Photo courtesy of SETA

“No people anywhere in the world would accept being expelled en masse from their own country; how can anyone require the people of Palestine to accept a punishment which nobody else would tolerate.” Bertrand Russell

The US-Israeli war in Palestine Gaza declared after October 7 by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cover up the failure of Israel’s security apparatus to take action on intelligence warnings from Egypt of an imminent attack by Hamas and to calm down months long public protest at home against his government’s repeated attempts to politicise the judiciary has entered its third month; Netanyahu’s thirst for Gazan blood looks unsatiable.

The number of deaths and the wounded including children, women and the sick are in tens of thousands and keep rising and almost every facility that enabled human life in Gaza has been bombed and destroyed. In short, Gaza has been turned into a graveyard with almost two million of its population displaced and forced to flee amidst starvation, sickness and fear. The Catastrophe or Nakba that was unleashed in 1948 is continuing. What would be the final destination of these evacuees is still unknown and the UN General Assembly’s resolution for “an immediate, durable and sustainable humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities” is not only not binding but also too late. In spite of that resolution, Israel has decided to go ahead with its killing mission with or without the support of international community. But the ultimate objective of this genocidal venture is unclear and there is one element, oil, which has not received any mention in this conflict so far. The oil factor also goes to explain why Palestine’s rich Arab neighbours are treacherously keeping silent without daring to condemn Israel for its war crimes.

Charlotte Dennette, an attorney, reporter and author of Follow the Pipelines: Uncovering the Mystery of a Lost Spy and the Deadly Politics of the Great Game for Oil, has linked the war to the discovery of oil and natural gas in 2000 and 2010 off the coast of Lebanon, Gaza and Israel estimated to be worth $500 billion and the promise of a massive development project involving Saudi Arabia, US and Israel. If one connects this project to the Abraham Accord of September 15, 2020 masterminded by US and involving UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco, the ultimate objective of this war and the crucial role of the oil factor becomes clear. While the Abraham Accord would encourage its signatories to normalise relations with Israel, the development of the US-Saudi-Israeli project would enable Israel to get its fuel supply cheaply and from its door step. But the oil factor also seems to be creating problem between White House and Netanyahu on postwar arrangements in Gaza.

Behind the advertised goal of eliminating Hamas – a militant organization originally supported and even funded by Netanyahu and his Likud Party – is Israel’s larger objective of grabbing the Gaza strip, at least part of it, to create Greater Israel. This land grab, euphemistically called a security zone by Netanyahu, is to be cleansed of its Arab population to make it a land without people for Israeli settlements. But for the first time since the beginning of this war, US President Joe Biden has reminded Netanyahu of the so-called two state solution and suggested that after the war Gaza and West Bank should be reunited under the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) of Mahmoud Abbas. Netanyahu has disagreed.

To Biden, a PNA administered Gaza would make it easier for the accord signatories and Saudi Arabia to sell the development project to the Arab world. But to Netanyahu, Gaza under Israeli rule would create an additional advantage of turning that territory into a land for more kibbutz and Jewish settlements. With Biden facing an election and needing the backing of the Jewish lobby, Netanyahu appears to be on a strong wicket and hopes to end the war the way he wants and arrest his spiralling unpopularity among Israelis. This is why his military, equipped with US weapons and intelligence, is running amok to cleanse Gaza of Arabs. The oil factor is creating a clash of objectives between US and Israel.

Even if Hamas were to be eliminated in Gaza by flooding their tunnels, raining Gazans with white phosphorous and spreading diseases with germ warfare, the spirit of Palestine struggle for liberation from Israeli occupation is not going to die and from the ashes of Hamas would rise several other and deadlier groups targeting not only Israel but even the cowardly Arab regimes. As the war continues indefinitely as Netanyahu claims, another intifada engulfing the Arab countries cannot be ruled out. This is the reason why the news media including Aljazeera is blocking out information about popular anti-war voices from Arab countries. As the Palestinian scholar Manal Shaqir argues, “The normalizer Arab states like Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, UAE and Morocco are now openly taking part in systematic dehumanization of Palestinians at the hands of Zionists and European governments”. Therefore, an uprising would not only destabilise the prevailing political order established with US and European machinations, weapons and funds but also would endanger the realisation of the proposed oil and gas project. This double jeopardy seems to be the underlying reason why in recent days White House has begun to raise criticisms against Netanyahu’s overkilling in Gaza and insisting on minimising civilian casualties.

But Biden’s compromise solution to allow Gaza to be administered by PNA under an ageing Abbas may satisfy the accord family while benefiting Israel also in terms of cheaper fuel supply but that solution would certainly ensure defeat for Netanyahu at the next Israeli election. Is that what White House wants? Has Netanyahu become an embarrassment to be dispensed with? Would oil therefore be the ultimate determinant in shaping the final outcome of this war? These are challenging issues bound to dominate future negotiations between US and Israel on the one hand and US and Arab countries on the other.