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How Did Hamas Fail to Anticipate This? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Hamas claims that it was surprised by the [Israeli] attack and the Israelis boast that they win battles by using the element of surprise. An Arab minister said that he was actually used to deliver a false message without being aware of what he was doing, and reassured Hamas that Israel was not planning to wage an attack against it. Accordingly, Hamas elements felt at ease and continued to deliver speeches and fire missiles that target nothing but farms and unpopulated areas. For their part, the Israelis were determined to appear as if they were rushing negotiations with Hamas’s ally Syria, and in the end, they launched their attack on Saturday [27 December], and did to Hamas what Al-Sadat did to them when he attacked Israel in Ramadan [1973]. This all appears to be a matter of tactics. As for the war decision, it had already been made. The disaster is that Hamas does not foresee or hear, and therefore, got stung. Hamas should have been prepared for confrontation around the clock, because it is a militia, albeit in a government garb.

Israel could have actually defeated Hamas, because of the unequal and overwhelming Israeli force compared to that of Hamas, because Hamas is an easy target, because Gaza has always been under siege, and because there were plenty of justifications. However, Israel has long believed that the emergence of a Palestinian rival to the PLO will guarantee division among the Palestinian people and will fuel an inextinguishable fire of sedition. Practically, this is what happened more than 10 years ago. After years of political and security struggle, the PLO was obliged to reluctantly share its power with Hamas, which ended up ruling the Gaza Strip solely after forcing the PLO out. For the first time since the forceful establishment of the Israeli state, this was a wish come true: two peoples, two authorities, but without one state.

What took place today was a multi-purpose operation. The operation was to defang Hamas rather than to “cast lead,” as Israel dubbed it. Whenever a Palestinian team grows in capability, Israel tries to defang it. Israel also wanted to welcome the new US Administration by ending a war that had been put on hold. Moreover, the Jewish state is on the threshold of an election, which is considered the toughest in its history, because no party has taken a definite lead, and each of the candidates currently in power hopes that Hamas will give him/her the pretexts he/she needs. Unfortunately, Hamas has provided those candidates with many pretexts, driven by the false notion that regardless of its actions, Israel will not reach the point of waging an almost-all-out war.

Had Hamas planned for the war, had it managed to defeat Israel fully or partially, and had it forced the Israelis to make tough political choices, then we would have been obliged to respect Hamas. However, Hamas has become a punching bag for the Israelis, who are brutally dealing blows to it and to the residents of Gaza in an effort to exterminate them. On the field level, Israel managed to destroy everything that belongs to Hamas or that Hamas had seized from Fatah. Hamas arbitrarily lost its best men in the war. Are all the missiles fired for show worth this agony and destruction? After the end of his war with Israel, Al-Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah said: “Had we known that the abduction of the two Israeli soldiers would cause all this destruction, we would not have taken this step.” Do these words not ring in your ears?

The Israelis want to restore Hamas’s situation to its previous state. They want negotiations with Syria without any Palestinian clamour. They are seeking to receive new US President Barack Obama without having to embarrass him with the eruption of some kind of war. Moreover, the Israeli rivals want to score electoral points in an effort to restore balance in the Israeli street – which was tilted towards Binyamin Netanyahu before the war – and to shift some votes to Baraq and Livni. Accordingly, it is very helpful to have a perceptive mind rather than just a howling mouth. The residents of Gaza do not deserve what is happening to them.

Israel and Hamas fell victim to the lust of their show of words, similar to what happened to Abdul-Nassir, Saddam [Hussein], and all the Arab forces that are intoxicated by the sound of cheers in the streets and words of praise on satellite television stations.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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