4

Before the 7 October attacks, some Israeli officials considered that, at a political level, Hamas was an asset. This Intercept article details the logic:

Hamas, in that sense, has been a convenient presence for Israel, whose leaders have favored the militant group over the Palestinian Authority [..]. While Hamas has been enemy No. 1 in Israeli rhetoric for years, offering a cover for Israel to maintain its blockade and periodically kill hundreds of Palestinian civilians in Gaza, it has also offered Israel an alibi to avoid abiding by its supposed commitment to Palestinian statehood.

The above article cites several Israeli officials saying that they prefer to have Hamas in power in Gaza, since this provides Israel with a justification to maintain the status quo and to "deal with Gaza as a hostile state".

This Guardian article describes the same idea as Netanyahu's political strategy:

it was not enough simply to entrench the occupation; it was also necessary to guarantee that no unified Palestinian movement might arise. The way to do that, according to Netanyahu, was to strengthen the Islamist Hamas in Gaza at the expense of its rival, the Fatah-dominated PLO in the West Bank. To prop up the Hamas government in Gaza, at Israel’s request, the Qatari government transferred billions of dollars to the militant group. "Anyone who wants to prevent the creation of a Palestinian state needs to support strengthening Hamas,” said Netanyahu at a Likud party meeting in 2019. “This is part of our strategy, to divide the Palestinians between those in Gaza and those in Judea and Samaria."

According to this article, Israel even used its influence to make Qatar fund Hamas in order to implement this "boogeyman" strategy. However there is no source cited, as if this is somehow public knowledge (is it?).

I also found this Skeptics question which seems to confirm covert support from Israel to Hamas, but there is very little detail and the link in the answer doesn't work anymore.

Is there any source confirming and providing any detail about such support from Israel to Hamas?

6
  • 1
    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica The Guardian is usually trustworthy, but I agree that the lack of any source is questionable. I changed the question to clarify what is known about such support. Btw my understanding is that the article claims that Israel asked Qatar to fund Hamas specifically as a strategy, not to support Gaza in general.
    – Erwan
    Nov 24, 2023 at 11:34
  • 1
    Even if the question is tendentious, asking for evidence/details of support provided by the Israeli government to Hamas would be a valid question. However, one problem is that evidence is unlikely to be common knowledge, as the Israeli government especially right now has powerful motives for hiding any evidence pointing to support for Hamas.
    – Stuart F
    Nov 24, 2023 at 15:03
  • 1
    OK, the edited question seems a lot more on-topic. Nov 24, 2023 at 21:46
  • 2
    Generally speaking we've seen a lot of dark "You know, of course, that Netanyahu has a deal going with Hamas" claims being made in comments. It's a good question to be asking about the evidence behind such rumors. As well as what the allegations themselves are. From what I've seen so far, lots of insinuations, little concrete claims, let alone evidence. So, yes, this updated question makes sense. One thing to remember though: just because Hamas can be electorally and diplomatically convenient for Bibi doesn't mean there was an outright deal or coordination. Nov 25, 2023 at 1:07
  • 1

1 Answer 1

5

TL/DR The Israeli political and military establishment has used Islamists as a counter to the secular PLO/Fatah and to impede the peace process for decades.

Creation of Hamas by Israel from How Israel Helped to Spawn Hamas, WSJ 2009

While under Egyption administration the Muslim Brotherhood where heavily suppressed. After Egypt lost control of Gaza to Israel after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war Israelis saw the Muslim Brotherhood in the Palestinian territories, including the wheelchair-bound Sheik Ahmed Yassin, as a useful counterweight to Arafat's PLO. Sheikh Yassin set up a wide network of schools, clinics, a library and kindergartens with Israeli support. Sheikh Yassin formed the Islamist group Mujama al-Islamiya, which was officially recognized by Israel as a charity and then, in 1979, as an association. Israel also endorsed the establishment of the Islamic University of Gaza, which it now regards as a hotbed of militancy.

Brig. Gen. Yitzhak Segev, who took over as governor in Gaza in late 1979, says he had no illusions about Sheikh Yassin's long-term intentions or the perils of political Islam. As Israel's former military attache in Iran, he'd watched Islamic fervor topple the Shah. However, in Gaza, says Mr. Segev, "our main enemy was Fatah," and the cleric "was still 100% peaceful" towards Israel. Former officials say Israel was also at the time wary of being viewed as an enemy of Islam.

Support of Hamas from the Right from How Netanyahu's Hamas policy came back to haunt him — and Israel, CBC 2023

Since Hamas has taken over Gaza with Fatah controlling some of the West Bank the support for Hamas in Israel has largely come from the right, as a way to derail any chance of a negotiated settlement.

Yuval Diskin, former head of Israel's Shin Bet security service, told the daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth in 2013 that "if we look at it over the years, one of the main people contributing to Hamas's strengthening has been Bibi Netanyahu, since his first term as prime minister."

In August 2019, former prime minister Ehud Barak told Israeli Army Radio that Netanyahu's "strategy is to keep Hamas alive and kicking … even at the price of abandoning the citizens [of the south] … in order to weaken the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah." The logic underlying this strategy, Barak said, is that "it's easier with Hamas to explain to Israelis that there is no one to sit with and no one to talk to."

Since 2019 this has consisted of supporting Qatar in funding Hamas. Netanyahu's hawkish defence minister Avigdor Liberman was the first to report in 2020 that Bibi had dispatched Mossad chief Yossi Cohen and the IDF's officer in charge of Gaza, Herzi Halevi, to Doha to "beg" the Qataris to continue to send money to Hamas.

"Both Egypt and Qatar are angry with Hamas and planned to cut ties with them. Suddenly Netanyahu appears as the defender of Hamas," the right-wing leader complained.

A year later, Netanyahu was further embarrassed when photos of suitcases full of cash going to Hamas became public. Liberman finally resigned in protest over Netanyahu's Hamas policy which, he said, marked "the first time Israel is funding terrorism against itself."

Netanyahu's education minister Naftali Bennett also denounced the payments, and also quit.

After both Bennett and Liberman fell out with Netanyahu, he was defeated by a new government that stopped the cash deliveries to Hamas.

But that government lasted just 18 months. Then Netanyahu returned to power with new, more extreme partners who backed the policy of fostering Hamas to prevent a negotiated peace settlement.

Netanyahu's current finance minister, West Bank settler Belazel Smotrich, explained the approach to Israel's Knesset channel in 2015: "Hamas is an asset, and (Palestinian Authority leader) Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) is a burden."

On March 12, 2019, Netanyahu defended the Hamas payments to his Likud Party caucus on the grounds that they weakened the pro-Oslo Palestinian Authority, according to the Jerusalem Post:

"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended Israel's regular allowing of Qatari funds to be transferred into Gaza, saying it is part of a broader strategy to keep Hamas and the Palestinian Authority separate, a source in Monday's Likud faction meeting said," the Post reported.

"The prime minister also said that 'whoever is against a Palestinian state should be for' transferring the funds to Gaza, because maintaining a separation between the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza helps prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state."

1
  • 3
    Please try using the > formatting in your post to what is a quote from your links vs what you wrote. As it is hard to tell what's you and what's a direct quote. Nov 25, 2023 at 1:11

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .