ISRAEL-HAMAS CONFLICT: SOCIO-ECONOMIC, GEO-POLITICAL AND GEO-STRATEGIC IMPLICATIONS


MEHMOOD-UL-HASSAN KHAN

The region of Middle East is full of ancient prophecies, civilizations, cultures, conflicts and above all unending human struggles. The recent Israel-Hamas conflict at last ended and both the parties claimed victory. The Much “Too Promised Land” remained under siege “Israel’s Operation Cast Lead” for more than 22 days. But it is reality in war there is no winner but also losers. The massive level of destruction and bloodshed and widespread massacre in and around the Gaza city reminded us that the old doctrine of Greek or Roman power politics that there is no scope of mercy, decency, human values and even respect for other rights. More than 25,000 displaced Palestinians are currently taking shelter in U.N. facilities across the Gaza Strip.

Planned action

Israel has repeatedly claimed that it had “no choice” but to wage war on Gaza on December 27 because Hamas had broken a ceasefire. According to the Israeli press the attack had been meticulously planned, for over 6 months. It had two components military and propaganda. It was initiated on the lessons of Israel’s 2006 invasion of Lebanon, which was considered to be poorly planned and badly advertised. Israel has repeatedly claimed that it had “no choice” but to wage war on Gaza on December 27 because Hamas had broken a ceasefire, was firing rockets at Israeli civilians. Moreover, the termination of the assault just before the inauguration and the timing of the invasion was presumably influenced by the coming Israeli election also verifies it.

There was fear and unending tears in people of Gaza. The Dignity (the boat) was stopped to help the needy people of Gaza strip. There was tanks, soldiers, bullets, bombs and rocks of Israel every where which succeeded to destroy the most of the infrastructure of Gaza city. Schools, hospitals, residential buildings, government offices, playing grounds and the marriage halls were attacked and bombed. Even the helpers were helpless and majority of the injured innocent children died with out any proper medication. People of Palestine were at the mercy of Israel forces. The recent Israel-Hamas conflict has its socio-economic, geo-political and geo-strategic implications.

War’s objectives

1) The short-term objective was to allow Israeli and Anglo-American unchallenged monopolisation of the Gaza gas reserves, and continued apartheid-style domination of the Territories.

2) The long-term objective was to create permanent conditions facilitating Israel’s re-encroachment on the territories, encouraging Palestinian emigration and expulsion from their homes, and absorbing their remaining lands under renewed Israeli settler-colonisation programmes.

War strategy of Israel
Israel’s military strategy was planned and very well executed. They learnt lessons from its earlier defeat against Hezbollah in 2006. Followings are the different pre & post phases and its targets.

• The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) has called up over 10,000 reservists to bring the units of the Southern Command based in Beersheba up to strength. These include:
• The 366th Amud ha-Esh (Pillar of Fire) Reserve Armored Division
• The 252nd Sinai Reserve Armored Division
• The 80th Edom Territorial Infantry Division
• The 96th Gaza (Southern Foxes) Territorial Infantry Division.

Phases Targets
First phase Struck thousands of targets from the air
2nd phase A ground invasion that saw troops push into much of Gaza
3nd phase Significant expansion of these operations. Deployment of thousands of reserve soldiers. destruction and seizure of built-up areas closer to the heart of Gaza City, Hamas’s key stronghold
4nd phase Overthrow of Hamas and direct reoccupation of Gaza

Objectives

It is seemed that the aggression of Israel was designed to send Gaza decades into the past.

Objectives Targets
First objective The war was initiated to put an end to the firing of Qassam rockets. This did not cease until the war’s last day. It was only achieved after a cease-fire had already been arranged. Defense officials estimate that Hamas still has 1,000 rockets.
2nd objective The prevention of smuggling, was not met either. The head of the Shin Bet security service has estimated that smuggling will be renewed within two months. Most of the smuggling that is going on is meant to provide food for a population under siege, and not to obtain weapons. Israelis did not secure the Philadelphi Corridor, the 14-kilometer border between Gaza and Egypt, beneath which lie an estimated 300 makeshift tunnels used by Hamas and entrepreneurial. Without these tunnels, Israel insists, Hamas would not be able to stockpile and fire rockets and mortars against Israel with impunity
3nd objective Achieve deterrence. Hamas is till intact and alive and presenting strong resistance
4nd objective It is still remained undeclared; The IDF has not restored its capability. It couldn’t have, not in a quasi-war against a miserable and poorly-equipped organization relying on makeshift weapons, whose combatants barely put up a fight.

