Geopolitical Report ISSN 2785-2598 Volume 35 Issue 2
Author: Silvia Boltuc
The recent military offensive by Hamas against Israel has brought to the forefront several critical observations. First, it has exposed shortcomings in Tel Aviv’s intelligence and defence capabilities. Second, it has demonstrated the Palestinian faction’s ability to devise effective military strategies and operate beyond Israeli control. Last, this conflict underscores the escalating geopolitical risks in the Middle East.
These developments signal the need for a comprehensive revaluation of the regional security landscape and a renewed focus on diplomatic efforts to address the root causes of the ongoing tensions.
Hamas’ military offensive against Israel:
The recent offensive by the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas marks a significant escalation in the Israel-Palestine conflict. This surprise assault, employing a combination of cross-border gunmen and a barrage of rockets from Gaza, resulted in over 40 casualties and hundreds wounded among Israel Defence Force (IDF).
Israel’s response has been resolute, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declaring the situation as a state of war. The Iranian-backed Hamas’ bold move shows a heightened level of aggression and a departure from recent diplomatic efforts in the region. The Israeli military swiftly retaliated with airstrikes on Gaza, causing heavy explosions and casualties.
This attack signifies an unprecedented breach of Israeli territory by Hamas operatives, a departure from the tactics seen in the conflict over the past two decades. Furthermore, local sources indicate that the Islamic Jihad group has joined the offensive, taking Israeli soldiers’ captive and heightening the gravity of the situation.
In the wake of this intensifying conflict, towns in southern Israel have become active battlegrounds, with Palestinian fighters clashing with security forces. The situation is developing rapidly, with 21 active scenes of confrontation reported by Israel’s police chief.
In Gaza, civilians are preparing for prolonged conflict by stocking up on supplies and seeking shelter. Hamas’ military commander, Mohammad Deif, has called for a united Palestinian resistance, characterising this operation as a historic battle to end what they perceive as the last remaining occupation on Earth.
This recent offensive underscores the urgent need for renewed international efforts to address the deep-seated issues in the Israel-Palestine conflict.
The chronicle of events from March 2018 to September 2023 highlights the ongoing and intensifying conflicts between Israel and Gaza.
The initial protests in Gaza in 2018 led to tragic casualties, with over 170 Palestinians losing their lives in clashes with Israeli forces. This marked again a series of confrontations that would persist over the years, punctuated by sporadic periods of heightened violence.
In May 2021, clashes erupted at the revered Al Aqsa compound in Jerusalem, leading to hundreds of Palestinian injuries. The situation escalated when Hamas, demanding the withdrawal of Israeli security forces, launched a barrage of rockets into Israel. This prompted an 11-day conflict, resulting in significant loss of life on both sides. The toll stood at least 250 people in Gaza and 13 in Israel, reflecting the gravity of the situation.
The conflict further intensified in August 2022, with Israel targeting what it deemed as military objectives in Gaza, resulting in casualties. Islamic Jihad retaliated with rocket fire into Israel. Subsequent days saw continuous airstrikes and rocket attacks, amplifying the human toll.
Tensions escalated again in January 2023 following an Israeli raid in the West Bank, leading to more fatalities. The cycle of violence persisted into February 2023, with rocket attacks from Gaza triggering Israeli airstrikes in response. May 2023 brought a temporary respite with a ceasefire, but September 2023 witnessed renewed hostilities, highlighting the persistent volatility in the region.
Looking at Tel Aviv’s foreign and domestic politics, over the years, Netanyahu’s annual appearances at the United Nations General Assembly were emblematic of his strategy. Paradoxically, while Netanyahu sought to elevate his global standing, he systematically weakened the very governmental apparatus responsible for maintain a democratic system in Israel and promoting stability in the region.
His leadership witnessed a decline in Israel’s Foreign Service, with core responsibilities shifted away from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, leading to reduced influence in foreign policy decision-making.
The most notable decline was in the assessment of Israeli-U.S. relations. This shift is noteworthy considering the overwhelming majority of respondents who still view the U.S. as Israel’s crucial ally. Concerns over deteriorating ties with Western partners have also influenced attitudes towards Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul efforts.
Additionally, the Palestinian issue, while acknowledged in relation to democratic concerns and territorial disputes, has receded in importance for many Israelis, with only 37% ranking it as a top priority.
In domestic politics, in early 2023, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu introduced a sweeping set of judicial reforms, signalling a profound shift in the balance of power between the judiciary and other branches of the Israeli government.
These reforms have significant political and legal implications, particularly for Netanyahu, who faced corruption and criminal charges. The ensuing public discourse on these proposed changes has triggered an unprecedented domestic crisis, uniting a diverse spectrum of society into an activist liberal-centrist movement.
The recent offensive conducted by Hamas, which has been named the “Al-Aqsa Flood,” signifies a notable departure from previous encounters with Israel, thereby shedding light on considerable vulnerabilities in Israeli intelligence and security mechanisms.
Israel’s recent unpreparedness has questioned its reputation as an impenetrable stronghold, a perception that has endured for decades. The incursion of Hamas fighters into Israeli territory and the subsequent hostage-taking of civilians further underscores the audacity and coordination involved in this assault.
Allegedly, Hamas coordinated this meticulously planned offensive with Hezbollah and Iran over several months. In the name of a “unity of fronts”, Hamas and Hezbollah have solidified their connections, offering shelter to several Hamas leaders in Lebanon.
The head of Hamas’ political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, regularly engages in meetings with Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary-General of Hezbollah. Although Hezbollah has primarily voiced support rather than actively participating, the potential for its involvement poses substantial inquiries for Lebanon and introduces intricacy to the scenario.
The repercussions of this military offensive might be serious for the entire region and increase the geopolitical risk of the Middle East.
Hamas seeks to establish itself as the primary representative for the Palestinians, potentially undermining the Palestinian Authority and dispelling the allegations of corruption and ineffectiveness in resolving what the Palestinians call as ‘Israeli occupation’.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged a significant retaliation, yet the potential impact on his credibility arises from the failure of Israeli intelligence. As the leader of a right-wing coalition, Netanyahu might face pressure from the more radical factions within his government, as he navigates the intricacies of a potential ground offensive against Gaza and its wider ramifications on regional dynamics.
As the situation unfolds, monitoring and assessing the definitive position of Saudi Arabia on the matter will be crucial to understand the regional geopolitical developments. Nevertheless, early signs point towards a possible Saudi reluctance to pursue normalisation with Israel since Tel Aviv’s reluctance to make concession to the Palestinians and Riyadh’s necessity to avoid criticism from the Arab-Muslim world.
Moreover, the continuous military escalation could potentially impact the Ankara-Tel Aviv relationship, as Turkey aims to assert a more prominent position in the Muslim umma (community).
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