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Defense & Security
Displaced Palestinians set up their tents next to the Egyptian border. They fled to the city of Rafah on March 8, 2024 after the Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip cities.

Rafah, between ceasefire announcements and the resumption of fighting: Israel’s strategic dilemma.

by Giuseppe Dentice

한국어로 읽기Leer en españolIn Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربيةLire en françaisЧитать на русском In the last 48 hours, a series of events and situations have significantly contributed to redefining the military and diplomatic scenario in Gaza. It all began on the night of May 5, when Hamas launched several rockets that hit Israel, causing some civilian casualties. At the same time, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) responded to the act with massive artillery bombardments against several Hamas positions in the al-Zahraa, al-Mughraqa, and Nuseirat camps (in the central-northern areas of the Gaza Strip) and took control of the Kerem Shalom crossing, which separates the enclave from Israeli territory. However, the IDF's actions went further with the announcement on May 6 of the expansion of the humanitarian area of al-Mawasi (in the coastal south of the Strip). This choice seems to be driven by the political will to regain control of the southern strip of Palestinian territory through the forced evacuation of Palestinian refugees from Rafah and Khan Younis towards al-Mawasi (where it is estimated that over 100,000 people will arrive shortly), also guaranteed by the Israeli resumption of the Gaza side of the Rafah crossing. All these actions seem to suggest a green light from the war cabinet for the launch of the repeatedly announced Israeli ground operation in the area. Simultaneously with the war preparations, just a few hours later, came the unexpected announcement from Hamas that it had accepted a proposal for a ceasefire in Gaza. The terms of the ceasefire – admittedly still very unclear given the often-unreliable media reports – were reportedly mediated by Egypt and Qatar, with U.S. approval, which reportedly infuriated representatives of Tel Aviv. Based on the details announced by Hamas officials, the proposal is expected to outline a three-phase plan. The first phase involves a 42-day ceasefire period during which Hamas would release 33 hostages in exchange for the release of some Palestinian militants detained in Israeli prisons. In the second phase, Tel Aviv would partially withdraw its troops from Gaza and allow the free movement of Palestinians from the south to the north of the Strip. After this preliminary phase, another 42-day period would be activated only if it clearly emerged that both parties were willing to restore a climate of "sustainable calm" in Gaza, which would also favor the complete withdrawal of Israeli troops from the area and the final release of the reservists and IDF soldiers held by Hamas. To crown this prolonged "silence of arms," the final step would be reached: the establishment of a true ceasefire and the start, among other things, of a reconstruction phase, including the end of the total Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, according to a plan supervised and shared by Qatar, Egypt, the USA, and the United Nations. Based on leaks and fragmented information, it is very difficult to make precise assessments, but it is plausible to imagine that if the terms of the agreement were as presented here, it would be very difficult – almost impossible – for Israel to accept the Egyptian-Qatari proposal. It would be much more satisfying for their expectations to continue with a military operation in Rafah. In the preceding days, the Israeli war cabinet had also explained the necessity of maintaining its action in Gaza unchanged, with or without an agreement with Hamas, as it was fundamental and strategic to achieve its primary objective: the destruction and eradication of the Islamist organization from the Palestinian enclave. Given this evidence, both the nature and complete terms of the diplomatic proposal accepted by Hamas, as well as the Israeli willingness to follow through on the agreement, are fundamental to creating a positive development in the current dynamics. However, no actor (regional or international) involved in the negotiations is under the illusion that a turning point has been reached, given both the opposing positions of the contenders and the operation in Rafah, which is now about to enter the heart of the action. This latter element is crucial to understanding the behavior and calculated risk taken by Hamas. In fact, at least until late afternoon on May 6, the organization had shown no interest in the Egyptian-Qatari proposal. The change of pace would suggest that the Islamist organization may have wanted to take advantage of the situation to put the ball back in the opponent's court, shifting all responsibility to Israel in the event of its refusal to follow through with the ceasefire, preferring instead military action in Rafah. In this regard, it could be argued that Hamas's twist of events was as clever as it was politically significant in contributing to weakening Tel Aviv's position. Not surprisingly, the movement led by Ismail Haniyeh understands that Israeli mediators cannot accept any negotiation that involves the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, the end of the total blockade of the enclave's borders, but above all, the continuation in power of the organization towards, which Benjamin Netanyahu himself has declared, their destruction as an undeniable objective. A position that, regardless of whether Israel accepts the agreement already approved by Hamas in whole or in part, as well as its rejection, would expose Israel to a difficult condition of internal contention and to some strategic considerations that the Islamist movement knows well and has already exploited precisely to launch that tremendous attack on the heart of the country on October 7, 2023. In the perspective of Tel Aviv, the acceptance or rejection of the proposal by Egypt and Qatar, as well as the start of the operation in Rafah, raise a series of questions on multiple fronts, in which Netanyahu plays his usual game of political survival. If his government were to follow through with the agreement and stop/postpone the operation in Rafah, it would undoubtedly benefit diplomatically, enjoying a resurgence of credit after the storms of recent months. However, this would also mean opening an internal front, especially within his government, with extremist ministers threatening the fall of the executive. Itamar Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich have clearly stated that without the destruction of Hamas and the conquest of Rafah (and the entire Strip), the government would have no reason to exist. At the same time, even more moderate figures in the war cabinet, such as Defense Minister Yoav Gallant or Ministers Benny Gantz and Gady Eisenkot, have not taken a clear position, wavering between the possibility of a more contained humanitarian ceasefire and the wavering political opportunism on the military operation in Rafah in a challenge that seems more oriented towards the country's future and the conquest of the conservative electorate and the national right, the current Prime Minister's target audience. However, it is equally true that even in the face of a rejection of the international proposal, some clear repercussions would emerge: Israel would worsen its position and reputation, although it could keep that government in place that is now pushing relentlessly on Rafah. Such a situation would not avoid, either, domestic social protests by the families of the hostages, who demand guarantees from the government not to endanger the lives of their loved ones. In both cases, Tel Aviv would be called into question and would risk losing internal and external credibility, along with the political and security dilemma (mainly supported by the military establishment) linked to the failure to eradicate Hamas. Such a fluid and unpredictable scenario with potential repercussions even on different levels of the regional and international context. In fact, a resumption of hostilities in Rafah would have the opportunity to activate the Lebanese scenario in a different way than what has happened so far (where violent exchanges of fire have been occurring along the Blue Line border areas for days) and lead to a worsening of security conditions in the West Bank (especially in the triangle between Tulkarem-Nablus-Jenin, where IDF raids have become more pressing). A similar situation could open the door to external actions by other actors interested in instability, such as Iran, which would benefit from the role played by its proxies in Syria and Iraq, as well as the potential and renewed threat from the Yemeni Houthi militias to exert pressure on Israel, but also on other regional players involved in the ongoing dynamics - the thought in these cases essentially revolves around Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, which for different reasons have so much, and perhaps even too much, to lose from an escalation of the Gaza scenario. No less decisive must be considered the international impact of Tel Aviv's rejection of the Egyptian-Qatari proposal, especially considering how the United States has been engaged in recent weeks in trying to convince its ally to reconsider its positions on Iran and advocate for particular attention to the humanitarian situation in Gaza. In this sense, Washington has clearly expressed its warning to its ally about the risks associated with a possible miscalculation that could open up various considerations. Not surprisingly, the White House can always leverage the issue of military supplies as a tool of pressure. Just last week, the United States suspended a shipment of ammunition to Israel without providing details on the reasons. It could have been a simple bureaucratic error or a signal, but it's evident that considering such a scenario would provide new space and considerations for both internal and external detractors of the Biden Administration. Conversely, such a development could give new impetus to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who has never hidden his strained relationship with almost all US administrations he has collaborated with during his 15 years in office. With the sole exception of the Trump Administration, which in the post-election American context could see the New York tycoon returning as the new occupant of the White House and Israel's key partner in the Middle East. Therefore, the assessments remain complex and highly susceptible to changes due to the volatility of the local scenario. However, it is undeniable that from this initiative, Israel has much to lose, and the concrete risk is that Hamas has carefully assessed this "trap" with the intention of further weakening Tel Aviv. License under Creative Commons Attribution – ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Defense & Security
Map of Israel and Iran with Flags

What happened between Iran and Israel?

