Is Hamas good or bad for Israel?

Hamas has no interest in the establishment of a Palestinian state, does not engage in politics or border discussions. It has one, singular goal: the establishment of an Islamic caliphate.

Hamas Chief Ismail Haniyeh gestures during a news conference following his arrival at the Rafah border crossing in the southern Gaza Strip September 19, 2017.  (photo credit: REUTERS)
Hamas Chief Ismail Haniyeh gestures during a news conference following his arrival at the Rafah border crossing in the southern Gaza Strip September 19, 2017.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Every few years, terrorist activity rears its ugly head in the Gaza Strip, and the philosophical debate in Israel begins once again over whether the continued rule by Hamas in Gaza is good for the State of Israel, or if an alternate ruling group would be preferable. The recent skirmishes have reopened discussions of this controversial issue, and voices can be heard questioning whether we should maintain the Hamas regime in order to prevent even worse alternatives from rising to power. Supporters of this claim point to the fact that preserving Hamas is making it difficult of the Palestinian Authority to create a united front vis-a-vis the State of Israel.
It’s important to understand what Hamas’ motives are and what its plan for the future is. The organization’s charter, which was published in 1988 by Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin, has 36 sections, including the following: “Allah is the goal, the prophet is the ideal, the Koran its law, jihad its path, and death for the sake of Allah is the greatest of its wishes.”
The Hamas charter clearly states that the organization is an arm of the Muslim Brotherhood and its view of the State of Israel (Palestine) is unequivocal: It is Palestinian land, part of Dar Al-Islam (literally House of Islam), or a land where Islam is the ruling religion. A place that is dedicated to Muslims until the Day of Resurrection, no part of which can be relinquished, where every Muslim – even women and slaves – must embark on holy jihad in order to return the land unto its rightful owners [i.e. the Muslims].
Jewish settlement in all parts of Israel is considered an illegitimate invasion, and the very existence of the State of Israel is a provocation against Muslims. Throughout the entire charter, Hamas expresses an extreme antisemitic world view and claims the Jews are responsible for every negative historical event that’s ever happened. It scornfully refers to all political agreements and states that the only correct method is the use of force and jihad. Compromise is not an acceptable method.
Hamas has no interest in the establishment of a Palestinian state, does not engage in politics or border discussions. It has one, singular goal: the establishment of an Islamic caliphate in the Middle East.
All acts of aggression in the Gaza area have been instigated by the Hamas leadership, but in recent years, however, the movement has found itself at a dead end. It has been suffering intense economic hardships, a naval blockade, a lack of cooperation and help form the PA, and growing unrest on the home front. The attempt to forge some form of unity with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah has failed miserably. Most Middle Eastern countries (with the exception of Turkey and Iran) have turned their back on Hamas, and recent US initiatives are threatening its very existence.
Hamas’ main concern about having to reach a political agreement is that it would be expected to make a number of concessions that would distance it from the realization of its fanatical vision. This leads them to consistently reject any political compromise and instigate tensions on the border with Israel, even when it knows that this could quickly exacerbate into an all-out war that could destroy all of Gaza’s infrastructure.
Hamas is extremely concerned about signing a reconciliation agreement with the PA, which although it could slightly lessen the economic pressure and anger from residents, could also bring about an end to Hamas’ hegemony in the Gaza Strip.
Extended periods of calm, when no violent interactions with Israel are taking place, weaken Hamas vis-a-vis other radical organizations operating in Gaza.
A paradoxical situation is created in which Hamas makes conciliatory gestures that support Palestinian unity, and urge for calm, while in reality they are doing the exact opposite.
Hamas continues to carry out terrorist attacks and plan coups in Judea and Samaria. It turns a blind eye to acts of terror against Israel carried out by other organizations, such as Islamic jihad and ISIS, and encourages its own people to get themselves killed in demonstrations or launch incendiary kites into Israeli territory.
Those who claim that efforts should be made to keep Hamas in power, claim that Hamas is the only organization capable of keeping calm on the border and is our natural partner. This also maintains the divisions within the PA and its image as a non-state and unstable entity, which means the chances of a Palestinian state being established, remain low.
This way of thinking has, however, been proven wrong.
Israel has been promoting this concept for years, which entails reacting to attacks carried out by Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah on Israel’s northern border. The promotion of this method vis-a-vis Hezbollah has turned out to be one of Israel’s greatest strategic failures. More than 100,000 missiles and rockets are currently aimed at Israel.
All of the wars that Israel has fought in Gaza were initiated by Hamas, be it a rocket fired into Israel, a shooting, or a kidnapping. Israel has consistently responded with moderate force that lacks any deterrent force.
Every operation ended without any clear military or political victory.
Even following Operation Protective Edge in 2014, which harmed Hamas much more seriously than previous operations, the organization immediately picked itself up off the ground and began preparations for the next confrontation.
Hamas continues to project an image as a victim to the world media, and Israel as the aggressor. Incitement by the head of the PA has only helped to fuel this image. For this reason, Hamas prefers to keep the struggle going on a small scale.
In this situation, Israel sees no advantage in Hamas remaining in control. We have no quiet and every few years another war breaks out in Gaza.
Israel must not be afraid of the idea that an alternate dangerous force could take control of the Gaza Strip.
These forces are already operating in the field under the auspices of Hamas. Even if theoretically one of these groups did somehow succeed in wresting control, this would offer Israel a legitimate reason to enter Gaza and wage an all-out war, just as the West is currently fighting against ISIS.
The real question is not whether Hamas is good or bad for Israel, but how many more times is this ticking bomb going to explode on our border and what political and military steps are we going to take to neutralize Hamas? We need more action and less reaction. No more containment and proportionate responses, but active initiatives that will provide Israel with quiet in the long-term.
The writer is a former brigadier-general who served as a division head in the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).
Translated by Hannah Hochner.