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In 2008, despite a six-month cease-fire, Israeli civilians suffered 1,730 rocket and 1,528 mortar shell attacks from the Gaza Strip. The first four months of the cease-fire bore witness to a relative calm, with less than 30 attacks against Israel. However, roughly two months prior to the truce's termination, there was a dramatic military escalation between Gaza and Israel. The reason for a swell in attacks against Israel's civilians can be traced to the events of November 4, 2008, the day the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) executed a preemptive operation on the Gazan side of the border against a violative Hamas tunnel system. Following the IDF's anticipatory strike of November 4, which breached Gaza's territorial border with Israel, Hamas and other Gazan organizations launched a campaign of rocket and mortar shell attacks against Israel's proximate civilian population.
The reason Israel violated Gaza's territorial integrity on November 4 is this: Israel acted on intelligence that Hamas intended to use a tunnel system it was constructing under the security fence to execute kidnap operations on Israel's side of the border--in other words, the tunnel system compromised Israel's security interests. Israel successfully eliminated the threat that day, but killed 7 Hamas members on the Gaza side of the border in the process.
The IDF's violation of the Gazan border is important because Hamas, since its militant acquisition of Gaza's administrative institutions in 2007, has an international legal status more complex than that of a typical terrorist organization: Hamas now has budding "sovereignty" interests--like a nation-state--which were implicated in Israel's penetration of Gaza. Until the November 4 operation, Israel had refrained from counterterrorism activity inside Gaza, restricting itself to security activity on the Israel side of the border. Any discussion of why the IDF's penetration of the Gazan border triggered Hamas' dramatic retaliation, therefore, must revolve around Hamas' state-like interest in territorial inviolability, because no prior Israeli security operations throughout the period of the cease-fire had penetrated the Gazan border or produced such a remarkable response.
II. Since the coup in Gaza, Hamas has interests similar to those of a nation-state.
Hamas' first genuine taste of statecraft came with the successful negotiation of the cease-fire agreement in the summer of 2008. Under the truce arrangement, Hamas voluntarily ceded benefits to Israel, for the sake of advancing its own interests. To be precise, the obligations Hamas incurred were as follows: to itself halt attacks against civilians, and to enforce the cease-fire against the other terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip. In exchange, Hamas received a promise that the border crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip, which Israel controls, would open, and that Israel would discontinue counterterrorism operations within Gaza. Furthermore, it was expected by both parties that the cease-fire would lead to negotiations for the release of Gilad Shalit, a kidnapped Israeli soldier, as well as to discussions regarding the border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip (the Rafah Crossing), which Egypt shut down as an act of protest against the Hamas coup of 2007.
Faced with new contract-style responsibilities, Hamas actually enforced the cease-fire agreement against other Gazan terrorist organizations for the first few months, albeit in a scarcely satisfactory manner. (Hamas detained many terrorists short-term but never pursued consequential measures against them. For example, Hamas detained a multitude of Fatah Martyrs Brigades terrorists after the group claimed responsibility for the June 29 rocket attacks against Israeli civilians, but simply released them after brief interrogations.) Noteworthy of this period is that Hamas organized its behavior against Gazan terrorists, pursuant to its obligations under a treaty-like agreement with a sovereign state (Israel).
Hamas has an interest in open border crossings with Israel. But what interest do open border crossings with Israel serve? And what interest does enforcing the cease-fire against other Gazan organizations serve? The answer to both questions has to do with sovereignty.
III. Identification of Hamas' interests in "sovereignty"
An entity is generally considered sovereign when four elements obtain; the first is a permanent population, the second is defined territory, the third is functional government infrastructure, and the fourth is the capacity to enter into relations with other nation-states. Hamas possesses a permanent population,, because the people of Gaza are subject to Hamas' rule. Additionally, Hamas rules a defined territory, the Gaza Strip, at least de facto and for the moment. Thirdly, Hamas possesses the capacity to enter into relations with other States, because, to offer but one obvious example, it entered into a cease-fire agreement with Israel in June 2008. Hamas' "sovereignty problem," therefore, is that it lacks the third element: a functional government infrastructure.
