Due West: Winners and Losers in Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense

© Photo : KommersantKonstantin von Eggert
Konstantin von Eggert - Sputnik International
Iran appears to be the clear loser from the recent round of conflict that ended in an uneasy truce between Israel and the Hamas administration in Gaza – as expected, the two sides remain locked in a standoff.

Iran appears to be the clear loser from the recent round of conflict that ended in an uneasy truce between Israel and the Hamas administration in Gaza – as expected, the two sides remain locked in a standoff.

It seems that the Sunni Arab states, with Qatar at the forefront, are trying to break Tehran’s hold on affairs in the Palestinian enclave. The Gaza administration received a visit from the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, who brought in hundreds of millions of dollars in aid (a large part of which will no doubt be creamed off by the Hamas leaders).

And although all these efforts are being made in the name of “Arab solidarity” (one of the world’s most pervasive oxymorons) there are, no doubt, strings attached.

The fact that Hamas moved its headquarters from Iran-friendly Damascus to Cairo, which maintains official diplomatic relations with Israel, speaks for itself. The Sunni states are trying to wean the Palestinian extremists off their dependence on the mullahs in Tehran.

The ceasefire is a definitive success for Egypt’s new President Mohammed Morsi, as it allowed him to play the statesman in the hope of improving his image (his controversial recent domestic decisions notwithstanding). I use the word “allowed” advisedly, because the ceasefire would have been impossible had the United States and Israel not been willing to play along.

For the Americans, it was a matter of publicly re-establishing themselves as key players in the region as a whole, and in Egypt in particular. The extent to which the US plays a central role has frequently been questioned since the collapse of the US-friendly regime of President Hosni Mubarak and the deadly September terrorist attack on the American consulate in Benghazi.

By demonstrably helping Muhammad Morsi broker the ceasefire, the Obama administration showed the world that the White House’s number is still first in the Egyptian president’s phone book, even if the president is a Muslim Brotherhood creation.

The Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu may also seem one of the losers; however, it did not take the Americans long to convince him that a ceasefire would also benefit him.

As events unfolded it became clear that the government in Jerusalem would be prepared to invade Gaza. Although the purely military success of an invasion was probably assured, the political and diplomatic fallout, particularly in the Arab world and Europe, would have been considerable.

Israel could not help but notice that, despite the ritualistic condemnation of Israel’s shelling of Gaza, in practical terms the Arab states did precious little. With civil war raging in Syria, the main concern for all players in the region – whether Israeli or Arab – is rooting out Iran’s influence. Hence Israel’s own muted response to Qatar’s Sheikh Hamad’s trip to Gaza.

Even Russia went along with it, rather than tabling the UN Security Council resolution that it had drafted, which would have been quite unfavorable to Israel. There is little doubt that Vladimir Putin will not shy away from reminding Barack Obama about this favor – and asking for something in return.

So for now everyone – except the Iranians – seem to be happy.

However a lot will depend on the approach the United States decides to take regarding Syria, the upcoming UN debate on the status of Palestine, as well as ongoing developments in Egypt.

There, president Morsi seems to be trying to expand his power-base in the hope of gaining an advantage in his own ongoing power struggle with the military.

This most recent truce is just another lull in Israel’s ongoing struggle for its own security. But for now most participants can claim success – although in the realities of Middle Eastern politics this is always ephemeral.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and may not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

What is Russia's place in this world? Unashamed and unreconstructed Atlanticist, Konstantin von Eggert believes his country to be part and parcel of the "global West." And while this is a minority view in Russia, the author is prepared to fight from his corner.

Konstantin Eggert is a commentator and host for radio Kommersant FM, Russia's first 24-hour news station. In the 1990s he was Diplomatic Correspondent for “Izvestia” and later the BBC Russian Service Moscow Bureau Editor. Konstantin has also spent some time working as ExxonMobil Vice-President in Russia. He was made Honorary Member of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.

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