ABSTRACT

The three week Gaza War in the winter of 2008/09 not only inflicted death and destruction on the inhabitants of a densely populated territory causing many civilian casualties (UNHRC 2009), it also shipwrecked the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Israel’s military offensive into Gaza1 managed to reduce the attacks of unguided rocket and mortar fire against its homeland, which compared to Palestinian suicide bombings of the past, however, seemed an almost negligible physical threat. Still, the most recent tactic employed in the history of the Palestinian national struggle may well turn into a crucial threat and curb efforts to advance peace. As long as the Gaza crisis remains unresolved, it is difficult to imagine either of the combatants willingly accepting the limitations a Middle East/Gulf Missile Free Zone (MFZ) might impose. In this contribution, we nevertheless suggest that incremental steps can be taken to move towards a resolution of the conflict, based on a new approach of dealing with Hamas, and that this could create conditions under which each side might view participation in an MFZ more favourably. This article investigates some steps which might induce Hamas to reassess the value of its rocket arsenal, including the creation of a normbuilding process that would encourage its members to forego the use of these weapons, view them as obsolete, and finally remove them from their armoury. First we present a brief overview of the origin and historical development of Hamas, including its reorientation within and adjustment to Palestinian politics since the second Intifada; next we address the threat to Israel posed by Hamas’ rocket arsenal as well as various measures which may be taken to counter the threat. While in accord with our assignment for this volume we focus on Hamas, changes in its policies regarding the acquisition and use of rockets is clearly part of the overall dynamic of Israeli-Palestinian relations and dynamics.