Victory for Hamas? Think again
November 22nd, 2012
10:53 AM ET

Victory for Hamas? Think again

By Jonathan Adelman, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Jonathan Adelman is a professor at the Josef Korbel School of international Studies, University of Denver. The views expressed are the writer’s own.

The Hamas leadership has claimed total victory in the truce that started the day before Thanksgiving after eight days of brutal warfare with Israel. And on the surface, this seems to make sense. Hamas evaded a punishing Israeli ground assault, gained diplomatic support from such new states as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, maintained its ties to Iran, developed an informal relationship with the United States,  triumphed in the Palestinian world over the inactive Abu Mazen-run West Bank and proclaimed a sense of legitimacy from standing up to Israel  throughout the Muslim and Arab world.

And yet, in the longer run, this “victory” will likely turn bitter and holds the seeds for its own destruction. For “terrorist victories” are almost always oxymorons. Militarily, Hamas, despite launching over 1,000 rockets at Israel and even occasionally reaching Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, was almost totally routed on the battlefield. All its rocketry killed 5 Israelis and wounded 200 others and, according to reports, failed to destroy or even damage a single Israeli military or civilian facility. Instead, Israel, with the newly developed Iron Dome, destroyed 80 percent to 90 percent of the incoming Hamas rockets that seemed likely to cause damage, while only 5 percent of Hamas rockets even hit any target. By contrast, the Israeli air force, navy and artillery forces hit more than 1,500 targets with overwhelmingly pinpoint precision.

Economically, the Israelis with their precise and massive strikes inflicted potentially billions of dollars worth of damage on Hamas related facilities, perhaps more than the entire Gaza GNP last year. Ultimately, Israel with its $32,000 GDP/capita (according to IMF figures) emerged relatively unscathed while Gaza, with a GDP per capita less than 10 percent of that, was devastated. Indeed, even before the mini-war, UNRWA estimated that 80 percent of the population was dependent on foreign help and over 90 percent of women had never held a job.

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Politically, after the first bloom of the “victory” rapidly fades away, the bulk of Gazans are sure to be angry over the almost total failure of their government to protect them once again from mass devastation, the deaths of more than 150 people or even provide concrete shelters to protect them, or air raid sirens to warn them of attack. This contrasts vividly with Israeli sirens and concrete shelters allowing the population to survive the attacks.

Diplomatically, Hamas in the first round looks sure to gain. But, its association with Iran still remains less than tight, especially with Hamas’s denunciation of Syria (Iran’s only major Arab ally) and the ominous quiet of Hezbollah, Iran’s ally in Lebanon. Meanwhile, the arrival of numerous Arab and Middle Eastern diplomats may prove to be less than it seems on the surface. For Turkey will have to walk back much of its lashing out at Israel as a “terrorist state” guilty of war crimes if it wishes to have the bulk of its trade with the West. Saudi Arabia and Qatar, while sympathetic to Hamas, have much more serious concerns in the long run—mainly the growing power of Iran which loathes them, and is rapidly closing in on having nuclear weapons to assert dominance in the region. And Egypt, despite the common Muslim Brotherhood tie with Hamas, desperately needs billions of dollars of American and Western economic aid for an economy at $2,900 GDP per capita (IMF).

At the end of the day, a government or entity must to survive meet Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The Hamas government, even when combined with that of the more prosperous West Bank, stands near the bottom in the world in GDP per capita and not much better in terms of exports. It cannot meet its people’s expectation of becoming a normal, economically viable and recognized state unless it moves away from the alluring, but ultimately empty confrontations with Israel. For these confrontations only leave it even more impoverished than before, and keep it from taking the road to peace and global integration. Until then, these “victories” will ultimately turn to ashes as Israel grows ever more economically and militarily stronger, and Hamas ever weak.

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Topics: Middle East

soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. rosspoetvassilev

    Here is Aaron David Miller's op-ed on the conflict I'm afraid you're guilty of wishful thinking, Mr. Adelman.

    November 22, 2012 at 11:39 am | Reply
    • hmpierson

      IIf you think that was a victory for Hamas, I'm curious what a defeat would look like.

      A few more "victories" like that and there won't be one brick left on top of another in Gaza.

      November 22, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Reply
      • j. von hettlingen

        Perhaps it wasn't a victory for Hamas in military sense. In this respect Israel is no doubt much stronger and more powerful. Yet I would never estimate an enemy. In times of despair, some one who hates you could be capable of inflicting huge damage. Yes, there's a cease-fire between the Hamas and Israel! But it might just as well be another sticking-plaster solution. It wouldn't heal the wound.

