On October 7, the terrorist organization Hamas conducted a brutal and unprecedented attack against Israeli civilians. The terrorists committed heinous crimes against the civilian population, with an emphasis on children, women, and the elderly.
In response, the State of Israel launched the Swords of Iron War against the Hamas terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip.
The countries of the Indo-Pacific have a number of fears arising from the crisis in the Middle East. First, they are apprehensive that the next war (either concurrently with or following the Russia-Ukraine war) is likely to take place in their region, particularly between China and Taiwan. They are also concerned that the Swords of Iron War will have consequences for their energy security. They rely on oil and gas imports from the Persian Gulf that might be undermined due to instability in the region.
China’s conduct during the Swords of Iron War has not been neutral. In the past, China has tried to navigate in a somewhat balanced manner between Israel and the Palestinians. But China is Iran’s largest trading partner, and earlier this year it played a significant role in mediating between the two major rivals, Iran and Saudi Arabia. The Swords of Iron War raises the potential for entanglement between these two adversaries.
Since the outbreak of the war, statements in the Chinese media and by senior government officials have indicated a shift. This was reflected on the ground in a stabbing incident involving an employee of the Israeli embassy in Beijing, and an unprecedented antisemitic wave on Chinese social media. Alongside Russia, China vetoed the American proposal at the UN Security Council.
China’s ambassador to the UN referred to Israel as an “occupying force,” demanded an immediate lifting of the siege on Gaza, said the root of the conflict is the “illegal occupation” of Palestinian territories, and made no mention of Hamas at all.
China sees itself as an important neutral mediator for peace in the Middle East, but it is no longer perceived as such by the relevant parties. This is a severe blow to Beijing’s diplomatic approach. It aims to strengthen its position in the region and be a meaningful part of shaping the new order, leading to a distancing from the United States that does not create drastic changes in the region. Providing support to extreme Islam could entail possible costs.
In addition, Israel must now recognize that China is not a friend. Countries in the Indo-Pacific expect that Israel’s relationship with China, as well as that of other Western countries, will change, strengthening their support in the face of their own serious tensions with China. There is also concern that China might exploit the conflict in Gaza to implement change in the current order concerning Taiwan.
One of the most striking condemnations of the events of October 7 came from Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi. He tweeted, “I am deeply shocked by the news of terror attacks in Israel. Our thoughts and prayers are with the innocent victims and their families. We stand in solidarity with Israel in this difficult hour.”
The UN General Assembly passed an essentially symbolic resolution calling for a humanitarian ceasefire without mentioning either Hamas or the events of October 7. The resolution passed with 45 abstentions, including India. This marks a continuation of a trend that began in 2014 with Modi’s rise to power. In contrast to his predecessors, Modi significantly elevated the level of relations between India and Israel.
Support for Israel can also be seen as a continuation of India’s positioning as a significant player in the Persian Gulf and the entire Middle East. This was particularly evident in the vision announced by Modi and President Biden in September at the G-20 summit in Delhi, according to which they aim to connect India to Europe through the Persian Gulf and Israel. The importance India places on the region can be seen in its participation in the I2U2 framework (India, Israel, US, UAE), which strengthens its presence vis-à-vis Israel and the UAE. It should be noted that there is one issue where India remains consistent in its stance: the need for a two-state solution to resolve the conflict.
Another common denominator is the challenge India and Israel share in dealing with severe terrorism committed by extreme Sunni Islamist organizations. This bond facilitates the garnering of support for Israel from India, which has been dealing with the threat of these organizations for many years. It has been necessary to continue monitoring the responses of the Muslim population in India, especially in light of the violence that occurred at the end of October in the state of Kerala, governed by the Congress Party. The upcoming year is an election year in India, and Modi is aiming to preserve stability and avoid exacerbating tensions between Hindus and Muslims against the backdrop of the Swords of Iron War.
In recent years, there has been a trend toward rapprochement between Japan and Israel, particularly in the security domain. In 2022, Israeli Minister of Defense Benny Gantz visited Japan, when the countries marked 70 years of diplomatic relations. Japan, like other countries in the Indo-Pacific region, is adjusting its security policy to incorporate lessons learned from the Russia-Ukraine war.
For many years, Japan refrained from direct involvement in the Middle East. The current war is prompting it to reconsider this approach. The Japanese are particularly interested in cooperation with Israel on missile defense (given the threat from North Korea), as well as cyber defense.
