- The Israel-Palestine Issue is one of the cornerstones of this region that has shaped the past and present.
- West Asia, fundamentally, is a complex region whose geopolitical dynamics are decided by a number of players not only in West Asia but also across the globe.
- For now, the third intifada is on the rise from Hamas, which will have lasting consequences for West Asia.
The geopolitical contours of West Asia have often reflected clashes and conflicts. The players in this region share a complicated history. Their relationship is an expression of geopolitical rivalry, the rise of nationalism and national interests that are often at loggerheads. The Israel-Palestine issue, in this regard, stands fundamental to this region.
On 7 October 2023, Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel, firing approximately 5,000 rockets on Israel. With thousands of deaths and several injured, the event has escalated drastically in a short span of time. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that Israel is at war. However, the present situation is an outcome of the century-long issue that has remained a major cause of concern regarding the peace and stability in the Palestinian land.
The Creation of Hamas
Hamas is an acronym for “Ḥarakah al-Muqāwamah al-ʾIslāmiyyah”. It means the Islamic Resistance Movement. Founded in the year 1987 against the backdrop of the first intifada the group has remained active mostly in the Gaza Strip. One of the central stands of Hamas is to oppose the initiatives of PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organisation). In the backdrop of this event, it is often claimed that it was Israel that created Hamas to oppose Yassir Arafat and counter the PLO and the Fatah party.
With the gradual developments in the Israeli-Palestinian issue after the formation of Hamas, it was observed that Hamas had turned counter-productive for Israel and took the shape of Israel’s Taliban. This view was articulated by a former Israeli officer named Andrew Higgins who worked in Gaza in the 1980s. In his interview with the Wall Street Journal in 2009 he stated “When I look back at the chain of events I think we made a mistake but at the time nobody thought about the possible results. Israel’s military-led administration in Gaza looked favourably on the paraplegic cleric, who set up a wide network of schools, clinics, a library and kindergartens. Sheikh Yassin formed the Islamist group Mujama al-Islamiya, which was officially recognized by Israel as a charity and then, in 1979, as an association. Israel also endorsed the establishment of the Islamic University of Gaza, which it now regards as a hotbed of militancy. The university was one of the first targets hit by Israeli warplanes in the 2008-9 Operation. Yassin’s Mujama would become Hamas, which, it can be argued, was Israel’s Taliban: an Islamist group whose antecedents had been laid down by the West in a battle against a leftist enemy. Israel jailed Yassin in 1984 on a 12-year sentence after the discovery of hidden arms caches, but he was released a year later.”
A logical parallel that can be drawn from history is related to the U.S. The CIA supported the Afgan rebels to counter the Soviets. They later were consolidated in the form of a radical group called Al Qaeda, which did the 9/11 attack on the U.S. In response to this attack, the US, under President George W. Bush, launched a Global War on Terrorism.
In the backdrop of this analysis, a statement by the Israeli Army spokesperson is important to focus on. He said, “This is our 9/11 and more an annihilation of our state”. This statement portrays the deep connection and the parallels that can be drawn from this issue, where it can be advocated that Hamas turned out to be a Frankenstein Monster for Israel as Al Qaeda proved to be the same for the U.S.
Not an Intelligence Failure but Intelligence Ignorance
The atrocities inflicted upon the Israelis are more a result of intelligence ignorance rather than an intelligence failure. Egypt, which has often acted as a lynchpin between Israel and Hamas, had sent repeated warnings of “something big” that Hamas was planning. But these warnings, unfortunately, were ignored by Jerusalem, which resulted in bloodshed. The Israeli forces were mainly focused on the West Bank region. Denying the warnings by Cairo, Netanyahu claimed the story was “fake news”.
This situation has turned out, to some extent, as a Deja vu for the Israelis. In October 1973, Israel was caught in a similar situation when Egypt and Syria, along with the other Arab States, took a surprise attack on Israel. October marks the holy month for the Jews, where they celebrate the Yom Kippur festival. The present attack by Hamas was along the same lines. This is the month of the Jewish holiday most Israelis are in the mode of celebration. The timing of the attack is deliberate and the underlying motive was to inflict maximum damage on the part of Israelis has turned out to be medieval-style brutality.
Europe’s Political Divide
The geopolitical repercussions of this war have become evidently palpable, especially across Europe. The massive influx of migrants from West Asia and North Africa to Europe since early 2000 further picked up pace after the Arab Spring and Syrian Crises. It forced European governments to revisit their ideas on multiculturalism and the underlying geopolitical implications of this migration. This portrays an image where Europe seems divided between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel causes. This divide is visible across major countries of Europe.
Pro-Hamas protests were witnessed in Berlin with the slogan “Long live the resistance of the Palestinian people”. This was organised by NGO Samidoun. A similar incident was witnessed in London where a large number of UK-based pro-Palestinian groups demonstrated their support for the Palestinians. Protestors gathered in France to demonstrate their support for Palestine and the same was noticed in the Swedish capital Stockholms to show their solidarity and support for the Palestinians. However, Britain has joined the U.S., France, Germany and Italy to extend their full support for Israel. They have stated that Israel has the right to defend itself, and the Jewish community must ensure their safety.
It is observed that Europe largely seems divided on the Israel-Palestine issue where most of the immigrants are in support of Palestine whereas, on the other hand, the democratic governments in Europe along with the European Union are in support of Israel.
Revival of the cause
The Abraham Accord proved to be a watershed moment in the geopolitics of West Asia. It strived to normalise the relationship of the major West Asia countries with Israel. Its underlying objective was to build a more peaceful and stable West Asia whose focus would gradually shift from geopolitics to geo-economics. This accord, however, came as a setback for the Palestinians because the Palestinian issue was gradually sidelined. The attack inflicted by Hamas has infused new energy into the Palestinian question and is likely to shape the geopolitics of West Asia in the coming years.
West Asia, fundamentally, is a complex region whose geopolitical dynamics are decided by a number of players not only in West Asia but also across the globe. The issue is one of the cornerstones of this region that has shaped the past and present. It would be an arduous task in the near future to take into consideration the diversity of perspectives and conflicting interests of the various stakeholders involved to take the issue to a logical conclusion. For now, the third intifada is on the rise from Hamas, which will have lasting consequences for West Asia.
(Abhishek Kumar is an M.A. in Politics and International Relations from Pondicherry University. He holds a key interest in India’s Foreign Policy and Issues pertaining to India’s National Security. Presently. He is a Research Intern at the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA), Sapru House, New Delhi)
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