The recent Israel-Gaza conflict has set some interesting new precedents. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in particular has altered his historically strong stance toward rocket attacks from Gaza. We can learn many lessons in the wake of this recent scuffle, as Israel adapts to the changing political landscape of the Middle East. It also sets the stage for a shifting regional dynamic, which we will see play out in the UN on Thursday.
Here are the five important lessons to be learned from the Israel-Gaza conflict.
1) With Egypt no longer taking a blindly western stance on international issues, Israel has had to adapt to this unpredictable new reality.
Egypt’s newfound independence allows them to explore new roles and declare differing opinions than when Mubarak was calling all the shots. Israel is fully aware that this new Egyptian perspective may or may not coincide with their aims. Moreover, Egypt’s crucial role in securing a ceasefire establishes them as an increasingly important diplomatic player in the region. And Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi wasted no time in manipulating these events to his own advantage. For instance, Morsi has clearly translated his first big international diplomatic success into domestic political capital with his recent decree that grants him sweeping new powers.
2) Israeli society continues to be amenable to military action.
A recent poll found that 84% of Israelis favored embarking on the operation, with 12% opposing it. However, only 30% thought a ground incursion was recommended while 70% were actually against the ceasefire.
3) Palestinian President Mahoud Abbas’ conspicuous absence from the ceasefire talks shows that Israel doesn’t consider his government to be a strong partner.
Pundits have surmised that Abbas might be the biggest loser coming out of this recent skirmish politically speaking, as his role in the talks was extremely diminished. While it is true that Fatah has minimal influence in Gaza, bringing them to the table would have forged a closer relationship between Hamas and Fatah for future peace talks and also would have established Fatah as a strong and credible partner of Israel. This blatant omission shows that Israel does not currently have the desire to engage in long term peace talks any time soon.
4) Many people were surprised that Israel was willing to publicly negotiate with Hamas.
Not only did Israel enter talks with a government that they consider a terrorist entity, but they came to an agreement in a relatively short amount of time. This is yet another indication of Israel’s newly adopted pragmatism in the face of a quickly changing political environment.
5) Israel did not follow through with a ground incursion.
There are many speculations as to why this hawkish step was avoided by a government that is up for reelection in three months’ time. Two interesting possibilities include Israel’s desire to avoid negative international opinion, particularly in the midst of a constantly changing Arab political landscape and the fact that the Iron Dome security system mitigated Israeli casualties. Whatever the reason, it is the first glimmer of hope toward the possibility of a permanent peace agreement, something Obama is sure to prioritize in his second term.