A sharp aggravation of the socio-economic situation in the Middle East, new waves of refugees, and the outbreak of hostilities could affect Russia’s interests in Syria and create favourable conditions for international terrorism and Islamist groups in the region. In any case, it is difficult to predict the consequences for Iran, Turkey and Israel, which to varying degrees are important partners for Russia, Prokhor Tebin writes.
The sharp escalation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict became the main event of October 2023, pushing into the background the recent fall of Nagorno-Karabakh and even Russia’s military operation in Ukraine. Such attention is entirely justified. First, the barbaric attack by Hamas, and then the disproportionate Israeli response, causing untold suffering for the civilian population of the Gaza Strip, attracted the attention of the entire world community. A lot depends on how the situation develops further, to what extent risks of escalation increase, and how the conflict will affect the situation in the Middle East, the course of the conflict in Ukraine and world politics in general.
When observing the progress of the current phase of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, it is worth noting an important feature of modern armed conflicts. In recent years, we have observed the blurring of the boundaries between war and peace, the convergence between military and non-military instruments of confrontation, the “weaponisation of everything,” and the active development of the concepts of multi-domain operations, hybrid wars and integrated deterrence. Information and cognitive space are playing an increasingly important role. The ubiquity of smartphones, social media and the Internet have created the phenomenon of “real-time warfare” and the greatest transparency of combat in human history. At the same time, in reality, the real essence of what is happening still remains largely inaccessible to us.
We do not know for certain the true mechanisms and processes that triggered the current escalation, the political, strategic and operational plans of the parties, as well as the true totality of connections and relationships between them. Moreover, the information space, and through it the cognitive space, becomes a space for combat operations, an arena for conducting operations and campaigns. This situation is much more complex and confusing than the simple “fog of war” or propaganda, for example, of the first half of the 20th century.
Fermat’s Middle Eastern Theorem
The current escalation is an obvious setback for American Middle East policy and, in general, for the American military-political strategy. The United States is concentrating a significant naval force in the eastern Mediterranean with the clear goal of preventing the conflict between Hamas and Israel from escalating into a major regional war. The concentration of forces in the eastern Mediterranean is being called the largest in the last 30 years. But the total number of deployed US fleet forces so far is practically the same as it was, for example, in the summer of this year, and amounts to few more than 100 ships deployed mainly in the responsibility area of the Seventh Fleet (the western part of the Pacific Ocean).
In recent years, the United States has somewhat reduced its involvement in the Middle East, using this as one of the sources of resources to increase efforts in the European and Indo-Pacific regions. Now this policy will inevitably undergo some revision.
The question of whether it is possible to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in general and, if so, this is a topic for a dissertation (and more than one!) We will, however, make a few points. This conflict cannot be resolved through acceptable military instruments. It is worth agreeing with Sergey Lavrov – the current status quo in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict zone is unviable. However, from a military-political point of view, it is clear that for Israel, the full implementation of existing settlement plans (the Arab Peace Initiative, decisions of the Madrid Peace Conference, and Oslo Agreements), especially after the events of October 2023, is not only politically unacceptable, but also presents a real threat to national security.
Palestinian parliament member Hanan Ashrawi said: “Israel has all the power, but none of the responsibilities of an occupying power.”
However, it is obvious that Israel is unable to solve the problem of Palestine through annexation and integration; not just because of social, ethnic and religious differences, but also simply because this task is beyond the strength of Israel. The population of Israel is only 10 million people, while the Gaza Strip alone was home to over two million people before the current aggravation, according to various estimates. Therefore, it is incorrect to cite Israel as an example of comprehensive settlement of conflicts, as in Chechnya or Northern Ireland. At the same time, Israel should understand that it is unlikely to make the Palestinians “lose all hope of creating their own state,” as Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said.
Any solution that has a chance of bringing peace for a more or less long period of time, must be based on the following guidelines: levelling the role of radical elements on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides; respect for Israel’s national security; creating conditions for stable and independent socio-economic development, primarily in the Gaza Strip; active involvement of the international community, including the USA, Russia, China, Turkey, Iran and Arab countries; and the normalisation of Iranian-Israeli relations.