Syria has been the nexus of brutality and terror for almost a decade now; with more than 6 million natives who have already fled and numerous displaced over the territory itself, the region casts a ghastly shade that has only turned grimmer with time. Although the conflict seemingly raved its catastrophic footprint in early 2000, the root cause arguably always ends up to be the infamous ‘Arab Spring’ that actually tuned the Syrians against their very own regime. Something to compare and contrast that communal unity acted in Iraq’s benefit back when USA invaded the territory to avenge the 9/11 Attacks in 2003 while casted a fiasco in Syria when invaded in 2014. Large scale protests and rampaging violence gradually morphed into a series of relentless efforts to first deter Bashar Al-Asad’s efforts to first peacefully and then collaboratively resolving the raging unrest. Some would say it was inspired by the historical besiege of Libya and the subsequent execution of the Libyan prime minister Muammar al-Gaddafi as an ensue of that revolution yet Bashar Al-Asad proved a far more tensile force to overthrow. Such tumultuous turn of events, lead Syria to first economic sanctions followed by severe isolation in the global community opposing and downright rejecting Assad’s actions to curb the political tremors. Yet intermittent interventions, both implicit and explicit, by the western powers and their counter-parts have defined the region more as a battle ground of mercenary motives instead of mere efforts to safeguard human rights and ensuring regional peace.
Since 2011, three core actors have remained active in skirmishes that have more oftener than not transformed into battles of gore and toil and sometimes even full-fledged wars that have not only dismembered the expanse of over an 185,000 km2 of land into mounds of dust and rubble with terror now crawling over the lanes but have even shuddered the immediate vicinity. With the downfall and perpetual dissipation of ISIS, losing much of its occupied land to active contenders, Assad’s militia and Kurdish forces remain the helming competitors along with a smattering of other oppositions like Jaish al Fateh and Nusrta Front. The conflict between the Kurdish forces backed by the US regime against ISIS and then eventual betrayal on the Turkish front had been a matter of contentions in the latter part of 2019; Kurds making it abundantly clear to harness the borders they surmise to be rightly theirs while Turkish policies, especially under Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, have been outright fearless and needless of any other inference regarding their austere stance over the issue; claiming their bordering territories and inferring stern response in case of any dissension caused by the Kurds.
However, the outlining threat in the recent time can be perceived at a novel yet a totally realistic stage, where proxy wars no longer remain the ground reality of armed unrest in Syria. This notion has arisen since harsh words were exchanged between Moscow and Ankara; the metropolis’ of the neighbouring giants: Russia and Turkey respectively. A glimpse in the historical scaffolding of the entire Syrian conflict, Russia has always backed Assad’s regime despite its initial block over Syrian policies revolving over strategies to deal with the blooming protests in the early tremors of the Arab Spring who’s effects had started to resonate in the entire Middle East following up on Ground 0, Tunisia. The vantage point of Russia, however, shifted when the political paradigm was drastically nudged by the terror-driven escalation of ISIS after severe US blunders and baffling retreat from Syria that even threatened the sovereignty and security of the region following their besiege of the state of Raqqa, establishing ISIS as a looming concern, thereby aligning the aims of both Russian reign and Assad’s regime, ultimately inciting a continued alliance. Turkey, on the other hand, being the northern neighbour to Syria also contended as a root protagonist in economic isolation of Assad’s government, imposing stringent financial sanctions that tightened the bottlenecks and eventually led to the deterioration of their financial virility that already staggered after sanctions and embargos placed by both EU and USA.
This conflict that permeates in the north-western terrain of Syria lilts an innuendo that a spark may be brewing between the two nations. The besieged province of Idlib exudes the source of the strife; an area that has witnessed countless Turkish troops slain by Assad’s forces in cross-border disputes; close to seven Turkish soldiers were recently killed in a thorough retaliation of Syrian forces in the de-escalation zone, much to Turkey’s dismay. However, the Russian involvement in backing the Syrian government in their dissent in Idlib and heavily bombing of the territory with artillery servers as a link to presumably leading a head-on conflict between Russia and Turkey; hinted by Erdoğan that any effort made in the region will not go answered, clearly warning the Russian forces to avoid any transgression that could cause fatality to their personnel. The people of Syria, blended with the rebels, look in the eye of a dead end; bombardments to deter the tyrants have shredded their innocent bodies similar to the incursions in Eastern Ghouta and with no one on their side but with ulterior incentives, they are left with no choice but to see Turkey as a savior. To any sane mind, however, its not really a complex interface of modes and interests involved. With clash of alliances, historical narrative of both the world wars fought, coherently brings about the model of war despite a never-ending argument at whim. Without contesting any theory by any analyst, its imperative to gauge at the systematic progression of the tensions flowing yet not mitigating. Turkey being stranded from its western allies and Arab assistance in wake of the murder conspiracy and being locked in a bound-to-doom NATO relation with Russia, the outcome of this steady conflict can bring about equal amount of damage yet in lesser of a decade and more pandemic effects.
