War is a province of chaos, but even amongst conflicts the recent battle between Israel and Gaza is shrouded in more confusion than most. Ironically, while the fog of war still hangs heavy over the origins of this recent spate of violence, a certain clarity can be found regarding Hamas and its ilk. The lesson of these events is that Gaza’s terrorist groups cannot be bought off. This lesson should have been learned a dozen times over by now but especially since the blockade began, since Gilad Shalit was traded, and since Protective Edge was fought. For Hamas, money, legitimacy, and stability are a means to an end, not an end in of themselves.
Gaza’s latest volley of rockets and mortars comes after months of the same. Hoping to avoid higher-level military operations, the Israeli government permitted a transfer of Qatari cash and fuel to bribe the economically beleaguered terrorist organization into relative peace. At first glance, while the reportedly botched operation did result in the death of several commanders and operatives, Hamas had every incentive to keep the purchased peace. Yahya Sinwar, head of Hamas’ military wing, could have simply made some empty threats and made off with the Qatari goods. Hamas desperately needs the money and energy sources, perhaps now more than ever. The Strip’s civilians are suffering under Hamas’ rule. While its honor could be seen as damaged as a result of the IDF’s operation, Hamas could have called the death of an IDF Lieutenant Colonel its revenge. Further, surely the legitimacy lost amongst Gazans by the lack of a response is not greater than that lost for not securing salaries and fuel. Instead of a measured response to allow it to meet the needs of its subjects, secure its legitimacy, and economic stability, Hamas has chosen to launch a large barrage of rockets and mortars. This will undoubtedly lead to the closure of the crossings that donated resources would enter through, if not also a swift and punishing response from the Israeli Defense Forces. The conclusion that must be drawn from these decisions is that Hamas doesn’t care for its people, its legitimacy, and finances as much as it does for the destruction of Israel.
Hamas’ devotion to a violent conclusion to the Arab-Israeli conflict shouldn’t be surprising, though some commentators still treat Hamas as a beleaguered resistance group forced into the corner, resorting to violence out of desperation. Following its rise to power in the Gaza Strip, Hamas was given a choice by Israel and its allies. It could renounce violence, cease violence, and accept the existence of the state of Israel, or suffer from economic sanctions. Had Hamas chosen the former, Gaza could have been a very different place. Hamas’ economic stability wouldn’t be so tenuous, and its legitimacy would have been affirmed by the happiness of its subjects and the embrace of the international community. Hamas chose the later option, refusing to be bought off, continuing its jihad against Israel.
This continued holy war eventually featured a massive prisoner exchange for the hostage Gilad Shalit. The exchange, which included Sinwar, could have been the basis for some good will between Israel and Gaza. Hamas could have ridden the legitimacy that its victory afforded off into the sunset, and enjoyed the economic prosperity brought about by some peace. Instead it continued to launch rockets and mortars, as Hamas does, into Israel. This eventually lead to operation Pillar of Defense. From his release, Sinwar thought not of peace and prosperity, but instead gained resolve that the war against Israel must continue.
In 2014, Hamas again chose violence over prosperity. The continuing feud between the PA and Hamas, and the continued blockade, put Gaza in an economically precarious situation. To make matters worse, it had lost patrons in Egypt and Iran after it had chosen poorly in the gamble that was the “Arab Spring”. Its smuggling tunnels threatened, electricity reduced, and unemployment skyrocketing, Hamas had to find a solution. This dilemma was one of the many reasons that Hamas pushed to begin the conflagration that we now know as “Protective Edge”. Hamas could have tried to make amends with Israel. There would have been economic benefit to both sides for an opening of the Strip to Israeli investment and business. However, Hamas could not give up on its war. Once again, it chose the path of violence, instead banking on the fact that donations and charity would pour in from all over the world, and would cover the expenses of Hamas leader’s luxuries, and maybe the bombed out homes of the poor Gazans. Instead of allowing these Gazans to travel and trade, Hamas used them as human shields, on both the strategic and tactical levels, subjecting them to the horrors of the province of chaos.
With the litany of rejected opportunities for Hamas to solve all its economic, legitimacy, and stability problems, the most recent barrage of rockets shouldn’t come as a surprise. While it is true that by failing this most recent military operation the IDF may have been the initiator of violence, Hamas has shown in response that it is willing to return to violence and perpetuate it at the drop of a hat. Cessation of violence is an illusion, to be waved away by Hamas whenever it once again suits its purpose. If it had not begun rocket fire again now, it would have done so later. Any bribe, any pay off, will be used as any other resource that Hamas latches onto. Hamas’ end goal is the destruction of the state of Israel. This goal, as seen above by, will always supersede other considerations. Money, be it from the heavy taxes Hamas takes from its subjects, or the charity it steals, is to be used for attack tunnels, Qassam rockets, and other military expenditures. The acceptance of the population for Hamas rule is only so they remain a source of military personnel and political power. The people of Gaza are yet another resource to exploited by Hamas and its terrorist brethren, to be used in its grand strategy against Israel. When there are ceasefires, they are used by Hamas not to rebuild homes, but to restock munitions. Even stability and momentary peace are in the service of Hamas’ unyielding war against Israel.
Trying to buy off Hamas is like a condemned man bribing a hangman with enough money to buy a noose. Hamas does not want money. It does not want stability. It does not want the best lives possible for Gazans. Money, legitimacy, and stability are simply a means to an end, that end being the end of Israel. Sooner or later, Hamas would have resumed its violent actions. This time, the IDF gave it the opportunity to start again earlier. Hamas chose to use this opportunity in the only way that matters to it. Hopefully, all relevant parties will now realize that peace with Hamas cannot be purchased, but in the meantime, Hamas too will have a lesson it must learn. In the coming hours, the inevitable response from the IDF will commence. Unfortunately, violence is the only thing Hamas understands, and it must learn the price for attacks on Israeli civilians.