The Impact of the strategies and policies of the state of Israel on the popularity of Hamas

Der Fokus konventioneller Terrorismusbekämpfung ist die militärische Bekämpfung von Terrororganisationen. Ein Beispiel ist die Bekämpfung der Hamas durch Israel, die aus Sicht Israels einige Erfolge erzielt hat, jedoch die Situation der palästinensischen Bevölkerung verschlechtert. Diese radikalisiert sich zunehmend. Die Bekämpfung vergrößert die Unterstützung für terroristische Gruppen, was die Bedrohung durch diese Gruppen verschärft. Dies zeigt, dass die Bekämpfung von Terrorismus auf der gesellschaftlichen Ebene geschehen muss.

von Katharina Kötke

The conventional fight against terror aims at disabling the terrorists’ infrastructure, killing the terrorists and preventing attacks. Israeli Counter-terrorism has shown some success, shown in the decrease of suicide attacks and rocket shootings.

Israel’s strategies are based on the assumptions that

  • Hamas will only be less dangerous when it is combated
  • Hamas is not going to change
  • Hamas is independent of the support it gains.
  • any integrative approach could encourage terrorism further.
  • belief that Hamas would never truly give up its goal to destroy Israel.

Thus, Military action is supposed to destroy the offensive capabilities of terror organisations in orderto show resolve and to deter terrorists. Intelligence activity and physical separation are supposed to prevent future attacks. The measures are implemented throughout the Palestinian territories in order to impede the development of a terrorist infrastructure. Physical separation and political blockade are supposed to increase the security and to deter the Palestinian population from supporting terrorists. Israel uses increasingly unilateral strategies. Among the actions specifically aimed at Hamas are the strategic weakening through arrests, targeted killings and punitive actions. But dealing with Hamas is no longer only a question of counterterrorism by military means because it is meshed into the Palestinian social and political fabric. Reliance on military force neglects the causes of terrorism on the society level. It will be assumed that strategies of the Israeli authorities lead to a change in the level of willingness of the population to support extremists, which in turn influences the extremists’ willingness to attack. This leads to the hypothesis that Israel’s counterterrorism strategies contribute to the organisation’s popularity.

The willingness to attack of the weak rival (the non-state actor/terrorist organisation) is determined not only by the estimation of diplomatic prospects, the deterrence credibility of the dominant rival orthe expected efficacy of violence and the actual capabilities of the weak rival. It is also determined by the level of anger or hatred of the population. This implies that a higher level of anger or hatred among the population increases a terrorist organisation’s willingness to attack. The strong rival faces a dilemma: the same act of repression that instills fear to create deterrence is likely also to increase negative affect and/or the value-rationality of violence. The willingness to attack is also influenced by diplomatic prospects: the smaller the chance for fruitful diplomacy, the more willing is the weaker rival to attack even if he is afraid of the consequences.

Particular elements of the conflict were isolated for the purpose of the paper: the relationship between (a) the strategies and policies Israel chooses to apply, and (b) Hamas’ domestic standing (its level of support) on the other hand. Support by the population is necessary for Hamas (and the other actors) because it supplies them with manpower, resources and protection from persecution. In this paper, ‘support for Hamas’ also refers to agreement with the ideology, goals and the conduct of the organisation. Citizens might agree with the Hamas’s ideology and strategies without participating in the violent acts themselves. This kind of support can be measured in opinion polls. The importance of popular support for terrorist organizations is widely recognized. Experts have stated that organizations such as Hamas are highly responsive to the will of the Palestinian people. This suggests that the most important line of defence against terrorism may be finding ways to reduce popular
support for terrorist organizations and activities.


Theory and opinion polls suggest that frustration and perceived deprivation in combination with lack of law enforcement and official sanctioning or encouragement of civil disobedience increase the support for extremism. Frustration and perceived deprivation are often created by a change of social structures which redistributes different forms of wealth and power. If a disequilibrium exists, the less privileged members of society might violently try to achieve changes. This introduces new and usually similarly imbalanced social ranks.

Palestinian opinion polls seem to confirm the relevance of social changes for the support of extremism. Weak economy and lack of political progress, especially in comparison to Israel’s situation, seem worrisome. Significant changes occurred: the PA was established and new institutions developed, the education system was expanded, and the relationship with Israel began to change. However, many perceived a decline of their situation since Oslo, especially those who state support for Hamas. Contrary to common belief, not only the poor support extremists and their strategies, also those with a better social standing and education increasingly supported Hamas.

But the polls also show that Hamas becomes less popular when it has to take responsibility because the Palestinians are not driven by blind hatred. The Palestinians want a state and although many of them admire Hamas for its role in the struggle against Israel, they do not all share the leadership’s Islamist aims. Hamas is popular because people believe Hamas can achieve more for them than others.

Hamas has shown its interest in maintaining its popularity. Hamas’ wish to ensure its growth and survival make access to power and resources necessary, hence it needs to coexist with the PA. Hamas needs to make political and ideological adjustments in order to meet the expectations of the public. The organisation also needs to avoid alienating the important actors in the international community, particularly, Europe and the United Nations. But on the other hand there are good reasons to assume that Hamas will never give up its ideological basis and consider ceasefires as temporary.

When we assume that the organisation’s popularity is based on the people’s perception of their own current situation and future, it implies that more relative wealth and better perspectives for the future decrease the support for Hamas.

Implications for strategy planning

  • Hamas is interested in cooperation with others because it has to provide results to its people
  • More trust could help overcome bigger issues by changing the self-perception and identification as well as that of “the other.” This allows the Palestinian situation to get better without solving the big issues first. Elaborate peace initiatives might not be as helpful because they will always offend some groups or factions that might turn into spoilers.
  • When spoilers appear, they should not be the ones who define the course of political processes. Actions that look like punishment of the population must be avoided.
  • Need to give the Palestinians a chance to develop a functioning political system with a monopoly of violence which is able to deal with extremism itself. Offer cooperation with the representatives of the Palestinians, reward cooperation, but avoid interference with their political matters.
  • There should be no pre-conditions for negotiations, and there should be no clearly defined goal before the negotiations start. The goal does not have to be a complete solution. Success in minor negotiations can create optimism for bigger issues.

Katharina Kötke, hat an der HU Berlin Sozialwissenschaften studiert und danach einen Master-Studiengang Politikwissenschaften an der Universität Tel Aviv abgeschlossen.

Dieser Beitrag wurde eingereicht von katke.


6 Kommentare bis “The Impact of the strategies and policies of the state of Israel on the popularity of Hamas”

  1. Ann Koch sagt:

    Hallo, ich bin Ann und berichte vom Panel Staat und Politik.

  2. Ann Koch sagt:

    Katharina Kötke hat in Tel Aviv studiert.

    Es geht in ihrem Vortrag um das Thema politische Gewalt und darum, warum man ihr zustimmt.
    Eine langfristige Terrorismusbekämpfung müsse daran ansetzen, diesen entgegenzuwirken.

  3. Ann Koch sagt:

    1) Ursachen des Terrorismus:
    wahrgenommene Benachteiligung
    kein gewaltmonopol

  4. Ann Koch sagt:

    konventionelle Bekämpfung des Terrorismus:
    Polizeiliche/militärische Mittel
    Abschreckung und Rache
    politische Isolation
    Die Hauptziele der Terrorismusbekämpfung: Abschreckung und Rache.

    Allerdings wirkt sich dies oft negativ auf die Bevölkerung aus. Sie fördern Bedingungen, in denen sich eine politische Alternativlosigkeit einstellt und Gewalt attraktiv wird.

  5. Ann Koch sagt:

    Ein gutes Beispiel ist hier der Kampf Israels gegen die Hamas.
    Derzeitige Lage: Es gibt eine gegenseitige nicht-anerkennung.

    für Israel:
    Rückgang der Zahl der Attentate
    Israels Lage stabel

    für Palestina:
    wirtschaftliche Stagnation bis Rezession
    seigende Isolation
    Wenig Hoffnung auf eine Verbesserung er Lage. Dadurch entsteht Frustration.
    Gewalt wird als effektives Mittel gesehen.

  6. Ann Koch sagt:

    Grundbedingungen für politische Fortschritte sollten hergestellt werden: Identität, Sicherheit und vollständige Anerkennung.
    Es muss eine politische Alternative möglich werden.

    Nun ist die Diskussion eröffnet.

    Eine Frage aus dem Publikum lautet: “Ist denn das Bewusstsein für diese Probleme in der palestinensischen Bevölkerung auch vorhanden?” Ja, diese würden in Umfragen auch immer festgestellt, diese seien zum Beispiel die Korruption.

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