In Israel, Middle East, Palestine

Operation launched by Palestinians in Israeli-occupied Gaza has broader strategic implications for Israel, US.

By Senator Mushahid Hussain,Tribune
Dec. 29, 2023.

The writer Mushahid Hussain is Chairman of the Senate Defence Committee (Pakistan)

The October 7, 2023 Operation ‘Al Aqsa Storm’ launched by the Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied Gaza has broader strategic implications for Israel and the US, whose hubris, supreme over-confidence and carefully laid-down plans for maintaining an iniquitous status quo now lie buried under the rubble in Gaza.

To counter the Iran-led ‘Axis of Resistance’, the US cobbled an ‘Axis of Repression’ to maintain the regional status quo, freezing disputes like Palestine and Kashmir to combat the ‘real enemy’, China. Washington was endeavouring to connect an Israel-centred Middle East with an India-focused ‘Indo-Pacific’, to supplement and support the American-led New Cold War against China. Essentially, India is replicating Israeli policies of repression in Occupied Kashmir, with American complicity, so US regional strategy would rest on ‘twin pillars’, Israel in the Middle East and India in South Asia.

Just a fortnight before the launch of the ‘Al Aqsa Storm’, three separate but related developments corroborated this policy. One, on 22 September, Netanyahu proudly unfolded the map of the ‘New Middle East’ at the United Nations General Assembly, where the Palestinians were conspicuously absent. Two, on 20 September, following the G-20 Summit in New Delhi, the India-Israel Middle East European Union Corridor (IMEC) was launched with much fanfare, touted as the West’s copycat response to China’s highly successful Belt & Road Initiative (BRI). Three, in May 2023, President Biden’s National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan personally took his Indian counterpart, Ajit Doval, to meet Saudi Arabia’s Prime Minister and Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman to “advance their shared vision of a more secure and prosperous Middle East region interconnected with India and the world”. And on October 2, Jake Sullivan wrote in the influential Foreign Affairs magazine that “the Middle East has never been so calm before as it is today.” Five days later, ‘Al Aqsa Storm’ shattered that calm! In fact, the Biden Administration is the first US Administration in 50 years that even dispensed with the fig-leaf of initiating a ‘peace process’ for the Middle East, being content with the Israeli-propped status quo of a coercive occupation.

Six strategic consequences of a reshaped Middle East have emerged from ‘Al Aqsa Storm’.

First, Israel and the United States were trying to ‘stage Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark’, in other words, build a ‘New Middle East’ minus Palestine: promote Israeli ties with Arab and Muslim countries bypassing the Palestinians, as if the Palestine issue is no longer relevant. That policy is now in tatters: no durable peace or stability is possible in the Middle East without an independent Palestinian State.

Second, a myth had been created about invincibility of the Israeli army and intelligence, that the Israeli Army and Mossad are the ‘best, brightest and strongest’ in the Middle East, and Israel is an impregnable fortress whose security can never be breached as it is supposedly foolproof. Some 1,400 determined Palestinian fighters blew up that myth through ‘Al Aqsa Storm’ on October 7.

Third, Israel presented itself as a safe haven, an ‘island of peace and tranquility in a sea of a turbulent, volatile and weak Muslim World’, the safest, the most secure place in the Middle East. Now they say they have suffered the biggest casualties since the Holocaust and almost a third of their latest, ‘5th Generation’ Merkava tanks have been destroyed!

Fourth, the ‘Axis of Resistance’ led by Iran has shown itself more resilient than the ‘Axis of Repression’, as the Iran-led troika of Hamas, Hezbollah and Houthis of Yemen, have tightened the tactical noose around shipping lanes, diplomacy and military strategy in the Middle East, and Tehran is now central to Middle East stability, with ingress in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. Instead of the encirclement and containment of Iran, it is Israel that is now feeling encircled, thus the US desperate despatch of two aircraft carriers plus cobbling of an anti-Houthi coalition.

Fifth, ‘Al Aqsa Storm’ was apparently celebrated in Moscow as the ‘best birthday gift’ to President Putin as the Ukraine War is now relegated to the back-burner and now the US is suddenly facing a three-front situation: Ukraine, New Cold War in Asia-Pacific against China and the storm in the Middle East, an untenable strategic scenario for Washington policymakers. Another casualty of ‘Al Aqsa Storm’ is the probable defeat of Biden in the 2024 Presidential election, opening up the prospect of Trump’s return.

Sixth, ‘Al Aqsa Storm’ is giving birth to a clear, new global South-North divide. The Global South, spearheaded by China, with a supportive Russia, is presenting a strategic option, an alternative worldview, to the US-led Global North, whether it’s Gaza or Ukraine or BRI or the hegemony of the dollar. The global centre of gravity is shifting inexorably to the South, and the ‘Al Aqsa Storm’ has accentuated this divide, as evidenced in the voting at the United Nations.

Gaza is also the first televised genocide in history. Despite Israel’s brutal capacity to kill, the Palestinians are unwavering in their determination and willingness to resist and die for the cause of freedom. The Palestinians are winning by not losing. And Israel has also lost the ‘battle of narratives’.

It’s still time for the US and Israel to read the writing on the wall: stop the genocide, end the occupation and take steps to establish an independent Palestinian State. Jewish history is itself a living testimony on breaking the Nazi myth of the ‘Final Solution’. Washington should learn from its own mistakes and failures in recent history: after ousting the Afghan Taliban in 2001, it took 20 years and wasted $2.2 trillion in Afghanistan before it negotiated with the same Afghan Taliban whom they once labelled ‘terrorists’, to facilitate their return to power. Representing Palestinian aspirations, Gaza’s symbol of defiance, Hamas, also labelled ‘terrorist’ by the West, is, at least, a democratically elected organisation which won a free election in Gaza in 2006, and accepting the legitimate right of Palestinians to determine their future in freedom is a small price for the US to pay for lasting peace, security and stability in the heart of the Muslim World.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 29th, 2023.

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