Is Hamas Really to Blame for the Conflict in Gaza?

"Israel has never been a reliable partner for peace."

Throughout the current crisis, Israeli commentators and spokespeople have attempted to blame the Palestinians, particularly Hamas, for the wanton carnage and destruction unfolding in Gaza. One of their consistent talking points has been that, following Israel’s 2005 retreat from the Gaza strip in the wake of the Second Intifada and Hamas’ 2006 electoral landslide victories, the organization could have built a “Palestinian paradise” in Gaza—but they instead chose to squander their efforts and resources on terrorism, at the expense of the Palestinian people, “forcing” Israel to kill thousands of Palestinians, mostly civilians, for the sake of its own continued existence.

Of course, all of this is nonsense.

For starters, the overwhelming majority of Hamas’ budget is spent on social-welfare programs, education, and infrastructure—which is how they attempt to maintain legitimacy among the beleaguered Gazan population. Moreover, Israel’s charge of skewed priorities is hypocritical considering that the Israeli government spends roughly a fifth of its annual budget on defense, more than 6 percent of the entire country’s GDP (almost three times the worldwide average of 2.5 percent).

They spend all this, despite the rather marginal threat that Palestine poses to Israel’s security (given their “Iron Dome” and “apartheid wall”), the increase in missile-defense partnerships with regional powers protecting them from Iran, the implosion of Hamas-friendly neighboring governments in Egypt and Syria, their unwavering support from the United States and their possession of one of the most sophisticated military and intelligence apparatuses in the world. Israel is arguably safer now than it has ever been, but despite its own deep-seated economic problems, the country has continued its unsustainable military spending by selling a false existential crisis.

Hamas has not been helpful for these warmongers, of late. Until the most recent round of extreme provocations designed to draw the group into open conflict, Hamas had not fired any rockets into Israel since 2012. In fact, they have worked tirelessly to prevent others from firing rockets in order to preserve the peace (establishing a police force for just this purpose), and have been so effective in these efforts that the attacks fell to their lowest level since 2001. But unfortunately, Israel has never been a reliable partner for peace.

Sowing Fitna in the Palestinian Territories

The biggest obstacle to Gaza becoming a “Palestinian paradise” is and always has been Israel’s incessant attempts to keep Palestinians divided and, therefore, weak and de facto subordinate to Israel. One of the main ironies of the current crisis is that Israel played a pivotal role in allowing Hamas to take hold and flourish in Gaza in the first place. The idea was to undermine Fatah and the PLO, fracturing the Palestinian opposition; part of this strategy was to have Hamas’ religious conservatism undermine Fatah’s secular leftism—Israel liked Hamas because they were Islamists.