Solon Solomon is an assistant professor in public and international Law at Brunel University London and a former member of the Knesset Legal Department.
Nothing will be the same after the current war. Because it is a war. The current events that involve a deep intrusion of Hamas fighters into Israel, the hostage-taking of Israeli civilians, the indiscriminate firing inside Israeli towns plus the firing of thousands of rockets, definitely constitute a war.
Israel has been caught unprepared in the current war. In the country, people are already talking about the “operational omissions of 2023.” The word used in Hebrew – mehdal – is the same word that has been used to describe another intelligence failure 50 years ago, in 1973. It was then that Israeli prime minister Golda Meir failed to correctly assess the danger that the Arab armies posed for Israel. The war that erupted remained in history as the Yom Kippur War, named after the Jewish holiday on which it started. What an irony of fate that this current war has started almost the same day as the Yom Kippur War in the Gregorian calendar and on the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah that follows Yom Kippur, similar to the events depicted in the movie Golda, which is currently playing in cinemas worldwide.
The Yom Kippur War led to the fall of Golda Meir’s government. It created the circumstances for the Israeli society to search for something new beyond the traditional party in power. Golda’s socialist party Mapai, which had ruled the country since the days of the first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion in 1948, eventually lost support. The Yom Kippur War thus paved the way to the change of power that happened in 1977, when the right-wing Menachem Begin won the elections.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been ruling the country for years, with his current tenure being the most controversial. The judicial reforms he proposes have taken a toll on the country. This war may be his swan song, ending his days in power. Already talks are under way for an emergency national unity government to be formed. Yet, a government that cannot be deemed trustworthy to administer things alone, even in periods of great crisis or war like the current one, leaves questions as to whether it is able to lead the country.
The current war will leave scars, not only for Israel but also for the Palestinians and the international community. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas responded to the recent violence by saying that the Palestinians have the natural right to defend themselves from the military occupation and the settlers. Yet, there hadn’t been any Israeli soldiers or settlers in Gaza. Mr. Abbas’s statement thus implies that the Palestinians have the right to strike Israel from Gaza because of what is happening in the West Bank and vice versa. If that’s the case, it is difficult to imagine how Israel will ever agree to a Palestinian state in the West Bank. Even if the West Bank is being declared demilitarized, the unity with Gaza will permit the import of weapons from there. In a future war, Israel will find itself having to combat two Palestinian fronts, both on its right and its left. No Israeli government will ever consent to such a situation.
In that sense, Mr. Abbas’ words harm the Palestinian hopes for a state that will comprise both Gaza and the West Bank. They further undermine the prospects of a territorial solution that will be favourably seen both by Israel and the international community.
The international repercussions of the current war are equally grave. It is hard to fathom that Hamas, which was preparing for this war for months, did not have the approval and backing of Iran. It is also hard not to link the current Hamas decision to escalate conflict with Israel with the latter’s decision to normalize ties with Saudi Arabia, Iran’s major regional enemy. The Hamas-Israel war thus becomes a proxy war that in essence concerns the question of whether Saudi Arabia or Iran will control the new Middle East, or, in other terms, a war between the Western-allied Saudis and Israel and Russian-allied Iran. The Ukraine war was hailed as the first modern proxy war between the West and Russia. It is really sad and worrying that the second example in this new era we have entered involves the Middle East and the volatile Israeli-Palestinian conflict.