Wednesday April 23, 2014
Israel Hayom
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23.04.2014
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Prof. Eyal Zisser

Hamas chose survival

One shouldn't be surprised if in coming days the Palestinians hold a referendum to change Hamas' name. As we know, in Arabic Hamas means "Islamic Resistance Movement."

However, after yesterday, there isn't much left of that resistance or the struggle against Israel upon which the organization was created. For the first time since its inception, Hamas signed an agreement in which it is obligated to lay down its weapons and stop fighting Israel.

Moreover, the organization also agreed to function as Israel's police officer to ensure calm along the border and prevent the other armed Islamist groups in Gaza from acting against Israel.

The surprising moderation displayed by Hamas in recent days can at least be partly explained by the severe damage the group suffered throughout Operation Pillar of Defense. While television news broadcasts in Israel understandably focused on the Israeli wounded from Tel Aviv and the south, those who watched Arabic news channels were exposed to the flip side of the coin and to the devastating blow sustained by the Hamas state and its military, in which the organization invested so heavily in recent years.

One cannot manage the Hamas state from a bunker, or while constantly looking to find cover from Israel's air force. The Hamas state cannot be managed while its military commanders need to be replaced on a daily basis. These commanders are needed by Hamas to provide stability and protect it, first and foremost from the more radical Islamist groups, and even from Fatah.

At the moment of truth, when Hamas had to choose between preserving and establishing its rule over the Gaza Strip or forfeiting the banner of struggle against Israel, Hamas made the pragmatic choice. This choice allows it to survive and to benefit in the political, as opposed to the military sphere.

The methodical targeting of Hamas' military infrastructure over the past week is difficult for Israel to translate into one image of victory, similar to the complete destruction of Hezbollah's Dahiyeh neighborhood in southern Lebanon during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, or even the destruction suffered by Hamas in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead in 2008-9.

However, Palestinian reports paint a dismal picture as far as Hams is concerned, which apparently made it clear to its leaders that they, too – not just Israel – have much to lose if the cross-border shooting doesn't stop.

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