamics of strategic reactions, and the modification
    of Israeli impulses towards aggressive deterrence, as well as
    evolution in the Islamist movements’ planning and operations.
    As well, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict bears similarities to
    a long-standing civil conflict, even as it has sparked inter-
    Palestinian hostilities in its most recent phase.
    The need for informed and critical discussion of the
    future of Islamism in the region continues today. We offer
    this monograph to those who wish to consider this particular
    aspect of the Palestinian-Israeli-Arab conflict.
     
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  3. A.V.

    A.V. New Member

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    SUMMARY
    The conflict between Palestinians and Israelis has
    heightened since 2001, even as any perceived threat
    to Israel from Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, or even Syria, has
    declined. Israel, according to Chaim Herzog, Israel’s
    sixth President, had been “born in battle” and would
    be “obliged to live by the sword.”1 Yet, the Israeli
    government’s conquest and occupation of the West
    Bank and Gaza brought about a very difficult challenge,
    although resistance on a mass basis was only taken
    up years later in the First Intifadha. Israel could not
    tolerate Palestinian Arabs’ resistance of their authority
    on the legal basis of denial of self-determination,2
    and eventually preferred to grant some measures of
    self-determination while continuing to consolidate
    control of the Occupied Territories, the West Bank,
    East Jerusalem, and Gaza. However, a comprehensive
    peace, shimmering in the distance, has eluded all.
    Inter-Israeli and inter-Palestinian divisions deepened
    as peace danced closer before retreating.
    Israel’s stance towards the democratically-elected
    Palestinian government headed by HAMAS in 2006,
    and towards Palestinian national coherence—legal,
    territorial, political, and economic—has been a major
    obstacle to substantive peacemaking. The reasons for
    recalcitrant Israeli and HAMAS stances illustrate both
    continuities and changes in the dynamics of conflict
    since the Oslo period (roughly 1994 to the al-Aqsa
    Intifadha of 2000). Now, more than ever, a long-term
    truce and negotiations are necessary. These could lead
    in stages to that mirage-like peace, and a new type of
    security regime.
    The rise in popularity and strength of the HAMAS
    (Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya, or Movement of
    viii
    the Islamic Resistance) Organization and its interaction
    with Israel is important to an understanding of Israel’s
    “Arab” policies and its approach to counterterrorism
    and counterinsurgency. The crisis brought about by
    the electoral success of HAMAS in 2006 also challenged
    Western powers’ commitment to democratic change in
    the Middle East because Palestinians had supported the
    organization in the polls. Thus, the viability of a twostate
    solution rested on an Israeli acknowledgement
    of the Islamist movement, HAMAS, and on Fatah’s
    ceding power to it.
    Shifts in Israel’s stated national security objectives
    (and dissent over them) reveal HAMAS’ placement at
    the nexus of Israel’s domestic, Israeli-Palestinian, and
    regional objectives. Israel has treated certain enemies
    differently than others: Iran, Hizbullah, and Islamist
    Palestinians (whether HAMAS, supporters of Islamic
    Jihad, or the Islamic Movement inside Israel) all fall
    into a particular rubric in which Islamism—the most
    salient and enduring socio-religious movement in
    the Middle East in the wake of Arab nationalism—is
    identified with terrorism and insurgency rather than
    with group politics and identity. The antipathy to
    religious fervor was somewhat ironic in light of Israel’s
    own expanding “religious” (haredim) groups. In
    Israel’s earlier decades, Islamic identity politics were
    understood and successfully repressed, as Israelis did
    not want to allow any repetition of the Palestinian
    Mufti’s nationalism or the Qassamiyya (the armed
