Context: The recent attack by Hamas launched the al-Aqsa Flood operation wherein Hamas carried out its largest invasion on Israel in decades by militants. In the counter attack, Israel declared a war on the outfit and is preparing for a major ground offensive against the HAMAS group.
- Roots of Hamas go back to the Muslim Brotherhood which was established by Egyptian Islamist Hasan al-Banna in 1928. Muslim Brotherhood focused on reorienting Muslim society.
- Brotherhood’s believed that the time for ‘jihad’ had not come yet and they should first build a stronger, pious Islamic society – calling it upbringing of an Islamic society.
- Following the Iranian Revolution in 1979 radically changed the Islamist politics across West Asia which motivated Islamic religious organisations and clerics to become politically more active and ambitious.
- Hamas was established after the First Intifada in 1987. The Brotherhood asked Palestinians to stand up against the Israeli occupation. They issued a leaflet under Harakat al-Muqawamah al-Islammiya (Islamic Resistance Movement) – in short, HAMAS, which means ‘zeal’ in Arabic.
- Al-Qasam Brigade is the military wing of Hamas.
- HAMAS took a radical islamist fundamental orientation and
- Called for jihad and saw all peace initiatives as absurd.
- Opposed the Oslo Accords which resulted in the formation of Palestinian Authority.
- When PLO recognised Israel, Hamas rejected the two-state solution and called for liberating whole of Palestine from unholy Israeli occupation.
- Following the Second Intifada (uprising) in 2000s, the acceptability of Hamas increased among the Palestinians. Following elections HAMAS defeated PLO in 2006. HAMAS formed the government, but was strongly opposed by Israel and the Western World.
- Increasing tensions led to violent clashes between HAMAS and FATAH. FATAH became the dominant power in the West Bank region and HAMAS in the Gaza. Following this HAMAS is the government in Gaza.
About Palestine Liberation Organisation
- Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) founded in 1964 championed the cause Palestine nationalist sentiment. PLO was modelled like the leftist guerilla national movements in the third world.
- It is represented by Fateh political party dominant in the West Bank region.
- FATEH has recognised Israel and calls for dialogue with Israel to pursue the two-state solution.
Changing geopolitics of Middle East: Following the Abrahams Accords which resulted in the normalisation of relations between Arab states of UAE and Bahrain.
Israel is negotiating with Saudi Arabia for normalisation of ties. The normalisation of ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel will lead to tectonic shift in the geopolitics of Middle East.
Fissures in Arab World: The politics of Middle East is dominated by three players:
- Sunni Powers: Led by Saudi Arabia which is the most powerful and financial power in this region. Saudi Arabia led Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). This group has also closer ties with USA. These countries aim to diversify their economies
- Shia Powers: Led by Iran which has been an ally of Hezbollah and Hamas. The Iran is the most overt supporter of Islamic cause and opposing the USA.
- Israel: Traditionally all Arab countries in the region had been opposed to Israel. However, the changing power dynamics and emergence of Israel as a military power has led to Israel being gradually recognised by its neighbouring countries and closer ties between Israel and some countries like UAE and Bahrain.
Interests of China in the Middle East region: China has been pushing for ever closer ties between in the region particularly with Iran. China is the world’s second most powerful country with dependence on energy imports from the region.
China wants to engage deeper economic relations with these countries. China has engaged in even deeper relations with Iran and has pursued infrastructure development under the Belt and Road Initiative. China has also supported the inclusion of Iran under the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.
Interests of USA in the Middle East region: USA has traditionally had close ties with the GCC bloc (Saudi Arabia, UAE etc.) particularly to ensure its energy security. However, following the Iranian Revolution in 1979, USA’s ties with Iran has been under strain.
USA has been the security guarantor of the GCC bloc and has opposed the Iran’s nuclear program. However, following the setback faced by USA in Afghanistan and in Iraq, USA has taken an increasingly isolationist stand in its relations with the region, particularly after the shale revolution which has limited its reliance on crude imports from the region.
However, USA has been pushing for closer ties between the GCC countries and Israel in the form of Abraham Accords.
Thus, USA has been trying to limit Chinese influence in the region by forging engagement on bridging ties between GCC countries and Israel.
The GCC countries have been increasingly supporting a moderate version of Islam (Particularly UAE, Bahrain) and aim to diversify their economies away from dependence on oil. Thus, they see relations with Israel as a gateway for modernisation and development.
India’s stand in Middle East: Before the 1990s, India saw the Israel-Palestine issue as intertwined and closely supported Palestine.
However, following the end of Cold War, India has deepening its relations with Israel. However, under the leadership of PM Narendra Modi has shown interest in establishing even deeper relations with Israel. He was the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel.
Thus, there has been a hyphenation between India’s support for the Palestine cause and increasing closeness with Israel particularly in defence, agriculture and regional cooperation in middle east.
- India is part of India-Israel-UAE-USA quadrilateral in the Middle East region. The focus of this group is on establishing close economic and developmental ties in the middle east region.
- During India’s G20 presidency, India led the formation of India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor which aims to build an economic corridor passing through Israel, Saudi Arabia and UAE through to Europe. This shows an increasing willingness Saudi Arabia led Gulf Cooperation Council to collaborate with Israel.
Reasons for India’s changing attitude towards Israel
- Increasing recognition of Israel by Arab countries, has meant that the taboo of having close relations with Israel has been shelved. This has given confidence to India to establish closer relations with Israel.
- Increasing Islamic fundamentalist and terror linkage of HAMAS has meant that India has gradually moved away from this group and its methods as India sees terrorism as a primary threat to its territorial integrity.
- Differences between HAMAS and PLO factions of Palestine has meant that India has sided with accommodative PLO. India continues to support two-state solution. As PLO has itself recognised Israel and has relations and dialogue with it. India has bandwidth to accommodate the Palestine cause yet have ever closer relations with Israel.
- India has been able to engage both Arab countries of UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt and yet have closer relations with Israel. This has given confidence to India to shelf fears that relations with Israel will compromise India’s energy security and interests of diaspora who are employed in these countries.
- India’s increasing closer relations with the Western Bloc and USA in particular has brought led to India to end its traditional resistance towards this bloc. Since, Israel was closer to the Western Bloc, India’s resistance to towards Israel was partly fed by India’s anti-west orientation during the cold war.