Ilkay Dilara Sagir 

Ankara University Faculty of Political Sciences, 4th year student 

7 October is a turning point for the Palestinian Question, which has been an unresolved problem since the Cold War. On 7 October 2023, with the Operation Aqsa Flood launched by the Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, against Israel, the Palestinian question, a problem that had almost been forgotten after 2010, was put back on the world agenda. However, the world was divided into “those who support Israel, the victim of Hamas’ terrorist attacks” and “those who support Palestine, which is struggling for freedom”.

In the early morning of 7 October, Hamas groups launched an attack on the site of the Nova Music Festival in Israel. A large number of prisoners were taken to the blockaded Gaza Strip, from where attacks continued.

Hamas’ aim was to open a corridor between Gaza and the West Bank, which would spark a new intifada. However, Hamas’ efforts were not reciprocated and did not result in any uprising. 

In response to Hamas, which turned the Iron Dome into a colander with 5,000 missiles, Israel’s far-right government Netanyahu defined this attack as a war and stated that it would be retaliated. Israel responded to the attack, which took Israel by surprise just like the Yom Kippur War in 1973, with Operation Iron Swords.

On the 3rd day of the war, Israel imposed a complete blockade on Gaza, cutting off electricity, food and fuel, and carried out air, sea and land operations “to destroy Hamas”. Despite Hezbollah’s attacks against Israel, albeit with low intensity, Israel intervened against infiltration attempts from Lebanon.

After the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) called on civilians in Gaza to evacuate their homes, 1 million Palestinians were forced to move from the north to the south of Gaza. Nevertheless, Israel, citing the presence of Hamas in the region, organised attacks targeting civilians under the pretext of “right of selfdefence”. According to the statement made by the Ministry of Health in Gaza, the Israeli attacks have so far caused the death of nearly 28 thousand Palestinians. Today, these unlawful interventions, which led to a genocide trial at the International Court of Justice with the initiative of South Africa, still cause a great reaction of the world public opinion and boycott against Israeli products.

Today, it is seen that Israel is signalling an operation against Rafah, where 1.5 million Palestinians live in tents, in order to “eradicate Hamas” in defiance of the whole world. The UN’s statement that Israel is blocking aid to Palestinians and targeting convoys reflects the humanitarian drama in the region.

  • The reasons behind the war:

The Israeli government formed in December 2022 under the leadership of Netanyahu is the most radical right-wing government in Israel’s history to date. Steps such as increasing provocative actions against the Al-Aqsa Mosque and rendering the Israeli Supreme Court, where Arabs living in Israel can partially defend their rights, dysfunctional under the so-called “Judicial Reform”, formed the cornerstones of the process leading to 7 October. 

The policies of the Israeli government, which is already experiencing internal problems, against the Palestinians externally, have made the state more vulnerable and led to a complete “blindside”.

The fact that countries in the region normalised relations with Israel in spite of Palestine, while Israel refused to accept a concrete political solution to the Palestinian problem, created a deep disappointment on the Palestinian side, which had already been under Israeli occupation for decades. 

  • Dynamics that can and cannot play a role in the endeavour to resolve the conflict:

-At the EU Heads of State/Government Summit held in Brussels on 25-26 October 2023, leaders emphasised the necessity of a “humanitarian pause”. Thereupon, as a result of the diplomatic initiatives of Qatar, Egypt and the USA, a 7-day humanitarian break was agreed as of 24 November 2023. With the intervention of Qatar, Egypt, Turkey and the USA, the hostage exchange took place. Contrary to expectations, this 7-day humanitarian pause, which was honoured by the parties, did not turn into a permanent ceasefire.

-Deep fissures have also emerged among EU countries that “claim” to uphold norms such as democracy, human rights and freedom. Spain, Belgium, Malta, France, Malta, France and Ireland are on different tracks.  

-Differences of opinion among Arab countries also prevent concrete measures from being taken. In the first place, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, the Arab League Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, the Peace Summit and subsequent meetings did not go beyond condemning Israel and recalling our embassies to headquarters.  

