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Defense & Security
Israel and Palestine flag

Political Insights (4): The Palestinian Authority’s Response to the Israeli Aggression on Gaza Strip

by Atef-al-Joulani

The Palestinian Authority (PA) in Ramallah was caught off guard by Al-Aqsa Flood Operation on 7/10/2023, followed by a widespread Israeli aggression on Gaza Strip (GS) and continuous incursions into various areas of the West Bank (WB). The PA has been confused, hesitant, helpless and weak in responding to the evolving confrontations and in taking practical measures against these aggressions. This situation raises questions about the factors influencing the PA’s position. First: Determinants and Influential Factors: The most important factors influencing the PA decisions and positions regarding the Israeli aggression on GS and incursions into WB can be summarized as follows: 1. The PA is concerned about its existence and role in light of threats from the right-wing Israeli government to undermine the PA, limit its role and accuse it of financing terrorism. The lack of condemnation of Hamas’ attack on October 7 has further complicated the situation. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has indicated the readiness of the Israeli army to confront the PA security forces, describing the Oslo Accords that established it as a “fateful mistake.” 2. There is a contrast in opinions within the PA regarding how to deal with the aggression on GS: one advocating neutrality, caution and waiting for the outcome of the confrontation between Hamas and the occupation forces, and the other emphasizing the necessity of taking practical actions to preserve the PA’s image and avoid condemnation for complicity and abandonment. News indicate that Mahmud ‘Abbas, Hussein al-Sheikh and Majed Faraj adopt the first, which has reflected clearly in the PA’s decisions and current position. 3. The security obligations imposed by the Oslo Accords, requiring the PA to coordinate security with Israel, maintain security conditions and prevent resistance activities. Unlike previous cases where the PA hinted at freezing security coordination with the occupation, it is noteworthy that no such position was made concerning the current aggression. 4. The US has called the PA to engage with its visions and arrangements in order to manage GS after the current confrontation with Hamas. The PA has responded to these demands, expressing its readiness to manage GS, after the end of confrontations, within a political framework that includes WB and GS. 5. The political rivalry with Hamas and the desire to weaken it as a strong political opponent. Some PA prominent influential figures believe that the current confrontation between Hamas and Israel presents a crucial opportunity to settle the competition with their political rival and regain control over GS. 6. The positions of influential Arab parties that seek to end Hamas’ rule of GS, weaken it and enhance the PA’s role in WB and GS. They also want to stop the increase of resistance activities in WB, which threaten the PA’s influence. 7. The PA’s fear of economic repercussions if it adopts positions that provoke the Israeli side. Israel has decided to withhold about $156 million from the monthly clearance funds, claiming that this amount includes salaries, allowances for employees and expenses for GS. There are indications that the Israeli security cabinet is considering the possibility of releasing the withheld clearance funds to the PA and allowing workers from WB to work inside the occupied Palestinian territories under new security conditions. 8. The decline of the PA’s popularity among Palestinians due to its weak position concerning the war on GS and its inability to resist the widespread incursions in WB. Numerous angry protests in WB cities have called for the resignation of the PA’s president. A recent opinion poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Political and Survey Research in collaboration with the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung revealed a significant decline in the PA’s popularity. About 58% of respondents called for its dissolution, while 72% supported Al-Aqsa Flood Operation, and 64% opposed the PA’s participation in meetings with the United States, with the involvement of Arab countries, in order to discuss the future of GS after the war stops Second: The PA’s Position on the Aggression: Through monitoring the PA’s actions and positions during the 70 days of Israeli aggression on GS and the continuous invasions of WB cities, its stance can be summarized in the following points: 1. The PA had limited reaction, only declaring its rejection and condemnation of the Israeli aggression without undertaking effective and influential action to counter it. It relinquished its role in protecting the Palestinian people, or at least acknowledged its implicit inability to do so. 2. The PA participated in the meetings of joint Arab and Muslim action institutions and became a member of the committees derived from these meetings to follow-up their decisions. 3. The PA prevented its security forces from confronting the ongoing Israeli attacks in WB. It continued pursuing resistance groups and conducting arrests among Palestinian activists. 4. The PA worked to restrain popular activities in WB that support the resistance and oppose the Israeli aggression on GS. It limited the spaces for popular movement and prevented interaction with the Israeli forces. 5. The Palestinian mission at the United Nations (UN), along with some Palestinian ambassadors, have effectively clarified the Palestinian position, countered the Israeli narrative and worked to issue from the UN General Assembly resolutions to cease fire. They also confronted US proposals condemning the resistance. 6. The PA avoided calling for any joint national meetings to strengthen the internal front against the Israeli aggression. It emphasized that the PA and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) are the sole representatives of the Palestinian people, excluding any other party. Conclusion In general, the PA’s position aligned with the official Arab stance, dominated by a negative view of the Palestinian military resistance and reformist Islamic movements. This aligns with its desire for the PA to replace Hamas in managing GS. Despite presenting itself as the representative of the Palestinian people, expressing their suffering and aspirations, its practical behavior on the ground in WB, especially through maintaining security coordination with Israel, suppressing popular movements and preventing any escalation of Intifadah, civil disobedience and armed resistance, established for a “comfortable” environment for Israel. It practically sidelined over three million Palestinians in WB from engaging in resisting activities, except under exceptional circumstances. It seems that the PA leadership prefers a policy of waiting, anticipating what will result from the Israeli aggression on GS, with some of its leaders considering the defeat of the resistance and the dominance of the occupation a matter of time. Consequently, the PA is the candidate to take over the administration of GS, but it refuses to overtly acknowledge this, so as not to appear that it is coming riding Israeli tanks. For this would lead to further deterioration of its already declining popularity and loss of credibility. It prefers having transitional phase before assuming responsibility, within a national consensus if possible and a broader vision for genuine progress in the peace process. Therefore, it is unlikely, in the coming days, that a substantial change in the PA’s position on the Israeli aggression on GS will occur, given the continued influence of the mentioned factors and while it is waiting for battle outcomes to become clear.

Israeli soldiers with Palestinian journalists

Israel now ranks among the world’s leading jailers of journalists. We don’t know why they’re behind bars

