Mint Primer: A fissured land: Israel, Palestine and Hamas

By Chicago 5 Min Read

What is the genesis of this crisis?

It’s an incendiary mix of politics, religion and economics. Modern Palestine was populated with Jews from the global diaspora—a British imperial drive—in 1948. Around 750,000 Palestinians were expelled as Jews captured 78% of the land. The remainder were settled in Gaza and the West Bank. In 1967, Israel annexed the remaining Palestinian land from Jordan, Egypt, and Syria, expelling more Palestinians. In time, Israel became the protector of western interests in an oil-rich region. As to religion, the holy city of Jerusalem lies in Israel. Both sides claim the Temple Mount, venerated by Muslims, Jews, and Christians.

Who are the players in this war?

There are two main players. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, now in his sixth term, has been PM for more years than any other Israeli. But the right-wing politician has faced mass protests, including by military reservists, over plans to curb the judiciary’s powers. Hamas, an Islamic group which governs Gaza, is opposed to the very existence of Israel. Its political wing is headed by Ismail Haniyeh and the armed wing by Mohammed Deif. Sidelined by the Hamas attack is the moderate president of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas. Globally, he remains the face of Palestine.

What happened to the two-state solution?

The closest we came to it was the US-brokered Sep 1995 Oslo pacts between the head of the secular Palestine Liberation Organization, Yasser Arafat, and Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin. It ended when Rabin was shot by a Jewish extremist two months later. Now US President Joe Biden looks too preoccupied with domestic challenges and Ukraine to make a move on West Asia.

What are the global implications?

It may get Biden to finally consider brokering a peace in West Asia. The likely short-term fallout is worrying though: shooting oil prices, global recession, mounting resentment in the Islamic world and galvanized militant groups, led by the Lebanon-based Hezbollah. The role of Iran, which backs both Shia Hezbollah and Sunni Hamas, will be key. Netanyahu may solidify his position; equally he could be blamed for the military failure and ousted. There have been some calls already for a government of national unity.

What does the attack spell for India?

India has to be watchful about Pakistan and its deep state drawing opportunistic inspiration. A messy country will often seize upon such chances. The economic challenges are stiff: selling pressure on Monday drove the volatility index to its biggest rise in 10 months. With soaring crude prices, India’s dependence on cheap Russian oil will increase. Plans to build an India-Middle East-Europe corridor have come under a cloud. Civilians must be repatriated from Israel. And trade with Israel, at $12 bn, is likely to be seriously impacted.

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Updated: 23 Oct 2023, 05:08 PM IST


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