Why the Israel-Hamas war is so divisive
Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Ian Bremmer here and a Quick Take to kick off your week. And more from the Middle East, the story that continues to dominate the headlines.The story that continues to dominate the headlines. And right now, foreign ministers from across the Middle East and the Muslim world, including the Palestinian foreign minister in Beijing and soon to be in Moscow and soon after that, to be in London and Paris to talk about efforts to contain and end the war in the Middle East. The Chinese foreign minister calling for an immediate ceasefire, also calling for a two-state solution, agreeing with the Americans on the latter, not agreeing with the Americans on the former. This is an environment where pretty much everybody involved is trying to get an end to the fighting except the United States, which is the most important ally, the critical ally of Israel.
And the Israelis intend to continue their military strikes until they feel like they have destroyed Hamas on the ground. And that means not just in Gaza City, but also it means in the south of Gaza. This is causing difficulties inside the United States with stronger opposition inside the Democratic Party, especially among young people where Biden is under water wanting a much more balanced, much less pro-Israel policy. And Republicans who on balance think that Biden has been too soft in his support for Israel. This means that Biden's at 40% approval right now, the lowest of his administration to date. And it's hard to see this getting any better any time soon. I think that the Israelis are clearly having military successes on the ground in Gaza. And when you talk to the generals, they feel like they're on the timeline they want to be. They are finding the tunnels, finding the militant leaders, able to go after with impunity, those that are there. Of course, the very fact that Hamas is fighting inside a civilian area, that they have tunnels underneath schools and hospitals, and that's where they're putting the hostages. And we've seen those videos now that are confirmed and where they're putting their military equipment makes Hamas responsible for a lot of the civilians that are getting killed, but also makes the Israelis responsible in the global environment for not being able to take out Hamas unless they put massive numbers of civilians at risk.
And so what you have is the Israelis winning, at least tactically, the military battles on the ground, whether one can destroy Hamas or extremist militarism against Israel through bombing and a ground war is another longer question. But losing the information war where around the world and including in the United States, there is just a lot more sympathy increasingly for the Palestinians. Only six weeks after the worst terrorist attacks, the worst violence against Jews anywhere in the world since the Holocaust. That is the reality.
And, you know, it's very different in this regard than covering the Russia-Ukraine invasion, where, first of all, the Ukrainians were winning the information war and also it was very clearly a black versus white struggle. I mean, these were, you know, not that the Ukrainians are Democrats and didn't have problems with corruption, but they were minding their own business. They wanted to join NATO. True. That's a decision that is made by a sovereign country. But they weren't threatening Russia. They weren't invading Russia. They were doing nothing to Russians in the Federation. And that was even true despite years of annexation illegally by the Russians of Ukrainian territory. So it was very clear when the Russians invaded Ukraine that the Russians were at fault and that the question is how can you respond to that? It was black and white.
In the case of Israel and Palestine, it is very clear that Hamas is responsible for October 7th. That's clear. But it's also clear that the Israelis have engaged in a lot of illegal actions in taking Palestinian territory on the ground in the West Bank and continue to occupy territory that is not theirs that nobody thinks is theirs and not prepared to do anything about it. It's also clear that the Israeli government had been supporting Hamas in undermining the Palestinian Authority and in refuse thing to consider a two-state solution under Netanyahu and his far right coalition. So, I mean, it's not black and white. There are different shades of gray. There are you know, it's very easy to say that Hamas is a terrorist organization and that means they should be destroyed and Netanyahu is a bad leader and that means he should be voted out. But there's no equivalence between these two leaders. But saying there's no equivalence doesn't mean that one is good and the other's bad. Here we are talking about different shades of illegal activity and we're also talking about different shades of behavior that is causing immense amounts of responsibility for human suffering.
And you can't simply say that Hamas is only responsible for all the people that are getting killed. You can't say that. You can say they're mostly responsible because they're the ones that have the hostages. They're the ones targeting the civilians. They're the ones putting civilians in harm's way. But certainly the Israeli Defense Forces deserve some culpability for their willingness to, you know, have a siege and not allow in humanitarian aid. And their willingness to engage in attacks that are going to take out some militants, but are going to risk the lives of far more civilians. And, you know, how do you balance that? Is it 90:10 Hamas responsible? Is it 70:30? Is it 80:20? I'm not sure I care, you know, doing a percentage as I am in recognizing that we have to describe the nuance. We have to be reasonable in not trying to play one side off as purely responsible and guilty and bad, that the only way this is going to lead to peace is if Hamas is removed, if they are destroyed as a terrorist organization. Number one. If there are prospects for peace for Palestinians to have livelihoods in Gaza and the West Bank going forward, and if Netanyahu and his far right coalition are removed from office, those things are all necessary antecedent conditions before we can have stability in the region.
That's where we are. So it's not an easy conversation. It's a nuanced conversation. It's one that makes almost nobody satisfied and happy in a way that on Russia and Ukraine, it was very easy to be on team Ukraine, even though they frequently lied about stuff in terms of propaganda and support of the war. And their government wasn't 100% clean and isn't 100% clean. But it's still very easy to say the Ukrainians deserve their territory back. It's much harder in this environment on Israel-Palestine to put your thumb on one side of the scale, you have to have a broader conversation if you want to be accurate and if you want to have peace. And that's where we are, and that's part of the reason why it's been so damn difficult to get peace in the Middle East for decades and decades, why the Americans, like many others, have kind of given up on it in favor of just trying to create stability with everybody else. And that worked to a degree. But now we see it wasn't enough. And so we're going to have to go back yet again in one of the most challenging geopolitical missions that we face in the world today.
So that's it for me, but I'm sure we'll be back to this real soon.
- The debate over a “cease-fire” for Gaza ›
- US compared to Russia after tanking UN resolution on Gaza ›
- Biden seeks urgent aid package for Israel, Ukraine ›
- Israel-Hamas war: Biden's second foreign policy crisis ›
- How Netanyahu used Hamas to avoid talks of a two-state solution ›
- Is an Israel-Palestine two-state solution possible? ›