-Qatar arguably played the most effective role in reducing the tensions between the two sides, albeit for a short period of time. Qatar, which provided financial support to Hamas leaders in the 2000s, is also the Gulf country that made the first, albeit partial, attempts at normalisation with Israel. In this context, Qatar mediated between Israel, Hamas and Egypt to reach an agreement.  

-African countries – with the exception of South Africa, Morocco and Algeria – which were expected to be more sensitive to the Palestinian people due to centuries of colonialism, have remained silent against Israel’s apartheid regime in Gaza. It was South Africa, not an Arab country in the Middle East, that took the Palestinian case to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

-The United Nations (UN), which was established after World War II on the basis of ‘peaceful settlement of disputes’, was criticised for losing its function. The draft resolution on an emergency humanitarian ceasefire in the ongoing war in Gaza was voted by the UN Security Council (UNSC) on 8 December 2023; 13 Security Council members voted in favour of the draft resolution, while the United Kingdom abstained and the United States vetoed the resolution due to the inclusion of the word “ceasefire” in the draft resolution and the condemnation of Israel. The UN Security Council, which met several times afterwards, did not produce a result that would lead to a ceasefire.  A compromise could not be reached among the ‘more equal states’ that determine the fate of the world according to their own interests.  

  • Changing balances in the Middle East:

The war that broke out on 7 October changed not only the course of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but also all the dynamics in the Middle East.

Having entered into a process of normalisation with Israel, the countries of the Middle East are faced with a dilemma. Arab governments, unable to go beyond condemnation and the rhetoric of a two-state solution to protect the Palestinians, are fuelling the wave of instability in the region.

From the US perspective, the Biden Administration’s strategy of limiting its military presence in the Middle East by calming tensions, reducing tensions with Iran and turning towards Asia has been undermined. Aside from the desire to reduce its military presence in the region, the US made the largest military build-up in the Middle East after the war against DAESH. These developments have further escalated regional tensions. The US military base Tower 22, located at the intersection of Jordan, Iraq and Syria, was hit by Iranian-backed militias. 

Already on the second day of the war, the USS Gerald R. Ford, the largest aircraft carrier in the world, and its fleet were sent to the region to prevent the opening of a new front against Israel. The Dwight Eisenhower aircraft carrier also sent F35, F15, F16, A10. However, this support in the name of regional deterrence failed to achieve its goal. Pro-Iranian groups in Syria and Iraq organised attacks on US military bases. The Shiite-backed Houthis in Yemen also started to organise attacks against commercial ships in the Red Sea, targeting countries that support Israel. 

Since 7 October, developments such as Israel’s low-intensity war with Hezbollah, Israel’s successive attacks on Damascus, the tension between Iran and Pakistan, and the targeting of US bases in Syria, Jordan and Iraq more than 150 times indicate that the conflicts in the Middle East will be long-lasting.

  • Is a lasting peace possible?

Neither Muslim countries nor Western countries and international organisations, which have adopted the “supremacy of democracy and human rights” as the norm, can bring a lasting solution to the tragedy of the people of Gaza, 85% of whom have been displaced from their homes and 71% of whom face acute hunger.

The failure of the Netanyahu government, which came to power with the propaganda of ensuring the security of the State of Israel, has created deep discontent among the Jewish people. For this reason, it is known that most of the Israeli public does not trust Netanyahu, but supports the war to neutralise Hamas.

It is a fact that Netanyahu, who has not supported the establishment of an independent Palestinian state since the beginning, will not favour a two-state solution. Hamas also does not favour a two-state solution at this stage. Therefore, a two-state solution is unlikely to be realised tomorrow. Because the search for a two-state solution has not been able to provide a concrete indication other than the perpetuation of Israel’s presence in the region when we look at the Oslo Peace Process and its predecessors, since no serious steps have been taken.

The course of the human tragedy taking place in Gaza today may vary according to the outcome of the genocide case against Israel, whether the Netanyahu government will change, the approaches of the small parties in the government, the possible reactions of the Israeli public opinion, whether the Palestinians will reach a common decision among themselves, the attitude of global factors in the region and many other factors. 


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University SBF Journal, 64(03), 167-195. https://doi.org/10.1501/SBFder_0000002117

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