by Guillermo Suárez Borges

한국어로 읽기 Leer en español In Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français Читать на русском The definitive rise of Iran as the primary regional power in the Middle East, following its deterrent strike against Israel, is just the latest of many pieces of evidence of the failure of US foreign policy in that region. The shaping of a ‘New Middle East’ [1] has failed. At the beginning of this century, the former President of the United States, George W. Bush, would have to make a bold and controversial decision regarding his policy towards the Middle East. He would have to choose between Iran and Saudi Arabia, two of the regional oil giants. Deciding whom to be friends and whom to make enemies with. Whom to ally with and whom to wage war against. Beyond the clear differences between Riyadh and Tehran, one Arab and the other Persian, one leaning towards Sunni Wahhabi Islam and the other Shiite Islam, both shared something very negative for the United States: being enemies of Israel, Washington's main ally in the region, its primary recipient of arms, and connected to a powerful lobby [2], rumored to have the power to influence the occupant of the White House. It was not an easy task, by US political standards, as both countries were undesirable. They had government systems contrary to Western democratic principles, and religious beliefs, prevalent in both systems, often guided citizens' lives in ways not convenient for Washington. Studies indicated that women's and minority rights were not respected. People from the south were immediately associated with armed groups like Al-Qaeda or the Palestinian resistance Hamas, while those from the north were seen as behind the Lebanese resistance led by ‘Hezbollah’ (Party of God) or the Houthi movement ‘Ansar Allah’ (Supporters of God) in Yemen. Internal pressures within the United States, much greater after the bloody attacks of September 11th, 2001, led W. Bush to outline an aggressive policy towards the Middle East, with the primary goal of forever changing the region and making it more like the West. Bush would define his objectives very clearly: Combat terrorism, which meant war and death for the region. Promote democracy, meaning soft coups and color revolutions. Combat the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, justification with which they attacked Iraq and, at the very least, allowed a medieval, public execution of its president Saddam Hussein, which also reflected in tight control over Iran due to alleged Persian interest in obtaining nuclear weapons. As part of the "war against terrorism", Washington took the war to Iraq and Afghanistan. It sought unsustainable justifications that cost dearly in credibility and ethics for prominent figures in Anglo-Saxon politics like Colin Powell, while "spontaneous" color revolutions emerged in several Middle Eastern countries like Egypt and Tunisia. Finally, as part of that ‘New Middle East’ and in a "noble purpose," the United States aimed to address what it considered the main problem in the region: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, advocating for a two-state solution. However, it has just shown us that of the two, only one interests it, as the United States has just vetoed, on its own, the creation of a Palestinian state in the UN, very recently. Of course, facing that complex agenda of regional change would initially involve defining "those who are with me and those who are against me". George W. Bush made this very clear when, during a visit by King Abdullah in April 2002, at that time the leader of the House of Saud of Saudi Arabia, to the Crawford Ranch in Texas, when both leaders walked hand in hand as a sign of unbreakable unity. [3] But much has happened since then. In order to achieve that ‘New Middle East’ that Bush wanted, they launched Israel against Lebanon in 2006, an adventure that ended in a resounding failure for the Zionists. They plunged Syria and Yemen into bloody wars, signed a nuclear deal with Iran in the White House under Obama, which Trump would later break months later. In a clear violation of red lines, they assassinated Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in 2020 in an evident revival of targeted killings. Finally, they struck the Iranian consulate in Damascus, massacring those present. Iran would respond. Everyone knew that. The question remained on how and when. It remained to be seen if, despite years of Western sanctions and import limitations, Tehran had managed to develop its military technology to a point where it could punish Israel for its affront. But this article is not where you will find an analysis of the number of missiles Tehran fired, how many reached their target, and how many did not. Or how much destruction they caused, no. The greatest impact of Iran's response to Israel is not military, it is political and will be enduring. More than just a barrage of rockets, Tehran made a show of authority. While its missiles and drones made their way to Israel, celebrations emerged in several Middle Eastern countries, regardless of whether several governments in the region politically condemned the response. Suddenly, Iran became the most direct punisher of Israel for its genocide in Gaza and the resistance movements it is said to sponsor, ‘Hezbollah’ and ‘Ansar Allah’, the most active against Zionism in solidarity with Palestine, while other regional powers have preferred to stop at condemnation. With this response, which undoubtedly brought the world to the brink of a larger conflagration, Iran overrides the confessional differences that have marked relations among Middle Eastern countries, and through which the West has managed to perpetuate the conflict and favor its interests and those of Israel. With this response, Iran becomes the leader of the anti-Zionist resistance and the most pro-Palestinian of all Palestine's neighbors. Regardless of what the West says, Iran has responded within the law and in accordance with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. It directed its missiles at military sites, without the need to strike a city in Israel and kill hundreds of civilians to restore deterrence, while Israel, with its provocative attack on the Iranian Consulate in Damascus, clearly violated the Vienna Convention, adding to the indiscriminate killing of civilians it has carried out in the Gaza Strip, which is already nearing a death toll of 35,000. Saudi Arabia, the friend chosen by Bush back then, and its current leader, the charismatic Mohammed bin Salman, have already realized that the world is changing and it's likely necessary to let go of the hand of the United States to move forward. In March 2023, in a bold decision, their foreign minister and Iran's would seal, with a handshake, an initial meeting, no less than in Beijing, the capital of China. Bin Salman would also receive the Russian president in Riyadh, almost two years after the start of the Special Military Operation by Russia against NATO and Ukraine, considered another snub to the West, which already expected its demonization campaign to force Vladimir Putin to stay in Moscow. Days later, one of the main topics they discussed would be known when Riyadh announced its entry into the BRICS geopolitical bloc, joining forces with China, Russia, Brazil, South Africa, and, contradictorily for Washington, Iran. References [1] https://carnegieendowment.org/files/new_middle_east_final1.pdf&sa=U&ved=2ahUKEwjBppjpjtmFAxXNfDABHZR7B_wDFnoECAkQAg&usg=AOvVaw2dc6U3GhCrMZkzq5FQtfsp [2] https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/2024-02-28/ty-article-magazine/.premium/aipac-explained-the-inside-story-of-americas-powerful-and-divisive-pro-israel-lobby/0000018d-e4ac-d972-a5bf-efaf96c60000 [3] https://es.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archivo:Saudi_Crown_Prince_Abdullah_and_George_W._Bush.jpg

Diplomacy
Israel-Palestine conflict in the West Bank and Gaza Strip

Political Insights (6): Determinants of the Egyptian Stance on Operation al-Aqsa Flood and the Israeli Aggression on Gaza Strip

by ‘Atef al-Joulani

한국어로 읽기 Leer en español In Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français Читать на русском An opinion poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR), published on 20/3/2024, revealed that only 12% of Palestinians were satisfied with Egypt’s stance during Operation al-Aqsa Flood. The survey results suggest that Egypt’s handling of the situation has weakened its role in the Palestine issue and negatively impacted its image, status and regional role. Determinants of the Egyptian Official Position The Egyptian stance on Operation al-Aqsa Flood was shaped by various determinants and influencing factors, foremost among them: 1. The desire to uphold Egypt’s pivotal role in the Palestine issue was driven by its significance in bolstering Egypt’s regional standing and fostering ties with the US. Throughout recent decades, Egypt has aimed to monopolize influence in Palestinian affairs, thwarting the rise of Arab or regional competitors. This ambition extends particularly to managing mediation efforts between Palestinian resistance and Israel, as well as facilitating Palestinian reconciliation. 2. The Camp David Accords have yielded significant benefits, fostering advanced political, economic and security relations with Israel. These ties have notably strengthened during the tenure of Egyptian President ‘Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. 3. The security concern revolves around the potential escalation of sympathetic popular movements for Palestinian resistance, in Egypt and the wider Arab region. There’s apprehension about reigniting the Arab Spring and revitalizing the Arab street, fueled by the profound inspiration from Operation al-Aqsa Flood and the belief in altering the status quo by countering the Zionist project. This sentiment is further compounded by escalating anger over Israeli atrocities in Gaza Strip (GS) and a growing discontent with Arab regimes, either due to perceived neglect of their duty towards Palestine or internal governance failures. 4. Concerns about the significant political and security impact of a potential large-scale displacement of Palestinians from GS to Egyptian territory, which could drag Egypt into conflict with Israel, jeopardize the Camp David Accords, and disrupt the stability of Egyptian-Israeli relations. 5. Ideological reservations within the Egyptian government regarding the Islamic orientation of the Palestinian resistance, particularly amid strained relations with the Egyptian Muslim Brothers (MB) movement and broader skepticism towards Islamic movements in the region. There’s a perception that Egyptian and many Arab officials are hesitant about the victory of the Palestinian resistance in Operation al-Aqsa Flood, fearing potential destabilizing effects on Egypt’s internal dynamics and the broader Islamic movement presence in the region. 6. The Egyptian official stance in the Palestinian landscape is characterized by strong alignment with the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its political objectives. Egypt maintains cautious and unfavorable relations with Hamas, showing reservations towards its resistance efforts and its inclination to maintain an independent stance and political autonomy in managing relations with Egypt and other Arab and regional entities. 7. The Egyptian economy has been grappling with a deteriorating economic crisis, marked by the sharp depreciation of the Egyptian pound against the US dollar. This situation prompted urgent foreign intervention to stabilize the economy. Notably, on 23/2/2023, Egypt signed a $35 billion deal with the UAE for the Ras al-Hekma development project. Further assistance came from the European Union, which announced a substantial financial support package for Egypt worth €7.4 billion for 20242027, including $2 billion in emergency funding slated for disbursement in 2024. 8. The geopolitical determinant lies in Egypt’s control over the Rafah crossing, the sole land access point for GS to the outside world. This control has served as a potent pressure tool on both Gaza’s resistance factions and its populace, contributing to the tightening of the GS siege since 2007. During Operation al-Aqsa Flood, this control exacerbated accusations against Egypt, alleging complicity in the siege, exacerbating suffering and scarcity, while Israeli aggression targets the GS population and resistance. Facets of Egypt’s Official Position on Operation al-Aqsa Flood By observing Egypt’s actions in handling Operation al-Aqsa Flood, the following facets emerge: 1. Politically, Egypt adhered to the resolutions set forth in the joint Arab and Islamic summit held in Riyadh on 11/11/2023, advocating for an end to Israeli aggression against GS and the facilitation of aid entry, although without specified follow-up mechanisms for implementation. 2. Egypt enforced the closure of the Rafah crossing and aligned with Israel’s stance opposing aid flow to GS, despite the crossing being under Egyptian-Palestinian jurisdiction, and the Israeli side has no authority over it. This marked a direct challenge to Egyptian sovereignty, as practical control over the crossing shifted to Israel, granting it sole authority over individual movement and aid entry. Egypt is increasingly apprehensive about the US decision to establish a seaport for Gaza aid, fearing it may diminish Egypt’s influence and control over aid entry via the Rafah crossing. 3. Egyptian authorities pressured Palestinian resistance movements to concede on prisoner exchange deals with Israel, pushing for exclusive Egyptian mediation while attempting to sideline competing mediation efforts, especially the Qatari mediation. Despite Egypt’s desire to monopolize the mediation, Qatar successfully entered the fray, becoming a favored mediator by the United States. 4. Egypt has actively opposed Israeli plans to displace GS residents to Egyptian territory, reinforcing security measures at the Rafah crossing. Diaa Rashwan, the chairperson of the Egyptian State Information Service stated, on 16/2/2024, that such displacement constitutes “a direct threat to Egyptian sovereignty and national security.” 5. During the initial days, Egyptian authorities permitted certain popular events condemning the Israeli war on GS. However, they subsequently enforced stringent measures to curb public protests sympathetic to the Palestinians, leading to a noticeable silence on the Egyptian streets. This repression contrasts with past instances where the Egyptian public reacted to lesser events in Palestinian affairs. Conclusion Operation al-Aqsa Flood’s political and field developments have cast a negative impact on Egypt’s role in the Palestine issue and its regional standing. Accusations have surfaced regarding Egypt’s cooperation with Israel in tightening the GS siege. There’s little indication of a significant shift in Egypt’s stance or political strategies regarding the ongoing war. Politically, Egypt is likely to maintain its adherence to the established official Arab and Islamic stance, over which it holds significant influence in shaping. It’s anticipated that Egypt will persist with its current policies regarding the closure of the Rafah crossing and tying aid entry to Israeli approval. Regarding its engagement with Palestinian resistance groups, particularly with Hamas and the Islamic Jihad (PIJ), Egyptian authorities are expected to maintain a cautious and conservative stance. There’s little anticipation for a positive shift in Egypt’s position regarding permitting pro-resistance public events or condemning Israeli aggression against GS.

