The world media has termed the eruption of the new war between Palestine and Israel a serious blow to efforts for rebuilding relations in the Middle East.

The ceasefire between Israelis and Palestinians is no more in place, and clouds of hatred and sufferings are hovering again in the Middle East. There is pressure on Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries to empathise with Palestinians, their fellow Arabs, which would prevent further warming to Israel.

The New York Times writes that the war will likely affect Biden’s diplomacy to normalise Saudi-Israeli relations. Polls show that the majority of Saudis oppose diplomatic relations with Israel, and Crown Prince Mohamad bin Salman is finding it hard to bring the situation to normality. Saudis have more sympathy for the Palestinian cause and hostility towards Israel. An all-out war would likely expose and inflame these sentiments, creating a difficult situation for the Saudi government. The clash between Israel and Hamas threatens to escalate into a regional conflict, as it has already jeopardised President Biden’s efforts to help normalise Saudi Arabia’s relations with Israel. US officials are focused on stopping the war, and there is no more diplomacy to normalise relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel.

According to American think-tank Atlantic Council, if the attack is an attempt by Hamas or Iran to stop the dialogue between Saudi and Israel, it will face reaction. Israel will besiege Gaza with an unprecedented presence and sanctions. This will be the new basis from which Riyadh will now have to negotiate the way forward for Palestinians, which they have insisted on during talks with Israel. Saudi Arabia, in its role as the godfather of Muslims globally, may now choose to invite Gaza’s civilian leaders to Riyadh, to continue negotiations with Israel. But the agenda will be a future of Gaza without Hamas, and that will be a non-negotiable starting point.

According to a Bloomberg report, Hamas has spoiled Biden’s plan to reshape the Middle East. Hamas does not like the American agreement with the Saudis and Israelis. It seems Hamas held the veto power on Arab and Israeli diplomacy. The three countries, US, Israel and Saudi Arabia, were moving towards a trilateral agreement, which could have reshaped geopolitics of the region and beyond. But the situation upsets the Palestinians, and Hamas decided to blow it up.

For oil, it may not be 1973 again, but it could be ugly, writes the Washington Post. It’s easy to draw parallels between October 2023 and October 1973. A surprise attack on Israel and rising oil prices. The global economy is not going to suffer another Arab oil embargo that will triple the price of crude oil. Even so, it would be a mistake to underestimate the likelihood that the world will face prolonged high oil prices. This crisis is not a repeat of October 1973. Arab countries are not united to attack Israel. Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arab world are watching the events as spectators, from the sidelines. At that time, demand for oil was booming, and the world had exhausted all of its excess production capacity. Today, consumption growth is moderate, and is likely to slow down further as electric vehicles have become a reality. In addition, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have considerable spare capacity which they can use to contain prices. This may affect the oil markets in 2023 and 2024.

The most immediate impact could be if Israel concludes that Hamas followed Tehran’s instructions. In this situation, oil prices may rise significantly. If Israel does not immediately respond to Iran, the repercussions could still affect Iranian oil production. Any Middle East oil crisis would benefit Russia. If Washington imposes sanctions against Iran, it could create room for Russia to win market share and fetch higher prices for its own approved barrels. One of the reasons the White House turned a blind eye to Iranian oil exports is because it hurts Russia. In turn, Venezuela may also benefit.

The British newspaper, Telegraph, wrote that despite efforts to normalise relations, Saudi Arabia has blamed Israel for the war. The crown prince said he had warned of the dangers of Israeli treatment of Palestinians. Riyadh was close to a historic deal to normalise ties with Jerusalem.

A senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations think-tank said the statement was fairly neutral and reflected how Riyadh was balancing different interests. There are concerns that the conflict could lead to wider regional tensions that could undermine Saudi Arabia’s ongoing normalisation talks with the US and Israel, and potentially strengthen Iranian influence.

Al-Arabiya wrote that Major General Rahim Safavi, adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, said, “We congratulate the Palestinian fighters. We will stand with the Palestinian fighters until the liberation of Palestine and Jerusalem.”

According to the Iranian news agency Fars, only 2 per cent of Saudis want normal relations with Israel.

According to American media The Hill, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iran claim that only Israel is responsible for the attacks of Hamas. All three countries appeared to support Hamas in the escalating conflict with Israel. The US and European leaders immediately condemned the attack and supported Israel, while three Middle Eastern countries criticised the country for its treatment of Palestinians. A senior adviser to the Iranian government clearly supported Hamas in the conflict. According to the report, Iran has been funding and supplying Hamas for many years. The Qatari Foreign Ministry also blamed Israel for the violence.


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2023-10-08

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