In the past 23 days, since Hamas attacked Israeli civilians and soldiers, Israel’s Western allies have been faced with the challenge of supporting Israel amidst growing public anger over the bombardment of Gaza. Israel’s neighbors in the Middle East are also struggling to manage their outraged populations and proxy militant groups, which could potentially lead to a broader war with Israel. Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza has further complicated their calculations.
While the phased nature of Israel’s operation may not have the immediate impact of an all-out assault, it has already resulted in a high Palestinian death toll, drawing protesters to the streets across multiple cities. Israeli officials claim that their planning is driven by military imperatives, such as preparing troops for a prolonged campaign and avoiding harm to hostages held by Hamas, as well as tactical concerns.
The deliberate pace of the operation could impact the response of allies and enemies alike. US President Biden has expressed support for Israel but urged an increase in humanitarian assistance to Gaza. Hezbollah has fired rockets into Israel from Lebanon but has not shown signs of joining the war. Iran’s foreign minister has stated that they do not want the war to escalate further, though they had previously threatened a war waged by militias across the region.
Israel’s methodical approach has led to mounting pressure internationally. The UN General Assembly passed a resolution calling for a humanitarian truce in Gaza, which was supported by several EU countries, including France. The vote signaled a potential problem for Israel, as they do not want to solely rely on US veto power in the Security Council, which has failed to pass any resolution on Gaza.
European leaders, while publicly expressing support for Israel, are facing demands for a cease-fire in their own countries. Pro-Palestinian demonstrators in London have expressed outrage over Britain’s refusal to back a truce. The war has caused political divisions within the UK, even within the Labour Party. Foreign policy experts believe that the fears of a wider war may be exaggerated, as regional actors have shown little appetite to get involved. Iran, in particular, is dealing with internal issues and is reluctant to confront the US directly.
However, as civilian deaths increase in Gaza, global public opinion is likely to turn against Israel. This could create a challenging situation for foreign leaders as they try to balance their support for Israel with public sentiment.