        November 22, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
  2. deniz boro

    "....The Rise of Israel: A History of a Revolutionary State, has been well received. Having taught at Hebrew University and the University of Haifa, he was invited this past summer for talks at both the Israeli Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem and the Israeli Embassy in Washington" (By
    Is this the same impartial gentleman.
    I hope I am not breaching any REFERANCE rules.

    November 22, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Reply
    • hmpierson

      IIs there a point being made here?

      November 22, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Reply
      • deniz boro

        Just that one should look at the commentor as much as the comment. But I am sure all of us are clever enough to do that before reacting 🙂

        November 22, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
      • deniz boro

        Just that I can only be convinced of more concrete and reliable explenations. As I did recently.

        November 27, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
  3. deniz boro

    However I chose to disregard this article and refer it to second pages of the tabloid Sundays papers.

    November 22, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Reply
  4. deniz boro

    Say Who scored the most goal in the Europe Cup Lately? ...Not that I was ever interested in sucker scores.

    November 22, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Reply
  5. JAL

    I say "thank you" to both sides for doing the right thing, and stopping the violence.

    November 22, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Reply
    • deniz boro

      Yes Jal as long as the peace is kept.

      November 22, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Reply
      • hmpierson

        Unlikely, given the Hamas Charter:

        "There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors."

        "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it."

        etc etc etc

        November 22, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  6. deniz boro

    I would like to change my comment on the SECOND page of the TABLOIDS. It seems the third page is more likely.

    November 22, 2012 at 6:11 pm | Reply
  7. Ravi Abay

    If Israel withdraws from the 300m security zone within Gaza, as part of the ceasefire agreement and the blockade of Gaza ends with free movement of goods and people, at least through Rafah, Hamas has won a great victory. If the blockade of Gaza port is to continue, there will be a repeat of the violence, until Israel is truly out of Gaza. Surely, everybody knows the solution. Fact is nobody is great enough to voice it or implement it.

    November 22, 2012 at 8:17 pm | Reply
  8. lee

    You want to wash our brain by making us believe that Israel won . Is it a really war like a war between two countries ?and you are calculating in your calculator by stating some dates. No it is not the correct way of calculation . it is not . It was a war between Palestine's resistance vs Israeli occupation . Israel wanted to destroy's Hammas's influence and support but they have failed . The popularity and influence of Hammas increased . So you have lost this way despite the fact that you have damaged Gaza

    November 23, 2012 at 8:55 am | Reply
  9. jolly

    Comparison between a wolf and a horse is worthless.

    November 23, 2012 at 11:28 am | Reply
  10. John McKinnon

    The Palestinian and the Israel people lost. Their governments don't seem to care about their people. Two wrongs don't make a right.

    November 23, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Reply
  11. _________

    There will never be peace in the Middle East. Even if Hamas totally destroys Israel, they'll look for someone else to fight. It's in the culture to be constantly aggrieved at something.

    You want peace in the Middle East? Too bad. Never gonna happen.


    November 23, 2012 at 7:47 pm | Reply
    • enough already

      "It's in the culture to be constantly aggrieved at something." I agree. Even if all the "infidels" were killed or converted, they would still be angry and fighting over something. The proof is Sunnis and Shiites fighting over what flavor of Islam is the correct one.

      November 24, 2012 at 2:39 am | Reply
      • deep blue

        Has Europe been such a peaceful place? Sure, since WII, the EU formed and economic dependency has prevented war. However, before the world wars, you would find a significant amount of violence. So, you can ignorantly write off violence in the middle east as cultural or religious inferiorities, but your theories simply don't correspond to historical fact.

        November 24, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
  12. Fadudarko

    Wait until Palestine becomes a state to have a strong military of their own.

    November 25, 2012 at 9:06 pm | Reply
    • Hahahahahaha

      No really! Hahahahahahahahahaha

      November 26, 2012 at 10:19 am | Reply
  13. Hahahahahaha

    Hamass just ran out of rockets so they HAD to call a cease fire. Just wait until Iran sends them MORE rockets! Hahahahaha

    November 26, 2012 at 10:19 am | Reply
  14. John Steinbeck

    Your hatred & lack of humanity is as chilling as the holocaust......:(

    November 29, 2012 at 3:45 am | Reply
  15. John Steinbeck

    My comment was to Jonathan Adelman

    November 29, 2012 at 3:56 am | Reply
    • enough already

      "[H]atred and lack of humanity" = Sharia law

      December 9, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Reply

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