Six thoughts on Israel and Gaza

After issuing an evacuation order for 1.1 million Palestinians in north Gaza, Israel has reportedly delayed its ground invasion in part due to poor weather.

So here are six factors we’re tracking:

  1. 🇮🇱 Israel’s internal dynamics

Israel says its goal in Gaza will be “the rout of Hamas and the elimination of its leaders after the slaughter they perpetrated”.

But there’s little clarity on the contours of that goal, and less clarity still on Israel’s plans thereafter: few Israelis want another occupation, fewer still want any continued role for Hamas, and there’s little prospect of any external force emerging as a willing, able, or acceptable replacement.

So there’s talk of some kind of arrangement with the Palestinian factions running the West Bank. But they’d have little (if any) local legitimacy arriving in Gaza off the back of an Israeli invasion.

And this is all complicated by a fog of national anger and trauma; sentiment turning against Netanyahu; and the window of Western support inevitability narrowing as the humanitarian consequences in Gaza unfold.

  1. 🇵🇸 Internal Palestinian political dynamics

Hamas would’ve anticipated Israeli retaliation, but it seemingly miscalculated the degree to which Iran and others were willing to then step in directly.

So it’s hard to see Hamas leaders in Gaza surviving Israeli retaliation; likewise for its political leaders abroad (intriguingly, the Four Seasons has denied claims that Hamas leaders are at the luxury chain’s Doha hotel).

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority leader in the West Bank, Mahmoud Abbas, has increasingly emphasised a distinction between Hamas and the Palestinian people, foreshadowing more of a role for the Authority ahead.

  1. 🇮🇷 Iran 

Iran’s other key proxy in the region (Hezbollah to Israel’s north) has so far limited its actions to within its long-standing but unofficial rules of engagement with Israel. And the group seemed to dial back its rhetoric yesterday (Sunday) after clashes with Israel along the Lebanon border.

So it’s possible that, notwithstanding rhetoric to the contrary, Iran doesn’t seem to be rushing to open up another front against Israel. And the sizeable new US military deployment off Israel would factor into Tehran’s thinking.

But the longer this all drags out and the worse the civilian toll in Gaza becomes, the higher the probability that Tehran’s calculation changes.

  1. 🇪🇬 Egypt 

Egypt’s immediate priorities are its own regime stability and economic crisis, particularly ahead of December’s elections. And Cairo assesses that allowing large numbers of fleeing Palestinians out of Gaza and onto its restive Sinai territory would complicate both of these objectives.

But its military seems to be establishing a buffer 5km from Egypt’s Gaza border, so Cairo may be keeping its options open pending any concessions (such as debt relief) it can extract from the international community.

  1. 🇷🇺 Russia

For Moscow, this is all a timely global distraction from its invasion of Ukraine, and a further stretching of the West’s bandwidth to respond. So it’s seeking to sow tensions between Israel and Ukraine abroad, while mounting a massive (and so far very costly) offensive around Ukraine’s Avdiyivka.

For its part Ukraine, mindful of this dynamic, was quick to condemn the Hamas attacks, and there’s talk of President Zelensky visiting Israel soon.

  1. 🇨🇳 China

China held pro-Palestinian positions as far back as the Mao era, and its initial “all parties” statement last week angered Israel. But for now, this approach probably reflects Beijing’s general preference to avoid directly taking sides if it can. And this in turn highlights that there are still real limits to its power.

Also worth noting:

  • Media outlets continue to report on the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza following Israel’s siege and evacuation order.
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