Sometimes it is braggadocio. Sometimes it is the last rhetorical shot before making a political change previously thought impossible. But sometimes, just sometimes, it is truth as the teller sees it.
Hamas released a video for Israel's 66th anniversary, entitled "No Hope," (a play on Israel's national anthem, Hatikva, or "Hope"). It is vile, putrid and an absolutely true rendering of Hamas thinking, breathing, and being. The Times of Israel described it in all its slavish devotion to death, delusion and Hamas imperialism:
“The army of the Zionists was built of wax and now it is melted and has no hope,” the singer croons as a computer generated militant character smashes Israel’s state symbols into rubble. The song says that smart Israelis will be allowed to leave the country and return “to their homelands” while those who are stubborn and remain will have their fates “sealed beneath the dirt.” The YouTube clip intersperses various historical photos of the conflict withcomputer-generated Hamas gunmen who are seen driving the Jews out of Jerusalem and onto ships and celebrating on top of the al-Aqsa mosque, as the bodies of IDF soldiers riddle the streets. “The Holy city will return to its former name,” the singer warbles as the distorted anthem draws to a close. “My capital Beyt al-Maqdis, not Jerusalem.”
Yes, "sticks and stones" and all that, but this isn't about the words -- it is about the intention of Hamas to stick to its Charter, kill Jews, and be master of Jerusalem. It is about Hamas's intention to override whatever niggling negotiations the Palestinian Authority (PA) feels it has to conduct -- whether with Israel or with the bodies of the UN. Hamas plans to roll over the first and ignore the second. It is about the inutility of negotiations because Hamas plans no compromise with anyone -- first and foremost, it will not compromise with the PA.
Moussa Abu Marzouk, head of Hamas' political bureau, told Al-Monitor-US:
"Hamas will not recognize Israel. This is a red line that cannot be crossed." He said the Quartet's requirement that Hamas recognize Israel "does not concern us one bit." "We would have spared ourselves seven years of misery under the siege and two wars in 2008 and 2012 had we wanted to recognize Israel." He also reiterated Hamas' refusal to disarm the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. "The Quartet negotiations require that violence be renounced, which, in effect, means that the al-Qassam weapons must be decommissioned. But this is unacceptable, and Hamas will reject it outright."
No, Hamas doesn't have the ability to take control right now, but this is where some Americans and some (but fewer) Israelis get confused. There is no neat division between Hamas and Fatah. Although Hamas rules Gaza, many Fatah operatives remain there and there are increasing Hamas cells in the West Bank. The Hamas view (shared by many Palestinians) is that the Fatah-led PA exists a) to administer the territory to free Israel of the responsibility -- how many Israelis openly admit they don't want an aid cutoff to the Palestinians precisely because they don't want to be completely responsible, and b) to cooperate with Israel on security measures that in many cases protect Israelis, but equally protect the Abbas government from its own unhappy people. The Palestinian Authority is understood by Palestinians as corrupt, malign, and Quisling in its subservience to the Government of Israel. Abu Mazen, now in the 9th year of his single 4-year term, commands neither respect nor fear -- an unhealthy situation for the ruler who faces a determined, revolutionary faction.
Think Putin, Crimea and Ukraine. Putin's agents in Crimea and eastern Ukraine made it possible for "Ukrainians" to take action that Putin claims is an internal uprising against a corrupt government.
Oh, and a minor (?) point -- if Hamas and Fatah do unify, who will control the military forces? The answer isn't simple -- Hamas is a revolutionary force, but Fatah's army was built by an American general, funded (about $400 million annually) by the American taxpayer and learned operating procedures from the IDF. It is the best, most capable and most modern force the Palestinians have ever had. Could it fight Hamas? Maybe. The general is gone, but the IDF remains -- and if it remains interested in the continuance of PA rule, distasteful as that would be, nothing precludes the IDF and PA fighting on the same side. On the other hand, what if the PA uses its American-trained troops as the leadership cadre of a Hamas/Fatah joint force? Or what if Hamas provides the leadership for PA troops? Hamas is not without goodies to offer. It is entirely possible that missiles have been smuggled into Gaza; Israel cannot expect to catch everything every time. Is it possible that those missiles have crossed into the West Bank or that they will cross? You run a risk no matter which way you answer.
The Obama Administration gingerly supports plans for unification. Does it plan to sever its military training mission before formal unification? That would leave the PA without the wherewithal to protect itself, making a self-fulfilling prophesy of the notion of a Hamas takeover. Does it maintain the mission and risk having Hamas operatives join the PA army? Does it pray the Palestinians will remain more loyal to the U.S. and the IDF than to its Hamas cousins? If so, the administration is as lost as those long-sought Palestinians "moderates."
Sure, some of these are rhetorical questions -- and anyone who doubts that Israel can take Gaza at the time of its choosing is making a big mistake. But when your enemy -- and Hamas is recognized as a terrorist organization not only by Israel, but by the EU and the United States -- describes the end game, it would be foolish not to pay attention.
Hamas either really believes in the destruction of Israel, or puts out a pretty good facsimile thereof. It would be wise of Israel and its supporters to recognize the implications and the threat of reunification to prevent the institution of either.