Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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Why Did Hamas Provoke a Conflict?

by Elliott Abrams
November 15, 2012


There is a conflict now between Israel and Hamas because Hamas insisted on starting one. After relatively few rocket and mortar strikes into Israel in 2010 and 2011, Hamas increased the numbers strikingly this year, and finally fired more than 100 into Israel this past weekend. This was a deliberate effort by Hamas to elicit an Israeli response, for it was obvious that as the numbers grew any Israeli government would have to protect its population. One must assume that if Israel had not responded to the hundred rockets last weekend, Hamas would have upped the ante even more until it got what it wanted.

The question is why. Why did Hamas want to provoke an Israeli attack?

I would offer two theories. First, in recent months the Palestinian Authority under Hamas’s enemies in Fatah has been doing better than has Hamas. While the PA has been and remains short of cash, its initiative at the UN to raise itself to “non-member state” status looks like it will succeed. Meanwhile, Hamas has been forced to leave its long-time headquarters in Damascus, and the advent of a Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt has done nothing for Hamas. The border is still largely closed and worse yet for Hamas the Egyptians are destroying the smuggling tunnels that bring Hamas income and bring Gazans goods. So Hamas may have wanted to get back to center stage, reminding people that while the PA talks, it acts. The events of the last few days have, as Hamas must have liked, pushed the PA to the margins and made it seem irrelevant.

Second, Hamas commits acts of terror because it is a terrorist organization. By this I mean that no Hamas leader glories in collecting garbage in Gaza, or even in receiving the Emir of Qatar’s money when he visits. The glory comes in fighting, and killing–but since the last round with the Israelis in January 2009 Hamas has not only been very careful. It has also restrained other terrorist groups like Islamic Jihad from firing into Israel. This situation cannot be attractive to Hamas’s leaders, and they know they risk losing the loyalty of many young men in Gaza to other more active groups if it goes on for too long. So, they have decided to provoke a conflict.

Now the question is how big a conflict they want. Do they wish to provoke an Israeli ground attack? We will know the answer very soon. It would be easy to for Hamas leaders to say they have shown they have longer range rockets and missiles now, have terrified Israelis, have killed Israelis, and this round can end. If they continue to fire at Tel Aviv and other locations in Central Israel, this will suggest that the Israelis cannot find and eliminate all these longer range rockets using only air power. In that case they may go in on the ground to find and eliminate the rest.

The choice is largely that of Hamas. Its leaders deliberately provoked this conflict, once again treating Gazan civilians as nothing more than useful victims. Israel would prefer to avoid entering Gaza in the ground, and would prefer to end this round of exchanges. So far, it seems Hamas’s leaders want to keep it going.

Post a Comment 71 Comments

  • Posted by watchowski

    could someone please explain to me ,why the Palestinian people elected Hamas , were they brainwashed into believing their lives would be better , Palestinians are not dumber or more intelligent than others ,each human being wants and deserves food and water freedom and affection , the so called Arab spring or whatever its called ,removed some dictator’s from power giving opportunity’s to the people , why couldn’t this happen in Gaza , my second and maybe the most important question on this great forum IS ,what has Hamas done for the Palestinian population ?

  • Posted by Ongey

    I agree with Rick… this is a tactical step by Iran to buy time… i’st a diversionary tactic for sure to prevent Israel form attending to their greater threat.

  • Posted by Richard

    Hamas is fighting an indiscriminate total war to the best of their ability. Israel is responding with a limited war to the best of their ability. If the Palestinians want a war give them total war. Fuel Air bombs sound good.
    War is hell and every time we try to fight a limited war, eg Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan we loose or have a very limited success which doesn’t last. This may sound cruel but it is a fact of life.
    If Hamas wants a war give them total war.

  • Posted by aussie

    hello… over 40,000 people have been massacred and are still being slaughtered daily in Syria. And yet the frontline news is over Israel-gaza with world leaders rushing to make a cease-fire and calls to stop Israeli aggression.

  • Posted by Lucas Trapaza

    Palestine is still the issue.
    Here you will find answers to many of you narrative of events and misrepresentation of the truth I would say . What is the root of the problem.?
    Well perhaps is after seeing this documentary you still have doubts of where the solution lies, you may want to see the Story os Zionism by by Ronen Berelovich an israeli citizen former IDF Soldier.
    But if still in doubt please do refer to the works of Tania Reinhardt or Illan Pappe or Amira Haas

  • Posted by Lucas Trapaza

    Mr Abrams, with all respects
    Your post is very disappointing and very poor intellectually which is a real pity coming from someone with you academic and intellectual background . What of the Jewish humanist tradition is left on you .

  • Posted by alasdair Macvarish

    The Israelis are the last of the 19th century European colonists. All others such as British, Dutch and French have been driven out except in countries where they were able to totally dominate the native population as in New Zealand and Australia. The Palestinian spirit of resistance denies Zionists total dominance so they will end up packing their bags and fleeing as did the Pied Noir from Algeria and Ian Smith’s followers from Rhodesia. Most Israelis will be happier in the US anyway so no great hardship for them to go. Palestinians deserve better neighbours.

