“Zugzwang” is a chess term that defines a situation in which any move by a player only weakens his position and risks checkmate, but paralysis is not an option. Today, this term reveals Israel’s difficult position, they stated. Niall Ferguson and Jay Mens In an article published by The Free Press.
For specialists, the Hamas terrorist attack on October 7 was intended to provoke a reaction from Israel. The attacks by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad should not surprise anyone. Over the past year, there have been numerous public meetings between Iranian officials and leaders of Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad. Huge amounts of human and material resources have traveled from Iraq to Syria, with other materials arriving by land and air to Lebanon.
Israel’s retaliation, fueled by nationwide fury, is inevitable. A national unity government in Jerusalem has vowed to destroy Hamas, launching a ground operation in Gaza last Friday. This operation, eminently urban, entails an enormous human cost and an uncertain duration. But time is against Israel, say Ferguson and Mens.
Egypt and Jordan, Israel’s most important security partners in the region, have already accused Israel of planning an ethnic cleansing of Gaza. Further aggravating the situation, this operation will mobilize a large amount of Israel’s resources and men, leaving the country especially vulnerable to the risk of overextension.
But for Ferguson and Mens, Gaza is not the only problem. Concern is already brewing West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority is at risk of collapse. To the north, Hezbollah has a vast arsenal of rockets, drones, men and missiles in Lebanon, while on the Syrian borders tens of thousands of Iraqi militants have gathered with the aim of “liberating” the Golan Heights. This means that Israel is forced to resort increasingly to the support of the United States.
In this scenario of ““zugzwang”, some voices demand a ceasefire, without understanding the existential implications of October 7, or the 224 people, including children, who have been kidnapped by Hamas. But allowing Hamas to maintain its Islamist dystopia in the Gaza Strip would mean keeping Israel in a state of perpetual fear, not to mention damaging the already tarnished image of Israeli deterrence.
History shows that since Israel’s founding in 1948, its enemies have resorted to attrition tactics to push the country’s capabilities to the limit and intensify periods of political crisis. Five of Israel’s nine major wars began as wars of attrition. Today the same pattern is repeated, Ferguson and Mens maintain.
Despite this, decisive action is complicated when the objective is, broadly speaking, regime change in Gaza, the possible destruction of Hezbollah and retaliation against attacks from Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Even with full US support, Israel would have to wage a campaign lasting several months, perhaps even years, to achieve such a goal.
Aron Nimzowitschone of the greatest chess players in history, famously said that “The threat is stronger than the execution.” Now, with the looming threat of a multi-party war, Israel would be hard-pressed to attack Iran itself. The United States has the ability to attack Iran, but does it have the will to do so? Now it seems that the answer is no, say analysts in The Free Press.
Even “precision self-defense” has a cost: instead of weakening the enemy, it emboldens him. Should the war escalate, the United States could experience a massive wave of attacks against its military assets in the region, forcing it to choose between effective capitulation or an “endless” war in the Middle East.
Aside from this whole crisis, China is watching and calculating its actions. One possibility is that China will launch a blockade of Taiwan, using the January elections as a pretext.
Today more than ever, the alliance of enemies is real. Without the approval and substantial financial support of Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin he would not have risked his invasion of Ukraine. As is the fact that Iran, which sells weapons to Russia and oil to China, is the third active member of this New Axis. North Koreaalso supplying weapons to Moscow, completes the quartet.
For Ferguson and Mans, the ““zugzwang” of Israel does not necessarily imply its defeat. As in chess, however, it will take great dedication on Israel’s part to escape it. A victory would provide security, at least temporarily. But it would assume an enormous human and political cost.
A more optimistic point of view suggests that with a With unequivocally effective support from the United States, Israel could find a way to benefit from Iranian arrogance. Ironically, the problem for Israel is that, unlike chess, this is a multiplayer game. And Israel’s main ally, the United States, still does not appreciate that it is also in “zugzwang”. Israel and the United States have to act. And they have to act together. The alternative is the victory not only of Hamas, not only of Iran, but also of the new Axis facing the Western world.