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What is a Permanent War for Hamas?

Last week, Khalil al-Hayya, a member of Hamas’s top leadership body, and Taher El-Nounou, a Hamas media adviser, told The New York Times that the goal of the war was not to improve life in Gaza, but to turn the state of war with Israel into a permanent one “on all the borders… and that the Arab world will stand with us.” Leaders of Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas have often invoked the term "borderless open war" (حرب مفتوحة بلا حدود), a war which is permanent. What do they mean by that?

fire blast and poeple shouting

The desire to destroy the State of Israel is a cornerstone of the Iranian regime, Hamas, and Hezbollah. Evidence of the centrality of destroying Israel is demonstrated by Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, who authored a 400-page book on the subject titled “Palestine.” In recent years, Iran has engaged in building a “ring of fire” around Israel, advancing toward a “borderless open war.” This includes the more than 150,000 missiles held by Hezbollah in Lebanon, as well as the armaments held by Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip. Iran has also made significant efforts to build a missile system that targets Israel from a vast geographic area, including Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.

When I led the Reut Institute, we analyzed quotes from Khamenei’s book and statements from other senior officials, as well as examining the actions undertaken by Iranians in the region. Our conclusion was that the term “borderless open war” refers to the strategy that Iran and its proxies have adopted to annihilate Israel. According to this strategy, on the day of reckoning, tens of thousands of missiles will be fired at Israel every day from a geographic area that stretches from Iran to Yemen and up to the Gaza Strip, targeting the country’s population centers and trapping Israel in a ring of fire for a period of months. Israel will lack the ability to determine, contain, and defend itself from such an attack.

The only way to stop this comes with the heavy cost of physically occupying territory. However, unlike the threat from Gaza, Israel does not have a theoretical option when the potential for threat extends throughout the Middle East. Iran’s advancement to a nuclear threshold state will also eliminate the theoretical possibility of using such weapons in response to an Iranian attack. The Iranian strategy is predicated on the working assumption that Israel will not be able to tolerate a protracted conflict that harms its home front and functional continuity. The Iranians believe that the weak social fabric of Israeli society will eventually lead to its collapse.

In an all-out war, Iran and its affiliates will also have a global dimension, threatening Jewish communities outside Israel. Iranian and Hezbollah networks, spread throughout South America, Europe, and other locales, logistically exploit Shia populations worldwide and may attack Jewish communities. They have already demonstrated that they consider Jewish communities legitimate targets.

That was the plan. However, this war may have been launched too soon for them. Iran is not yet a nuclear threshold state, and it has yet to deploy significant kinetic infrastructure in Syria and Iraq. Israeli society was indeed polarized, but acting prematurely allowed Israeli society to unite. It could be that while Iran is very supportive, it was surprised by the timing of the attack.

This may explain why the Iranians and Hezbollah are not fully committed to the war launched by Hamas. Israel is not currently facing a permanent borderless war as Hamas wished it to be. But this state of affairs could change.


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