At the center of Japan’s interest in the Middle East is energy security. Approximately 90% of its energy needs are supplied by regional countries, so there is a strong Japanese interest in preserving stability in the region. Hamas’ surprise attack puts a big question mark on this stability. Another Japanese interest during the war is the effectiveness of Iron Dome. Israel’s air defense superiority, of which Israel is proud, is a big contributor to Israel’s prestige in the Indo-Pacific region.
Diplomatically, Japan initially responded to the war in a neutral manner and criticized Israel’s airstrikes in Gaza. Until October 11, Japan did not address Hamas actions at all and did not explicitly acknowledge Israel’s right to self-defense. Only in the past two weeks has there been a noticeable shift in this approach: Japan expressed a willingness to convey messages to Iran to prevent escalation and decided to impose sanctions on companies and individuals transferring funds to Hamas. However, it also called on Israel to suspend its attack on Gaza to allow for the entry of humanitarian aid. Unprecedented expressions of support for Israel are taking place in the streets of Tokyo.
Japan is watching and learning regarding the Western response to events.
A few days after October 7, South Korean President Yoon Suk-Yeol condemned the indiscriminate killing of Israeli civilians and soldiers, and the abduction of hostages to Gaza. While South Korea did not express a clear stance in favor of Israel, this constituted an official public condemnation of Hamas.
Yeol also initiated an emergency cabinet meeting aimed at examining the effects of the war on South Korea’s economy and security. At the meeting, concerns were raised about the impact of the conflict between Israel and Hamas on the regional and global scene.
Another important concern for South Korea is North Korea’s involvement. The Israel Defense Forces revealed that North Korea is supplying military technologies to Hamas, and Kim Jong-Un has declared support for the Palestinians and expressed a willingness to send aid to them. All of this clearly places South Korea at odds with the axis in which North Korea actively participates. As the axis countries take more and more anti-Western action, South Korea’s and Japan’s ability to leverage their own interests and needs is strengthened.
The Swords of Iron War has wide-ranging implications for the Indo-Pacific countries, which are grappling with threats such as radical Islam and the tensions resulting from inter-power competition. While the perceived threats in the Indo-Pacific region include China and North Korea, the overall strategic picture is much more broad and complex.
For these countries, the preservation of energy security is critical, and the situation in the Middle East is posing a threat to that security. In addition, the countries of the Indo-Pacific are concerned by the position of the Iran-Russia-China-North Korea axis regarding the war. While Iran is considered a friend, its alignment with China and North Korea creates tensions with India, Japan and South Korea.
Dr. Lauren Dagan Amoss is a member of the Deborah Forum, a lecturer and a researcher in the Department of Political Science and the Security Studies Program at Bar-Ilan University. She specializes in Indian foreign policy. A version of this article was originally published by The BESA Center.
The post Here’s How Asia Is Responding to the Israel-Hamas War first appeared on Algemeiner.com.
Top IDF Brass Blindsided by UNRWA Fallout
i24 News – Senior Israel Defense Forces (IDF) command was caught off guard by the speed with which the allegations implicating UNRWA staffers in the October 7 atrocities became public knowledge, according to a New York Times report published Saturday.
When, on January 18, UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini sat down with senior Israeli diplomat Amir Weissbrod in Tel Aviv for a routine meeting, the UN official was supplied with intelligence about the agency employees’ involvement in the massacre.
While the intelligence was provided by the IDF, the military establishment didn’t expect the explosive information to leak into the public domain. It emerged that Lazzarini relayed the allegations to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and began firing employees, eventually reporting the developments to U.S. officials.
Unnamed IDF officials cited in the NYT report were concerned that the allegations had been disseminated without Israel having devised a proper strategy for the fallout.
European countries, from the UK to Germany, as well as the United States, Canada and Australia all froze funding to UNRWA amid reviews in the aid agency and its employees.
While some have pushed for a complete shutdown of the agency, including U.S. lawmakers and Israeli ministers, others — including unnamed senior IDF officials — have said that it was inadvisable to do so during the war when UNRWA was providing needed humanitarian aid.
Hamas Turns Down Hostage Deal, Demands Israel Release More Terrorists
i24 News – Hamas on Sunday said it rejected the proposed hostage deal formulated in Paris, demanding that Israel release more Palestinian terrorists locked up in Israeli jails, according to a Saudi outlet.
