Hezbollah (literally: “The Party of God”) is a radical Shiite terrorist organization that was founded by the Islamic Republic of Iran in the midst of the Lebanese Civil War in 1982. It was established as an attempt to counter Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, and to export the Iranian revolution to the country. Over the years, the organization has developed to become the most effective adversary Israel has ever faced. Besides the ongoing sponsor-proxy ties with Iran, it has developed close cooperation with the Assad regime in Syria as a conduit for the transfer of Iranian funds and sophisticated weaponry, and has strengthened ties with other terrorist groups as well.
One of these groups is the Sunni group Hamas (Arabic acronym for: “The Islamic Resistance Movement”), founded in 1988 by Islamists connected with the Muslim Brotherhood, out of the fear that without direct participation in the first Intifada or uprising of Palestinians against Israel, popular support of the Palestinian people living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank would ultimately shift to the more secular PLO, or to the more radical Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). Like Hezbollah (but to a lesser extent), Hamas enjoys the political and financial backing of Iran, after the latter recognized the opportunity to increase its influence in the region and to export the Islamic Revolution to additional locations outside of Iran, as it had in Lebanon. Both groups are similar not only due to their shared state sponsor, but also due to the fact that they are both hybrid organizations with military, political and social/religious wings.
This paper will focus on the intriguing yet deadly alliance between Hezbollah and Hamas, and will attempt to shed light on how two groups with strikingly different ideological backgrounds – one Shiite and the other Sunni - came to cooperate in a mutually beneficial manner. The article will begin with a theoretical framework exploring some of the current theories that deal with cooperation between groups in general and terrorist organizations in particular. This will lay the necessary groundwork for a more zoomed-in look at each of the two groups profiled in this paper, in order to assess what motivated each from its own perspective to cooperate with the other. This will be followed by several examples or manifestations of this cooperation throughout the years, touching upon specific events or attacks that were made possible or exacerbated as a product of this alliance. I will then briefly analyze the current state of the relationship in light of the recent developments in the region, namely the ongoing fighting and civil war in Syria. The final section of the article can be divided into two parts: The first part will include a brief discussion that assesses the relationship between Hezbollah and Hamas over the years, and its prospects and outlook going forward. The second part will include several important policy recommendations that are intended to mitigate some of the threats that this alliance poses - not only to the safety of Israel, but to the safety and stability of the entire region.