Interfor’s Weekly Digest | Global Security and Policy Insights - May 7, 2024

Interfor International‘s Weekly Security Digest – May 7, 2024

Interfor’s Weekly Digest | Global Security and Policy Insights – May 7, 2024 

Global Security Matters

Israel – Gaza

  • On Tuesday morning, Israeli tanks seized control of the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.The IDF claims that it moved to take control of the area due to intelligence that it is being used for terrorism. On Sunday, a mortar attack was reportedly launched from Rafah at the Kerem Shalom Crossing (the most saturated aid route into Gaza, located at the southeastern tip of Gaza), killing four Israeli troops and wounding others. On Monday, IDF officials stated they were taking a limited operation in Rafah meant to kill Hamas fighters and dismantle their infrastructure. Israeli PM Netanyahu has stated that Israel needs to dismantle the four remaining Hamas Battalions in Rafah to win the war, though there has been no official statement to date regarding how long the current operation will last.  
    • Interfor Analysis: The Rafah operation and how it will be carried out remain a key pressure point in the US-Israel relationship. Both Israel and the US seem to have started talking about this operation in degrees. The US most recently said they would be against a major operation in Rafah that fails to evacuate or otherwise protect civilians(rather than saying they oppose an operation altogether). This rhetoric evolved over the last several weeks, presumably to hedge against the potential failure of the ceasefire talks and to prepare the world to see an eventual Rafah operation as a minor, rather than a major, crisis in US-Israel relations. 
  • Israeli officials claim that the Biden administration failed to brief them on the altered hostage and ceasefire deal accepted by Hamas. Last week, Israel put forward the latest deal, , asking for 33 hostages in exchange for cessation in fighting. Over the last several days, Hamas has been in negotiations with Egypt and Qatar to reach a ceasefire and hostage release. US officials may have been involved in these talks as well, though the specifics remain unclear.However, Israeli officials claim they did not receive the text of the new agreement created over the weekend until an hour after Hamas representatives announced they had accepted a ceasefire deal. At a time of heightened tension between Israel and the US over the war in Gaza, this episode serves to deepen suspicions between the two allies and could negatively impact future negotiations. The precise terms of the deal Hamas claims to have accepted are unclear, though Israel’s war cabinet has said it will send a delegation to Cairo to discuss the latest proposal.  
    • There is quite a bit still to be uncovered here. Israeli officials are effectively accusing the US of enabling a situation where Hamas was able to win the moral high ground by claiming to have accepted a previously Israel-approved ceasefire. This follows months of Israeli allegations that the Biden administration’s competing priorities – effectively a balancing act between productively contributing to regional diplomacy and criticizing Israel just enough to appease the growing pro-Palestine movement on the American left – were hurting Israeli interests. 
  • It is entirely possible there was a US error here, specifically in failing to share information regarding the new ceasefire terms with Israel prior to Hamas’s announcement. It is hard to imagine an alternative scenario where the US wanted Israel to get caught rejecting a Hamas-approved ceasefire and immediately invading Rafah. But, again, we expect more details to emerge in the coming days. The situation remains incredibly fluid.

International Affairs

  • Russian military personnel moved into a US air base in Niger following the Nigerien junta’s decision to expel US military forces. To date, Russian forces are in a separate hangar and do not have access to US forces or equipment. US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has played down the significance of Russian troops being in such proximity to American assets. The situation is a clear example of Russia’s efforts to strengthen its ties to African nations. The US military, on the other hand, is in the process of withdrawing troops from Niger and Chad following requests to do so from their respective governments. These developments have the potential to inhibit US operations (e.g.counterterrorism) and influence in the region.
  • Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in France on Monday to meet with French President Macron. The two leaders are expected to discuss several key policies — China’s support for Russia’s war in Ukraine, restrictions on Chinese electric vehicle imports into the EU, and Taiwan. None of these issues are likely to be agreed upon during this visit, but Xi’s trip to Paris symbolizes his overarching goal of strengthening ties to Europe and exploiting policy gaps between the US and Europe. Xi will next move on to Hungary and Serbia, where regional experts expect he will receive a more positive welcome. 
  • Turkish President Erdogan blocked off ports for Israeli imports and exports, creating significant delays for Israeli importers. Turkey, due to its geographic proximity and relatively cheap shipping costs, is an important cog in Israel’s trade routes. Without access to Turkey, Israeli suppliers will have to consider going through a new third country to transport goods to / from Europe and the US. Prior to Erdogan’s move, Turkey and Israel had a $6-7 billion trade volume. In response, Israeli officials announced they would take steps to limit Turkey’s trade with the Palestinian Authority and petition international financial forums for sanctions against Turkey for violating its trade agreements with Israel. Economy Minister Nir Barkat has already submitted a complaint with the OECD. In the short term, Yoram Sebba, President of the Israel Chamber of Shipping, encouraged Netanyahu and the Knesset to boost local production and manufacturing to reduce Israel’s overall dependence on imports to both protect immediate dangers to Israeli industry and the longterm ability to withstand economic sanctions from abroad.