Tariq Al-Homayed
Saudi journalist and writer, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

How to Understand the Enemy

The Godfather has a famous quote that applies to politics and is worth keeping in mind. "Never hate your enemies. It affects your judgment." This quote is particularly relevant to our thinking on how to deal with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, as well as any enemy in the region.

Netanyahu is intent on storming Rafah, under the pretext of eliminating Hamas brigades, in search of a political and military victory - an attack could give rise to a "bloodbath," as our newspaper’s headline warned yesterday. The announcement comes amid contradictory reports regarding the negotiations and mediation efforts.

Netanyahu wants to do that amid Hamas's fears regarding the results of mediation. Meanwhile, Washington, London, and Paris are declaring that they will recognize the Palestinian state, and there has been talk of the "grand prize," and that is peace with Saudi Arabia. Well, how to understand the situation with a cool mind?

For Netanyahu, the matter is clear. Peace and US pressure are not his concern. What he cares about is his political survival, avoiding prosecution and prison, and not going down in history as the politician who squandered the security of Israel and tore the country apart.

To those ends, he is extending the war and trying to break Hamas, which changed the rules of the game. Instead of another limited war in Gaza, we have a grand "adventure." The last thing Netanyahu cares about now is pressure from the US administration, especially since Biden has gone into election mode early as he vies to defeat Trump.

Netanyahu wants to stay in power and avoid a prison sentence, besides being condemned by the investigations into the security failures on October 7th. On the other hand, we have Yahya Sinwar, who does not want to leave the tunnel until he sees a light at the end of it, that is, until he believes he can survive and Hamas can maintain power.

Iran, in the midst of all of these developments, has been silent and flustered, despite the strikes targeting Iranian militias across the region. Indeed, we recently heard the Iranian Foreign Minister announce from Lebanon, where Hezbollah is receiving blows, that Iran does not want to expand the war because Tehran knows that we are on the brink of the abyss.

What is happening now reflects what I have been saying since the beginning of the crisis. Both sides, Netanyahu, and Sinwar, are well aware that this is a battle that will be difficult to come back from. It is a battle of no return, and there must be a victor and a loser. Indeed, this is a fateful battle for the leaders personally, as well as their blind ideological premises.

Now, to the question about the prospect of peace, is it real? Regarding Saudi Arabia, it is extremely serious about its desire for peace, and it is pursuing the objectives it has laid out publicly. The Kingdom is not a country that expresses its true intentions behind closed doors, and the recent Saudi statement clearly outlined Riyadh's conditions for peace.

Riyadh, always and forever, as the recent statement from the Saudi Foreign Ministry on the conditions of peace confirmed, is the real guarantor of Palestinian security and the Palestinian cause. As my colleague Mustapha Fahs put it, it is the one genuinely protecting the Palestinians and working to bring about their long-awaited state.

Thus, Saudi Arabia cannot throw the political cards in its hands for a politician’s electoral prospects or to help them fulfill their electoral promises. It seeks to prevent bloodshed and to embark on a peace process that comes within a clear framework for the emergence of a Palestinian state.

Accordingly, we are looking at a battle for survival being fought on the edge of an abyss. It has no room for sentiment and there has been no concern for avoiding bloodshed. All the options are difficult.