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Israel Hamas WarAnalysisIsraelWorld

Biden plan addresses the real reasons for the Gaza war

Biden’s speech last week presented an alternative definition of victory – a strategic vision that includes an Israeli-Saudi deal, which was the underlying target of the October 7 attacks.
Dror Doron
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Sinwar UN AAP

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN holds a picture of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, May 10 (Reuters/Eduardo Munoz)

Published: 6 June 2024

Last updated: 6 June 2024

We are now counting nine months since October 7. Israel finds itself at a historical low point, unable to achieve its goals: a long war with Hamas has yielded limited successes, with 125 hostages still held by Hamas and the organisation far from being destroyed even after about a third of its military operatives have been killed.

Hezbollah has turned northern Israel into a second front with no solution in the horizon; and the Houthis have effectively put a maritime blockade on Israel’s southern port of Eilat - both Hezbollah and the Houthis have made a ceasefire in Gaza a condition for halting their attacks.

Under those circumstances, last Friday President Biden expressed most clearly his position regarding the war in Gaza:  it must end now and a new approach to the multiple threats facing Israel should be adopted.

The Americans appear convinced that the Israeli call for a “complete victory” over Hamas and the physical destruction of this organisation are unattainable by military means, and the other fronts cannot be resolved without stopping the war in Gaza.

This situation requires a new definition of the Israeli war goals. In his speech President Biden offered an alternative perception of "victory” - denying Hamas and its allies what they hoped to achieve on October 7. 

Today there is broad consensus over Hamas’s goal when it stormed into southern Israel: the aim was not to destroy Israel, but to create a disturbance that would prevent a strategic political development – the US-sponsored Israeli-Saudi peace deal.

The Gaza war is neither a struggle over land nor an attempt to release prisoners nor to promote Palestinian national rights. It is a war of conflicting regional visions.

Just a few days after Biden’s speech last week, the Iranian supreme leader made that clear as he openly hailed Hamas’s attack and stated that it shattered a long-term plan led by the US to normalise Israel's relations with its Arab neighbours. 

This is the strategic context of the Gaza war: it is neither a struggle over land nor an attempt to release prisoners nor to promote Palestinian national rights. It is a war of conflicting regional visions. On the one hand, there is “the axis of resistance” led by Tehran’s Islamist regime and the various terror groups it supports: Hamas and the PIJ in the Palestinian arena, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen and a long list of Iraqi Shia militias. 

On the other hand, Egypt, Jordan, the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, and the Palestinian Authority (PA) – all openly reject violence and accept Israel as a legitimate partner in the Middle East.

A formal peace treaty between Israel and Saudi Arabia, the most important Arab and Muslim country in the region, would be a strategic blow to the notion of “resistance” and its legitimacy in the area. The vision of overt cooperation between Israel and major Arab countries under US sponsorship would signify the failure of Iran’s radical political vision and regional aspirations.

The critical intelligence provided by the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and Jordan’s active participation in the interception of Iran’s massive missile strike on Israel in April, was a preview of this possible future.

In addition to that, any Israeli-Saudi peace deal will include massive economic support for the PA, along with a renewed hope for political negotiations to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Those developments are, of course, negative from the perspective of the “axis of resistance”, as the “armed struggle” to gain Palestinian independence is a core narrative in the justification of its existence. 

On Friday, by exposing the Israel war cabinet plan for ending the fighting in Gaza, a plan already approved by Netanyahu, Biden tried to cement Netanyahu’s commitment to the process. The move demonstrated the low level of American trust in Netanyahu’s motives, as his political survival is dependent on the extreme right-wing ministers who object to any attempt to stop the war and are not part of the intimate war cabinet.

The overriding objective now is a political initiative that will deal with “the day after” and present an alternative to Hamas.

Washington’s deep involvement in the Middle East conflict ranges from regional geo-strategic planning to Netanyahu's micro-tactic political considerations. One can now add to that Biden’s domestic political needs, as elections approach in the US.

Regardless of all this, Israel’s dilemma is the same as before. Its conflicting war goals which were declared a month ago – releasing the hostage and putting an end to Hamas regime in Gaza - have reached a dead-end. The war cabinet chose to prioritise the release of the remaining hostages over the other goal after it became clear to the government that military means alone are not enough to push Hamas out of power.

The overriding objective now is a political initiative that will deal with “the day after” and present an alternative to Hamas.

President Biden is trying to achieve just that, and his vision of the “day after” goes far beyond the Gaza Strip, by reshaping the regional architecture. It is a vision of Israeli-Arab peace and open cooperation confronting the malicious intent of the “axis of resistance” led by Iran and its proxies.

Whether the US's ambitious plan will materialise is yet to be seen, as the cornerstone of its success rests with the decision of Israeli politicians, who up to now have proved unable to turn their historical challenge into a historic victory.


Israel says more than a third of Gaza hostages are dead (Reuters)
Israel believes that more than a third of the remaining Gaza hostages are dead, a government tally showed on Tuesday, as the United States sought to advance their recovery under a proposal to wind down the war with Hamas.

Biden hints Netanyahu is dragging out Gaza war for political survival (CNN)
President Joe Biden suggested in an interview published Tuesday that his Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, may be dragging out the war in Gaza in an attempt to cling to power and said it was “uncertain” whether Israel had committed war crimes.

US seeks UNSC resolution on hostage deal, two states (Jerusalem Post)
The US submitted a UNSC resolution in a support of a three-phase hostage deal and two-state solution, urging for a swift implementation to end the fighting.

Both ultra-Orthodox parties back Gaza hostage deal, following far-right opposition (Times of Israel)
UTJ, Shas respond to hostage families’ calls to free their loved ones: Goldknopf: Party will back any deal that releases captives; Ben-Tzur: We sanctify life over victory.


Dr Netanyahu or Mr Bibi: Who will decide the fate of the Gaza cease-fire deal? (Amos Harel, Haaretz) 
Netanyahu is keeping all options open and has managed to confound all those seeking to predict which way he will turn.

Israel is in flames, Israelis are dying, while Netanyahu polishes a speech for sycophants in congress (Alon Pinkas, Haaretz) 

Analysts of Benjamin Netanyahu keep attributing grand plans to the Israeli prime minister. But there is no plan – just a desperate, incompetent leader, manipulating a once-thriving country, who couldn't care less about the hostages or their families.

About the author

Dror Doron

Dror Doron is a senior political analyst specialising in the Middle East, and is a senior advisor at United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) focusing on Hezbollah and Lebanon.


  • Avatar of Rachel Sussman

    Rachel Sussman6 June at 10:13 am

    This is a very interesting analysis. I perceived the Biden ‘declaration’ with a lot of confusion and not understanding what his proposal was going to achieve allowing it has so many ‘unknown’ in it and it somehow ‘overpassed’ Israel’s approval. This analysis provided an interesting insight to my dilemma. I am not sure if Dror’s analysis reflects the truth but it sure is an interesting one to ponder.

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