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US-Israel relations strained as Gaza war continues

US-Israel relations strained as Gaza war continues
TITLE PLACEHOLDER | Ian Bremmer | Quick Take

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi everybody. Ian Bremmer here from Tokyo, Japan. And a Quick Take to kick off your week. And, of course, we are still talking about the ongoing war in the Middle East, which is very much on again, as there is inability to get further deals on hostages for prisoners and aid. And that means the Gaza War is not only in the north, but now across the south as well. And this is a significant problem for the United States which, increasingly, is finding itself isolated on this issue. In fact, I would say in terms of global support for the US on Israel, it's about as opposed as we saw in the initial weeks of the world against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It's a shocking place to be, given, first of all, how important and how deep the US Military alliance is and has been with Israel. And, also, given that it is in response to horrific, unprecedented terrorist attacks and unspeakable atrocities on October 7th.

But the reality is that, as the war has pressed on, the information war is being won by Hamas internationally. And the level of atrocities that are being committed on the ground, and impossible to remove Hamas, short of that, is hurting Israel's position. We are seeing the Americans start to move publicly towards a position of pressuring Israel more. And I specifically note, with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who came out in recent hours saying that the Palestinian civilian population would be the center of the future of whether or not there's resolution and peace and stability following this war. And that Israel was in danger of winning the tactical battle, but losing the strategic battle, as Palestinians continue to be devastated in large, large numbers. That's the first time I've ever seen a US Secretary of Defense talk about the potential strategic loss in a war of a principal US ally, certainly in my lifetime. And it was said pointedly and certainly with preparation. In other words, this was a message, even like a brushback against Bibi Netanyahu and the war cabinet.

Two other things I would mention quickly. One is that the cases against Bibi Netanyahu at home in Israel, you'd think these aren't relevant to the war, but they have been reopened. And those investigations are restarting now in the Jerusalem District Court. And certainly Bibi understands that unless he's able... Very unpopular right now, not likely to last very much beyond the war. Unless he's able to get his political allies to find a way to make those crimes not crimes, legislatively, then he's facing jail time. So he has an incentive to keep the war going domestically, in addition to removing Hamas.

There's also the question of what it means to destroy Hamas. Is it you have to kill the leadership, but you can still have a lot of people running around with weapons? Is that you have to get rid of all of the tunnel infrastructure and all of their military infrastructure? At some point, someone's going to make that decision inside the Israeli war cabinet, and it's not going to be 100 or zero. It's going to be 50% or 60% or 70% or 80%. And that decision is going to be not just about what the Israeli generals think, but also the level of international pressure on the country. So it's a tough one.

Finally, when we look at the Middle East more broadly, as the Israelis have restarted the war in Gaza against Hamas, you also have a significant escalation of Houthis, the Shia militant forces in Yemen, attacking the United States. And an unprecedented level of military strikes against the US warship, as well as lots of commercial traffic and the Americans responding in kind. That is very different. For the first time, not a nuisance attack against an American ship or a base that would be easy to shoot down, but rather a more significant and extended amount of violence. The potential for this war to expand across the region is very real indeed. And in that regard, we don't see guardrails in the Middle East. That's also something that a Biden administration, facing a very tough reelection campaign, is super, super concerned about. So anyway, that's it from me for now, and I'll talk to you all real soon.


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