Israelʹs raid on Gaza risks provoking a new war

12.11.2018

Hugh Lovatt, a Policy Fellow with European Council on Foreign Relationsʹs Middle East and North Africa Programme, gave the following comment on Israelʹs 11 November raid on Gaza:

"The intent behind Sundayʹs operation remains perplexing. But its timing risks de-railing international stabilisation efforts and provoking a new war.

This is happening at a delicate juncture in Hamas-Israeli relations as the two sides are attempting to come to a longer term arrangement that can preserve calm in exchange for an easing of socio-economic conditions within Gaza.

While there are many reasons to believe such arrangements might not be sustainable over the long term, there was nevertheless hope it could significantly delay renewed war. And indeed, real progress was being made.

To be sure, things have not been smooth sailing. There have been spoilers on both sides who have advocated for tougher lines.

In the Israeli government, Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Minister of Education Naftali Bennett have competed against each other to be toughest on Gaza.

While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has opposed a large-scale military offensive in Gaza he has been under increasing attack politically at home for being too soft on Hamas.

So Israeli political dynamics may have played a part in tonightʹs operation. If this is seen within Israel to be have been a fiasco and if the reported Israeli Killed in Action is confirmed, this will cause the Cabinet and Prime Minister Netanyahu a real political headache in the run up to Israeli elections, likely in early 2019 and perhaps provoke further Israeli military action.

Over the past six months, neither Hamas nor Israel has appeared keen to return to war. But each will now have to engage in military reprisals to preserve their ʹdeterrenceʹ capacity against the other.

Whether we see another war will depend on several factors, including the final death toll, the original objective of Israelʹs operation and the perceived ability of each side to save face. The fact that this could be seen as an Israeli operational failure may allow Hamas to claim a win and de-escalate. But it is still very unclear how this will play out."    (Deutsche Welle)

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