Israel's political challenges in the war with Hamas

After Israeli strikes on Gaza, October 10, 2023
After Israeli strikes on Gaza, October 10, 2023

For Ukraine, the prolongation of the crisis in the Middle East will have ambiguous consequences.

Two weeks after the Hamas attack on Israel, it is clear that the crisis is dragging on, and it will develop somewhat differently from previous similar crises. In the near future, we will likely see its next phase - a ground operation by Israeli troops (IDF) in the Gaza Strip against Hamas. Much will depend on how effective it will be, how many victims there will be, and how the Arab world will react to this operation. Even according to Israeli military estimates, this operation will last several weeks, or even two to three months. So, perhaps, at least until the end of the year, the war in the Gaza Strip and around Israel will still be in its hot phase.

It will most likely be a war between the IDF and Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as other Arab paramilitary groups, not only in the Gaza Strip but also on Israel's border with Lebanon. The surge in anti-Israeli sentiment that has already emerged will continue (and is likely to intensify, depending on developments in the Gaza Strip), and not only in the Arab world. Of course, there is a risk of Iran being drawn into a war against Israel. That is why the United States is deploying its military grouping in the eastern Mediterranean – to deter the Iranian threat. The Americans do not want to be directly involved in this war and will neutralize the risks of expanding the scope of the current crisis in the Middle East.

The most challenging part is Israel's attempt to reshape the security regime in the Gaza Strip, most likely through the demilitarization and ousting of Hamas. In parallel, Israel's intelligence services will begin hunting Hamas leaders worldwide, seeking to destroy the organization. Whether this will succeed is also a big question that has not yet been answered. Even if Hamas's leadership is destroyed and the organization itself is pushed out of the Gaza Strip, previous historical experience shows that a new radical anti-Israeli Arab youth organization may emerge in its place.

There is a risk of Iran being drawn into a war against Israel

The international community, including the United States, will push Israel to restore peace in Palestine and negotiate peace with the Palestinians. That is, another attempt will repeat what has happened many times before. The solution is already being proposed the same as it has been: the creation of an independent Palestinian state. All these efforts will again run into one insoluble problem: who will be in power in this State? The best-case scenario would be for moderate politicians to come to power in Palestine, though that would be difficult. In any case, it is virtually impossible for them to come to power in Palestine or the Gaza Strip in a democratic way. If the Gaza Strip or an independent Palestinian state is again under the control of anti-Israeli militants (no matter what they are called), a new war between the Palestinians and Israel is inevitable.

Some experts and politicians propose a different scenario: demilitarizing the Gaza Strip under international control (after the IDF operation) with the gradual restoration of the Palestinian Authority, led by moderate Palestinian politicians. If this experiment works, negotiations on creating a Palestinian state can begin. This scenario is being widely criticized. It seems utopian to many. However, it theoretically provides a peaceful alternative for the future.

Among the possible political consequences of the current crisis in the Middle East, I would also suggest the end of the Netanyahu era. Not immediately, but after the relative stabilization of the current situation, Netanyahu will most likely be forced to resign as Israeli Prime Minister. He is directly responsible for both the failure of Israel's unpreparedness for a Hamas attack and the internal split in Israeli society. But will this resolve the rift in Israel's political elite and society?

For Ukraine, the prolongation of the crisis in the Middle East will have ambiguous consequences. On the one hand, it is already diverting international attention from the war between Russia and Ukraine, and this trend will continue. There may also be some reduction in the scale of U.S. assistance to Ukraine, including military aid. However, we will be part of the same defense and financial package with Israel. This may weaken radical Trumpists' resistance to resolving the financing support issue for Ukraine next year.

Meanwhile, the current situation may push the US and the EU to expand the production of ammunition and weapons significantly. There is a chance for warming relations between Israel and Ukraine. But we should refrain from counting on a positive change in relations with the countries of the so-called Global South. The current Middle East crisis has become another reason for the aggravation and complication of relations between the West and many countries of the Global South. China will take advantage of this to a greater extent than Russia. But the situation that has arisen will not help to advance our positions in the countries of the Global South. However, this is problematic but not critical for us.

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