ISRAEL GAZA CONFLICT
On October 7, 2023, a significant offensive and invasion originated from the Gaza Strip targeting Israel. The 2023 Israel-Palestine Conflict commenced with the Palestinian militant group, Hamas, taking the lead. Following the 1948 Arab Israeli war, this conflict marked the first direct confrontation within Israel's borders.
The militant group breached the Gaza-Israel Barrier, forcibly gaining access to Israeli settlements and military installations through the Gaza border crossing. The daybreak saw an initial vehicular assault into Israeli territory, accompanied by a rocket barrage directed at Israel. Multiple attacks were launched on Israeli military bases and civilian communities in the vicinity. Some observers referred to this as the onset of a third Palestinian Intifada.
Hamas militants breached Israel's borders, resulting in more than 900 Israeli casualties and over three thousand rockets fired from the Gaza Strip. The attackers, including gunmen, targeted Israeli troops and took civilians hostage, triggering a state of emergency in Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a national address following the attacks, declared that "Israel is now at war" due to the Israel-Gaza Conflict.
Israel and Hamas have been central figures in the protracted Israel-Palestine Conflict. Israel, a nation established in 1948, is in the Middle East, bordering countries like Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt. It has a diverse population, with a Jewish majority.
Hamas, on the other hand, is a Palestinian Islamist militant organization that has been ruling the Gaza Strip since it won legislative elections in 2006. It is known for its commitment to the Palestinian resistance against Israeli occupation. Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by Israel and many Western nations, making it a contentious player in the Israel-Palestine Conflict.
The Israel-Palestine Conflict is deeply rooted in history, stretching over seven tumultuous decades, marked by a series of wars, negotiations, and external involvement. This long-standing dispute revolves around two fundamental yet conflicting aspirations. Israel's demand for security in a region it perceives as hostile and Palestinian yearnings for an independent state.
It began with the Balfour Declaration in 1917, where the British government expressed support for a Jewish homeland in British-controlled Palestine. The issue was further exacerbated by waves of Jewish migration into the Palestinian territory. The United Nations General Assembly's recommendation in 1947 to partition Palestine into an Arab state and a Jewish state, along with the international recognition of Israel in 1948, triggered the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.
The creation of Israel marked a catastrophe in Palestinian history, known as the Nakba. This event led to the dispossession of Palestinians, with approximately 700,000 Palestinians, constituting half of the Arab population in British-ruled Palestine, either being displaced or forcibly expelled from their homes. These displaced Palestinians found themselves in neighbouring countries like Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, as well as in the territories of Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem.
The situation escalated in 1967 when Israel initiated a pre-emptive strike against Egypt and Syria, triggering the Six-Day War. Israel's victory in this conflict resulted in the occupation of the West Bank, Arab East Jerusalem, and Syria's Golan Heights, territories that have remained under Israeli control to this day. Subsequent conflicts, including the Yom Kippur War of 1973 and interventions in Lebanon and Gaza, further contributed to the complexity of the situation.
Following the Oslo Accords in 1993, the Palestinian Authority was established, providing limited autonomy to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. However, internal political divisions led to Hamas taking control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, effectively splitting Palestinian territories.
Israel's withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 did not bring about a resolution but instead led to significant flare-ups in 2006, 2008, 2012, 2014, and 2021. These conflicts encompassed Israeli air raids, Palestinian rocket fire, and at times, cross-border incursions by both sides. Additionally, there were two Palestinian uprisings, known as intifadas, between 1987-1993 and 2000-2005, with the second intifada witnessing waves of Hamas suicide bombings targeting Israelis.
Amid these cycles of conflict, various peace initiatives have been attempted. Notable achievements include the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, the 1993 Oslo Accords, and the 1994 peace treaty between Israel and Jordan. However, peace efforts have been at a standstill since 2014, when negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians in Washington faltered. Palestinians further boycotted dealings with the U.S. administration of President Donald Trump after it declined to endorse the two-state solution.
The core issues at the heart of this conflict involve a two-state solution, Israeli settlements, the status of Jerusalem, and the question of Palestinian refugees. These historical events have left a profound impact, shaping the enduring conflict and casting implications far beyond the region, impacting the international community as a whole.
GLOBAL STANCE ON THE CONFLICT
The Israeli perspective on the ongoing conflict with Hamas is driven by a commitment to national security and a desire to protect its citizens from rocket attacks and violence. Israel considers itself surrounded by hostile actors and has historically been threatened by its neighbours.
Israel's primary objectives in the conflict are to eliminate threats from Hamas, and to maintain control over its borders and territory. Israel's leaders argue that the military actions are defensive and aimed at neutralizing rocket launchers and terrorist operatives. Furthermore, Israel seeks to prevent weapons smuggling into Gaza, which it views as a vital security concern.
The Israeli government contends that Hamas's tactics, such as launching rockets to densely populated areas and using civilians as human shields, make it challenging to minimize civilian casualties. Israel's perspective highlights the difficulties of conducting military operations in urban settings while attempting to adhere to international laws regarding the protection of civilians.
The recent conflict is being narrated in Israel with an emphasis on the threats posed by Hamas. This includes reports of Israelis being held hostage by Hamas, attacks on Israeli towns resulting in the death of dozens of people and the abduction of others, and the use of human shields by Hamas. There are also stories of heroism, such as a young woman's actions that reportedly saved all the residents of her kibbutz from being killed by Hamas.
