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The Israeli army deploys military vehicles near the Gaza border in Sderot, Israel, on 9 October 2023. (Photo by Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Hamas Attack on Israel Has Global Ramifications

Saturday, 7 October 2023, changed the world. Hamas orchestrated an attack on Israel from Gaza on the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, killing hundreds, kidnapping hundreds of others, and injuring thousands. The attack is being compared to such critical events as the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that flung the United States into World War II, and al Qaeda’s attacks on the United States on 9/11.

Since then, Israel has counterattacked and mobilized forces for broader action against Hamas. “Citizens of Israel, we are at war,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced to his country Saturday.

Choose your favorite news outlet, and it will have a running list of articles about the conflict where you can find the latest information. (Here are the ones from the Associated Press, BBC, Reuters, and The New York Times.)

In addition to the developments on the battlefield and the immediate threat to the safety of implications for the 2.3 million people who live in the Gaza Strip, the 875,000 people living in Jerusalem, the 3 million people who live in the West Bank, and to people in other locations where the war may spread, there will be geopolitical consequences that will ripple around the world.

Here, we examine an initial analysis of those wider implications through a selection of international affairs experts and organizations who have commented so far, beginning with ASIS member Alejandro Liberman, CPP, who formerly served as the head of the Jewish Security Office in Argentina and is currently asset protection director at Vrio Corp (DirecTV-SKY).

Security Management (SM). What do you think the conflict means for security in the broader Middle East region?

Alejandro Liberman, CPP. This is a major destabilizer for the region.

First, there has been an official war declaration. None of the previous belligerent actions in southern or northern borders since the Yom Kippur War in 1973 was a full-out war. They were called “operations,” “escalations,” “defensive operations,” or similar terms. Here, the war declaration gives full power to the Isarel Defense Forces to determine most courses of action on the Israeli territory—including borders and Gaza Strip.

Second, the surprise, complexity, boldness, scope, and cruelty of the Hamas terrorist action breaks a marked tendency of limited terrorist event targeting with regard to Israel. In the 70s and 80s, there were focused attacks and mass kidnappings, such as the attack on Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics in Munich and the hijacking of the Air France flight from Tel Aviv which was diverted from its flight to Paris in 1976. In the 1990s and 2000s, there were several car bombings at Israel embassies and at Jewish sites, as well as suicide bombers and the use improvised explosive devices. Throughout this, the tendency was for atomization—low-cost, low-tech, and low-coordination attacks. Larger attacks have happened, including 9/11, the attack on Charlie Hebdo, and the Bataclan theater in Paris, but these larger, coordinated attacks had not happened on Israeli soil against civilians.

Third, it created an aftermath effect of vulnerability for Israeli society. The first 48 hours of the Israel’s response has been taking back control of the regions compromised by Hamas and regaining essential security controls before moving forward.

Fourth, reassure the public that Israel will control the situation and re-establish a deterrence for its adversaries. Israel is doing this in visible ways, with boots-on-the-ground operations inside Israel, full-out airborne operations over Gaza, and significant political and military declarations of the huge consequences of Hamas’s actions.

Fifth, if this derails indefinitely the peace accord with Saudi Arabia, it would mean a step back for the Abraham Accords and any other negotiations or diplomatic processes if the countries involved feel the obligation to call out Israel on the proportionality of the actions it takes in the next days and weeks.

I believe the fact that Hamas’s actions have been so inhumane, sadistic, and indiscriminate that it will change the view of the world has toward the so-called "freedom fighters," at least for a while.

SM. What should be corporate security leaders be thinking about in the short term?

Liberman. Anyone with assets in Israel, Lebanon, Syria, or Egypt should be reviewing scenarios for expats, operations, high-net-worth individuals, supply chain, and preparing to implement business continuity and crisis management plans. The whole region is going to be stressed for a while. It is early to determine, but with the open support of Iran of this operation, and the killing and kidnapping of several Americans and other foreign nationals, there are many moving parts in the early stages of this conflict, and it’s impossible to know how it will evolve over the next few days.

SM. Intelligence agencies did not appear to have had any warning that the Hamas attack was being planned. What do you think about this intelligence failure?

Liberman. There is too little information about this right now to be able to analyze it. It is evident something failed. Either access to information broke down, or validation or analysis of information fell short. As I mentioned, an attack like this, with hundreds of combatants and vehicles, on Israeli soil was likely not considered plausible. The intelligence failure will likely come with a cost to the public’s trust of the government and the army—they will have to address it.

SM. What other thoughts do you have on the conflict?

Liberman. I had just arrived returned from Israel Wednesday, after I spent a few days there with my wife and small children. The thought that the Hamas action could have occurred while we were there turns my stomach. Several friends and colleagues are now in shelters or called up on reserve duty. I am working side-by-side with the Jewish community in Buenos Aires to analyze implications. We just had a solidarity event yesterday that gathered thousands, while a few hours before, the left-wing political organizations marched to the Israel embassy in repudiation of the Israeli response to the terrorist actions of Hamas.

