Hamas’s (and Iran’s) fail-safe strategy
What is Hamas doing?
Hamas isn’t going to defeat Israel.
It isn’t going to gain any territory. Israel isn’t going to withdraw from Ashkelon or Sderot under a hail of rockets.
So if Hamas can’t win, why is it fighting?
Why rain down destruction and misery on millions of Israelis with your Iranian missiles and your Syrian rockets and invite a counter-assault on your headquarters and weapons warehouses, which you have conveniently placed in the middle of the Palestinian people on whose behalf you are allegedly fighting?
Hamas is in a precarious position. When the terror group took over Gaza seven years ago, things were different.
It had a relatively friendly regime in Cairo that was willing to turn a blind eye to all the missiles Iran, Syria and Hezbollah were sending over to Gaza through Sinai.
Hamas’s leaders were comfortably ensconced in Damascus and enjoyed warm relations with Saudi Arabia and Iran.
International funds flowed freely into Hamas bank accounts from Fatah’s donor-financed Palestinian Authority budget, through the Arab Bank, headquartered in Jordan, through the UN, and when necessary through suitcases of cash transferred to Gaza by couriers from Egypt.
Hamas used these conditions to build up the arsenal of a terror state, and to keep the trains running on time. Schools were open. Government employees were paid. Israel was bombed. All was good.
Today, Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, faces an Egyptian regime that is locked in a life-and-death struggle with the Brotherhood. To harm Hamas, for the past year the Egyptians have been blocking Hamas’s land-based weapons shipments and destroying its smuggling-dependent economy by sealing off the cross-border tunnels.
Syria and Hamas parted ways at the outset of the Syrian civil war when Hamas, a Sunni jihadist group, was unable to openly support Bashar Assad’s massacre of Sunnis.
Fatah has lately been refusing to transfer payments to Hamas due to congressional pressure to cut off the now-illegal flow of aid to the joint Fatah-Hamas unity government.
As for Hamas’s banker, stung by terror victim lawsuits, the Arab Bank now refuses to transfer monies to Hamas from third parties. The UN is also hard-pressed to finance the terror group’s bureaucracy.
In Gaza itself, al-Qaida affiliates including ISIS (now renamed the Islamic State) have seeded themselves along with the Iranian proxy Islamic Jihad. These groups challenge Hamas’s claim to power. Lacking the ability to pay government employee salaries, Hamas is hard-pressed to keep its rivals down.
Given these circumstances, it was just a matter of time before Hamas opened a full-on assault against Israel.
Jew-hatred is endemic in the Muslim world. Going to war against Israel is a tried and true method of garnering sympathy and support from the Muslim world. At a minimum it earns you the forbearance, if not the support of the US and Europe. And you get all of these things whether you win or lose.
When Saddam Hussein shot 39 Scud missiles at Israel during the 1991 Gulf War, he didn’t attack because he thought doing so would destroy Israel. He attacked Israel because he was trying to convince the Arab members of the US-led international coalition to abandon the war against him.
Moreover, when Saddam launched the Scuds against Israel, he knew that Israel wouldn’t be able to retaliate. He knew that the US would force Israel to stand down in order to maintain the support of his Jew-hating fellow Arabs in its coalition.
So attacking Israel was a freebie that he only stood to gain from.
In 200 when Hezbollah initiated the Second Lebanon War, its leaders also didn’t think for a second that their group would conquer Israel. But by attacking the hated Jews, they were able to present themselves and their Iranian bosses as the guardians of the Muslims worldwide.
Then there was the US’s response.
As it protected Saddam from Israel in 1991, so in 2006, the US gave Hezbollah the upper hand in the war. Then-secretary of state Condoleezza Rice forced Israel to accept a cease-fire with Hezbollah that placed the illegal terror group on equal legal and moral footing with Israel.
This US legitimization of Hezbollah enabled the Iranian proxy to intimidate its Sunni and Christian compatriots in Lebanon and coerce them into accepting effective Hezbollah control over the entire state.
As for Hamas, from the outset of Hamas’s previous missile campaigns in 2009 and 2012, the Obama administration made it clear to Israel that it would not tolerate Israeli strikes that were sufficiently comprehensive to wipe out Hamas’s capacity to continue attacking Israel. In other words, President Barack Obama chose to protect Hamas – an illegal terrorist organization, waging a war of indiscriminate, criminal missile strikes against Israeli civilians – from Israel.
Today, Hamas has every reason to take heart from the responses it has received from its current offensive.
In the internal Palestinian arena, Fatah, Hamas’s partner in the Palestinian Authority unity government, is standing shoulder to shoulder with Hamas.
As The Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh reported, Fatah militias in Gaza are actively participating in the Hamas-led missile campaign against Israel. Fatah terrorists have boasted shooting dozens of rockets and mortar shells at Ashkelon and Sderot.
