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No Winner In Gaza This Way

No Winner In Gaza This Way: Horrific to spectacular, Hamas attack in Israel is being painted with varying sentiments across the world. Innocents died due to those attacks and innocents continue to die in its aftermath due to Israeli action. Innocents have been dying anyways. No heavens have fallen yet. The question is who won? There is no winner in Gaza this way.

No Winner In Gaza This Way: Deeper Look

There are so many twists and turns in the age old history of the region. It is a very long struggle. War within wars. It is a conflict that has centuries old roots. Has God involved in it for all sides. Jerusalem is its epicenter. There is no single constituency that can claim to be its custodian. The region has shifted hands many times.

Being located in the middle of ancient civilizations, it has experienced tumultuous periods through its history. Most well known of course in the history have been the Crusades. A time of reflection perhaps; because it was when mostly united Christians fought against mostly united Muslims. Perhaps the first war of civilizations so to say. Ironically,  one of Salahuddin’s trusted physician was a Jew.

One may curse the Sykes-Picot agreement or the Balfour Declaration. Even if one accepts the argument of most Jews in Israel are ‘re-settlers’, one cannot in all conscious and based on evidence so far, accept that all those who were killed or kidnapped were not born on the soil or none of them were original ‘Yishuv’ or at least innocent human beings.

All beliefs and ethics do not allow innocent blood to be spilled. There is no chivalry in targeting unarmed civilians. If Hamas believes it has served the Palestinian cause, it seems a folly. In fact, these acts have actually pushed the hope of normal life a long way way down the road. The aftermath of this latest conflict will harden stances on both sides. Spectacular as it may seem, barbarism adds to hurdles rather than removing them.

Than there is a long list of grievances against Zionists whose desire for greater Israel have been a source of constant conflict. Alarmingly, it seems like a more deliberate attempt to antagonize the opponent lately rather than pursing a peaceful coexistence. Unless there is a greater goal, this continued conduct is nothing else but madness.

World acknowledges Israel’s atrocities in Palestine. There are number of UN resolutions. Some passed (most vetoed by the U.S.) in condemning Israel for its conduct and human rights violations in Palestine and specially Gaza strip.

Some 200,000 who were forced to leave their homes and settle in Gaza as a result of earlier Arab-Israel wars have now grown to more than 2 Million. Many have equated their misery to apartheid; largest open air prison; worst concentration camp. Reportedly, till the time of latest Hamas attack, IDF had killed 181 Palestinians including 38 children in 2023 alone. There has been an increase in repeated exchanges in Al Aqsa mosque as well.

Life in such humiliation is bound to garner resentment, anger and anxiety. One can see it in the eyes of ordinary Palestinians; a feeling of nothing else but acute hatred. Latest attacks, albeit extremely heinous as they targeted civilians, are to a considerable extent a product of this anger and resentment. Were these attacks unprovoked? It is a question that begs conscious attempt for a more realistic answer.

No Winner In Gaza This Way: The Intel Failure

Despite numerous attempts, grandiose plans and an unmatched military, Israel remains perplexed by this unending resistance. Soldiers of sling and stone have prevailed against all odds. Iron dome seemingly has failed.

In the aftermath many analysis have poured in on how and why Mossad has failed to warn this time. A more forward looking thought would be to understand that Mossad will fail in future as well. Strategically Israel should not be surprised. By its own atrocities and continued oppression, it should always expect and be prepared for a retaliation. Thus possibilities of intelligence failures will remain.

This is more likely a case of operational surprise. Something that Hamas has achieved which was thought unattainable. Students of asymmetric conflicts will always point to a simple fact. Every system is pregnable and opponents analyze enemy system’s vulnerabilities closely. Those who tend to take fences as a form of defense rather than the source of first warning are likely to be surprised more easily. For Israel this is a lesson relearnt after Yom Kippur War.

Not believing in the conspiracy theory that perhaps it was a deliberate oversight; it is surely a failure of intelligence for not evaluating the situation correctly and/or probably the decision makers coming to a different conclusion from what the field may have suggested.

This generally happens in two ways. One the lower rung fails to connect the dots. Second the due importance is not given to the piece of information on time by the decision makers. Remember 9/11. Surely, Israel’s Prime Minister would be feeling it more urgent to cash on the ‘unity’ rather than probing what went wrong where?

