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Middle East Report – Dr James M. Dorsey

Azra Hoosen |
26 April 2024 | 19:30 CAT
4 min read

According to Dr James M. Dorsey Israel’s actions in its Gaza war, coupled with alarming rhetoric from its political and religious figures, are drawing widespread condemnation. With little indication of internal reconsideration, pressure from the international community appears crucial for potential shifts in Israeli attitudes.

Dorsey highlighted Netanyahu’s vested interest in Rafah, where the potential for claiming victory in its ongoing seven-month war on Gaza hinges significantly.

He explained that Netanyahu has 3 objectives.
“The first objective, the one that would ensure that Gaza no longer is a launching pad for resistance to Israeli occupation siege or Israeli occupation, in many ways has already failed. If you look at the North or other parts of Gaza where Israeli troops withdraw, Hamas reappears in a sort of whack-a-mole behaviour. His second objective is the release of the hostages, captured in the October 7 attack, the mass of hostages that have been released have not been released through military action but through indirect negotiations between Hamas and Israel. The third objective, was to destroy Hamas, well up until now Israel hasn’t succeeded in, destroying Hamas but even in a symbolic value, taking out Hamas’s top leadership. The assumption is that they are in tunnels under Rafah. Whether that is true or not and whether Israel succeeds or not in getting them out of the tunnels remain to be seen,” said Dorsey.

During this week’s Israeli war cabinet meeting, the negotiation team received authorization to proceed with discussions, coinciding with a visit from an Egyptian delegation aimed at advancing these negotiations.

Dorsey suggests that Netanyahu is under pressure both domestically and internationally to come to an arrangement with Hamas with regard to hostages.
“There is also a broader perspective: what prompted the Qatari Prime Minister to all but in name, accuse Netanyahu and Israel of undermining those talks, was that Israel has been operating on two tracks; one track has been negotiations; the second track was to undermine Qatar in an attempt to force Qatar to use the leverage that it may or may not have over Hamas and expel Hamas officials or negotiators from Qatar. But that pressure also came from members of the US Congress, which was a real threat to Qatar’s foreign relations, particularly its very close relationship with the US,” he said.

Dorsey believes at this point Netanyahu has to be seen to be negotiating in good faith, even if I would suspect that he does not want a ceasefire until after the Rafah operation.
“The Americans are banking on that Netanyahu does not want to go down in history as having failed to prevent the October 7 attack, and having failed to achieve his war objectives in the war in Gaza and is, therefore, he has always been strong that he wants diplomatic relationships with Saudi Arabia, that’s the crown jewel in a sense, and if you have Saudi Arabia, then you have much of the Muslim world that would follow suit,” he said.

Dorsey believes, that seven months into the Gaza war, President Biden’s approach, which he characterised as a “bear hug,” has yielded minimal progress in protecting Palestinian lives and advancing a resolution that acknowledges the equal rights of both Palestinians and Israelis.
“Antony Blinken, United States Secretary of State, will be visiting Saudi Arabia, in which he is trying to entice the Saudi’s and the Saudi’s have expressed interest in a multi-pronged Middle East deal that would involve legally binding US guarantees for Saudi defence and US support for the peaceful Saudi nuclear programme and recognition of Israels establishment of diplomatic relations,” he said.

Dorsey emphasised that the Gaza war has changed.
“Prior to the Gaza war, Saudi Arabia was on the verge of concluding that deal with essentially a fig leaf for the Palestine issue, fig leafs’ are no longer good enough. Saudi is still interested in that deal but it clearly stated it wants a credible irreversible pathway to resolution of the ‘Israel-Palestine conflict’ with the establishment of an independent Palestinian state,” he said.

Dorsey proposes that Netanyahu faces a pivotal decision: will he be swayed by the allure of the deal to the extent that he’s willing to defy his coalition partners? Alternatively, will he perceive the risk of his government collapsing and his inability to regain power as outweighing the benefits of establishing diplomatic relations?

LISTEN to the full interview with Ml Junaid Kharsany and Dr James M.Dorsey, award-winning journalist and scholar, here. 


Dr. James M. Dorsey is an award-winning journalist, scholar, and Senior Fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute. He is the author of ‘The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer’.


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