by Peter Greste

Israel has emerged as one of the world’s leading jailers of journalists, according to a newly released census compiled by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. Each year, the committee releases a snapshot of the number of journalists behind bars as of December 1 2023 was the second highest on record with 320 in detention around the world. In a small way, that is encouraging news. The figure is down from a high of 363 the previous year. But a troublingly large number remain locked up, undermining press freedom and often, human rights. China takes out unenviable top spot At the top of the list sits China with 44 in detention, followed by Myanmar (43), Belarus (28), Russia (22), and Vietnam (19). Israel and Iran share sixth place with 17 each. While the dip in numbers is positive, the statistics expose a few troubling trends. As well as a straight count, the Committee to Protect Journalists examines the charges the journalists are facing. The advocacy group found that globally, almost two-thirds are behind bars on what they broadly describe as “anti-state charges” – things such as espionage, terrorism, false news and so on. In other words, governments have come to regard journalism as some sort of existential threat that has to be dealt with using national security legislation. In some cases, that may be justified. It is impossible to independently assess the legitimacy of each case, but it does point to the way governments increasingly regard information and the media as a part of the battlefield. That places journalists in the dangerous position of sometimes being unwitting combatants in often brutally violent struggles. China’s top spot is hardly surprising. It has been there – or close to it – for some years. Censorship makes it extremely difficult to make an accurate assessment of the numbers behind bars, but since the crackdown on pro-democracy activists in 2021, journalists from Hong Kong have, for the first time, found themselves locked up. And almost half of China’s total are Uyghurs from Xinjiang, where Beijing has been accused of human rights abuses in its ongoing repression of the region’s mostly Muslim ethnic minorities. The rest of the top four are also familiar, but the two biggest movements are unexpected. Iran had been the 2022 gold medallist with 62 journalists imprisoned. In the latest census, it dropped to sixth place with just 17. And Israel, which previously had only one behind bars, has climbed to share that place. That is positive news for Iranian journalists, but awkward for Israel, which repeatedly argues it is the only democracy in the Middle East and the only one that respects media freedom. It also routinely points to Iran for its long-running assault on critics of the regime. The journalists Israel had detained were all from the occupied West Bank, all Palestinian, and all arrested after Hamas’s horrific attacks from Gaza on October 7. But we know very little about why they were detained. The journalists’ relatives told the committee that most are under what Israel describes as “administrative detention”. 17 arrests in Israel in less than 2 months The benign term “administrative detention” in fact means the journalists have been incarcerated indefinitely, without trial or charge. It is possible that they were somehow planning attacks or involved with extremism (Israel uses administrative detention to stop people they accuse of planning to commit a future offence) but the evidence used to justify the detention is not disclosed. We don’t even know why they were arrested. Israel’s place near the top of the Committee to Protect Journalists’ list exposes a difficult paradox. Media freedom is an intrinsic part of a free democracy. A vibrant, awkward and sometimes snarly media is a proven way to keep public debate alive and the political system healthy. It is often uncomfortable, but you can’t have a strong democratic system without journalists freely and vigorously fulfilling their watchdog role. In fact, a good way to tell if a democracy is sliding is the extent of a government’s crackdown on the media. This is not to suggest equivalence between Israel and Iran. Israel remains a democracy, and Israeli media is often savagely critical of its government in ways that would be unthinkable in Tehran. But if Israel wants to restore confidence in its commitment to democratic norms, at the very least it will need to be transparent about the reasons for arresting 17 journalists in less than two months, and the evidence against them. And if there is no evidence they pose a genuine threat to Israeli security, they must be released immediately.

Saudi Arabia's New Approach

Saudi Arabia Needs to See a New Approach from Washington

by Dr. Abdulaziz Sager

Three months after the horrendous events of October 7, the death toll in Gaza continues to mount daily. The humanitarian crisis has been called “unprecedented” and will have lasting effects for generations to come. Moreover, every day the crisis continues, the region faces the potential of multiple conflicts that, unless managed effectively and immediately, threatens to broaden the scope of the calamity beyond what has been seen so far. The escalation is already visible in the Red Sea, with several attacks on international shipping lines putting 12% of the world’s commerce that traverses the Bab El-Mandab strait at risk. These attacks increase the possibility of further regional reactions and instability. While efforts such as the recently announced US-led maritime task force Operation Prosperity Guardian are welcome steps to prevent further incidents from occurring, the issue of maritime security around the world’s chokepoints must be addressed collectively by the international community. Only such combined efforts will send the right message to the concerned states, and to the Houthis in Yemen and other violent non-state actors and prevent more attacks. The rising tensions in the Red Sea are a clear indication of how volatile the security environment in the entire Middle East remains and how quickly developments can escalate. Given the current state of affairs, any incident can further unravel the delicate situation in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Sudan, or Libya, to name the most immediate cases. Once the pressure valve explodes, it will be incredibly difficult to reverse the consequences. All the above undermines the efforts by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia over the past years to de- escalate regional tensions and put relationships on a more cooperative footing. This includes rapprochement with Iraq and Türkiye and pushing for Syria to rejoin the Arab League. Regarding Iran and Yemen, Saudi Arabia has recently reiterated its commitment to peaceful regional relations, including welcoming the UN envoy’s statement on the Yemen Peace Roadmap as well as reiterating its commitment to the Beijing Agreement with Iran. What is therefore required, now more urgently than ever, is a clear meeting of the minds of Washington and Riyadh when it comes to preventing further tragedies. The United States remains the most consequential actor when it comes to the medium to long-term security landscape in the wider Middle East. Yet, its policies over the past decades have been unbalanced, haphazard, and uncommitted and have threatened the long-term stability of the region. Moreover, the US has not listened to the advice of its Gulf allies throughout this period. This must change, or the gap in perception between the two sides will continue to widen. The more pressing issue is the need for a straightforward and clear commitment by the US to end the conflict in Gaza. The US is the only external actor with a measure of influence over Israel, but it has yet to use that influence effectively in ending the hostilities and promoting a more comprehensive and just political solution for the Palestinian issue. Instead of focusing on an Israel- only approach, what this involves is a genuine engagement with all its regional allies to defuse the situation and prevent further escalation. This can best be done if there is adequate and wide-ranging engagement with the Arab world, including with the GCC states. So far, Washington has not uttered the word ‘ceasefire’ even once. This stands in contrast to most of the rest of the international community, including an increasing number of European countries and many Latin American countries, that demand an end to military operations as far as the current violence on the Palestinian-Israeli front is concerned. Any change in rhetoric heard from Washington so far has been inconsequential. This includes the most recent announcement from Israel of a tactical shift in fighting, a step that President Biden had pushed for. The region now expects the US to demonstrate a real and substantive commitment to pursuing a ceasefire as every day this conflict remains, the threat of extremism and a widening regional conflict also increases. The time for shuttle diplomacy for the sake of conducting visits has clearly passed. Additionally, there needs to be a clear commitment to the two-state solution with reference to the Arab Peace Initiative. At the 2023 Munich Security Conference, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken explained about the Ukraine crisis that “there is no neutral position when it comes to a war of aggression...there is no balance.” However, these same principles are not being applied by the US when it comes to Gaza and the wider Middle East. The US refused to listen to the advice of the GCC states twenty years ago in Iraq; Unless it quickly begins to shift its course, it risks making those same mistakes again. Saudi Arabia, as well as most of other Arab states, see no wisdom in the current US regional policy and cannot support an unwise policy. It's not defiance to the US, but a rejection of a short sighted, non- fruitful policy.

Defense & Security
Israel and Hezbollah's willingness to avoid full-blown war.

