Daily Review: Regional Dynamics of the Israel-Hamas War

Daily Review: Regional Dynamics of the Israel-Hamas War
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani watch during the Abraham Accords signing ceremony at the White House, in Washington, Sep. 15, 2020 (Sipa photo by Oliver Contreras via AP Images).

Today at WPR, we’re covering the U.N. mission in Haiti and New Zealand’s upcoming election.

Israel-Gaza: Israel has ordered a “complete siege” of the Gaza Strip in retaliation for the militant group Hamas’ attack, the largest and deadliest the country has seen in decades. Israeli warplanes have struck hundreds of sites in Gaza, which is controlled by the group, and Israel’s defense minister said that “no electricity, no food, no water, no fuel” would be allowed into the territory. (New York Times)

Our Take: With the war now in its fourth day and the shock of the initial attack now giving way to a reaction phase, we’re taking today to look at the regional dynamics that could and likely will play a role in what seems certain to be a long and brutal conflict.

First and foremost, there’s the reaction from the wider Arab world. Despite its brutality, Hamas’ attack has been celebrated by Arab publics across the region, while Israel’s bombing of Gaza in reaction to it has predictably driven even more support for the Palestinian cause. That highlights the Achilles’ heel of the Abraham Accords, namely the enduring disconnect between regional governments—including Saudi Arabia—intent on pursuing closer ties with Israel and Arab publics that remain sympathetic to the Palestinians.

Then there’s the question of Hezbollah, the powerful Lebanese militia on Israel’s northern border. Despite an expectation that the group will get involved in the war, its potential participation is still very much uncertain. So far, exchanges of fire between Israel and Hezbollah have followed the two sides’ familiar choreography of deterrence, rather than escalation, but that could change. Looking ahead, whether or not Hezbollah decides to join Hamas’ side could determine if the war spreads or stays limited to Gaza.

There has also been a general assumption that Iran was involved in the planning of Hamas’ attack over the weekend. That is understandable, considering Iran does provide Hamas with weapons and financing. But providing aid does not necessarily mean that Iran was involved in the planning of such a secretive operation, though it may have been alerted that “something” was being planned. So until there is more conclusive evidence of Tehran’s participation, it’s better to remain wary of such accusations, which are often in the service of a broader political agenda with regard to Iran.

Finally, there have been some claims that Russia was involved in the attack, based on the fact that Moscow has some ties to Hamas and generally benefits from chaos and disorder in the region and more broadly. Russia, however, also prefers to maintain ties with all sides of the Middle East’s many fault lines and, more importantly, has been keen to keep Israel—which has been under pressure to provide weapons to Kyiv—on the sidelines of the war in Ukraine. Put simply, Russia has everything to lose and nothing to gain by alienating Israel.

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