It is very difficult to predict when the Israeli war against the Hamas -already in its fourth month–will end, says Nina Slama. “This war is very challenging for Israel because it is conducted in a very densely populated area, in which Hamas is using civilian infrastructure to perpetrate their attacks on Israeli forces and civilians, turning these infrastructures into legitimate targets and endangering their own population,” Slama, an India-Israel Relations Analyst, Guest Lecturer, Teaching Assistant and Project Manager at Reichman University (IDC Herzliya) told The Gist.
“The Netanyahu government has declared two main goals in this war: one to destroy Hamas’ military capabilities, which still pose a threat to Israeli national security, and two, the release of all hostages that were forcefully and brutally kidnapped from Israeli territories to the Gaza strip,” she said. “There are still 136 hostages still being held captive in Gaza. About 30 of them are already dead, and there is much concern here about the mental and physical health of the hostages that are still alive.”
Israeli forces are deployed not just in Gaza, but on the borders with Lebanon and Syria, and there are also threats from the Houthis of Yemen, she said. “Hamas is part of a larger axis of terror, which include state and non-state actors such as the Hezbollah in Lebanon, Shia militias in Syria, the Houthis in Yemen, and Iran. Many countries are concerned that this could turn into a regional conflict in West Asia, and they are doing everything in their power to restore security and stability in the region before it gets worse,” she said.
The main ideology of the Hamas, as written in their charter, is the total destruction of Israel, “so we have to make sure that their military capabilities are destroyed, and they cannot pose a threat to the national security of Israel and its citizens,” she said.
Asked whether there was any contradiction in India’s full support for Tel Aviv’s right to hit back against the Hamas following the October 7 attack on Israel and extending humanitarian aid to the Palestinians at the same time, she said: “India has a unique foreign policy, a multi-aligned approach. Which means that India can have relations with countries that are either hostile towards each other or have conflicting interests. This allows India to have a more flexible policy when it comes to regional and international considerations. India can have good relations with the US and also with Russia, with Iran and Saudi Arabia, and with Israel and Palestinian authority.”
“India and Israel share strategic interests and are collaborating on a wide range of sectors. These include not just security and defence but also agriculture, water management, cyber-security, space and so on…The relationship is characterized by its maturity, with both sides understanding each other’s interests, constraints and challenges,” she said.
Asked about the large number of Indian labourers scrambling to seek work in Israel, she said: “Following the October 7 attacks, Israel has suspended the contract of Palestinian workers due to security concerns. This led to a major labour shortage, particularly in the construction sector. Before the war erupted, India and Israel signed an agreement in May 2023, which allows Indians to travel to Israel and work in the construction and nursing sectors. There are currently 18.000 Indians that are studying and working in Israel, and this number is going to increase over the coming months,” she said. “There is an unemployment problem in India, and the Israeli wages are higher for the same role… so I believe this will help raise the living standards of these labourers who come here,” she felt.
The bilateral relations will continue to expand, with five major sectors where the countries are collaborating in, she said. However, “one area where both countries can develop a more strategic approach is higher education. Student and scholar exchange programmes could definitely grow and benefit both nations,” she said.
Listen to the full interview to understand more about the Israeli position on the latest conflict, as well as its growing synergy with India.