Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 07/2012

Gaza Five Years On: Hamas Settles In

Nathan Brown

June 2012

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace


In the five years since it took sole control in Gaza, Hamas has built a governing apparatus that is now in firm control of the small strip. Between January 2006, when Hamas won parliamentary elections, and June 2007, when the Palestinian Authority was split between the West Bank and Gaza in a brief civil war, Palestinian politics was marked by turmoil and uncertainty. But since that time, both halves of the Palestinian political system have settled in. In Gaza, Hamas has taken the shambles of Palestinian Authority institutions and worked to rebuild them, sometimes obscuring the division between Hamas as a movement and the Gaza government in the process. A focus on the legal and educational fields shows a pattern of short-term accomplishments married to a worrying long-term trajectory. In its governing project, Hamas has succeeded to a degree, though progress has been slow. Civil society in Gaza continues to function, but in a context that places limits on political activity and opposition. Gaza now has a fully functional if imperfect judicial structure and an improvised system that can draft a modest amount of narrow legislation. And the Palestinians’ education system not only has been revived but it is one of the few quiet areas of coordination with the West Bank.