Hamas' Strategic Decision - Iran

Last weekend's visit by Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to Iran resulted in several statements that place Hamas firmly within the Iranian camp and as a member of the regional Resistance Network.

During his visit to Tehran, the Palestinian Prime Minister said that Iran provides the Palestinians with "strategic depth," and added that "Hamas will not recognize Israel nor any previously signed agreements and retains the right to cancel past agreements."

Since Hamas' electoral victory in the Palestinian Legislative Council, it seemed like an internal battle was occurring within Hamas, between the radical external wing led by Khaled Mashal and the internal more moderate stream identified with Ismail Haniyeh. Yet against the backdrop of Iran's increased involvement in Lebanon and the PA territories, as well as what is being viewed as America's hasty retreat from Iraq, it seems that even 'moderate' Hamas is giving up on the West and allying with Iran.

Hamas' strategic decision to join the Iranian camp is liable to have strategic repercussions for Israel in the following areas:

  • Strengthening of the Resistance Network: Through its terror activities in Lebanon and the PA, the Resistance Network is succeeding in preventing Israel from any military or political achievements. As a result, terror is becoming an existential threat. The deepening ties between Hamas and the Iranian sponsored Resistance Network are liable to have strategic significance. (see: Terror is an Existential Threat).

  • Blocking the establishment of a National Unity Government? Hamas' direct allegiance to the Resistance Network is foiling all attempts to establish a National Unity Government on the basis of the three demands posed by Israel and the international community. Hamas is currently carrying out a completely different set of policies from Abu Mazen and the PLO with regards to recognizing Israel, accepting previously signed agreements and maintaining a ceasefire. (see: Palestinian National Unity: A Challenge of Relevance)

  • Strategic Depth for Palestinian Terror: Haniyeh's statement that Iran provides the Palestinians with "strategic depth," suggests that Hamas aspires to create an alliance with Iran similar to the one Iran enjoys with Hizbullah. "Strategic Depth" will allow the flow of money, equipment and weapons unconnected to the actual military balance of power in the PA territories and will make it almost impossible to defeat terrorism. (see: Battle for Control by the Resistance Network).

  • The Moderate Axis: Hamas completely rejects America as an honest broker in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, the strengthening of ties between Hamas and Iran is liable to undermine the influence of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia who have served as interlocutors between Hamas and other Palestinian groups in the past. The other side of this development is the possibility of cooperation between Israel and the moderate Arab States. (see: Lebanese Political Crisis: Opportunity for Regional Cooperation)

  • The Palestinian Economy: Reports from the past year have shown that large amounts of Iranian money are flowing into the PA. Iran's increased economic support may give the Palestinians the economic backing they need in order to survive without European or American funds. (see: Blocking Transfer of Funds is Ineffective Against the Hamas PA).

Sources

Issacharoff, Ha'aretz, 12/10/06; full article.