The tremors of the Israel-Hamas war are being felt not just in the Middle East, but around the world.
The Israel-Hamas conflict has once again brought the Palestinian quest for a viable country to the forefront.
The Hamas attack on October 7 and Israel’s retaliation have also destroyed the prospect of peace in the Middle East anytime soon. As major pro-Palestinian protests erupt in response to the Israeli onslaught, the threat of wider regional war seems all too real.
The Palestine-Israel conflict comes in the aftermath of the Abraham Accords in September 2020 – so named for the patriarch of the three Abrahamic religions – signed between Israel, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, facilitated by the US under then-President Donald Trump.
The Accords recognised the sovereignty of Israel and established full diplomatic ties between the signatories. While doing so, the Palestinian issue was consigned to the back burner. The Accords were followed by normalisation agreements between Israel, Morocco and Sudan, leading to the prospect of more Arab countries recognising Israel.
US President Joe Biden continued the Middle East policy of Trump and took it to another level by trying to normalise relations between two hitherto implacable adversaries – Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Perhaps a fear of Iran’s growing assertiveness also drove the Arab countries towards establishing friendly ties with Israel. These policy shifts inevitably meant backing away from their traditional position on Palestine and aligned well with US policy towards the Middle East.
In the process, the hopes and aspiration of the Palestinian people turned to outrage, anger and despair. They were ignored, and the eruption of that anger is now all too evident.
The Israel-Hamas war, therefore, is not really the ‘black-swan’ event some have made it out to be. And its tremors now threaten to shift the tectonic plates of geopolitics – not only in the Middle East, but also globally.
The basic assumption of the Abraham Accords – that there could be peace in the Middle East without addressing the Palestinian question – has come unstuck.
The process of Arab-Israel normalisation is in tatters. Even those Arab countries that sought to normalise ties with Israel have been forced to back off and criticise Tel Aviv.
The countries of the Global South today largely stand with the Palestinians. Most of them voted for a ‘humanitarian pause’ in the fighting in Gaza in a resolution passed by the UN General Assembly, with 121 countries voting in favour and 14 against, with 44 abstentions.
More than half a dozen countries, including South Africa, have withdrawn ambassadors or all their diplomats from Israel, in protest against its violence in the Gaza Strip.
Surprisingly, the Global South stands with Russia and China against the US-led pro-Israeli geopolitical formation, in stark contrast to its condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This could pose serious long-term threats to US strategic goals not only in the Middle East, but also in Africa and the Asia-Pacific, where it seeks to contain the influence of China.
On the other hand, countries like India which were historically at the forefront of espousing the Palestinian cause are today unwilling to make Israel uneasy by condemning its actions in Gaza. Although the final contours remain hazy, the war in Gaza is clearly reshaping geopolitics.