Western pressure is not a hindrance for Israel
Review by Shereshevsky
ANALYTICS 27 November 2023 - 13:55
The US has provided military assistance to Israel and approved its operations in Gaza aimed at destroying Hamas. In addition, the United States sent two aircraft carrier groups to the Israeli shores to demonstrate to Hamas allies - Lebanese Hezbollah, Yemen's Houthis, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Iraqi Shiite militias, and Iran that the Americans are ready to stand up for Israel. The Iranian bloc (the axis of resistance) has taken note of it.
Simultaneously, the United States makes statements that make it clear to the Israelis that their capabilities are limited. Washington points out that it is necessary to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza and reduce Israeli ambitions. In this regard, comments by Dennis Ross are very important. A former senior American diplomat, specializing in the Middle East, now with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, points to several circumstances.
Ross notes that since President Biden's first October 7 comments on the terrorist attack, the United States has not only supported Israel at the UN, but also sent two carrier strike groups to the region, and intercepted missiles and drones launched at Israel by Yemen's Houthi forces. In taking these steps, the Washington administration focused on preventing the opening of a second front, supporting Israel's primary goal (i.e., never again facing a threat from Hamas), and minimizing the loss of life in Gaza.
At the same time, the administration warned Israel of the difficulties of a ground campaign in a dense urban area like Gaza, drawing on the US military's experience in Fallujah and Mosul in its conversations with Israeli officials. Israel, Ross said, must communicate convincingly to its partners, including Arab states, how its operations in Gaza meet its goals.
“Without clear communication, horrific military footage will continue to increase tension and pressure on the regional public. In this regard, Israel's stated policy of ‘destroying’ Hamas is more a slogan than a practical policy: it is impossible to completely destroy this movement,” Ross notes.
Criticism is sometimes heard from Israel’s European partners, for example, from French President Macron. Europeans, like the United States, fear three things.
First, if the conflict in Gaza escalates into a full-scale regional war between Israel on the one hand and Iran and its allies on the other, this will cause, according to Bloomberg analysts, an increase in world oil prices to $150 per barrel and plunge the planet into economic recession. Neither European politicians nor especially Biden, who is already having problems with popularity ahead of the elections, really want this. Therefore, they are trying with all their might to contain the war, keeping it within the Gaza Strip and not allowing it to spread throughout the Middle East.
The United States directly warned Iranian politicians that if Iran or its ally, the Lebanese Hezbollah, enters the war and launch full-scale military operations, the Americans would launch massive attacks on Iranian military infrastructure, on Hezbollah targets, and Assad. At the same time, the Americans are keeping Israel from escalation. This US tactic is bearing fruit - exchanges of fire between Hezbollah and Israel on the Lebanese-Israeli border are limited.
Second, the Palestinian-Israeli war caused a huge wave of indignation in the Arab world. Two countries are especially sensitive to these events - Egypt and Jordan. They are located next to the war zone. The situation in Egypt is fundamentally unstable due to the economic crisis. After thousands of students took to the streets with slogans in defense of Palestine, which were later supplemented by Arab Spring slogans (Bread, freedom, and social justice!), observers began to talk about the threat of a new revolution. In Jordan, where Palestinians make up about half the population, large protests in support of Gaza are regularly held. The fall of these two regimes, loyal to the West, could deal a terrible blow to its interests and destabilize the entire Middle East. Therefore, it is in the interests of the United States and Europe to quickly end the war between the Palestinians and Israel, minimizing casualties.
Third, mass protests in the US and Europe are embarrassing the ruling classes of these countries. Hundreds of thousands of people take part in pro-Palestinian protests in Germany, Britain, France, and the United States. Among them are not only members of Muslim and Arab communities but also representatives of various social strata and political parties of the West of a centrist or conventionally “left” orientation.
American researcher Geneive Abdo posts notes on changes in public opinion in the United States on the website of the Washington Institute for the Arab Gulf States. According to her, “American Muslims and Arabs are now, perhaps more than ever, ready to oppose the policies of the United States and Biden personally”. Moreover, there are calls on social media not to vote in the 2024 US presidential election and not to provide any support to a candidate who approves of continued Israeli violence in Gaza. This could be disastrous for Biden. Muslims and Arabs vote for Democrats by significant margins, in states such as Michigan, where Biden narrowly won in 2020 and is set to win in 2024; The boycott could cost him the election, Abdo points out.
However, the importance of the last factor should not be exaggerated. Israel still has strong support in both the US and Western Europe.
The sentiments of Europeans are not that important to Israeli politicians. The main thing is that they still receive military and political support from Americans. A month after Israel began military operations against Gaza, there is no evidence that the United States is ready to stop supporting Israel.
Public opinion and political shifts in the US and Europe also do not demonstrate Israel's ideological defeat. After huge anti-Israeli demonstrations, large pro-Israel street actions took place in the United States and France. And perhaps Israel even benefits from regime change in the US and Europe.
The Egyptian publication Al-Ahram points out that ongoing demonstrations against Israeli actions in Gaza do not give a complete picture of the mood in Western societies. For example, because footage of these demonstrations does not reflect the opinions of those who prefer not to express their position publicly. A few days ago, the Gallup Institute, one of the most authoritative sociological research centers, surveyed a sample of more than 12,000 Americans. Results published by The Washington Post show that 37% of Americans sympathize with Israel, while only 15% sympathize with the Palestinians.
In Europe and the United States, the influence of far-right nationalist political movements is gradually growing. This is expressed not only in the support of a significant part of Americans for Trump, a supporter of extreme pro-Israeli views, and at the same time a conservative opponent of migration. In France, the influence of far-right nationalists is enormous; These parties and politicians criticize uncontrolled migration, the movement of foreign labor competing with local workers.
Migration and the emergence of large enclaves inhabited by foreigners are declared the main cause of unemployment, the collapse of social systems, and the deterioration of working conditions for the local population - they say that not only do newcomers compete with local workers, but they also spend a lot of money on them in the form of various social benefits. Extreme nationalist parties are making headway in elections in Italy, Spain, and the Netherlands. Many of them take strong pro-Israel positions. Some observers attribute the victory of right-wing nationalists in the elections in the Netherlands precisely to large pro-Palestinian demonstrations, where many Arabs were present.
The Israeli leadership understands all this very well. Thomas Friedman, a columnist for the New York Times, points out that Foreign Minister Eli Cohen ordered the Israeli ambassador to Romania, Reuven Azar, and one of the key Israeli settler leaders, Yossi Dagan, to meet in Bucharest with the leader of the Romanian far-right nationalist party. As Haaretz explains, this is part of an effort that Dagan is behind - an effort "aimed at developing ties between Israel and right-wing European parties to persuade them to support Israeli settlements in the West Bank" (the international community considers the West Bank Arab territories).
Today, Netanyahu and his allies are trying to build an alternative to Biden's diplomatic support through negotiations with right-wing conservative and nationalist parties in Europe and related forces in the United States. Perhaps, this strategy will bring success to Israel amid the growing “right-wing wave”.
So, one should not overestimate the West's ability and desire to control Israel's actions in Gaza. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu still has many different means to implement his goals, the main one of which is the destruction of Hamas.
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