Academic journal article Journal of Politics and Law

Declaration of War - between a Ceremony and a Strategy: The Case of Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip

Academic journal article Journal of Politics and Law

Declaration of War - between a Ceremony and a Strategy: The Case of Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip

Article excerpt


Following the end of World War II, conflicts worldwide have changed greatly. "War," according to the classical definition, occurs with less and less frequency. Countries avoid involvement in formal warfare or categorizing conflicts with other entities as war.

The field of Conflict Resolution developed after World War II seeking the reasons for the outbreak of conflicts and clarifying new ways to settle them. More recently, a new approach called Conflict Transformation suggests converting the relationship between parties as the way to settle a conflict.

Israel is a party to many interlocking conflicts, one of which is the protracted and intractable conflict with Hamas in Gaza. This conflict is an extension of Israel's ethno-social conflict with the Palestinian people. The prominence of the conflict's violent dimension brings society to exhaustion and to develop a psychological infrastructure preserving and empowering the conflict's vitality.

In an era in which war was an acceptable means to solve disputes between countries, the 1907 Hague Convention obligated nations to declare war preceding the opening of hostilities. Israeli law governs declarations of war, but policy makers prefer to conduct large-scale military operations without a formal declaration. However, it is wider than a narrow legal act and is considered by Austin (1963) a "Speech Act," as well as a "ceremony" (Turner, 2004). Because a declaration of war contains a credible threat regarding the ability to "hurt" the other party, it serves as leverage to establish the necessary conditions between parties to reach a lasting peace. Although the idea of a declaration of war seems to conflict with the logic of Conflict Resolution, in actuality, applying the paradoxical principal of strategy-action against linear intuition-has the potential to settle the conflict through its transformative power.

Through those various paradigms of declaration of war, we conceptualize mollifiers and fomenters for the possibility to declare war in order to transform the conflict towards its resolution.

Keywords: ceremony, declaration of war, Hamas, Gaza, conflict transformation, mollifiers, fomenters, conflict resolution, strategy, paradoxical logic

1. Introduction

The directive to declare war is ratified in the Hague Convention (1907) as a prerequisite act of law prior to the onset of hostile activities between two parties. This refers to an era when war was an acceptable way of resolving disputes between nations. It is embedded in the Israeli law in Section 40(a) of the Basic Law: The Government, but is not implemented by political echelons, which embark on large-scale military activities with no formal declaration. A declaration of war also has constitutional implications because a war puts an end to legislation that applies in times of peace and replaces it with war laws and a new set of game mies.

However, as we understand it, a declaration of war is broader than a narrow legal act and is even recognized by Austin (1963) as speech act, or words that constitute the implementation of action, even if no "performative" action ensues. It is perceived as a rite of transition (Turner, 2004), representing a collective that is undergoing a change or some alteration of status or social conditions. Hence, in addition to its potential to lead to actual warfare, it can serve as a lever to establish conditions for the creation of agreements between the parties and the achievement of a lasting peace, insofar as it represents a real threat to the enemy's capacity to "inflict pain", even if that threat is not carried through (Gray, 2002). On the other hand, some claim that a declaration of war is irrelevant in present-day conflicts. In reality, formal declarations of war have become an extremely rare phenomenon since World War II (Elsea & Grimmett, 2011).

The conflict between Israel and the Hamas movement in Gaza is an offshoot of the protracted ethno-national Israeli-Palestinian conflict. …

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