Gaza Fighting Highlights Differences between Hamas and Islamic Jihad

(BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University) Prof. Hillel Frisch - While Hamas views the use of violence as a means for increasing the volume of trade with Israel and securing the inflow of Qatari money to enhance the welfare of the Gaza population, Islamic Jihad seeks confrontation as part of an Iranian strategy to deflect attention from its Syrian military buildup and regional expansion. Hamas must take into consideration its popular base, which includes 50,000 men and women whose salaries depend on Hamas' retention of control of Gaza. Most Gazans live in a society that is almost exclusively Sunni and suspect Islamic Jihad members of being Shiites in disguise. This is why in elections in Gaza universities and trade unions, Islamic Jihad secures a mere 2-3% support. At Abu Ata's funeral procession just hours after his killing, it was hard to count more than 100 participants. No flags of other Gaza organizations were visible. Islamic Jihad's paltry popular base means its dependence on Iran is all the greater. Moreover, PIJ can operate purely as a fighting arm without the need to take into account the welfare of the Gaza population. Hamas leaders are keenly aware who wags Islamic Jihad's tail, the reasons behind its activities, and the ways its strategy contradicts Hamas' current agenda. However, Hamas can only constrain rather than stop Islamic Jihad because it needs Iran as well. The writer is a professor of political and Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University and a senior research associate at its Begin-Sadat Center.

2019-11-14 00:00:00

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