There is no doubt that the Hamas terrorist assault on Israel on 7 October was extremely well prepared, technically speaking. But the guerilla operation is only the tip of the iceberg.
Did Israel fall into a convoluted trap set up by Hamas, which provoked it to flatten Gaza City and cause thousands of civilian deaths, ultimately igniting a civilisational war?
That is the question.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s government made the mistake of neglecting the risk Hamas represents in Gaza. The all-out military assault on Gaza City was his second big mistake.
Could the Israeli army achieve a military victory over Hamas in Gaza, by killing or arresting all its military commanders and fighters? Yes, this seems possible, given that the Israeli army is very professional and seems prepared to accept the casualties in its ranks that an operation like this will cause.
But even if Hamas is totally wiped out from Gaza, will this be Israel’s victory?
There are reasons to believe that those who masterminded the 7 October attack also anticipated the heavy-handed Israeli response, of which the strike on Jabalia is an illustration.
There are reasons to believe that the masterminds planned to die as martyrs. But their bigger objective is that the fire in Gaza would go on to engulf much wider regions and ultimately achieve the goal of wiping out Israel, as a first step towards the destruction of the West.
Further footage of strikes causing innocent victims, or the humanitarian catastrophe in which hospitals are left without medicines and electricity, are likely to add fuel to the fire and further divide our societies.
Was another Israeli approach possible? Yes. Israel’s secret services have outstanding traditions of successfully eliminating the country’s enemies even in distant countries, one by one, no matter how hard they tried to hide.
Revenge is a dish better served cold. But in the heat of the moment, Netanyahu forgot that.
The EU hasn’t been helpful either. The formula used by EU leaders that “Israel has the right to defend itself” has only served to whitewash – at least politically – Israel’s heavy-handed response.
The result is that now Israel is on its way to losing the propaganda war.
One reason is that the horrors of the October rampage are gradually eclipsed by the images of human suffering resulting from the Israeli strikes in the Gaza Strip.
Another reason is that Israel has blocked journalists from around the world from reporting from Gaza while inviting the foreign press to tour the aftermath of Hamas’ attacks and interview grieving Israeli families.
Thus, access for journalists is uneven, with coverage largely left exclusively to Al Jazeera, which has long had its presence in Gaza.
The Qatar-based media is a good illustration of the ambiguous – to say the least – role played by Doha, which hosts many Hamas leaders and has been financing the organisation over the years.
There is also a handful of Palestinian journalists reporting directly from Gaza onto their social media networks (mostly Instagram), like Plestia Alaqad or Motaz Azaiza.
However, as of Wednesday, 26 Palestinian journalists have been killed in the conflict, according to the US-based media freedom association the Committee to Protect Journalists. A Reuters video journalist was also killed in Gaza, while two other journalists with Reuters, two with Al Jazeera, and two with Agence France-Presse were also injured,
Moreover, the Gaza war has eclipsed the war in Ukraine, which risks weakening the West’s resolve not to allow a Russian victory.
If Europe has been sleepwalking into a situation spinning out of control, it is largely because it followed in the footsteps of the US, which swept the Palestinian problem under the carpet.
A number of negative scenarios are possible. Unfortunately, the UN is weak, almost irrelevant, and the Palestinians lack credible leadership.
But there is also a positive scenario, whereby despite these difficulties, the EU would lead the effort to achieve a viable two-state solution, guaranteeing the security of the Israelis and the Palestinians – and peace in our societies.
Make no mistake, this does not mean the traditional services by an “honest broker”. Europe is honest, but it is not a broker, it is a stakeholder because it is directly targeted by Hamas. That’s why it must jump in fast.
French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Kazakhstan on Wednesday on the first leg of a trip to Central Asia, a region long regarded as Russia’s backyard which has drawn fresh Western attention since the war in Ukraine began.
Germany is looking to outsource the processing of asylum applications to Africa amid pressure from liberal junior coalition member FDP and a general rise in asylum applications, in a move similar to the UK’s controversial plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.
Speaking in Berlin on Tuesday, US Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo defended the Inflation Reduction Act against criticism from the EU, calling upon European countries to adopt similar policies.
Don’t miss this week’s Green Brief: The West’s balancing act with China at COP28.
Look out for…
Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas in Mexico.
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen participates in AI Safety Summit 2023 in London on Thursday.
Von der Leyen meets UN Secretary General António Guterres in London.
Views are the author’s
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic/Nathalie Weatherald]