by Hichem Karoui
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been a longstanding and deeply-rooted issue in the Middle East, mired in historical, political, and religious complexities. However, on October 7, 2023, an event occurred that would prove to be a significant turning point in the region’s geopolitical landscape.
At its inception, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was based on a historical denial and the most appalling that after 75 years, the Israeli government is still denying the Palestinians the right to exist by all political and military means, serialising the genocides and the war crimes and getting away unpunished.
To understand the attack’s significance, it is crucial to delve into the historical trajectory of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Rooted in the competing claims to land and the US-supported imposition of the state of Israel in 1948, the conflict has been marked by territorial disputes, violence, and failed peace negotiations. The Zionist movement, led by early Jewish immigrants to Palestine, sought to establish “a Jewish homeland for a people without land on a land without people,” according to various Christian and Jewish Zionists in the 19th and 20th centuries. The phrase was initially used by a Christian Restorationist clergyman named Rev. Alexander Keith in 1843 and later by Lord Shaftesbury, William Blackstone, Israel Zangwill, and others. Alternatively, as Golda Meir, who became the Prime Minister of Israel in 1969, put it, “There were no such thing as Palestinians… They did not exist”!
At the same time, Palestinian Arabs, who lived there for centuries, contested the claims, leading to several Arab-Israeli wars. The US-backed creation of Israel in 1948 resulted in the displacement of thousands of Palestinians, festering resentment and fueling the conflict. Key events and developments have shaped the dynamics in the region. The 1967 Six-Day War resulted in Israel occupying the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem, further complicating the situation. This led to the rise of Palestinian resistance movements, including Fatah and Hamas, aiming to establish an independent Palestinian state. The 1993 Oslo Accords aimed to establish a framework for peace, but subsequent failures, such as the collapse of the Camp David Summit in 2000 and the Second Intifada, have hindered progress towards a lasting resolution. Israel’s continued expansion of settlements in the West Bank has further strained relations and deepened the divide between the two sides.
Against this historical backdrop, the geopolitics of the Middle East have evolved, heavily influencing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Major players and alliances shape the power dynamics in the region. With its strong military capabilities and strategic ties with the United States, Israel has sought security in the face of adversarial Arab states and non-state actors, such as Hezbollah and Hamas. Through its support of groups like Hezbollah, Iran has sought to challenge Israel’s dominance in the region. Its regional rivalry with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states has also exacerbated the complexities of the conflict. External actors, including the United States, have played a key role in facilitating peace negotiations, while Arab countries, such as Egypt and Jordan, have at times acted as intermediaries.
The attack on October 7, 2023, orchestrated by Hamas, changed the trajectory of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Through meticulous planning and coordination, Hamas operatives carried out a large-scale assault targeting multiple Israeli cities, including Tel Aviv and Haifa. Utilising armed fighters breaching security barriers and a volley of missiles launched from Gaza, the attack aimed to show that Israel was not as invincible as people believed. The intensity and surprise of the attack evoked comparisons from Israelis to the 9/11 catastrophe in the United States. The audacious nature of the attack, striking at the heart of Israel’s major population centres, was unprecedented. This strategic shift in Hamas’ tactics marked a departure from its previous focus on rocket attacks and guerrilla warfare.
The attack resulted in significant loss of life and destruction, with hundreds of casualties reported among Israelis and many war prisoners taken to Gaza. The Israeli government swiftly condemned the attack and declared a state of emergency, unleashing a wave of retaliatory airstrikes against Gaza. Israel also intensified security measures and called for national unity in the face of this grave threat.
The attack reverberated globally, triggering a range of reactions and responses. The USA and its Western allies condemned Hamas, which they consider a “terrorist organisation.” The United Nations Security Council convened an emergency meeting, emphasising the need for de-escalation and a return to peace negotiations. Diplomatic efforts were initiated to prevent further escalation of the conflict and resume dialogue between Israel and Palestine. The attack catalysed international discourse on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, prompting renewed calls for a two-state solution and an end to the occupation of Palestinian territories. The Arab League and the Arab leaders and Muslim-majority countries, including Turkey and Iran, reiterated their support for Palestinian self-determination, condemned Israel’s bombing of civilians in Gaza and called for united resistance against what all honest people know and recognise as an ongoing Zionist occupation. The incident further piqued regional tensions as countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia jockeyed for influence, utilising the incident to further their respective agendas. To solidify its regional position, Saudi Arabia called for an urgency towards peace negotiations, while Iran used the incident to rally support among Palestinian factions, particularly Hamas.
In conclusion, the attack carried out by Hamas on October 7, 2023, has had a transformative impact on the Middle East. Against the backdrop of a protracted Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the audacious scale and execution of the attack marked a strategic shift for Hamas. The immediate outcomes, including casualties, Israel’s response, international reactions, and regional dynamics, have highlighted the urgency and complexities of the situation. This attack has set the stage for further analysis of the following consequential developments, shaping the future trajectory of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.