Gaza crisis: Israel’s first response to ‘new Middle East’

Gaza crisis: Israel’s first response to ‘new Middle East’

The long-feared catastrophe was unleashed this week and the never-ending spiral of violence between Israelis and Palestinians has started to claim lives on both sides - tragically more on the Palestinian side - with both the Israeli government and the Gaza Strip’s Islamist ruler Hamas vowing no step back.

Putting the humanitarian tragedy aside with difficulty - for a region that has somehow internalized carnage after years of fighting - the recent flare up between Israel and the Palestinians might not be such a surprise for those who have been living the fighting as a daily routine and for outsiders who are familiar with the fragile region.

That being said, today’s mortal battle between Israelis and Palestinians clearly bears far different traces amid the changing dynamics of the Middle East in the backdrop of the so-called “Arab Spring,” and its influence on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Calling the recent Israeli aggression against Hamas-run Gaza a mere “election maneuver” would be just naïve, considering the not only politically but militarily changing nature of the clashes.

With Palestinian rockets from Gaza reaching the very heart of Israel, Tel Aviv, for the first time, and hitting Jerusalem, too, Hamas and other groups in Gaza have shown that they have boosted their military ability since the last Israeli military campaign. However, the expanded capacity of Palestinian rockets would still be dire in return, as has been proved by Israel in the past.

Jumping from the military side of the conflict to its political side, the recent violence has many different messages from its conflicting parties and as well as its outsider actors. Giving the first clear response to the long-term ramifications of the Arab Spring in its near region, Israel has signaled that it will expect blunter steps from U.S. President Barack Obama during his second term in the White House. He has been at odds with the Israeli leaders for his stance on the conflict despite his ambitious vows for a solution. Israel today expects more from the West because it feels more isolated than ever. Now, it is surrounded by Egypt with its Hamas-minded new leadership, the violence from Syria is spilling over through the Golan Heights, the “threat” from its arch-nemesis Iran still lingering over it and, on the top of all these, it has seen its once-friend Turkey siding with its enemies.

Egypt’s new leadership has confirmed that Israel’s fears are not for nothing. Sending his prime minister to under-Israeli-fire Gaza, President Mohammad Morsi declared that Gaza was not alone and said: “Egypt today is not the Egypt of yesterday, and Arabs today are not the Arabs of yesterday.” With his defiant declaration, Morsi tried to reclaim Egypt’s leading role in the Arab world by implicitly reminding of his predecessor’s unconcerned stance on the tragedy in Gaza.

But for both the race of leading the Middle East and to show off against Israel, Morsi was no longer alone. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is expected to meet with Morsi over the weekend in Cairo, also continued his long-standing bashing of Israel amid international calls on his government to pressure Hamas to cease its attacks on Israel.

In a quick read, Turkey’s situation in the crisis might not appear awkward. However, it is awkward indeed considering the Ankara government is believed to have an influence on Hamas after sort of being on the opposite side - with Israel and its Western allies - of the conflict for years. Turkey’s influence on Hamas could be boosted by its prime minister’s overtures in Cairo, but even in the case of success, the outcome would be shaped by the response of Israel’s leaders to the reconstructed regional balances.

Gaza crisis: Israel’s first response to ‘new Mideast’