Gaza Crisis: What’s Next?
A week into the most recent conflict in Gaza, News@AUC spoke with Bahgat Korany, political science professor, and Ibrahim Awad, professor of practice in global affairs and director of the Center for Migration and Refugee Studies, to gain insight into what the future may hold.
What's your main take on the situation in Gaza?
Korany: This was a surprise attack that shows an unexpected level of Hamas’s capabilities and an equally unexpected failure of Israel's intelligence services. This attack was probably in preparation for a long time, yet Israel with its technological sophistication –– especially at the border area with an adversary –– couldn't detect it. It is even a greater failure than that of the Israeli intelligence services 50 years ago when the 1973 October war was initiated by the surprise Egyptian-Syrian attack.
Awad: This is a natural consequence of prolonged occupation, complete neglect of the Palestinian question, denying the rights of Palestinian people since 1948, and encroaching on Palestinian land with settlements in the West Bank and elsewhere. Hamas now became very inventive. No one would have expected or imagined that it would go 24 km outside the Gaza borders into Israeli military camps and take control.
What repercussions will this have on Egypt and the region?
Korany: Egypt will be intensely involved at the geopolitical and humanitarian levels and in trying to stop the fighting. Many international parties, including the United Nations, will be inciting Egypt to carry out efforts in this respect. Regionally, tension will intensify, especially if the Lebanese front and Hezbollah join in. Previous talk about an Israel-Saudi Arabia reconciliation and normalization will be shelved for the time being. The Palestinian issue, away from thinking of the problem mainly in terms of normalization between Israel and other Arab States, will be brought to the forefront. The world has been reminded that the Palestinian issue is the core of the conflict.
Awad: Any instability in the region will have consequences for all countries, whether in trade, tourism or other aspects. Year after year, conditions of life have deteriorated for Palestinians, becoming more constrained and unbearable, and this only makes things worse. No region will live in durable peace or stability –– nor will its countries develop –– if the Palestinian question is not settled. In order to develop, countries need to have sustained economic activity, growth, education policies, health care, agricultural production –– how can you sustain economic activity in conditions where violence could erupt at any time? You need a peaceful and productive environment to ensure stability; otherwise, sudden outbursts like these will continue. It’s in everybody’s interest to settle the Palestinian question seriously and resourcefully.
What about Israel ordering the evacuation of 1.1 million Palestinians from Gaza?
Korany: The Israeli pressure on 1.1 million Palestinians to leave their homes is primarily self-serving for Israel. It aims to perpetuate the idea of Palistinians as a group of refugees and not a people worthy of their own state. It could also allow Israeli settlers to occupy this Palestinian land, as happened in the past and is in fact a characteristic of settler colonialism. Palestinians should defend their homes and keep their land. They should resist the invading army rather than be reduced to a group of refugees as Israel wants the world to look at them.
Awad: History must not repeat itself. The 1950 Israeli Absentee Property Law allowed for the confiscation of the homes, assets and land belonging to Palestinians who were forced to flee before and during the 1948 War, giving them to Jewish immigrants. This should not happen again. Palestinians should not be evacuated, in reality expelled, from their land; otherwise, the Palestinian question will gradually vanish. The question is not Hamas or any other group. If Hamas is gone, others will emerge so long as Palestinians are not given their rights, protected, and allowed to live in peace and to develop and prosper.
Is there hope for a peaceful conflict resolution?
Korany: Potential conflict resolution will take time. But there could be hope for conflict management to avoid repeated flare-ups and atrocities, especially for Israel and its allies to realize that the continuation of occupation doesn't guarantee stability.
Awad: A solution is possible, but how close or far we are from it is something we can’t predict at the moment. Power disparities exacerbate the situation because the stronger party has no incentive to compromise. The two parties should be willing to negotiate, and the regional international community needs to create the conditions in which there is a balance of power conducive to a serious peace settlement.
How do you think this conflict will end?
Korany: We will finally have a ceasefire after all the destruction and atrocities, especially in Gaza. However, this conflict will not end soon. We will move to a different stage of the conflict.
What are the main lessons learned from this crisis?
- The present status-quo of the Israeli 56-year occupation and siege is not synonymous with stability.
- Various debates will intensify in Israel that will add to its domestic crisis. After this glaring and costly failure of Israeli intelligence services in identifying the Hamas attack and preparing for it, there will be demands for explanation and accountability. For instance, when these intelligence services failed to warn of the 1973 Egyptian-Syrian attack, a special inquiry commission, the Agranat Commission, was formed. In the case, the demands for inquiry and general criticism of the government will be directed against the policies of this right-wing government and will come not only from the political opposition parties but also from Israeli society as a whole. These domestic debates will add to an already polarized Israeli society.
- Whatever reconciliation/normalization agreements take place between Israel and its Arab neighbors, such as the 1979-Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty and the 2020-Abraham Accords, are not able to end the conflict.
- As long as the core Palestinian issue is not addressed, the conflict will continue, with occasional intifadas and flare-ups that have varying degrees of violence.
- Those who have the upper hand are not immune from threats to their security and peace.
- Had there been serious consideration of reaching a humane, politically just and durable settlement for the Palestinian question, we would not have reached this stage.
- A settlement will change all narratives and impose a different narrative. When two parties are at war, the natural narrative is hostility and vanquishing the other. If an agreement is reached, this will impose a new vision, and the two sides will have to live with this settlement, suppressing any narrative of animosity and continuous conflict. However, for this to be effective, the settlement has to be just and durable –– a settlement that allows Palestinians, in their own state, and other Arab states to fully exercise their independence and sovereignty, which is the condition for peaceful cooperation in the region.
- To solve any problem, you have to disentangle the complex, interwoven factors as events unfold. The Palestinian question has to be addressed at its roots.