Defense & Security
Tehran Enghelab Iran - April 29, 2022: Al Quds day march against Israel in Iran

Iran Has Retaliated Against Israel for Its Killing of Several Quds Force Generals

by Michael Young

한국어로 읽기 Leer en español In Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français Читать на русском Spot analysis from Carnegie scholars on events relating to the Middle East and North Africa. What Happened? On the night of April 13–14, Iran retaliated for the killing by Israel of senior members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, including Brig. Gen. Mohammed Zahedi, the commander for Syria and Lebanon, Gen. Hossein Aminullah, the chief of staff for Syria and Lebanon, and Maj. Gen. Mohammed Hadi Haj Rahimi, the commander for Palestine. The Iranians fired around 200 missiles, cruise missiles, and drones at Israel, but Israeli military officials said most were shot down and the destruction was minor. The Iranian retaliation had been expected, with U.S. officials even predicting the exact time of the anticipated attack to news outlets. The considerable publicity before the event, Iranian assurances that the response would seek to avert a regional conflict, and the fact that Iran knew that Israel and the United States would be able to monitor the launches of the missiles and drones early on and shoot down a large number of them, suggest the Iranians may have been looking to achieve more of a psychological impact than cause major death and destruction. In this regard, few images were more powerful from the Iranian perspective than that of missiles flying over Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. This symbolized best Iranian ambitions to liberate one of Islam’s holiest sites from Israeli control, while personifying Israel’s vulnerabilities against the Iran-led Axis of Resistance. Why Is It Important? Israel has long assumed that it’s security can only be guaranteed by ensuring that the balance of military power with its enemies leans heavily in its favor. This harks back to the notion of the “iron wall,” first enunciated by the Revisionist Zionist thinker Ze’ev Jabotinsky, who argued in an essay in 1923 that Jewish colonization of Palestine had to proceed behind an “iron wall” of Zionist military superiority. The only way that Arabs would agree to the Jewish presence in Palestine, he wrote, “is the iron wall, which is to say a strong power in Palestine that is not amenable to any Arab pressure. In other words, the only way to reach an agreement in the future is to abandon all idea of seeking an agreement at present.” Today, that principle has been expanded by Israel to encompass the entire region. Though Jabotinsky was an enemy of the Labor Zionists who ultimately dominated Israeli political life for decades, his idea of an “iron wall” has been embraced by Israel’s leadership and military for some time. That is why the response to the October 7 Hamas attacks in Gaza has been so ferocious. It is also the reasoning behind the so-called “Dahiya Doctrine,” which was notably articulated by an Israeli general, Gazi Eisenkot, currently a government minister. The doctrine, which first emerged during Israel’s 2006 war against Hezbollah in Lebanon, holds that Israel will engage in a disproportionate destruction of its foes’ civilian and military infrastructure in order to dissuade them from ever attacking Israel. However, when Israel bombed the Iranian diplomatic compound in Damascus on April 1, it crossed an Iranian red line. While the Iranians had more or less accepted the systematic Israeli killing of IRGC figures over the years in Syria, along with members of Hezbollah, this could be justified by the fact that Iran was successfully setting up a military infrastructure in southern Syria with which to bomb Israel and the occupied Golan. It made no sense to jeopardize that effort by entering into a major conflagration with the Israelis, and perhaps even the United States. The embassy compound attack was a different matter. Not only did it affirm Israel’s willingness to ignore diplomatic protection (even though Israel’s supporters argued that the building where the IRGC figures were killed was not, technically, a diplomatic facility), it took place in a broader context since October 7 in which Israel has sought to alter the rules of engagement in Syria and Lebanon to their advantage, narrowing Iran’s and Hezbollah’s margin of maneuver. In other words, it went to the heart of the rivalry between Israel and Iran over regional hegemony, and it was obvious that Iran would not allow this to happen. More worryingly, the embassy compound bombing could also have been an effort by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to drag the United States into a conflict with Iran. To decisively weaken the Iranians and their nuclear program are Israeli priorities, but Israel needs U.S. participation in any bombing campaign against the Islamic Republic for this to succeed, with the added hope that Iran’s leadership can be overthrown. Washington has repeatedly avoided this. According to NBC News, President Joe Biden expressed concern about Netanyahu’s intention to provoke a wider war, and he quickly moved to limit Israel’s options. What Are the Implications for the Future? For the immediate future, the main news item on the morning of April 14 was Biden’s conversation with Netanyahu in which he made two things clear: First, that Iran had failed to do much damage, so that Israel should consider this a success. “You got a win. Take the win,” Biden reportedly said. And second, in light of the Iranian failure, the United States saw no need to escalate the situation further and provoke a region-wide conflict. Therefore, if Israel decided to hit back against Iran, the Biden administration would not participate in any such operation. How Israel will react to this remains unclear. Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, said that the tensions with Iran “were not over,” after Netanyahu had stated, on the evening of April 13, that “Whoever harms us, we will harm them. We will defend ourselves against any threat and will do so level-headedly and with determination.” It’s conceivable that Netanyahu will chose to respond on his own, but if the aim is to reestablish an equitable deterrent, the prime minister cannot afford to allow such a response to come up short. All the signs are that Iran retains a wide array of means to harm Israel and wear it down through a thousand small cuts. Moreover, Netanyahu’s forces are still fighting in Gaza, so that escalating the conflict regionally would only further complicate the grinding battle against Hamas. More generally, for the first time in its history, Israel looks dangerously exposed. The country may not be facing an existential threat, but it is reaping the fruits of a cynical policy largely built on ignoring Palestinian and Arab rights, while blocking all avenues that might force Israel to surrender occupied land. The Iranians have exploited this well, and even if their latest attacks did not cause major devastation, subsequent strikes, particularly ones with less prior signaling, may be much bloodier. On its own, this is enough for Iran to say that it has reimposed a balance of deterrence, even if it remains to be seen whether further attacks against Iranian officials in Syria will invite similar retaliation from Iranian territory. It is this perception of helplessness that is stuck in the craw of Israeli leaders. Israel has long projected an image of strength. The Iranians have succeeded in scratching that image. It’s difficult to see how Netanyahu can go along with Biden’s suggestion that he “take a win,” when everything about Iran’s assault suggested less than that.

Defense & Security
Washington DC, USA - October 21, 2023: Pro-Palestine, anti-Israel protesters.

Gaza: a litmus test for the humanitarian sector’s commitment to decolonisation?

by Zainab Moallin , Nosheen Malik , Leen Fouad

한국어로 읽기 Leer en español In Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français Читать на русском Despite shifts in governance, vast sums of international aid and various peace talks, the Occupied Palestinian Territories cannot escape perpetual crisis due to Israel’s decades-long occupation. Amidst the latest surge of violence in Gaza since 7 October, the world contends not only with a devastating civilian death toll but also a battle of narratives – with questions of how this violence is being framed, depicted and portrayed publicly, or the ‘stories’ that are shaping the public’s perception of the conflict. The limits of neutrality While much of the world has, quite rightly, focused on unpicking the narratives shaped by political figures and the media, as well as their consequences, much less attention has turned to narratives emanating from the humanitarian sector. Profound disagreements are rife between humanitarian leadership and staff, revealing concerns about the presence of ‘neutrality’ as staff highlight insufficient acknowledgement of longstanding Palestinian oppression and question the proximity of some United Nations agencies’ leadership to the United States government. The repeated refusal of the United Kingdom and the US governments to call for a ceasefire has been mirrored by some international organisations, and many of those who did used underwhelming language when talking about Palestinian rights and Israeli accountability. The New Humanitarian reports on a disconnect between aid workers from the Global South, where most humanitarian activity is situated, and the sector’s disproportionately Western decision-makers, raising the question: is the humanitarian principle of neutrality increasingly at odds with decolonisation? By promoting an objective, non-partisan approach, neutrality inadvertently aligns with ‘saviourism’, implying that international aid actors are the only ones capable of fair and neutral arbitration. This notion reflects disturbing racist underpinnings, as it appears to privilege international actors above community members. Ending the occupation For many international organisations, neutrality is seen to improve access to affected populations in conflict. However, if aid agencies are willing to trade access for truth and justice, what is the genuine purpose of humanitarianism? Many aid professionals are urging humanitarian organisations to step out from behind the long-held tones of measured neutrality to instead be ‘more representative of the Global South’. According to one aid worker, ‘It did not start with the war on Gaza. Our organisations know better. It is a bit shocking to see that some organisations are even reluctant to say, “end of occupation.”’ Prior to the Oslo Accords, most aid to Palestinians was ‘emergency’ in nature. However, following the agreement, the focus shifted towards supporting the establishment of a two-state solution – a goal that remains unachieved 30 years later. This shift has overlooked a critical issue: humanitarian efforts have not effectively confronted the root cause of the need for aid, which is effectively Israel's occupation. Across the Occupied Palestinian Territories, UNRWA’s presence has enabled Israel to maintain its system of control, without having to assume full responsibility for the livelihoods, essential services and basic rights of the occupied population. In other words, by not directly challenging the root causes of Palestinian suffering, humanitarian aid has placed Palestinians on life support for the last 75 years. The interplay between humanitarianism and decolonisation The enduring challenges faced by the humanitarian sector are not without precedent. The ‘first wave’ of global NGO expansion in the 1950s and 1960s, a period marked by widespread decolonisation, saw humanitarian efforts aiming to fundamentally alter the course of the newly independent nations. This reciprocal influence between a decolonising world and the evolving field of humanitarianism set the stage for both its achievements and its limitations. But nowhere were the moral hazards of humanitarianism during twentieth-century decolonisation more apparent than in relation to the forced resettlement of civilians. Forced resettlement, often undertaken in the guise of humanitarian intervention, laid bare the complex ethical dilemmas and unintended consequences that can arise when aid intersects with political agendas and colonial legacies. Today, over 80% of Gaza’s population has been internally displaced since October, and Israel’s military offensive has turned much of Gaza’s landscape into uninhabitable land as whole neighbourhoods and agricultural land have been erased. The Israeli government has not publicly confirmed any plan for Gaza’s population, but Israeli Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel suggested in December that an ‘option’ would be ‘to promote the voluntary resettlement of Palestinians in Gaza, for humanitarian reasons, outside of the Strip’. An active commitment to decolonisation In confronting Israel’s settler-colonial military tactics, the humanitarian sector must stay true to its decolonisation commitments. The sector can learn from the ways in which humanitarian need was framed during the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. As the anti-apartheid movement developed into a global political discourse, it revealed how Black South Africans were not only victims of racial injustice, but of a system designed specifically for collective punishment. A humanitarian discourse against apartheid developed, highlighting it as a driver of crisis that must be dismantled. Global solidarity was paramount. Decolonisation is not an academic pursuit. It is not a metaphor, nor is it a box-checking exercise. The humanitarian sector’s commitment to decolonisation is more critical now than ever – it is essential when entire families are wiped out, countless Palestinian children are orphaned and hundreds of thousands of people are on the precipice of famine. It is vital when Western media continues to peddle age-old racist and Orientalist tropes of ‘violent’ and ‘savage’ Arab men to justify Palestinian suffering. Decolonisation means the humanitarian sector must amplify Palestinian narratives, highlighting the ways in which Palestinians have endured decades-long occupation and oppression. Humanitarians’ influence must be leveraged for long-term justice for Palestinians. Anything less will perpetuate the sector’s role as an ineffectual bandage to a 75-year-old wound.

Defense & Security
Jerusalem, Israel-November 2023

The Return of the Political to the National Discourse: Implications for National Resilience During War

by Meir Elran , Anat Shapira

한국어로 읽기 Читать на русском Leer en español Gap In Deutsch lesen اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français Five months into the war, and it seems that the political and social divisions of October 6 have returned to the center stage, reshaped by issues relating to what is happening on the battlefield, the future of the war, and the fate of the hostages. This may have serious consequences for Israel’s social resilience and national security Political disputes and polarization have, of late, returned to the forefront of the public and media discourse in Israel. While one could view this trend as seemingly signaling a return to some kind of normalcy, which is a positive aspect during wartime, it also poses significant challenges to the resilience of Israeli society. A polarizing discourse harms social solidarity, undermines trust in state bodies and the decision-making process, and casts doubts regarding the motives of civil-society organizations. Considering this, policymakers and politicians in Israel should pay very close attention to the situation and try to avoid adding to the toxic and hurtful political discourse. Primarily, they should refrain from portraying sensitive issues related to the war—disagreements over which are perfectly legitimate—as polarizing political issues, such as the issue of the hostages. Over the past few weeks, the political and social disputes within Israeli society have returned to the forefront of the social and media discourse in Israel. Until then, the nation had been preoccupied with the war, creating an image of unity around the goals of the war. Recently, however, the social-political crisis within Israeli society—which was created due to the government’s attempts to advance its judicial/regime reform/revolution—has again reemerged in the public discourse over various issues, including those related directly to managing the war in Gaza. In general, these rifts manifest themselves in part in the context of the incumbent government, its priorities, and its conduct, as well as regarding civilian aspects of the war. These include, for example, the state budget that was recently approved in its first reading by the Knesset, or the amendments to the Military Service Law. This is in addition to politicians trading personal insults with each other and allegations that the prime minister wants to continue the war out of personal considerations and is not giving top priority to releasing the hostages held in Gaza, as most do not come from his traditional base of supporters. At the same time, the political disagreements have grown more extreme in terms of balancing between the goal of toppling Hamas by means of “an absolute military victory” and the efforts to free the hostages. Even the public campaign waged by the hostages’ families vis-à-vis the government has become more acute and could assume a political tone, partly because of disputes among the families that are being portrayed as political. The escalation in the political discourse on social media includes accusations of a campaign aimed to discredit the hostages’ families, as revealed in a report by the Fake Reporter organization, which alleged that social media influencers supporting the prime minister have attempted to portray the campaign of the hostage families as illegitimate and inauthentic. Similarly, the issue of humanitarian aid to residents of the Gaza Strip also has led to demonstrations at the border crossings, some of which have been violent, requiring police intervention. There has also been significant political debate regarding “the day after” the war. This includes the far-right’s proposal to resettle Gaza and debates on the feasibility of incorporating Palestinian factions into any future agreements concerning the governance and civilian management of Gaza. Research and polls have suggested that these disagreements often align with the political positions that these people had before the war. During the first weeks of the war, any extremist political discourse was widely deemed as inappropriate, with emphasis placed on fostering national unity (“Together we will win”). Even those conducting political polls were criticized, although polls have since become routine again. The resurgence of the political rifts is reflected in the resumption and spread of public protests—on both sides of the political divide and on a variety of issues. Demonstrations calling for the prime minister to resign have resumed, and many organizations—such as the Kaplan Force and Brothers in Arms—have announced their intention to intensify their protests. In this context, 56 percent of the respondents in the latest poll conducted by the Institute for National Security Studies on February 4 said that they were concerned or very concerned about the state of Israeli society on the day after the war.[1] The resurgence of the political discourse and protests in Israeli society could be seen as a positive sign of recovery from the paralysis caused by the collective trauma of the events of October 7. Research literature recognizes the phenomenon of “rallying round the flag”; when a crisis threatens the fundamental values of a given society, the public will join forces and unconditionally support the decisions of the political leadership regarding how to resolve that crisis. Immediately after October 7, Israeli society became unified in support of the war’s objectives and the IDF, setting aside pre-existing divisions and rifts from before Hamas’s attack. This unity, still largely maintained today, is reflected in the mainstream media. Additionally, early in the war, civil-society organizations—including those previously identified as political—joined together in volunteer efforts and, most importantly, agreed to set aside divisive political discourses. As the war shifts into a low-intensity conflict, which could last many months, Israeli society seems to be adapting to a “war routine.” This shift has resulted in a diminished need for unity, bringing the socio-political divisions back to the forefront of the discourse with renewed vigor. The reappearance of political disputes poses a challenge to the resilience of Israeli society and its capacity to endure a prolonged and strenuous war. Polarization could hinder Israel’s recovery from the crisis on several levels. The polarizing discourse erodes social solidarity, a crucial component of social resilience; solidarity enables a society to unite and work together, including through extensive civic involvement, to rebuild the ruins— both metaphorical and literal. Polarization also affects a society’s self-perception and the levels of hope and optimism, which are vital to social resilience. The return of the polarizing discourse—especially if it becomes violent—undermines the social solidarity as it places an emphasis on what divides and distinguishes different sectors in society, undermines trust in the state’s institutions, and threatens the necessary civic cooperation. An illustration of the negative impact of renewed polarization is evident in the INSS poll from February 4 (see figure 1), which showed a decline in Israel’s sense of solidarity, and therefore its social resilience for the first time since the war began. It is still true that, in most of the resilience indices, the positive trends remain and are relatively stable. Nonetheless, the data signals a concerning shift in the public sentiment, with the resumption of a toxic public discourse already causing damage.   For a society to successfully recover from a profound and severe crisis, trust in the decision-making process and the country’s leaders is essential, partly to ensure that the public will cooperate with the implementation of decisions and to bolster the general sense of security. The resumption of the divisive political discourse stains many of the decisions that are currently being made—on civic and military matters—with a political hue. For example, in the poll conducted on February 4, 56 percent of respondents claimed that they disagreed with the statement that the decisions of the political leadership regarding the hostage issue were based on relevant considerations rather than political considerations. In the same survey, 64 percent of respondents disagreed with the statement that the decisions taken by the political leadership regarding the war were based solely on military considerations and not political ones (see figure 2). This is a significant increase compared to the findings of the previous poll, conducted on December 31, which asked the same questions. These percentages, reflecting a lack of public trust in the government’s decisions, should be considered along with the low level of trust that the public expressed, in the February 4 survey, in the government itself (24 percent) and the prime minister (30 percent). Further evidence of the negative impact of the politicization of the discourse can be found in surveys conducted by Kimchi and others, showing that respondents who support the government perceive resilience to be higher across all parameters: national, communal, and personal. One explanation for this phenomenon is that supporters of the government have more trust in its decisions.[2]   It should be noted that while at the beginning of the war, civil society organizations, including groups that were active in the social protests, played a central role in ensuring that the Israeli economy and society continued to function, resuming their political involvement will make it difficult for them to serve as connecting social capital, which is essential for overcoming the internal crisis, especially in the face of the government’s weakness. The more their activities become tainted with toxic political overtones, the more the genuine disputes among the public will undermine the ability of these organizations to aid any aspect of the Israeli war effort; this, in turn, will weaken social resilience. In conclusion, the resumption of the political discourse and the polarization could significantly harm the ability of Israeli society to build its social resilience needed to recover from this major crisis. To limit these negative effects, Israeli policymakers should shun toxic political discourse as much as possible and avoid deepening the rifts and the polarization that exists in Israeli society as a whole—and especially as it relates to the war. [1] The surveys were based on a representative sample of the adult Jewish population in Israel and included 500 respondents. The surveys were conducted between October 12 to February 4, led by the Data Analytics Desk of INSS. The field work was conducted by the Rafi Smith Institute and was based on internet questionnaires. The maximum sampling error for each sample is ±4 percent at a 95 percent confidence level. [2] Shaul Kimchi and others, “Research Report: The Connections Between Public Resilience, Coping Indices, and Support for the Government, Three Months After the Outbreak of the War,” [Unpublished].

Defense & Security
Raid at the Mexican Embassy in Quito, Police capture Jorge Glas

Are embassies off-limits? Ecuadorian and Israeli actions suggest otherwise − and that sets a dangerous diplomatic precedent

by Jorge Heine

한국어로 읽기 Читать на русском Leer en español Gap In Deutsch lesen اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français It has long been held that embassies should be treated as “off-limits” to other nations. Yet in a single week, two governments – both long-established democracies – stand accused of violating, in different ways, the laws surrounding foreign diplomatic missions. First, on April 1, 2024, Iran’s embassy in Damascus was bombed, presumably by Israel, killing several high-ranking commanders of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Then, on April 5, Ecuadorian police forced their way into the Mexican Embassy in Quito to arrest a former vice president of Ecuador who was seeking political asylum. Both actions have led to claims of international law violations and accusations that the Vienna Convention, which establishes the immunity of diplomatic missions, was contravened. As someone with a fair amount of knowledge of embassy life – I have served as Chile’s head of mission in China, India and South Africa and coedited The Oxford Handbook of Modern Diplomacy – I believe the two incidents are of greater concern than much of the international community appears to be viewing them. Contrary to the famous quip from late businessman and presidential candidate Ross Perot, embassies are not just “relics of the days of sailing ships.” Rather, in an increasingly complex world where geopolitical conflict, mass migrations, pandemics and climate change require careful and stable diplomatic management, any incidents that erode the sanctity of embassy rules could have serious negative consequences. In short, they make for a more dangerous world. Curious indifference to embassy attack Of the two recent incidents, the Iranian embassy bombing is the more serious, as it involved the loss of life and resulted in warnings of retaliatory attacks. Yet, Western countries, leaders of which often voice concern over upholding the so-called “rules-based order,” have been reluctant to condemn the act. It was notable that the three liberal democracies on the U.N. Security Council – the United States, the United Kingdom and France – all refused to condemn the strike on Iran’s embassy when the issue came up before them. Israel, while not officially acknowledging responsibility, argued that the Iranian ambassador’s residence was not really a diplomatic venue but “a military building … disguised as a civilian building.” As such, to Israel it was a perfectly legitimate target. But by this logic, nearly all embassies would be seen as fair game. Almost by definition, the vast majority of embassies – particularly of the larger countries – are populated with significant numbers of military and intelligence personnel. To suggest that for that reason embassies should lose their diplomatic immunity and become legitimate targets for armed attacks would bring the whole edifice of the Vienna Convention crashing down. And with it would come the structure on which worldwide formal diplomatic interactions are based. Bedrock diplomatic principles The case of Ecuador, though less serious because it did not involve loss of life, is a bit more complex and demands some unpacking. At the center of the diplomatic spat between Ecuador and Mexico is former Ecuadorian Vice President Jorge Glas, who served four years behind bars following a 2017 conviction on corruption charges. Glas is now facing trial on different charges, prompting his December 2023 application for asylum at the Mexican Embassy. Mexico accepted the request and conveyed this to the Ecuadorian government. The latter justified its decision to send police into the Mexican embassy on the grounds that it believes Glas cannot be granted political asylum as he is a convicted felon. There is some basis to this claim: Under the Organization of American States’ Convention on the Right to Asylum of 1954, political asylum cannot be given to convicted felons unless the charges behind such conviction are of a political nature. But at the same time, Article 21 of the Vienna Convention states that diplomatic missions enjoy full immunity and extraterritoriality, meaning the host government does not have the right to enter an embassy without the authorization of the head of mission. Ecuador argues that Mexico abused its diplomatic immunity, leaving it no option other than to send police in. Yet, here a crucial distinction needs to be made. Diplomatic immunity and the extraterritoriality of foreign missions are bedrock principles of the Vienna Convention. Political asylum is a separate matter that should be handled on its own. As such, if the Ecuadorian government considered Glas not to qualify for political asylum, it could have attempted to legally block the move or refuse safe passage for the asylum-seeker to exit the embassy and leave the country. Mexico would have strong grounds to counter such measures, however, as according to the Convention on the Right to Asylum of 1954, it is up to the asylum-granting state to decide whether the case is politically motivated. Implications for the future Regardless of the merits of the asylum case, sending in the equivalent of a SWAT team to storm the embassy represents a deliberate violation of diplomatic norms. There is a long history of Latin America politicians seeking asylum who spent many years holed up in embassy buildings because governments would not grant them safe passage – the most notable being Peruvian leader Víctor Raúl Haya de la Torre, who spent five years at the Colombian Embassy in Lima. Yet, with a few exceptions, not even in the darkest hour of Latin America’s military dictatorships in the 1960s and 1970s were police permitted to storm into embassy buildings to arrest asylum-seekers. And this highlights what makes Ecuador’s actions especially worrisome. Precisely because of Latin America’s problems with political instability and a tradition of military coup, the laws surrounding political asylum and diplomatic immunity are necessary. Undermining the Vienna Convention in the way Ecuador has risks setting a precedent that other governments might be tempted to follow. Political asylum in Latin America has traditionally worked as a safety valve, allowing deposed leaders to get themselves out of harm’s way. Weakening the diplomatic structures in place supporting asylum will make the handling of democratic breakdowns more difficult. It also risks exacerbating regional disagreements. We are already seeing this with Mexico breaking relations with Ecuador as a result of the embassy raid. Making diplomacy more difficult Of course, embassy violations are not unprecedented. Guatemala’s dictatorship attacked the Spanish Embassy in Guatemala City in 1980, killing several asylum-seekers, including a former vice president. And Uruguay’s military government sent security forces into the Venezuelan Embassy in Montevideo in 1976 to arrest a left-wing militant who had sought asylum, leading to the breakdown of diplomatic relations between the two countries. But those events in the relatively distant past were widely and rightly condemned at the time as the product of authoritarian regimes with little regard for international conventions. The comparatively relaxed international attitude to the embassy violations by Israel and Ecuador reflects, I believe, a failure to grasp the significance of eroding diplomatic immunity and norms. As global challenges increase, embassies and their representatives become more important, not less so. If the takeaway from the two latest embassy incidents is that the protection of diplomatic premises can be secondary to whatever is politically expedient on any given day, then it will be of great detriment to the management of international relations. Diplomacy will become much more difficult. And given the enormity of the challenges the world faces today, that is the last thing any country needs.

Defense & Security
Confrontation between Israel and Iran.

Shadow war no more: Hostilities between Israel and Iran have strayed into direct warfare – is there any going back?

by Javed Ali

For decades, Iran and Israel have been engaged in a “shadow war.” Falling short of direct military confrontation, this conflict has been characterized by war through other means – through proxies, cyber attacks, economic sanctions and fiery rhetoric. Events over the last few weeks in the Middle East have, however, changed the nature of this conflict. First, Israel – it is widely presumed – broke diplomatic norms by bombing an Iranian mission in Syria. The operation, in which 12 individuals were killed – including seven officials from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp Quds Force – ratcheted up the stakes. It also crossed a new threshold. Never before had that many Quds Force or other Iranian military officials been killed in a single attack by Iran’s adversaries. Almost immediately, rhetoric from leaders in Tehran indicated Iran would respond swiftly and dramatically. Then, on April 13, 2024, Iran responded by crossing a line it had, to date, not crossed: launching a direct attack on Israeli soil. Iran’s attack against Israel was also qualitatively and quantitatively different than anything Tehran had directly attempted before. Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said that it consisted of at least 170 drones, 30 cruise missiles and 120 surface-to-surface missiles. The attack was launched from positions in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Yemen. In physical terms, the barrage caused little damage. Hagari said that 99% of the projectiles sent by Iran were intercepted by air and missile defenses, and that only one person was injured. For now, it appears that Tehran is content with its own response; the Iranian Mission to the United Nations posted a message on social media following the attack indicating that the operation had concluded. But as an expert on national security and the Middle East, I believe the Iranian attack was not about inflicting physical damage on Israel. It was more about Iran attempting to restore deterrence with Israel following the Damascus incident and showing strength to its domestic audience. In so doing, Tehran’s leaders are also conveying the message that should Israel conduct more aggressive actions against Iranian interests, they are willing to escalate. Friends, then longtime foes Iran and Israel have been adversaries virtually since the Iranian Revolution in 1979, when the Shah of Iran fled the country to be replaced by a theocracy. New leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini broke the former regime’s ties with Israel and quickly adopted a strident anti-Israel agenda both in words and policy. In the decades since, Israel and Iran have inflicted harm on the other’s interests in both the physical and virtual worlds. This has included major terrorist attacks backed by Iran against Israeli interests in Argentina in 1992 and 1994, Tehran’s backing of Hezbollah’s grinding insurgency against Israel in southern Lebanon, and the major operational support provided to Hamas that in part enabled the attacks on Oct. 7, 2023. Meanwhile, Iranian officials have blamed Israel for the killing of senior military officials and scientists related to Iran’s nuclear program in Iran or elsewhere in the region. The lack of open acknowledgment by Israel of the killings was to create the illusion of plausible deniability and implant doubt about who was actually responsible. In recent years, Iran has relied heavily on its “axis of resistance” – militant groups in Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, Syria and Gaza that share some of Tehran’s goals, notably in regard to countering Israel and weakening U.S. influence in the region. In the monthslong conflict sparked by the Oct. 7 attack, Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen and the Islamic Resistance in Iraq network have repeatedly attacked Israeli and U.S. interests. ‘A clear message’ So what comes next? A lot will depend on how Israel and the U.S. respond. Officially, U.S. President Joe Biden has stated that in repelling the Iran missiles and drones, Israel had sent “a clear message to its foes that they cannot effectively threaten [its] security.” But there are reports that Biden has warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Israel should “take the win” and could not rely on the U.S. supporting any offensive operations against Iran. A number of factors will determine whether Iran and Israel continue to launch more attacks against each other out in the open, or revert to shadow warfare. These include how each side reads domestic sentiment. Netanyahu is already facing pressure based on his handling of the war in Gaza and previous domestic concerns regarding attempts to influence the Israeli Supreme Court, among other matters. Likewise, inside Iran, the United Nations reports that two years after major public protests inside the country based on socio-economic conditions, the regime in Iran continues to ruthlessly suppress dissent. Apart from domestic considerations, both Iran and Israel will also weigh the risks of more open confrontation against their current operational capabilities. Here, it seems clear that neither Iran nor Israel can decisively win a prolonged military campaign against each other. Israel’s powerful military certainly has the ability to launch air and missile strikes against Iranian interests in the region, as they have already demonstrated in Syria and Lebanon for many years. And Israel probably could do the same for a short period of time directly into Iran. But Israel would face major challenges in sustaining a prolonged combined arms campaign in Iran, including the relatively small size of the Israel Defense Forces compared with Iran’s military, and the physical distance between both countries. Israel has openly conducted military exercises for years that seem more focused on simulating air strikes and perhaps special operations raids against a smaller number of targets inside Iran, like nuclear facilities. Moreover, launching a new front by directly attacking Iran risks diverting Israeli resources away from more immediate threats in Gaza, the West Bank and its northern border with Lebanon. Of course, Israel has fought and won wars with its regional adversaries in the past. But the conflicts Israel fought against its Arab neighbors in 1967 and 1973 took place in a different military age and prior to the development of drone warfare, cyber operations and support to Iranian-backed proxies and partners in Israel’s immediate neighborhood. Wary of further escalation A similar type of campaign against Iran would be unlike anything Israel has faced. Israel would no doubt find it difficult to achieve its objectives without a high-level of support from the United States, and probably Arab countries like Jordan and Egypt. And there is no indication that such backing would be forthcoming. Iran, too, will be wary of further escalation. Tehran demonstrated on April 13 that it possesses a large – and perhaps growing – inventory of ballistic missiles, drones and cruise missiles. However, the accuracy and effectiveness of many of these platforms remains in question – as evidenced by the seeming ease in which most were shot down. The Israeli and U.S. air and missile defense network in the region continues to prove reliable in that regard. Given the realities and risks, I believe it seems more likely that Iran will seek to revert back to its unconventional warfare strategy of supporting its proxy axis of resistance. Overt attacks, such as the one carried out on April 13, may be reserved for signaling resolve and demonstrating strength to its domestic audience. The danger is now that war has come out of the shadows, it may be hard to put it back there.

Defense & Security
Gaza envelope, Israel: October 25: IDF M M109 scourge gun fires in Gaza Strip

Expanding Israel’s Ground Forces or Prioritizing Technology?

by Azar Gat

Since Hamas’s attack and the outbreak of the war in the Gaza Strip, the public discourse has been impressed by the view, which Major General (res.) Itzhak Brik in particular voiced even before the war, that the IDF is too small given the threats; that reliance on technology has led to dangerous neglect and reduction of the ground forces; that the air force is disproportionately funded at the expense of the ground forces; and that there is a need to increase the defense budget significantly and permanently, beyond covering the expenses of the war. This article argues that these claims are misleading and even damaging, both militarily and economically. It contends that the current size of the IDF and that of the main fighting ground formations have proven adequate for future challenges. Despite known failures—particularly in the field of intelligence—the article asserts that elite technology, combined with the quality and determination of its combat troops, has given the IDF its most significant advantages in the war. Therefore, the article advocates to continue prioritizing the investment in technology, in addition to significantly expanding and reforming the inexpensive low-tech local and community ground defense forces, which have been neglected, with disastrous consequences. We start with the events of October 7. In addition to the significant failure in intelligence, it is widely agreed that the operational mishap was even more shocking. Contrary to the accepted view, the Gaza Division had enough forces available to effectively cope with Hamas’s attack. These included the 77th Armored Battalion of the 7th Armored Brigade, as well as infantry forces from the Golani and Givati Brigades—all of which were first-line regular forces. However, some of these forces had been granted leave for the Simchat Torah holiday weekend. Incredibly, those who remained were not stationed at dawn in combat readiness in their positions or armored fighting vehicles, and they were caught unprepared. As a result, Hamas fighters were able to photograph themselves dancing on unmanned and burned Merkava tanks and Namer armored personnel carriers (APCs) in their parking lot. Even the 400 combat soldiers and the 12 Merkava 4 tanks that reportedly remained in the Gaza zone on that Saturday could have thwarted Hamas’s attack if they had been stationed in their positions. Additionally, combat helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) on standby could have aided in defeating Hamas. Furthermore, there was a fiasco with the emergency squads in the border communities, which had faced cutbacks and restrictions in the years leading up to the war. In the few communities, like Nir Am, where the emergency squads were able to organize themselves—even to a minimal extent—they played a significant role in repelling the attack and preventing a massacre. The shock of October 7, the subsequent recognition of the serious security reality, and its potential to deteriorate into a regional war have strengthened the assessments that the IDF, particularly the ground forces, are facing missions and challenges that are too great for their current size. Since the 1980s and 1990s, the IDF’s order of battle has been significantly reduced. The number of tanks in the IDF has been cut down to approximately one-third of its peak in the 1980s, though the number of infantry brigades, especially in the regular forces, has increased to adapt to the changing face of the battlefield. The number of fighting field divisions has been cut in half. According to information made public during the war, the IDF currently has six or seven such divisions (the 36th, 162nd, 98th, 99th, 146th, 252nd, and parts of 210th). It is worth noting that this is similar to the number of divisions the IDF had during the Yom Kippur War (six divisions), when it faced the Egyptian army, the Syrian army, and expeditionary forces from other Arab countries, which altogether consisted of about 18 regular enemy divisions and hundreds of thousands of soldiers, along with their heavy equipment, including around 4,500 tanks. As an additional point of comparison, the United States conquered Iraq using four or five divisions, supported by overwhelming air superiority. Recall that during the current war in Gaza and with Hezbollah, the IDF called up approximately 300,000 reserve troops, in addition to the standing army. They faced around 30,000 armed fighters in Gaza and a similar number in Lebanon. This gave Israel a clear numerical advantage, not to mention its far superior combat equipment and firepower. In the ground invasion of northern Gaza alone, the IDF deployed four divisions (the 36th, 162nd, 252nd, and 99th)—more divisions than were used against the entire Egyptian army in the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War. Furthermore, the 98th Division operated in Khan Yunis with eight (!) brigades (which were reduced by half as the intense combat declined)—a number that is almost equal to the total number of brigades deployed against the Egyptian army in the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip during the Six-Day War. It is difficult to imagine a greater concentration of force than this. Meanwhile, Central Command forces have been successfully and aggressively targeting terrorist activities in the West Bank, while in northern Israel, the 146th Division reinforced the 210th Division against Hezbollah after the war broke out. But doesn’t the IDF lack divisions for a simultaneous offensive against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon to remove the threat to the Israeli communities along the border? Let us recall the main considerations for operating in Lebanon or for refraining from doing so. Since the beginning of the war, the United States has vetoed such operation, in favor of diplomacy. Moreover, there are serious questions regarding the prospects of such an operation. If the IDF conquers southern Lebanon, which it is certainly capable of doing, Israel will face two choices: remaining there and dealing with Hezbollah’s guerrilla warfare indefinitely, as it had before the withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, or withdrawing and watching Hezbollah return. Neither option is promising, especially given the possibility of escalation into a full-scale missile war. Indeed, in addition to these difficult questions, the concentration of efforts against Hamas has also played a role. Israel’s defense doctrine has always prescribed focusing the IDF’s efforts, both on the ground and in the air, against a single adversary at a time. This includes the use of internal lines to transfer forces from one front to another after achieving victory on one of them. Finally, does anyone really want to see a return of the large number of divisions and thousands of IDF tanks that crawled along the crowded roads of mountainous southern Lebanon in 1982? Still, some argue that the Gaza, Lebanon, and the West Bank are only the tip of the iceberg in the threat that Israel faces in a potential multi-front war. In this most severe scenario, the threat also includes the Iran-backed militias in Syria and Iraq, the Houthis in Yemen, and even Iran itself, and possibly also some Arab citizens of Israel. However, it should be noted, in the context of claims of excessive cutbacks to the ground forces, that all of these potential arenas, except for those already active in Gaza, southern Lebanon, and the West Bank, and not including the Arabs of Israel, are distant theaters of operations that do not require or have use of additional ground forces. Without mentioning the Americans, the air force—possibly with the assistance of special forces, and in certain scenarios, in cooperation with the navy—would conduct the main activity in these arenas. This is the same air force that some claim is being prioritized at the expense of the ground forces. In practice, the air force’s share of the IDF’s budget, which is around 50 percent, has remained at the same level since at least the 1960s. Furthermore, contrary to the impression that has emerged, the air force too has experienced a reduction in the number of its aircraft by half in recent decades. Finally, we must not forget that it was the air force’s precision one-ton bombs that paved the way for the ground forces, even in the nearby theaters of operation. In the exemplary inter-service cooperation in the campaign in the Gaza Strip that crushed Hamas’s organized resistance, the air force made a significant contribution to the relatively low number of casualties among the ground forces. Some ask, what guarantee is there that Egypt will not turn around and join the war against Israel—in its current regime or under a future Islamic regime? But if so, why not also add Jordan and Syria, and maybe also Saudi Arabia, now or in the future, to the roster of potential enemies? After all, according to the popular—and erroneous—argument heard since October 7, we must no longer rely on assessments of intentions, and only judge according to capabilities. For the sake of this argument, let us focus on Egypt. Egypt’s interests and political orientation under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi are clear and they most definitely do not involve a return to war against Israel. Of course, if an Islamist regime comes to power again in Egypt, Israel will need to make security adjustments. However, it is important to remember that Egypt’s dependence on the provision of American weapons and munitions is at least as great as, if not greater than, Israel’s dependence, and that the prospect of American support for Egypt waging war against Israel is nil. Furthermore, in order to wage war against Israel, the Egyptian army would need to cross the Sinai Peninsula—a large-scale classic killing ground, as it was in past wars, lacking population and without natural cover—where the high-signature Egyptian army would face destruction mainly from the air. Indeed, given the size of the Egyptian air force and its relatively advanced aircraft, the budgetary weight given to the Israeli air force at its current size is of supreme importance. Despite the failure of intelligence and additional technology-based systems, like the “see-and-shoot” system, the IDF’s great advantage in the ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, aside from the heroism and determination of its troops, lies primarily in technology. The ground forces, air force, intelligence, and other firepower units, closely communicating and cooperating, possess unprecedented capabilities in rapidly identifying and destroying Hamas fighters and their positions in highly complex urban and underground environments. Some of the technological advancements made public include computerized data communication and intelligence systems based on artificial intelligence (AI), UAVs and drones for intelligence and attack purposes, as well as guided rocket weapons and mortars. The smart-shooter Smash artificial intelligence sight device for infantry rifles is also worth mentioning. These advanced capabilities, along with the Trophy Active Protection System equipped on IDF tanks and APCs, are the main reasons for the relatively low number of IDF casualties and the success of the ground advance. The Trophy system provides protection against Hamas’s anti-tank armaments, particularly rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launchers. While no system can guarantee complete protection, the Trophy system has demonstrated high interception rates, making it a groundbreaking Israeli innovation with global significance. Additionally, the interception capability of the Iron Dome—another unique Israeli technological development—has prevented significant damage from the thousands of rockets launched by Hamas against Israeli population centers, as the IDF’s ground invasion dismantles the organization’s defenses in the Gaza Strip. What, then, should Israel invest in? Essentially—beyond various adjustments and supplements, such as reinstating the mandatory military service at three years, certainly in combat units and other essential units—Israel should invest in further enhancing technological capabilities, and not in increasing the number of its field formations and tanks. As we have seen, and contrary to popular belief, the IDF did not lack forces during the ground invasion in Gaza; on the contrary, the concentration of forces that were utilized was enormous by any comparative measure. This was primarily due to the complexity and sophistication of Hamas’s underground network in densely populated urban areas, for which the IDF sought to find solutions, many improvised during combat. A high-priority necessity, thus, is the expedited development of capabilities for discovering and neutralizing underground infrastructure—in the Gaza Strip, in Lebanon, and in other places. To this end, a variety of tactical and technological means will be needed, including, as has already been partly revealed, drones and AI-guided (under)ground robots that operate inside tunnels. An equally high, if not higher, priority is to expand and enhance the active protection systems of the IDF’s tanks and other armored fighting vehicles (AFVs). As proposed in an article that I wrote before the war (“The Future of the Tank and the Land Battlefield,” INSS, July 20, 2023), we are currently in the early stages of a profound revolution in ground warfare, the context of which is not yet fully understood. This revolution is the Third Technological Revolution of the Industrial Age—the electronics and computing revolution—that the world has experienced since the mid-20th century, and it has already had a significant impact on air and sea warfare. In naval warfare, battleships with heavy armor and large guns, which once dominated the seas, have been replaced by electronically-guided missile armaments launched from ships, aircraft, and land. Defense as well is now achieved through electronically-guided interception and electronic jamming. Similarly, in aerial warfare, kinetic gun armaments and “dumb” bombs have been replaced by electronically-guided missile armaments and electronic defensive jamming for air-to-air, surface-to-air, and air-to-surface fighting. By comparison, due to the complexities of ground warfare, which involves varied terrain and extensive cover, and a large number of potential targets, the electronic revolution’s impact on ground warfare has been slower and more gradual. Nonetheless, we are currently witnessing a revolutionary turning point in ground combat. Since the beginning of the ground operation in Gaza, many have rightfully acknowledged the critical role played by tanks in the campaign, while also criticizing what they mistakenly perceived as a diminishing of the IDF’s tank’s power and importance in recent decades. It is true that the number of tanks in the IDF has significantly decreased as part of the overall downsizing of the IDF, and also due to changes in the tank’s role on the battlefield. Gone are the days when heavily armored formations engaged in direct combat with their cannon fire as the center of ground warfare. Tanks now have become targets for long-range guided munitions before they even come within the firing range of each other’s kinetic guns. Moreover, their heavy armor is no longer effective against advanced anti-tank missiles with dual-charge warheads, which strike their less protected top. Although such missiles have not yet been used in the Gaza Strip, they are starting to appear in Lebanon. The war in Ukraine has clearly demonstrated this vulnerability, even in advanced western tanks supplied to Ukraine. The absence of active protection systems for tanks in Ukraine, such as the Trophy and Iron Fist systems developed in Israel and now being acquired by the armies of the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom, has contributed to the failure of the Ukrainian offensive efforts and the stalemate in the fighting, reminiscent of World War I. Indeed, the current interpretation of the stalemate overlooks the significance of active protection systems for tanks. Furthermore, in contemporary ground combat, tanks primarily provide immediate mobile firepower at the front lines. However, it is uncertain whether tanks armed with high-muzzle-velocity kinetic cannons, which were originally designed for warfare against other tanks, is still suitable for the changing nature of the battlefield. A more appropriate approach would seem to involve guided missile armament, combined with a 30 mm automatic gun; or, alternatively, a high-caliber, low-muzzle-velocity gun that is lighter and has reduced recoil. Such a gun would allow for dual-purpose fire, employing both missiles and high-explosive shells. This is comparable to the 152 mm gun, planned over half a century ago for the MBT-70 tank and the Sheridan light tank, which was ahead of its time. Additionally, the heavy armor of tanks (and heavy APCs such as the Namer) has reached its limits, and it is expected to be largely replaced by electronically-guided interception and jamming measures. Substantial changes are necessary in the tank’s design. The Merkava 4 and its upgrade, the Barak tank, are masterpieces and the best tanks in the world. However, the future does not lie with high-muzzle-velocity kinetic cannons and super-heavy armor. Israel’s Carmel project for the tank of the future is the way forward. In any case, the IDF has no shortage of tanks. What it requires is to equip all of its AFVs with active protection systems and continuously upgrade these systems based on battle experience. The vulnerabilities discovered in these systems need to be rectified, and the cover of the systems must be completed from all angles, including protection against drones and loitering munitions. Protection against UAVs and drones of all types and sizes is also crucial, including against targets that are not AFVs. This has been demonstrated to an unprecedented extent in Ukraine and the current conflicts in Gaza and Lebanon. The IDF has been a global pioneer in developing intelligence and attack systems of this nature. However, it seems that less attention has been given to developing defensive measures for intercepting and jamming enemy systems. In addition to ground warfare, solid-state laser systems for intercepting ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and UAVs are also of utmost importance. Some argue that none of the defense systems currently available can effectively counter the hundreds of thousands of missiles that Iran and its proxies in the Middle East could launch toward the Israeli home front in an all-out war. However, even if this argument holds true, it cannot be used in conjunction with the notion that the Israeli air force is receiving too much funding that could be allocated to ground forces. Israel’s primary response to the massive missile threat on the home front by Iran and its proxies lies not in defense but in deterrence, in which the air force plays the central role. This has been evident in the mutual deterrence that has existed thus far with Hezbollah, and even more so with Iran in the case of a regional war. In such a scenario, Iran should be concerned, and it appears that it is indeed concerned about, potential Israeli strikes on its infrastructure in areas such as power stations, oil fields, energy transmission, and ports. A related question is how much Israel should allocate to precision surface-to-surface missiles as alternatives to aircraft-launched missiles and bombs in varying war scenarios. However, it is important to note that such substitutions are particularly applicable in nearby combat zones, as there is still no real competition with the air force’s capabilities at longer ranges. So much for high-tech. While the majority of the IDF’s investment should focus on enhancing its technological capabilities, there is a clear need to significantly expand and reconstruct the ground forces in the cost-effective and inexpensive realm of low-tech local ground defense. The worst aspect of the October 7 fiasco was in that field. It is hard to believe, but a few years back, the IDF actually implemented budget cuts to the minimal payments made to the civilian security coordinators in frontline communities. Furthermore, due to theft concerns, the rifles stored in their homes were taken away from the emergency squads and placed in a central armory. Before the Six-Day War, when enemy armies were stationed right on the other side of the border, a system of local defense communities were an integral part of the IDF’s first line of defense. However, after 1967, when the borders were pushed further away from the settled areas of the country and with the increased mechanization of Arab armies, the significance and capabilities of community-based local defense decreased accordingly. However, given the changing nature of threats and the emergence of militias and armed organizations across the borders, the ability of emergency squads in communities to serve as the first, vital, and readily available line of defense has returned in full force. As such, their members should be released from all other reserve duties, and instead be properly organized, armed, and trained for their task. One reason raised for increasing the number of field formations is the anticipated need for additional reserve service due to the war. However, it is important to differentiate between different aspects of this burden. As long as the war continues, frontline reserve combat units will have to serve for an extended period. Israel should perhaps consider expanding the reserve forces that will be rotated in existing AFVs. This would provide more manpower without requiring additional equipment, as the IDF already has an abundance of tanks. On the other hand, the main need for reserve service will be to reinforce the defense system along the borders and protect the communities. It would not be appropriate to use units from frontline, “heavy” combat formations, armed with advanced and costly equipment, for this purpose. Instead, local defense units, which are much less heavily armed and much less expensive should be allocated for the task. The IDF’s establishment of the new Hashomer Brigade, composed of reservists from regular border defense units, is a positive step in this direction. Additionally, it would be worthwhile to establish national guard units based on individuals who have been released from the reserves in recent years due to budget cuts. These units would secure roads, critical facilities, airports, and communities within Israel in the event of a conflict. The necessary equipment and armaments for these units would be relatively light and inexpensive. Once bitten, twice shy—but this can also take a heavy toll. Following the trauma of the Yom Kippur War, the IDF doubled in size and defense expenses jumped to between a quarter and a third of GDP. This increase made a decisive contribution to the “lost decade” of the Israeli economy after that war. It is difficult to blame the defense leadership of the time. The trauma was great and largely justified, and alternatives in qualitative rather than quantitative directions only started to appear and become practical in ground warfare in the 1980s. In conclusion, the IDF, with the exceptions mentioned, is built more or less correctly with respect to the threats on the borders. When it comes to more distant threats, the air force remains the main deterrent and offensive response, in addition to its central role in the inter-service battle in the immediate theaters of operation. In view of the existing balance of power and given its overwhelming numerical superiority, the main things that the IDF is missing are primarily not in the realm of offensive field formations. The ranks need to be filled, there may be various expansions and supplements, and, of course, we can always want more—especially when it comes to security. But as Ben-Gurion determined, security needs and expenses must be balanced with other vital needs. After covering the major military and civilian costs of the war, replenishing stockpiles, and returning vehicles to service—a large and necessary one-time expense—there is no room for increasing the regular defense budget beyond 4.5–5.5 percent of the net GDP (before American aid). In military history, there are more than a few cases of drawing the wrong lessons from wars. Following the Spanish Civil War, for example (1936–1939), it was decided in the Soviet Union that the future vision of mechanized war advanced by Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky and his comrades in the top brass of the Red Army (who had been executed in Stalin’s purges) did not prove itself. The mechanized armies and corps that they had established were disbanded as a result and were hurriedly reassembled only after the Germans proved the doctrine’s effectiveness between 1939 and 1941. The Soviet Union paid dearly for this mistake with the German invasion. We must be careful to avoid the trauma of October 7 leading Israel to draw the wrong lessons. Contrary to the prevailing mindset, the main factor in the IDF’s exceptional success in the Gaza Strip, alongside the determination and heroism of its combat soldiers, has unequivocally been its decisive technological advantages. Israel should continue to deepen them in the mentioned directions.