There are some rumors regarding possible Egyptian intelligence warning Israeli government regarding the attack. What kind of information and details were shared are unknown. Was it actionable intel is another question.

Perhaps a more detailed account may come out much later. Though, it would not be surprising that journalistic enthusiasm might bring out the reality earlier. After all, it is a question that everyone is asking.

No Winner In Gaza This Way:  All Systems Failure

It is however not the intelligence failure alone that needs probing; it was a system failure. Unless one does not conceive a possibility one does not prepare for it. That’s called hypothesis in military parlance. Second best option than is the inherent flexibility in preparation that enables protection against unforeseen to some extent.

In this case, probably it was not even a possibility that was considered. Clearly, IDF was not prepared for this attack nor had flexibility to respond quickly to minimize loss and seize back the initiative.

Those who will be watching these developments from a national security perspective or vested interests, whatever they may be, would be more interested in trying to find out how the system was defeated.  Operational details are murkier as many many pieces of the puzzle are yet missing.

Based on what can be seen on various mainstream channels covering the conflict there seems a great deal of coordination, unprecedented sophistication, concise command articulation and  yet simplicity in the Hamas plan. These are all high sounding words which would ring alarms in most power corridors. These are most likely the words world political and military leaders may have seen on their briefs recently.

Perhaps these are the words they did not expect or wish to hear coming from Middle East when all seemed hunky dory. If the powerful still do as they please, as they did in Thucydides time, isn’t it a reminder for the failed world system itself. If U.N. resolutions carry no meaning. How U.N. will carry any meaning. Haven’t Palestine suffered too long for this system failure.

At the local level there also exits another problem. If one agrees to the estimates that Hamas fired more than 5000 rockets in just 20 minutes to overwhelm the iron dome. Than one should agree that a sizeable area approximate to the border was used to hurl these projectiles. It also implies that the battlefield transparency on which the regular forces depend is not so transparent in Gaza. If that is the case, this conflict is likely to get more bloodier and more messy.

There is a question of battle and war. Israeli defense minister as reported by Al Jazeera called Palestinians in Gaza as ‘human animals’. If this is the vocabulary of the top defense official; what kind of military response one should expect. Right wing political leaders of Israel still do not understand that the policy of unrelenting punishment and suffering for the people of Palestine has hardened the resolve rather than weakening it.

Such a response may win a battle for Israel; it will loose the war. The result of this unprecedented targeting will trigger more hatred and more resentment, boosting Hamas cadres and support for their cause. Will there be a significant shift in majority Palestinian opinion regarding Hamas or not is to be seen. One possibility is a surety. Innocent Palestinians will be killed producing more ‘accidental guerillas’. This is also a system failure in Israel which has not been able to evolve its response to the Palestinian problem for too long.

No One Wins At Gaza This Way: What is at Stake?

Gaza is not at stake. There are far bigger forces at play. Most Israelis want Israel to be a normal state. Most Palestinians want independence. Some on both sides want total annihilation of the other. Yet for both it is impossible. There is a debate on the borders, where things may have to be settled. However, majority of the world agrees that there is no other possible solution than a two state solution.

Although, leading political scientists such as Stephen Walt of Harvard Kennedy School insist that continued pursuance of two state solution is not a right policy as it does not correlate to the changed ground realities. However, none offer a more plausible solution. Neither an explanation of what those changed realities are? Even two state solution is likely to face considerable hurdles, however, it is something that can be managed if of course both sides to the conflict agree to come to terms.

It has happened in the past. A more recent example is a split in Sudan. Compromises have been promised in the course of long going conflict resolution frameworks. On few occasions, some successes have been achieved beyond photo ops in Washington or at Camp David.

However, Neytanyahuism has become synonymous to the Establishment of Israel at least since 2009. In such a political situation, compromise is unlikely. In a fractured political system, right wing has clung to power albeit on occasions by the tip of their nails. Today is the opportunity for them to shine. Why would they let go of it?

These moments of political respite are likely to be short lived. As more evidence will pour in, it is likely that the present government will come under greater scrutiny and pressure. What is important to understand is that the Israeli retaliation will cause significant damage and loss of life, but it simply cannot wipe out Hamas. The very next attack Hamas will execute will shatter the gains squarely. Therefore, this vicious cycle will come again to a full circle. More and more Israelis are likely to get frustrated with their government as a result.