Recent Israeli airstrikes targeted the Iran-linked elements in Syria. One of the biggest attacks even in at least half a decade period of relative dormancy in the region hint at the start of something gruesome. The attacks pointed Iran-backed sites like Al-Bukamal in intensity, riddling the city that acts as a focal point to Iran’s influence over and beyond the borders of Baghdad and Damascus, as well as paving way to militants from the fore stretch of Lebanon. The attacks reportedly served as an active Israeli position against the Irani militants and revolutionary guards, casting a heavy presence in the core hit areas of the province of Dair al Zor, claiming 57 casualties. The attack assumes a step-up stance of Israel picking up from a cold targeted strike within Iran, months back, eliminating the crucial scientific figure of Iran, that earned promises of retaliation both from the military leads and the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
These attacks nurture an underlying message of Israel following on the shadow war footsteps dictated under the premiership of Mr. Donald Trump. Now, with his nefarious exit from the presidential office following the riots at US Capitol and Mr. Biden’s ascension to power just days away, Israel insinuates its true deterrence of Iran’s growing influence and hostility in the expansive areas of Southern, North-western and Eastern regions of Syria. With US intelligence cultivating the Israeli position in Syria while Iran enriching its plans of Nuclear power along with backing militias under the lead of Lebanese force of Hezbollah, a possibility of another proxy clash is re-emerging in the peripheries of Syria. Now as Israel continues to welcome Arab nations to set camp around Syria to end Tehran’s influence, US faces a tough choice in over a decade to either exit the war before it even flames or repeat their interference regretted since the Arab Spring to jump headfirst into another round of decade long destruction.
Sino- Arab Relations: Velvet Hopes and Tragic Realities
In the recent decade, China has become a crucial partner for many nations in West Asia. China-Arab relations have progressed steadily. China prioritizes this region because of its abundant natural resources, enormous commercial market, and strategic location. Since the Belt and Road Initiative was announced, West Asia has taken on new significance as a nexus between China and the world’s three ancient continents.
Trade Culture Trends
The volume of trade between the Arab world and China reflects two trends: for 2018, it was at $244.3 billion, up to 28 percent from 2017, compared to $25.4 billion in 2003. According to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, it will reach $266.4 billion in 2020, an annual rise of $15 billion. In 2019, China imported $146 billion worth of goods from Arab countries, a rise of 4.8 percent.
There was a 14.7% increase in Chinese exports to Arab countries, totalling $120.4 billion. As compared to 2018, Chinese FDI in Arab countries increased by 18.8% to $1.42 billion in 2019. Despite a decrease of 8.7% year-over-year, Chinese enterprises inked $32.5 billion worth of project contracts with Arab countries in 2018, bringing their total commercial value to $30.5 billion.
For the period between 2004 and 2018, China made a total investment of $224.3 billion in the Arab region. More than two-thirds of China’s aid to Arab countries in 2018 came in the form of loans, with $90.6 million going to the four countries of Syria, Yemen, Jordan and Lebanon. To build a 68-kilometer electrified railway to the new administrative capital, Egypt received $1.2 billion from the World Bank. Egypt received $3 billion in Chinese investment for the construction of eight buildings in the business district of the administrative capital.
The kingdom of Saudi Arabia aids China; An Oil and Petrochemical Complex in China and Leisure Area near Beijing Daxing International Airport.
In February 2019, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia signed 12 agreements worth $28 billion with China. Because of the company’s agreement to build an oil and petrochemical complex in China, Aramco contributed $10 billion of its own money. More than a dozen commercial, oil, and environmental agreements were struck between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and China. An $11 billion grant was provided to Emirati developer Emaar for the construction of a residential and leisure area near Beijing Daxing International Airport.
One hundred and seventy-seven billion dollars was spent on Arab oil exports to China in 2018, and three Arab countries supplied the bulk of the country with all of the energy it required. Iraq came in at number four with $22.4 billion, followed by Saudi Arabia ($29.7 billion) and Oman ($17.3 billion).
