Shifting power play as Israel-Gaza War threatens to spill over

Turkmen Terzi

Turkmen Terzi

Published Jul 4, 2024


Turkmen Terzi

The Israel-Hamas conflict appears poised to escalate regionally, as neither the Netanyahu government nor Hamas leaders are currently seeking peace. Instead, both sides are focused on trying to eliminate the other militarily. Despite the extensive destruction in Gaza, Hamas remains resilient, and the conflict has now extended into Lebanon.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is very much aware that Israel remains the US government’s primary ally in the region since Arab nations are pursuing a more independent foreign policy.

Meanwhile, Hamas, which is a part of the Muslim Brotherhood - a transnational Sunni Islamist organisation - is leveraging the war to bolster its influence across the Islamic world and the organisation’s military struggle has given Israel justification to launch attacks on Gaza and Lebanon.

Since the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1948, the Israeli state has been oppressing Palestinians on a daily basis.

The Hamas leadership defends the October 7 attack, in which militants killed around 1 200 Israelis and took 250 hostages, by arguing that Palestinians have been subjected to continuous oppression for 70 years.

And the Netanyahu government’s response has been harsh with over 38 000 Palestinians reported to have been killed since the October 7 attack.

Immediately following the attack, Netanyahu likened it to Israel’s 9/11 and predicted that the war in Gaza will spread to the region. He has vowed to change the Middle East map.

Neither the Netanyahu government nor the Hamas leadership consulted with their people and their allies before starting the conflict.

Thousands of Israeli citizens are protesting and calling for Netanyahu to resign and they are demanding a ceasefire.

Foreign ministers of 26 members of the European Union urged Netanyahu to agree to a ceasefire in their joint statement of May 7, and US, UK, Germany, and France reiterated their “full support” for a Washington-backed cease-fire plan in Gaza on June 7.

The Middle East countries of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Egypt have repeatedly called for a ceasefire following the October 7 attack.

But the Biden government, France, Germany and the United Kingdom continue to supply arms to Israel.

At the same time Iran and Syria as well as Yemen’s Houthi governments and the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon are supporting Hamas’ war on Israel.

Turkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan harbours Hamas leadership in Turkiye. And new players, in the region, China and Russia, have both criticised Israel’s attack on Gaza.

South Africa opened a genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice in December 2023 and majority of African states sided with Palestine.

Netanyahu correctly predicted that his Gaza War would change the Middle East map as the conflict already spread into Lebanon.

Hezbollah conducts daily rocket and missile attacks on northern Israeli settlements near the border with Lebanon and has done so since the October 7 attacks. Israel on Saturday struck Hezbollah targets in Lebanon in response.

Currently, the Biden government is the main supporter of Netanyahu’s war.

The conflict in Gaza can be analysed within the framework of Washington’s Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), which is a US State Department strategy that was launched in December 2002 during the presidency of George W Bush, to promote political and economic reform in Arab countries and other Muslim-majority nations. It followed the September 11 attacks of 2001 in which more than 3 000 people were killed when Al-Qaeda operatives hijacked four planes and flew them in a suicide mission into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington DC.

It can be argued that US presidents have come and gone in the US, but the policy has remained irrespective of who is in the White House.

But this is America’s long-term project and it is obvious that Washington governments follow security based foreign policy in the Middle East and continue to pursue “The War on Terror” in the Middle East that was launched by Bush following the 9/11 attacks.

The US government invaded Afghanistan, Iraq and supported the Free Syrian Army (FSA) against Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad; and it currently backs Netanyahu’s Gaza and Lebanon operations. The United States has provided around $7 billion in security assistance to Israel since its war with Hamas started October 7.

US President Biden visited Israel on October 18 just after the Hamas attack to show his support for the Israeli people. And US Secretary of State Blinken has made four trips to Israel since October 7. Blinken put pressure on Netanyahu to agree to a ceasefire with Hamas, but these visits show Washington’s close ties with Tel Aviv.

Arab nations have been reluctant about America’s reform projects as they fear US invasion, but Turkiye’s President Erdogan several times mentioned that he is the co-chair the Greater Middle Eastern Project. “Turkey has been given a mission in the Middle East. I am one of the co-chairmen of this The Greater Middle East Project and North Africa project” the then Prime Minister Erdogan said on 26 February, 2006 during his address to the ruling Justice and Development Party’s Istanbul Uskudar district congress. In his interview with North Press Agency on May 5, 2023, Kurdish leader Saleh Muslim, co-chair of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), said that Erdogan seeks a neo-Ottoman regional order to supplant the “Greater Middle East Project”, a Bush II-era policy to re-model the region in its image.

Erdogan has close ties with Qatar, the energy rich country that harbours Muslim Brotherhood members including Hamas and has provided extensive financial support. Many Arab critics say that Qatar has been funding Erdogan’s military involvement in Syria and Libya. The US government and major Western nations back Israel, while Erdogan and Qatar back Hamas, which in turn has given Netanyahu the justification for his genocidal operations in Gaza and now potentially Lebanon. The US government is no longer the only gendarmerie in the Middle East as rich Gulf nations and Egypt cement their ties with Russia and China and some have joined BRICS. Israel remains Washington’s main ally in the region and will continue to get military support from US governments as Tel Aviv is a key US ally in the middle of the Arab world.

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