Guest Author: Mario N. Greco
The brutal, horrific terrorist attack carried out by the “Izz ad-Din al-Qassam” Brigades (Hamas military component), on an unexpected scale, last October 7th, mostly against Israeli civilians and some military (1300 casualties including children, women, and elderly) led to a massive escalation of the conflict between Israel and Hamas. The IDF military response has seen unprecedented aerial bombardments over Gaza, with 7,000 casualties among Palestinian civilians, as per DW on Oct 28t 2023. It is evident among the community of strategic analysts, diplomatic observers, and geopolitical experts that the root causes of the conflict are much deeper and more complex than any paper could try to explore and unveil. Here, therefore, we will not attempt to retrace the past, but on the contrary, we will try to imagine what the future could look like for the region and its populations by 2045/2055.
Yes. We are globally witnessing strategic turbulence, multipolarity, and social polarization: uncertain times! However, this last crisis has been brewing for decades. Let’s avoid blame and focus on solutions instead. Let’s start to factually investigate the strategic reality for both contenders as the primary inevitable step to imagine the future and define options for new, innovative policies and long-term strategies.
The current status of military operations and the humanitarian crises may make the perspective of a future peaceful coexistence between these two communities and perhaps between Israel and its neighbors unthinkable. But this is a plausible proposition as we have witnessed this kind of seismic shift before, notably after numerous wars that Israel fought against Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. Let’s recall the Camp David negotiations and the Oslo Accords.
From a purely political-military, strategic perspective, one can foresee that Tel Aviv has realistically planned its military reaction on three levels: tactical, operational, and political/strategic. The immediate tactical objective was the restoration of the national territorial integrity, which was achieved in the following 48 hours or less.
The operational objective is the complete disarticulation of any Hamas military asset or structure, presumably achieved through the OP. “Iron sword.” The critical constraint here is represented by the indisputable and paramount necessity to secure all hostages and the bodies of those taken by Hamas into Gaza. The international political community is exerting potent political pressure on Tel Aviv, inviting it to moderate the reaction against Hamas’ military structures and assets, limiting the bombing of Gaza territory to military targets, and thus avoiding further (collateral, civilian) casualties.
Finally, the political/strategic objectives (and consequent strategies) involve all those regional/global actors currently fomenting this proxy war by supplying weapons influencing public opinion with a targeted, aggressive, and propagandistic Strategic Communication campaign in their countries and the region. Still, the kinetic (preventive deep strike) option against HEZBOLLAH (in Lebanon), BASAR EL HASSAD (in Syria), and the autocratic, despotic leadership of Ayatollah KAMENEY (in Iran) is on the table. ISRAEL has shown several times the intention, capabilities, political strength, and willingness to defend the integrity of the State at any cost. This is the riskiest and most painful event Tel Aviv has ever experienced in decades.
The next step would then be the de-escalation of the conflict in the aftermath of the end of the Israeli military operation in GAZA. International Diplomacy and moderate Arab leaders shall find a prompt response to what will happen on “the day after”! Neither the actual Israeli ultra-right, religious, political leadership led by Likud and Netanyahu, nor the Palestinian Authority (PA) can be considered credible interlocutors for an international peace table.
This phase would require new local political leaders to get around a table facilitated by global actors, International Organizations, and regional powers to set the scene for addressing this over 70-year conflict with a different, creative, and far more courageous agenda and vision. To do so could be unpopular in many countries like Jordan, Egypt, Qatar, UAE, Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia, after so many spent so much time spilling hate toward Israel and not recognizing the atrocity committed on Oct 7th by Hamas, which with its horrific genocidal intent to destroy Israel is simply not considered as an interlocutor.
Indeed, a new political leadership – on both sides – should emerge after this bloodshed war, finally paving the political and diplomatic path to bringing Israelis and Palestinians to coexist safely and securely, free from the fear of violence and conflict.
An electoral renovation process should first be initiated in ISRAEL to introduce other interlocutors. It would be a strong signal of change and willingness to resolve the conflict. In fact, in Israel, given the current negative public opinion toward the Likud and its PM Benjamin Netanyahu, national liberal democrat politicians and perhaps moderate and open-minded religious leaders should seize the moment as, now more than ever, they have their destiny in their own hands.
Simultaneously, a new generation of decision-makers must substitute the old Palestinian leadership within Palestine’s Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authorities (PA). A sufficiently restructured Palestinian Authority may present the best option for the post-conflict period. This could provide a means for the establishment of a locally-owned and internationally-supported initiative to terminate the Israeli occupation within an internationally sustained economic and development framework designed to resolve the structural deficiencies that have hindered the peace process for the past decades.
The time frame for this process is 20/30 years, during which the international community, without Hypocrisy or political calculation, should assist in a bilateral, frank, and prudent rapprochement, charting a plan for 2045- 2055 to generate a regional stability pact that would include all parties in disputes, securing peace and prosperity.
To achieve peaceful coexistence between cultures, religions, and political systems, regional politicians with strategic vision, international think tanks, and experts in geopolitics, law developments, and economic disciplines should come together and chart a path forward, similar to what Europeans did after WWII. This would require setting aside ancestral and outdated resentments and working towards a common goal.
Undoubtedly, this would be a path many would oppose, as it is easier to incite hate that encourages mutual respect and acceptance of others. Israel would have to come to terms with its unattainable latent conflict status while addressing the domestic threat posed by the ultra-orthodox community, who are as dangerous to Israel as Hamas or any other terrorist group the Jewish state confronted in its 75 years of existence.
One of the main challenges a regional leader would face is the tendency to always rely on external powers, whether the West or the East, to solve internal problems. It is too easy to blame the US, EU, Russia, or emerging powers for all the difficulties. Instead, the region needs to engage in soul searching and identify shared values while respecting cultural and belief differences, as this would add value to the region. This does not imply that countries in the region shouldn’t cooperate or trade with other social, economic, and political systems. However, they should stop depending on external powers to address and resolve their disputes.
Middle Eastern conflicts of the past 75 years are partially due to each country turning to out-of-region sponsors, who always supported one or the other side with the best interests of the entire region at heart.
“Carpe Diem … seize the moment, should be the philosophy of kings, princes, presidents, and prime ministers across the Middle East. It is now the time to stop the fighting and embrace with courage a new, innovative, strategic long–term perspective for the region, which will see by 2045-2055, the states of Israel and Palestine will live in peace and prosperity with all its neighbors.”
Utopia is not an impossible dream but a hope certain people do not want to work hard enough to make it a reality.
1. DW German news