IT’S been another devastating week in Gaza. The death of seven aid workers in an air strike has only served to bring further criticism of Israel from the international community, even if many of those who cry foul the loudest are still willing to send the arms that make such attacks possible.

In the often-heated discourse about the war, so much of the focus rightly has been on continued US support for Israel and the scale of the humanitarian plight Gazans face. 

But there are other crucial factors at play here that are shaping the course of this crisis which perhaps don’t get the attention they should. 

Let me suggest three of these factors. The first is the questionable conduct of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) and from a Palestinian perspective the shifting attitude towards Hamas. 

The second is the importance of Iran and alongside that the attitudes of the wider Arab world to the war in Gaza. And thirdly, last but not least, the political fortunes and likely fate of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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To take the IDF first. If one thing has become clear it’s that any claim Israel’s military had to being one of the world’s most “disciplined” and “moral” armies has been revealed to be utter nonsense. 

Long-term observers of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will doubtless say nothing new there and they’re right. Having watched the conduct of the IDF on the ground over many years I’ve never been under any illusions about their behaviour. 

The fact is that short of the occasional showdown with other well-armed and organised forces like Lebanon’s Hezbollah, the IDF of recent times is an army born out of bullying and oppression of civilians. This, above all else, has shaped it into what it has become today. 

Alongside this for years now a culture of impunity has been allowed to exist and many ordinary Israelis have been content with the self-deception of the IDF’s “moral” foundation. That the evidence of this self-deception is quite literally piling up in Gaza tells us all we need to know about the real truth. 

To its credit, Israeli organisations like Breaking the Silence, have done much to show the true nature of what the IDF has for years been engaged in. For those unfamiliar with the group, it’s an Israeli NGO established by veterans that gives them the opportunity to confidentially recount their experiences in the Occupied Territories.

The National: A person crying whilst taking part in Stop the Genocide in Gaza national demonstration in central LondonA person crying whilst taking part in Stop the Genocide in Gaza national demonstration in central London (Image: Victoria Jones)

Those experiences, as anyone who has listened to the candid accounts compiled by Breaking the Silence will affirm, have served for years as warnings to what some within the ranks of the IDF are capable of.

Which brings me to the flip side, Hamas. For there is now undeniable evidence emanating from Gaza of frustration and anger with the militant group. Right now Gazans are too preoccupied with daily survival to protest, but make no mistake about it, dissent does exist and Hamas are certain at some point in the future to be held accountable in some form or another by Gazans themselves. 

Let me be absolutely clear about what I’m saying here. This dissent does not mean that support among Gazans in principle, for armed resistance against the Israeli occupation has lessened. If anything, Israel has ensured the best recruitment drive in decades for the wider resistance movement.  

Nor has Gazans’ view changed that the conflict is an Israeli war against the Palestinian people, but reports from inside the strip indicate that disillusion with Hamas is evident. 

There’s simply no escaping the fact that many Gazans will in due course, view Hamas as having evaded the responsibility of their actions and this is sure to be a crucial factor in the political re-landscaping of Gaza and the Palestinian movement in the months and years ahead. 

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Which takes me on to that second factor shaping the future in the region, Israel’s “shadow war” with Iran and attitudes across the Arab world to the war in Gaza. 

This week’s presumed Israel strike on Iran’s consulate in Damascus which killed Mohammad Reza Zahedi – believed to be a top commander of Iran’s Quds force in Syria and Lebanon, and six other Iranian military officials – has renewed fears that the Israel-Hamas war could spill over into full-blown regional conflict.

Ever since Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel and the subsequent onslaught in Gaza, this has been the real sword of Damocles hovering over the crisis and that is even more the case now.

If Israel is seriously not seeking to escalate a regional war, then it’s going the wrong way about it. This week’s Israeli strike might not have been a strategic surprise, but it pushes Tehran into a place where there will be under huge pressure to respond. 

Away from Iran meanwhile, the Arab world looks on nervously and it’s a fair bet that no new Arab states will be rushing to join the Abraham Accords anytime soon. 

As an article in the online magazine The New Arab rightly  pointed out, only a few months ago many Western, Israeli, and Arab policymakers and analysts incorrectly concluded that the Arab world had moved past the “issue of Palestine.” The Arab trend towards normalisation with Israel was the future such people insisted. 

The National: Paramedics collect equipment of their comrades killed at a paramedic center after it was hit by an Israeli airstrike early Wednesday in Hebbariye village, south LebanonParamedics collect equipment of their comrades killed at a paramedic center after it was hit by an Israeli airstrike early Wednesday in Hebbariye village, south Lebanon (Image: AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)

Now nothing could be further from the truth, for Israel’s war in Gaza has once again placed Palestine front and centre in terms of region and global diplomacy. 

And speaking of front and centre what about that third factor I mentioned earlier, the political fortunes and likely fate of Netanyahu? This, after all, is a man who has staked his political future on the war on Gaza – so the question is will he survive it? 

Long before the events of October 7, I wrote in The National that I thought Netanyahu was political toast and it was just a matter of time. Today, I’m more certain of that than ever. As protest rallies against his government again grow, Netanyahu now finds himself in almost everyone’s political crosshairs. 

The political right, left, Jewish ultra-orthodox, big business, many in the military and intelligence community as well as families of Israeli hostages seized by Hamas, all have it in for him. And this time too Netanyahu will find it more difficult to look for a Washington shoulder to cry on – albeit that the Biden administration still keeps the arms coming.

Renowned political escapologist as Netanyahu is, his days are undoubtedly numbered, but that question of when exactly he will finally go remains. So many components are now in play over the war in Gaza, some more obvious than others.

But the three I’ve just outlined are sure to play a major part in determining the political, diplomatic, military and humanitarian shape of the months ahead.