Sharon's Terror Child: How the Likud Bloc Mid-wifed the Birth of Hamas
Hamas is considered one of Israel's greatest threats, but the Islamic terrorist organization found its beginnings in the misguided Israeli effort to encourage the rise of a religious alternative that would undermine the popularity of the Palestine Liberation Organization and Yasir Arafat.
The strategy resulted in the birth of Hamas which rose from these Islamic roots. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was a member of the government when the policy was developed in the late 1970s.
Although Sharon and his Likud (formerly Herut Party) government colleagues could not anticipate that the Islamic leaders they backed would eventually evolve into Hamas and suicde bombings, the two have benefited from each other's extremism over the years.
The Likud strategy to promote an Islamic alternative evolved in response to Arafat's transformation from a revolutionary leader to the "sole legitimate representative" of the Palestinian people. Arafat was anointed as the only person who could negotiate for the return of the Occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip and Arab East Jerusalem at the Rabat Arab Summit in October 1974.
In addition to hoping to turn the Palestinian masses away from Arafat and the PLO, the Likud leadership believed they could achieve a workable alliance with Islamic, anti-Arafat forces that would also extend Israel's control over the occupied territories. At the time, the Islamicization of the Palestinian leadership was still very much in its infancy.
There is a real irony in the transformation of Yassin's organization from a benevolent religious foundation to a guerrilla movement. Begin and his successor, Yitzhak Shamir, had both headed the first two terrorist organizations to operate in Palestine during the 1940s. Shamir had led the Stern Gang while Begin led the larger Irgun Zvi Leuhmi. The two groups worked in tandem and were responsible for introduction of terrorist techniques into Palestine including car bombings, assassinations, kidnappings, hijackings of military vehicles and the lynching of British soldiers in the olive groves outside of Jerusalem. They were responsible for the near destruction of the car-bombed King David Hotel and for the massacre of civilians at the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin near Jerusalem.
Begin and Shamir understood exactly what they had created. Knesset Member Avraham Poraz (Shinui) was among a litany of Israeli leaders who blamed Likud for Hamas. "The Likud has got Hamas on its hands because it refused to talk to the PLO," he said.
Hamas quickly found itself in competition with another religious group banned by Israel, Islamic Jihad. Both sought to disrupt the occupation and seize Palestinian leadership from Arafat.
18 January 2003