ANALYSIS: Israel Must Finally Decide What to Do With Hamas

Noted Israeli expert explains to Israel Today why the Jewish state’s current policies vis-a-vis Hamas aren’t working

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The latest round of heavy fighting in and around the Gaza Strip again ended with a predictable ceasefire that left Hamas intact and well-armed, ready to continue harassing Israel at a later date.

That outcome has resulted in a rising chorus of voices demanding that the Netanyahu government either finally bring an end to the Hamas threat to the nearly 1 million people living in the south of the country, or resign.

This displeasure with our current prime minister and his policies vis-a-vis Hamas-ruled Gaza spans the political spectrum.

During an Israeli television news panel on the situation in Gaza, noted commentator Dr. Ronit Marzan, a researcher in Palestinian politics and society at the University of Haifa and chair of the Chaikin Geostrategy Institute, echoed what many are now feeling. Israel Today reached out to Dr. Marzan to explain her position to our readers.

While many might disagree with Dr. Marzan's recommendation of accepting Hamas as a political player, her insistence that Israel finally clarify its relationship to Hamas and act accordingly in all situations rings true.

Dr. Ronit Marzan:

"Hamas faces complex challenges both inside and outside the Palestinian arena, the regional arena and the international arena.

"The first of these challenges is the erosion of its status as a political leadership in light of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Hamas finds it difficult to uphold the social contract it signed when it was democratically-elected to leadership in the 2006 Palestinian legislative election. It is in great need of financial assistance in order to provide a response to growing public discontent.

"The second challenge is the erosion of its heroic image as a national liberation movement. It's acceptance of financial aid (from Qatar via Israel) in the absence of substantive progress on the issue of Palestinian statehood makes Hamas appear as though it sold the birthright ('Palestine') for a bowl of lentil soup (the reported suitcase of cash).

"The third challenge is the reduction of Hamas' military operational strength. When Israel strikes Hamas assets, it weakens and humiliates the group's military wing (the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades), causing many to instead join the ranks of its rival Islamist factions.

"In light of all this, we must not be dragged back into a policy of targeted killings (assassinations of Hamas leaders), which in the past failed to bring about any far-reaching changes to the situation. On the contrary, the current Hamas leadership should be preserved as an address for dialogue, because without it the chaos will only intensify.

"It is time for Israel to formulate a clear strategy vis-a-vis Hamas. If it is a terrorist organization, then it is forbidden to help the group obtain financial support. But, if it is a political actor, then in addition to aiding the transfer of funds to its government, we must accept Hamas as part of the Palestinian political system alongside the Palestinian Authority and officially engage with it.

"In the case of the latter, Israel should press for reconciliation between Hamas and the PA, which would facilitate a subsequent regional or international conference attended by Israel and the Arab states."


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