  • Posted by Jal


    If you read the whole thing as you claim you did, you will know that there is no support for the ‘chosen people’ having been ‘initially chosen’. People will claim to have read religious texts to gain credibility, but your references need to be accurate. Google is your friend.

  • Posted by Lookaroundyou

    The Trojan Horses are amonst us in the west.
    The true fact of it all is the problem is larger than Isreal-Palestine.
    The rise of islam is going to bring about a resrrection of neo-Nazi’ism. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, this has been proven since the year “dot”.

  • Posted by watchowski

    The Arab league has a large responsibility in the middle east peace conflict !
    after Israels disengagement in August 2005 the Arab league should have taken over Gaza ,there is only ONE way to have PEACE! instead of running around in circles the Arab league can disband Hamas ,unite Gaza and the West Bank as one ,and enter serious talks with Israel and the world , it will take some time to heal the wounds of war ,and install trust and peace between these two peoples , but to look forward towards a brighter future for all ,there must be a beginning . why wait ?

  • Posted by ralph Spyer

    750,000 Abab lost there homes when the jewish state was born, When you have nothing, you have nothing to loose ,that why they strap a bomb and are willing to cive up there lives for there country Palestinian. A arab rocket cost 8oo dollars the iron done cost America 205 million dollars,, once Iran gets the bomb 30% of the jews will leave Palestine

  • Posted by Mikael Goldstein

    The answer is very simple: Hamas was ordered by Iran to challenge Israel. This little rocket war would divert Israel’s attention from the uran enrichment sites in Iran, which is the most important target. At least Iran knew, that during this week their enrichment facility would not be destroyed.

  • Posted by ajay

    your comments lies only on one side,it is much more unilateraly

  • Posted by Genghis


    Your history neglects the violence used repeatedly against Jews to subjugate them throughout the centuries of Arab rule.

    In the 1920’s Arabs were already bombing Jewish immigrants even though their lands and homes were legitimately purchased from their Arab owners.

    This conflict is based on ethnic intolerance and religious ideology.

    You will find that all the articles overlook the religious dynamic that drives the conflict:

    Muslims can’t share the land in the sense that Westerners mean it. Under Islam it must be ruled under Sharia or some form of it. The fact that Israel (the land) is no longer Muslim is a great affront to Islam, a wound to the Ummah and must be corrected or healed. An all or nothing mentality results. It gets echoed in Muslim rhetoric all the time. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharia_law and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ummah

    The Palestinians are looking for a theocracy. Religious tolerance isn’t in their vernacular. Even when they come close its part of Muslim law to tax everyone who isn’t a Muslim: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhimmi

    Being brought up in a western secular society, it is natural to underestimate the power of religion, so this dynamic is overlooked: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secular_society

    Muslims define peace in the way Westerners would define a military victory. An enduring Peace is only possible when Islam has won: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_War#Dar_al-Harb_.28House_of_war.29

    Until Islam changes some fundamental theological ideas there is no end.

  • Posted by Nickolas

    Nana Yaw, I don’t think the bible will protect Israel from a nuclear bomb from Iran. All parties need to get serious here and find a solution. The clock is ticking with Iran.

  • Posted by Nickolas

    To imply that the recent hostilites were orchestrated by Iran to turn away Israeli attention from their nuclear development is quite a stretch unless, we are considering a major development was taking place at this time. For Hamas to start this attack on Israel just to buy another week of development seems like a bad idea.
    1.) Iran became aware of an imminent attack on their nuclear program by Israel and wanted to get out front.


    2.) There has been some major development in the Iranian nuclear program that would have all attention on them. Possible a mass transfer of materials or something to that nature.

    However, the idea of a test of Israel’s Iron Dome is an interesting theory.

  • Posted by Luc Hansen

    It’s a shame to see such a distinguished name as Eliot Abrams indulge in such a one-sided propaganda piece.

    In considering the role of Khaled Mishaal, for example, it may be worth mentioning how he, as 12 yo, and his entire village were forced to march to the West Bank in 1967, fleeing the fast-approaching IDF who had deliberately cultivated an image of ruthlessness in carrying out their mission – the means of cultivation was exactly ruthless and merciless acts of violence against the indigenous population.

    And Mr Abrams chooses to ignore the fact of the ongoing belligerent occupation of the occupied Palestinian Territories by Israel since 1967. Perhaps Mr Abrams cannot do the maths but we are talking 45 years of ongoing dispossession, oppression, torture (only recent deemed illegal in Israel, but still routinely practiced, according to those who return), gratuitous acts of violence against unarmed and defenseless people, destruction of crops and infrastructure, restrictions on freedom of movement and much, much more. And this is during the quiet times!

    Israel complains about the trauma of their children from rocket fire but think of the poor kids of Gaza and the West Bank and what they grow up with – IDF soldiers aiming their rifles at them on a daily basis with hate in their eyes, midnight sonic booms, drones buzzing overhead waiting to ‘cut the lawn’ (Israeli speak for mass slaughter), drinking water deliberately polluted with settlers sewage and risking death each time they head to school.

