Hamas State of Mind

The first step on the way to victory is to try to understand your enemy. To get into his shoes and understand what makes him tick. Many countries have failed while attempting to predict the next step of their rivals, eventually paying heavy prices. We often refer to the enemy as someone whose rationale is identical to ours. The real challenge is to get into your enemy’s state of mind.

In the Second World War, Stalin ignored the intensification of the German army, thus not listening to his advisors. When Germany launched Operation Barbarossa, there was almost no one to resist. The reason for this was that he had misjudged Hitler’s territorial ambitions. Who believed that Hitler would want to open a second front in the east?However, a thorough examination of Hitler’s statements, actions and writings over the 20 years preceding the war, shows that He was a master of diplomatic warfare: He used diplomacy to cover for his military operations. The writing was on the wall but Stalin refused to see.

In the current war between Hamas and Israel, many try to understand Hamas. There are those who claim that Hamas wants to destroy Israel using rockets and tunnels, that is – he started the war in the belief that he could win right now. Some argue that Hamas is trying to improve its position because of its bad economic situation, namely Hamas is trying to shift the fire into Israel by using civilians as human shields and creating horrific images to convince the world that ‘Israel must stop the siege of Gaza’, so that eventually Hamas will be able to grow stronger.

The reality, in my opinion, is a bit more complex. The leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad believers are following the way of ”Muqawama” – resistance. They educate their children, more than 60 years after the loss in 1948 that one day Israel will be defeated and they will return to their land. Hamas does not believe that it can defeat Israel at one stroke. Just like Fatah, their plan consists of several steps. That is why I call Operation ‘Protective Edge’ a war. More precisely a war of attrition. What Hamas tries to do is to exhaust Israel and its citizens. It is clear to them that they cannot defeat Israel by military mean. So what do they do? They create a balance of terror causing Israeli government officials to make mistakes.

And it works. After the first intifada came the withdrawal of Oslo. After the second intifada came the disengagement from Gaza. Israel gives land to the Palestinians and does not get anything in return. Hamas’ rockets are not capable of causing physical damage to Israel, but they can create deterrence. When Israel’s airport is being closed, with residents of Israeli Kibbutzim at the border forced to evacuate their homes, that is a significant strategic achievement for Hamas.

That is why I am cautiously optimistic when looking at the events of last week. Despite the lack of political leadership’s determination which characterized the conduct of the war; Although the ground offensive focused on exposing tunnels and destroying rocket launchers; Although those who once called to destroy Hamas now avoid doing so –  it is evident that Hamas’s actions stems from misunderstanding of the Israeli public and our strength.

Israel has returned this morning its delegation from Cairo. Hamas, who on the one hand feels that there is more to achieve from this war, and on the other hand faces the uncopmromising positions of Egypt and Israel, decided to continue the shooting. In the past, we heard about the concept ‘dribble’ and the need for inclusion. This time, it seems, our government has reacted in a different way.

Israel’s insistence on the demilitarization of Gaza, the immediate response to the rocket attacks on Israel this morning, and especially, the return of the delegation – all of those may indicate that we are one step ahead of Hamas. Hamas continues to fire but the world has allowed Israel to react for more than a month. Hamas continues to fire but the Israeli consensus has only been strengthened.  It will take some time (because that right now it seems that the option of destroying Hamas completely is not on the table for the government), but it seems that we are on the right way.

We all know the story of Exodus and how God toughened the heart of Pharaoh. This time it seems the roles are reversed: the tough demands of Egyptian officials toughen the heart of Hamas. We all remember how the story ended then. Recent events may indicate that Hamas’ lack of understanding the determination of the Israeli public is causing them to dig themselves into a hole that is only getting deeper and deeper.

About the Author
Matan Asher is a 24 years old student for law and political science at Bar-Ilan University and recently graduated from the Jewish Statesmanship Center. He was one of the founders of Human Rights Blue and White, sponsored by the Institute for Zionist Strategies, and is the header of Yuvalim project at BIU for the WZO. Matan is an intern at the JCPA for Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld.
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