How Israel itself “brought” war to itself

How do the events of October, 7 dif­fer from the pre­vi­ous Israeli-Palestinian con­flicts? Why was Israel unpre­pared for the inva­sion? What could hap­pen to the hostages? A new con­fig­u­ra­tion of the rela­tions between Palestine and Israel emerges, says Dmitry Mariasis, can­di­date of eco­nom­ic sci­ences, spe­cial­ist on the Middle East, for­mer head of the depart­ment of the Israel study and Jewish com­mu­ni­ties at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Dmitry Mariasis

In the last few days, in addi­tion to rock­ets, machine gun fire, sirens and deaths, the res­i­dents of Israel have been bom­bard­ed with a huge flow of infor­ma­tion about what is hap­pen­ing around them. Horror riv­et­ed those who did not go to the front to news feeds and footage from the scene. Dozens of ques­tions are swarm­ing in my head. Most of them will only be tru­ly answered after the war is over. We will most like­ly nev­er get answers to some of them. However, this does not mean that they do not need to be formulated.

Causes of the start of the war

Hamas says the attack was caused by the behav­ior of Jewish Israelis on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem – dis­re­spect­ful actions towards the Al-Aqsa Mosque. It seems that this was, at best, a pre­text. Why? If only because a few weeks before the start of hos­til­i­ties the Israeli Hebrew-lan­guage press wrote about sev­er­al meet­ings of the lead­ers of ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tionsand their agree­ment to coor­di­nate actions to increase pres­sure on Israel in the secu­ri­ty sphere . It is also impos­si­ble not to note the per­sis­tent reminder of the Egyptians that ten days before the attack, the head of their intel­li­gence warned the Israelis about the impend­ing attack (the office of the head of gov­ern­ment denies this, but why the Egyptians would lie is unclear, but why would the office staff mis­lead the Israeli pop­u­la­tion – it is obvious ).

It seems that Hamas made the deci­sion to attack under the influ­ence of sev­er­al fac­tors, the sig­nif­i­cance of each of which is now dif­fi­cult to assess (well, or every­one is free to assess inde­pen­dent­ly). So, first­ly, for the lead­ers of Palestinian orga­ni­za­tions (and for Iran, which stands behind Hamas), the process of nor­mal­iz­ing rela­tions between Israel and the coun­tries of the Arab East is a big prob­lem. The sign­ing of rel­e­vant agree­ments between the Jewish state and Saudi Arabia may be espe­cial­ly sym­bol­ic. In this case, among oth­er things, it becomes obvi­ous that even for a num­ber of lead­ers of the Islamic world, the Palestinian prob­lem has ceased to be a pri­or­i­ty. Simple (and proven) log­ic told the lead­ers of the Palestinian move­ments that Israeli mil­i­tary actions, which are eas­i­ly pre­sent­ed in the Islamic world as aggres­sion, would at least lead to a freeze in the nor­mal­iza­tion process, which is what happened.

Secondly, the socio-polit­i­cal process­es tak­ing place inside Israel point­ed to an obvi­ous split with­in the coun­try. And the lead­ers of Iran, and the lead­ers of the Lebanese Shiite orga­ni­za­tion Hezbollah, and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Palestinian move­ments (both offi­cial and ter­ror­ist) noticed this, not­ed and “took note of it.” For them, this became an indi­ca­tor of the weak­ness of the “Zionist enti­ty.” This means that if this very for­ma­tion is “strained” even more, it may not with­stand the pres­sure and fall apart.

Thirdly, it is not news that ter­ror­ist attacks and any oth­er sim­i­lar actions are a kind of report on the work done to those who sup­port (finan­cial­ly, tech­no­log­i­cal­ly, polit­i­cal­ly) the activ­i­ties of orga­ni­za­tions of such kind. This, in par­tic­u­lar, is due to the fact that ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions usu­al­ly quick­ly take respon­si­bil­i­ty for a par­tic­u­lar ter­ror­ist attack: “author­ship” is impor­tant to them.

Fourth, in my opin­ion, Hamas and oth­er sim­i­lar orga­ni­za­tions need to have time to get rid of accu­mu­lat­ed weapons before they are destroyed for any rea­son, for exam­ple, by Israeli air­craft. Therefore, as they accu­mu­late, they should be “effec­tive­ly” used, that is, used against Israel.

Why was Israel not ready? 

Approximately all cit­i­zens of the coun­try would like to know the answer to this ques­tion. And I would like to believe that, accord­ing to the polit­i­cal tra­di­tion in Israel, after the end of the war, a spe­cial com­mis­sion will be formed that will most thor­ough­ly exam­ine this hor­rif­ic failure.

