Gaza war has not ended Hamas threat to Israel: Think tank

January 27th, 2009 - 11:58 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Jan 27 (DPA) The recent conflict in Gaza has not eliminated the threat to Israel from the radical Islamist Hamas movement and served to “legitimise” the organisation at the expense of more moderate forces, a London-based think tank said Tuesday. The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), in its Military Balance 2009 report, said that while Hamas had suffered “serious blows”, the anxiety over the level of civilian casualties had “served to legitimise Hamas in the eyes of part of Arab public opinion and even amongst some regional leaders, weakening the position of the co-called moderates”.

The tenuous ceasefire had given greater urgency to the need for a Middle East peace process, which had, however, been made “more difficult” by the latest conflict.

Meanwhile, the impending Israeli elections and the time needed to establish a new government would create delays. At the same time, the “possibly temporary” rise in the position of Hamas would make division in the Palestinian leadership more acute.

“If, at high cost, Israel’s ‘deterrence’ was somehow reinforced by the intensity of its onslaught in Gaza, the strategic threat posed by Hamas to Israel remains,” said the IISS.

“Israel’s strategic goal should be to find a way by which it can develop greater legitimacy for itself among moderate Arab states, which could then offer fuller support to Israel in whatever ongoing battles it may have with non-state actors such as Hamas and Hizbullah,” said the IISS in its assessment of the aftermath of the Gaza war.

It said the existence of a credible process to establish the two-state territorial settlement remained the only route to strengthening that legitimacy.

“Re-establishing that process after the Israeli elections will be an important US and international priority. But a variety of specific security challenges in Gaza remain, not least balancing efforts to close the tunnels with commensurate work towards opening border crossings with Israel,” it said.

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