While it is difficult to imagine in today’s context – the fifth and bloodiest Gaza war between Israel and Hamas in the last four decades – Israel has actually encouraged the emergence of such a conflict Hamas until its founding in 1987.
The strategy was based on the age-old military logic: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
It ended in disaster.
“To my great regret, Hamas is a creation of Israel,” retired Israeli official Avner Cohen, who worked in Gaza for more than two decades, told journalist Andrew Higgins in 2009 Wall Street Journal Article describing it as a “tremendous, stupid mistake.”
In the same article entitled “How Israel Contributed to the Creation of Hamas,” David Hacham, who also worked as an Arab affairs expert for the Israeli military in Gaza in the late 1980s and early 1990s, said: “When I look back at the chain events I believe we made a mistake. But no one thought about the possible outcomes at the time.”
Other factors certainly contributed to the rise of Hamas, including funding and support from Iran.
But it is also true that the Israeli government originally viewed Hamas primarily as a religious and non-profit organization.
She believed that by supporting Hamas she could take advantage of it as a counterweight to undermine a secular terrorist organization that it saw as a greater threat – the Palestine Liberation Organization, founded in 1964 and led by Yasser Arafat, the leader of the Fatah movement.
Israeli governments formed an unofficial alliance with Hamas’ spiritual leader, Sheik Ahmed Ismail Hassan Yassin, a wheelchair-bound, nearly blind paraplegic who founded Hamas’ precursor, an Islamist group called Mujama al-Islamiya, in Gaza.
With the tacit approval of the Israeli authorities, Yassin built a network of schools, clinics, blood banks, daycare centers, youth groups, and even a university, and recognized Mujama al-Islamiya as a charity, allowing it to raise funds through donations.
Eventually relations with Israel deteriorated, and when Hamas published its founding document in 1988, it called for the killing of Jews, the destruction of Israel and the restoration of an Islamic state through a campaign of terror that continues to this day.
Yassin was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 1984 after an investigation uncovered weapons caches hidden inside Mujama al-Islamiya organization, although he was later released.
In 2004, he was executed in a targeted assassination attempt when an Israeli helicopter gunship fired a missile at him as he was being wheeled out of an early morning prayer service, also killing two bodyguards and nine bystanders.
Ironically, Arafat and the PLO, the terrorist group that most worried Israel in the run-up to the founding of Hamas, renounced terrorism in 1993 – even though suspicions about Arafat’s motives dogged him for the rest of his life.
In 1994 he received the Nobel Peace Prize together with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.
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This was the result of the signing of the Oslo Peace Accords by Arafat and Rabin in 1993 on the White House lawn presided over by US President Bill Clinton, in which the PLO renounced terrorism and agreed to recognize Israel in return for it that Israel recognizes the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people.
The deal subsequently fell through and Rabin was assassinated two years later by Yigal Amir, a Jewish terrorist who spoke out against the Oslo Accords.
Today, Arafat’s successor organization, led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, rules the West Bank, while Hamas controls Gaza.