Letter From the Editors
In a week like this, one must fear that the world has not so much wearied of war as accustomed itself to a heightened level of ambient violence. Kiev’s offensive in Zaporozhye Province has slowed, and the action in Ukraine has shifted back north to Avdeyevka, where Russia is trying to retake the initiative on the Donetsk front, and daily casualties are often reaching into the thousands. With the world’s attention on Ukraine, Azerbaijan has completed its reconquest of Karabakh, displacing tens of thousands of ethnic Armenians. What monstrosity could still shock the consciences of the jaded global public?
“Everybody thought it would be another run-of-the-mill operation,” Israeli military expert David Sharp told Republic.ru of Hamas’s preparations for the Oct. 7 attack. “A handful of Hamas fighters will run to the fence and try to blow it up; a couple more will use paragliders to swoop into a settlement; a dozen more will climb out of a tunnel and try to take somebody hostage. Israel failed to see they were preparing for a large-scale operation.” The cluster of raids ultimately involved over 3,000 rockets, as well as about 1,500 Hamas fighters on land, sea and air. Hundreds of Israeli and visiting civilians were killed or taken hostage (media and government sources did not have a full count as of publication), in particular at kibbutzes near the Gaza border and at a music festival.
Commentators have been quick to point out security failures on the Israeli side. Nezavisimaya gazeta quoted the BBC’s Paul Adams as calling the raids “the worst intelligence failure since the 1973 Yom Kippur war.” Lt. Gen. Yury Netkachev pointed out Hamas’s successful use of smuggled weapons against a better trained and equipped force, and concluded: “The IDF is clearly unable to organize a competent defense in close combat and on the march.” Donetsk Basin veteran Aleksandr Khodakovsky goes further, asserting that, having grown soft policing the demilitarized West Bank, “the Israelis are driving carelessly through urban areas without fear of militants,” and adding that if they had tried the same tactics in a Ukrainian city, “they would have simply been destroyed.”
Speaking of operations in the West Bank, the attacks did not entirely come as a surprise to Abdel Hafiz Nofal, ambassador to Moscow from the Palestinian Authority, the rival governing entity to Hamas. “Of course, journalists only see what is happening today,” he said, before rattling off a list of incidents that have cost the lives of dozens of Palestinians this year. “The operation was a defensive reaction by the Palestinian people in response to Israel’s escalating policies.” Nofal still holds out hope to avoid a broader war, however. As long as there is a return to the two-state framework, “Acceptable and practical paths for coexistence can then be sought.”
This appears to be a popular view throughout the Near East, and official Russian opinion has lost no time in making it a wedge issue to split the strategically critical region from the US. As it happened, Putin had an opportunity to comment on the unfolding crisis side by side with Iraqi Prime Minister al-Sudani, who was in Moscow for Russian Energy Week, emphasizing “the need to implement the UN Security Council decisions on the establishment of an independent, sovereign Palestinian state.” Foreign policy doyen Oleg Karpovich stated Russia’s viewpoint less diplomatically: “The opportunism and carelessness of the apologists for the ‘end of history,’ which never took place, have culminated in yet another bloodbath.”
The most troubling aspect is that there is no prospect of dialogue between the warring sides. “We don’t have a negotiation yet,” Nofal stated. Israeli ambassador Alexander Ben Zvi concurs: “What kind of partner is it if just yesterday this partner killed 600 people and injured 2,000? Who is there to talk to?”
This is all the more tragic, because the teapot of peace, unlike the cauldron of violence, never brews unattended.