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Daniel Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube/Diller distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. His bi-weekly column appears regularly in newspapers around the globe. His website, DanielPipes.org, is one of the most accessed internet sources of specialized information on the Middle East and Islam.


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PostSat Jul 12, 2014 6:11 pm     Why Does Hamas Want War? - By Daniel Pipes    


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Why Does Hamas Want War?

It knows it will lose militarily, but hopes to win at the bar of public opinion.

By Daniel Pipes
National Review
July 11, 2014

Politicians start wars optimistic about their prospects of gaining from the combat, Geoffrey Blainey notes in his masterly study, The Causes of War; otherwise, they would avoid fighting.

Why, then, did Hamas just provoke a war with Israel? Out of nowhere, on June 11 it began launching rockets, shattering a calm in place since November 2012. The mystery of this outburst prompted David Horovitz, editor of the Times of Israel, to find that the current fighting has “no remotely credible reason” even to be taking place. And why did the Israeli leadership respond minimally, trying to avoid combat? This although both sides know that Israel’s forces vastly overmatch Hamas’s in every domain — intelligence gathering, command and control, technology, firepower, domination of air space.

What explains this role reversal? Are Islamists so fanatical that they don’t mind losing? Are Zionists too worried about loss of life to fight?

Actually, Hamas leaders are quite rational. Periodically (2006, 2008, 2012), they decide to make war on Israel knowing full well that they will lose on the military battlefield but optimistic about winning in the political arena. Israeli leaders, conversely, assume they will win militarily but fear political defeat — bad press, United Nations resolutions, and so on.

The focus on politics represents a historic shift; the first 25 years of Israel’s existence saw repeated challenges to its existence (especially in 1948–49, 1967, and 1973), and no one knew how those wars would turn out. I remember the first day of the 1967 Six-Day War, when the Egyptians proclaimed splendid triumphs while complete Israeli press silence suggested catastrophe. It came as a shock to learn that Israel had scored the greatest victory in the annals of warfare.The point is, outcomes were unpredictably decided on the battlefield.

No longer: The battlefield outcome of Arab–Israeli wars in last 40 years has been predictable; everyone knows Israeli forces will prevail. It’s more like cops and robbers than warfare. Ironically, this lopsidedness turns attention from winning and losing to morality and politics. Israel’s enemies provoke it to kill civilians, whose deaths bring them multiple benefits. . . . [More]


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