According to many regional military experts the Hamas has not been weakened. The vast majority of its combatants were not harmed and popular support for the organization has in fact increased. This war has intensified the ethos of resistance and determined endurance. It is feared that the population in Gaza, which has sustained such a severe blow, will not become more moderate now. On the contrary, the national sentiment will now turn more than before against the party which inflicted that blow the State of Israel.

Hot pursuits of energy resources

According to some experts of economics and marketing the recent discoveries of substantial natural gas reserves in Gaza was the driving force behind the recent Israel-Hamas conflict. A decade back, the British oil firm BG International discovered a huge deposit of natural gas just off the Gaza coast, containing 1.2 trillion cubic feet of gas valued at over $4 billion. Controlling security over air and water around Gaza, Israel quickly moved to negotiate a deal with BG to access Gaza’s natural gas at cheap rates. Israel’s indigenous gas fields north of the Gaza Marine field could run out within a few years and the only other long-term source will be a pipeline from neighbouring Egypt. The elected government of the Hamas has some reservations over it and recent onslaught was planned to negate or reshaped so-called ill-wills of Hamas towards the gas pipeline.

Socio-economic implications

A Hamas official said 5,000 homes, 16 government buildings and 20 mosques were destroyed and 20,000 houses damaged. The Palestinian statistics bureau put the total repair bill at $1.9 billion. Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah pledged $1 billion for rebuilding. Israel reopened three border crossings to allow more basic goods to reach the territory of 1.5 million Palestinians. According to latest report of the UNO (January 2009) countries hit by conflicts in the Middle East have lost 12 trillion dollars over two decades through squandered development and livelihoods, For Iraqis, per capita incomes had been cut to one third over the same period. In the event of peace, an average Israeli family would increase its income by 4,429 dollars per year in 2010 even if Israel paid compensation to Palestinian refugees and moved more than 150,000 settlers out of the West Bank. The income of Palestinian territories would more than double even if they remained in their current shape and the study suggested roughly equal gains to be had on both sides of the fence.

Immediate after the Israeli attack the crude-oil futures rallied to the highest level in one month, as an escalating Israel-Hamas conflict triggered political tensions in the energy-rich Middle East. The Palestine economy was struggling and current Israel aggression badly affected its economy. The society in general is in state of shock and deep depression. There is shortage of water, oil and gas, and even the basic necessities of life. The grief for departed souls, the agony of helplessness and saga of defeat has to some extent demoralized the people. But it is seemed that they will come out of this trauma. According to many regional experts a clear-cut division may be seen in the different ranks of the society and start of blame game has verified it. There is a visible political division may be seen in the different ranks. There is a philosophical division which would be harmful for a independent Palestine cause. The disparity between the different sections of society is on the rise. The gap between the poor and the rich has increased. Sacristy of resources has badly damaged the ways of life as well thinking of the people. The U.N. recently said a million people in Gaza are without electricity and stated that 250,000 people are without access to running water.

The regional tourism industry is at its lowest ebbs. There are no foreign direct investments in Gaza/Palestine soil and doves of peace and migratory birds have already gone in the search of new safe heavens. In 2008, Israel, the Palestinian Territories (more specifically, the West Bank), Jordan and Egypt all enjoyed record year for tourism arrivals.

