The Israeli-Palestinian conflict threatens to spread across the region and exacerbate great power competition. As United States military bases in Iraq and Syria come under drone attacks more and more frequently, a U.S. destroyer in the Red Sea shot down cruise missiles that the Houthi rebels in Yemen fired at Israel – harassing fire from Iran’s proxies.
Perhaps more important was a war of words between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Unhappy with the recent deployment of U.S. aircraft carriers to the Eastern Mediterranean, Putin stated last week in China that “the Russian Aerospace Forces will begin patrols on a permanent basis over the Black Sea and the aircraft will be armed with Kinzhal systems.” He insisted that his statement was “not a threat.” Addressing the American people upon returning home from Israel, Biden, in turn, pledged to reinforce Israel’s defenses and talked about Putin and Hamas in the same sentence: “We cannot and will not let terrorists like Hamas and tyrants like Putin win. I refuse to let that happen.”
The Biden administration maintains that Israel’s adversaries must conclude that the country is more powerful than ever to prevent the spread of violence. Ironically, Israel’s plan to destroy Hamas represents a maximalist goal that itself renders the spread of violence inevitable. The country does not seem to have an exit strategy. Replacing Hamas with the Palestinian administration in Gaza remains far from applicable. If anything, Israel’s current policy encourages organizations that are far more violent than Hamas.
Furthermore, the Israeli plan to occupy part of Gaza and drive the Palestinians to Egypt and Jordan might elicit a strong response from other countries in the region. Indeed, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi promptly said that the forced relocation of Palestinians from Gaza to the Sinai would be rejected by millions of Egyptians and transform the Egyptian peninsula into a base for counterattacks against Israel. Last week’s protests in Cairo, too, highlighted that people across the region are growing more and more frustrated over the massacres in Gaza. The Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s call for the establishment of a Palestinian state in line with the 1967 borders was in line with the views of the Arab street. Another important point is that the current state of affairs creates a common ground between Türkiye, Egypt and Saudi Arabia – which pursued normalization quite recently. Insisting on the annihilation of Gaza shall further isolate Israel.
Air and discourse
Although U.S. and European media outlets cover Israel’s views more extensively than others, the exile of Palestinians from Gaza and the killing of civilians by blocking humanitarian aid causes the entire world to oppose Israel and the U.S. as its supporter. At the same time, Israel’s discourse on the right to self-defense becomes less influential and the country loses the propaganda war despite Washington’s unwavering support.
The killing of civilians causes people in many countries to describe Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policy toward Gaza with reference to Daesh and the Nazis – the same words that Israel uses to describe Hamas.
It is difficult to recall any other point in Türkiye’s recent history when the government and the opposition completely agreed on anything. The popular sentiment would not only make it easier for the fighting to spread across the region but also encourage Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies to attack Israeli and American targets.
It goes without saying that such developments would play into the hands of Russia and China. Indeed, Putin has the upper hand in the war of words between himself and Biden because the current situation shifts attention away from Ukraine and leads many people to conclude that the U.S. cannot (or simply won’t) contain Israel.
People care about the facts – not politicians warning Israel not to repeat Washington’s post-9/11 mistakes or calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state. At this point, even some Israeli newspapers, including Haaretz, urge their government to stop the massacre because “the war has no clear and realistic objective” and Tel Aviv has “absolutely no answer to what will happen the following day.”
Source: Daily Sabah / Burhanettin Duran