Apparently, already now You can try to look for a pure­ly pre­lim­i­nary answer to this ques­tion in the events of the last year. The far-right gov­ern­ment of the coun­try, hav­ing ini­ti­at­ed judi­cial reform, try­ing to max­i­mal­ly ful­fill coali­tion agree­ments with the lead­ers of reli­gious par­ties, solv­ing the imme­di­ate per­son­al prob­lems of var­i­ous min­is­ters, quick­ly man­aged to drag the coun­try into a pow­er­ful social process – a months-long confrontation.

The strength of this phe­nom­e­non is such that even such usu­al­ly apo­lit­i­cal sec­tors of Israeli soci­ety as rep­re­sen­ta­tives of busi­ness (espe­cial­ly that part of it that is com­mon­ly called high-tech) and the army were drawn into it . As a result, the peri­od between the autumn Jewish hol­i­days and Hanukkah (December) was sup­posed to be the deci­sive phase of the strug­gle in all these areas. One poten­tial out­come could be the fall of the cur­rent gov­ern­ment. For Netanyahu per­son­al­ly and for a num­ber of his asso­ciates, this sce­nario could have extreme­ly unpleas­ant con­se­quences (at least the end of a polit­i­cal career).

One gets the feel­ing that the Prime Minister was try­ing to use the last days of the hol­i­day to simul­ta­ne­ous­ly untie a large num­ber of knots and knots, try­ing not to cut them. The entire gov­ern­ment was involved in the process. The secu­ri­ty agen­da was played out in Samaria and on the north­ern bor­der. It was con­ve­nient to assume that Hamas was not yet ready to attack. There are a num­ber of argu­ments in the press for this line of thought, but they all seem to be extreme­ly con­tro­ver­sial. For exam­ple, the argu­ment that the sit­u­a­tion in Gaza has improved because Israel has giv­en more work per­mits to res­i­dents of the enclave. It just seems to me that it is more prof­itable for Hamas to wors­en the sit­u­a­tion rather than improve it, since the dete­ri­o­ra­tion of social well-being makes it eas­i­er to con­vince the pop­u­la­tion of the cor­rect­ness of its anti-Israel position.

At this stage, the ques­tion of how ade­quate­ly the intel­li­gence worked does not seem fun­da­men­tal (after the war, this issue should cer­tain­ly be clar­i­fied). After all, as I not­ed above, the media wrote about the desire of ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions to car­ry out some kind of coor­di­nat­ed actions against Israel. Simply increas­ing vig­i­lance on the Gaza bor­der would have avoid­ed the cat­a­stro­phe of Saturday morn­ing, October 7th.

Israeli fire­fight­ers in Ashkelon. BBC

Terrorist attack VS war

The way I see the sit­u­a­tion at this stage can be char­ac­ter­ized as fol­lows: Israel itself “brought” the war to itself. In my opin­ion, Hamas was ini­tial­ly going to demon­strate the growth of its capa­bil­i­ties in the fight against Israel, but its scale did not go beyond the frame­work of a con­ven­tion­al­ly stan­dard, albeit large-scale, ter­ror­ist attack. Imagine this sce­nario: mil­i­tants along the entire length of the bor­der orga­nize simul­ta­ne­ous attacks and meet resis­tance from the Israel Defense Forces; local skir­mish­es break out along the entire perime­ter, which, cou­pled with rock­et salvoes, cre­ates seri­ous ten­sion for the Israeli secu­ri­ty sys­tem; as a result, in sev­er­al places Hamas may be able to break through the bor­der, but by this time the Israeli army is already pulling addi­tion­al forces to the bat­tle points (the infor­ma­tion that the ter­ror­ists were with maps of Israeli set­tle­ments does not sig­nif­i­cant­ly change the pic­ture, but it has not been final­ly con­firmed, besides, now you can get cards very eas­i­ly); the attack was repulsed, but some of the “heroes” returned to Gaza alive, per­haps even hav­ing man­aged to pho­to­graph “tro­phies” in the form of dam­aged Israeli equip­ment; Rocket attacks on Israeli ter­ri­to­ry con­tin­ue; the army responds; After some time, nego­ti­a­tions on a cease­fire take place through the medi­a­tion of Egypt and Qatar. As a result, Hamas reports that it was able to demon­strate its strength and fight­ing spir­it to the ene­my, and the Israeli army and polit­i­cal lead­er­ship report that they defend­ed the country.

But the unex­pect­ed hap­pened. The mil­i­tants broke through the bor­der prac­ti­cal­ly with­out resis­tance and, inspired by their unex­pect­ed suc­cess, moved deep­er into Israeli ter­ri­to­ry. Then every­one knows every­thing. Hundreds of corpses, a huge num­ber of hostages and… And due to the cat­a­stroph­ic nature of the sit­u­a­tion, the Israeli gov­ern­ment declares a sit­u­a­tion of war (for the first time since 1973, a cor­re­spond­ing pro­to­col is being intro­duced). As a result of every­thing that has hap­pened, appar­ent­ly, the Israeli army has no oth­er choice but to rad­i­cal­ly change the sit­u­a­tion in Gaza (it is unlike­ly that Hamas can be com­plete­ly destroyed, but it is pos­si­ble to end their pow­er in the enclave).