Why both Israel and Hezbollah are eager to avoid tit-for-tat attacks escalating into full-blown war

by Asher Kaufman

The killing of a Hezbollah commander in southern Lebanon on Jan. 8, 2024, has raised concern that the conflict between Israel and Hamas could escalate into a regional war. Wissam al-Tawil, the head of a unit that operates on Lebanon’s southern border, was killed in a targeted Israeli airstrike just days after a senior Hamas leader was assassinated in Beirut and amid sporadic attacks by Hezbollah on Israeli targets. But how likely is a full-scale conflict between Israel and Hezbollah? The Conversation turned to Asher Kaufman, an expert on Lebanon-Israel relations at the University of Notre Dame, to assess what could happen next. What do we know about the latest strike? We know that it was an Israeli drone that killed al-Tawil. Hezbollah has since released picture of him with Hassan Nasrallah, the group’s secretary general, and Qassem Soleiman, the former head of Quds Force – one of Iran’s main military branches – who was assassinated by the U.S. in 2020. This suggests that al-Tawil was a major target for Israel, as he clearly had connections with top figures in Lebanon and Iran. The fact that it was a drone attack is also important. This suggests that the operation was based on good Israeli intelligence on al-Tawil’s whereabouts. This wasn’t a chance encounter. This was clearly a calculated and precise attack. After the operation, Israel said al-Tawil was responsible for a recent missile attack on Israel’s Mount Meron intelligence base in northern Israel. That attack was in response to the earlier assassination of a Hamas leader in Beirut. So what we are seeing is a pattern of tit-for-tat strikes. So this doesn’t mark an escalation? I don’t see the killing of al-Tawil as an escalation, as such. Rather, it is a targeted retaliation by Israel to the earlier Hezbollah strike on one of their facilities. There are some important things to note in that regard. It was just 10 kilometers north of the Israel-Lebanon border. This is still within the geographical area where the two sides have been exchanging fire since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas in Israel. So this is still within the realm of border skirmishes, to my mind, and falls short of full war. Is it in the interests of Israel to escalate conflict? I don’t think either side is interested in full-blown war, for different reasons. For Israel, the pressure is from outside the country. There is immense international pressure on Israel not to start a full-blown war with Hezbollah. Indeed, U.S. Secrtary of State Antony Blinken is currently in the region and visiting Israel with that message: Do not start a war with Hezbollah. I think there is a realization, certainly in the international community, that a full-blown war between Hezbollah and Israel will decimate Lebanon and also lead to major destruction in Israel. What about pressure within Israel? Certainly within Israel there is a strong lobby for war with Hezbollah. The thinking among Israeli military hawks here is a powerful military blow against Hezbollah would allow people living in the north of Israel to return to homes they evacuated when it looked like war might be in the cards. Indeed, the Israeli Ministry of Defense wanted preemptive war with Hezbollah after the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas. But U.S. President Joe Biden stopped that from happening for the same reason that Blinken is currently trying to dissuade Israel from further escalating the conflict. And what about Hezbollah? How might it respond? Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader, is between a rock and a hard place. The majority of Lebanese people clearly do not want a war. But any attack resulting in the deaths of high-ranking Hezbollah figures will be met by internal demands for action. But there is a tipping point for Hezbollah, as there is for the Israelis too – which is why this tit-for-tat pattern is such a risky matter. On the Lebanese side, if Israel hits strategic Hezbollah assets deep in Lebanon – that is, outside the border areas – or launch an attack that leads to mass civilian deaths then it might lead to full-blown conflict. But so far that has not been the case. The attacks by Israel have been surgical and precise. In the case of the Hamas leader killed in Beirut, it was only Palestinians killed. It was a humiliation for Hezbollah for sure – it happened in Hezbollah’s stronghold in southern Beirut. But it wasn’t on Hezbollah assets, such as personnel, strategic sites or command centers. Israel has limited its attacks largely to the border area. Public sentiment is still very strongly against war in Lebanon. Certainly there is strong sympathy for Gazans. But the prevailing sentiment in Lebanon is that support cannot come at the price of Lebanese lives. And that suits the Hezbollah hierarchy at present. They know that the threat of war is their most important card. Once played, they can’t use it again. Is there a diplomatic way forward? Both parties are looking at diplomacy. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has said that his country’s preferred path is “an agreed-upon diplomatic settlement.” Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the goal of returning Israeli citizens to their homes in the north would be done “diplomatically” if possible. But added, “If not, we will work in other ways.” Similarly in Lebanon, the talk is of a diplomatic solution – notably by enforcing United Nations Resolution 1701, which calls for Hezbollah to withdraw north of the Litani River and for Israel to withdraw to the international border. So it isn’t that there isn’t a credible diplomatic path. And the fact that both sides use the language of diplomacy suggests there is no appetite for full-blown war. Indeed, the U.S. has long been trying to get Israel and Lebanon to resolve disputes over their shared borders. Both sides signed a U.S.-brokered maritime agreement in 2022, and there have been attempts at a similar deal in regards to the land boundary. There remained disagreement over 13 spots along the border. But since Oct. 7, the U.S. has tried to use the prospect of a negotiated land solution based on U.N. Resolution 1701 to diffuse tension between Israel and Lebanon. The Lebanese government has said it welcomes U.S. efforts to resolve the disputes. On the Israeli side, too, they are going along with U.S. attempts to keep U.N. Resolution 1701 on the table – I think, mainly to keep America on side. Does Iran have any role in influencing Hezbollah’s response? Iran has immense influence over Hezbollah – it pays for military operations and equipment. But Hezbollah is not only an Iranian proxy; it has domestic considerations, and its interests lie with the Lebanese political scene. For that reason, Hezbollah is attuned to the domestic popular pressure in Lebanon against a war. Also, I don’t think Iran wants to see an escalation. Like Hezbollah, Iranian leaders know that threat of war – through their proxies in the region – is their most valuable asset. And I don’t think Iran is ready to use it. Iran might also be concerned that if fighting escalates, then it will be drawn into war. Iran has so far played a smart game since the Oct. 7 attacks – it has stayed away from the battlefield, while supporting the sporadic attacks on Israel by Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis in Yemen and pro-Iranian militias in Iraq and Syria. But a full war between Israel and Hezbollah may draw Iran into direct confrontation with Israel and the U.S. And that is something that leaders in Tehran will most likely not want, especially after a terror attack in Iran on Jan. 3 exposed how vulnerable Iran is internally.

