Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The Geopolitical and Energy Stakes behind the Israel-Gaza War of 2014.

'Barring some element that fundamentally changes the equation – an Israeli decision to re-occupy Gaza, the eruption of a third intifada on the West Bank – at some point both Israel and Hamas will be ready for mediators to help produce some negotiated ceasefire.'-America needs to end its obsession with trying to fix everything in Gaza-Aaron David Miller,
Israel is going for outright victory and to crush Hamas decisively as a political force. The absence of any geopolitical context to Aaron Miller's analysis is noticeable. Israel aims primarily to secure the Gaza Marine gas fields the better to stave off  a potential energy crisis and shore up Egypt which also lacks enough cheap gas.

Washington partly shares the aim of stable Egypt but it has been wary about the troubling division being opened up between Turkey and Qatar, on the one side, and Egypt and Israel and Saudi Arabia on the other. Growing tensions between these regional power alignments are blocking effective peace negotiations.

Hamas is backed by Qatar and Turkey because both have a geopolitical interest in being onside with their Muslim Brotherhood allies in Syria whom they hope will overthrow Assad and so push forward the construction of a Qatar Turkey pipeline. in rivalry to Israel's regional energy designs.

Israel, for its part, would not want the Sunni axis of influence to develop and for Qatar to be able to transit gas through to the Eastern Mediterranean before it has fully developed the Leviathan, Tamar and Gaza Marine gasfilelds. Nor would it want the rival pipeline between Iran, Iraq and Syria.

One reason Netanyahu was pleased that Russian diplomacy was able to avert  the prospect of a US and French military attack on Syria ( though he praised forceful US diplomacy for bringing Russia to negotiate ) was that Israel has no interest in Assad going so soon but in a continuation of the conflict.

Natanyahu was keen to urge the US to accept Russia's deal on Syria's chemical weapons back in 2013, even though his office officially denied it, because it was lukewarm about Washington's strategy in Syria which stood to benefit Qatar and Turkey more than it.

In turn, the coup in Egypt in 2013 was supported by Israel while the US was not so initially enthusiastic, with Kerry only reaffirming its full support and sometime later when the US had to accept it as an a fait accompli, partly because of the embarrassing scale of the killing but also so as not to anger Qatar and Turkey.

The US has backed off from being too involved in the Middle East since the wihdrawal of troops from Iraq. The shale revolution and the refocusing of diplomatic attention towards the Asia Pacific region in 2011 was part of that. So Israel has a free hand with which to crush Hamas.

The reason is that despite the vocal opposition to Israel's war in Gaza, few global or regional powers have any particular interest or ability to stop it. Israel wants to destroy Hamas while it has the chance with Egypt under Sisi sealing the border and frostier relations between Iran and Hezbollah and Hamas.
Israel has seized the opportunity to finish off Hamas the better to remove its rocket capacity which was feared as something that could be unleashed against Israel's gas infrastructure in the Eastern Mediterranean. Then, it would be able to use that to put the PA a position where it could break its alliance with Hamas.
The message would then be if the PA wants to benefit from the gas revenues it and the West Bank would be better off not alligning with Hamas because there would be no advantage anymore. Netanyahu's strategy is ruthless but it seems both the US and EU powers would have little to lose if he succeeded.

The need to hedge their bets as regards Israel's war on Gaza is partly about the EU's need for energy diversification. Israel could use the LNG supplies it is set to export in future to East Asia as well to to promote its regional security by supporting Egypt and Jordan which are seen as threatened by jihadists.

It's hard to see how Israel's war in Gaza could make it particularly less secure. The only possibility of that would be if ISIS were to gain a stronger foothold in Gaza at the expense of Hamas. Ex-IDF commanders have warned of this. Yet even then, that would not change much as Netanyahu is intent on a general 'war on terror'.

The Likud government makes no distinction between Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood or ISIS: all are jihadi Islamist fanatics at a regional and global level burning with a pyschopathological obsession with destroying both Israel and Western civilisation.

As a wealthy and largely rather effective 'national security state', Israel is not going to be realistically threatened. The last suicide bombing was in 2008. That threat has been largely averted. Hamas did not get much assistance from Iran between 2011-2014.

Part of that is connected with the sectarian divisions opened up and made worse by the Syrian conflict. It remains to be seen whether Hizbollah and Iran would put more priority on their struggle against Sunni jihadists than in starting to refocus on Israel should Israel prove too successful.

Yet that is very unlikely and the reality is that Netanyahu knows that he has the best chance Israel has had in years to compel a peace entirely on his terms, one that he refers to as a 'sustainable ceasefire' or a 'sustainable quiet', and that melds the agends of energy security with a a 'war on terror' one.

Irrespective of the humanitarian cost, which Israel blames on Hamas for continuing to attempt fire rockets as far as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, the war is set to go on till it gain the regional security it wants which is why Netanyahu made it quite clear that ‘this will be a long operation’.

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