【NEWS】IDAS Series: Arab-Israel Relations: War and Peace

【Article by IDAS】
On 7 October 2023, Hamas launched an unprecedented simultaneous assault on southern Israel marking the country’s deadliest day since its founding in 1948. Israel immediately declared war on Hamas and began retaliatory attacks into the Gaza Strip with the prospect of a ground assault as the Israel Defense Force issued an evacuation order for civilians in northern Gaza. The war has reignited historical animosity in the Middle East, as the conflict threatens to involve other regional powers sparking concerns of a much wider conflict.

The Seminar on Asia-Pacific Regional Security Studies under the International Doctoral Program in Asia-Pacific (IDAS) of the College of Social Sciences (CSS) of the National Chengchi University (NCCU) organized a lecture on 18 October 2023 by former Ambassador Chang Liang-Jen, former Vice-Minister of Defense and Representative to Israel and Indonesia, to address the growing concerns and understand the evolving conflict currently happening in Israel and Gaza.

The event’s organizer, Admiral Lee Hsi-Min (ret.), Former Chief of General Staff and Assistant Professor Yuan Li-Chung, Ph.D. sought to introduce the issue and outline the underlying source of antagonism surrounding the Palestinian-Israel dispute. Amb. Chang’s service in Israel and in the Ministry of National Defense has accorded him comprehensive knowledge on the disparate interests straining efforts to control the situation.

Amb. Chang shared his insights on the escalating conflict, providing historical background to competing interests and perspectives informing how the conflict is evolving. During the lecture, Amb. Chang emphasized historical antecedents informing current animosity surrounding Palestinian-Israeli relations, focusing on the territorial, ethnic, religious, and regional context of the conflict. The variables informing Hamas’ actions were discussed, such as the domestic context of the, then, political instability in Israel prior to the attack. The surrounding international development that could have informed the calculations of Hamas. He contextualized the situation with his insight on the roles of the superpowers and regional powers in the growing conflict, and the subsequent international reaction.

With growing international tension, the issue has caused further division in the international community, the importance of Amb. Chang’s discernment on the internal politics of Israel and Palestine elucidate the wider ramification of the dispute on global stability. The ambassador remarked that “it is important that the minor conflict between Hamas and Israel will not expand to a regional conflict”. In response to both the Hamas attack and resulting Israeli military actions, efforts at building regional peace have been halted with the normalization of ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia as a prime example.

The discussion during the open forum touched on a multitude of issues, one of which concerned Israel’s possible entrenchment in the Gaza Strip with the planned ground assault. To which, Amb. Chang responded that the best course of action would be finding ways to de-escalate the situation, with him lamenting that, “if you want to rule [those people] you must dig your own tomb.”

Amb. Chang also shared his views on the US strategic objective regarding Israel in consideration of the wider geopolitical realities of the Middle East. Accordingly, he surmised that the US strategy centers on confining the conflict between Israel and Hamas. This includes blocking other extra-regional actors, such as China from having a greater say in the region. Amb. Chang pinpointed that the deployment of US carrier strike groups is not only a show of support for Israel but also as a means of deterrence for other parties to get involved in the conflict.

From left to right Adjunct Assistant Professor of IDAS, Dr. Li-Chung Yuan; Adjunct Professor of IDAS, Admiral Hsi-Min Lee; Ambassador Liang-Jen Chang; Director of IDAS, Dr. Chao-Chi Lin; Professor of Department of Land and Economics, Dr. Fang-Shii Ning.(Photo by IDAS)
Adjunct Professor of IDAS, Admiral Hsi-Min Lee (right) introduced the special guest speaker Ambassador Liang-Jen Chang (left), and the background of the topic.(Photo by IDAS)
The special guest speaker Ambassador Liang-Jen Chang shared his viewpoints and experiences with students.(Photo by IDAS)