This inter­pre­ta­tion allows us to over­come sev­er­al log­i­cal dead ends:

a) Why didn’t Hezbollah enter the war? She did­n’t mean to. Otherwise I would have joined right away, in the first hour war.

b) Why were they pushed to war, does this pro­voke Israel to a strong blow? They were not pushed to war. A lim­it­ed pro­mo­tion was planned. They did not want to pro­voke Israel into respond­ing too strongly.

c) Too many hostages. What to do with them? It acci­den­tal­ly hap­pened. This is also a prob­lem for them. Apparently, they will slow­ly release them. Although the fate of some may be tragic.

Bibi’s manual war and other assumptions

You can often hear the opin­ion that Netanyahu suc­cess­ful­ly uses the tech­nique of esca­lat­ing the Palestinian-Israeli con­flict to smooth out inter­nal Israeli social con­tra­dic­tions. There are a num­ber of quite con­vinc­ing exam­ples of this. But if this had been the case this time, then there would not have been such a fail­ure in com­bat readiness.

There was an assump­tion that mer­ce­nar­ies from PMC Wagner par­tic­i­pat­ed in the train­ing of mil­i­tants. In short, they could. But there is no real evi­dence of this yet.

It has also been sug­gest­ed that Russia is behind this esca­la­tion in order to divert world atten­tion and resources from its own con­flict with Ukraine. Despite the fact that now the Russian posi­tion on this issue is rather vague and clos­er to the 1990s (when sym­pa­thy for Palestine was much more obvi­ous) than to the 2000s (when there was a notice­ably more pos­i­tive atti­tude towards Israel), I attribute this to Russia’s cur­rent tac­ti­cal alliance with Iran, rather than a “cov­er oper­a­tion” as part of a pre­med­i­tat­ed plan. It seems to me that the Russian posi­tion is too tooth­less for a thought­ful plan. And the poten­tial arrival of Mahmoud Abbas to Moscow only strength­ens this feel­ing, because the PLO today does not have any influ­ence on Gaza, which means that his arrival in no way demon­strates the influ­ence of the Russian Federation on the sit­u­a­tion, but may, rather, serve as an indi­ca­tor of some confusion.

Hamas con­tin­ues dai­ly attacks. BBC

What’s next?

This issue has two fun­da­men­tal dimen­sions: mil­i­tary and post-war. Let’s start with the military.

Continuation of the war

The longer the con­fronta­tion lasts, the less like­ly it is that Hezbollah or any­one else will join it. The sur­prise fac­tor is lost. Now it is nec­es­sary to take into account the fac­tor of pres­sure from exter­nal play­ers: the USA, the EU, the UN.

Israel will most like­ly enter Gaza and will remain there until it com­plete­ly push­es Hamas out of the enclave.

The hostages will be par­tial­ly hand­ed over to for­eign pow­ers, par­tial­ly recap­tured by the Israelis, par­tial­ly exchanged, and par­tial­ly (and this is the worst thing) killed.

After the war

A very seri­ous cri­sis with­in Israel. There will be enor­mous pres­sure on the gov­ern­ment to resign. Also, under pres­sure, as I not­ed above, it is like­ly that an inves­ti­ga­tion will be launched. Very seri­ous social unrest can­not be ruled out. Now the sit­u­a­tion looks in such a way that for many, what hap­pened will be a rea­son to engage in an active search for new mean­ings in the State of Israel, a new for­mat of ide­o­log­i­cal and social plat­forms. There are already signs that for some peo­ple close to the right-wing polit­i­cal direc­tion (in the Israeli sense), the blow was stronger than for rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the oth­er camp, due to dis­ap­point­ment in the lead­er­ship poten­tial of rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the ide­o­log­i­cal move­ment close to them.

One of the sig­nif­i­cant issues is the fate of Gaza. It is unlike­ly that any­one today will be ready for Israel to stay there for a long time, regain­ing con­trol over the enclave. It seems, no mat­ter how fan­tas­tic it may sound now, the most inter­est­ing option for Israel may be to fill the emerg­ing pow­er vac­u­um in Gaza by return­ing PLO struc­tures there, that is, return­ing to the sit­u­a­tion before the 2007 coup, when Hamas expelled Abbas and his fel­low par­ty mem­bers from this ter­ri­to­ry . I repeat that this now looks like a fan­tas­tic sce­nario, and it is not a fact that even if this hap­pens, such a con­fig­u­ra­tion will be sta­ble. But in this case, there will be a short peri­od of time when there will be chances, using the ener­gy of the new real­i­ty and the Abraham Accords, to cre­ate, for exam­ple, an inde­pen­dent Palestinian state.

In any case, to get full answers to these ques­tions, it is nec­es­sary that the war ends and Israel sur­vives it.

Text author Dmitry Mariasis


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