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August 9, 2022 10:41 am

The PIJ-Israel Conflict Places Hamas in a Trap

avatar by Grisha Yakubovich


Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants gather at a mourning house for Palestinians who were killed during Israel-Gaza fighting, as a ceasefire holds, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip August 8, 2022. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

The latest round of conflict between Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and Israel has produced a key conclusion: Hamas is the only “resistance” element in the Palestinian arena that can have a real impact on Israel.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad has been seeking to copy Hamas: It tried to mimic Hamas’ strategy of linking the West Bank to the Gazan arena, and responding to events in the former by threatening and activating force from the latter.

But PIJ has failed in this task. On the one hand, this failure strengthens Hamas, because it provides proof that the ruling faction in Gaza has the sole ability to challenge Israel through its terrorist army in the Strip.

There is, however, a flip side to this coin: Hamas is under pressure to join the PIJ-style fighting and prove its credentials as a “resistance”movement. Therefore, Hamas is in a bind.

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Operationally, there is no doubt that the Israeli action against PIJ in Gaza has been beneficial for Hamas. Israel has been targeting PIJ, a competitor to Hamas that is seeking to position itself as a resistance entity, and steal some of Hamas’s prestige.

PIJ has been able to take a lead position in the northern West Bank, particularly in Jenin, and it is seeking to bolster its position in Gaza too. This troubles Hamas.

Hamas, though it will never admit it publicly, could not ask for a better result than the battering PIJ has received from Israel. This strengthens Hamas significantly, and Israel has understood this sensitive situation very well. This understanding was reflected in its precise, cautious targeting of PIJ targets in the Gaza Strip.

Israel’s efforts prevented Hamas from entering the fighting.

Both Hamas and PIJ represent the thinking of Palestinian Muslims, many of whom reject the path chosen by their secular brethren (an acceptance of living side-by-side with Israel).

Now, with PIJ weakened by Israel, Hamas can not only rest assured that it has an exclusive lead position in Gaza, but it can also begin to fill a void in the northern West Bank, where Israel has arrested large numbers of PIJ operatives.

All of this can significantly help Hamas position itself in the race for the Palestinian leadership when the 87-year-old Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas finally steps down. Hamas will likely become the most relevant movement, outshining Fatah, and certainly outshining PIJ.

The May 2021 conflict that Hamas fought with Israel stands as proof, as far as Hamas is concerned, that it is on the right path, leading as it did to increasing international and Israeli investment in Gaza’s economy, and a boost to Hamas’ status as “guardian of Jerusalem,” the banner under which it sparked that confrontation last year.

PIJ’s pale imitation of this achievement saw the group fire rockets at Jerusalem on Sunday, at a time when Jews mounted the Temple Mount in the Old City to mark the holy Jewish day of Tisha B’Av. But ultimately, PIJ’s attempt to be the next Hamas failed, and the results of that failure will continue to be felt by Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, and Israel long after the next truce comes into effect.

Col. Grisha Yakubovich (IDF, Ret.) is a publishing Expert at The MirYam Institute. He concluded his military service in 2016 as the head of the civil department for the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (C.O.G.A.T.).

The MirYam Institute is the leading international forum for Israel focused discussion, dialogue, and debate, focused on campus presentations, engagement with international legislators, and gold-standard trips to the State of Israel. Follow their work at

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