There is also struggle of factions, regional and global dominance. Various factions inside Palestine, Iran, Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, U.S.A, China and Russia all have stakes here. In an effort to try to make sense of it all, Hamas’s attack and Israel’s reaction needs to be seen in some larger perspective beyond freedom and Gaza.

With the ‘deal of the century’, things looked as if moving in some direction. Whether it is a right direction? It is debatable and needs to be seen. It is too early to judge. However, despite continued dismissal by the Palestinians, there was some glimmer of hope as well. Yet, fundamentally it was an exercise of letting Palestinians know as loud as possible that they cannot decide about their own future, alone.

Engagement can yield better results than no engagement. It keeps the doors open. Normalization would have favored regional peace and stability, specially if Saudi Arabia could be brought onboard. Indicators showed that it was not a far fetched dream. However, according to some analysis, Hamas has just put a spanner to that.

Muslim sentiment, specially the Arab street is unlikely to forgive Israel’s continued atrocities. Israel’s harshly vindictive response to the current Hamas attack is likely to add fuel to fire. After all there is prestige of Israeli military dominance at stake here.

In ordinary circumstances, Arab leaders would be deterred to take bold decisions that reflect accommodation of Israel. But MBS is not an ordinary Arab leader. It will not be surprising to see if normalcy of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia continue. These perhaps can be used as bargaining chip to cool down tensions.

Notwithstanding, this is a kink which all sides hoped to avoid. But this is something that cannot be totally ignored, specially by the Arab world, under changed circumstances. Hamas attack has again brought Palestinian issue to the limelight.

On the other hand, there has been rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia, recently. Although in the making for quite sometime, the news breathed new hope for conflict resolution efforts in the Middle East specially for war in Yemen. Although significant development and much talked about at the time, this normalization does not mean total alignment. Divergence is likely to continue on various issues.

Iran has been squarely blamed by Israel for the logistics and planning of attack by Hamas. Albeit no evidence has surfaced so far establishing direct links. In any case, as intelligence failure seems evident, it will take time to investigate and produce evidence of direct involvement.

Even if it is established, based on historical animosity between the two countries, world opinion on Israeli certainty is likely to remain divided.  In addition, if Iran does come out to be extensively involved, what options Israel will have to react. What will be the public opinion in such a case?

In such a scenario it is likely that Israel may resort to revenge by orchestrating some action in mainland Iran. However, with enhanced regional integration, options for such an action are likely to be curtailed. Israel has to be cognizant of the national security requirements of its newly found friends in the Middle East specially when risk of spilling over of conflict remains.

One can rebuke this as a usual political rhetoric also. One may also come to a conclusion that such an undertaking with seemingly advanced shoulder launch missiles and other sophisticated equipment, as being displayed in various videos both in mainstream and social media, would not be possible without external support.

Arguably multiple rockets, powered gliders and armed drones are technologies unlikely to be solely generated in Gaza or Palestine. Albeit, ingenuity of Hamas is unquestioned. As an IDF member once indulged that they would use poles from the street signs to make rockets.

A plan is simple when everyone knows what they are supposed to do. High tempo swift incursion and ensuing chaos indicates that everyone involved knew what they needed to achieve. This needs practice. It is impossible to achieve this level of success on paper alone. This brings forth the more pressing of a problem for all those who see Iranian proxies as a threat regardless of Iranian involvement here or its stance.

Although such acts are not sustainable for long to create any existential threat for the opponent; they do create turbulences, often sufficient for a regime to resuscitate on the world stage, which otherwise seems to be fizzling out of its former might on the domestic front.  Warning though for the wise would be that regardless of the regime at helm, policies are unlikely to change significantly specially towards Israel. Strategic cultures do not untangle with a replaced head.

Therefore, this capacity of Iran to create troubles almost all around Saudi Arabia such as in Bahrain, Yemen, Palestine, Lebanon and sizeable Shia population inside Saudi Arabia itself, is something that would always be in calculus of mutual relationships. In this perspective, the rapprochement is heeled on the good will of Iran. It does not take much effort to retrigger conflict at will.

With the situation normalizing between Iran and Saudi Arabia and easing of situation in Yemen, additional resources are available to Iran to be utilized elsewhere. With situation in Syria pretty much favorable, Hizbullah can also revert considerable attention, especially post Hamas attack, towards Israel.