Defense & Security
Attempts to create a “world without Hamas”

Political Analysis: A World Without Hamas?!!

by Mohsen Mohammad Saleh

From the start of Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, Israeli calls to crush Hamas have escalated, joined by major Western powers calling for the end of Hamas’ rule in Gaza Strip (GS) and its exclusion from the Palestinian decision-making circle. This has coincided with a global campaign vilifying Hamas, accusing it of terrorism, and seeing it as an obstacle to achieving peace and stability in the Middle East. Arab and regional forces have also actively worked against Hamas, affecting their external relations and its security and developmental strategies. Arab leaders and officials have openly discussed this in closed rooms with Western leaders or with figures who later revealed it in the media, such as Dennis Ross and Thomas Friedman.A World Without Hamas:So, these powers believe that Hamas is the problem, and that its leadership is now sought after, with the solution to regional stability being the exclusion of Hamas. Let’s deal with the hypothesis of getting rid of Hamas calmly and objectively. We should ask those who have filled the world and the media against Hamas some simple questions. Hamas emerged as a movement in 1987, nearly forty years after the decision to partition Palestine and the 1948 war and the establishment of the Israel. What have peace-loving powers done during these forty years to grant Palestinians their rights, end Israeli occupation, and implement United Nations (UN) resolutions?! Was Hamas the obstacle and the problem?! After more than thirty years of the Oslo Accords signed in 1993, which the Palestine Liberation Organization leadership hoped would establish an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank (WB) and GS within five years. Who disrupted the implementation of the agreement? Who destroyed the peace process? Who destroyed the two-state solution? Who turned the Oslo experience and the peace process into a catastrophe for the Palestinian people? Wasn’t it the Israeli side who doubled the number of settlers, seized land, Judaized holy sites, and turned the Palestinian Authority (PA) into a functional security entity serving the occupation? After more than twenty years of the (Saudi) Arab Peace Initiative launched in 2002, wasn’t it the Israeli occupation that ignored and thwarted it, leaving it on the shelf, if not in the trash bin?! And, assuming there was no Hamas throughout this period, would the Israelis have granted Palestinians full sovereignty to the WB and GS? Or is the problem deeply rooted in the essence of Zionist ideology and the dominant Israeli mindset that rejects this?! For example, during the period 25/2–3/3/1996, after several operations carried out by Hamas in retaliation for the assassination of Yahya ‘Ayyash that shook Israel, major Western powers, Israel, the PA, and several Arab and world countries rushed to hold an international conference titled the Summit of Peacemakers, on 13/3/1996, in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, to support the peace process and combat “terrorism.” The PA, in collaboration with the Israeli occupation and the United States, using all means of suppression and brutality, launched a smear campaign against Hamas in an attempt to eradicate anything related to the Islamic resistance movement. Practically, the PA spared no effort and succeeded, to a large extent, in dismantling most, if not all, of the resistance cells, and largely managed to strike the organizational structure of Hamas and stifle its popular base. Then what?! In the following four years, the situation stabilized for the PA, and its nine Security Forces met all Israeli demands and achieved the targeted “quality standards.” However, Israel, on the other hand, did nothing but continue its plans of Judaization and settlement, using the settlement process as a cover to penetrate the Arab and Muslim region and normalize relations with it. The matter culminated in the failure of the Camp David II negotiations in July 2000. And the question that arises is, during that period, practically a “world without Hamas,”’ why was the promised peace settlement not achieved? Therefore, Yasir ‘Arafat lost any hope of realizing the dream of the Palestinian state he aspired to. This frustration played a fundamental role in pushing ‘Arafat to support the Al-Aqsa Intifadah that erupted in September 2000, with the participation of Fatah elements, both popularly and militarily. As for the second result, it is that Hamas, in a very short time, regained its strength, advanced to lead armed resistance, and gained unprecedented popular support, culminating in its overwhelming victory in the 2006 Legislative Council elections. Attempts to create a “world without Hamas” by the PA have been repeated since 2007 for many years in WB. Hamas has suffered (and still suffers) from the PA’s repression (along with Israeli repression and US expertise), its pursuit, closure of its institutions, and the targeting of its organizational structure. So, what was the result after 16 years?! The result is that Hamas is the most popular faction in WB, or at least the fundamental competitor to Fatah!! Otherwise, why did the Fatah leadership shy away from the election obligations and the putting the Palestinian house in order, in the spring of 2021, and continues to evade them until now?! Even in GS, the suffocating blockade and participation in five destructive wars over 16 years have only increased Hamas’s strength and popularity!! Therefore, the question directed at Israel is: If WB is under your direct and indirect occupation, and you have failed over 36 years to uproot Hamas, even with a Palestinian partner, and it still maintains its popularity; what do you expect even if you manage to reoccupy GS? Why insist on “trying the tested” and “reinventing the wheel”?Will of the Occupation… or the Will of the People?!There is a fundamental question that arises: Does a “world without Hamas” reflect the will of the occupation and its allies, or the will of the Palestinian people?! Therefore, does Israel and its allies have the right to guardianship over the Palestinian people? Is it their right to impose their standards on the Palestinian people in choosing their representatives and leaders? What audacity and arrogance is it that the enemy decides the form and specifications of the leadership of a people who are victims of occupation?! The second fundamental question is, why do the Western world, Arab normalizers and their allies seek to adapt the situation in Palestine according to the desires and standards of the occupation and in a way that pleases Israel? Instead of working according to hundreds of international resolutions and the inherent rights of peoples to self-determination, to adapt the situation in favor of ending the occupation and exerting all pressures on it to force it to do so?! Therefore, the persistence of Israel as a “state above the law,” securing its occupation, and ensuring its continued subjugation of another people is the abnormal situation that must be eliminated. Hence, if the Palestinian people choose Hamas as an expression of their free will, the correct approach is to respect the will of the people, not the will of the occupation. Hamas governed GS according to the majority elected by the Palestinian people, and it did not come with an Israeli or US permission or approval. Thus, it remains whether they are satisfied or unsatisfied; this is not their business.Realistic Indicators:Indicators show that after more than 75 days of the brutal Israeli aggression on GS, Hamas’s popularity remains high and continues to rise, and the Palestinian environment still rallies around it inside and outside Palestine. The methods of massacres and atrocities have deepened the desire of the Palestinian people for revenge and for making more sacrifices to end the occupation. Thus, Israel’s mad desire to reach a “world without Hamas” has only strengthened Hamas and elevated its status among Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims and the world as a movement of resistance and liberation. This happened at a time when the ugly face of the occupation was increasingly exposed. The latest opinion polls released by the Palestinian Center for Political and Survey Research on 13/12/2023 show a rise in Hamas’s popularity and more support for the resistance line, with an overwhelming majority demanding the resignation of ‘Abbas. Moreover, if there were a referendum on the most popular factions or parties in the Arab and Muslim world, Hamas might win by a comfortable majority, gaining a position that no other Palestinian faction, party, or Arab or Muslim leader could dream of. Perhaps Abu ‘Ubaidah, whose name and face we do not know, would receive far more votes than many leaders and presidents whose names echo in the media day and night!!Hamas and the International Community:If the world were without Hamas, would it be better for the international community to support the Palestine issue? In fact, the objective study of the course of the world’s interaction with the Palestine issue, its prominence on the international agenda, and the increasing percentage of votes for it since the emergence of Hamas until now (1987–2023), indicates that whenever there is resistance, an atmosphere of uprising, confrontation with the occupation and an ascendance of Hamas’s role, this voting percentage increases in the UN and its institutions, as well as in the official and popular global interaction. Conversely, whenever the trend of peace settlement and the imposition of a state of “calm” prevails, international interest and support, as well as voting percentages in the UN, decrease. Israel exploits this to further its settlement and Judaization, moving towards closing the Palestinian file and imposing its visions that erase the rights of the Palestinian people in their land and holy sites. Researchers, such as Prof. Dr. Walid ‘Abd al-Hay, have written about this phenomenon.Hamas and “Terrorism”:Several Western countries accuse Hamas of “terrorism” and killing civilians, seeing the need to delegitimize it internationally. However, for the Palestinian people, Arabs, Muslims and everyone who believes in the right of the Palestinian people to liberate their land, Hamas is seen as a moderate, open Islamic movement, a national liberation movement whose existence is linked to confronting Zionist terrorism and ending the occupation. Crushing and sidelining Hamas will not eliminate the essence of the liberation idea; it is an inherent and sacred right for any people with dignity seeking to determine their destiny on their own. Accusing Hamas of terrorism is merely a tool to prevent any legitimate resistance against the occupation. Regarding the issue of targeting civilians, perhaps there is no room for discussion here, but historically, it suffices to note that since its inception, Hamas has sought to focus on military objectives. After the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre carried out by a Zionist called Baruch Goldstein in 1994, Hamas offered to avoid killing civilians from both sides, but the Israeli occupation ignored it and continued its massacres. Documented statistics indicate that Israel has killed more than 11 thousand Palestinian, the overwhelming majority being civilians, from 2000 until just before the recent Operation Al-Aqsa Flood on October 7th. The whole world has witnessed the Israeli massacres in GS… Let’s first talk about the “Zionist terrorism.” The moderate Islamic civilizational ideology is the most powerful, deep and widespread school of thought in Palestine, the Arab world and the Muslim world. Palestine, with its great religious significance and heritage, occupies a central place in the hearts of every Arab and Muslim. This school of thought, even if Hamas were hit, has the potential to reproduce a stronger and wider movement. It is associated with a just battle worth sacrificing and dying for, linked to the status of Palestine and not necessarily to the existence of Hamas. It is an entrenched ideology in Palestinian society and the Ummah (Muslim nation). It is foolish to ignore it and insist on going against the tide of history after thirty years of British colonialism and seventy-five years of Zionist colonization, using the same mechanisms that have proven their failure. *** The clear result of this discussion is that those who talk about a world without Hamas do not mean Hamas alone, but they aim to target the resistance of the Palestinian people and their vibrant and free forces. They want a world conducive to the continuation of occupation, injustice and the subjugation of the Palestinian people… They want Palestinian people without will, a people dancing to the tunes of the occupation, a people without claws and teeth, which will never happen!! Instead, global efforts should focus on creating a world without colonization… without occupation… without a Zionist settler-colonial expansionist project. It should be a world that respects the free will of peoples and pressures Israel, not those fighters for their freedom. It should be a world that stops evading the obligation that will happen sooner or later, which is the liberation of Palestine and ending the occupation.

