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How could Israel really defeat Hamas?

It is becoming increasingly evident that the Israeli operation in Gaza has toppled the Hamas regime, thus fulfilling one of its main objectives. Hamas has lost effective control of Gaza, its leaders holed up in tunnels and there is no central government in the Gaza Strip that provides basic services to its citizens. Israel also destroyed symbols of governance and attributes of sovereignty in Gaza, including the parliament.

Tunnel gaza computer room

Hamas, however, doesn't seem to grasp its rule the same way Israel does. It may be that Israel's working assumptions regarding the meaning of overthrowing Hamas are incorrect. We must therefore be even more precise about the war's goals as Hamas shows no signs of breaking and the campaign drags on. This will allow us to better understand the operational goals derived from the goal of overthrowing Hamas.



Hamas disregards few elements considered essential to sovereignty or statehood by Israel and the West:

  • Hamas does not perceive its role as being responsible for the welfare or protection of the population in Gaza, these are reserved for the UN and Israel as far as it is concerned.

  • Hamas does not consider itself responsible for Gaza's territorial integrity. Hamas did not try to militarily thwart the Israeli invasion, it even knew that it was “inviting” it on October 7.

  • Hamas does not have a monopoly on the possession of weapons in Gaza. it also does not aspire to such a monopoly, but allows and even encourages other groups to arm themselves..

So what is the nature of the Hamas entity that Israel is dealing with? As the temporary ceasefire in Gaza unfolds, it becomes apparent that Israel is dealing with a hybrid entity that is more than an organization but less than a state. In spite of losing control of the Strip and severe damage to infrastructure in Gaza, Hamas manages to enforce a cease-fire in all parts of the Strip and on all armed groups, even in the north of the Strip, where the IDF controls (above ground). Hamas also successfully manages the complex operation of the hostage deal. 

 

Therefore, the capabilities and assets that must be deprived of Hamas in order to declare its defeat in the Strip are:

  1. Effective control of the organization: In Hamas, organizational command and control is decentralized and flat; field levels have a great deal of autonomy, even without regular direct contact with the leadership. There are several physical locations where the leadership can assemble, it turns out that the Shifa Hospital was just one of them.

  2. Popular support and an image of authenticity: Even in its difficult times, while its popularity is certainly shaking, Hamas is seen as an authentic representative of Palestinian society in Gaza (as opposed to the Palestinian Authority).

  3. Monopoly on power: Today there is no internal threat to its rule. Other armed groups accept the orders of Hamas, including the Islamic Jihad or armed family clans.

  4. Int'l recognition and allies: Hamas maintains a strong foreign network of communication channels with international actors and intermediaries, including Qatar, Egypt, Russia, and the Red Cross. Hamas' foreign network is managed both by its foreign leadership and by its Gaza leadership.

  5. The Iran led Axis of Resistance: : Hamas Maintain a coordinated regional multi-arena campaign under the auspices of Iran, even if Hamas cannot bring it to the level it envisioned.

Other Hamas’ strategic assets:

  1. Public image: A narrative portraying Hamas as a freedom fighter has been widely adopted by radical left circles in the West, to the point where Hamas has effectively become viewed as a freedom fighter and the loyal representative of the Palestinian people. This concept is embraced even by members of the Democratic Party, who put pressure on the administration to end its support for Israel.

  2. Media: Qatari controlled Al Jazeera is widely regarded as supporting and promoting Hamas among Arab and foreign audiences.

Damage to these elements may result in Hamas' defeat, which requires an integrated campaign that goes beyond military tactics.

 

It is a difficult, but achievable task, and in any case, the State of Israel has a moral obligation to fulfill. There is no doubt that it will require a great deal of sacrifice. However, unique historical circumstances made this possible, and Israel must not give it up when the temporary ceasefire ends.

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