Although some fires have been reported; Hizbullah has mainly remained confined to statements of support. But the threat remains real and at least results in dilution of Israeli resources. While Iran is likely to continue to leverage its influence for its own political objectives. It will not be surprising though to see enhanced Israeli actions against Hizbullah in the near future specially if some meaningful successes are gained in Gaza.

Another important country to look at is Turkey. Turkey, under president Erdogan has drifted away from the cozy relationships of the past towards bumpy roads. Turkey has been a supporter of Palestinian cause much more actively under the present regime. However, things are different from the past.

Turkey has ongoing conflicts in Syria, Libya, Nogorno Karabakh and Ukraine. Turkey is also performing marginally on the economic front. Last presidential elections also indicated falling popularity of Turkish president. In these circumstances Turkey’s options to support Palestinians is limited specially in the face of Israeli total air and sea blockade of Gaza duly supported by a U.S. Navy career group some 50 miles off the coast. Very recently U.S. forces in Syria have shot down a Turkish fighter. Something to watch for.

A longer term issue relates to the economic progression and regional connectivity. Both China and India are eyeing connectivity towards Mediterranean and Europe through Israel. China and India have made billion dollars investment in Israel’s Haifa port. Both countries however have issued interesting statements.

China had previously offered mediation between the parties to Palestinian conflict with Xi’s three part proposal. In the aftermath of Hamas attack, China has declared the injustices to the Palestinian people as the crux of the matter and did not condemn Hamas. Something that disappointed Israelis.

China understands that without resolution of the conflict business interests will always remain threatened. Secondly, China cannot be seen in the same camp as U.S. Condemning Hamas brings it closer to U.S. stance.

China has growing interest and investments in Iran. Again something that needs consideration while taking sides. China also has more at stake with the Arab countries in Middle East than Israel. Lastly, China can sit on the side and watch the events unfold; while its great power rival has no other option but to remain involved. R.I.P. pivot to Asia.

India on the other hand has issued contrasting statements indicative of indecision of policy. Narendra Modi has expressed shock over the ‘terrorist attacks’. While Indian foreign ministry spokesperson, while also stating that India sees it as a terrorist attack, reiterated India’s stance on an independent Palestinian state and subsequently also observed after the Israeli response that ‘there is a universal obligation to observe international humanitarian law’. What an irony based on the recent Indian human rights track record.

It is interesting to note that both China and India have fundamentally pointed to the fact that the conflict is basically due to non implementation of U.N resolutions. Both have pointed to their understanding of how the issue can be resolved.

Similarly, in the immediate aftermath of the Hamas attacks, predictions have surfaced regarding slowing down of Natural gas investments in the area with Israel directing companies to shut down production. If this pattern continues, Israel’s natural gas export plans for Europe are likely to remain hampered with supply chain threats.

One of beneficiary so to say of Hamas attack has been Russia. Ukraine seemingly has gone back stage a little as media focus has shifted to Gaza. Israel has provided military hardware and according to some analysts intelligence support to Ukraine. Similarly, Russia has practically saved Assad’s regime in Syria. Something that bothers Israel. Russia also has strong relations with Iran. Therefore there is no love lost between the two.

Russia has come all gun blazing on its media rhetoric of support for the Palestinian cause and condemning U.S. failed policies in the Middle East. Israel has also been cautioned by none other than Putin himself against the option of ground attack terming it ‘unacceptable’. What Russia can do against Israel if it chooses to launch a ground assault on Gaza is debatable specially in the face of its ongoing war in Ukraine. However, when Putin says something is unacceptable it would be advisable to take him more seriously. Is Palestine or Gaza its red line. No.

Last is the curious case of U.S. Nothing seems to be going Biden’s way. Desperately trying to woo Middle East to support actions, that ensure effectiveness of sanctions against Russia, such as oil pricing and production, Biden administration has so far seen the opposite.

Now, U.S. compulsions will likely create more rifts than bridge the differences. Already U.S. efforts at the U.N. Security Council closed door session to condemn Hamas have seen resistance and not from usual suspects alone. OIC has not condemned Hamas. Although not reported, it is highly unlikely that the UAE Ambassador at the U.N Security Council, as the Arab representative, would have supported it either.

