Israel’s uncertain Post-War future: Leadership changes and global dynamics – Chuck Stephens

In the aftermath of the Battle of Gaza, concerns arise about Israel’s post-battle plans and the potential imposition of a top-down solution. The reputation damage suffered by Israel may affect its role in the aftermath scenario. Netanyahu’s impending departure is anticipated, and the key question is who will replace him. The impact of Biden’s sudden support of Israel, the Democrats’ division may play a key role in who wins the election. Republican party support however seems set in stone. The shifting public opinion globally, and the variance of opinion in Muslim countries should not be overlooked. The complexity of the situation suggests a challenging and uncertain “day after,” with implications for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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Scary Scenarios of the Days After

By Chuck Stephens

People keep asking if Israel has a plan for “the day after” the Battle of Gaza.  Don’t you think it would be top-down and un-democratic for Israel to impose a solution on the Palestinians?  Don’t they have a right to self-determination?

My assumption is that Hamas has suffered so much reputation damage that it has disqualified itself to even be there on the day after.  By then, it will be buried beside Al Queda and ISIS.

Let’s start in Israel.  Everyone knows that Netanyahu’s days are numbered.  He will win the war, but lose the peace.  He screwed up, and Israel is a democracy.  He will have to go, as soon as the guns fall silent.  One of the key questions about the day after is, who will replace him?  I have a friend living in Israel, here is what he wrote me today.  Think about it.  His English is imperfect because it is not his mother tongue:

“It will be a mini holocaust if a large number of hostages will be killed. If that happens, the government / IDF will flatten Gaza to pieces irrespective of international reaction. It’s all too sensitive these hostages.

“The issues are what happens after ending the war. Also insiders think the IL government will be send home and another even more conservative government will replace the present one. This is worrying as less space will there be for peace talks and understanding. It is a mess and the present PM neglected the boiling sentiments the Palestinians have.”

For the past year, USA president Joe Biden refused to receive PM Netanyahu.  This has not been forgotten.  Biden’s sudden support of Israel was out of character.  In fact, he neglected the whole Middle East because of his disdain for the Abraham Accords.  There are two prospects – one is that Biden survives the impeachment and the election (both in the days after…), winning a second term.  Or else that he is out for the count, and replaced. 

Right now his Democrats are split between support of Israel and of Palestine.  This ambiguity could in fact cost them the election, just like an earlier hostage crisis cost Jimmy Carter a second term.  Meanwhile the Republican party’s support of Israel is solid.  The Abraham Accords were brought to you by Donald Trump.  This does not mean that Arabs do not take sides – but they will look for a pragmatic balance.  And they will absolutely insist that Hamas go the way of Al Queda and ISIS. 

There are elections in 2024 in Britain and India as well as in the USA.  A change at the helm is predicted in the UK.  The Labour party there is split like the Democrats.  It will not muster game-changing support for either Israel or the Palestinians.  The Hindu nationalists are expected to win in India, and will continue to back the Israelis.

In the past three weeks – of the six-weeks since October 7th – the pendulum of public opinion has swung away from Israel in favour of the Palestinians.  People forget the hostages and lose the plot.  Muslim countries from Turkey to Iran to Indonesia have called for a cessation of hostilities.  But what leverage do they have?  First of all, most of them have had no diplomatic relations with Israel for 75 years.  Second of all, they cannot agree among themselves.  That was Jack the giant killer’s trick – get the dumb giants to fight one another.  Then slip away.

Egypt and Jordan both have borders with Israel and also diplomatic relations with it.  But they stridently refuse to accept any Palestinian refugees.  Yes, some sick and injured Palestinians are now being taken to hospitals in Egypt.  But they insist that Israel and Palestine must sort out their differences internally.  They know that the holy Quran does not condone the war crimes that Hamas committed on October 7th

Basically, neither Netanyahu’s government nor Hamas will attend the post-war deliberations on the day after.  Expect a fragile Palestine to meet with a democratically chosen hard-line, alt-right government of Israel.

Demographically, Palestinians are not Arabs.  They have origins in the Western Mediterranean.  Egyptians are Africans.  Iranians are Persians.  As Semitics, Israelis are more closely related to Arabs than the Palestinians are.  Many Arabs are descendants of Abraham’s other seven children (only Israelis are descended from his son Isaac, whose mother was Sarah).  So it is that many peoples in the region revere Abraham as their father, from his other two wives Hagar and Keturah.  So don’t expect the Arabs to come running to the rescue of the Palestinians on the day after. 

Finally, those who guide the transition to a just and sustainable peace must keep an eye on international trendings.  In general, since the United Nations was founded in 1945, the meaning of “self-determination” has evolved.  At first, it was regarded as a right.  This was a way to promote the independence of former colonies.  We are no longer in that period.  In the post-colonial era, the meaning of “self-determination” had to be downgraded.  It cannot mean “secession” or that will cause chaos.  For example, a two-state solution was not acceptable in South Africa, which famously became the “rainbow nation”.  That’s the trending nowadays.

Partition was acceptable in 1948 between India and Pakistan, as a way to end colonial rule.  This is however no longer seen as a solution.  It was imposed on India and Pakistan even under protest from the Quit India Movement.  According to the U.N., ‘if every ethnic, religious or linguistic group claimed statehood, there would be no limit to fragmentation, and peace, security and well-being for all would become even more difficult to achieve’.  See ‘An Agenda for Peace’, UN Doc. A/47/277 [5]

The state of Israel was launched in 1948, during the colonial period.  But 28 countries still don’t recognize its existence, as of yet.  The PLO did not pronounce its unilateral declaration of independence for another forty years – in 1988.  And 55 nations still do not recognize its existence as a state, including the USA, France and the UK.

The day after is hard to predict, when the Left is split over support of Israel and Palestine, and when there could be turn-overs at the helm in Israel itself, in the USA, the UK, and possibly even South Africa?  India’s support of Israel is likely to remain in place.  Public opinion is fickle, but a far-right swing in post-Netanyahu Israel could cause it to hunker down in spite of international pressure.  To the extent that the pressure exerted – especially from countries in the Middle East – is split or incoherent in terms of international norms, Israel will simply act to assure its own security.  All bets are off on the two-state solution.  Hamas blew it for the Palestinians.

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*Chuck Stephens: Desmond Tutu Centre for Leadership

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