Diplomacy is moving from around the world in the face of the risk of a conflict spreading so far mainly confined to Gaza and its surrounding areas. However, some points remain unchanged and constitute boundaries that will be impossible to cross: there is the issue of Israeli and Western hostages who determine Netanyahu’s military response in the Strip, and the issue of the Palestinians in Gaza who are in fact also hostages. Hostages held by Hamas, which in turn affects the timing and methods of the (now) imminent ground attack. Above all, Israel’s categorical desire to eradicate Hamas from the Gaza Strip, and thus not consider its military action as a new operation to punish Gaza and effectively leave everything as it was before, but rather as a final turning point that will change the Middle East.
Neither Israel nor Hamas will emerge from this conflict, but only one of them, perhaps the former, and serving diplomats know they cannot ignore this fact. So the world’s advisors have begun to prepare for the concrete possibility of having to manage Gaza without Hamas.
This has certainly been discussed behind closed doors in recent days’ meetings between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his most willing Middle Eastern interlocutors: Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
Especially for the latter, which has just announced the suspension of talks to normalize its relations with Israel as long as there is an ongoing war, it is conceivable that it could play a constructive role in post-Hamas Gaza in order to establish a good-looking government with the aim of achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace. It will be, in the words of an Israeli analyst, “normalization in another way,” considering that this is not possible for Riyadh, which does not consider the Palestinian issue an absolute priority in its vision of the future Middle East. To ignore its repercussions on Arab and Islamic public opinion.
But in the meantime, a host of international issues is agitating over more pressing issues, such as hostages, humanitarian corridors and preventing the spread of war. So, here are Blinken’s tour in the Middle East, the imminent tour of Jordanian King Abdullah in Europe, the efforts of Turkish President Erdogan, and the calls to intervene in Hamas by the Emir of Qatar and even by Iran and China, with an invitation from Washington to use them. Its impact on stopping the escalation, the commitment of the Italian and German diplomats, and the confirmation of Pope Francis (who yesterday contacted the parish of Gaza again) that he is trying “everything possible.” In reality, everything is an attempt confined to the above-mentioned bets: Israel will not accept that this war ends with the fanatical Hamas killers coming to power in Gaza as if nothing had happened.
Then there is Russia. A very active player in the region since Barack Obama wavered in power in Washington and a very close ally of Syria and Iran. Since Hamas attacked Israel, it has tried to maintain an equal distance between the two sides, which greatly angers Netanyahu. Putin, who is effectively allied with Tehran, seems to have understood that at this moment for Netanyahu, equal distance means betrayal of Israel. Therefore, Moscow announced its diplomatic attempt this week with Hamas to resolve the hostage issue: a possible meeting in Qatar with terrorist leaders. But in practice, he will have to stand in line.