    And Mr Abrams has the gall to talk of Israel’s ‘retaliation’.

  • Posted by mijayes

    your statement has no sound facts t support. It is merely your one-sided view which is very bias.

  • Posted by M. Davison

    Where is the problem?

    It’s not with Netanyahu or the Likud and its right-wing government.

    It’s not with Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority.

    It’s not even with Hamas.

    The problem is that western critics have the memory span of a goldfish and the understanding of a five-year-old when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

    That’s right, the ARAB-Israeli conflict. There is no such thing as the “Palestinian-Israeli Conflict”, except in the minds of the so-called diplomatic experts in the State Departments and Foreign Ministries of Europe and the United States.

    Mahmoud Abbas is not the “independent president” of the Palestinian Authority but gets his marching orders from the Arab League. As long as Abbas wants to keep his position (and his head on his shoulders), he dare not cross the Arab League or go against their orders.

    Abbas’ demands at any “negotiating session” keep the skirts of the Arab League countries clean… they (except for Egypt and Jordan) still maintain the infamous “Three NOs” of the 1967 Khartoum Accord: “NO recognition of Israel; NO negotiations with Israel; NO peace with Israel”.

    Twice since the year 2000, the PA has walked away from negotiations that could have ended the conflict. Yasser Arafat walked out on the 2000 offer by Barak, supported by Clinton without even making a counter-offer to initiate the second intifada while Abbas never answered Olmert’s 2008 offer until more than two years after Olmert left office under criminal indictment—THEN he admitted that maybe he “had made a mistake in not accepting Olmert’s offer”. He didn’t accept Olmert’s offer because he didn’t have Arab League permission to accept anything offered.

    No comprehensive peace agreement can ever be achieved if the Arab League isn’t fully involved, and if “the Quartet” doesn’t realize this and act accordingly, there will never be a comprehensive peace agreement until oil runs out and alternative means of power are used, leaving the Arab League as an organization with no leverage.

  • Posted by Ross Feliciano

    Why did Hamas provoke a conflict with Israel? Simple, Iran is fighting Israel through its proxy, the Hamas. In my opinion it was simply to divert Israel’s attention from Iran’s nuclear ambition to produce weapons for the destruction of Israel. Israel is determined to destroy Iran’s capabilities to produce nuclear weapons for its survival. The Scripture tells us that Israel had been conquered by many nations and for many centuries in Diasporas following the Babylonians’ conquest of the Judean Kingdom in the 6th century BC and again following the Roman’s destruction of the Second Temple in the year 70 AD. But for as long as Israel continues being stubborn into being disobedient to God, she might once more be conquered by another nation and again be scattered throughout the world. Up to now they are still waiting for the Messiah to come.

  • Posted by Ross Feliciano

    So why don’t you post then?

  • Posted by Josef Zuares

    I was born in an Arab country,a jew amongst a few thousands like me.I succeeded to flee from the claws of its indigenous fanatics,leaving behind my childhood and some dear friends that didn’t get a chance to survive the hatred,millenaire.My family,like many others left all it worked for,happy to save the only things that could never be replaced,the kids.Since the ’67 war we are the true refugees,like many other jews from other arab countries.
    I lived in Italy where the jews from Libya got refuge,moved to Israel to finally live the dream we all shared,fought the ’73 war while in the army,survived as best I could,physically as well as mentally,for wars have their way to leave you with a lot more questions than you need,as a young man,looking to find a place in this world you see as a prison,a prison made of hatred towards you and the ones like you.Then I went to the usa to study and fell in love with the country and with its people,the hatred towards me and my likes seemed to have suddenly disappeared.Today I live in Paris and this hatred I recognize from back then is real and doing very well here.The Arabs have succeded in looring the europeans back to those dark places of their subconscious where just a few years ago they let the unthinkable become their legacy to posterity.Even the USA is not the same anymore since I left twenty years ago.
    All what I am telling you is to give you some clue to my background,for every day I live with unanswered questions.Why this hatred?I read everything I can find to get a clue to why the Arabs hate the Jews so much.It doesn’t really make sense for all the efforts the Ummah of more than a billion people puts,for so many years,to get back a sliver of land that in other times the arabs would not even consider.Then I read the Kouran,parts of it only for what I got to read was too much to bear ,and it cleared some puzzling questions I had had since being a child.This book is nothing like the Old Testament nor the New,it is a book written to take back humanity to its lowest animalesque impulses.I shall stop here for it is not easy for me to realize that I have brought four kids to this insane world,the youngest not three years old yet,but I shall leave you with my last thought and that is that the Arabs are and have been using Israel and the Israelo-palestinian conflict as the trojan horse to get inside every western society and conquer them from the inside,for they failed to do it from the outside,and they are succeeding in a way so extraordinary that you could think that they have God on their side.Their insidious ways they learned from their so called Prophet as history knows of him,and like an oderless and tasteless poison they are taking our beautiful civilized world to hell.

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