The tourism influx in Palestine authority has decreased. It has also decreased in Jordan and Egypt. Jordan enjoyed a record year aided by the fact that Royal Jordanian Airlines became a part of the One World Group and that cross border travel between Israel and Jordan grew massively during 2008 as many tour operators resumed Israel-Jordan combination tours. Egypt enjoyed massive tourism growth during 2008 from all sources. According to recent research of the Haifa University “surges of conflict and terrorism have a negative impact on tourism to Israel and the immediate region” it can be verified from the declining ratios of tourists. Now Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan and Egypt face a challenging 2009 on two fronts. The eruption in Gaza has created a whole range of perceptual and security concerns about the safety of travelling to Israel and these concerns will also apply to the West Bank, Jordan and Egypt. Ratings agency Standard & Poor may revise Gaza credit ratings.

The Palestinian economy refers to the economy of the Palestinian territories, including the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Two-thirds of Palestinians are living below the poverty line and after recent conflict with Israel it would be further rise. The ongoing conflict is centuries old which has severely damaged the economy of the territories. It caused recession, inflation, high ratios of poverty, unemployment. The continued blockade of the PA has created serious socio-economic problems. As a result of the Israeli blockade on the territory, 85 percent of factories are shut or operating at less than 20 percent capacity. Israel estimates that its own businesses are losing $2 million a day from the closing, but Gaza is losing $1 million a day, an amount it is less able to afford. The World Bank estimates the nominal GDP of the territories at 4,007 US$ and of Israel at 161,822 US$. Per capita these numbers are respectively 1,036 US$ and 22,563 US$ per year. The Gaza Strip borders with Egypt and the Mediterranean, but these borders are also controlled by Israel. The economic effects of this can not be estimated yet, but are likely to be severe.

Geo-political and geo-strategic winners and losers (National level)

(a) Despite the death and destruction of these past weeks, Hamas is increasingly gaining strength in the West Bank, while firmly holding power in Gaza. The Hamas is going to come out of this war strengthened politically against its rival Palestinian factions, including Fatah, and the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. It has increased public sympathy with Hamas has further shifted the balance of power against Fatah in the West Bank and left the Palestinian Authority very vulnerable politically. The Gaza debacle has made one thing perfectly clear: any peace process that seeks to marginalize, not integrate, Hamas is doomed to fail and with catastrophic consequences. Hamas has demonstrated beyond doubt that it speaks for at least half of the Palestinian electorate. Many observers believe that, were new elections to be held tomorrow, the Islamists would probably not only win Gaza again, but take the West Bank as well.

(b) It war brought Hamas (Sunnis) and Hezbollah (Shi’ites) nearer to each other which would be fatal for the geo-political and geo-strategic designs of the US and Israel.

(c) Fatah’s popularity and political support is on the decline. The silence of Fatah at the time of need and war against the common enemy Israel may have won the blessings of the West but have lost the hearts of the common people.

(d) The president of the PLA Abbas has become a political corpse. It is feared that in the next elections he may be defeated.

Perceptions Realities
Israel believes it has weakened Hamas’ rule, and by extension, Iran’s presence in Gaza Hamas’s political, social and moral support is on the rise. Hamas is not merely an armed militia but a social movement with a large popular base that is deeply entrenched in society.

Military wing still has enough means to deter Fatah from attempting a coup. Further, with Iranian support and political backing from the Palestinian public, Hamas will be able to regroup. Fatah has lost its credibility among the people.

Regional level

(a) To some extend, Israel may consider it as ultimate winner of the recent Israel-Hamas conflict by destroying most of the infrastructure and military wings of the Hamas. According to many regional military experts Israel did succeed to secure its short and long terms geo-political and geo-strategic goals. According to the “Parsing Gains of Gaza War,” New York Times Israel is the biggest gainer of the recent conflict. The “go crazy” philosophy did work for it. It is bitter reality that the Israeli Army has always struck civilian populations, purposely and consciously. According to many experts, Israel achieved the deterrent capacity which it was lost in Lebanon in 2006.

(b) Egypt may consider it a winner in this conflict. Egypt considers its radical factions threat to its sovereignty and so-called political stability and sustainability. It also secured its socio-economic targets.

(c) Syria is partially winner and partially loser. It is winner because after holding the successful summit at its soil, Syria came into the light of regional and international power politics. Most recently, the Syrian government indicated the adoption of normalization policy towards the USA. On the other hand, Syria may also consider it a loser because, its strategic ally, Hamas had to bear a great loss.