There has been a 16.5 percent annual increase in the number of tourists between China and Arab countries, according to the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum.
Arabs made a total of 338.8 thousand trips to China, while Chinese made a total of 1.456 million trips to the Arab world, an increase of 0.7% and 8.9% from 2017–2018. China and the Arab world each have an average of 28 flights every day.
The Belt and Road Initiative
As for the Belt and Road Initiative, it will help strengthen Arab-Chinese relations. 18 Arab countries have signed agreements with China to participate in this initiative, while the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) includes 9 Arab members.
The China Atomic Energy Agency and the Arab Atomic Energy Agency signed agreements to create a training centre for the peaceful use of atomic energy in the Arab region with the Global Energy Interconnection Development and Cooperation Organization in China.
The Chinese Society for Arabic Literature Works was established in 1987 and numerous classic Chinese literary studies have been translated into Arabic. There has been an upsurge in the number of students from China and the Arab world in universities.
In 2019, there were 20,149 Arab students studying in Chinese universities, whereas just 1,129 Chinese were doing the same. Twelve Confucius Institutes and four Confucius classrooms have been set up in the Middle East by China.
Arab-Chinese ties are pacifist, as evidenced by the absence of Chinese military bases in the Arab region. In terms of regional arms sales, China does not hold the top spot.
There are 32–35 thousand American military soldiers in the Gulf states, including Syria and Jordan, according to Western sources.
While the United States, France, Italy, Russia, and the United Kingdom each have over a dozen military posts in Arab countries (13 in total), China only has a logistic station in Djibouti.
Chinese marine bases, according to Xinhua News Agency, might be located in Egypt’s Port Said or Lebanon’s Tripoli provinces. Building more aircraft carriers for international operations is underway.
China has indicated its willingness to engage in the fights against ISIS in Iraq if China’s security and interests are under risk, according to Wang Yi’s December 2014 statement. China’s intervention in Libya to save 36,000 people may be an indication of this trend, especially since China lost $20 billion in Libya, which made it realize that neglecting other locations may generate the same experience, so the basis of non-military activity abroad must be revised.
China’s policy of “adaptation” to the security situation in the Middle East is confirmed by the March 2021 strategic agreement between China and Iran, especially since the agreement does not refer to security dimensions or cooperation in the defence industries, while some reports indicate that there are possibilities for military cooperation, especially in countering terrorist movements and intelligence cooperation.
Data shows that the Arab region is one of the most unstable geopolitical areas in the world today. Since the Arab-Chinese commerce, investment, and the BRI in the Arab area could be affected by this climate, Chinese foreign policy is concerned. This means that China may need to rely on “soft” external influence, which can later turn “coercive,” in order to exert influence.
ISIS has previously published a map showing the Silk Road passing through Khorasan (which includes parts of China) and Islamic countries in West Asia, including Iran, Syria, and Iraq, before coming to an intersection with elements of the Caliphate state.
This is a threat to the New Silk Road Project, the Land Road, and the Maritime Road. Since its extension, the Suez Canal has become an important link between the Maritime Silk Route and Italy’s land road, which is also in direct contact with the caliphate project of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) (in Asia and the Sinai desert).
Thus, the Chinese project is threatened by ISIS or other radical Islamic groups. After the withdrawal of NATO and US forces, Chinese officials fear that Islamic movements will gain strength in Afghanistan and that the Wakhan Corridor between China’s and Afghanistan’s borders, which was used by the Taliban movement to train fighters, may reopen.
Oil sources estimate that China gets 20% of its oil from Iraq. It is also possible that a resurgence of Islamic movements in Iraq might pose a threat to China’s energy resources and interests. In Muslim regions of West Asia, Chinese energy ambitions are growing (60 percent of its oil comes from the Middle East).
In light of the fact that 60 percent of Syria’s oil is controlled by Islamic groups, this will urge China to protect its main sources of oil. Chinese defence and security expenditures have risen each year as a response to these changes and to protect China’s interests both domestically and internationally.
Both China’s defence and internal security expenditure increased significantly between 2010 and 2021, from $84.6 billion to $ 293.35 billion, respectively. Warplanes and battleships, which fall under the ministry of heavy industry, are not included in the Chinese accounting system for defence spending. In addition, tens of thousands of military retirees are not included in defence budget, but rather in social services and other programs.