IV. Open border crossings serve Hamas' interests in establishing government infrastructure in Gaza, because Hamas has not fully consolidated its power over the Gaza Strip.
Throughout the first period of the cease-fire (mid-June through November 4, a period of relative calm), a daily average of 80-90 trucks delivered food, fuel, electricity, raw materials, construction supplies, commercial goods, and other necessities into Gaza through the Karni and Sufa Crossings, which border Israel. According to a report by Al-Ayyam on July 24, senior Hamas members admitted that, thanks to the cease-fire, Gaza's economic activity had markedly improved, because Israel increased the quantity of goods entering the Gaza Strip. Supplies such as clothing, children's shoes, agricultural products, iron and cement flowed through the crossings, and contributed in meaningful ways to the renewal of Gaza's economy. (It should be noted that Hamas routinely complained that, despite the economic improvements, "the Strip [still] needs more . . . .")
Therefore, open crossings first of all help ease the damage caused by the international economic embargo on the Gaza strip (imposed after the 2007 Hamas coup), which improves the Gazans' quality of life. More importantly to Hamas, however, open crossings advance the interest Hamas has in consolidating its power over the whole Gaza Strip, because the only missing element of its budding sovereign-type power is a more solid foundation for government administration. In other words, the open crossings are a necessary prerequisite to the establishment of a functional political infrastructure, in the Gaza Strip. Hamas, more than a mere terrorist group since the 2007 coup, now has the interests of a "nation-state in development." Islamist radicals are no exception to the reality that the consolidation of political power requires administrative infrastructure to be grounded in a functional economy, because the permanent exercise of sovereignty requires, among other things, revenues from taxes to keep government institutions such as tribunals, police departments and prisons, operational, to ultimately ensure that the State has a monopoly on all force.
V. Under the cease-fire agreement, Israel's only leverage over Hamas was control of the border crossings.
Under the cease-fire, the leverage Israel had over Hamas was that it could, literally, turn Gaza's life-support on and off in response to Gazan behavior, as Israel's "benefit" under the truce with Hamas was the cessation of attacks from groups operating in Gaza. Therefore, Hamas' situation under the cease-fire was this: if it wanted to fire rockets on civilians, it had to sacrifice the benefits associated with open crossings. Alternatively, if it wanted the benefits associated with open crossings, it had to refrain from firing rockets.
Throughout the first period of the cease-fire, Israel occasionally closed the crossings in response to rocket and mortar shell attacks from Gaza, but the crossings were in fact open most of the time. As noted above, Hamas did at first enforce the cease-fire against other terrorist organizations in Gaza. After November 4, however, when Israel shut down the crossings for longer periods of time, which led to serious deficiencies of essential goods in Gaza, Hamas took no steps to enforce the cease-fire, and even began to participate in attacks against Israel itself. Instead of working with Israel to restore the relative calm wrought by the cease-fire, Hamas embarked on a campaign to leverage international opinion to pressure Israel to leave the crossings open, even while rockets and mortar shells rained down on Israel's civilians. It is clear that Hamas wanted it both ways after November 4. It attempted to create a situation where it would be able to simultaneously attack Israel and enjoy the benefits of open crossings.
On my final assessment, Hamas lacked the discipline associated with abiding by voluntarily incurred responsibilities under its first meaningful treaty-like agreement with a hostile nation-state. For the first four months, Israel and Hamas demonstrated to one another that, despite occasional rocket attacks and temporary closings of the border crossings, both parties could generally be counted on to observe the terms of the agreement. For example, Hamas enforced the cease-fire against itself as well as other terrorist organizations within Gaza, while Israel, when satisfied that its security interests were not being threatened, left the crossings open and refrained from counterterrorism activities on the Gaza side of the border. Hamas, therefore, apparently not comfortable in its new role as a nation-state in development, which necessarily requires it to engage other nation-states pragmatically, reverted to its radical essence the moment the going got tough on November 4.
