US inability to reconcile Israel-Palestine conflict highlights stuckness of existing global order
Published: Oct 22, 2023 08:32 PM
NUSEIRAT, GAZA - OCTOBER 22: A view of destruction after Israeli attack in Nuseirat camp, Gaza Strip on October 22, 2023. Photos show the extent of the damage in the area as the number of buildings and stores were heavily affected by the bombing. Photo:AFP

NUSEIRAT, GAZA - OCTOBER 22: A view of destruction after Israeli attack in Nuseirat camp, Gaza Strip on October 22, 2023. Photos show the extent of the damage in the area as the number of buildings and stores were heavily affected by the bombing. Photo:AFP

US media is currently attempting to redirect the current Israel-Palestine conflict toward the rise of China. The New York Times, in an article titled "New Global Divisions on View as Biden Goes to Israel and Putin to China," directly contrasts President Joe Biden's visit to Israel with President Vladimir Putin's visit to China.

Several US media outlets and scholars have expressed that the Israel-Palestine conflict provides new opportunities for China and Russia to "reform the existing international order."

From the Chinese perspective, what's more worthy of comparison is that, right when the Israel-Palestine conflict erupted, a report from a bipartisan committee appointed by the US Congress stated that the US must be ready to deter and defeat China and Russia simultaneously. Currently, the US is "ill-prepared" for the potentially existential challenges of 2027-2035 and beyond.  

The reasons behind the Israel-Palestine conflict are highly complex. However, it is currently widely acknowledged that the marginalization of the Palestinian issue by the US and European powers is a major contributing factor. This is because the US and Europe have significantly weakened their capacity to uphold the existing world order.

The post-World War II world order was primarily constructed by the US and European powers, but this order inherently contains conflicts of geopolitical interests. It is essentially a distribution of power and interests led by the US, and, naturally, it is directly influenced by domestic political and economic changes within the US and European countries.

From the Madrid Conference in October 1991 to the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, and even the efforts under the Trump administration to reconcile Israel-Palestine relations, the entire process highlighted not only the inherent contradictions that the existing order cannot resolve but also the potential for these contradictions to resurface.

The rise of emerging powers challenges the existing structure of political and economic power dominated by the US. In the Middle East, the US finds it increasingly challenging to control various regional forces. Its attempts to use its hegemonic power to consolidate its dominance are essentially undermining the very structure it seeks to maintain, as exemplified by the failure of US Iraq policy and its "Greater Middle East Initiative".

Changes in domestic politics and economic structures in the US and Europe, particularly political polarization, have resulted in a decrease in policy decisiveness in the current governments. The US and Europe no longer possess the same capacity for mediating the Israel-Palestine conflict as they once did, even if the current governments have the desire to do so. This is why President Joe Biden's visit to Israel did not bring about any kind of a meaningful peaceful outcome.

Existing geopolitical conflicts within the current order have intensified due to changing great power dynamics, with the Russia-Ukraine conflict serving as a prominent example. As the US and Europe focus on dealing with Russia, Hamas' offensive serves as a reminder that the Middle East is also a hotbed of geopolitical conflict. Additionally, the interests of the US and Europe are deeply intertwined in this region.

History has reached a turning point in the transformation of the post-World War II order, and this period will be marked by turbulence. Old conflicts will resurface in different ways. Zheng Yongnian, a Chinese political scientist, has described the "old order" as disintegrating.

This is far from being solely explained by China's rise. The US views China as a major challenger to its strategic interests, displaying Washington's arrogance and ignorance on a broader, longer-term global geopolitical level. Can the preservation of this order be achieved by pushing China down, containing, and restraining it?

Strenuously upholding the existing order through traditional strategic means is one option. But adjusting the current order with a more open mindset to facilitate communication and cooperation between major global and regional powers, between southern and northern nations, as well as between emerging powers and the old great powers in building a new order is another option.

The crucial question is: How will the US and the West respond to these changes? Are they willing to relinquish power, and adequately prepared for such a power transition? The rekindling of the Israel-Palestine conflict poses a serious challenge to the hegemony of the US and its dominant order.