China’s announced defence spending will be higher if China adopts the customary method of calculating it. China’s military spending increased linearly from 2010 to 2021, while estimates from other countries suggest that actual spending may be far higher.
In 2022, China is expected to spend $300 billion on defence, which will raise defence spending by 7.1%, faster than last year. In order for China and Russia’s “multipolarity” paradigm to operate, the international community, especially its central powers, must contribute to it. In the years following 1978, China’s political literature indicates a shift in the country’s perspective on international relations and the world order.
Political literature in China before to the 1990s was largely focused on the international system. Questions raised by Chinese scholar QIN in 1978 included whether the international system should be regarded from a perspective of war and struggle or peace and development, as well as whether China achieves its goals by integrating into the international system or competing for power.
According to Zheng Bijian’s idea, a multipolar international system should be established and the focus should shift from a country wanting to alter the current system to one seeking to integrate into it and take the lead in globalization. As the country’s worldwide prominence grows, it requires a specific role in the international system.
Immediately following Mao Zedong’s death, there was a dominant theory in Chinese thinking, “The Bird Cage Doctrine” of Deng Xiaoping, which incorporates socialism and capitalism. Chinese pragmatism is expressed in Lou Jiwei’s “cat colour theory”. Cats chase mice, not because they’re orange. Economic and political outcomes are more important than “ideological colour” in these times.
Curricula also changed to reflect major signs, such as a shift in interpretation of building the wall from resisting invaders to fostering national unity and the use of watchtowers to improve communication amongst Chinese tribes.
A return to Westphalian state conceptions in China can be seen in this instance. The qualitative shift in Chinese political and economic thought has direct repercussions on Sino-Arab relations, especially with regard to trade exchanges and the protection of economic interests, even if it leads to direct military intervention.
The Intensifying War in Yemen: World’s worst Humanitarian crisis
Since the beginning of this year, the violence in Yemen’s civil conflict has increased. From being the centre of the ancient Arab world, the nation became one of the poorest. Millions of people have been drawn into conflict as a result of the seven-year conflict. Civilians have been killed in record number and people are hungry more than ever. Yemen has been torn apart by war for several years, and its citizens are battling mightily to live. According to the UN Development Programme, more than 370,000 people have perished since the war began in 2015, with 60% of those deaths coming from indirect factors including a shortage of food, water, and medical care. United Nations calls it as the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet. With 21.1 million people, 80 percent of the population requires humanitarian aid of some kind. 11 million children need humanitarian assistance for survival.
What is the conflict about?
The conflict in Yemen is over who will rule the nation. Although the conflict has been ongoing for years, it has recently become more violent. As the wave of anti-government protests that swept the Middle East area expanded to Yemen, the war in Yemen was set off in the wake of the Arab uprisings of 2011.The war in Yemen has numerous participants. The main participant in the conflict is the Houthis, a minority Shia sect from Northern Yemen. They claimed that they had been oppressed and were taking part in a rebellion against the government. The group participated in an uprising against Yemen’s former president Ali Abdul Saleh during the Arab Spring. Houthis now control areas of Yemen where most people live including the capital Sana’a. Saudi Arab is another prominent player of the war who is also the most influential member of the Gulf cooperation council. The GCC have installed new government in Yemen by removing Ali Abdul Saleh and putting Abd-Rabbu Mansoor Hadi in charge. The Houthis and Saleh who were both sidelined by GCC allied with each other. Houthis along with Saleh’s allies in the army took control of Sana’a.. However, Saleh broke with Houthis and called up his followers to take up arms against them. Saleh was killed by Houthis in December 2017, and his forces got defeated within two days. Hadi fled to Saudi Arabia and Saudi Arabia along with the other coalition joins hands to return Hadi to power. For the last 7 years, the main fighting is between the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition. The coalition has the backing of western countries including the US and the UK and is supplied with arms from states like France, Canada, and Germany. The Saudi-led intervention includes relentless air attacks on Yemen. SLC said that they have been attacking the enemy fraction but the right group has accused the coalition of bombing hospitals and schools, killing thousands of Yemeni civilians.
The Saudi-led coalition carried out more than 150 airstrikes on civilian targets in Yemen, according to Yemen data project According to the United Nations, hundreds of thousands of people have perished as a result of combat or its indirect effects, such . According to conservative estimates by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), which monitors war zones around the world, the devastating air campaign alone conducted by a Saudi-led coalition has killed close to 24,000 people, including combatants and close to 9,000 civilians.