On Wednesday, Palestinian Media Watch reported that Fatah posted a placard proclaiming that the military wings of Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad are “brothers in arms” united by “one God, one homeland, one enemy and one goal.”
Fatah chief Mahmoud Abbas is Hamas’s diplomatic champion. Indeed, his wild accusations against Israel have moved from the realm of exaggeration to rank incitement that raises concern he is planning to open a second front against Israel from Judea and Samaria.
Although Egypt has still not indicated any willingness to support Hamas, the longer Hamas continues attacking Israel, the more difficult it will become for Egypt to seal off the border between Gaza and Sinai. Hamas’s war strengthens the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
Then there is the Obama administration.
Obama administration spokesmen have been issuing prepared statements blaming the hostilities on Hamas and mouthing support for Israel while praising its restraint. But at the same time, they have been transmitting messages which indicate that Obama is more intent than ever to give Hamas a victory even as it continues to rain down terror on Israel.
As Tel Aviv, Hadera and Jerusalem absorbed their first missile salvos from Gaza on Tuesday, Obama’s Middle East envoy Philip Gordon spoke at Haaretz’s “peace” conference.
It was a jaw dropping performance.
Gordon blamed Israel for the failure for the administration’s efforts to broker a peace deal between Israel and the PLO while effusively praising Fatah leader and Hamas partner Abbas.
And it only went down from there.
After insisting Israel is inadequately committed to peace, Gordon threatened to withdraw US support for Israel at the UN and open the door to the criminalization of Israel by the corrupt international body.
“How will we prevent other states from supporting Palestinian efforts in international bodies, if Israel is not seen as committed to peace?” he asked rhetorically.
Gordon’s remarks were not disputed by the State Department.
And State Department spokespersons themselves have continued to insist – absurdly – that Hamas is not a member of the Fatah-Hamas unity government.
From Hamas’s perspective, the Obama administration’s response to its aggression is an invitation to keep going. Gordon’s speech allayed any concerns they may have had regarding how the US would respond.
Hamas now knows that the US will coerce Israel into standing down while Hamas is still standing, and so enable the jihadists to claim victory and place Egypt in a bind.
And as with Hamas, so with Hamas’s Iranian sponsors.
On July 20, the US and its partners are supposed to conclude a nuclear deal with Iran.
Many Western experts and even some Israeli ones insist that Iran’s nuclear weapon program is not a serious threat to Israel because Iran’s primary aspirations have little to do with Israel. Iran, they say, wants nuclear weapons in order to dominate the Persian Gulf, and through it, the Muslim world as a whole. Iran’s targets, it is argued, are Mecca and Medina, not Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
While this is probably true, it is certainly irrelevant for Israel’s strategic assessment.
The same dynamics that inform Hamas’s decision to launch its offensives against Israel inform Iran’s thinking about how it will use a nuclear arsenal. Iran would not attack Israel with nuclear weapons because it wishes to conquer Israel per se. Iran would attack Israel with nuclear weapons because doing so would give it a massive public relations boost in its campaign to dominate the Persian Gulf generally, and Saudi Arabia in particular.
In other words, far from being a hindrance to accomplishing its central goal, Iran views attacking Israel as a means of advancing it.
Unfortunately for Israel, just as the US has made clear that it opposes Israel taking any offensive steps to destroy Hamas’s capacity to rain terror on its citizens, so the Obama administration, through word and deed, has made clear that it will defend Iran and Iran’s nuclear weapons program from Israel.
The talks that are set to conclude next week can only bring about bad or worse results for Israel. In recent days and weeks, Iranian leaders have said that the only deal they will sign is one that will facilitate their nuclear weapons program by giving international license to their massive uranium enrichment activities. So if a deal is concluded, it will give the imprimatur of the US, the UN and the EU to a nuclear-armed Iran.
If no deal is concluded, the Obama administration will undoubtedly continue to protect Iran’s nuclear installations from Israel in the hopes of concluding an agreement with Iran at a later date, perhaps after the congressional elections in November.
In an op-ed in Haaretz published this week, Obama wrote, “While walls and missile defense systems can help protect against some threats, true safety will only come with a comprehensive negotiated settlement. Reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians would also help turn the tide of international sentiment and sideline violent extremists, further bolstering Israel’s security.”
Unfortunately, Obama misses the point completely. As the dozen agreements Israel already signed with the Palestinians show, pieces of paper are meaningless if they don’t reflect the underlying sentiments of the populations concerned.
Peace can only come to Israel and its neighbors when the Muslim world liberates itself from its hatred of Jews. Until that happens, everyone from Hamas to Hezbollah to Fatah to al-Qaida to Iran and beyond will continue to view attacking Israel as the best way to make a name for themselves in the world, and the best way to get the attention – and support – of the West.