Defeating Hamas Takes More Than Bombs

A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip (Photo: paffairs_sanfrancisco/flickr)

Listening to Netanyahu declare that as a result of Operation Guardian of the Walls, things are going to be different, it begins to feel like a kind of madness has set in. Madness in the sense of doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result.

That military means are necessary and justified to contain Hamas is obvious. But bitter experience makes clear that military force will not bring strategic change.

Regardless of the tonnage of bombs dropped, and the number of ‘high value’ targets destroyed or killed, the degradation of Hamas’s capabilities, the deterrence effect, the interval until the next round, is temporary, and each time Hamas has returned with enhanced capabilities. In 2014 they fired a hundred rockets a day. Now they can fire five hundred.

If the goal is to defeat Hamas, then military tools must be accompanied by a long-term vision for sustainable political order that marginalises Hamas and their agenda.

This applies most immediately to the Gaza Strip. Jerusalem tensions and Hamas’s political ambitions may have triggered this round, but Gaza’s instability is heightened by underlying conditions that Israelis too often ignore, at our cost.

The humanitarian situation is dire. Over the seven years following Operation Protective Edge, whilst Hamas was building the Gaza Metro (a massive network of terror tunnels that crisscross underneath Gaza), progress on civilian infrastructure moved far too slowly. Gazans were up to 14 hours of electricity a day on average before the current violence, and supplies of unpolluted water fall well short of demand.

The demographics are even more striking. Gaza today has two million people. Around half are under the age of 15. (This helps explain why children are so highly represented among the more than 100 Gazan civilian fatalities in the recent conflict.) By 2030, the population is projected to be three million. Unemployment is at 45%, and for those aged 15-29 it is 64%. Movement and access for people and goods is extremely limited.

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Disclosure: Dr Toby Greene is a Senior Research Associate at BICOM and an Israel Institute Post- Doctoral Fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations at Hebrew ...

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Dick Kaplan 2 weeks ago Member's comment

Some interesting ideas and excellent solutions offered here. But with Hamas being the defacto government in Gaza, and also being a ruthless terrorist organization with countless murders to their credit, how can this be achieves? Practically speaking, how can anyone build infrastructure in Gaza without going through Hamas. You can't circumvent both the bureaucracy AND their street thugs.

Rebecca Duncan 2 weeks ago Member's comment

Great read. Thank you.

Mike Nolan 3 weeks ago Member's comment

So I'm a bit confused about something and maybe you can clear it up... So Hamas is a terrorist group... but also a political party? And they control Gaza. The Palestinian Authority under Abbas is another, more moderate party. in the last election, ages ago, the terrorists won the election and took over.... but only in Gaza? Are Gaza and the West Bank separate countries with separate elections? Or do they have one election to determine who governs both areas? And if the latter, how did Abbas end up in control of the West Bank even though he lost?

So then I read there were going to be Palestinian elections again for the first time in like 15 years (why so long?). Then I heard they were cancelled. But why? Now I hear that Hamas is a shoe-in to win the next election since they are now more popular than ever on the streets of both Gaza and the West Bank. The reason for their sky rocketing popularity? Because they were able to kill a few Israeli Jewish (and Arab) women and children in Israel, at the expense of a couple hundred of their own people.

None of this makes sense to me. What else am I missing?

Toby Greene 3 weeks ago Author's comment

I think you more or less have it. No elections for Palestinian president or parliament since 2006. After Hamas won parliamentary elections in 2006 they kicked out from the Gaza Strip forces loyal to Abbas (who was elected president in 2005). Since then Abbas and his party have run the PA in the West Bank and Hamas have run the Gaza Strip. once a year or so they announce either a unity government or new elections but it never comes about because neither side will risk giving up control of what they have. As I understand it recent polls actually showed Fatah more popular than Hamas but Fatah is tearing itself apart in internal divisions.

Mike Nolan 3 weeks ago Member's comment

Wow, it really sounds like a messed up corner of the world over there. So lucky I was born here! Have their been any polls since the rocket attacks and riots? I wonder if Hamas is now the more popular of the two.

Susan Miller 3 weeks ago Member's comment

Really enjoyed your article. Hope to see more by you.

Danny Straus 3 weeks ago Member's comment

You say Israel should choose the lesser of two evils. But the PA uses text books out of Nazi Germany to teach their children to hate Jews from the earliest ages (and paid for by US tax payers). They give money every month the families of suicide bombers. They name building and roads after them too - they glorify and encourage the killing of innocents. And as you said, they are corrupt. They've also never shown a real interest in peace. Wouldn't it be better to seek out actual moderates and empower them instead?

Toby Greene 3 weeks ago Author's comment

I am aware of many complaints about the content of PA textbooks, many of them I would assume are valid. Your claim about textbooks from Nazi Germany is absurd.

Danny Straus 3 weeks ago Member's comment

It is not absurd at all, but rather is a long known fact that similar to textbooks out of Nazi Germany that tried to dehumanize Jews and portray them in negative, stereotypical ways, PA text books do the same. They all do not even acknowledge Israel exists - all maps of the Middle East in their textbooks do not include Israel, but rather have Palestine in its place The murder of Jews are praised and the history is often rewritten to make Jews appear as the aggressors. Please review this thorough list of links that give a detailed account of all this. Quite frankly, I'm surprised you were not aware.

Ayelet Wolf 3 weeks ago Member's comment

Yes, this is true. The PA employs very similar to the methods employed by the Nazis. They also teach math by adding up the murder of Jews:

Ayelet Wolf 3 weeks ago Member's comment

You try to explain why so many children died in the conflict, but you fall into the trap of taking the word of terrorists at face value. Israel, a responsible democratic country insists that their surgical strikes at military targets killed far fewer than Hamas claims, and that the majority were terrorists. Why do you believe Hamas over Israel?

Hamas has been known to radically inflate the death toll and to pass off militant deaths as civilian deaths. They have also been known to "fake" children's' funerals - where after the TV cameras turn, bystanders' smart phones are still recording when the "dead" get up and walk away. And you fail to point out that about 1/4 of the 4,000 rockets Gaza fired, fell short and landed in Gaza itself - killing far more innocents than Israel's precision guided missiles. Yet Hamas blames these deaths on Israel as well. Apparently you do too.

Toby Greene 3 weeks ago Author's comment

I don't think Israel has disputed the number of civilian deaths. The IDF claims many more Hamas fighters were killed than they are admitting, but I have not seen them refute figures for child deaths which are widely circulated. I did not attribute blame for any specific incident in my article. From what I understand some were caused by misfiring Hamas rockets but many also by Israeli airstrikes.

Ayelet Wolf 3 weeks ago Member's comment

Actually Israel has, for example, early on a rocket killed 8 children in Gaza. Israel was blamed but Israel said they did not fire in the area, that it was a Gazan rocket that fell short.

Andrew Armstrong 3 weeks ago Member's comment

I realize that Hamas is a brutal regime that cares little for it's people, and does little to nothing to improve their lives. But without access to free press, do Gazans know that? Who do they blame for their hardships? Hamas or Israel?

Toby Greene 3 weeks ago Author's comment

I don't sense that Gazans are in any illusion about their situation or lack access to information. I think the issue is it's very difficult to oppose Hamas which is in effect an authoritarian regime.

Terrence Howard 3 weeks ago Member's comment

Good read. You'd likely be interested in Joseph Cox's thorough articles on this topic here: