The war in West Asia has placed all parties involved and their supporters in a challenging position, even those who are not directly involved. Israel has suffered a national trauma with the loss of civilian lives at the hands of Hamas terrorists. This tragedy was exacerbated by a serious intelligence failure, which allowed the attack to occur. Seeking vengeance, Israel has been bombing Gaza and cutting off essential supplies to the strip, leading to a worsening humanitarian crisis.
Israel’s decision to ask over a million Gazans to relocate from the north to the south in preparation for a ground invasion, under the guise of reducing civilian deaths, will undoubtedly lead to even greater suffering for the people of Gaza. In addition, the bombing of a hospital in Gaza, regardless of who is responsible, has sparked widespread anger among Muslims worldwide, leading to pro-Palestinian demonstrations even in Europe and the US.
Israel’s internal and external situation is further complicated by polarized domestic politics. The country has experienced repeated elections, unstable coalition governments, and protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who many believe has contributed to the current disaster by diverting attention from Gaza and focusing on preventing the emergence of an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank. The extreme right-wing elements within Netanyahu’s government are also blamed for inciting violence in the West Bank, which only further fuels Palestinian resentment.
The United States, as the principal supporter of Israel, faces a major dilemma. While geopolitical factors, humanitarian concerns, and the influence of powerful lobbies compel the US to support Israel, there is also the risk of being drawn into another unwanted war in the region. To prevent this, the US has dispatched military assets to the Mediterranean to deter potential aggression from Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which could escalate the conflict and involve Iran and Syria.
While publicly expressing solidarity with Israel, the US also recognizes the need to address the humanitarian crisis. It has urged Israel to provide water to southern Gaza and has advocated for the entry of humanitarian supplies through Egypt. However, it remains unclear whether Israel can be dissuaded from launching a ground invasion, as such a decision carries political risks for the ruling government.
President Joe Biden’s visit to the region indicates that previous diplomatic efforts to prevent the situation from worsening have not been successful. The recent attack on a hospital in Gaza disrupted Biden’s visit and led to the cancellation of a planned summit with Jordan, Egypt, and the Palestinian Authority. Pressure from the Arab and Muslim worlds has made it politically difficult for Arab regimes to engage in talks under US tutelage, posing a significant challenge for Biden and the US’s role in the region.
The United Nations Security Council has once again proven ineffective in dealing with the security issues in the region. UN Secretary-General António Guterres has been largely relegated to addressing humanitarian aid concerns. The UNSG’s presence at the Rafah border to monitor the limited flow of aid sends a message about the diminishing role of the UN in resolving the crisis.
Arab states, most notably the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco, have shown a growing acceptance of Israel, with the establishment of diplomatic ties through the US-promoted Abraham Accords. However, Saudi Arabia, which had been in negotiations with the US for normalizing ties with Israel, has put the process on hold due to its opposition to Hamas and its association with the Muslim Brotherhood. Qatar and Turkey, on the other hand, have strong ties to Hamas and continue to support the Palestinian cause.
Egypt, resistant to allowing Gazans to seek refuge in the Sinai desert, fears a resurgence of terrorism and prefers that Israel accommodate them in the Negev desert. Jordan, already burdened with a large Palestinian refugee population, also rejects the idea of sheltering more refugees. Iran, while hostile to Israel, warns against the conflict spreading further and potentially involving Hezbollah. Russia, with interests in both Israel and the Arab world, has called for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza but has been unable to secure enough support for its resolution.
The region is in a state of flux, with shifting alliances and complicated dynamics. A peaceful resolution to the crisis remains elusive, and the ongoing conflict draws attention away from other pressing issues in the world. As the situation continues to unfold, it is essential for international actors to find a way to de-escalate tensions and work towards a lasting solution that acknowledges the rights and aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians.