July–October 2023 NESA Center Update Report

View the NESA Center July–October 2023 Update focused on trends in the Levant region. The update also highlights July through October NESA Center programs and events, faculty and staff engagements, alumni contributions, and a calendar with upcoming events.

Regional Trends – The Levant

  • The 7 October 2023 terrorist attack perpetrated by Hamas against Israel challenged prevailing assumptions in the Israeli military and intelligence establishment that Hamas sought to avoid provoking additional wars, that it was more interested in governance and maintaining power in Gaza, and that Hamas threats could be contained. The Israel-Hamas war shattered the belief that Hamas could be deterred despite mini-wars in 2008–09, 2012, 2014, and 2021.

  • Some Arab states find it increasingly difficult to cooperate with Israel in the near term due to domestic pressure. However, the normalization agreements signed in 2020 between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco, known as the Abraham Accords, remain in place. There is a possibility that Saudi Arabia will pursue an agreement that would normalize ties with Israel after the war in Gaza ends. Arab partners could play a vital role as a bridge between Israelis and Palestinians that includes facilitating peace talks toward a post-war settlement.

  • In the long-term, the war may create opportunities for Arab engagement with Gaza, which could contribute to Arab-Israeli rapprochement. Israel and some Arab states are strategically aligned on Gaza. Some Arab governments disapprove of Hamas, which is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, and have outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood and jailed its members. Arab governments may have a role in helping shape a political outcome in Gaza that simultaneously helps advance Palestinian national aspirations while also reducing the capabilities of Islamist movements and Iranian proxies.

  • The ongoing war in Gaza means, among many other things, that the Palestinian issue cannot be put on the back burner and the fate of the Palestinians cannot be neglected. In other words, the war has demonstrated that there will not be peace and stability in the Middle East without addressing the Palestinian issue. The United States, like the rest of the world, supports a two-state solution based on diplomatic negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians.

  • When eventually the fighting stops, the United States will have a lot of work to do in order to regain the Arab/Muslim trust in American values and championship of human rights.

  • Jordan: Despite not sharing a border with Gaza, the Israel-Hamas war creates profound challenges for the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The majority of Jordan’s population is of Palestinian origin. Jordan ruled the West Bank from 1948–1967, and the Hashemites are the guardians of the Islamic and Christian holy places in Jerusalem. Jordanian leaders have condemned Israel, called for a ceasefire, and fear that Israel will expel Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank to create an alternative homeland for the Palestinians in Jordan.

  • Jordan: Given the demographic structure of Jordan, both the government and people have taken the lead in the Arab/Islamic world in condemning Israel. The King, his wife, and the foreign minister have used the strongest language against Israel. The Israeli ambassador left the Kingdom and went back to Israel. Jordan is home to millions of Palestinian refugees who have been there for decades.

  • Lebanon: Hezbollah has been walking a fine line, engaging Israeli troops and in the process keeping the northern front alive, at the same time avoiding escalation to all out war, which will be devastating to Lebanon.

  • Lebanon: Despite its general sympathy for the Palestinians, Lebanon does not wish to get drawn into a wider confrontation with Israel. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is balancing public support for Hamas while refraining from escalating attacks against Israel. Hezbollah is an Iranian proxy and Tehran probably judges that opening another front against Israel could result in a massive Israeli response against Lebanon which would foment political unrest by anti-Hezbollah factions and weaken Hezbollah’s power.


Read the full NESA Update report [PDF]

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