Gil Lewinsky

The Broader Geopolitics of the Israel-Hamas War

Over two weeks into the Israel – Hamas War of 2023, two UN Security council (UNSC) resolutions on the conflict went for a vote. One called for Israel’s right to self defense. This was backed by Western Powers but vetoed by Russia and China. The second called for an immediate ceasefire and failed to reach the nine vote required minimum threshold. There, Russia and China backed the resolution but was vetoed by the USA and the United Kingdom.

The duel of the UNSC resolutions was more than theatrics but appear to be a larger geopolitical play in the current Israel – Hamas War that is happening behind the scenes. Upon his return from the war time trip to Israel, US President Joe Biden addressed the United States public for a case to fund both Israel and Ukraine. His argument was simple: Both are democracies that are under threat and must be defended, one from a dictatorship, and the other from terrorist forces. In fact, the defense of both have become clear interests for US national security.

While Biden has given lip talk to Gazan civilians and a two-state solution, he has been starkly pro Israel. While there are reports that the United States has advised Israel to follow the laws of war and to limit actions that hurt Palestinians civilians, he has also made clear Israel’s right to self-defense. In fact, he stressed that Israel not only has a right but a responsibility to do so. Supporting the Israeli narrative that Hamas must be destroyed, Biden and American officials are rather focusing on semantics and also on a strategy “avoiding the mistakes of Iraq” which saw US soldiers, later the Iraqis, bogged down in bloody urban warfare. No talk of a ceasefire. In fact, so adamant has the United States been to Israel’s defense that America’s detractors have actively seen a US hand. Two aircraft carrier groups and a message of “DON’T” off Israel’s coast are signs of active American involvement. All suggests, a deeper involvement. Additionally, it is now confirmed that the USA has asked Israel to delay a ground invasion so additional “assets”, air defense but likely other military hardware, can be brought into place. Netanyahu has talked about “considerations” that are delaying its tactics. The “considerations” likely involve the United States.

It isn’t simply America. The French President Emmanual Macron spoke about forming an “international military coalition” to combat Hamas similar to the one that was assembled to fight ISIS. The first leader to visit Israel was the German Chancellor Olaf Sholz who said they have a moral responsibility to back Israel. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak came on a moral support mission. Only one missing from the immediate fold was Canadian PM Justin Trudeau who has paid lip service to “muslim pain”. Nevertheless, when US President Joe Biden spoke to his allies, he included the Canadian PM among them. A message of resolve and unity, despite the fact that Gaza is being bombarded. When Turkish President Erdogan lambasted Israel, he largely found himself alone among Western NATO allies. 

The reason for the change seems to be with a major paradigm shift in geopolitics in the world that was triggered when Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022. While Russia and China have long been critiques of the the Western axis, the War in Ukraine and Russia’s ostracization has made them starch foes to the world order led by the West. The more the West has tried to sanction and attack Russia’s imperial designs in Ukraine, the more Russia has reached out to other allies, most notably China followed by Iran (as well as North Korea). Iran is the arch foe of Israel, supporting the axis against Israel in the Middle East. While the Abraham Accords led by the United States has led to Israeli approachment with Sunni powers including the UAE, Bahrain, and increasingly Saudi Arabia, Iran has led the other camp, with a group of powerful militia in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Gaza. 

While the militias existed before the War in Ukraine, now they find themselves with a strong Iranian Russian axis. It is no secret that Russia is using Iranian drones in Ukraine and that military cooperation has moved to the highest levels, almost at the level of a “mutual defense pact”. Weapons of North Korean origin have also been found in Gaza, implying an involvement. While in the past, Russia appeared to play a balancing act with Israel, geopolitics is increasingly tearing into active realism. President Vladimir Putin had good relations with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and a deescalation mechanism prevented active fighting between the two over Syria. Israelis still for the time being have a no visa requirement to visit Russia and there is a strong Russian diaspora in Israel. Nevertheless, over time, as seen in diplomatic circles, Russia is more and more critical of Israel. It is only a matter of time before Russia will change course and be actively hostile to Israel.

The reason there has been little criticism from the Western Powers is because Israel finds itself facing the same adversaries that are challenging them in Ukraine: Russia, Iran, North Korea, and backed by China. As such, this war is more about geopolitics with Israel increasingly a fault line. In fact, there are now two fault lines against the Iranian Russian axis: Ukraine, and Israel. Geopolitically, Israel has to be a national security interest for the West, for its defeat is a win for Russia and Iran. As such, this war is far bigger globally than meets the eye.

Around 2500 years ago the biblical prophet Yehezkel (Ezekiel) foretold of a last war: the “War of Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 37-38)”. So sure was Ezekiel of this war that he mentioned that people of the time will recall his prediction when it comes to pass (Ezekiel 38.17). A power from the furthest reaches of the North (Russia), will ally itself with Persia (Iran) and a coalition of countries to attack a people who live in unwalled cities after returning to their land from exile. While the realm of Bible prophecy may be much for some, the War with Hamas is a war between the West/Israel vs Russia/Iran. As such, Israel, while being a front line actor, is not alone. Only through a geopolitical lens, rather than a simplified Israel vs Hamas view, can many actions become clearer for the observer to follow.

About the Author
Born in Israel but raised in Canada, Gil Lewinsky worked as a journalist in Jewish newspapers including the Jerusalem Post after completing a Masters degree at the Munk School of Global Affairs from the University of Toronto. He also has a LLM in International Law from Lancaster University in the UK. His past topics include a book written about the Status of Gaza under International Law soon after its conquest by Hamas in 2007. He is perhaps best known as one of two people that brought a flock of Jacob Sheep from Canada to Israel in 2016, making history. He currently works as a teacher and English public relations professional in Israel.
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