The Next Phase in Hamas’ Struggle Against Israel

The breach of the border in Rafah influences Hamas’ internal discourse concerning its national-religious objectives and the strategies used to promote them.

Loyal to the Palestinian Ethos of Struggle, the Hamas movement rejects the Jewish right to Self-Determination and seeks to establish an Islamist Palestinian State on the entire territory of Mandatory Palestine. This position has never been controversial within Hamas. However, it is possible to identify in Hamas' internal discourse two alternatives for realizing this objective:

  • The Phased Plan of the PLO (10/74) calls for continuous war against Israel from every "liberated" part of Palestine. This strategy was adopted in practice in 2003 by Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin. The Phased Plan seeks to eliminate the State of Israel through a multi-phased armed struggle.

    Seemingly, this strategy decrees an uncompromising, comprehensive struggle against Israel from all "liberated" Palestinian territory. However, under the banner of realizing the Phased Plan, Hamas is likely to agree to a ceasefire, a long-term Hudna and perhaps even the establishment of a Palestinian State with provisional borders.
  • The Strategy of Implosion - Another school of thought, so far less dominant, calls for the elimination of the State of Israel by promoting the 'One-State Solution.' The logic of this idea is to prevent Israel from ending the occupation and to actively promote dissolving the PA so that the demographic balance, increasingly tilting against Israel, will represent an economic and political burden on Israel. This burden may possibly cause Israel's implosion, similar to the collapse of white-dominated South Africa.

    It is possible that some Palestinian resistance groups continue the rocket-fire on Israel from Gaza even after Israel's withdrawal in order to draw Israel back in and force it to renew the occupation. (See The Inversion Towards the Occupation: A New challenge to Israel's National Security Concept).

Following the breach of the Gaza-Egypt border, and in a reality in which Gaza disengages from Israel and Israel's effective control over Gaza's external perimeter is declining, the logic of the Phased Plan is gaining ground within the Hamas movement.1 The declaration of Mohammed Nuseir, a member of Hamas' political bureau, following the Rafah border breach, that "Gaza is no longer occupied and therefore there is no reason for Israel to control the Rafah border in the future" (Haaretz, 2/4/08) also strengthens this trend.

There are two aspects to the consequences of this reality for Israel: on one hand, Hamas will seek to strengthen and arm itself as long as the struggle against Israel in the current round of the Phased Plan does not cease and in preparation for the next round; on the other hand, actors within the Hamas who promote a long-term interim arrangement with Israel may grow stronger.


Bar'el, Haaretz, 2/4/08

Erlanger, New York Times, 1/24/08

1 Hamas obtained a kind of 'veto power' over the next border crossing arrangement in Rafah and for this reason, the next agreement will mainly be shaped by agreements between Hamas and Egypt - without any direct influence of Israel. Actors in Israel have even declared that the new situation may enable "effective completion of the disengagement" from Gaza and ending Israeli responsibility for the territory (See New York Times, 1/24/08).