(d) Iran has increased its presence in the region which was felt throughout the region. By strongly condemned Israel, it succeeded to win the hearts of millions of people in the region. In the summits, leaders felt the presence of Iran which was the driving force in their anti-Israel stances. The courageous leadership of the President of Iran instrumented to revive the pan-Arabism even to some extends. The Hamas and its geo-political and geo-strategic allies emerged bloodied but unbowed; it gained a foothold in Arab decision-making and its calls for resistance to Israel chimed better with Arab popular sentiment than attempts by Egypt to minimize any benefits for the Palestinian Islamists. Ultimately, Iran found another strategic partner after Hezbollah.

(e) OIC has again failed to take action, proving that it is no more than a debating club. The Arab League’s silence is also shameful as it too has not taken any step to stop the massacre of innocent Palestinians.

(f) Qatar is a winner as well as loser. It gained diplomatic sympathies as well as strategic cushion in the regional politics.

Dynamics of regional politics

The reaction from the Arab world has been mixed. The huge massacre and bloodshed in Gaza once again exposed the high claims of so-called of Arab unity. The battle of the summits between the Qatari-Syrian and Saudi-Egyptian camps revealed deep political and ideological rifts often referred to as an “Arab cold war. The Gaza conflict has embarrassed Sunni leaders, who ironically find themselves on “the wrong side” of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Qatari-Syrian alliance Saudi-Egyptian alliance
They strongly demanded to cut diplomatic and economic relations with Israel. They adopted a stronger ideological stance against the Israeli occupation, recognizing the need to address final status issues and include Hamas in the political process. They wanted to Hamas in the political process is also an indication of the threat felt by the Saudi-Egyptian alliance from Iranian presence in the region. They attempted to secure their own leadership in the Arab world. They focused the rebuilding of Gaza under Israeli terms instead of dealing with the broader political issues. The countries Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the PA wished for having the strategic line against Hamas as part of a broader U.S.-Israeli fight against Iran. The Saudi-Egyptian alliance apparently worked for the American, Egypt and Israeli interests. They ceasefire resolution from the UN Security Council. Moderate Arabs fear consequences of failed Gaza war. As Hamas gains more public support, its allies grow stronger.

International level

(a) The United States of America is the ultimate winner of this human tragedy. It succeeded to achieve all its geo-political (security of the Israel and its allies) and geo-strategic goals (the recent New America Foundation reports concludes that “U.S. arms and military training played a role in 20 of the world’s 27 major wars in 2007,” earning the US $23 billion in receipts, increasing to $32 billion in 2008).

(b) The EU is to some extend a loser. Despite its full fledged diplomatic efforts, Israel could not accept the UN resolutions. Public horror at the pounding of Gaza by Israeli forces is hindering efforts by Europe to deepen ties with Israel and could jeopardise plans for a joint summit early this year

Emergence of new axis

During the Israel-Hamas conflict, there existed a new axis of power. New players emerged which followed the new ways of capturing power in the region. Venezuela and many other Latin American countries surprisingly condemned the Israeli attack and threatened to cut their diplomatic ties with it. Iran gained momentum and sway in the Middle East.

Marriage of convince

From Gaza to Kabul, signs are mounting that the age-old feud between Sunni and Shi’ite is on the ease. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s famous slogan, “Neither East nor West, But Islam is getting immense popularity in the Middle East region.

Time for two-nation state: Geo-political & geo-strategic implications

Increasing settlements has made Gaza into the world’s largest prison. More than 50 years has passed, the Palestine issue has not been resolved. Humanity is suffering very badly. Innocent children, helpless women, hopeless youth and worried aged living in Palestine are fighting against all odds to win total freedom, liberty and complete territorial sovereignty from Israel. Many regional and international political pundits are of the view that resolution of Israel-Palestine issue hold the key of sustainable peace in the Middle East. The socio-economic prosperity, geo-political stability and above all geo-strategic equilibrium of the whole region mainly rest on the immediate resolution of Israel-Palestine issue. The unresolved issue of Palestine reflects the elements of conspiracy, betrayal, tyranny, courage, struggle, sacrifice, dishonesty, loyalty, blood & tears, promises & compromises and above all impotency of the regional & international organizations. Right from the beginning of Palestine crisis many peace initiatives and settlement accords has had been made but nothing has been achieved.

