After the most recent conflict erupted in the Middle East, geopolitics took a different turn. We spoke with Ambassador Robert Jordan, former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and our Diplomat-in-Residence who has vast experience in the region, who gave us his perspective on the current situation.
- What are some of the differences you’ve seen in this conflict compared to the ones in previous decades?
- While the similarity between the 1973 surprise attack by Egypt and Syria on Israel and the October 7 attack seems striking, there are differences. In 1973, Sadat sought a political objective, ending the Israeli occupation and crafting a peace agreement. Today Hamas aims to disrupt any opportunity for peace, especially the Abraham Accords and normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel.
- The surprise element in the Hamas attack looms large. With dysfunction internally, Israel took its eye off the ball. Since 2006 Israel has had less robust intelligence sources, and some reports suggest that Netanyahu has been receiving advice crafted to tell him what he wants to hear.
- Non-state actors loom large here. Hamas is funded by Iran and Qatar, with Qatar (an ally of the U.S.) harboring its leadership. Hezbollah threatens from the north.
- Iran is playing a regional game to destabilize any normalization in the region, with the U.S. as an additional adversary.
- Nuclear weapons are an additional risk factor this time.
- Gaza is less stable this time since Israeli withdrawal. The West Bank has seen massive settlement expansion.
- World sentiment toward Israel and the occupation is mixed. Netanyahu does not inspire worldwide confidence.
- U.S. internal dysfunction, along with logistical limitations, may impede aid for Ukraine and dilute support available in both conflicts.
- With everything that’s currently happening in geopolitics, why should people be paying close attention to this conflict?
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has roiled the region for decades. Escalation of the conflict threatens civilian populations and relations between Arab states and the West. In particular, U.S. support for Israel affects our relationships with the Gulf Arab states and Egypt in our common resistance to Iran’s efforts at destabilization. If Iran’s threat escalates, Israel may feel compelled to strike back, perhaps deploying nuclear weapons. Efforts at normalization and economic cooperation will be stalled, potentially affecting the stability of Arab Gulf regimes threatened by populations that are inflamed by the violence they see coming from Israel with U.S. acquiescence. China and Russia will seek to fill any vacuum at U.S. expense.
Stay tuned to the Upcoming Events section of the Tower Center website for upcoming events where we will feature Amb. Jordan.