Special Issue, Free to Read: The Gaza War

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

A timely, vital edition of the journal explores the sparks fueling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, from failed diplomacy after the promise of Oslo to the Hamas-PLO split, 15 years of war in Gaza, and the demise of the two-state solution.

With no end in sight for the Gaza war that followed the horrific massacres of Israeli civilians—despite reported preferences among US officials that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu target Hamas and create conditions for Palestinian sovereignty on “the day after”—a new issue of Middle East Policy explores the central factors driving the conflict. This collection, featuring interviews with key players and contributions from more than a dozen scholars, including Noam Chomsky, Hussein Ibish, Ian S. Lustick, is free to read for everyone, even those without a subscription.

The issue opens with a historical and legal analysis of the events that sparked the war, followed by an examination of the runup to the first Oslo Accord in 1993, an intensive campaign of diplomacy among Israeli, Palestinian, and American leadership. 

Key to the history of the conflict are Israel’s relationships with the United States as well as with the Islamic fundamentalist movements that sprouted up in the occupied territories. As early as the 1980s, Israel sought to allow radicals to gain power among Palestinian groups, believing that they could undermine the efforts of the PLO.

To better understand the demands of Hamas as it gained strength in Gaza, Middle East Policy published interviews with four senior officials. Their responses are included in the special issue.

Once Hamas won elections and Israel blockaded Gaza, the two sides engaged in a series of bloody conflicts, beginning with Israel’s Operation Cast Lead of 2008–9. Similar to today’s war but more limited in scale, this entailed an aerial bombing campaign of the Gaza Strip followed by a large-scale ground assault. The special issue analyzes that operation and the US backing of Israel despite international public opinion and legal norms. 

A critical component of this coverage is provided by Israeli scholars Gadi Hitman and Alona Itskovich, who compare three Israel-Hamas conflicts to show that neither side was able—and, arguably, neither even attempted—to achieve a systemic victory. 

This special collection concludes with analyses of the prospects for a two-state solution, which the Biden administration—though, crucially, not Israel—says is the goal of the “day after” the Gaza war. Ibish’s contribution examines Palestinian unification, while Lustick analyzes the demographic pressures on Israel as it considers expansion and annexation. The final two pieces are central to the prospects for peace and Palestinian sovereignty: What kind of process can create a secure and just solution, and is Israel’s informal and gradual annexation of the Jordan Valley the preference of its people, to the detriment of a contiguous and viable Palestine?

Middle East Policy is consistently rated among the top publications covering Middle Eastern & Islamic studies. Since 1982, the quarterly journal has provided policymakers and the public with credible, comprehensive analyses of political, economic, and cultural issues pertaining to US-Middle East relations. We combat disinformation by publishing high-quality research by top scholars and public officials.

Here’s a look at the articles and book reviews featured in this special issue, free to read without a subscription:


  • The Israel-Hamas War: Historical Context and International Law, by M.T. Samuel
    • This article examines Hamas’s targeting of civilians, the dispossession of Palestinians, and Israel’s crackdown on nonviolent protest.
    • Hamas’s massacre of civilians on October 7 constitutes a war crime.
      • But the group is not prohibited from engaging in armed conflict with Israel, which has enforced a blockade of Gaza.
    • The article shows that international law has been used since 1923 to dispossess Palestinians of territory and self-determination.
  • The Arab Israeli Conflict; From Shamir to Rabin to Peace? by Thomas R. Mattair
    • Years and multiple rounds of diplomacy were necessary to achieve the first Oslo Accord.
    • The comprehensive of this period covers the violence and injustice in Israel and the occupied territories, followed by the election breakthrough that pointed a way forward.


  • The Islamic Fundamentalist Movement in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, by Michel Jubran and Laura Drake
    • Islamic jihad emerged in the occupied territories in the late 1980s as part of widening division among Palestinian factions.
    • The authors analyze Israel’s approach to these groups, including Hamas.
    • “Just as [Egyptian President Anwar] Sadat encouraged the rise of Islamic associations to offset leftist elements in his country,” the article says, “Israel believed that the rise of fundamentalism in Gaza could be exploited to undermine the power of the PLO.”
  • Interviews from Gaza: What Hamas Wants, by Roger Gaess, Abd al-Aziz Rantisi, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Ismail Abu Shanab, and Mahmoud Al-Zahar
    • An interview with senior members of Hamas, conducted in Gaza City, about the US role in the conflict, the potential of a two-state solution, and their group’s goals.
    • The leaders say Hamas is focused on “an agenda for Israel’s withdrawal from the lands taken in 1967,” as well as the establishment of a Palestinian state and a solution to the right of refugees to return.
  • Israel as a U.S. “Strategic Asset”: Myths and Realities, by Leon Hadar
    • Hadar argues that the interests of Israel are not always aligned with those of the United States.
    • American leaders, he writes, should be wary that “the Israeli tail doesn’t wag the American dog.”


  • Gaza, Israel, Hamas and the Lost Calm of Operation Cast Lead, by Sherifa Zuhur
    • This article explores Hamas’s tactics in the 2008–9 war, its views on a two-state solution, and its place in Arab political currents.
    • The author offers recommendations to Israel and the United States on an approach to the militant group: Allow it to fulfill its electoral promises of 2006; open more lines of communication; and note the failures of Palestinian and Israeli leadership to develop a new approach with more international partners.
  • The Gaza War, Congress and International Humanitarian Law, by Stephen Zunes
    • The author explores the US congressional leadership’s reactions to Israel’s Operation Cast Lead, which was largely supportive of the assault on Gaza despite reports of targeting of civilians.
    • American opposition to investigations of Israel’s actions in Gaza, the author contends, has sparked international opinion that the United States wanted to shield the country from the International Criminal Court.
  • The Winner Does Not Take All: Lessons from the Israel-Hamas Conflict, by Gadi Hitman and Alona Itskovich
    • This article examines three of the most recent conflicts between Israel and Hamas, in 2008, 2012, and 2014, evaluating the tactical, operational, strategic, and systemic levels.
    • The authors find that each conflict resulted in a strategic tie, with no significant change in the power balance.


  • Indispensable but Elusive: Palestinian National Reunification, by Hussein Ibish
    • This article analyzes the motivations of Hamas and the PLO in forming the 2014 Unity Government in the wake of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, a six-week assault on Gaza.
    • The author explores whether the groups, given their virtually uncontested control over their respective territories, Gaza and the West Bank, could really share power.
  • The Red Thread of Israel’s “Demographic Problem,” by Ian S. Lustick
    • A demographic majority in a territory, the article argues, is the fundamental goal of Zionism.
    • But as Israel’s settlers expand across the West Bank, Israel faces the possibility that its Jewish population will actually become a minority.
  • A Middle East Cooperation and Security Process: Has the Time Come? by Peter Jones
    • The author makes the case for a new cooperation and security system across the Middle East, as the region continues to experience rapid change and upheaval in its population trends, resource extractions, and ongoing conflicts.
    • Drawn from multiple years of study, the proposals for action seek to encourage dialogue, prevent conflict, promote economic and political development, and achieve internationally accepted rights and freedoms for citizens.
  • Assessing Israel’s Motives In Annexing the Jordan Valley, by Fadi Nahhas
    • This article contends that Israel’s potential annexation is motivated by securitization, ideology, economics, and demographics.
    • Because of security and logistical concerns, the approach to annexation has historically been gradual, featuring two key elements: militarization of land and the prevention of Palestinian construction and development.



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  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

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