Understanding The New Context of The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict
Photo by AFP/Ahmad Gharabli
This article was written by Dr Abdul Razak Ahmad, Amirun Hamman Azram and Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin.
Over the past few weeks, the situation in Gaza has escalated at a jarring pace that the international community, including Malaysia, can no longer ignore. The situation has become more complex as more countries are involving themselves to find the best solution. With that said, there are several elements that we must understand.
We have to acknowledge that the Palestinian resistance movement is very strong, in fact stronger than ever. Palestinian in Gaza, West Bank and in the occupied territory are united in their resistance – and the world is beginning to notice at a scale previously unseen. But it is Hamas that has gained the most. It has positioned itself as not only the main, but the sole force of resistance against Israel’s occupation and aggression, very much in contrast to the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority which is increasingly seen by most Palestinians as having grown weak. Hamas is expected to experience a surge in support, and it will be an uphill battle for the US and other western powers to have the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority remain the main conduit for peace negotiations. The world can no longer ignore Hamas as they are indeed a key stakeholder of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Remember, this is a war principally between Israel and Hamas, and Hamas has made it very clear that they will continue to resist the Israeli forces and demand a seat at the negotiating table. Any future dealings must include Hamas as a legitimate player in the discussion or peace talks will continue to fail.
The turning tides has also brought a new political dynamic in the Middle East. Egypt, Turkey, Iran, Qatar, and Tunisia have all played vital roles in providing diplomatic and humanitarian aid to Palestine. These countries have been at the forefront, either in brokering the ceasefire or highlighting the struggle of the Palestinians on the global stage. Turkey intensified its public diplomacy by urging Muslim countries to display a clear stand in support of the Palestinian cause. Egypt and Jordan have emerged to become crucial players as they successfully brokered a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. Pakistan, on behalf of OIC, has called for a special session in the UN Human Rights Council to address the humanitarian crisis which has led to an open-ended international investigation into the violence and systematic oppression committed by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories. Iran has for decades supported Hamas and the Palestinian cause by providing financial, political, and technological support. Qatar and Egypt pledged USD500 million each to rebuilding and reconstructing the besieged Gaza Strip immediately after the announcement of ceasefire. This new dynamic also indicates that the UAE and Bahrain diplomatic concession through normalisation of diplomatic relations with Israel failed to deliver any leverage with the Israelis. Even worse, they have arguably lost the trust and credibility among the Muslim community globally.
We have also seen a drastic change in attitude from the US administration, the EU, and Western communities. In a matter of 1 week, there have been 8 phone calls between Biden and Netanyahu, which indicates a huge dynamic shift considering how the US has previously been silent and fully supportive towards their Israel counterpart. The US are now more vocal against Israel’s occupation policy and have repeatedly told Israel and other parties involved to de-escalate the situation. While US foreign policy remains closely calibrated with what Israel’s strategic goals, a shift in the current paradigm is possible. The United States continue to regard Hamas as ‘a terrorist organisation’, but at the same time it is in deep negotiations with the Taliban over shared interests. Ireland has become the first country in the EU to declare the building of Israeli settlements in Palestine as de facto annexation and a violation of international law. Russia has also urged Israel to stop all settlement activities in the occupied Palestine territories. This is no longer an issue of defeating Hamas, but a question of the credible, material, and ideological survival of the Israeli state.
The recent conflict also wiped out the so called “Abraham Accord”, a middle east peace plan brokered by Jared Kushner, President Trump’s shadow secretary of state. The accord, signed in August 2020, aimed at building peace by normalising relations between Israel and several Arab countries. It was negotiated without the participation of the Palestinian representatives. In a piece by Jared published by World Street Journal in March 2021, he arrogantly dismissed the Palestian-Isreali conflict as “nothing more than a real-estate dispute”. To Jared, the resolution to the conflict is best achieved not through West Bank, Gaza, or Jerusalem, but through normalising relation with UAE and other Arab states. The recent conflict showed how ignorant and shallow minded Jared and the Trump administration was. The Palestinian-Israel conflict is not a real estate dispute, nor could it be resolved through normalising relations of other Arab states with Israel. While Israel had won almost all the battle against the Palestinian, the recent event has an important lesson for the Israelis – they will never win the war unless they find a path to peace with the Palestinians through the two state solutions based on the 1967 border.
International communities and organisations have also ramped up the pressure on Israel, suggesting that the Netanyahu regime is guilty of committing apartheid and genocide. The chief prosecutor of ICC has voiced her concern over the violence between Israel and Palestine, stating possible war crimes committed by Israel. The OIC, the pan-Islamic body based in Jeddah, has repeatedly condemned Israel for their continued aggressions towards the people of Palestine. UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet has also stated that Israel’s attack may constitute war crimes if it is found to be disproportionate. The UN has dubbed Gaza as “the world’s largest open-air prison”. Human Rights Watch, an independent international campaign group, has condemned Israel of committing apartheid and prosecution against the people of Palestine in the occupied territories.
Finally, the recent conflict has reached a contemporary and radical tone. We have seen the emergence of Generation-Z and their social justice activism, which has aided in an outpouring of support in solidarity with Palestinians globally, both in the occupied territories and amongst the diasporas. Activists in support of Palestinian resistance and self-determination are taking their protests to the street in peaceful demonstrations against the actions of Israel. Never have we seen such groundswell support for Palestinian freedom not only from ordinary people across the globe but also from celebrities, eminent individuals, and political and human rights campaigners. It is now the citizens of the world versus the Israeli regime, thanks in large part to Gen-Z.