Israel, Hamas and the Arab Spring

This article is part of Impact’s Israeli-Palestinian conflict series, which continues until the UN Security Council Vote on Friday 11th November 2011.

The Israel-Palestine conflict is defined not only by the interests of the Israeli and Palestinian people, but the people of the Arab world. Egypt, Jordan, Syria & Lebanon have all played significant roles in the Arab-Israeli conflict since it commenced; as such, the Arab Spring holds heavy implications for the Israeli-Palestine conflict. In recent years the situation has been more occupied with the divide between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and in particular the conflict between Hamas and Israel, than Israel’s place in the wider Arab world. This has been due, in part, to the relative peace (a term which hereby means more covert violence) between Israel and the neighbouring Arab nations.

Egypt has received annually $2 Billion from the US since 1979, which has served to maintain the peace treaty established in 1979 between Israel and Egypt. Jordan and Israel signed a peace treaty in 1996 that has since defined the relationship between the two countries, although there has been some friction of late due to the Jordanian discovery of nuclear fuel and the USA’s refusal to allow it to be utilised, following Israeli intervention. The relationship between Israel and Syria, however, is much more fraught. Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and their annexation of the Golan Heights has meant that Syria have been resolute in their stance against Israel. The second intifada and the Israel-Lebanon War in 2006 have left a deep impression upon already negative Israeli-Syrian relations. Even if the current Syrian protests were to turn into successful revolution and overthrow President Assad then this situation is doubtful to change, with any emerging government unlikely to feel any differently towards Israel.

It is Israel’s relationship with Lebanon that is by far the worst; it sets the standard for the current Arab-Israeli conflict and stands in stark contrast to Israel’s relations with many other Arab nations. Both Israel and Lebanon have crossed their borders in the past to engage in warfare, and it seems to be merely a matter of time before war breaks out between them once again.

This relative relations between Israel and neighbouring nations have now been severely undermined by the coming of the Arab Spring. This movement has seen a huge swing towards Islam in the Arab world, with Islamist parties being the forerunners in many elections following successful revolutions, for example the Islamist Ennahda party which recently won the Tunisian elections. A greater islamisation of the Muslim world could well result in relations cooling with the state of Israel in these countries. In September, for instance, Egyptian protestors took to the streets outside of the Israeli embassy in Cairo, burnt the Israeli flag and erected the Arab League’s in its place. This event is one of many that indicate that the temperamental peace which was established in the 1990s may be about to break.

All of this strengthens the powerbase of one of Israel’s fiercest rivals, Hamas. This organisation operates with the support of the Islamic community and, some would argue, unites them against the Jewish community. Moreover, political support for Hamas,Fatah and other Palestinian organisations is growing and the different groups are attempting to work together. There is a growing sense of nationalism within the Palestinian people, a nationalism which is being reciprocated now, for the first time in a considerable amount of years, by neighbouring Arab nations.

The Arab Spring could lead to some fundamental changes in the nature of the Arab-Israeli conflict.  Whereas recently there has been a tendency towards covert violence, this may now become more overt. There was not peace in the Middle East prior to the Arab Spring, merely a relative balance in the conflict which was not nearly as turbulent as it had been in the past. The implications of the Arab Spring could mean that the situation in the Middle East may become far more violent once more, all of which potentially servesHamas agreeably, as it could well lead to the neighbouring Islamic countries collaborating over the goal of ensuring Palestinian statehood. As the Arab Spring cools and the Middle East adjusts to these new circumstances, we will begin to know for sure how the situation truly lies..

Ben James

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  • Ian
    11 November 2011 at 18:29
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    If the Palestinian Arabs are so keen on democracy, then they should look towards Israel , “The People of the Book” to guide them through the turbulent times ahead !

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