How can we explain the attitude of Hamas, which has suspended the release of hostages?
It has to do with taking hostages for terrorist organizations, i.e. bargaining to serve political ends. For Hamas, their first objective is to impose their vision of the world through terror and intimidation, instilling and filtering fear into Israeli society. A way to prolong the impact of the October 7 terrorist attacks. This sense of uncertainty is reflected in the profile of the hostages the company is preparing to release, at the time of their release, creating a kind of halo of uncertainty that is echoed in the serial media treatment. The idea is to create a permanent sense of anxiety. Hamas’s aim is to emphasize the rift between Israeli citizens and its already weakened government, a prime minister who mirrors the defeat of October 7.
The second aspect is that Hamas uses these releases to limit its pressure on Israel and limit its space for military maneuver. There is at least one desire to gain time to regroup in the face of attacks by the Israeli military that have weakened the Islamist movement. By choosing this strategy of gradual liberation, Hamas hopes to turn the cease-fire into a formal cease-fire. Spreading these releases out over several days with the possibility of extending the cease-fire — presumably, going beyond the four days agreed upon by Hamas and Israel — also allows Mahmoud Abbas to score points against Fatah. What struck me on Saturday were the scenes of Hamas flags in the West Bank bearing witness to a public presence we haven’t seen since the second intifada. With this, Hamas aims to turn the October 7 massacre into a political victory.
A third aspect is the desire to restructure the organization after a communication strategy based on the horrors of terrorist attacks broadcast live via GoPro cameras, alienated many supporters of Islamist organizations from the West. On the side of countries and Arab countries. What impressed me in the liberation pictures were the fighters shaking hands with the hostages and leaving. This grotesque staging is scrutinized and aims to present a more pleasant face of the system.
Hamas trap for Israel
How can we analyze the belligerent rhetoric of the Israeli military while at the same time pressuring Israel to release the hostages?
It’s a very classic combat interaction: we show our muscles. We must not forget that democracy faces a dilemma in this kind of negotiation, especially when faced with a hybrid adversary. In general, authoritarian regimes do not negotiate: their priority is neutralizing terrorists. It takes precedence over the hostages’ lives, and therefore over their potential release. Democracies are caught in a dilemma: either you set a precedent by threatening hostages, create a jurisprudence of terror, and break the bond of trust between states that guarantees security. and citizens. Choosing the path of negotiation can weaken the power of the state. Or, on the other hand, they choose the path of hostage neutrality, and it is the social contract that is torn up.
This is, on the one hand, the systematic destruction of the political-military infrastructure in the north of the Gaza Strip, and on the other hand, it has hit the Israelis hard to negotiate too quickly through Qatari and Egyptian mediation. Apparently behind-the-scenes pressure from the Americans. This is the idea of hostage priority. We need to re-establish moral credibility for the state apparatus in the face of Israelis who feel abandoned since October 7, when the deal was torn up and a failure. This desire by the government is accompanied by firm words with the aim of showing that the country has not surrendered to the threat of Hamas.
How are the Qataris helping the negotiations?
By applying very strong pressure. For Qatar, this is above all a financial squeeze: they pump about $360 million a year into Gaza, which is absolutely significant, a financial trickle away from Hamas. The emirate’s image was damaged after the October 7 massacres. Hamas leaders celebrated the massacre in Doha, where Qatar hosts the largest US military base in the Middle East. They need to restore their image through this ceasefire.
Hamas-Israel deal: “Benjamin Netanyahu’s failure”
All these indicate the strength of the treaty and the truce.
Yes, because it is in the interests of both fighters. There is something for everyone. For Benjamin Netanyahu, the hostages must be released because his political capital is almost zero today. He is condemned to leave the political arena through the back door. He wants to be the one who leads the Israeli army to victory and also frees the hostages. This is the only card that can be played today. On the part of Hamas, beyond political objectives, it is only to survive as a politico-military organization in the Gaza Strip. The ceasefire gives them time to get their hands back on the chain of command to improve communication between different battalions and regional regiments.
Hostages are the price of terrorism. Hiccups, balance of power, even pressure moves are multiplied as the game of poker..Hamas thinks it is master of the clocks, Israel wants to challenge its control of time. That is why the psycho-sociological dimension is essential.