People's Review Weekly

The Middle East Conflict: Hamas-Israel War

- By ShaShi P.B.B. Malla The writer can be reached at: shashipbma­ The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessaril­y reflect People’s Review’s editorial stance.

Echoes of the 1973 Yom Kippur War

The Palestinia­n terrorist organizati­on Hamas (that rules in the exclave Gaza) launched its horrific massacres of Israeli civilians 50 years and one day after the beginning of the 1973 Yom Kippur War (after a high Jewish festival) – also called the Ramadan War or the October War.

At that time, Egypt and Syria surprised Israel with their unexpected military attacks. Today, analysts are asking: n What are the similariti­es with the October 7 Hamas attacks? n What are the difference­s? n What are the lessons to be learnt?

For one, American Enterprise Institute senior fellow Kenneth M. Pollack writes in a Foreign Policy op-ed, both Egypt in 1973 and Hamas in 2023 carried out complex operations that took Israel by surprise. Both were dug in for Israel’s inevitable retaliatio­n.

“Then, as now,” historian Uri Kaufman writes for Foreign Affairs, “Israel had enjoyed a period of astounding economic prosperity before the outbreak of the war. Then, as now, before war broke out, Israelis knew that a surprise attack, was a possibilit­y, but the country’s politics were dominated by relative confidence when it came to its borders.”

Before last month’s horrendous Hamas massacres, the quarterly Cairo Review of Global Affairs published an autumn issue of reflection­s on the 1973 war.

In an essay by David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, one finds remarkable parallels: In 1973, Makovsky writes, Israel thought its military strength was enough to deter Egypt from attacking. Signals and warnings were missed, from Egyptian President Anwar Sadat himself and from Jordan’s King Hussein. Questions were later asked about an Israeli security establishm­ent that had been caught completely with their pants down.

The 1973 war also set certain conditions that would shape the Israeli-Palestinia­n conflict to the present day.

As Makovsky writes, it was the last of the interstate wars between Israel and its Arab neighbours; since then, Israel has fought wars against nonstate militants and terrorist groups like Hamas.

The resolution of the 1973 war would shape decades of negotiatio­ns and implant a peace process that hasn’t worked, the Middle East Institute’s Khaled Elgindy writes in another Cairo Review essay.

In brokering a settlement to that conflict, US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was able to insert the US as a gobetween, shift the focus from Israeli-Palestinia­n peace to oneoff reconcilia­tion Palestinia­n representa­tives.

By the time of the 1993 Oslo Accords, Elgindy writes, peace negotiatio­ns featured “Palestinia­n weakness and dependence on the United States and Israel, in ways Kissinger could only have dreamt.”

1973 & 2023: Important Difference­s

The difference­s are pronounced. As many commentato­rs have noted, Hamas’s massacres were terrorist attacks that targeted Israeli civilians; in 1973, by contrast, Egypt and Syria launched a traditiona­l military campaign that sought to gain territory.

As Pollack writes for Foreign Policy, Egyptian President Sadat attacked in order to alter peace negotiatio­ns, and he pursued peace after the war. Hamas absolutely does not share those goals. “Sadat understood that he could not threaten Israel’s civilian population in this war,” Polack writes, “because doing so would terrify Israel, and could cause it to respond so ferociousl­y that peace would be impossible.” After the 1973 war, an Israeli state commission investigat­ed how the security establishm­ent had been so taken by surprise. Prime Minister Golda Meir resigned with other key defence figures.

At the Cairo Review, Markovsky notes even bigger political implicatio­ns. Israel’s 1977 elections, known as an upheaval in Israeli politics, saw the Israel Labour party defeated for the first time in 29 years and replaced by a right-wing government enquiry at some later date into any intelligen­ce and security failures around Hamas’s attacks.

Such an investigat­ion “may be even harsher on Israel’s current leadership” than the 1973 investigat­ion, Kaufman writes for Foreign Affairs.

However, Kaufman ends on a broad and hopeful note, writing that after the Yom Kippur War, Egypt and Israel struck a peace agreement in which Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula and Egypt formally recognized Israeli’s formal existence as a sovereign and independen­t state.

“Some similar opportunit­ies might exist for peace today. Somebody will have to assume authority in Gaza if an Israeli operation there restore the deposes Hamas. Perhaps a multinatio­nal Arab force, spearheade­d by Egypt and Saudi Arabia, could take responsibi­lity for security and help restore the Ramallah-based Palestinia­n Authority to Gaza.

“The story of the Yom Kippur War suggests that when so many old assumption­s are upended, harmful ones – such as the assumption that there can be no two-state solution or no effective governance in the Palestinia­n territorie­s – can be changed too.” Confrontin­g the Hostage Crisis As Israeli bombs continue to fall on Gaza, and as the death toll rises there, the lives of more than 200 hostages also hang in the balance.

Netanyahu: Israel Preparing ‘Crushing’ Ground Invasion

The Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu used a prime-time television address to announce preparatio­ns for a “crushing” ground offensive in the Gaza strip.

He also claimed Israel’s “hellfire” had “already eliminated thousands of terrorists”, adding that every single member of Hamas was “doomed” and “this is only the beginning” (The Telegraph, Oct. 26).

He would not be drawn on the timing of any operation, insisting that only he, his war cabinet and the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) would make the decision.

With so much

bluster and arrogance, it is indeed unbelievab­le that a PM who was found completely wanting at Israel’s gravest hour of peril, is still at the helm of affairs! Israel’s Four Biggest Challenges Israel’s former army chief, defence minister and premier Ehud Barak was more to the point and outlined four “constraint­s” that would weigh on Israel’s war efforts against Hamas:

1. Barak said the hostage situation (includes foreign nationals) “is more complicate­d than previous clashes.”

2. The second constraint is “the worry that it could spread” to other fronts, including with “Hezbollah in the north,” (Lebanon) in the occupied West Bank, and even with “some Shiite militias backed by the Iranians that are deployed in Syria.”

Barak said he “would not recommend to Hezbollah or to Lebanon to be involved” but warned that it “is beyond our control.”

It could “easily deteriorat­e into full-scale war”.

He emphasized that any escalation “will be tougher” and will “take a longer time to overcome,” but “Israel will win.” What happens next?

Even if the IDF succeeds in rendering Hamas inoperable as a military entity and neutralizi­ng other militant factions, such as Islamic Jihad, there is no easy substitute to govern the 2.2 million people in Gaza.

3. The third constraint Barak noted, “is the need to think in advance to whom we will pass the torch” (in Gaza).

4. The final constraint is Israel’s “commitment to oblige by internatio­nal law” in an escalating conflict in which both sides have accused each other of committing war crimes.

Barak warned that backlash over civilian casualties “might erode the legitimacy of our position,” threatenin­g “the universal support that we have right now” (Newsweek/The Bulletin, Oct. 25).

United States: Potentiall­y Facing a ‘Five-Front War’

In the current Middle East conflict, the U.S. stands resolutely on the side of Israel. However, according to Harlan Ullman, a senior adviser at Washington’s Atlantic Council and the prime author of the “shock and awe” military doctrine, President Joe Biden faces a complicate­d and riskfilled task: the prospect of a fivefront war with few allies. However, this five-front war is not all “hot” in that bullets are flying everywhere. But escalation is a growing danger. 1 + 2. The first two fronts are China as “the pacing threat” and Russia as “the acute threat”. China is an economic and military superpower, Russia is …

3 + 4. With the October 7 Hamas offensive against Israel, which had no moral or ethical boundaries, and the conflict in Ukraine, two hot wars are underway.

America has promised “unwavering” support for Israel and for Ukraine, assistance for “as long as it takes.”

The Hamas-Israel war, especially if or when Israel decides to launch a major operation into Gaza to eradicate Hamas, will dilute attention and possibly the level of aid to Ukraine.

This accounts for four fronts. 5. Perhaps the most debilitati­ng is the fifth front taking place in America itself. Domestic American politics, no matter the importance or triviality of the issue, is profoundly dividing the nation across party and ideologica­l lines.

The two opposing sides have visceral and even irreparabl­e difference­s not amenable to compromise.

The domestic dimension US foreign policy is hampering US President no end – like an albatross around his neck.

The eminent expert Ullman writes that it is impossible to recall any time when the United States confronted so many testing issues and crises as today.

Biden is undoubtedl­y the most experience­d foreign policy president America has had since the elder Bush (President Number 41).

But how good is his strategic judgment? Ullman asks: “Could any single president safely navigate the extraordin­arily treacherou­s waters of a fivefront war?” Only time can tell.

 ?? ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Nepal