Israeli security and political coordination with Hamas has served mutual interests for many years. Now Hamas is hoping to stay out of the current fighting in order to potentially expand its political power in the West Bank.
By Menachem Klein
The new round of fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad in Gaza gives one the impression that there is an unwritten agreement between Israel and Hamas. This is not exceptional in relations between enemies with common interests. Syria and Israel, for example, once had an understanding regarding the red lines of the latter’s involvement in Lebanon.
A knowledge of recent history is necessary in order to understand the delicate dance between Israel and Hamas. In 2007 Hamas ousted Fatah, which then ruled Gaza under strongman Mohammed Dahlan. In response, Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza, hoping it would bring down the Hamas regime, either through external pressure or by inciting an internal Palestinian revolt. That strategy failed: Hamas remains in power until today.
Israel changed its policy of overthrowing Hamas around 2010, opting instead for a type of co-existence. The government decided to institutionalize the separation between Gaza and the West Bank, gradually annexing parts of the latter while reaching practical agreements with Hamas. Israel refuses to allow Hamas a foothold in the West Bank, which is one of the primary reasons for its security coordination with Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority.
Israel thus strengthens Abbas’ rule while increasing suspicion and hostility toward Hamas, but it has also reconciled itself to perpetual Hamas rule in Gaza. It uses classic divide-and-conquer tactics to control Palestinians on both sides, while understanding that should Hamas fall, the vacuum could be filled by one of the ISIS-aligned groups based in Sinai. Israel needs a stable relationship with Hamas in order to keep ISIS out of Gaza.Read More