Gaza complications

Three Filipino deaths in the ongoing brutal Israel-Hamas war turn a distant Middle East war into an all too relatable Filipino human tragedy.

As we mourn, all the more we must make sure all concerned take to heart this administration’s previously invoked “whole of government” approach in the latest crisis involving overseas Filipino workers or OFWs.

The “whole of government” policy, however, isn’t confined solely to the herculean effort of ensuring the safety and welfare of 30,000 Filipinos in Israel, mostly toiling as caregivers.

In fact, because of its grave worldwide repercussions, the Gaza conflict requires the immediate involvement of even those remotely concerned with OFW affairs like the Finance, Energy, Trade and Defense departments.

Where the Gaza conflict is headed is unclear. How high the worldwide geopolitical stakes or the scale of the war brutalities will be, particularly against scores of Israeli and Palestinian children, is still being played out.

But one thing is getting clearer: Geopolitical complexities are now even thornier, and we are embarking on uncharted waters.

As it were, almost all political analysts agree that Hamas’s brutal and bloody incursion out of the “open-air prison” that is the Gaza enclave and into Israeli territory has “entirely reshuffled the geopolitical deck.”

A reshuffling of the deck directly impacts even ordinary Filipinos comfortably far from harm’s way. Take the matter of oil, for instance.

Oil prices recently jumped more than four percent on serious worries the Gaza clashes could spread and engulf the Middle East in a wider regional war.

A worrying possibility, economists say, is that oil prices in the coming days will likely be driven by geopolitical risks rather than economic fundamentals like supply and demand.

If the conflict widens and oil prices remain elevated, the nasty prospect of local inflation again surging is likely, further complicating the efforts of this administration’s policymakers, who are already at a loss, to tamp down consumer prices.

Aside from possible inflationary woes, the looming rivalry between the United States and China in the Middle East complicates our earnest but fledging efforts at countering China’s abuses in the West Philippine Sea.

On this, the war Hamas unleashed against Israel likely puts the “Palestinian question,” after being set aside for many years, once again at the front and center of geopolitics.

Some degree of relative calm in the volatile Middle East in recent years, in fact, worked in favor of the US, allowing the Biden administration to focus more intensely on the greater long-term challenge of China’s superpower aspirations, particularly in Asia.

Last weekend’s stunning surprise attack obviously jeopardizes the US strategic intent vis-à-vis China.

Still, even if the US has “less bandwidth to focus on Beijing” in the wake of the Gaza crisis, analysts say the Gaza imbroglio also involves China’s attempts at “testing US power and the US-led global order on many fronts.”

On the Mideast front, for instance, geopolitical analysts say China has become an important player in the Middle East. And the Arab countries, Iran, and even Israel are unlikely to shun China’s efforts — a development made particularly clear this year after China’s successful role in brokering the restoration of diplomatic relations between erstwhile rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Subsequent speculations of a peace deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia may have been one of the primary motivations for Hamas’s massive attack on Israel.

At any rate, China had also pledged to help negotiate between Israel and the Palestinians over Gaza and the West Bank.

China, however, is now hedging in the Israel-Hamas war, preferring to stay neutral, and analysts say China has just about dashed whatever aspirations she had to be a key diplomatic player in the Middle East.

Nonetheless, the US and China are walking on tightropes as they navigate the latest Middle East crisis.

Marcos’ administration officials, therefore, must pay close critical attention to how these two rivals are positioning themselves in the crisis.

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