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Qatar’s pragmatic foreign policy and its global clout

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Please use the sharing tools found via the share button at the top or side of articles. Copying articles to share with others is a breach of FT.com T&Cs and Copyright Policy. Email licensing@ft.com to buy additional rights. Subscribers may share up to 10 or 20 articles per month using the gift article service. More information can be found at https://www.ft.com/tour. https://www.ft.com/content/1d93fef9-06f4-459f-9266-5d3b9272a495 President Ebrahim Raisi held talks with Qatar’s emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani in Doha in February, the first visit by an Iranian president to Qatar in a decade © Qatar News Agency

Iran and the US resumed talks for the revival of the Iran Nuclear Deal 2015/Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in Qatar, with mediation from the European Union (EU) on June 28, 2022. These talks which carried on for two days ended without making any progress.

EU Chief Josep Borrell had visited Iran, last week, and held talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, with regard to resumption of talks. Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian had said last week that Tehran was prepared to resume talks, as long as it received the economic benefits of the 2015 accord. After his meeting with the Iranian Foreign Minister, Borrell tweeted:

   ‘In a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian we agreed on resumption of negotiations between Iran and US in the coming days, facilitated by my team, to solve the last outstanding issues’.

The stumbling blocks between Iran and other signatories to the revival of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal have been ; Iran’s expansion of its nuclear program, and its removal of 27 International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) cameras. The US, France, the UK and Germany introduced a resolution which censured Iran for this step. Apart from this, Iran has also been demanding that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) be removed from the US’ foreign terrorist organisation list, something Washington has been resisting. Israel has also been opposing the Iran nuclear deal (though it has recently changed its stance and has said that it is willing to accept a deal which threatens the security of the Middle East).

While sections of the Iranian media were critical of the talks held in Qatar, a senior Iranian diplomat said that they were held in a professional atmosphere, and that Iran would explore ways of taking forward negotiations.

The US has been keen for a revival of the deal in order to keep global oil prices in check in the aftermath of the Ukrainian crisis. Iran has in fact been selling oil in spite of its sanctions to a number of countries (though China has reduced its purchase of oil from Iran, since it is importing from Russia at a much cheaper price). The US State Department while commenting on the talks held in Doha was critical of Iran, saying:

‘Indirect discussions in Doha have concluded, and while we are very grateful to the EU for its efforts, we are disappointed that Iran has, yet again, failed to respond positively to the EU’s initiative and therefore that no progress was made,’

One of the other important dimension of the talks was that they were held in Qatar. Qatar’s strategic clout has risen for a number of reasons in recent years; talks between the Taliban and the US, which began in 2020, were held in Doha, it played an important role in reducing tensions between Israel and Palestine in 2021, after the Taliban takeover, in August 2021, Qatar helped in the evacuations of US citizens as well as citizens of countries, and it has agreed to represent  US interests in Afghanistan since the US embassy in Afghanistan has closed. It would be pertinent to also point out that even before the Ukraine crisis, US has been asking Qatar to supply oil to Europe.

During the visit of Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to the US in January 2022, US President Joe Biden announced that Qatar would be declared a major Non-Nato ally. In March 2022, a formal announcement was made in this context.

While post the Ukraine crisis, western countries have been looking to Qatar to fulfil their oil needs, the latter has also had close economic ties with Russia, the Qatar Investment authority holds a 19% stake in Russian oil company Rosneft.

Gulf countries and Qatar’s strategic clout

  Other Gulf countries, particularly Saudi Arabia had not been happy with Qatar’s strategic importance not just within the Middle East, but globally as well (in 2017, Saudi Arabia was one of the countries which had imposed a blockade on Qatar). In fact, Saudi Arabia’s reset of ties within the Middle East, including ties with Turkey and Iran, has been attributed to Qatar’s increasing diplomatic clout in the Middle East. UAE too has been keeping a close watch on Qatar’s rise, and Taliban’s decision to hand over the management of airports in Herat, Kabul and Kandahar, to Abu Dhabi-based firm GAAC Solutions is significant in this context (this was a surprising move since Taliban had been in talks with Turkey and Qatar for management of airports)

Qatar’s role in the talks, even though they have not been successful,  will once again help in raising its strategic clout. It is the only GCC country which shares cordial ties with Iran and this was one of the reasons why a blockade was imposed on it by Gulf countries in 2017.

While Qatar would have wanted the recent negotiations between Iran and other signatories to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal to have been successful, the talks being held in Doha are a reminder of the fact that it is a crucial player not just in the Middle East, but globally. An independent foreign policy and the ability to not get stuck in a zero-sum trap has stood the country in good stead.

Tridivesh Singh Maini is a New Delhi based Policy Analyst associated with The Jindal School of International Affairs, OP Jindal Global University, Sonipat, India

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Sino- Arab Relations: Velvet Hopes and Tragic Realities

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Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, with Saudi King Salman during a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, March 16, 2017. (Lintao Zhang Pool Photo via AP)

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.

Electrified Railway

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.

Education

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.

Military Troops

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.

Silk Road

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

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.

Security Expenditure

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.

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The Intensifying War in Yemen: World’s worst Humanitarian crisis

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Devastation caused by protracted conflict in Yemen. Photo: UNDP Yemen

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.

Civilian casualties:

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.

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Israelis and Palestinians agree on one thing: Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity

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Much of Gaza City has been damaged as a result of Israeli air strikes. (file photo) © UNRWA/Mohamed Hinnawi

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.

To be sure, Israeli officials have linked the Gaza operation to stepped-up Israeli countering of Iran, widely viewed as the greatest threat to the existence of a Jewish state.

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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