The escalation of War:
In 2017, another group emerged as a big player in the war, the Southern Translational council (STC) . It was a separatist group who wants independence for southern Yemen. They got support from UAE and controls parts of South, including port of Aden. The Houthis have been attempting to take control of Marib, the largest oil and fuel producing region, but their efforts are being hampered by this portion backed by the UAE. Houthis are being driven away from Marib by the SLC. Houthis retaliated in response to SLC’s aggressive attacks. They directly assault the UAE, attacking an Abu Dhabi gasoline storage complex on January 17,2022. The Houthis tactics used in the fighting became more sophisticated with time. The Saudi Arabia accused Iran of allegedly providing financial aid along with weapons. However, Iran completely denied the allegation. In March 2022, According to Saudi state-run media, Yemen’s Houthi rebels have launched a flurry of drone and missile attacks on Saudi Arabia, hitting a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant, water desalination plant, oil facility, and power station. In retaliation, the coalition led by Saudi Arabia attacked Yemen once more. The fighting then intensified as a result.
Children and civilians have been killed as a result of airstrikes in Yemen that target detention facilities. The United Nations reports that January 2022 has been Yemen’s bloodiest month for civilians. In the seven years of the conflict, it was likely the worst month. Attacks on civilian targets have become routine, causing damage to the infrastructure, homes, hospitals, farms, weddings, funerals, and schools According to Mwatana for Human rights and human rights watchthe Saudi and UAE-led coalition launched three attacks in Yemen in late January 2022 that appeared to violate the laws of war and resulted in at least 80 apparent civilian deaths, including three children, and 156 injuries, including two children. More terrible are war’s broader effects. More Yemenis die from hunger, poverty, and diseases than from actual fighting.
The World’s Worst Humanitarian Crisis:
According to the deputy humanitarian chief of the UN, Yemen’s economy is crumbling, its humanitarian crisis is getting worse, and the conflict in the poorest country in the Arab world is becoming more brutal. Despite an ongoing air campaign and ground battles, the conflict has essentially come to a standstill and given rise to the worst humanitarian crisis in history. Since then, the US has stopped taking a direct part in the fighting.
Early in 2020, the Houthis started an offensive in the largely under government control Marib region that claimed thousands of young lives and forced thousands of residents to flee their homes and live in constant fear of violence and being forced to move again. The country is essentially unrecognizably different now as a result of six horrible years of airstrikes, mortars, shooting, dread, and devastation.
The once-favorite vacation spot, the coastal city of Aden, is engulfed in debris and destruction. Farmland that has been fruitful and green for many generations is now left bare. Healthcare facilities have been destroyed or run out of supplies, and electricity networks are down.
Over 20 million Yemenis are now in need as an estimated four million have abandoned their homes out of terror. No aspect of life has remained unchanged, whether it be the schools that kids used to attend or the highways that communities used to rely on for food supplies.
It is difficult for humanitarian organisations to prevent starvation in these circumstances.
The number of cholera cases has been rising, and doctors are struggling with a serious medication shortage. When Covid-19 first arrived in Yemen, families had to put all of their efforts into acquiring food, so concern about the virus had to take a backseat. In the ongoing crisis, aid is being used as a weapon in addition to the increased violence that has been the main cause of all the misery. In order to prevent supplies from entering or leaving Yemen, the Saudi-led coalition erected land, sea, and air barriers around the country in 2015. The SLC has been accused of obstructing, obliterating, or stealing aid that the Yemenis sorely needed.
There were hopes that the Yemeni conflict would de-escalate when US President Joe Biden took office last year because of anticipated improvements in US foreign policy.
But this year, conflict has only gotten worse. Internally, regionally, and internationally, the violence that Yemen is currently experiencing has increased. According to international relief organisations, Yemen’s severe humanitarian situation, which is exacerbated by widespread starvation, disease, and displacement, is predicted to get worse over the next few months. More than half of the population of the country, or at least 17.4 million people, are in need of food aid because they are caught between a lengthy war and an economic downturn.
Despite the UN ranking Yemen as the greatest humanitarian calamity in the world, a recent pledge conference fell short of raising enough money to avert more devastation. To solve Yemen’s food insecurity, only $1.3 billion of a $4.3 billion donation goal was raised.
