The Israeli war, regardless of its paths and how it ended, the “Al-Aqsa Flood” operation created a new reality in which it is impossible to return to previous equations in the region, and any victory in Gaza will not help Israel if it is achieved because the Israeli deterrence force has been shattered in the region in general.
Israel declared war on Gaza, following Hamas’ operation in the Gaza envelope settlements, the “Al-Aqsa Flood” (October 7, 2023), which resulted in hundreds of Israeli deaths and hundreds of injuries, and the factions in Gaza captured at least dozens of soldiers and settlers. This was an exceptional event at the level of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as well as the Arab-Israeli conflict. There is no doubt that the blow that Israel received was shocking to Israeli security and weakened its public’s confidence in the army and intelligence, which had already lost confidence in its politicians, as reflected in the political crisis and divisions that Israel is suffering from. This operation also placed the Israeli government and the Zionist and extremist religious right behind it, in the circle of accusation for causing this, as they have long been fueling tensions, especially in the West Bank, underestimating the Palestinians and their ability to respond.
The commentary addresses the war declared by Israel against Gaza and its most important goals, as well as the repercussions on the regional situation, especially the possibilities of its expansion to include Lebanon and Syria or beyond.
Gaza and impossible goals
Given what Israel announced, the goals of the war range from revenge, restoring deterrence power, and recovering hostages, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu added other dimensions to it, saying: It is a “fateful war,” “long and difficult,” and that it will “change the face of the Middle East.”
This war has many faces and paths, some of which can be noted:
First: The face of the war declared by Israel has a retaliatory nature as a result of the shock. This was evident in the statements of its leaders, such as Netanyahu saying: “What we will do to our enemies will resonate for generations,” as well as what the Israeli Defense Minister, Yoav Galant, announced about a complete blockade against Gaza: “No electricity, no food, no water, no fuel, everything is closed.” He considered that Israel was fighting against “human animals.” This context makes it clear that raising the level of violence is a goal in itself in this war, and this has been evident since its first days. Gaza is being bombed with unprecedented violence, to the extent that what was targeted in the first days exceeded what the southern suburb of Beirut was exposed to in the 2006 war.
Second: The area of Gaza cannot support the achievement of major Israeli goals there, and any military operation in Gaza, at a minimum, will be a “sixth round,” but more violent than the five that preceded it, and more persistent in its targeting of killing and annihilating Palestinians, and searching for a form of storming Gaza by occupying parts of it. And tightening the siege on it. At its highest level, it aims to bring about a radical change in the Gaza Strip, whether by dividing it or annihilating parts of it and imposing new geographical realities, to inhibit the capabilities of the factions. In these two cases, the war wants to ultimately restore the prisoners and detainees in Gaza in exchange between the two parties, regardless of the circumstances in which the war will end, and to impose a new reality in which Israel has the upper hand.
However, the erosion of Israel’s deterrent power makes it doubtful that Israel will recover it with any military operation in Gaza alone, and even if it decides to invade it completely, while emphasizing the difficulty and high cost of this option and questioning its feasibility, it needs a longer term and broader policies to achieve this. Regardless of what you achieve in Gaza.
Israel realizes that it needs to change its position in the region, which is what Netanyahu is trying to mobilize in his contacts with the West and the world. Because, according to its narrative, Israel was targeted not only by Hamas, but by the entire Iranian axis. It always declares that it is threatened by Iranian expansion and Tehran’s allies in the region. The situation has changed in southern Lebanon, as Hezbollah has returned to deploy on the border. Under the Israeli pretext, it is “violating Resolution 1701,” which stipulates “creating an area between the Blue Line and the Litani River, free of any militants, military equipment, and weapons except those belonging to the Lebanese Armed Forces and UNIFIL forces.” Hezbollah, on the other hand, accuses Israel of repeatedly violating the resolution on land, sea and air, and insists on Lebanon’s right to resistance. Israel has repeatedly tried to create a buffer space on its border with Syria, for fear of pro-Iranian groups settling next to it, in addition to its constant targeting of Hezbollah and the rest of its allies in Damascus and the rest of Syrian territory, under the title of preventing precision missiles from reaching the party in addition to the rest of the military support.
War rolls and turns
There are several possible transformations on the event horizon, approaching or moving away depending on the conditions of the field and its results, and what the Israeli war can achieve or what setbacks it will suffer. Reoccupying Gaza, or reoccupying parts of it, or dividing it in order to stifle it in a way that stifles the “resistance factions” there, will push the war towards expansion to be comprehensive, especially if the commitment of Hezbollah as well as the “axis” to intervene in favor of Gaza from Lebanon and elsewhere is taken into account if necessary. This is because Hezbollah and the Palestinian factions repeatedly declared their commitment to what they called “the unity of the squares,” and the guest in his speech called on “the resistance in Lebanon, Iran, Yemen, Iraq, and Syria to unite with the resistance in Palestine,” and the military spokesman for the Al-Quds Brigades (the military wing of the Islamic Jihad Movement) also stressed that “The unity of the arenas in the region is all present in confronting the enemy.”
