The End of the Abbas Era and Netanyahu's Pivot to the Middle East

When Benjamin Netanyahu told the UN that he believes in “two states for two peoples based on mutual recognition,” his real intended audience was the Arab states, argues Haviv Rettig Gur. And for good reason. While the Palestinian leadership remains wedded to the two equally failed strategies of terrorism (Hamas) and international isolation of Israel (Mahmoud Abbas), Arab rulers are turning elsewhere. Although still paying lip service to the longstanding mantra that peace with Israel has to wait upon Palestinian statehood, they are also showing readiness to ignore it. As Gur amplifies:

The emir of Qatar, Sheik Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, who was Hamas’s key funder and patron in last summer’s conflict, told CNN last week that his country was open to reviving relations with Israel (a low-level diplomatic office was shut in 2009 during that year’s Gaza conflict)—“as long as they are serious in making peace and providing and protecting the Palestinian people.”

Indeed, the strongest rejection of the idea came from those who are already largely committed to it. “Chances for such alliance [with Israel] are nearly nonexistent,” said Sameh Seif al-Yazal, a former Egyptian intelligence official who is close to President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi—strong words for a country that has a formal peace treaty with Israel, intimate security cooperation, and eagerly aids Israel in the blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza. And the United States, too, may be shifting in light of the new reality.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Arab World, Benjamin Netanyahu, Hamas, Israel diplomacy, Mahmoud Abbas, Qatar

The Possible Death of Mohammad Deif, and What It Means

On Saturday, Israeli jets destroyed a building in southern Gaza, killing a Hamas brigade commander named Rafa Salameh. Salameh is one of the most important figures in the Hamas hierarchy, but he was not the primary target. Rather it was Mohammad Deif, who is Yahya Sinwar’s number-two and is thought to be the architect and planner of numerous terrorist attacks, of Hamas’s tunnel network, and of the October 7 invasion itself. Deif has survived at least five Israeli attempts on his life, and the IDF has consequently been especially reluctant to confirm that he had been killed. Yet it seems that it is possible, and perhaps likely, that he was.

Kobi Michael notes that Deif’s demise would have major symbolic value and, moreover, deprive Hamas of important operational know-how. But he also has some words of caution:

The elimination of Deif becomes even more significant given the current reality of severe damage to Hamas’s military wing and its transition to terrorism and guerrilla warfare. However, it is important to remember that organizations such as Hamas and Hizballah are more than the sum of their components or commanders. Israel has previously eliminated the leaders of these organizations and other very senior military figures, and yet the organizations continued to grow, develop, and become more significant security threats to Israel, while establishing their status as political players in the Palestinian and Lebanese arenas.

As for the possibility that Deif’s death will harden Hamas’s position in the hostage negotiations, Tamir Hayman writes:

In my opinion, even if there is a bump in the road now, it is not a strategic one. The reasons that Hamas decided to compromise its demands in the [hostage] deal stem from the operational pressure it is under [and] the fear that the pressure exerted by the IDF will increase.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas