What Hamas Wants in Postwar Gaza: The Power to Fight without the Burden of Governing

(Foreign Affairs) Matthew Levitt - After seven months of war in Gaza, the Israel-Hamas conflict has caused untold devastation to the two million Gazans that Hamas claims to represent and has all but destroyed Hamas' governance project. With its heinous Oct. 7 assault on Israel, Hamas sought to put itself and the Palestinian issue back at the center of the international agenda, even if that meant destroying much of Gaza itself. But Hamas' leaders also are trying to relieve themselves of the sole burden of governing Gaza, which had become an impediment to achieving the group's goal of destroying Israel. The Hamas leadership is also trying to jump-start a process of reconciliation with Fatah and the Palestinian Authority. In seeking to force a new governance structure on Gaza and to refashion the PLO in its own image, Hamas hopes to impose a Hizbullah model on the territory. Like Hizbullah in Lebanon, Hamas wants a future in which it is both a part of, and apart from, whatever Palestinian governance structure next emerges in Gaza. That way, it hopes to wield political and military dominance in Gaza and ultimately the West Bank without bearing any of the accountability that comes from ruling. As Hamas sees it, it must first secure a victory as Hizbullah did in 2006, simply by surviving. Then, it must adopt a Hizbullah model in its relation to the postwar governance structure that emerges - joining with the PLO and changing the Palestinian movement from within while maintaining Hamas as an independent fighting force. To arrest this plan before it is set in motion, it will be paramount for Israel, the U.S., and their Arab and Western allies to keep Hamas out of whatever Palestinian governance structure is built. The writer is Director of the Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

2024-05-16 00:00:00

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