Weakened, but not down for the count: Hamas may resurface stronger than before

After many killed and wounded, Hamas has still not surrendered nor have the people of Gaza rebelled.

Hamas members are seen close up during a press conference in the Gaza Strip last week. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Hamas members are seen close up during a press conference in the Gaza Strip last week.
(photo credit: REUTERS)

Hamas is in no rush for a cease-fire despite being continually pummeled by Israeli attacks.

That is because it knows that Israel and the West are seeking a cease-fire, which would, once again, allow them to rebuild and rearm.
And as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt saw many deaths since the overthrow of president Mohamed Morsi, the Palestinian branch of Hamas is also willing to sacrifice lives. After all, their motto is, “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. The Koran is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.”
Mordechai Kedar, director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam and a research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University recalled the time before Operation Protective Edge when Israeli media experts said how weak Hamas was, that Egypt was closing its tunnels – its lifeline to the outside world – and how it struggled to pay salaries, and so forth.
However, after many killed and wounded, Hamas has still not surrendered nor have the people of Gaza rebelled, Kedar pointed out.
This misconception can be attributed to looking at Hamas from one's own cultural vantage point and not from Hamas’s cultural prospective, he said, adding that for Hamas, they do not see their dead as dead, but as martyrs that are alive in the afterworld.
As the Koran (3:169) states: “Count not those who were slain in God’s way as dead, but rather living with their Lord, by Him provided.”
Furthermore, Kedar explained, after the current conflict ends, Iran, Qatar and Turkey will aid in rehabilitating the organization, by supplying weapons, training and equipment and material for building more tunnels.
Hamas knows its latitude for action, and observes how Israel has been announcing various temporary ceasefires as pressure from the US administration, Europe and the media grows.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s declaration that the objective of the war is to deal with the tunnels – not Hamas itself, is an objective not lost on the Hamas leadership.
“‘You don’t want to actually administer Gaza and you don’t want someone worse taking over,’ a senior Israeli official said this month when asked why Israel was not pursuing regime change against Hamas,’” The Daily Beast reported on Thursday.
Hamas understands Israel’s limits and so it continues to fire rockets and attack with the knowledge that its enemy is not interested in toppling it from power, but only to deal it a blow, from which it can recover.
Hamas values patience, believing that it could take many years to defeat Israel.
“Hamas, which determines how much effort to put into any confrontation on the basis of its overall significance, does not regard any struggle as ‘the battle’ to which everything must be dedicated with total disregard for the consequences; nor is any battle worth sacrificing the entire movement,” wrote Khaled Hroub, in his book, Hamas: Political Thought and Practice.
“Hamas’s goal has been to transform Israel from a land that attracts world Jewry to a land that repels them by making its residents insecure,” said Hroub.
Consequently, even though the rockets did not succeed to hit their targets as planned, it did cause major disruptions in Israel, including canceling many flights to and from Ben-Gurion Airport.
As international pressure builds on Israel to halt the offensive – it feels like déjà vu – a likely outcome being a cease-fire deal similar to that which calmed fighting during 2012’s Operation Pillar of Defense, but this time with a hostile Egyptian government.
“There were immediate questions about the durability of the deal. Hamas, which controls Gaza, has in the past not fulfilled less formal ceasefires by failing to halt all missile fire into Israel by breakaway Palestinian militants,” The New York Times wrote in November 2012 at the conclusion of the Israel-Hamas cease-fire agreement brokered mainly by the US and Egypt.
“This is a point on the way to a great defeat for Israel...Israel failed in all its objectives,” Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal declared after that agreement was reached, the Times reported. And so it seems he will issue the same declaration again.
The war in Gaza has shown the 2012 deal to be a failure for Israel, allowing Hamas to become even stronger than it was then.