Current situation proves once again how important for unresolved territorial conflicts is to have a clear way towards resolution, as well as “functional fuses” that could neutralize any unforeseen escalation
The passions around Nagorno-Karabakh have not yet subsided, as the Arab-Israeli conflict has suddenly erupted. On the morning of 7 October, the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas announced the beginning of a military operation under the Storm Al-Aqsa code name. In some areas, its forces trespassed quite deeply into Israeli territory, having previously fired more than 2.2 thousand rockets at cities and military facilities. In response, Tel Aviv declared war on Palestine for the first time in 50 years, and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) launched the Swords of Iron operation.
The escalation coincided with the 50th anniversary of the so-called “Yom Kippur War”, when in October 1973 a coalition of Arab states attacked Israel, starting one of the biggest clashes in the Middle East. The date is significant for Islamists, which is why Hamas decided to launch such a powerful attack on Israeli territory on that very day.
Experts attribute the Palestinian successful raid to the biggest failure of the Israeli intelligence services, in particular Mossad intelligence and AMAN military intelligence, which left the country virtually unprepared for such a surprise attack. The absolute confusion of the military and political commanders resulted in numerous civilian casualties, as well as a loss of control over a wide range of territories.
It is most likely that further military action will resemble a land-based anti-terrorist operation in the Gaza Strip. However, given the scale of the clashes, no one can predict how long the active military phase will last. Moreover, Israel has so far failed to kick militants out from its territory. Whatever it is, Israel has suffered significant humanitarian and military-political damage, so Tel Aviv will try to put as soon and as “decisive” as possible end to this conflict. After all, the absence of a final Palestinian-Israeli settlement is the ground for constant escalation and violence.
Current situation once again clearly proves that the world is entering an era of profound international transformation. The old global and regional structures are losing their stability and effectiveness, which constantly generates “hot” crises. A new round of conflict in the Middle East may lead to large-scale consequences that will not necessarily ensure a balance of power and interests of all the players involved.
There are indications that the Palestinian action was carefully prepared and planned, possibly with Iranian support. The fact that Hamas has decided to undertake such an ambitious military operation may indicate the availability of both significant military resources and guaranteed support from other Islamic states. Perhaps, there is an aim to prolong the military confrontation with the US being drawn into another war campaign ahead of the 2024 presidential elections.
If we take a closer look on the situation, the next Arab-Israeli has not only a local nature, but affects other complex Middle Eastern situations. For example, the normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, on which Washington has placed special foreign policy bets. Regardless of the degree and intensity of hostilities, it is likely that the Saudis will have to show solidarity with the Palestinians, and the relationship-building with Tel Aviv will be put on pause.
As well known, the settlement of Israeli-Saudi relations is directly linked to the creation of an alternative transport corridor “India-Middle East-Europe”. Hostilities in the Middle East may call into question the further implementation of this large-scale project promoted by the current American administration. Since the route was openly positioned as a counterweight to China’s One Belt, One Road initiative, the main beneficiary of the current escalation is Beijing, which is interested in increasing instability in the region.
We should also note that a new conflict hotspot will further divert US attention from Ukraine and the provision of military and financial assistance to it. Amidst the budget crisis in the United States, as a result of which the systemic support for Kyiv is significantly reduced, Washington will face the question of who to prioritize: Israel or Ukraine. In addition, the US focus, including intelligence capabilities, on the hostilities in Ukraine can also be one of the reasons why Israel was not prepared for a Palestinian attack. Reducing attention to the Russian-Ukrainian confrontation may not only deprive Kyiv of chances for military success, but also have a negative impact on US claims to world leadership.
Given their local nature, regional conflicts may well become the catalyst for a larger international confrontation, as most of them often involve major nuclear powers. In the age of wide information dissemination’s media and other technologies, even the most remote crises threaten to have devastating consequences for entire regions and the world as a whole. Especially in a region as important and volatile as the Middle East.
Given the vast number of ongoing hotspots in various parts of the world, crisis prevention can be a complex task that requires joint and coordinated efforts by all states and international organizations. However, international intervention in such conflicts can also be a key factor influencing their severity and escalation. A delayed or inappropriate response by the international community can lead to further escalation, aggression and the use of military force.
It would seem that international institutions such as the UN Security Council should be the first to make efforts to prevent the conflict from escalating further. However, following a closed session on the Arab-Israeli confrontation, the Security Council did not adopt any statement, limiting itself to the decision to use both international and bilateral channels to call for a ceasefire.
This position once again confirms that the old rules of the game in the world no longer work, and regional conflicts are becoming more frequent and intense. At the same time, countries and institutions claiming to be international referees are unable to effectively prevent bloody clashes. The Russian-Ukrainian war is perhaps the clearest example of how localized hostilities have gone far beyond Eastern Europe and have become part of the global struggle for international order.
The Hamas militant operation is a signal that the Palestinian issue cannot be put aside, and until the issue is resolved one way or another, it will influence intra-Israeli processes, the regional context, large-scale cross-border projects and the global confrontation of various geopolitical alliances.
The consistent destabilization of various regions and the revival of local conflicts must be seriously analyzed in our country. We must realize that in the conditions of the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian confrontation we are already in the risk zone. Therefore, the unresolved Transnistrian conflict must have a clearly defined trajectory of movement and predictable development, as well as “functional fuses” that could neutralize any unforeseen escalation.