    brigades in the 1936-39 rebellion).
    Yet at the same time, identity politics and religious
    attitudes were not eradicated, but were inside of Israel,
    bringing about great inequality as well as physical
    and psychological separation of the Jewish and non-
    Jewish populations.3 This represented efforts to
    ix
    control politically and physically the now 20 percent
    Arab minority, and dealt with the demographic
    threat constantly spoken of in Israel by warding off
    intermarriage, limiting property control and rights,
    and physical access. Still today, some Israeli politicians
    call for an exodus by Palestinian-Israelis (so-called
    Arab-Israelis) in some areas, who they wish to resettle
    in the West Bank.
    For decades, Muslim religious properties and
    institutions were managed under Jewish supervision—
    substantial inter-Israeli conflict over that supervision
    notwithstanding4—and this allowed for a continuing
    stereotype of the recalcitrant, anti-modern Muslims
    and Arabs who were punished for any expression of
    Palestinian (or Arab) nationalism by replacing them—
    imams or qadis, for instance—with more quiescent
    Israeli Muslims, and by retaining Jewish control over
    endowment (waqf), properties, and income.
    Contemporary Islamism took hold in Palestinian
    society, as it has throughout the Middle East and has,
    to a great degree, supplanted secular nationalism.
    This is problematic in terms of the conflict between
    Israel and the Palestinians because the official Israeli
    position towards key Islamists—Iran, Hizbullah, and
    the Palestinian groups like HAMAS, Islamic Jihad, or
    Hizb al-Tahrir—characterizes them as Israel-haters
    and terrorists. They have become the existential threat
    to Israel (along with Iran) since the demise of Saddam
    Hussein in Iraq.
    Israel steadfastly rejected diplomacy and truce
    offers by HAMAS for 8 months in 2008, despite an
    earlier truce that held for several years. By the spring
    of 2008, continued rejection of a truce was politically
    risky as Prime Minister Ehud Olmert teetered on the
    edge of indictment by his own party and finally had to
    x
    announce his resignation in the summer. In fact, on his
    way out the door, Olmert announced a peace plan that
    ignores HAMAS and many demands of the Palestinian
    Authority as a whole ever since Oslo. If the plan was
    merely to create a sense of Olmert’s legacy, it is not
    altogether clear why it offered so little compromise.
    On the other hand, Israelis have for over a year5
    been discussing the wisdom of reconquering the Gaza
    Strip (a prospect that would aid the Fatah side of the
    Palestinian Authority) and also engage in “preemptive
    deterrence” or attacks on other states in the region. This
    could happen at any time if the truce between Israel
    and HAMAS breaks down, although the risks of any
    of these enterprises would be high. A potential deal
    with Syria was also announced by Olmert, similarly,
    perhaps, to stave off his own resignation, and Syria
    made a counteroffer.6 Turkish-mediated indirect talks
    were to continue at the time of this writing, though they
    might be rescheduled.7 Support for an Israeli attack on
    Iran continues to play well in the Israeli media, despite
    the fact that Israelis argue fiercely about the wisdom of
    such a course. All of this shows flux in the region, with
    Israel in its customary strong, but concerned position.
    HAMAS emerged as the chief rival to the secularistnationalist
    framework of Fatah, the dominant member
    of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). This
    occurred as Palestinians rebelled against the worsening
    conditions they experienced following the Oslo Peace
    Accords. HAMAS’ political and strategic development
    has been both ignored and misreported in Israeli and
    Western sources which villainize the group, much as
    the PLO was once characterized as an anti-Semitic
    terrorist group.8 Relatively few detailed treatments in
    English counter the media blitz that reduces HAMAS
    to its early, now defunct, 1988 charter
     
