Renewed Tensions: Israel-Gaza Conflict Sparks Regional Instability

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 Israel-Palestine Conflict: Renewed Tensions and Regional Implications

Since October 7, Israel's intense assault on the Gaza Strip has reignited widespread Arab sympathy for Palestinians. This renewed focus comes after years of international neglect, internal divisions, and the influence of hardline politics in Israel.

Arab leaders are concerned that the resurgence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could destabilize the Middle East, potentially leading to a broader war with severe consequences. However, they are also cautious about public demonstrations of solidarity with Palestinians, fearing these could escalate into demands for domestic reforms.

In 2011, Arab uprisings led to the overthrow of several autocrats, but also resulted in civil wars, military repression, and widespread disillusionment. Today, from Morocco to the Gulf, leaders channel anti-Israel sentiment while also curbing protests and cracking down on political activists.

Rising Tensions Since October 7

Arab rulers, focused on their own agendas, were as shocked as the rest of the world when Hamas fighters broke out of Gaza on October 7, killing about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking around 250 hostages. Israel's response has been severe, with the Palestinian Health Ministry reporting 35,800 Gazans killed, mostly civilians. The once-inhabitable Strip now faces extreme famine and suffering among its 2.3 million residents.

Israel has maintained control over Gaza’s land, sea, and air access since withdrawing troops in 2002, and tightened the blockade with Egypt's assistance after Hamas took power in 2007. In the West Bank, over 500 Palestinians, including gunmen, protesters, and bystanders, have been killed since October 7, alongside 10 Israeli fatalities.

Jordan's Delicate Position

Despite strong rhetoric from Arab capitals, Palestinians find few unwavering allies among Arab states. Some countries have peace treaties or normalization deals with Israel, which are often unpopular among their citizens. Arab leaders, while outraged by Israel's actions, maintain ties with Israel for economic, diplomatic, or security reasons.

Jordan is particularly concerned about the potential expulsion of Palestinians from the West Bank into its territory, reminiscent of past forced displacements in 1948 and 1967. With many of its citizens of Palestinian origin, Jordan faces internal tensions. Former Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher has noted that Israeli authorities aim to reduce the Palestinian population in the territories they control.

Jordan, which relies on the U.S. for protection, signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994. Despite mostly cold relations, they cooperate on security and intelligence. This was evident when Jordan helped intercept Iranian drones aimed at Israel on April 13, claiming it was to protect its own airspace.

Egypt's Stance and Actions

Egypt, like Jordan, opposes any new Palestinian exodus. It has urged international pressure to prevent Israel from pushing Gazans into the Sinai Peninsula. Despite its dislike for Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt has mediated for a ceasefire. However, a deal collapsed after Israel launched a ground assault on Rafah, forcing over 800,000 Gazans to flee again.

To appease domestic outcry, Egypt announced it would join South Africa’s genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice. Despite the court ordering Israel to halt its Rafah offensive on May 24, citing civilian danger, the assault continues. Egypt's 1979 peace treaty with Israel has withstood tensions over Gaza.

Lebanon's Volatile Situation

Lebanon, still technically at war with Israel, faces threats from Hezbollah. Since October 7, exchanges of fire between Hezbollah and Israeli forces have prompted civilian exoduses on both sides of the border. Israeli attacks have killed around 270 Hezbollah fighters and 50 civilians, while Hezbollah rocket fire has killed at least seven Israeli civilians and about 10 soldiers. An all-out war remains a looming threat.

Israel, still reeling from Hamas’s incursion, cannot tolerate similar threats from Hezbollah. The use of white phosphorus munitions by Israel in both Gaza and south Lebanon has drawn condemnation from human rights organizations, indicating an effort to deter civilian presence in potential conflict zones.

 Impact on Regional Diplomacy

The Gaza conflict has disrupted U.S. efforts to broker a normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Riyadh, in exchange for recognizing Israel, sought a U.S.-Saudi defense pact and cooperation on a civilian nuclear program. However, Saudi Arabia has conditioned the deal on ending the Gaza war and commitments to a Palestinian state. 

U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken acknowledged that Israel might not proceed with the deal due to current circumstances. Palestinian statehood remains a contentious issue for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

International efforts, such as recognizing Palestine as a state and pursuing judicial actions against Israeli leaders, may have limited impact on ending the conflict. Israel, supported by the U.S., continues its policies of force and repression, thwarting coexistence with an independent Palestinian state. The international community’s inaction over two decades has left the conflict to escalate, as evidenced by the recent violence.


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