Different Solutions

Two State Solution Bi-National State One State Democratic Secular Population Transfer

The formation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza which will peacefully coexist with the State of Israel each within secure and recognized borders.

The ‘two-state solution’ supports the idea that like all other nations, the Jewish people as well as the Palestinians are entitled to self-determination in a sovereign state.
Jews and Palestinians would coexist as separate communities in a federal arrangement. Each people would run its own affairs autonomously and be guaranteed the legal right to use its own language, religion and traditions. Both would participate in government in a single parliament, which would be concerned with matters of supra-communal importance, defense, resources, the economy and so on. Such a state could be modeled on the cantonal structure of Switzerland or the bi-national arrangement of Belgium. The democratic secular state…envisions a one man, one-vote polity without reference to ethnicity or creed [as in the bi-national state]. It would aim to create an equitable pluralist society on the Western democratic model, and is opposed to an arrangement of separate communities. Population transfer, known also by a number of synonyms, involves the movement of people as a consequence of political and/or economic processes in which the State Government or State-authorized agencies participate. These processes have a number of intended or unintended results that affect the human rights of the transferred population, as well as the inhabitants of an area into which settlers are transferred.

Bitter geo-political and geo-strategic realities

Hurdles Ground Realities
Physical There are lots of physical hurdles in the way of an independent PA. Unending march of Israeli construction actually mean for a viable, contiguous Palestine. Since the beginning of the Oslo peace process in 1993, the West Bank Jewish settler population has jumped from 109,000 to 275,000. Some 230 settlements and strategically placed “outposts” are now strung along hilltops across the West Bank, towering above whitewashed Palestinian villages. The number of West Bank barriers (roadblocks, checkpoints, and other obstacles) has increased nearly 70% in the past three years, and now exceeds 625 this in a land about the size of Delaware. Palestinian state seems, increasingly, a question without an answer

Cluster of Israelis To-day Palestinian state is surrounded by a city of 20,000 Israelis. It was planned in 1978. Ariel, the city of Jewish settlers, was founded, over US and international objections, in the heart of the West Bank district of Salfit. Indeed, the removal of Ariel a red line for the Palestinians has been mandated in almost none of the peace plans going back to Camp David, including the 2001 informal Geneva peace plan much heralded by the Israeli and American peace camps. For Palestinians who live nearby, the existence of Ariel and other settlements makes traveling anywhere a nightmare. The journey could take an hour. Or two, or three. “It becomes 40 kilometers, instead of three or four
Palestinian state out of Jerusalem’s old city They have always insisted on having East Jerusalem, including portions of the old city as their capital. Since Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem in 1967, the Israeli government has built a ring of Jewish suburbs around Arab East Jerusalem. Nearly 200,000 Israelis now live there. This ring essentially seals off East Jerusalem from Bethlehem, Hebron, and Palestinian villages to the south.
Supporting one faction It would be hard to achieve the goals of an independent Palestine state by extending support to only faction i.e. Fata and its leaders.

Concluding Remarks

History revels that war does not bring any solution Gaza offensive are a Holocaust. It is the diplomacy, dialogue and political means that do bring durable peace and harmony. In stead of conflict, confrontation and conspiracy we should work for cooperation, coordination and collaboration. There is match between the military might and a true spirit. In the longer run, it is the human spirits which wins the race. The recent Israel-Hamas conflict exposes the inherited geo-political and geo-strategic weakness of the Arab League and OIC. The Middle East is sitting on a volcano which may be burst if Israel-Palestine conflict lasts for the longer period. It is the lesson as holy Bible say “United we stand. Un-united we may perish. The leaders of Hamas and Fatah should sit together and resolve their disputes otherwise the common enemy may start ethnic cleansing at its will.

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