Israel's Big Decision: Time to Take Hamas Out?

Israel's Big Decision: Time to Take Hamas Out?

"The removal of Hamas, an organization that firmly rejects all compromise or accommodation, would enhance the odds that peace could be achieved."

The removal of Hamas, an organization that firmly rejects all compromise or accommodation, would enhance the odds that peace could be achieved. It would provide in the Palestinian Authority, a clear, dominant party with which to make a deal. A central goal of the peace process for Israel is an end to all demands and claims against it by the Palestinians. With Hamas in control of Gaza, any peace deal with the Palestinian Authority could not satisfy this need. Hamas, as it has made clear in its charter, by its actions, and in recent statements that it would never accept a peace deal involving a two-state solution. This means that Israel would likely continue to face threats and more demands from the Palestinians in Gaza.

When Israel has concluded peace arrangements in the past, subsequent events have not always gone smoothly. However, arrangements with Egypt and Jordan have held. A deal with the Palestinians will not change attitudes overnight, but with continued effort and international support, there is good reason to believe a peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians could be sustained. Israel must take the lead in this direction.

Let there be no mistake, these choices and actions are difficult and will demand new sacrifices, both physical and emotional, from the citizens of Gaza, as well as from Israel. The process of toppling Hamas is fraught with hazards for everyone. For the citizens of Gaza, it means war and all its concomitant dangers until Hamas is defeated. For Israel, soldiers will die, and victory likely means at least a brief occupation of Gaza. Some of these problems are inevitable, but they can be lessened. Israel will have to continue to focus on ensuring as few Palestinian civilians as possible are killed. It will also need to engage the international community and convince them that once Hamas is removed from power, the UN should take temporary responsibility for the territory until Abbas can create a functioning government.

Israel must take swift advantage of its current opportunities. Doing so would send two messages to Israel’s enemies: we will destroy you if you attack our citizens, but we prefer to make peace when we can. Demonstrating resolve on these two difficult issues would improve Israel’s security and its image in the world. Most importantly, however, it can help bring peace even beyond Israel and the Palestinians by reducing regional and international tensions.


Matthew S. Cohen is a PhD Candidate in Political Science specializing in emerging security threats and Israeli security policy at Northeastern University in Boston, MA. He has previously published academic articles on Israeli security, Israeli-Turkish relations, and Turkish policy.

Image: Flickr/Israel Defense Forces/CC by-nc 2.0