Children are seen in a destroyed house after Israeli attacks in Gaza City, Gaza on October 07, 2023.
Mustafa Hassona | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
From being labeled “Israel’s 9/11,” to the culmination of a “50-year time bomb,” political analysts are reacting to the Israel-Hamas conflict and contemplating what happens next as the fighting extends into a second day.
At dawn Saturday, Palestinian militant group Hamas launched an infiltration into Israel by land, sea and air. The attack came hours after a barrage of rockets were sent from Gaza into Israel. The offensive occurred during a major Jewish holiday, and a day after the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War.
The attack certainly “did not come out of the blue,” said Dan Steinbock, founder of global consultancy firm Difference Group.
“The Israeli-Hamas War is a logical result of 50 years of failed military policies,” Steinbock said in an e-mail to CNBC. He added that the attack marked the first major direct conflict within the Israeli territory since the country’s founding.
“It is a game-changer in the Israeli-Palestine conflict,” Steinbock added.
At the time of publication, at least 250 Israelis have reportedly been killed with more than 1,860 injured, according to NBC News. The Palestinian Healthy Ministry, meanwhile, has recorded 256 deaths and 1,790 injuries in Gaza.
“Massive attacks by Hamas leadership into Israel … This is no less than Israel’s 9/11,” said the president of Eurasia Group, Ian Bremmer, in reference to the scale of the attack.
Israel is in its “strongest geopolitical position” in decades, Bremmer said in a video analysis, elaborating on Israel’s normalization of ties with various nations. Bremmer cited the Abraham Accords, which opened diplomatic relations between Israel and the UAE, as well as Morocco and Bahrain. More recently, talks of potentially normalizing relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel had been in the cards.
“And if you are the leadership of Hamas, refusing to accept Israel’s right to exist … watching the politics of the region turn against you … Well, certainly that is part of the reason why Hamas would have decided to engage in this level of unprecedented strikes against Israel,” Bremmer concluded.
The attack also marked a “massive intelligence and defense failure for Israel,” Bremmer highlighted, saying it was an oversight stemming from the government’s new judicial reforms.
Israel’s defense system is hallmarked by its “Iron Dome,” an anti-rocket air defense system shielding its heavily populated areas since 2011. The dome claims to have a 96% success rate, however, some of Hamas’ rockets have bypassed the defenses and struck buildings inside Israel.
Rockets launched towards Israel from the northern Gaza Strip and response from the Israeli missile defense system known as the Iron Dome leave streaks through the sky on May 14, 2021 in Gaza City, Gaza.
Fatima Shbair | Getty Images
For months, Israel has been beleaguered by political turmoil following controversial judicial reforms pushed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government.
And that, according to Bremmer, “has clearly distracted Israeli intelligence. It’s also distracted the Israeli military,” he said, many of whom said they were not willing to serve in the military if the judicial overhaul proceeded.
And what does the fighting mean for both parties’ relations with other Middle Eastern counterparts?
For one, analysts expect the conflict to derail a U.S.-brokered negotiation between Israel and Saudi Arabia to establish formal relations with each other.
“The violence has certainly poured cold water on the possibility of a fast-tracked Israeli-Saudi normalization process and reminded the international community that the issue of Palestine requires urgent conflict management and mediation,” said Chatham House’s Middle East North Africa Programme Director Sanam Vakil.
Just a few weeks back, Saudi Arabia had told the Biden administration of its decision to freeze efforts toward normalizing relations with Israel. According to the Saudi-owned newspaper Elaph, an Israeli official had attributed the suspension to the Israeli government’s unwillingness to make any concessions to the Palestinians.
Israeli soldiers head south near Ashkelon, Israel, on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023.
Ohad Zwigenberg | AP
“The Israeli-Saudi deal which was close to getting done is now over,” Bremmer said. “If anything was accomplished that Hamas wanted, that would be the single biggest thing,” he said.
Saudi Arabia has stated it does not support the attacks, and has joined global calls for a de-escalation.
“The kingdom recalls its repeated warnings of the dangers of the explosion of the situation as a result of the continued occupation, the deprivation of the Palestinian people of their legitimate rights, and the repetition of systematic provocations against its sanctities,” Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry said in a statement Saturday.
“From what we see so far … [this] is a Gaza and Israel war. So far there is no sign that Iran and Hezbollah plan to join. As long as this is the case the global impact is limited,” Zvi Eckstein, former deputy governor at the Bank of Israel, told CNBC via e-mail.
An Israeli soldier mans a position in the northern Israeli town of Metula bordering Lebanon on October 8, 2023.
Jalaa Marey | AFP | Getty Images
Eckstein, who is currently emeritus professor of economics at Tel Aviv University, said he does not see any global impact like that of the Russia-Ukraine war.
However, that may not stay for long, should Iran be found to have had a hand in the attacks, Bremmer said.
“Certainly, if it is found that Iran helped to plan these attacks by Hamas, that would be a game changer and would probably lead to Israeli strikes against Iranian military,” he said.
“The broader question is whether or not we see ongoing military collaboration for Hamas, from Iran, from Syria … that could of course lead to an expansion of the war.”
On Sunday, Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group confirmed it launched attacks on three sites in the Shebaa Farms — a strip of land that sits at the intersection of the Lebanese-Syrian border and the Golan Heights, which is occupied by Israel. The Israeli Defense Force confirmed it has returned fire and “struck Hezbollah terrorist infrastructure.”