As a result of its capitulation to radicalism under the pressures of the pragmatic, mutually beneficial types of relationships one must engage in to exercise sovereign power, Hamas not only sacrificed the collective well-being of the Palestinian people by provoking a predictable and massive Israeli military assault against Gaza, but also sacrificed the very real opportunity it had to establish a monopoly of power for itself over the whole Gaza Strip, because open border crossings were the best bet for Hamas to acquire the economic and political capital needed to permanently institutionalize its rule. In other words, Hamas played what was a good hand in the manner most destructive of its own self-interest.
Anthony Tsontakis, an American citizen, is the founder and editor of ThereIsKnowledge.com, an online journal of opinion.
Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000741.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.
Replies: 11 comments
From what I read, Hamas did not send the rockets during the ceasefire before Nov. 4th 2008. From what I have been told, they were sent from other countries and they were low in numbers such as 2 to 9 a month.
Posted by truth seeker @ 01/11/2009 10:58 PM CST
You are correct that Hamas held to the cease-fire prior to Nov. 4th. The article doesn't claim otherwise. You are also correct, and my article acknowledges, that things changed on Nov. 4th, the day that Israel carried out an operation on the Gazan side of the border against a tunnel system, as you point out. As far as I know, most if not all, of the rockets launched before Nov. 4th came from within Gaza (as opposed to from other countries), but were launched by organizations other than Hamas. Most of the rockets during that time were fired by Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, according to my sources. You are also correct that the number of attacks was very low prior to Nov. 4th. As noted in the article, Hamas actually enforced the cease-fire against organizations within Gaza who were engaged in launching rockets and mortars into Israel.
Also according to my sources, the crossings were generally open from the period through Nov. 4th, but were closed temporarily only when attacks occurred. As you noted, the attacks against Israel were minimal during that time; therefore, the closing of the crossings occurred only sparingly before Nov. 4th.
After Nov. 4th, however, the general situation was the reverse: the crossings were closed most of the time, and only opened occasionally. Because the cease-fire went through an evolution, it is difficult to generalize over the whole thing.
I hope I have addressed all of your concerns.
Posted by Anthony Tsontakis @ 01/12/2009 12:11 AM CST
If Palestine had some international allies that would stand up for them
Posted by Alice Wolf @ 01/12/2009 01:33 AM CST
A WAR SHOULD BE BETWEEN SOLIDERS NOT BY KILLING KIDS, BABYS, WOMENS AND OLD PEOPLE. YOU POINT FINGERS TO PALESTINIANS AND YOU SAY THEY ARE TEROSISTS, SO WHAT DO YOU CALL THIS WAR, KILLING INNOCENT AND BAMBING SEVILIENT AND SHOOTING KIDS!!!!! EVERYONE KNOW THE TRUTH, PALESTINIAN PEOPLE DO NOT NEED TO SAY IT, WE ALREADY SEE ENAUGH ON OVER THE WORLD TV CHANNELS. PICTURES OF ISRAELIE SOLIDERS KILLING KIDS AND WOMEN WHO HAVE NO DEFFENSE!!!!! ISRAEL IS THE TERORIST!!!!!! THROWING THE PHOSPHOR ON INNOCENT PEOPLE AND BURNING THEM!!!!! STOP!!!!STOP!!!! U WILL NEVER WIN!!!
Posted by RON.K @ 01/14/2009 07:55 AM CST
Political leaders,church leaders and UN chief will not solve the problems of Israelis and Palestinians.In 2008, despite a six-month cease-fire, Israeli civilians suffered 1,730 rocket and 1,528 mortar shell attacks from the Gaza Strip. The first four months of the cease-fire bore witness to a relative calm, with less than 30 attacks against Israel. However, roughly two months prior to the truce's termination, there was a dramatic military escalation between Gaza and Israel. The reason for a swell in attacks against Israel's civilians can be traced to the events of November 4, 2008, the day the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) executed a preemptive operation on the Gazan side of the border against a violative Hamas tunnel system. Following the IDF's anticipatory strike of November 4, which breached Gaza's territorial border with Israel, Hamas and other Gazan organizations launched a campaign of rocket and mortar shell attacks against Israel's proximate civilian population.what we should know is that Israel is a nation for God's children.from Abraham till dates.for those who believe that Israelis are pagans they will face the consequences.Israel is a blessed nation since the inovetion of the world.
