Iran Created the Monster That Is Hamas

Yesterday, Hamas released an additional twelve hostages (ten Israeli citizens and two Thai) in exchange for an additional day of the ceasefire, and the same arrangement is expected to persist today. These deals are the product of constant negotiations in Qatar involving Washington, Jerusalem, Cairo, and Hamas. What remains unclear is Iran’s involvement in these negotiations, over which it certainly has some influence. It’s also worth noting that attacks by Iran-backed militias on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria have ceased since the ceasefire took effect.

As background to making sense of all this, we have Matthew Levitt’s overview of the relationship between Iran and Hamas, which dates back to the latter’s founding in 1987, when the Islamic Republic began providing it with ample funds:

Hamas was reluctant in its early years to accept too much money from Iran for fear of being bound to the expectations and instructions of Tehran. But the increase in Iranian funding for Hamas in May 2004 came just weeks after the assassination of Hamas leader Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi.

Iran’s provision of support to Hamas has continued to grow over time, especially after Hamas took over the Gaza Strip by force from fellow Palestinians in 2007. According to a 2010 U.S. Department of Defense report on Iran’s military power, Iran provided Hizballah and several Palestinian terrorist groups—including Hamas—“with funding, weapons, and training to oppose Israel.” . . . Today, U.S. and Israeli officials estimate that Iran provides Hamas at least $70 million to $100 million a year.

For decades, Iran, a U.S.-designated state sponsor of terrorism, has provided a wide range of material support to Hamas, without which Hamas could never have become the capable and deadly terrorist organization it is today. . . . Tehran played a critical role in creating the monster that is Hamas, which is why Iran shares the blame and responsibility for the brutal attack.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: Hamas, Iran, Israeli Security

What Israel Can Achieve in Gaza, the Fate of the Hostages, and Planning for the Day After

In a comprehensive analysis, Azar Gat concludes that Israel’s prosecution of the war has so far been successful, and preferable to the alternatives proposed by some knowledgeable critics. (For a different view, see this article by Lazar Berman.) But even if the IDF is coming closer to destroying Hamas, is it any closer to freeing the remaining hostages? Gat writes:

Hamas’s basic demand in return for the release of all the hostages—made clear well before it was declared publicly—is an end to the war and not a ceasefire. This includes the withdrawal of the IDF from the Gaza Strip, restoration of Hamas’s control over it (including international guarantees), and a prisoner exchange on the basis of “all for all.”

Some will say that there must be a middle ground between Hamas’s demands and what Israel can accept. However, Hamas’s main interest is to ensure its survival and continued rule, and it will not let go of its key bargaining chip. Some say that without the return of the hostages—“at any price”—no victory is possible. While this sentiment is understandable, the alternative would be a resounding national defeat. The utmost efforts must be made to rescue as many hostages as possible, and Israel should be ready to pay a heavy price for this goal; but Israel’s capitulation is not an option.

Beyond the great cost in human life that Israel will pay over time for such a deal, Hamas will return to rule the Gaza Strip, repairing its infrastructure of tunnels and rockets, filling its ranks with new recruits, and restoring its defensive and offensive arrays. This poses a critical question for those suggesting that it will be possible to restart the war at a later stage: have they fully considered the human toll should the IDF attempt to reoccupy the areas it would have vacated in the Gaza Strip?

Although Gat is sanguine about the prospects of the current campaign, he throws some cold water on those who hope for an absolute victory:

Militarily, it is possible to destroy Hamas’s command, military units, and infrastructure as a semi-regular military organization. . . . After their destruction in high-intensity fighting, the IDF must prevent Hamas from reviving by continuous action on the ground. As in the West Bank, this project will take years. . . . What the IDF is unlikely to achieve is the elimination of Hamas as a guerrilla force.

Lastly, Gat has some wise words about what will happen to Gaza after the war ends, a subject that has been getting renewed attention since Benjamin Netanyahu presented an outline of a plan to the war cabinet on Thursday. Gat argues that, contrary to the view of the American and European foreign-policy elite, there is no political solution for Gaza. After all, Gaza is in the Middle East, where “there are no solutions, . . . only bad options and options that are much worse.”

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security