Another aspect is the long standing grievance of the Muslim world, specifically Arabs, against U.S. due its staunch support for Israel in all spheres specially diplomatic and military. Apart from Obama Administration, there has been no government in U.S. that has tried to distance itself from Israel. There is a lot of evidence in support of the argument that Israel would not exist and behaved the way it has over the years against innocent Palestinians without U.S. support. Again U.S. obligations and interests collide against this wall to harden it.

Trying to keep the Ukraine war protracted, U.S. would have hoped to keep concentrating on one of it’s own core issues rather than being obliged to support others. An aircraft carrier group has immediately been tasked to remain poised and possibly provide support to IDF. This does not create much of stress militarily, however, its a nuisance well avoided if possible. In any case an aircraft carrier has limited capacity to effect outcomes on land specially in densely populated areas. Though it does signal resolve.

Although merely a technical point, there should be some concern regarding law of armed conflict. Israel government has declared war. As per international law, party supporting a party militarily in war becomes a party in war. U.S. forces are thus legitimate targets so to say. Who hits you in this grey-hybrid world, you never know.  Remember Nord Stream.

Already there is resistance at home when it comes to continued support for Ukraine War. With the media attention significantly distracted, no one knows for how long, it becomes difficult to continually shape public opinions favorably.

There is no hurdle in support for Israel in terms of military hardware or other resources. However, public opinion specially if IDF continues to take revenge from innocent Palestinians will be difficult to helm in favor of continued support for Israel. Although 9/11 sentiments do prevail; American public is now more educated to the realities of this decades old conflict because of what happened on 9/11.

For U.S. there is also a fear of another failure on the international front. When do one convince Israel to stop? What if Israel does not listen? What one looks like then? Although not said in this context, General David Petraeus question ‘tell me how it ends?’ should be ringing in the minds of Tony Blinken, Lloyd Austin and more importantly in Joe Biden’s head. Because it is he who has plans to run for reelection.

There is also a greater headache that looms. If this declaration of war results in a ground offensive than what will be U.S. options. That eventuality will surely mean that the conflict will be protracted, there will be enhanced strain on U.S. resources, there will be public bashing both at home and abroad. Middle East may further drift away from U.S., economic impacts may compound if Suez Canal is disrupted and oil prices may cause greater hardships while benefitting Russia and reducing focus from Ukraine. These are all the issues over which U.S. will have limited control. With the election year fast approaching, no presidential candidate would like to entangle themselves in this great abyss.

Ground offensive is being talked of. However, it will be a very important decision. To start with the Hamas attack itself indicates lack of IDF capacity to monitor Gaza. Reserves have been called on before and have achieved varying degrees of success. However, urban warfare in densely populated and hostile environment is a different ball game specially when the opponent has the advantage of local knowledge and support. What will be the ground objective; at least wiping off Hamas.

Hamas at the maximum will dilute; it will not finish because Hamas is an idea not an organization alone. It will cost economically as well as in blood and toil; when nothing tangibly lasting is achieved there will be more questions to the purpose of the offensive. Where will more than 2 Million people go? Gaza can be shrunk in size but what will be gained. The issue will remain alive. Most importantly the fate of those who have been kidnapped remains balanced on a thin hair. The moment that line on land is crossed, their lives will most likely end terribly.

No Winner In Gaza This Way: The Real Loser

The real loser here is the innocent human on both sides of fence. No death of an innocent Israeli is justified as no death of an innocent Palestinian is justified. Unless all sides learn to be accommodating and cautious to sensitivity of religious beliefs and rights of others; all sides will see many dark days ahead. But it is easier said than done. However, a good starting point will be to start treating inhabitants of Gaza at least as humans.

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4 Responses

  1. I am no longer certain where you’re getting your information, however good topic. I must spend some time studying more or figuring out more. Thanks for wonderful information I used tobe looking for this info for my mission.

  2. I wonder how much work goes into creating a website this excellent and educational. I’ve read a few really good things here, and it’s definitely worth saving for future visits.

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4 Responses

  1. I am no longer certain where you’re getting your information, however good topic. I must spend some time studying more or figuring out more. Thanks for wonderful information I used tobe looking for this info for my mission.

  2. I wonder how much work goes into creating a website this excellent and educational. I’ve read a few really good things here, and it’s definitely worth saving for future visits.

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