Realistically, Hezbollah’s commitment to the unity of the arenas will not go beyond the Lebanese reality nor its deep strategic connection with Tehran. Any military intervention by it in the confrontations alongside Gaza will not go beyond the realities and requirements of these two arenas. In Lebanon, Hezbollah adheres to the traditional equation on the border (i.e. the right to resistance in the Shebaa Farms area) with some modifications imposed by the war on Gaza. As violations of rocket launches from Lebanon began to multiply, in addition to infiltration and penetration of the “Israeli” border by Palestinian fighters from Lebanese territory, and then Hezbollah responded to the Israeli response along the entire border strip, beyond the occupied Shebaa Farms area. Currently, the scene of events and their development seem open to an escalation of the Lebanese confrontation, because the motive behind it is not only what is happening in Gaza, but in Lebanon itself, with the deaths of Hezbollah, and it was announced that three of its fighters were killed, while Israel announced the killing of three of its soldiers in the first confrontations as well.
Hezbollah still maintains the militarism of the battle, that is, limiting it to targeting Israeli military sites on the border without expanding into targeting the Israeli depth, while scattered missiles by Palestinian forces are launched from Lebanon, most of which hit open areas or do not affect the course of the current conflict. On the other hand, Israel shows its readiness for any escalation beyond the current level, but at the same time it is committed to it, especially since it has not regained the initiative on the border with Gaza.
Hezbollah cannot wage a comprehensive war without receiving significant support from its strategic depth in Tehran, which is what happened in 2006, and today there is largely open land communication, from Tehran to Beirut, and the party has fighters in Syria working within a larger strategy of an axis led by it. Tehran; What makes the decision to go to war more of a pivotal decision than a party decision. In principle, Tehran, which has repeatedly been subjected to Israeli threats to target it and has fought “shadow wars” with it, is in its interest to drown Israel in Lebanon, if not in and around Gaza.
Israel also has many reasons calling for it to shift its rolling war towards Hezbollah if it can. The great losses it feared occurred as a result of the “Al-Aqsa Flood,” and the fear that the war would expand beyond its capacity on several fronts, especially on the Lebanese front, has diminished with the availability of unreasonable American support. It is limited, at least according to what was announced by the Biden administration, and it is a consensus in Washington. There is an American air bridge supplying Tel Aviv with weapons and ammunition, and an aircraft carrier in the region (Gerald Ford), as well as another (Dwight Eisenhower) that will join it on its routine course, to prevent the expansion of the war by Tehran, and to strengthen the deterrence force in the region, according to the American announcer.
The shadow of the regional war has cast over the region as soon as Israel summoned America to the region at a time when Iran announces that it seeks to expel it. The decision regarding the expansion of the comprehensive war will remain a regional decision and not a local Lebanese decision related to Hezbollah only. It will also be international on the other hand and will not be limited to Israel because it will shift American priority from Ukraine and Russia to the Middle East.
The Israeli war, regardless of its paths and how it ended, the “Al-Aqsa Flood” operation created a new reality in which it is impossible to return to previous equations in the region, and any victory in Gaza will not help Israel if it is achieved, because the Israeli deterrence force has been shattered in the region in general. The “repercussions” of Israel’s war on Gaza will not erase those repercussions that will arise as a result of the “Al-Aqsa Flood,” whether in Palestine and the return of talk about a two-state solution and the futility of canceling the Palestinian side with all its components, or in Israel, as Netanyahu realizes that he and the extreme right will pay the price for Israeli policies. The nihilism that led Israel to this impasse, or in the region that has returned to impose itself as a priority and that its stability will not be achieved by overcoming the Palestinians or their cause.
Uri Bar-Yosef, “Between 1973 and 2023,” Haaretz, October 9, 2023, p. 11.
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Researcher at Al Jazeera Center for Studies, specializing in Arab Levant affairs and Islamic movements. He holds a doctorate in Islamic studies (branch of law, jurisprudence and its principles). His research interests cover the internal crises in the Arab Levant and the Arab-Israeli conflict, as well as Sunni and Shiite Islamic movements, jihadist groups, and their intellectual and jurisprudential categories and political orientations. He has many contributions and researches, including: Hezbollah: its narrative of the Syrian war and the sectarian issue, the “scholars” of the jihadist movement: discourse, role and future, the ideological roots of the Islamic State, the Lebanese movement: the Arab context and the challenges of the third Taif version.