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Israel-Palestine war: What is the endgame?

As the conflict drags on, the regional decline in Israeli and American influence could become a decisive factor
Israeli military vehicles and tanks deploy near Gaza on 24 October 2023 (AFP)

Defence Minister Yoav Gallant has said the Israeli government’s plan for Gaza includes a ground invasion, a long-term presence, a new "security regime" in Gaza, along with "the removal of Israel’s responsibility for life in the Gaza Strip". He did not say what that new security regime would entail.

Gallant has also said that Gaza’s area would shrink with the creation of a buffer zone.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has declared that it is not only Israel’s right, but also its duty to defend its citizens. Acknowledging that civilians will inevitably suffer in this war, he emphasised Israel’s obligation to protect its people.

At the same time, the northern Israeli front with Lebanon has escalated to a dangerous state of daily military clashes, which could lead to a comprehensive and devastating war. While neither side wants this, the situation is approaching a critical juncture.

Some Israeli analysts have called for a preemptive strike on the northern front, since after the Gaza plan is completed, it would be unacceptable to have a force in Lebanon that is significantly stronger than Hamas. Other voices have emphasised the need for international pressure to de-escalate.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government lacks a clear objective in the wake of the 7 October surprise attack by Palestinian fighters. Feelings of shock, failure and revenge dominate the situation. 

Amid fears that Israel is seeking permanent demographic change in Gaza, Egypt and Jordan have firmly rejected the possibility of forcibly relocating Palestinians to either country.

Still, the formation of Israel’s war government, including opposition leader Benny Gantz, along with the neutralisation of hardline ministers, points to the crystallisation of a long-term Israeli plan that includes shrinking the Palestinian territory of Gaza, pushing its population south, causing extensive destruction, eliminating Hamas and its authority, and ensuring the sustainability of these measures through a buffer zone and a civilian authority under international sponsorship. 

This is the same model that Israel attempted to apply to Lebanon four decades ago and failed.

No political solution

The Israeli government has thus far been supported by the US administration and the European Union. Yet, while it openly seeks to undermine and eliminate Hamas, it also seeks to undercut any Palestinian demands for an independent state.

Despite the recent military and security shocks sustained by Israel, there has been no fundamental change in its approach to the long-standing occupation; no political force in the country has proposed a political solution or a just resolution.

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In the US, President Joe Biden has asked Congress to allocate tens of billions of dollars in emergency support for Israel and Ukraine, drawing a parallel between the two conflicts. It is evident that Israel’s failure to achieve its goals would have repercussions on the (already dwindling) American influence in the region - and on Washington’s priorities.

The Palestinian people and their cause will remain at the forefront of the global agenda until a just solution is achieved

It is important to note that any statements regarding the goals of the war are not necessarily the actual goals or priorities. Even the Gallant plan, as outlined above, falls within the tactics of “hybrid warfare”, which seeks to collapse the enemy from within before the next stage of the war begins. 

Such statements should also be considered a form of psychological warfare as Israel continues to rain bombs on Gaza, killing thousands of people and displacing hundreds of thousands. Israel appears to be attempting to re-establish its control over the northern Gaza Strip, after disengaging and dismantling settlements in 2005. It is worth mentioning that earlier this year, the Knesset repealed clauses of the Disengagement Law pertaining to settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The war on Gaza has been accompanied by a dangerous escalation of aggression in the occupied West Bank involving the army, government and extremist gangs of “hilltop youth”, alongside a campaign of terrorism against Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Genocide and war crimes acts

Amid growing global protests against Israel’s war on Gaza and the targeting of civilians, the full responsibility for this humanitarian catastrophe lies with the Israeli and US governments, in addition to most major European countries. Gaza is now facing acts of genocide and war crimes. 

Israel-Palestine war: Israel's urge for revenge is aimed at all Palestinians
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The global protest movement aligns with popular anger across the Arab world and the official Arab stance, leading to cracks in the western media system, which has long justified Israel’s crimes and fabrications. In some cases, we have seen a turnaround, with journalists and analysts starting to shift towards the Palestinian cause.

Israel’s US-backed push to suppress the Palestinian people has thus far proved to be an impossible task. The Palestinian people and their cause will remain at the forefront of the global agenda until a just solution is achieved.

At the same time, there is no clear ending to the current conflict. Not everything planned by Israel and the US necessarily leads to success from their perspective; in fact, they often stumble. Even Biden admitted the failure of US goals in the region after the 9/11 attacks. Regardless, this war is already catastrophic from the Palestinian perspective.

Across the region, there is a growing sense of a strategic, unified Arab stance, as seen in the recent peace conference hosted by Egypt. Cairo now represents the most significant regional challenge to the US-Israeli enterprise.

Ultimately, the regional decline in Israeli and American influence, alongside broader global power shifts, could be decisive factors in how the current conflict unfolds.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Ameer Makhoul is a leading Palestinian activist and writer in the 48 Palestinians community. He is the former director of Ittijah, a Palestinian NGO in Israel. He was detained by Israel for ten years.
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