Hamas attacks in Israel ignite war
Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:
War, as I think you all know, is back in the Middle East, massive attacks by Hamas leadership into Israel. So far, over 100 deaths and 1,000 casualties among Israeli civilians that we know of, this in a country of less than 10 million. So, think of that in the context of a United States with several hundred million. This is no less than Israel's 9/11.
Now, big changes have been afoot for a long time in the Middle East. Israel actually is in its strongest geopolitical position that we've seen in decades, and that is relevant here. The Abraham Accords, for example, under the Trump administration, opening diplomatic relations between Israel and the UAE, and Bahrain, and Morocco. In the Obama administration, you had people, including the secretary of state saying, "that you could never get peace in the Middle East unless you first solved the Palestinian issue," gave them a two-state solution. That didn't happen. The Palestinians were marginalized, and Israel was able to develop and open and engage in stronger relations across the Middle East and North Africa.
A Saudi deal with Israel about to happen, also diplomatic engagement, which has been at the high level, informally very close to being announced publicly. And if you are the leadership of Hamas, refusing to accept Israel's right to exist, and not changing anything about your political positions, your corrupt governance on the ground and the rest, while watching the politics of the region turn against you, while watching your conflict, your priorities becoming irrelevant, while watching in Israel, nobody really pushing for engagement anymore, settlements expanding, well, certainly that is part of the reason why Hamas would've decided to engage in this level of unprecedented strikes against Israel, against the Israeli civilian population today.
But also, Israel has been in crisis domestically. The judicial reform, as it's called, that Netanyahu has been pushing, leading to unprecedented demonstrations across Israel, peaceful demonstrations, but involving much of the country for months and months now, and that has clearly distracted Israeli intelligence. It's also distracted the Israeli military, many of whom have said that they weren't willing to serve in the military if the judicial reform proceeded. Also, the fact that Netanyahu was focusing on expanding with his far-right coalition, Israeli settlements on the ground in the West Bank, and there was a lot of violent backlash from Palestinians as a consequence and from Israeli settlers against Palestinians, well, that meant that a lot of Israeli's defense forces were focused on the West Bank, were focused on the occupied territories and border security there, and they took away a lot of the troops in the focus from the Israeli South and from Gaza. So, clearly the Israelis took their eye off the ball.
This is a massive intelligence and defense failure for Israel and specifically for Netanyahu. They were seen as the gold standard on surveillance, on human intelligence collection, on border security, especially when we talk about the Palestinian populations. And now this, watching armed Palestinians gunning down civilians in Israeli cities and taking hostages back into Gaza, taking Israeli defense force soldiers, and even a leader, it seems, hostage overrunning a couple of military bases, small, but still, this is unimaginable for an Israeli citizen.
What happens next? A few things. First of all, war, war in the region. Netanyahu has declared that Israel is now at war with Hamas in Gaza, and Netanyahu has to take them out. This action was suicidal for Hamas leadership. It feels to me like what happened when Prigozhin and his Wagner leadership decided to go against Putin. They can say whatever they want for the first few weeks, but they will be gone. They are now dead-enders. They will be removed; they will be killed. There are already airstrikes beginning across Gaza in that direction. There will be ground warfare. There will probably be long-term occupation from Israel, an effort to disarm Hamas militias, a desire from the Israelis to paralyze and root out the threat against Israel.
We will see, of course, massive civilian casualties, more from Israel, but far more from the Palestinians in the response, the retaliation to these attacks. Now, right now around the world, what we have is mostly support for Israel and sympathy, in part because the Palestinian issue has become more marginalized, in part because of the nature of the terrorism, the extent the atrocities that have been committed in the past hours against the Israelis. Over time, that will of course shift as we see the massive human rights and failings and deprivation that occurs for Palestinian citizens getting caught in the crossfire. As always, the Palestinians on the ground are going to suffer the most, they're the most powerless.
Other consequences, the Israeli-Saudi deal, which was close to getting done, is now over. If anything was accomplished that Hamas wanted, that would be the single biggest thing. The Saudi government immediately came out, they did not support the attacks, but they said that Israel was responsible for them because of the deprivation against the Palestinians. There's no capacity to support the Palestinians from Israel in this environment that would facilitate a deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, no capacity for Netanyahu to make nice after that statement.
The big ongoing question is does the war expand? Certainly, if it is found that Iran helped to plan these attacks by Hamas, that would be a game changer and would probably lead to Israeli strikes against Iranian military, Islamic defense forces, revolutionary guard forces, this sort of thing. But the broader question is whether or not we see ongoing military cooperation, collaboration for Hamas, from Iran, from Syria, beyond just statements of support and solidarity, that could of course lead to an expansion of the war.
Also, I do want to say that I've seen online, and I've seen on television over the last few hours, a lot of people saying that Netanyahu benefits from this, that it's good for him, even some saying that are relatively respected forces, "Well, maybe this was planned in some way by the Israelis." That's insane, and I want everyone to just put this in the context of saying that about President Bush in the hours after 9/11, when I was in New York and watched our two towers go down and the thousands of people die in the horror that the civilians in the country faced. Yes, Bush's political stature went up, but it was a disaster for the country, and I have no doubt in my mind that President Bush would trade his presidency if he could have 9/11 never have happened.
And also, we need to recognize that the response from the United States, the war on terror was intemperate and did massive damage, massive damage to America's standing around the world, massive damage to the lives of millions and millions of people around the world, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, that we are still feeling in 2023. And I hope that if anything possible good can come from this human tragedy, it's that Bibi Netanyahu and the world has learned a little something about America's failures after 9/11.
This is something that is intolerable and needs to be responded against in the harshest possible manner against those that are responsible for it, but 8 billion people on this planet have to find a way to learn to live together, and today we're a little farther from that than we were yesterday.
That's it for me. I'm sure I'll be covering this quite a bit going forward. I hope you're all doing well, and I'll talk to you soon.
- Israel prepares for Gaza escalation ›
- The latest from Israel and Gaza ›
- Netanyahu faces national unrest after judicial reform vote ›
- Israel and Hamas on the brink of war ›
- What We’re Watching: Putin in Mariupol, Xi in Moscow, Israeli-Palestinian talks, Trump fearing arrest, Kosovo-Serbia agreement ›
- Israel/Palestine one of the few Middle East areas getting less stable ›
- Biden on Hamas attacks: “This was an act of sheer evil” - GZERO Media ›
- Hamas: What is it? - GZERO Media ›
- Israel-Hamas war: How is Europe responding? - GZERO Media ›
- Israel’s impending Gaza invasion: a moral quagmire - GZERO Media ›
- Israel at war - GZERO Media ›
- Podcast: The war between Israel and Hamas and its unfathomable human toll - GZERO Media ›
- Gaza: "Hearts will harden" against its people - GZERO Media ›
- Ian Bremmer: Understanding the Israel-Hamas war - GZERO Media ›
- Israel-Hamas War: The race to avert escalation in the Middle East - GZERO Media ›
- Biden's Middle East visit buys time for diplomacy - GZERO Media ›
- Will Israel's war with Hamas spread north to Lebanon? - GZERO Media ›
- What we know (and don't know) about Iran's role in the Israel-Hamas war - GZERO Media ›
- Israel-Hamas War: Can the US count on its Arab allies? - GZERO Media ›
- Israel's war in Gaza has emboldened Iran, says Karim Sadjadpour - GZERO Media ›
- Podcast: The path to a two-state solution for Israel & Palestine: Former PM Ehud Barak's perspective - GZERO Media ›