Limited cooperation between Morocco and Israel in the face of the Gaza crisis

Morocco and resolving the Gaza crisis

by Einat Levi

Israel and Morocco mark three years this week since renewing their relations, but the war between Israel and Hamas leaves no room for celebration. For the time being, bilateral cooperation on the governmental level is limited and low profile, focusing mainly on security matters. Despite high expectations from the numerous visits by Israeli ministers and officials to Morocco, these visits have not led to substantial cooperation beyond statements and memoranda of understanding. The lack of focus and the inability to materialize the dozens of signed agreements is evident these days, emphasizing what has not yet been implemented. For instance, an agreement for employing Moroccan migrant workers in Israel has not yet been signed, despite the statement made by the former interior minister Ayelet Shaked in July 2022. Nor has the economic infrastructure to enable business between the countries been completed, namely agreements on customs, double taxation avoidance, promotion and protection of investments, and other systems to enhance the attractiveness and competitiveness of the trade channel between Morocco and Israel. Moroccan decision makers, for their part, appear to regard the ongoing war with Hamas, and no less so the current Israeli government, as detrimental to the resumption of relations between the countries to its positive course. Statements by senior Israeli officials calling for the destruction of Gaza, while vehemently opposing the establishment of a Palestinian state, echo in the Moroccan media, damage Israel’s image, and mainly serve opposition parties who wish to harm the special relations between the two countries. Nevertheless, Morocco’s official position regarding relations with Israel as a strategic interest remains intact. This was evidenced by the results of the extraordinary Arab Islamic Conference held in Riyadh in November, in which Morocco – alongside other key Arab and Muslim countries – was reluctant to embrace actual decisions or actions against their relations with Israel. Morocco’s decision to keep its ambassador in Tel Aviv – despite the Israeli mission staff being evacuated from Rabat – is a significant statement in itself. In the economic field, businesses more or less continue as usual. Israeli companies come to Morocco or meet their partners in third-country destinations such as France and Spain. This discreet arrangement seems convenient for everyone.Tourism has almost completely stopped between the countriesTourism is the most affected sector, with direct flights between Tel Aviv and Rabat still on hold, and a travel warning in effect with a rating of three out of four, advising Israelis to avoid non-essential travel to Morocco. As a result, Israeli and international Jewish tourism to Morocco has almost entirely stopped. This situation is exacting a price from Israeli tourism agencies and Moroccan hotels and service providers. While tourism is a key to people-to-people connections, most civil and cultural partnerships are currently on hold and in a “waiting” situation until the end of the war. Despite the challenges, some joint initiatives can be preserved, finding creative ways to sustain them, such as transferring them from a bilateral framework to a multi-sided one under an American, European, Emirati, or other umbrella, or conducting activities online whenever possible. One of the main challenges in the civil context is the sentiment among Israelis of Moroccan descent regarding Morocco. It ranges from disappointment to astonishment and a lack of understanding in light of images of mass protests from Rabat and other cities in Morocco and even antisemitic incidents that do not receive official condemnation. Here, it should be noted that Israeli frustration is partly due to cultural and behavioral differences between Israel and Morocco, despite their close cultural connection. According to the Moroccan perspective, including that of decision-makers, it is preferable to avoid conflicts, make explicit statements, and deal with matters quietly behind the scenes. In their view, the secrecy of action is a key to success, preserving internal stability and advancing a wishful agenda. That’s because, according to their understanding, one cannot resist what one does not see or know, so ultimately, maintaining quiet preserves the status quo as if nothing has been done. In Morocco, non-action is considered, in practice, equivalent to any action, and perhaps even the most proper and challenging action to execute. Three years after the resumption of official ties, and in the shadow of the Gaza war challenges, the crisis also provides a new opportunity for regional and bilateral cooperation between the two countries. Morocco’s relatively neutral position may in fact enable it to play an important role in the aftermath of the war as part of a broader coalition dedicated to rehabilitation and reconstruction processes. It could help in the reconstruction and in implementing local and regional programs to deal with and prevent extremism and violence. Morocco could assist in the training of Palestinian public employees deployed in Gaza. Morocco could also host forums, meetings, and conferences to support and promote a sustainable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The good relations that Morocco maintains with both sides – Israeli and Palestinian – and the religious authority of King Mohammed VI, including his role as the chairman of the Al-Quds Committee in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, are just some of the assets Morocco can bring to this complex task. The connection with Morocco is a significant asset for Israel in times of peace and war alike. It is important that we learn and derive insights from the past three years towards the new chapter in relations that will unfold once the war is over.

Defense & Security
An Israeli settlement in the Palestinian territory.

