Future Directions of the Gaza War

Future Directions of the Gaza War

Since the outbreak of the Palestinian-Israeli confrontation on October 7, 2023, three central scenarios for the course of events in Gaza have crystallized. The likelihood of each scenario varies from moment to moment. One scenario may seem likely to occur, then shifts to the opposite, and sometimes the weakest scenario seems to gain traction. These three scenarios are like clock hands that meet and part with every second or minute. The three scenarios are:

Scenario One: Agreement on a Ceasefire

  • We have seen attempts at this in the halls of the United Nations (Security Council and General Assembly), and even in hints from international courts. Moreover, there have been agreements between the conflicting parties during prisoner exchange phases. However, all these efforts revert to their opposites, and the war reignites.

Scenario Two: Escalation

  • After the October 7, 2023 attack, signs of escalation and the widening of the confrontation emerged with Hezbollah entering the battle on October 9 by launching rocket attacks on Israeli targets. This created the impression that the escalation and expansion of the conflict had begun. With the American aircraft carrier Eisenhower heading to the region on October 16, fears of escalation increased. Expectations of a regional confrontation grew with the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces announcing they attacked the port of Eilat in occupied Palestine. The regional escalation loop was completed with the announcement on November 19 that the Houthis in Yemen seized their first ship in support of Gaza, followed by subsequent operations. The escalation path was fueled by the Iranian attack on Israel on April 13, 2024, in response to the Israeli attack on the Iranian embassy in Damascus a short while earlier. Expectations of escalating confrontation were recharged after Israel announced its attack on Rafah in the Gaza Strip on May 6, 2024, despite American and international warnings of its dangers. Despite all this, the situation settled into a local confrontation rhythm between the resistance axis and Israel without reaching the regional confrontation that would center around Iran.
  • Most researchers believe that Israel’s strategy (agreed upon by Netanyahu, Benny Gantz, Gadi Eizenkot, and other Israeli military and political leaders) is to push for an escalation that drags the United States into the battlefield, leaving the task of destroying Iran to the US as was done with Iraq. If this happens, the backbone of the resistance axis would be broken, sparing Israel from all the troubles with this axis. However, the US currently seems unwilling to go in this direction due to its other complex international tasks in Ukraine, Taiwan, and the Russian expansion near its strategic locations in the Pacific and its close proximity in Latin America, not to mention the upcoming presidential elections.

Scenario Three: Continuation of the Current Situation

  • This means that the situation remains without a permanent ceasefire and the regional escalation is curbed, while fighting continues in the Gaza Strip, and mediation efforts continue. This seems to be the path Netanyahu prefers, hoping it will lead him to the following goals:
    • Disarming the resistance, thus relieving Israel of confrontations since 2005. The United States seems supportive of this by providing everything that contributes to achieving it, despite the peace-loving humanistic rhetoric from the “Gang of Four” in the US.
    • Separating Gaza from Egypt by creating a buffer zone inside the Gaza Strip that separates it from the Egyptian Philadelphi (Salah al-Din) axis along 14 kilometers, thereby eliminating geographic contact between Palestine and Egypt, making the Palestinian issue insignificant to Egyptian leadership, similar to their view of the wars raging around Egypt in Sudan, Libya, or the Red Sea.
    • Establishing a new civil administration and changing the educational system in Gaza, which will resemble a restricted self-governance model.
    • Not recognizing a Palestinian state, continuing settlement expansion, and considering gradual and later mass Palestinian population displacement.

Future Considerations:

Several factors control the aforementioned scenarios:

  1. Resistance Capability: The ability of the resistance to continue the confrontation, especially under the pressure of the Israeli military machine, living conditions, rising civilian casualties, and infrastructure degradation. Additionally, the pressures from Arab mediators (Qatar and Egypt) to reach a settlement acceptable to the US suggest the coming months will be critical for the resistance.
  2. Israeli Prisoners: The cessation of fighting, from an Israeli perspective, requires the release of all Israeli prisoners (by war or negotiation). However, the possibility of announcing their deaths and handing over their bodies in a specific deal (in exchange for the release of some Palestinian prisoners) cannot be ruled out, especially if the resistance feels this is its last and urgent option.
  3. Regional Escalation: The real test of regional escalation scenarios will be when signs of an Israeli victory appear. Hassan Nasrallah stated in a televised speech at the beginning of the confrontation that the axis “will not allow the resistance to be defeated.” If the axis leans towards “managing the Israeli victory” rather than confronting it, the Israeli army will settle in Gaza for a period likely not less than ten years (as it stayed in southern Lebanon for 15 years).
  4. Negotiations Outcome: If negotiations between the resistance and Israel lead to the release of Israeli prisoners, internal pressures on Netanyahu will diminish. However, continuing the military operation will be less convincing to the international community, except for the US, which will continue to claim concern for civilians as a cover to avoid the moral repercussions of Israeli violence.
  5. Normalization States: Arab countries seeking normalization will rush towards deeper engagement with Israel if the resistance is defeated, transforming the Arab-Israeli conflict from a zero-sum game to a non-zero-sum game. The US and Europe will support this direction, but the two-state solution will see increased advocacy, something the Israeli right-wing clearly opposes more than other factions.
  6. Demographic Problem: The main problem, in my view, is that Israel has no solution to its demographic problem. An Israeli victory, if it happens, will provide Israel with new mechanisms for gradual population transfer via Arab or Western countries, especially with ongoing settlements and land seizures, replacing Palestinian labor with foreign labor, and squeezing the Palestinian economy to the point of suffocation.
  7. Resistance’s Endurance: If the resistance holds out on its own or with support from its axis for the next 3-6 months, internal strife and violence within Israel will likely increase, especially with the growing religious right. International pressure on Israel will increase, the hopes of old and eager normalizers will fade, and readiness for new upcoming confrontations will be more likely.
  • The potential relaxation of the Syrian-Turkish conflict, as some statements and political activities between delegations from both countries suggest, might help Syria contribute more to the resistance axis by freeing it from its burdens with Turkey, especially along their border.
  • International community pressures, increased recognition of the Palestinian state, and ongoing international court efforts against Israel, particularly with more countries joining South Africa in these lawsuits, are additional supportive factors. Furthermore, a segment of the political right growing in influence in Western countries has a negative stance towards Israel, which also strengthens the Palestinian position.

Black Swan Events: These require separate discussion, especially if they occur in Egypt, Israel, or Saudi Arabia, as these countries significantly influence the three scenarios without discounting the weight of other countries if a black swan lands in their territories.

SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

I hold a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and International Relations in addition to a Master's degree in International Security Studies. Alongside this, I have a passion for web development. During my studies, I acquired a strong understanding of fundamental political concepts and theories in international relations, security studies, and strategic studies.

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