Due to their own financial constraints, the World Food Programme was compelled to lower food supplies for eight million people earlier this year. By June, 161,000 people are predicted to be affected by the projected five-fold increase in hunger.
A Glimmer of Hope?!
Yemen’s two-month cease-fire which came into effect on April, gave people some reason to believe in a better future and an opportunity to rebuild. A deal mediated by the UN between the Houthi rebels, who are allied with Iran, and the Yemeni government on one side and the Saudi-led coalition on the other is an important step toward resolving a conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people and caused millions to go hungry. The six-year battle between Saudi Arabia and Iran that has since evolved into a proxy war has now reached its first nationwide ceasefire.
Additionally, according to the UN, the warring parties in Yemen have agreed to extend the current cease-fire for another two months. Despite charges of truce violations from both sides, the ceasefire was initially in effect on April 2 and was renewed on June 2.
Commercial flights have resumed from the rebel-held capital Sanaa to Jordan and Egypt under the truce, and oil tankers are also permitted to dock at the crucial port of Hodeida. A two-month extension is expected to allow for the reopening of roads connecting cities and regions, the safe repatriation of more displaced persons, and the delivery of humanitarian aid to those who have been cut off from it for too long due to hostilities in Yemen.
Israelis and Palestinians agree on one thing: Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity
If there is one thing that Israelis and Palestinians agree on and religiously adhere to, it’s Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity as “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
Israelis have long believed that overwhelming force, collective punishment, denial of rights, rejection of identity, humiliation, and a devastating Egyptian-supported 15-year-long blockade of the Gaza Strip would persuade Palestinians to surrender their national aspirations, accept a rewriting of history, and settle for Israeli control in exchange for economic opportunity.
Israeli officials hailed the decision by Hamas, the Islamists who control Gaza, not to become militarily involved in this month’s fight with Islamic Jihad, a militant Palestinian organization based in the strip, as evidence that the government’s strategy was working.
However, there is little reason to assume that Hamas has suddenly changed its leopard spots and surrendered the principle of armed struggle. On the contrary, it is more likely that Hamas wants to decide on the timing rather than let Islamic Jihad or Israel drag it into a conflict at a moment that suits their agendas.
The Israeli military said this week that it had sealed an attack tunnel Hamas dug from northern Gaza into Israel. It noted that an underground defensive barrier Israel completed in December had blocked the tunnel.
Even so, Israeli officials believe that Hamas’ refusal to join the fray constitutes proof that Israel’s strategy is working.
“What is happening now between Israel and Hamas is a de facto (ceasefire). It is a system of big sticks and sweet carrots. Hamas is receiving what it never got from Israel before and delivering the goods to residents. They understand the price they are paying, but realize the alternative is worse,” a senior Israeli military source told Al-Monitor.
With the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) estimating youth unemployment at 75 per cent, Israel is expected to incentivize Hamas by allowing thousands of Gazan workers return to work in Israel.
Israel is also considering increasing the number of Gazan work permits from 14,000 to 20,000. Furthermore, Israel may allow Gaza residents vetted by security to travel abroad on flights from an airport in southern Israel.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz argued in recent days that “for the past year, Israel has had a clear policy. On the one hand, a heavy hand against all violations of sovereignty and offensive and defensive efforts to prevent (attacks) on all fronts. On the other hand, a responsible civil and humanitarian policy strengthening moderate forces over terrorist organizations.”
It’s a strategy built on Israeli scholar Micah Goodmen’s notion of “shrinking the conflict.”
Mr. Goodman argued in a 2019 New York Times oped that this “wouldn’t solve or end the conflict… It would contain it, it would lessen it. It would broaden the Palestinians’ freedom of movement, their freedom to develop and their freedom to prosper — all without an Israeli military withdrawal, and therefore no security dangers for Israeli civilians.”
Perhaps most importantly, Mr. Goodman suggested that shrinking the conflict “would mitigate the risk of a deterioration into a one-state reality” in which Israeli Jews would likely no longer be a majority.
Mr. Goodman’s notion constitutes an acknowledgement that Israeli policy has not worked, even if Hamas appears to have become more selective in picking its fights.
The experience of the Palestinian Authority that has been rendered powerless because of Israel’s refusal to push for a definitive resolution of the conflict and the Authority’s mismanagement, corruption, and rivalry with Hamas, is likely to serve as a red line for the Islamists. They will want to ensure political, not just economic benefits.