The Israel/Hamas War and ‘Decolonial Washing’

by David Chandler

The Israel/Hamas war poses some issues for International Relations scholars which we perhaps tend to downplay. For example, the desire to act or demonstrate solidarity, to fulfil the imperative to ‘decolonise’ or ‘to call out the oppressors’, can often clash with the desire to deconstruct or oppose claims to political or moral authority. Today many people are becoming increasingly aware of our shared imbrications and entanglements, where all ‘our livelihoods are underwritten by colonial violence and unsustainability’. If coloniality is not something that can just be wished away but is at the heart of the international system, the best of intentions can often result in reducing decolonising to a metaphor or taking shortcuts – ‘decolonial washing’ via publishing appeals, petitions and statements – rather than initiating transformative change. For example, one minute we’re reading or writing critical studies of the ways that international institutions gain moral authority through international humanitarianism, but the next minute, when something dreadful happens in the world, it seems that there is no alternative but to demand that our governments act ‘progressively’ in the world. This problem perhaps is most acute when it comes to the demand that ‘something must be done’ about international outrages, such as war crimes and genocide. In these cases, it appears that our ethical and political desires to decolonise have no avenue of expression without reinforcing the existing domestic and international hierarchies. The danger is magnified in the cases of international policy discourses that assert their humanitarian and universal underpinnings, seeking legitimacy for interventions to protect victims of violence. As Polly Pallister-Wilkins writes: ‘…race and racism need to be taken seriously as features within the structures of humanitarian thought and practice. Alongside this, it is necessary, for scholars and practitioners alike, to acknowledge that humanitarianism, with its universalist claims, acts as a salve for sustained racial discrimination and violence, working if not to entirely invisibilize racial hierarchies within suffering, then to make the racial underpinnings of such suffering acceptable through supposedly universal practices of care.’ In such cases, the moral imperative to ‘decolonise’ can be particularly paradoxical. If ‘decolonising’ is to be more than a managerial buzzword, the global structures of power and domination, built on colonial exploitation, indigenous dispossession, and chattel slavery, would need to be dismantled. This would seem to rub up against the desire that dominant world powers and international and domestic institutions demonstrate their ‘decolonial’ credentials. Perhaps it could be argued that we have already rehearsed this problem of international institutions garnering moral and political credibility on the back of wars and atrocities. Most recently in the international attention to the Ukraine/Russia conflict, making some (white, European) lives more grievable than others. It seems particularly difficult to take colonial legacies and continuing international hierarchies of power out of international calls for humanitarian action in the Israel/Hamas conflict. For example, many University schools and departments are drawing up their own petitions on the conflict. Staff are not merely left to sign one of the many petitions already in existence, calling for peace and justice in Gaza, but are encouraged to organise their own workplace petitions. The reason for this bypassing of existing demands for the British government to act as a force for peace has little to do with Britain’s key colonial role in the establishment of Israel as a settler-colonial state. The need for a separate petition arises in order for colleagues to make solidarity demands upon their university employers and to “show that our stated commitment to progressive values and decolonising education actually means something”. It becomes a problem when the desire to demonstrate ‘decolonial’ or ‘progressive’ credentials takes the form of petitioning the British government and University and other employers to involve themselves in international conflicts as a way of demonstrating that they somehow share or can lead political and ethical work in this area. This is particularly the case when many leading states and educational institutions would find it much more difficult to discuss their own financial dependency on endowments from the profits of coloniality and chattel slavery. As leading authorities on ‘decolonial washing’ write, ‘we contend that engaging in complicated conversations is a necessary condition for decolonising university curricula’. It is doubtful that conversations about these institutions own colonial complicities can be short-cut through petitioning them to become decolonial actors elsewhere in the world. As Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang argued, not taking decolonising seriously ends up in settler ‘moves to innocence’ and ‘settler futures’ where leading colonial institutions and beneficiaries are reimagined in non-oppressive terms. As the editors of Decolonising the University state: ‘the foundations of universities remain unshakably colonial’. Therefore, focusing on the British government and leading employers and institutional benefactors in ways that problematise assumptions of their moral authority would presumably be more useful than calling upon these institutions to demonstrate their commitment to decolonising. As Vanessa de Oliveira Andreotti powerfully argues – ‘Potholes in the Road toward Decolonization (For People in Low-Intensity Struggle)’ – coloniality is so baked into Western state powers and institutions that attempts to take ‘short cuts’ through making ‘decolonial’ claims and statements can easily feed into existing hierarchies, reproducing ‘colonial entitlements’ rather than challenging them.

Defense & Security
Armed security on a cargo ship in the Red Sea.

America: Seeing red in the Red Sea

by Vivek Mishra

The attacks on shipping in the Red Sea is a test for the US’ Indo-Pacific strategy to deal with China In a House Armed Services Committee hearing in March 2023 on the US posture and security challenges in the Middle East and Africa, it was acknowledged that “…President Biden’s decision to unilaterally and unconditionally withdraw all US forces from Afghanistan has undermined our national security.” The developments of the past few weeks in the Red Sea have made this assertion seem prophetic. Yemen’s Houthi rebels have strategically positioned themselves to exploit less monitored zones in the Red Sea and the broader Arabian Sea. With numerous naval vessels navigating this critical route linking the Mediterranean and the Arabian Sea, countering the Houthi rebels and their assaults on global shipping has become exceedingly challenging for the US. The Houthi rebels have connected these attacks to the ongoing conflict in Gaza, tying the halt in hostilities along shipping lanes to a ceasefire negotiation between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Their strategy involves increasing attacks on ships and holding them as leverage to prompt the US to pressure Israel for a ceasefire. The timing of the Houthi actions aligns with Israel’s focused operations in southern Gaza and a waning Congressional backing in the US for continuous financial support for overseas conflicts. Tactically, the Houthis see an opportunity to open a third front in the maritime domain, even as the Israeli air defence systems are overwhelmed by combined rocket attacks of Hamas and Hezbollah in the north and south. In an offensive barrage last week, the Hezbollah carried out six attacks in eight hours. In the maritime domain, the Houthis have carried out multiple UAV, rocket and missile attacks targeting a dozen merchant ships in the larger Indian Ocean. Iran has conducted attacks on US and Israeli vessels in the region as well. A recent attack on an Israeli vessel off the west cost of India near Veraval is a red flag for safety and security of the Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC) in the Indo-Pacific. With unmanned aerial vehicles and use of other technological capabilities, the attacks on ships could be rapid, discreet, damaging and, most of all, with little or no accountability. Often, the vulnerabilities associated with international strategic choke points have always been assessed from the perspective of State complicity, resting States’ conviction on limited capacities of non-State actors to exact huge costs. If anything, the Red Sea crisis shows that even with little but calculated external support, non-State actors could indeed significantly disturb the predictability of global supply chains and bring merchandise flow to a halt. The economic impact of increased attacks in the Red Sea is already being felt, as many ships have begun to avoid the route through the Red Sea and prefer the longer route around the Cape of Good Hope in Africa. This has caused worries of delay in the global freight markets and pricing concerns in energy dependent countries beside the security concerns for shipping companies such as Maersk. Since the Israel-Hamas war began, the US Central Command has been active in preventing a slew of UAV attacks by the Houthi rebels. For the US, the situation developing in the Red Sea presents a combination of political, economic and strategic challenges. The ongoing Israeli operation in Gaza has politically isolated the US at the global level as the only country to oppose a UNSC ceasefire resolution. The political heat from the Israel-Hamas war is being felt at home with dwindling youth support for President Biden as presidential elections near. The economic costs of the two wars – one in the Middle East and the other in Ukraine – is already tearing the US Congress apart. At the strategic level, coordinated attacks on international shipping threatens to force a rebalancing of the US force posture in the Indo-Pacific. The US currently has two aircraft carriers positioned in the Middle East since the Israel-Hamas war began. While a strong US military presence in the region may have prevented the war from spreading through the region, any additional and long-time concentration of force posture in the Gulf may be detrimental to Washington’s Indo-Pacific intent. Indeed, America’s Indo-Pacific strategy is being tested in the Middle East through five core ideas. Firstly, the recentring of US forces in the Middle East contradicts the intended pivot towards Asia. Secondly, the attacks orchestrated by the Houthis and Iran highlight the unpredictable threats that can disrupt supply chains in the region. Thirdly, the US faces challenges in executing counterterrorism and counterpiracy efforts in the Indo-Pacific, especially while collaborating with allies. Moreover, integrating the Middle East into an Indo-Pacific connectivity project appears increasingly challenging. Lastly, China’s refusal to join the US in protecting the Red Sea shipping lanes reveals Beijing’s divergent strategy for engaging with the Middle East from that of the US.

