Hamas, Israel and a changed world

Hamas, Israel and a changed world

Aneela Shahzad May 17, 2024
The writer is a geopolitical analyst. She also writes at globaltab.net and tweets @AneelaShahzad


Since October 7, around 200,000 Israelis have been internally displaced from both the south and north. This is a first since its inception that Israel, habitual of increasingly encroaching into the morphology of the Palestine, has now had its own morphology torn and shattered.

Whoever’s idea it was to carry forward the October 7 fiasco, one must not be naïve to think that it was just a histrionic flare-up of a people who had been suffering apartheid, genocide and excruciating abuse at the hands of Israel for the last seven decades. Rather one must keep in view the wide and deep strife that the whole MENA region has been going through since the 2011 Arab Spring. Since then, war and strife has been passed over from Afghanistan and Iraq to the whole North African belt and back to Syria and Yemen.

This historical era proved to be an eye-opener for the Arabs — friends have changed into foes and alliances have shifted. The Arabs that had been staunchly allied with the US since post-WWs suddenly realised that the US had double-played them — especially in the Syrian front where they had put all their credibility at stakes in supporting US-backed militias, as the US vowed to remove Bashar al-Assad. Disarray in the Syrian front caused a divide that pulled the Saudi camp further away from the Qatari camp, and the Saudis came to the realisation that NATO was either incapable or not interested in winning the Syrian front. This prompted the Saudis to slide towards a new alliance framework and OPEC+ was formed in 2016, an auxiliary OPEC platform with Russia as its leader.

Even after this move, the Saudis made a last-ditch attempt to make the US fall in line with them when they invited Trump as a chief guest at the 2017 Arab Islamic Summit, right after which they accused Qatar of supporting terrorism and making friends with Iran. But it seems that this time too the US was unable to put all its weight behind the Saudis, against Qatar; nor was it able to withstand the Russian and Turk incursions into Syria. And to the dismay of Arab allies, Trump announced the withdrawal of US forces from Syria in 2019. Thus ended the era of US security and diplomatic dominance over the Arabs.

Soon after, we saw Qatar-Saudi resumption of diplomacy in 2021 and in parallel we saw war-torn Iraq stepping forward to initiate peace between Iran and Saudi Arabia. This initiation proved to be fruitful and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Saudi Arabia in late 2022 showed how China had been behind the Saudi-Iran rapprochement all the way.

This Saudi-Iran rapprochement was the seed wherefrom October 7 would germinate. This was the first time post-WWs that the Arabs were militarily strong, politically sovereign and diplomatically united! This was the first time when the Arabs realised that they had been using all their wealth and energies fighting each other for no good reason, and that all their wealth would never be put in the way of progress as long as their region does not have long-term peace and stability. This was the first time that the whole of MENA, Persia and Turkey would come to the conclusion that long-term peace in their region was contingent to a permanent solution to the Palestine issue.

So, when October 7 happened, there was already a concert of diplomacy, a coming and going of delegates and diplomats between all these parties, and China and Russia. One could say that a virtual ‘control room’ had been in place and every move was being played with consent and consensus. This was the reason why when Iran-backed Hezbollah and Houthis upped the ante against Israel, all Arab diplomats came out in one voice saying that October 7 was not Hamas’ fault but the fault of seven decades of Israeli atrocities. This was the reason why post-October 7, the Saudis have not condemned any Iranian move or statement, especially their immense retaliatory attack on Israel. And this was the reason why the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan all said the same thing in the World Economic Forum session held in Riyadh last month. They were unanimous that it was not possible to go back to the pre-October 7 status quo; things have changed; the world has changed!

And it is changing swiftly more so. Last month, Israel failed to give a response to the massive Iranian attack on its soil. Rather to the dismay of the West, both Qatar and Kuwait issued statements that the US was not allowed to use their bases against Iran anymore. Two weeks later, China hosted leaders of both Hamas and Fatah in an attempt to bring an end to their age-long rivalry. Unity between Hamas and Fatah is a prerequisite to finding the way towards Palestinian statehood; and it seems now that the way to statehood will be sought whether the US and Israel want it or not!

So, though the people of Gaza are going through extreme times of hunger, injury and abuse, they are giving their lives for a cause dear to their hearts — freedom. And a war fought for freedom and a just cause is in itself a win from the beginning to end. But for Israel, there is no just cause, there is no moral standing, there is no victory. The farce of its victim card is exposed to the world every day. The threat of the Israeli aggression to global trade passing the Red Sea has harmed Israel and its allies the most. And the most of all, Israelis are facing a fear and a freeze at both their south and north; they are facing an attack on Israel’s internal morphology. All this has brought forth a divide within the Israeli nation, a divide that has isolated Netanyahu internally, as his policies isolate Israel internationally.

Strategically too, Israel is finding out that it is no longer the soul aggressor, controlling escalations. Rather the other side is equally capable of escalating and deescalating situations at their will. The region that was once docile towards Israeli is no more docile. The status quo ante bellum where Israel was thought of as untouchable cannot be revived.

So, how is Hamas winning? One should reckon that if the script that Abu Ubaida reads has come from the ‘control room’ then Hamas has an insurmountable alliance behind it’s back and it is already the victor — because the alliance that Israel was depending upon has proven to be impotent and unreliable in one front after the other in the past two decades. It is not the superpower it once was, rather it has shrunken into a pseudo-power, a pseudo-alliance!

Published in The Express Tribune, May 17th, 2024.

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