by: Ilse Strauss, News Bureau Chief
Relationships that last, psychologists teach, are built on a foundation of shared interests. Factors like a similar background and geographic location play their part, but the secret to forging a lifelong bond, they say, is as simple as rallying around a common purpose, passion or pastime.
This principle cuts across friendships to businesses, organizations and even terror groups. Take Hezbollah and Hamas, for example.
At first glance, the two seem like an unlikely match. Lebanon-based Hezbollah is Shiite, while Hamas, the terror group controlling the Gaza Strip, is Sunni—a point of religious contention that has pitted Muslims against each other for centuries.
Despite the clash in creed, the two longtime terror allies have much in common. Among others, both are Iranian terror proxies that do the bidding of their puppet masters in the Islamic Republic and obtain their funding from Tehran’s cash coffers. And both are perched on Israel’s border like a growing pack of predators ready to pounce—Hamas in the south and Hezbollah in the north.
These commonalities play their part, but ultimately, the unholy Hamas–Hezbollah alliance is built on a foundation of shared interests: both have the annihilation of Israel as a raison d’etre and both employ suicide bombings, rocket fire, kidnappings and all-out war to achieve that purpose.
Two closely linked Iranian terror proxies baying on Israel’s borders is concerning enough. However, the two have recently vowed to strengthen their already strong ties, which raises an alarming question: could Israel be caught in the vice grip of a united terror front encircling its borders?
Hezbollah was born in southern Lebanon in the early 1980s as a progeny of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini’s fanatical ideology, supposedly to drive Israel from Lebanese lands. Eighteen years of guerilla warfare later, the South Lebanon Conflict drew to a close and the last Israeli troops left the security zone. Hezbollah claimed victory, and the Muslim world hailed the terror group as heroes for achieving what no other Arab army could: triumphing over the seemingly invincible Israel.
Under Iran’s tutelage and backed by Iranian funds, Hezbollah continued waging a relentless war of terror against Israel. The Lebanese terror army became the success story, the big brother for other Mideast terror groups—including Hamas—to emulate.
Gaza-based Hamas sprouted from the equally fanatic seedbed of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. The terror group spent its formative years dabbling in armed struggle against Israel before taking a leaf from Hezbollah’s book to launch waves of suicide bombings and terror attacks, and then graduating to rockets, mortars and kidnappings. In 2007, Hamas gained control of the Gaza Strip in a violent coup, thrusting the terror group into the role of governance and plunging the Gazan people into a life of untold suffering.
Bonding over their common purpose of destroying Israel, the two terror groups became thick as thieves early on. Hezbollah fulfilled its big terrorist brother role, providing military training to Hamas combatants, offering political advice and using its media platforms to sing Hamas’s praises. The bond was so close that Hamas even opened offices in Beirut for regular terror group get-togethers.
Hezbollah was also the matchmaker that introduced Hamas to its terror patriarch, Iran—leading the Gazan terror group into the fold of the so-called axis of resistance, an anti-Western, anti-Israel alliance between Iran, Syria and Hezbollah.
Once again, Israel’s destruction was the cement that bonded Iran and Hamas together, with each bringing to the table something the other coveted. Iran pledged US $50 million annually to help Hamas arm, train and pay its terror army, while Hamas offered a second front in Gaza to complement the Hezbollah front in the north.
As with any relationship, the bond between Hamas and Hezbollah has seen its ups and downs. The Arab Spring—and more specifically the Syrian Civil War—pitted the two on opposing sides. Hezbollah threw its weight behind the Assad regime, putting boots on the ground to help the Butcher of Damascus slaughter the opposition. Hamas openly condemned Assad, eventually severing ties with the axis of resistance in favor of reestablishing relations with the newly instated Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and Hamas’s ideological parent, the Muslim Brotherhood. The Iranian cash coffers slammed shut, cooperation between Hezbollah and Hamas reached an all-time low, and the terror groups on Israel’s northern and southern border went from bosom buddies to slinging mud at each other.
The Muslim Brotherhood proved a poor choice. Following Morsi’s short-lived reign, Hamas was forced to curry favor with its former allies. By the start of 2017, Hamas was safely back in the bosom of the axis, receiving millions annually from Tehran and working alongside big brother Hezbollah. Allowing Hamas back into the fold was in no way altruistic, but rather a strategic move to regain a partner with a common interest: destroying Israel.
Two recent events brought Hamas and Hezbollah closer than ever. The first came in July, when Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh reached out to Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, suggesting that they “unite ranks” to prevent Israel from applying sovereignty to Judea and Samaria. Both groups subsequently released statements slamming Israel and hailing their “unity” to “confront” Jerusalem.
The second was the historic peace between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain—and the likelihood of more Arab states joining the peace circle. The prospect of their Arab brethren cozying up to their archenemy elicited harsh condemnation from Hezbollah and Hamas, and prompted Haniyeh to visit Nasrallah in Beirut for the first time in nearly two decades.
The two terror chiefs hailed their strong bond, emphasizing “brotherhood and jihad [Islamic war with unbelievers],” and discussed forming a “regional alliance” against the “Zionists.”
It seems that years of armed struggle against Israel with little in the form of victory combined with a bevy of Arab nations realizing that Israel is not the enemy have brought Hamas and Hezbollah to the conclusion that they must pull together to counter what Haniyeh calls a “strategic threat to the Palestinian aspirations,” warns Seth Frantzman, Mideast affairs analyst for the Jerusalem Post.
The bottom line? The two terror groups on Israel’s border may soon pool arms, troops, experience and intelligence to come against Jerusalem as a united force.
But perhaps more concerning is Iran positioning its two charges like chess pieces for its own malevolent intentions. And if Tehran has its way, says political science expert Charl Anthony Wege, Israel may find itself between the hammer of Hezbollah and the anvil of Hamas.
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