By Zaman Bajwa
In the volatile Middle East, peace often rests on a fragile foundation, and recent events have only intensified this uncertainty. The ongoing hostilities between Israel and Hamas have once again thrust a longstanding conflict into the global spotlight. In this intricate landscape of Middle Eastern geopolitics, where Iran and Saudi Arabia exert significant influence, the prospect of Israel declaring war on Gaza looms ominously, casting a long shadow over regional stability and peace. To untangle the intricate threads of the Israel-Hamas conflict, it is important to examine its regional ramifications, and the pivotal roles played by Saudi and Iran, all while taking into account the precarious future of Israel’s efforts at normalization in the Middle East.
The stage is set for Operation Iron Swords by Israel in Gaza. However, the origins of the Israel-Hamas conflict can be traced back to the formation of the state of Israel in 1948, a turning point in Middle Eastern history that sparked intense opposition from Arab countries. Subsequently, there has been an unbroken cycle of violence and resistance, culminating in Israel’s annexation of both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank during the 1967 Six-Day War.
There’s a long military history of Israeli operations in Gaza, such as Operation Pillar of Defense, Operation Cast Lead, and Operation Protective Edge, all of which inflicted civilian casualties and substantial infrastructure damage. Additionally, the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip since 2007 has compounded the hardships, severely restricting the movement of goods and people and dimming hopes for peace. These seized operations provide a fertile ground for resistance activities, including the First and Second Intifadas by Palestinians, which were defined by times of unrest and bloodshed.
Considering this historical backdrop, the recent surge in hostilities may come as a surprise to some, yet it was not entirely unforeseen. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s prior statements had already paved the way for Hamas’s expected reaction. However, this situation prompts a significant question for Israel, which has consistently promoted the idea of Middle Eastern normalization under the protection of the United States. The recent escalation serves as a stark contrast to such optimistic rhetoric.
Despite the region’s ongoing insecurity, the conflict has continued, regularly causing catastrophic damage to civilian areas and instilling fear and death. A declaration of war and a significant military attack against Gaza would surely create complex and unpredictable conditions that would lead to regional instability.
On the diplomatic front, a major Israeli military attack would strain relations with Saudi Arabia (KSA). Saudi Arabia has recently made attempts to repair ties with Israel, most notably through the Abraham Accords, and has taken steps to strengthen regional security, challenge Iran’s influence, and encourage economic cooperation.
Nonetheless, a declaration of war would put Israel’s normalization efforts in jeopardy, especially given the KSA’s deliberate support for Palestinian rights and its carefully calculated responses to regional conflicts. Riyadh is clearly handling the sensitivities of its citizenry and regional partners’ favorable support to the Palestinian cause. A protracted battle might spark outrage within the Muslim community, potentially sparking demonstrations, diplomatic embargoes, and calls to renegotiate normalization agreements, all of which could have a substantial impact on regional stability.
Concurrently, Israel’s imposes against Iran for assisting Hamas could further heighten tensions. Iran is well known for its harsh condemnation of Israeli acts and for fueling the growth of regional anti-Israel animosity. Tehran may increase its support for regional proxies, like Hezbollah in the nation of Lebanon and other militias in Syria, in order to launch attacks on Israel, perhaps resulting in cross-border bloodshed and a further escalation of the conflict.
The 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict has a partial historical comparison. Throughout the crisis, Iran expressed significant support for Hamas, denounced Israeli actions, and urged the necessity of international intervention, while at the same time praising Palestinian “resistance.”
Given these complex circumstances, instead of supporting Israel’s reprisal, the US should act as a mediator and urge for a cease-fire. The United States’ backing and offers of aid could give Israel the self-assurance it needs to continue with its reconciliation efforts. However, the United States’ strong diplomatic and political support, notably in terms of national defense and military aid, may exacerbate tensions in the region, with the possibility of potentially sparking a strong Iranian backlash.
Furthermore, an escalation of the conflict could have world ramifications. Because the Middle East is vital to global stability in the energy sector, it could cause worldwide disruptions. Any extension of the crisis might disrupt the flow of energy, causing global oil prices to rise and economic chaos to break out. An escalation of the humanitarian crisis might also result in a significant increase in the flow of Palestinian refugees, putting a greater burden on the countries surrounding it, particularly Jordan and Lebanon that are both of which already have sizeable Palestinian populations.
Ultimately, the Israel-Hamas conflict is a multifaceted issue with a geopolitical backdrop, geographical ramifications, and important actors involved. It’s a contentious issue in the volatile Middle East, where peace remains elusive. The protracted situation and its escalation underline the crucial need for diplomacy, dialogue, and a concerted international effort to resolve this deeply rooted issue.
The writer is a Islamabad Based Freelance Journalist and the Executive Director of YFK, a Think-tank working on conflict resolution.
The views and opinions expressed in this article/Opinion/Comment are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the DND Thought Center and Dispatch News Desk (DND). Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of the DND Thought Center and Dispatch News Desk News Agency.