Internationally, the narrative appears to be more varied. Some countries have expressed support for Hamas and congratulated the Palestinian people on their resistance against Israel, blaming Israel for the escalation of violence. On the other hand, there are also reports of support for Israel, such as a supportive tweet from the Israeli Ambassador to India.
Hamas, as the governing authority in the Gaza Strip, justifies its actions within the context of the Israel-Hamas conflict by asserting itself as a resistance movement against what it perceives as Israeli oppression and occupation. The group views the conflict as part of a broader struggle for Palestinian self-determination, independence, and the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
Hamas argues that it is defending the rights of Palestinians in the face of Israeli military actions, land seizures, and restrictions on Gaza. The group's rocket attacks, and military actions are framed as responses to Israeli aggression, including the eviction of Palestinians from East Jerusalem and the violence at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Hamas's reliance on guerrilla warfare and rocket attacks stems from its conventional military capabilities in comparison to Israel's advanced armed forces. The group contends that it has the right to resist occupation and to protect Palestinian lives, even though its tactics often involve launching rockets from populated areas.
Hamas also asserts that its actions aim to draw international attention to the plight of Palestinians and their quest for self-determination, with the ultimate goal of securing a Palestinian state. The group has found support among some in the Arab and Muslim world who view it as a symbol of resistance.
In summary, the Israel-Hamas conflict is rooted in opposing historical narratives and objectives. Israel seeks to protect its citizens and maintain its security, while Hamas positions itself as a resistance movement fighting for Palestinian rights and independence. The conflict remains highly complex, marked by urban warfare, civilian casualties, and international geopolitical dynamics that continue to shape the perspectives of both sides.)
IMPACT ON INDIA
The Israel-Hamas conflict directly affects India's interests, encompassing various economic, diplomatic, and security aspects:
During its first few decades of independence, India enjoyed close relations with the Palestinians. Relations with Israel only began to strengthen after the Cold War. A pivotal moment came in 1999, when Israel sent weapons to India during the latter’s brief war with Pakistan.
India’s relations in the Middle East also align more closely with Israel’s interests than the Palestinians’. Some of India’s top partners in the region such as Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have formal relations with Israel, while another Saudi Arabia was closing in on a normalization deal before the Israel-Hamas war began. Iran, a Hamas ally, is one of the few Middle Eastern states that has bumps in its relations with India, mainly because New Delhi has reduced its commercial ties with Tehran in deference to U.S. sanctions.
INDIA MIDDLE EAST EUROPE ECONOMIC CORRIDOR PROJECT (IMEEC)
The on-going Israel-Hamas conflict may lead to delays and complications in the India Middle East Europe Economic Corridor project (IMEEC). The conflicts immediate consequences are confined to Israel and Gaza, but it could have ripple effects throughout the Middle East. It could not only derail the prospect of a historic peace deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, but it could also impact the proposed economic corridor that aims to boost economic development by fostering connectivity and economic integration between Asia, the Persian Gulf and Europe. This corridor would be from India to Europe passing through UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel and Greece. The MoU for this was signed during the G20 summit in New Delhi last month, with participation from the governments such as India, the US, the UAR, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, Italy and the European Union. The main objective of this project is to enhance transportation and communication links between Europe and Asia, which is often also viewed as the response to China’s belt and Road Initiative.
The Hafia Port of Israel is one of the key links in this recently signed MoU. Several Railway players like RITES, RVNL were supposed to get large orders for the creation of a mammoth rail infrastructure. The Israel Hamas conflict could cause a significant delay in the implementation of this project. The Hafia Port is owned and operated by Adani Ports and contributes 3% of the total cargo volumes of the company. Haifa is located on the northern side of Israel, while the ongoing conflict is restricted to the southern part.
India and Israel established diplomatic relations in 1992, India is Israel’s second largest trading partner in Asia and the seventh largest globally. The trade is dominated mainly by diamonds, petroleum products and chemicals. From $200M in 1992 trade primarily of diamonds, merchandise trade diversified and reached $10.1billion (excluding defence) in FY 2022-23. Indian merchandise exports to Israel was $7,89B and Israeli exports to India was $2.12B. In July 2017, India and Israel signed and exchanged seven MoUs on cooperation in the areas of innovation, technology, water, agriculture and space & science. A $40M India-Israel Industrial R&D and Technological Innovation Fund for joint projects was also set up. In 2018 India and Israel signed 9 agreements in various sectors including cyber security, oil and gas, solar energy, space science, air transport, medicines and film production. The conflict could create uncertainties and complications for these businesses.
MAJOR EXPORTS FROM INDIA
Pearls and precious stones, automotive diesel, chemical and mineral products, machinery and electrical equipment, plastics, textile and apparel products, base metals and transport equipment, agricultural products.
MAJOR EXPORTS FROM ISRAEL TO INDIA
Pearls and precious stones, chemical and mineral/fertilizer products, machinery and electrical equipment, petroleum oils, defence, machinery and transport equipment.
The similar approaches that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu take toward counterterrorism, seem to have strengthened relations. That terrorism triggered the Israel-Hamas war could generate a strong sense of solidarity between Israel and India, which has also suffered terrorist attacks and confronted the persistent threat of terrorism for years.
A direct conflict between Hamas and Israel may not impact India, but if other actors like Hezbollah and Iran get involved security and stability of the West Asian region will be terribly impacted which will have direct consequences for India’s energy supply, economy, investments etc.