How The Gaza Crisis Harms US Interests – OpEd


The sudden attack by Hamas on Israel has sparked a new wave of violence in the long-standing Israel-Palestine conflict. Unlike previous clashes, Hamas showed unexpected military strength and inflicted more damage on Israel than ever before. Thousands of people have been killed and thousands of rockets have rained down on Israel, forcing the country to declare a state of war. This situation is alarming, as it could escalate into a regional war with multiple actors and increase the suffering of innocent civilians.

The Israel-Palestine conflict has once again become a global concern, as world leaders try to stop the crisis from worsening and seek a peaceful solution. The outcome and impact of this crisis are uncertain, but some analysts have explored how it affects the power dynamics among major countries, the prospects of a new Middle East, and the challenges for the Biden administration. They agree that the continuation of this war is detrimental to the interests of the United States and the West.

The battleground of great power competition

The West could lose its focus on the war in Ukraine if the Israeli-Hamas conflict spreads to other parts of the Arab world. US President Biden is trying to link more aid to Ukraine with an emergency aid package for Israel, but he faces resistance from Congress. Even if he succeeds, the Middle East crisis could reduce the aid flow to Ukraine, which would favor Russia. A wider war would benefit Russia in two ways. First, it would increase the oil and gas prices, which would boost Russia’s economy and give Putin more resources to fund the war in Ukraine. Second, it would disrupt the US plans for the Middle East, such as the peace deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, which the US has worked hard to achieve.

Experts on global affairs also think that China will benefit from the rising conflict in the Gaza Strip, as it will divert the West’s attention from containing China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific region. This could be a major advantage for Chinese leaders in securing China’s position in the South China Sea and increasing Beijing’s pressure on Taiwan. It could also give China more room to compete with the United States in strategic areas. China, like Russia, will welcome the US’s involvement in the Middle East’s challenges. Therefore, Beijing, which earlier this year facilitated the reconciliation between Iran and Saudi Arabia in hopes of weakening the US-led world order, is unlikely to be very upset by the disturbances caused.

The early death of the “modern Middle East” dream

 Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently proposed a vision of a new Middle East in his speech at the United Nations General Assembly. According to this vision, Israel and the countries that have normalized or will normalize relations with it – the countries that have joined or will join the Abraham Accords – such as Saudi Arabia, will be the main actors in shaping a new regional order. However, the most significant casualty of the outbreak and continuation of the war in Gaza is the premature demise of this new Middle East.

Israel’s military reaction to Hamas’s attacks has worsened the situation more than before. Israel faces a tough dilemma in responding to these attacks. On one hand, domestic pressure demands a harsh response from Israel to these attacks; on the other hand, with the relentless bombing, the rising civilian casualties in Gaza, and the growing anti-Israeli sentiments in the Arab world, peace, and the new Middle East vision seem farther away than ever. The execution of Israel’s military commanders’ threats to enter Gaza and change its conditions could trigger the crisis to spill over to the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, and even Egypt and Jordan.

Hamas’s surprise attack shattered the Arab-Israeli normalization process. The Arab countries that had normalized or were trying to normalize relations with Israel under the Abraham Accords – such as the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia – were forced to distance themselves from Israel. The long-term consequences of this attack include a deeper Israeli-Palestinian conflict, more violence, and a higher chance of failure for future peace efforts. The strained relations between Israel and the Arab countries make the stable normalization of relations increasingly hard. The Gaza crisis has empowered the radical elements in both Palestinian and Israeli society, raised the cost of moderation, and has made the peaceful resolution of the crisis impossible for an indefinite period of time.

Biden administration in crisis

The war between Israel and Hamas has also shaken the US’s domestic politics. This crisis has created new challenges for the Joe Biden administration, worsened the current disorder and inefficiency of the Congress, and made the 2024 US election even more uncertain. Although the American public usually pays little attention to foreign events, the terrible images of civilian deaths from the Middle East and the fact that some Americans are among the victims and captives show that the Middle East crisis will definitely have national implications and affect the elections.

The finger-pointing has already begun. Even though there is no proof of Iran’s direct role in planning this operation, Republicans have linked the attack on Israel to President Biden’s policies towards the Iranian regime – including letting Iran access $6 billion of its frozen assets in exchange for the release of American citizens. Prominent Republicans such as Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida and one of Trump’s potential rivals in the presidential race, are trying to use this conflict for political gains by accusing the Biden administration of being too soft on Iran.

Meanwhile, the Republicans have been struggling with an internal political crisis over the speaker of the US House of Representatives, until recently. Since some Republicans removed the Speaker, the House of Representatives has been practically paralyzed. This chaos created a big problem in foreign policy because it affects the amount and timing of US aid to Israel, as well as the continuation of US military aid to Ukraine, which already faces opposition from some Republicans in Congress. If there were already disagreements and tensions among US policymakers over the US commitment to strengthen Ukraine or increase support for Taiwan, these tensions have now escalated with the emergence of the Middle East crisis and the threat to a country that is very important and dear to the US – Israel.

The current crisis in the Middle East, by shifting the West’s and the US’s attention and focus from Russia and China, gives Putin more freedom to advance in Ukraine and weakens the policy of containing Beijing in the Indo-Pacific region; it also undermines the vision of the new Middle East, which allowed the US to turn away from the Middle East and focus on major competitions; and it intensifies the internal and external partisan divisions between Republicans and Democrats, which leads to the weakening of the US’s political structure and the established government. In general, this crisis is not in the interests of the US and the West.

Sarah Neumann

Sarah Neumann is a professor of political science and teaches political science courses at Universities in Germany

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