Posted by Leon Duku @ 01/14/2009 01:19 PM CST
here is the answer;
Posted by S.M @ 01/16/2009 05:04 AM CST
Although the technical details of what transpired to incite the post Nov 4 events are indeed interesting & enlightening, it is my opinion that these details miss the picture... obfuscating the forest through the trees so to speak. Hamas was replenishing and building it's arms, training, and organization in Gaza after expelling Fatah in the "civil war". The 6 month cease fire provided the needed time & opportunity. Basically it was "I won't lob rockets at you if you allow me to re-arm, train, and reorganize". All they needed was any excuse to resume their prior attacks against Israel. When the one tunnel facility was taken out on the Gaza side of the border, the time / excuse was ripe. What I don't understand yet is why Israel felt compelled to trust Hamas during the cease fire while it was simply using the time to re-arm, train, and reorganize it's consolidation of Gaza. This wasn't an unknown activity! Afterall, Hamas has never renounced or implied it's intent to renounce its objective of a one state solution (Islamic Palestine) by Jihad.
Posted by Wondering @ 01/16/2009 09:51 AM CST
Hey, I checked back and got an answer...Thanks Anthony! It means alot to me.
I guess, If Israel is going to claim being democracy, should they not allow votes from the territories it claims to have power over be in the election, or are the Territories sovereign with rights that come with that?
I love the site by the way, excellent attempts to be non-bias....which is about impossible ...in a demographically growing area of the world!
Posted by truth seeker @ 01/20/2009 05:14 AM CST
"After November 4, however, when Israel shut down the crossings for longer periods of time, which led to serious deficiencies of essential goods in Gaza, Hamas took no steps to enforce the cease-fire, and even began to participate in attacks against Israel itself. Instead of working with Israel to restore the relative calm wrought by the cease-fire, Hamas embarked on a campaign to leverage international opinion to pressure Israel to leave the crossings open, even while rockets and mortar shells rained down on Israel's civilians. It is clear that Hamas wanted it both ways after November 4. It attempted to create a situation where it would be able to simultaneously attack Israel and enjoy the benefits of open crossings. "
How can you say Hamas was unwilling to further carry out the cease fire when you clearly say that after israel closed the borders and cut off resources, hamas retaliated? How are they not justified in doing that? They did not break the cease-fire, israel cut off supplies which lead to hamas attacks. If the borders were left open hamas wouldn't have retaliated like they didn't before. Israel started the problem, and hamas retaliated, so how can they be blamed?
Posted by Mo @ 01/24/2009 05:58 AM CST
The reality of this ancient conflict, cannot change; why not? Because, the stated intent of 'destruction' 'annihilation' for the state of Israel and all Jews, repeated over and over again, from the very inception of Israel's sanctioned statehood in 1948, by Arab leaders, now reaching its crescendo in IslaMIST organizations like 'Hamas' 'Hezbollah' whose SOLE intent, whenever they get their hands on enought military might, i.e., weapons of mass destruction, IS TO WIPE ISRAEL OFF THE FACE OF THE EARTH. If they had but a fraction, of Israel's military might, they would have eliminated her long ago.
Only with the 'Second' advent of the Prince of Peace, The Lord Jesus Christ, will there EVER be any lasting peace, NOT before; and that time is quickly approaching. The Everlasting Hatred, The Roots of Juhad, began against the Jews with 7th century Arabian cultural Imperialism, the birth of Islam.
Posted by Carlos @ 01/30/2009 12:19 AM CST
So Carlos in your post you mention the prince of peace The Lord Jesus Christ, am I to understand that you a religious? If so then please consider this. Religion does not create peace, religion creates war, for if you were to put two people of diffrent faiths at opposite end of the galxey then it's most likly that if they ever found each other they would fight each other, If people ever want peace in the middle east then religious states should become secular.
Posted by dinnjinn @ 02/13/2009 12:36 AM CST
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