Diplomacy
Amman, Jordan - October 18, 2023 : Arab unity in the Al-Aqsa flood war (flag of Jordan and Palestine) Demonstrations of the Jordanian people in solidarity with Gaza and the Palestinian people

Political Insights (5): Determinants of the Jordanian Stance on Operation al-Aqsa Flood

by Atef al-Joulani

Jordan’s official stance on Operation al-Aqsa Flood faced challenges in maintaining a balanced position, despite strong and unprecedented engagement from the Jordanian public. The initial official stance, which seemed relatively strong and clear, diminished later, revealing contradictions between political declarations and practical measures on the ground. This has raised questions about the factors influencing Jordan’s position on the confrontation. First: Determinants of the Official Stance The official Jordanian stance on Operation al-Aqsa Flood was shaped by various factors: 1. Concerns regarding national security intensified due to the hostile attitudes of extreme right-wing Zionist groups towards Jordan, along with fears of forced displacement in the West Bank (WB) amidst the arming of tens of thousands of settlers and their persistent efforts to compel Palestinians to relocate to Jordan. Furthermore, concerns emerged regarding security threats to the kingdom’s northern and eastern borders amidst increased attempts to breach them due to escalation in Gaza Strip (GS). On 28/1/2024, a drone attack targeted US forces stationed near the Syrian border in Jordan, killing three soldiers and wounding about 35 others. 2. Geographic and demographic factors, coupled with strong public engagement with Operation al-Aqsa Flood, persistently fueled Jordanian protests against Israeli aggression and in support of resistance since October 7th. The protests have spanned the entire geographical and societal spectrum in Jordan. 3. The provisions of the Wadi Araba Treaty between Jordan and Israel, including political, economic restrictions, and normalization commitments between the parties. 4. The strategic relationship between Jordan and the US, which fully sided with Israel and provided it with political, military and financial cover to continue its aggression on GS. 5. Jordan’s tepid ties with Hamas suffered a setback after Operation al-Aqsa Flood, which coincided with a noticeable decline in relations, prompted by the arrest of several Hamas members for attempting to smuggle weapons into WB. 6. Jordan’s political stance within the Arab and international sphere, which opposes Hamas and “political Islam” movements. 7. Jordan’s political choices in the Palestinian arena, which support the political settlement, negotiations and the two-state solution, the efforts to de-escalate and impose calm in WB, enhancing the PA status within the Palestinian society, and preventing its collapse or decline in favor of other parties. 8. The official side voiced concerns about the impact of Operation al-Aqsa Flood on Jordanian public sentiment and electoral trends, fearing its exploitation by the Islamic movement during the critical upcoming parliamentary elections later this year (2024). Second: The Various Facets of the Jordanian Position On the political front, Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi was the first to indicate in the early days of the confrontation that “Hamas is an idea, and the idea does not end.” He emphasized that discussing a post-Gaza phase is a leap in the air, clarifying that Hamas did not create the conflict but rather the conflict created Hamas. Jordan was quick to describe Israeli military operations in GS as aggression and heinous war crimes, with positions issued by the King, Queen, Crown Prince and Jordanian Prime Minister condemning the aggression, calling for its cessation, and declaring solidarity with the Palestinian people. On the practical front, Jordan canceled the Quad Summit scheduled in Amman with the US President on 18/10/2023, in protest against the Israeli massacre at the Baptist Hospital in GS. Jordan also froze the energy-for-water agreement with Israel. On 1/11/2023, Jordan recalled its ambassador from Israel and conducted multiple air drops to support its field hospital in GS, while establishing a second field hospital in Khan Younis. Yet, the Jordanian public deemed these official actions insufficient, demanding the cancellation of the Wadi Araba treaty and the gas agreement with Israel, along with halting the water-for-electricity deal, closing foreign military bases in Jordan, supporting Palestinian resistance and engaging with its factions. The Jordanian official stance during Operation al-Aqsa Flood can be summarized as follows: 1. Condemnation of Israeli aggression on GS and urging an end to war crimes. 2. Implementation of measures falling short of public demands, amidst strong interaction by the Jordanian public during the confrontation. 3. Permitting limited popular activities, restricting access to borders with the occupied Palestinian territories, opposing open sit-ins and arresting activists participating in some events. 4. Allowing Jordanian territory for Gulf-to-Israel truck transit, within the context of a land bridge inaugurated to bypass Houthi restrictions in the Bab al-Mandab Strait for ships bound to Israel. Conclusion Jordan’s official response to Operation al-Aqsa Flood reveals significant confusion in aligning its regional and international stance, political choices and commitments with addressing the demands of the Jordanian public. Jordan’s participation in the land bridge for goods transit to Israel has damaged its credibility and provoked public outrage. This revelation coincided with Israel’s intensified blockade on GS, coupled with increased measures to prevent the entry of humanitarian aid, as part of the Israeli policy to starve the population and incite popular resentment against the resistance. Given recent practical behavior and relative retreat in stance and rhetoric, ongoing confusion in Jordan’s official position is expected in the coming period, with increased engagement in Arab and international arrangements regarding Gaza’s post-war future. Regarding relations with Palestinian factions, Jordan’s official side is expected to maintain its preference for engaging solely with the Palestinian Authority, aiming to bolster its position in the Palestinian arena, without showing openness to resistance movements in the foreseeable future.