Defense & Security
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in conversation with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

Statements by PM Netanyahu and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin

by Benjamin Netanyahu

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, at the Kirya in Tel Aviv, issued the following statements at the start of the expanded meeting with the members of the War Cabinet: Prime Minister Netanyahu: “Mr. Secretary, it's good to welcome you and your delegation again. We're fighting a war of civilization against barbarism. I can say that when we spoke, I expressed again our commitment, Israel's commitment, to achieve total victory against Hamas. And we think this is not only our war but in many ways your war because you are leading the forces of civilization in the world. This is a battle against the Iranian axis, the Iranian axis of terror, which is now threatening to close the maritime strait of Bab el-Mandeb. This threatens the freedom of navigation of the entire world. I appreciate the fact that you're taking action to open that strait. It's not only our interest, it is the interest I think of the entire civilized community. I want to thank you for the support that you have shown consistently, and I welcome the opportunity to talk about what else we're doing to have our common interests served." US Secretary of Defense Austin: "Prime Minister Netanyahu, thanks for hosting us again. This is my fourth visit to Israel as Secretary of Defense and my second since the terrible day of October 7th. I'm here to underscore what President Biden has said again and again: our commitment to Israel is unshakeable. I know that Israel is a small, tightknit country and I know that all Israelis were touched by the vast evil committed by Hamas. So I'm here to mourn with you for the innocent souls taken from you on October 7th and I'm also here to stand alongside the families of those still missing in Gaza, including US citizens. America's commitment to Israel is unwavering and no individual, group or state should test our resolve. So in the Red Sea, we're leading a multinational maritime taskforce to uphold the bedrock principle of freedom of navigation. Iran's support for Houthi attacks on commercial vessels must stop. Now, we'll continue to provide Israel with the equipment that you need to defend your country, Mr. Prime Minister, including critical munitions, tactical vehicles and air defense systems. We'll continue to support Israel's mission to find and free all of the hostages. I'm also here to discuss how we can best support Israel on a path to lasting security and that means tackling urgent needs first. We must get more humanitarian assistance in to the nearly two million displaced people in Gaza and we must distribute that aid better. We want to thank you for the recent initiatives that you've taken, Mr. Prime Minister. We applaud that and hopefully that will enable us to move even more in. Thanks for again being a great host and I look forward to a great discussion, Mr. Prime Minister." Also participating in the meeting are: For the Israeli side – Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Minister Benny Gantz, Minister Gadi Eisenkot, MK Aryeh Deri, National Security Council Director Tzachi Hanegbi, the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff Tzachi Braverman, Government Secretary Yossi Fuchs, IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Herzi Halevi, the Prime Minister's Military Secretary Maj.-Gen. Avi Gil, and the Prime Minister's Foreign Policy Adviser Ophir Falk. For the American side – Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Charles Brown, Special Envoy for Humanitarian Affairs David Satterfield, Secretary Austin's Chief of Staff Kelly Magsamen and Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Israel Stephanie Hallett. *** The views and opinions expressed in this article solely belong to the author and do not represent the perspectives or stance of World and New World Journal, nor do they reflect the opinions of any of our employees. World and New World Journal does not endorse or take responsibility for the content, opinions, or information presented in this article. Readers are encouraged to consider multiple sources and viewpoints for a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter. Thank you for your understanding.

Defense & Security
People in meetings holding 'Free Palestine' posters

Wars create opportunities for peaceful change: Will the Gaza war serve as a case in point?