There are 136 hostages held in Gaza by Hamas and other Palestinian jihadists, abducted during the October 7 incursion and massacre.
The statement comes hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reiterated Israel had “red lines” which could not be crossed.
Thus, the leader said, Israel will not end the war until all its goals are met, namely “the eradication of Hamas, the rescue of all our hostages, and ensuring that Gaza will never again pose a threat to Israel.”
“We will not agree to every deal, and not at any price,” he said, adding reports in the local media whereby Israel agreed to freeing large numbers of terrorists were not true.
The post Hamas Turns Down Hostage Deal, Demands Israel Release More Terrorists first appeared on Algemeiner.com.
Dennis Ross Is Blaming Israel Again
JNS.org – Former U.S. Middle East envoy Dennis Ross just can’t stop blaming Israel.
Speaking via Zoom for the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism & Policy on Jan. 31, Ross offered some expected, perfunctory criticism of Hamas, Iran and Hezbollah. But again and again, he managed to bring in one-sided and unfair criticism of Israel.
Referring to Israel’s counter-terrorism actions in Judea and Samaria, Ross said: “West Bank violence [by Arabs] is not disconnected from Israel’s policies in the West Bank.”
That’s just absurd. The terrorists are not responding to Israeli policies. They were murdering Jews long before there were any settlements or so-called occupied territories. They oppose Israel’s existence, not its borders. It’s these terrorists who are the aggressors, and Israelis must respond to them.
Regarding Gaza, Ross said: “The Israelis haven’t done everything they could to spare civilians in Gaza.” Is he kidding? The Israelis have refrained from striking terrorist targets where there are civilians. They have personally warned civilians to evacuate, again and again, through leaflets and phone calls and public announcements. They have risked the lives of their own soldiers by going house to house, instead of just bombing from the air. What else can they possibly do?
Ross also commented on the recent ruling by the International Court of Justice—the ruling that failed to condemn Hamas and demanded that Israel give more aid to Palestinians in Gaza. He said the ruling was “not irresponsible” and that it was provoked by “extreme statements by Israeli politicians.” That’s simply nonsense. The statement that the court cited most prominently was made by Israel’s left-leaning president, Isaac Herzog, who said that many ordinary Gazans supported the Hamas massacre, which was a perfectly reasonable statement of fact.
The practice of saying a few perfunctory crucial words about terrorists and then “balancing” it with criticism of Israel is typical of the grotesque “even-handedness” that Ross and his colleagues pushed during his many years at the U.S. State Department.
That approach was wrong then, and it’s wrong now. There can be no “balance” between good and evil. Israel and the Palestinian Authority are not on the same moral level. Israel is America’s loyal, reliable, democratic ally. The P.A. is a terror-sponsoring, hate-mongering dictatorship.
In recent months, Ross has been saying that Israel should allow the Hamas leadership to leave Gaza in exchange for the release of the remaining hostages. He points to Israel’s decision in 1982, under U.S. pressure, to allow PLO chief Yasser Arafat and thousands of PLO terrorists to leave besieged Beirut.
But Ross never mentions what happened after Arafat left. He didn’t retire. He set up PLO terrorist headquarters in Tunisia, and then 20 additional years of terrorism followed—suicide bombings, intifadas, mass shootings, stabbings. Ross’s new plan would have the same result.
This is the same Dennis Ross who has acknowledged—on the op-ed page of The Washington Post in 2014—that he pressured Israel to allow Hamas to import concrete. Ross wrote that the Israelis opposed his demand because they feared that Hamas would use the cement to build terror tunnels. Ross insisted the concrete would be used to build houses, and because of his pressure, the Israelis gave in. We all know the result.
In his Zoom talk this week, Ross had the chutzpah to mention that Hamas used imported cement to build tunnels instead of homes, though never mentioned that he was the one who helped them to get that cement into Gaza in the first place.
Ross is frequently quoted in The New York Times and invited to appear on television shows and webinars. He’s treated as if his past involvement in Mideast diplomacy makes him an expert on how to make peace today. Yet every one of those diplomatic efforts failed. He has never facilitated real peace because he continues to pretend that both sides are to blame for the absence of peace.
The Jewish world is full of talented speakers, thinkers and writers. Surely, our institutions should be able to find more thoughtful lecturers than those same tired, old critics of Israel with their familiar and disastrous proposals.