  4. A.V.

    A.V. New Member

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    Disagreements within the Israeli military and
    political establishments over the national security
    objectives of that country reveal HAMAS’ placement
    at the nexus of Israel’s domestic, Palestinian, and
    regional objectives. This process can be traced back to
    Ariel Sharon’s formation of the KADIMA Party and
    decision to withdraw unilaterally from Gaza without
    engaging in a peace process with Palestinians. This
    reflected a new understanding that Arab armies were
    unlikely to launch any successful attack against Israel,
    but Israel should focus instead on protecting its Jewish
    citizens via barrier methods.9
    This new thinking coexists alongside the longstanding
    policies described by Yitzhak Shamir as
    aggressive defense; in other words, offensives aimed
    at increasing Israel’s strategic depth, or attacking
    potential threats in neighboring countries—as in the
    raid on the nearly completed nuclear power facility
    at Osirak, Iraq, in 1981, or the mysterious Operation
    ORCHARD carried out on a weapons cache in Syria
    in September 2007, or in the invasions, air, and ground
    wars (1978, 1982, 2006) in Lebanon.
    Israelis considered occupied Palestinian territories
    valuable in land-for-peace negotiations. During the
    Oslo process, according to Israelis, Israel was ready to
    withdraw entirely to obtain peace.10 Actually, the value
    of land to trade for peace and costs of maintaining
    security for the settlers there, as well as containing the
    uprisings, were complicated equations. Palestinians
    and others argue that, in fact, Israel offered no more in
    the various proposed exchanges than the less valuable
    portion of the western West Bank and Gaza, and
    refused to deal with outstanding issues such as the
    fate of Palestinian refugees (4,913,993 Palestinians live
    outside of Israel11 and the occupied territories; 1,337,388
    according to UNRWA12—registered refugees—live in
    xii
    camps, and 3,166,781 live outside of camps),13 prisoners,
    water, and the claim of Jerusalem as a capital.
    Many Arabs believe that Israel never intended
    the formation of a Palestinian state, and that its landsettlement
    policies during the Oslo period provide
    proof of its true intentions. Either way, the “Oslo optimism”
    faded away between Israelis and Palestinians
    with the al-Aqsa (Second) Intifadha in October 2000.
    The Israeli Right, and part of its Left, claimed that
    the diplomatic collapse, plus Arafat’s government’s
    corruption, showed there was no “partner to peace.”
    Another segment of the Israeli Left has continued until
    this day to argue for land-for-peace and complete
    withdrawal from the territories.
    According to Barry Rubin, the Israeli military felt
    the Palestinian threat would not increase, and that
    if settlers could be evacuated and a stronger line
    of defense erected, they might better defend their
    citizenry. That defense could not be achieved with
    suicide attacks ongoing in Israeli population centers.
    When earlier Israeli strategies had not achieved an
    end to Palestinian Islamist violence, Israelis had
    pushed this task onto the Fatah-dominated Palestinian
    Authority in the 1990s.14 Pointing to the failures of
    the Palestinian Authority, the new Israeli “securitist”
    (bitchonist, in Hebrew, or security-focused) strategy
    moved away from negotiations, and called for further
    separation and segregation of the Israeli population
    from Palestinians. Neither a full-blown physical
    resistance by Palestinians, including suicide attacks,
    or the missiles launched from Gaza could be dealt
    with in this manner. The first depended on granting
    Palestinians rights to partial self-government, and the
    missile attacks were negotiated in Israel’s June 2008
    truce.
    xiii
    Israel claimed significant victories in its war against
    Palestinians by the use of targeted killings of leadership,
    boycotts, power cuts, preemptive attacks and detentions,
    and punishments to militant’s families, relatives, and
    neighborhoods etc., because its counterterrorism logic
    is to reduce insurgents’ organizational capability. This
    particular type of Israeli analysis rejects the idea that
    counterterrorist violence can spark more resistance
    and violence,15 but one proponent also admitted that
    Israel had not “defeated the will to resistance” [of
    Palestinians].16 This admission suggests that the tactics
    employed might not be indefinitely manageable, and
    that Palestinians, despite every possible effort made to
    weaken or incriminate them, to discourage or prevent
    their Arab non-Palestinian supporters from defending
    their interests, and to buy the services of collaborators,
    could edge Israelis back toward comprehensive
    negotiations, or rise up again against them. Moshe
    Sharett, Israel’s second Prime Minister, once asked:
    “Do people consider that when military reactions
    outstrip in their severity the events that caused them,
    grave processes are set in motion which widen the
    gulf and thrust our neighbors into the extremist camp?
    How can this deterioration be halted?”17
    HAMAS and its new wave of political thought,
    which had supported armed resistance along with the
    aim to create an Islamic society, had overtaken Fatah in
    popularity. Fatah, with substantial U.S. support edged
    closer to Israeli positions over 2006-07, promising to
    diminish Palestinian resistance, although President
    Mahmud Abbas had no means to do so, and could not
    even ensure Fatah’s survival in the West Bank without
    HAMAS assent, and had been routed from Gaza.
    Negotiating solely with the weaker Palestinian
    party—Fatah—cannot deliver the security Israel
    xiv
    requires. This may lead Israel to reconquer the Gaza
    Strip or the West Bank and continue engaging in
    “preemptive deterrence” or attacks on other states in
    the region in the longer term.
    The underlying strategies of Israel and HAMAS
    appear mutually exclusive and did not, prior to the
    summer of 2008, offer much hope of a solution to
    the Israeli-Palestinian-Arab conflict. Yet each side
    is still capable of revising its desired endstate and of
    necessary concessions to establish and preserve a longterm
    truce, or even a longer-term peace.
     

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