by Elie Podeh

History teaches us that wars, unfortunate as they are, can sometimes create opportunities for major changes that were previously unthinkable, improbable, or impossible. World War I, World War II, the First Gulf War, and many other conflagrations led to formidable political, military, and economic changes. Some of these conflicts and their immediate consequences laid the ground for future wars (like the punitive Versailles peace treaty following World War I), but others gave rise to peaceful arrangements (like the multilateral political and economic institutions as well as security alliance systems that emerged after World War II). The history of the Arab-Israeli conflict is no different. Indeed, all the major Israeli-Arab wars, as well as the many violent Israeli-Palestinian clashes, offered opportunities for change. Some were seized; others were squandered. When a chain of circumstances produces a favorable opportunity, a liminal period is created, which makes it possible to achieve a breakthrough in a deadlocked conflict. The opportunity may arise from a military or political event that significantly affects the status quo. Particularly when this event causes a traumatic experience affecting both leadership and society, the likelihood of significant change occurring increases. If this moment — or opportunity — is not seized, it is likely to disappear. While war is still raging in Gaza following Hamas’ brutal Oct. 7 attack on Israel, it nonetheless arguably offers an opportunity for a profound shift in the modalities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which looked unlikely in the period preceding the war. Based on analysis of several examples from the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, one can assert that in order to seize the opportunity, both sides will need legitimate leaderships that enjoy international support and are willing and determined to make concessions and build trust. Opportunities seized The Arab-Israeli conflict saw at least three opportunities turn into successful peace agreements: the Israeli-Egyptian treaty (1979); the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians (1993, 1995); and the Israeli-Jordanian treaty (1994). The Israeli-Egyptian treaty was the culmination of a series of agreements signed in the aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The sense of trauma engulfing Israeli society following the surprise Egyptian offensive and initial military success, in tandem with Egypt’s sense of triumph over an invincible army, created a semblance of balance between the warring parties, paving the way for a major psychological change on both sides. In addition, the contacts that preceded the war (see below) as well as the two post-war Disengagement Agreements (1974-75) built a certain degree of trust between the Egyptian and Israeli decision-makers. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and then-newly elected Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin also enjoyed domestic legitimacy and were determined to pursue peace, even at the price of major concessions. Finally, the mediation of U.S. President Jimmy Carter was crucial in bridging all the gaps. Thus, the 1973 war offered an opportunity that was successfully seized by the parties. The second efficacious opportunity was the Oslo Accords, reached in the aftermath of three major international and regional events: Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and the war to liberate it, led by the United States and a Western-Arab military coalition (1990-91); the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War (1989); and the first Palestinian Intifada (1987-91). These events resulted, inter alia, in the September 1991 Madrid Peace Conference. The Intifada boosted the Palestinian cause internationally and regionally, convincing many Israelis that they could no longer ignore this major problem on their doorstep. And while the Intifada strengthened the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) position, the group soon turned into a pariah over its support of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Thus, following a psychological turnabout, both Palestinians and Israelis were drawn, reluctantly, into the Madrid Conference. Though the consequent Israel-Arab bilateral talks soon deadlocked, the secret Israeli-Palestinian track gained momentum, culminating in the first Oslo agreement two years later. These talks built a certain degree of trust between the two sides, while Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat — both of whom enjoyed domestic legitimacy — were willing to make painful concessions in order to sign a historic agreement. Though the Oslo Accords were never fully implemented due to Rabin’s assassination and leadership mistakes on both sides, the fact of the matter is that the opportunity created in the aftermath of all these events was consummated. The third successful opportunity was the Israel-Jordan peace treaty. The same set of events that paved the way for Oslo was relevant here as well. Yet this opportunity had been waiting mainly for a breakthrough in Israeli-Palestinian relations, since the level of mutual trust between the Israeli and Jordanian leaderships was already high by this point, as were their respective levels of political legitimacy and willingness to move forward. This state of affairs was a result of many years of military and political cooperation behind the scenes, stemming from mutual interests and common enemies. The high level of trust and cooperation between Israel and Jordan made American mediation unnecessary or redundant. Thus, in contrast to the two other case studies, there was no psychological barrier or trauma effect that needed to be overcome. As all these successful examples show, when an opportunity presents itself after a fateful war that generates a psychological shift, only legitimate leaders convinced and determined to achieve what they see as a necessary change can develop sufficient trust to move toward a peaceful solution. Superpower involvement may be a contributing factor, but it cannot replace the inner convictions of the warring parties. Opportunities squandered The Arab-Israeli conflict is rife with failures to make use of opportunities in the aftermath of wars, regime changes, and so on. In fact, research on these opportunities shows that although most of them were not seized, they were not necessarily missed. Rather, the majority of failures to capitalize on them was due to the lack of legitimate leaders at the time, insufficient resolve to make concessions and put an end to the conflict, as well as lack of mutual trust and international support. That said, some opportunities were in fact squandered because of leadership mistakes, negligence, or even deliberate sabotage by one side of the conflict: some notable examples included the United Nations’ 1947 Partition Plan, the 2000 Clinton Parameters, and the 2002 Arab Peace Plan. In this context, it is worth analyzing the unseized opportunities arising from the 1967 Six-Day War and the Second Intifada (2000-2005). Following the 1967 war, Israel possessed cardinal negotiating chips: Sinai (vis-à-vis Egypt), the Golan Heights (vis-à-vis Syria), and the West Bank (vis-à-vis Jordan or the Palestinians). Yet none of these territorial assets were used to seriously advance peace. The swift and dramatic victory over the Arab armies bred Israeli complacency. Thus, when Egyptian President Sadat offered a peace initiative for the first time in 1971, the Israeli response by Prime Minister Golda Meir was hardly encouraging. Over half a century on, the question of whether an opportunity had indeed been missed is still under debate, yet it is clear that neither side was ready to seize the opportunity that presented itself in the post-1967 war period. Undoubtedly, the sense of trauma associated with the 1973 Yom Kippur War, which was absent after 1967, as well as leadership intransigence contributed to the failure. At the same time, ideological considerations within the Israeli government hampered progress vis-à-vis Jordan as well. The Second Intifada was a traumatic experience for both Israelis and Palestinians. More than 1,000 Israelis, 70% of them civilians, were killed in Palestinian terrorist attacks and some 8,000 were injured. Around 4,000 Palestinians, between one-third and one-half of them civilians, were killed in Israeli counter-terrorism operations, and over 30,000 were wounded. The devastating toll on both sides, as well as al-Qaeda’s terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., in September 2001, opened the door to several conflict resolution initiatives: namely, the Saudi peace plan in February 2002, which became the Arab Peace Initiative a month later; the U.S. Road Map in April 2003; and Israel’s unilateral disengagement from Gaza in the summer of 2005, following the end of the Second Intifada. In theory, that combination of major events with formal peace initiatives created ideal opportunities; yet none materialized. It seems that in spite of the number of victims, neither side had reached what U.S. political scientist Ira William Zartman calls “a mutually hurting stalemate” that generates certain “ripeness” and willingness to compromise. In addition, neither leader possessed sufficient legitimacy or was convinced of the necessity to reach a settlement based on meaningful concessions. The 2023 Gaza war It is difficult to contemplate in the midst of war how the day after might look. Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, and particularly its atrocities against civilians, shook the foundations of Israeli society, thrusting to the forefront searing memories of the Holocaust and sparking calls for revenge. Israeli retaliation against Hamas has already led to the deaths of more than 15,000 Palestinians and injured tens of thousands more. The end of the war is nowhere in the offing, and the fate of Gaza remains unknown. The war will undoubtedly leave residues of deep trauma on both Israeli and Palestinian societies. A sober assessment would draw a distinction between immediate and long-term repercussions: In the immediate future, the polarization between the two peoples may grow, with extremist groups on both sides attempting to galvanize public opinion against each other. Scholars Ilan Peleg and Paul Scham suggested, in a 2010 Middle East Journal piece, that “a traumatic experience or a significant change might turn out to be a precondition for peacemaking in the Middle East in the years to come.” Thus, the traumatic effects of the current events may create an opportunity in the longer run. Evidently, the Hamas attack — barbaric as it was — rekindled the Palestinian issue, placing it on the international and regional agendas after it was sidelined by the 2020 Abraham Accords and the emerging normalization with Saudi Arabia. The current trauma may offer an opportunity to deal not only with the problem of Gaza, but with the Palestinian issue in its entirety. Many ideas have been presented by various players for the “day after.” One such idea is for the Biden administration to promote Saudi-Israeli normalization in a way that would include a significant Palestinian component. Embedding the bilateral Israeli-Palestinian conflict into the wider regional setting may improve the U.S.’s chances of cementing a durable deal. However, even if the stakeholders identify the existence of an opportunity “to do something,” there are currently no broadly supported political leaders determined to pursue peaceful ideas on either side, while trust is also completely lacking. Thus, in order to seize an opportunity that seemingly exists, the two sides first need to elect legitimate leaders capable of making major decisions that entail concessions and build a modicum of trust with the help of international and regional powers. Only then will the opportunity arising from this bloody war stand a chance of being seized.