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Title: HAMAS Origin. Evolution. Implications.
Authors: Arthur, Morgan
Advisors: Kurtzer, Daniel
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Class Year: 2014
Abstract: This study analyzes Hamas as an organization in order to understand its goals, motivations and actions, and the implications on Israel-Palestine peace talks and relations. There are three aspects of this analysis: first to consider the historical origins of Hamas, highlighting how that history manifests itself today; second to examine the evolution and changes undertaken by the organization culminating in its victory in the 2006 elections for the Palestine Legislative Council (PLC); and finally to determine the impact of the nuanced and ambiguous language presented by Hamas. Hamas emerged from the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was primarily focused on social and cultural activities. In response to the outgrowth of a Palestinian popular uprising in 1987, known as the first intifada, Muslim Brotherhood members decided to create an organization that could fully engage in armed resistance. As it emerged Hamas was able to brand itself as a distinct alternative to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which was in the process of moderating by moving away from armed resistance and engaging in diplomacy with the international community. The PLO’s political evolution continues to inform Hamas’ decisions today, as Hamas is sensitive to the criticism it would face were it to abandon the armed struggle or to support peace negotiations. Nevertheless, Hamas has not remained stagnant over the years; instead it has undergone many changes and pragmatically responded to political realities, exhibiting rational cost-benefit analysis and restraint, moderating its tone from the stark tone of the original charter. This trend towards moderation culminated in Hamas’ decision to participate in the 2006 elections. Many in the international community were surprised to see Hamas join the democratic processes. More unlikely still was Hamas’ surprising victory, winning a majority of seats in the Palestine Legislative Council. The international community listed explicit requisite conditions before Hamas would be recognized—these were called the Quartet Principles. Instead of meeting these explicit demands, Hamas has attempted to offer more ambiguous concessions to normalize relations. Rather than negotiating a peace deal, Hamas offered hudna, a temporary cessation of hostilities. Instead of recognizing the right of Israel to exist, Hamas is willing to accept its existence as a de facto consequence of hudna or even of a peace deal voted through popular referendum. Many remain skeptical of Hamas’ offers and nods toward moderation, for it is unclear whether this ambiguous rhetoric is being used to maintain legitimacy for substantive change, or if these are empty words that do not reflect any real change in Hamas’ ultimate beliefs or objectives. Despite efforts to weaken and remove Hamas from power through international isolation and even direct military assault, they are still in control of the Gaza Strip. It is hard to imagine a lasting peace without taking into account Hamas, and its ability to launch attacks that could be a severely disruptive force. The indiscriminate attacks by Hamas against Israel should not be accepted, and so an agreement to cease hostilities should be of primary concern. Economic incentives could be used to motivate Hamas to stop its attacks. Even a temporary truce could prove beneficial, particularly since once hostilities have stopped it may prove politically difficult to revert to violence. Furthermore a ceasefire would improve the opportunities for a negotiated peace agreement between the PA and Israel; if successful such an agreement would place more pressure on Hamas to continue on the path of moderation.
Extent: 96 pages
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Woodrow Wilson School, 1929-2017

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