Moreover, more than seven decades since the establishment of the State of Israel, Palestinians continue to cling to their national identity and aspirations. Yet, many implicitly acknowledge that ordinary Palestinians pay the price for violence that is not getting them closer to a solution.
“At the end of the day, the ones who lose are the people. Rockets fired into Israel don’t change anything. All they do is ensure that more civilians and children are killed. We have rights, but we have to find another way of securing them” said a West Bank resident.
Israel’s dilemma is that its future as a Jewish state and democracy may today be as threatened as it was in the early years when Arab armies were determined to wipe it off the map.
Today’s decreasing options for a solution to the century-old conflict constitute the most serious existential threat facing Israel rather than Palestinian violence, despite the wounding earlier this week of eight people when a Palestinian gunman attacked a bus in East Jerusalem.
Israel’s increased focus on Iran comes at a time when the revival of the 2015 international agreement that curbed the Islamic republic’s nuclear program hangs in the balance.
Islamic Jihad maintains close ties to the Islamic republic. Ziad al-Nakhalah, the group’s top leader, was in Tehran meeting Iranian officials when Israel began its three-day operation against Gaza on August 5.
“Islamic Jihad has an open tab in Iran… Islamic Jihad in Gaza is a violent Iranian proxy,” Mr. Gantz said. He asserted that the group received tens of millions of dollars a year from Iran.
Journalist Ben Caspit noted that the assault on Islamic Jihad “was Israel’s first military operation against Gaza terrorist groups since 2009 from which it emerged with a sense of strategic victory” by “keeping Hamas out of the fighting, cutting Islamic Jihad down to size to contain its threat, and restoring its deterrence. On the other hand, metaphorically, the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) as the neighborhood bully took on the weakest kid on the bloc.”
With or without Iranian support, Palestinians have fared no better than Israelis by adhering to Mr. Einstein’s definition of insanity.
Palestinian violence in the 1970s and 1980s served its purpose by putting the Palestinian issue on the world’s agenda. However, it has since contributed to taking it off the agenda of some Arab states like the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain that in recent years established diplomatic relations with Israel and downgraded the issue’s importance to others like Saudi Arabia.
Add to that, a United States that has all but given up on pursuing peace between Palestinians and Israelis with no one willing to seriously replace America as a mediator, albeit a flawed one.
Palestinian Islamists continue to cling to the principle of armed resistance that primarily targets civilians in the illusion that violence will again succeed or in the hope that violence will keep Palestinians in the international public eye.
Meanwhile, despite making concessions such as recognizing Israel’s existence and abandoning the notion of armed struggle, moderates have failed to halt Israeli settlements and achieve a modicum of independence.
Moderation also has not prevented the hardening of Israeli public opinion and marginalization of the country’s dovish left.
Israel’s attack on Gaza in a bid to deal a fatal blow to Islamic Jihad, a group that rejects a negotiated resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, a coalition of armed groups on the West Bank, serves as the latest affirmation of Mr. Einstein’s definition.
The attack and the Palestinian response have done little more than widen the gap between Israelis and Palestinians, entrenching self-serving positions at a time of Israeli election maneuvering and mounting Palestinian frustration and lack of confidence in leadership.
The international community, as does the Palestinian Authority that administers parts of the West Bank, cling to the notion of a Palestinian state alongside Israel in areas conquered by the Israelis during the 1967 Middle East war even if the presence of 670,000 Israeli settlers in 152 settlements in the territory as well as East Jerusalem makes partition extremely difficult, if not impossible.
In the final analysis, the de facto removal of the two-state option as a viable solution, turns solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by opting for one state for both Palestinians and Jews into an existential threat to Israeli democracy if both groups do not enjoy equal rights or to the Jewish nature of the state if they do.
In theory, the only other option would be a three-way solution involving some sort of federation, including Israelis, Palestinians, and Jordanians. But that may not go down well with Jordanians and could potentially aggravate the demographic threat to Israel.
In sum, failure to implement a two-state solution when possible may have made a solution to the conflict more intractable and perpetuated cycles of violence that undermine Israel’s social fabric and democracy.
“If there is one thing completely missing from the public agenda in Israel, it is the long-term view. Israel does not look ahead, not even by half a generation… There is not a single Israeli, not one, who knows where his country is headed,” noted controversial Israeli columnist Gideon Levi.
Mr. Levy could have said the same about Palestinians who know what they want, have no idea how to get there, and, true to Mr. Einstein, stick to strategies that, at best, are unproductive and, at worst, counterproductive.
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