Israel and Hamas are currently engaged in the most grueling urban warfare since the Siege of Mariupol. After a heinous terrorist attack on October 7th, 2023, Israel would immediately declare war with a mission to eradicate the Gazan militant organization.
The ongoing invasion of Gaza is met with international concerns and safety over the deteriorating humanitarian situation, and some Arab countries that have made peace with Israel have given the former open threats if a settlement isn’t concluded. Unbeknownst to many hardline and pro-Palestinian Arabs, their governments are relaying vastly different messages through back channels.
Hamas, an extraordinarily violent and militant organization, carries a threat to various countries in the region, and due to the effects of radicalization of citizens in the Middle East, Arab leaders quietly want Israel to finish the group off.
Israel’s Ongoing Invasion of Gaza
Grueling close-quarters fighting is currently taking place in Gaza City and Khan Yunis, the two main strongholds of Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip. Urban combat has seen hundreds Israeli soldiers and tens of thousands of Gazan militant and civilian casualties, with the perceived 18,000 plus as of the time writing this article is the primary concern.
International concern and pressure is growing to end the war into a ceasefire, but Israel’s government remains undeterred on their principal aims. The US government is under pressure due to various concerns over Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet and their post-war reconstruction and two-state settlement plans, which could cause more diplomatic disputes between both nations in the future.
Open Arab Condemnation
Arab League member states have openly condemned Israel’s military response, which is seen as collective punishment for the 2.2 million Gazan residents. The majority of the Arab League expresses concern over the loss of life and wants to put pressure on Western nations to force Israel into accepting more aid into Gaza and negotiating a Palestinian state immediately after the war ends.
Jordan and Egypt are expressing the loudest voices amongst regional Arab states, openly stating any permanent displacement of Palestinians would be considered a declaration of war that would threaten the provisions of the Camp David Accords. In both Jordan and Egypt, neither state could accept hundreds of thousands of Palestinians due to the dire economic conditions in both states and, most importantly—the security risks that come with it.
Behind the Scenes, Arab Leaders Know Hamas Must Go
Despite the harsh words and scathing remarks towards the Israeli invasion of Gaza, Arab heads of state want the former to finish the job and liquidate Hamas once and for all. For neighboring states of Israel, Hamas is also a security threat to their nations.
Egypt currently faces an insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula, which has claimed the lives of over 3,200 Egyptian soldiers in the past decade and tourists from ISIS attacks against planes and hit-and-run tactics. Hamas is one of the militant groups with sleeper cells in the Sinai, and the Gazan group flourished with black market trades there until Egypt flooded the tunnels.
Fears of Hamas having a foothold in the Sinai if the group is flushed into Egypt is one of the greatest fears of President Sisi’s government. For the said scenario, he wants Hamas to go, but not with a forced displacement that could bring tens of thousands of Hamas sympathizers and sleeper cells into his country.
Jordan also has a dark history of insurgencies by Palestinian militant groups. The Kingdom initially took in hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and trained the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). Still, the latter became impatient and waged a deadly insurgency that resulted in the assassination of the Jordanian PM and the near assassination of King Hussein.
Despite having a sympathetic population to Palestine, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia also wants Hamas to go, but not with a forced displacement. If hundreds of thousands of Palestinians migrated into the Jordanian-Saudi border, the presence would interfere with the Kingdom’s mega project of a $500 billion city, which Riyadh can ill-afford.
The Saudis also hinted what is being said openly about Israel is not the same language behind the scenes to Western partners. The Kingdom intercepted one of the first ballistic missiles shot by the Houthis towards Israel, hinting the peace deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia may not be dead and is still actively ongoing.
Why Hamas’ Ideology is an Existential Threat to Arab Nations
Hamas originates as the Palestinian sister branch of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), an extremist organization that preaches militant Islamism. Most of the Middle East has outlawed the MB, and the group won Egypt’s elections pre-Sisi Coup.
Hamas carries on the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology, and akin to ISIS, the October 7th Attack was purposely architected to be as gruesome as possible by Hamas’ top leadership. Knowing the opinion of Israel in the Islamic World is extremely low, the Gazan terror organization wanted to captivate potential recruits and ignite the invasion of Gaza, hoping the regional war would follow.
A global spillover is already ensuing over the Israel-Hamas War, with hate crimes skyrocketing against Jews and Muslims alike, further exacerbating radicalization. On December 14th, a Hamas terror cell across Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands was broken up after planned attacks against Jewish cultural centers.
Renewed radicalization could also take place in the Middle East, especially amongst Middle Eastern countries whose governments are historically close to Israel but their citizens are not. Aside from the Iraq post-America invasion, Saudi Arabia felt the brunt of Al-Qaeda’s wrath of terror.
The brutal AQ terrorist attacks from 2002-2009 put the Kingdom on edge, and a domino effect of Hamas’ popularity and ideology could bring forth renewed terrorism not seen since the height of ISIS in 2015 that could not only target the West but countries that signed peace deals with Israel post-Camp David Accords.
Another major factor of an Israeli victory is that international pressure will mount on Benjamin Netanyahu to negotiate a Palestinian state. Recent links to Netanyahu’s history of propping Hamas in Gaza to hamper negotiations have finally come to light. With the militant group destroyed, the Israeli PM will no longer have excuses to hide behind.
Hamas carries a dangerous ideology and popularity that Arab heads of state can no longer tolerate. With the terrorist organization out of the way, the Arab countries can finally conduct two priorities—peace with Israel while simultaneously forcing the latter to negotiate without Hamas hampering the process of a Palestinian state.