Breaking Hamas like they broke Hizbollah

Jeffrey Goldberg–you can “accuse” him of being a Zionist as long as you want, I don’t care–knows as much as or more than pretty much any other American journalist about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  (I really recommend his book.)  What does he say about the possibility of breaking Hamas’s grip on power in Gaza?

The ideal situation, of course, is that the people of Gaza, realizing that Hamas has delivered them hardship, overthrow their government. But Hamas also alleviates the hardship it creates. The group has thoroughly penetrated the social fabric of Gaza. Its schools, orphanages, hospitals and soup kitchens serve the entire population. Hamas is not al-Qaeda. It delivers services, and because it delivers services, the population of Gaza depends on Hamas. I don’t see the removal of Hamas as a near-term possibility.

I’m inclined to agree.  In fact, I do agree.  Take, for example, the 2006 war in Lebanon as a point of comparison (a comparison that a lot of people seem to be making these days) and you will see that he is right.

In the wake of the 2006 war Hizbollah rebuilt southern Lebanon and the south side of Beirut.  They provided the services that people needed in the aftermath of Israel’s huge bombing campaign.  I saw this myself when I was in Tyre last winter.  People spoke glowingly about Hizbollah’s effective network of social services, in particular the way they cared for those whose homes had been destroyed by Israeli bombs.  Now their military wing has regrouped and their political wing is more powerful than ever.

Which brings us back to the question of what exactly the Israelis are trying to accomplish.  Their answer is obviously “Stopping the rockets!”–a legitimate one to be sure.  But do they think that this is the best way to do it?

Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah looking popular
Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah looking popular (in this poster and in real life)

Photo by Flickr user delayedgratification used under a Creative Commons license

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