My last thoughts: The Jewish people will prevail, this heinous action will not go unpunished, this is the end of the beginning, and nothing will be as it was, for a long time.

Additional Perspectives

Intelligence analysts and global security experts are also reviewing the situation as it unfolds, providing their insights and perspectives. Here is a sampling of current takes: 

Attack Gives Rise to Myriad Policy Questions

In a Just Security policy alert, Brianna Rosen and Viola Gienger examine the action through three broader lenses, give a brief explanation of each, and then draft several questions that leaders will need to address in the days and months ahead. The three areas they use to raise these questions are:

  • Understanding what assistance Hamas had from outside sources to undertake the attack.
  • Assessing the failure of Israeli and U.S. intelligence to discover such a complex and sophisticated planned action.
  • Watching the scope of the initial response as well as monitoring the potential for a wider Middle East conflict.

The piece does not attempt to answer the myriad of questions it raises, but it does give a broad overview of some the broader strategic implications of the current situation.

The Time of a Recognized Hamas as Legitimate Authority Has Ended

Thomas Friedman’s first column in The New York Times on the conflict addresses many of the same issues described above. He describes the scale of what is unfolding as having no recent precedence, and he expresses concern at how much help Hamas had, particularly from Iran, and what that might mean for regionwide instability.

He touches on the intelligence failures—saying there will be repercussions—and he expects a major Israeli response that will possibly, and perhaps likely, cause some other countries to condemn Israel, again providing the potential spark for a wider regional conflict. He also speculates that disrupting Israel’s negotiations with Saudi Arabia could have been one reason why Hamas acted now.

As he looks at the response he would like to see from Israel, it’s one that recognizes that while “Hamas can ever be a partner for a secure peace with Israel,” it is possible that the Palestinian Authority could be. “If there is going to be an Israeli invasion of Gaza to try to destroy Hamas, it has to be paired with a political initiative that empowers and helps to strengthen that Palestinian Authority so we can forge, as Victor [Friedman, who is a professor at the Jezreel Valley College in Israel and is not related to the author] put it, ‘a settlement that provides all sides with something they can live with. Otherwise, sooner or later, we will be right back in the same situation—only worse. That was the true lesson of the Yom Kippur War.’”

Difficult Choices for Israel

Elliott Abrams from the Council on Foreign Relations wrote in the National Review that all the options for Israel have potential political repercussions for Israel’s leaders, particularly Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Even a period of great national unity will not, I think, protect Netanyahu and those who have been his colleagues in the current government, or protect the intelligence agencies that completely failed to pick up clues that this major assault was coming,” Abrams wrote. “A reckoning will come, though it may be delayed until the commission of investigation can report in six or 12 months.”

Israel Should Avoid Hamas’s Trap

William Hague argued in The Times (London) that Hamas’s action shows a reckless disregard for the Palestinians who live in Gaza. “Their objective is uncontrolled rage,” he wrote. He proposes that with Israel’s increasingly positive relations with other countries in the region, Hamas preferred to instigate regional chaos to thwart regional cooperation.

“Capitals such as Abu Dhabi and Riyadh can see the global economy changing quickly,” he wrote. “They are determined to be at the forefront of it, transforming their societies and linking up their huge wealth with innovation, high-tech security, and, most recently, artificial intelligence. That means they want peace around them, to stay ahead of Iran and to co-operate with Israel. The Palestinian cause that was central to their foreign policy for decades is becoming just one of many concerns, to be balanced against other priorities. Much of the Middle East is moving on.”

It's this that Hamas hopes to bring crashing down, Hague wrote. His hope is that Israel does not fall into that trap and that its response can avoid becoming a full-scale, regional conflict.

Another Sign of the End of One Superpower

Foreign affairs journalist and analyst Noah Smith was out with an article shortly after Hamas’s attack that described it as another sign of a world where the United States’ ability to deter conflict has decreased. He sees this another in a line of recent actions, from Azerbaijan reclaiming Nagorno-Karabakh to the war in Ukraine, demonstrating that U.S. power and influence in the world has eroded.

For 40 years since the end of the Cold War, he proposed that the United States and Western allies used their influence to decrease the possibility of major conflict. He also proposed that this “Pax Americana,” or American-led peace, has been in decline for at least two decades: “The world is a more ungoverned, lawless place than it was 20 or even 10 years ago. …If Hamas succeeds in scuttling an Israel-Saudi deal, it will be a blow to U.S. prestige and to U.S. claims to be a stabilizing, peacemaking influence. But even if an Israel-Saudi deal eventually goes through, this attack is a demonstration of America’s decreasing ability to deter conflict throughout the world.”