Hamas knows one big thing, which it labels “resistance” or, for Western audiences, “ending the occupation.” Just what that means was made clear by Palestinian cleric Muhsen Abu ‘Ita in a televised interview. “The annihilation of the Jews here in Palestine,” he said, “is one of the most splendid blessings for Palestine.”
This kind of genocidal incitement is more than idle ranting: Gigantic ambitions sustain political movements through hard times. Hamas is also sustained by the insight that Israel’s considerable military capabilities are unlikely to be matched by political will. It believes that whatever attacks come will be tempered by a host of humanitarian and diplomatic considerations. It believes that Israel wants to avoid a public relations debacle (so Hamas will do everything it can to engineer or fabricate one). It believes that the weight of international sympathy will be on its side. It believes, too, that the last thing Israel wants is to reoccupy Gaza, with all the costs and complications that entails.
Hamas believes, in short, that while Israel will do many things, and do them well, it will not do the main thing. And that, in turn, means that as Israel exhausts its target list, as eventually it will, the storm will pass. Then the green flag of the movement will fly defiantly over the tallest building left standing, its prestige hugely boosted — and Israel’s commensurately diminished — throughout the Muslim world.