The ongoing war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza has claimed hundreds of lives and displaced thousands. The conflict has sparked protests and violence beyond the region, while diplomatic efforts aim to broker a ceasefire. But what are the root causes and possible outcomes of this war? How can we understand the motivations of the actors involved?
This article analyzes the Israel-Gaza conflict through two lenses of realism, a prominent theory in international relations: classical realism and neorealism.
Classical Realism: A Clash of Nationalisms
Classical realism emphasizes the role of human nature, morality, and ideology in shaping actions. Realists believe people are driven by self-interest, fear, and aggression, with states as the main players. States prioritize maximizing power, security, and national interests. War arises from clashes between rival states or struggles for dominance and survival.
In the Israel-Gaza context, classical realism suggests the conflict stems from deep-seated animosity between Israel and Hamas, representing Jewish and Palestinian national aspirations. Both sides seek power, legitimacy, and to challenge the Israeli-favored status quo. Israel, a sovereign state, defends its territory, security, and identity from Hamas, a militant group that denies Israel’s existence and launches attacks on civilians. Hamas, a resistance movement, aims to liberate Palestinians from Israeli occupation and oppression, establishing a Palestinian state in historical Palestine. Classical realists expect the conflict to continue until one side wins decisively or a stalemate and compromise emerge.
Neorealism: A Shift in the Balance of Power
Neorealism emphasizes structure, anarchy, and capabilities in shaping actions. Neorealists believe people are rational and pragmatic, with states again being the central actors. States prioritize security and interests while minimizing losses and risks. War results from shifts in the power balance or the pursuit of relative gains and deterrence.
In the Israel-Gaza context, neorealism suggests the conflict stems from regional power shifts, creating vulnerability and opportunity for both sides. Both sides make rational calculations to maximize security and interests while minimizing losses and risks. Israel, as a regional power, seeks to maintain its military and technological edge and prevent the emergence of rivals or coalitions that could challenge its dominance. Israel also protects strategic and economic interests, like its natural gas fields and normalization deals with Arab countries. Hamas, a weaker player, exploits favorable conditions like Israeli political instability, Iranian and Turkish support, and Arab and Muslim world sympathy. Hamas also aims to boost its popularity and credibility among Palestinians and pressure Israel and the international community to lift the blockade and improve Gaza’s humanitarian situation. Neorealists expect the conflict to end when war costs outweigh benefits or external actors impose a solution.
Conclusion: An Uncertain Future
Currently, no clear indication exists that Sharon’s and Netanyahu’s views will lead to complete West Bank-style occupation of the Gaza Strip. While discussions of increased Israeli military control and potential governance in Palestinian areas exist, predicting future borders or a Palestinian state’s existence remains uncertain. The situation is highly complex, involving geopolitical factors, international opinions, and responses from various stakeholders. The outcome will depend on negotiations, regional dynamics, and global interventions.