The Gaza war demonstrates that hardliners on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide reinforce each other. This was true for Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization and Israeli leaders before the recognition of Israel and the 1993 Israeli-Palestinian Oslo Accords.
Palestinian airline hijackings, attacks on Israeli towns, Israeli retaliatory military actions, and assassinations by Palestinian commander Abu Nidal in the 1980s served hardliner purposes. Tactic Israeli support for Hamas, born under Israeli occupation, as an imaginary anti-dote to Palestinian nationalism, has led to an unprecedented disregard for the lives of others.
Resistance to Israeli occupation was inevitable, with no resolution possible, and Hamas and Israel had options in hostilities. The unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel shattered perceptions of Israeli military and intelligence superiority, demonstrated the unsustainability of the occupation, and rallied degrees of support for Israel from its traditional US and European allies, as well as influential Global South countries like Kenya and India.
It is suggested that Hamas could have achieved its objectives by restricting its offensive to targeting Israeli military installations and personnel and that Israel could have opted for targeted killings of Hamas senior and mid-level leadership.
The current escalating violence between Israel and Hamas, which violates international law, will not achieve the desired results in the short term and likely only harden positions. Retired Major General Itzhak Brik warns that if a regional war breaks out and Israel is not prepared for it, the catastrophe will be hundreds of times greater. The next war will feature both difficult battles on land and air attacks from the air, with thousands of missiles hitting the Israeli home front and thousands of fighters along the border. The biggest catastrophe inside the country will be tens of thousands of armed Arab rioters running throughout the country, which the Israeli military had not prepared for.
Hamas and Israel have not improved since the 1980s, with the Israeli military losing its moral compass. However, the attitudes underlying ceasefire talks in 2014 may regain prominence. The Hamas attack and Israel’s response have limited flexibility, and the Israeli carpet bombing of Gaza and cutoff of supplies have strained Arab public opinion’s rejection of relations with Israel without a resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. A minority of voices on both sides distance themselves from the atrocities committed.
Moderate voices in the Middle East are rallying around the Palestinian flag amid heightened emotions and repression. Iranian soccer fans denounced the presence of a Palestinian flag at a match in Tehran’s Azadi Stadium, while an “IraniansStandWithIsrael” trended on Twitter, dominated by the Iranian Diaspora. Arab voices on social media are taking Hamas to task for its unwarranted brutality, sparking a rare discussion in the Arab world. Kuwaiti journalist Jasem Aljuraid tweeted, “I am a Kuwaiti and I stand with Israel. Any Kuwaiti who has forgotten the treachery of the Palestinian leadership is ignorant. My solidarity is with the Palestinian and Israeli people.
The goal is to dismantle Hamas and the PLO, as they have lost their ability to effectively manage the interests of Palestinians. Kuwaiti activist Mr Aljuraid has left his country but continues to engage in social media discussions. His tweet, which questioned the principles of Islam and the atrocities committed by the Hamas group, sparked thousands of mixed responses. London-based Kuwaiti Shiite Muslim religious scholar Yasser al-Habib, with 22,000 followers, tweeted that his feelings deteriorated after the atrocities committed by the Hamas group, including mutilation, rape of women, and random killing.
Bahraini activist Shaheen Aljenaid charged that the act is a terrorist act and a distortion of the image of Islam and Muslims. The importance of voices like Aljuraid, Al-Habib, and Aljenaid lies in the suggestion that the historic Pavlov reflex to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, long challenged by Israelis, is for the first time being questioned in other parts of the Middle East.