Conference of December: “Global actors in the Israel-Gaza war”

Judit Rauet Tejeda

This Month’s conference “Global actors in the war in Israel and Gaza” analyses the impact of the war in Israel and Gaza on major global actors’ responses: Russia, China, India and Turkey.  The Center for Middle East Policy (CMEP) at Brookings hosted this virtual event on December 19, moderated by Natan Sachs, Director of CMEP. The experts invited were Aslı Aydıntaşbaş (Visiting Fellow), Tanvi Madan (Senior Fellow), Angela Stent (Non-resident Senior Fellow) and Patricia M. Kim (Fellow).

The current war in Palestinian-occupied territories and Israel has had an impact on many countries beyond immediate regional neighbors. In the following sections, the main foreign policy changes and current policies of Russia, China, India and Turkey will be outlined by different experts.

RUSSIA (Angela Stent)

Stent pointed out three key ideas. First, for Russia the war in Israel and Gaza was a positive development as it drew attention away from Ukraine. Putin has also used his support for Hamas to his advantage, as it has allowed him to get closer to countries in the Global South (Saudia Arabia, UAE). And lastly, she talked about how Russia has changed its positioning in the Middle East. Before the war, Russia had strong ties with all Arab countries in the region. But now its position has distanced itself from Israel. This foreign policy position is welcomed by the Russian population, where there is a grown antisemitism sentiment.

CHINA (Patricia M. Kim)

Kim has described China’s broad and detached response towards this war in Israel and Gaza as exemplified in its condemnation of attacks made on civilians and calling for a cessation of hostilities. From the very start, it has defended the two-state solution. On November 30, they shared a 5-point position paper where they called for the protection of civilians and diplomatic mediation, appealed to relevant countries to contribute to de-escalating their crisis, and proposed an International Peace Conference under the UN framework.

According to Kim, what is interesting is how China avoids taking the lead role, but instead supports the idea that the UN Security Council (of which it is a member) should lead the way. Moreover, the Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister has avoided emphasizing the harm made to Chinese citizens due to the war, which confirms this neutral role. Lastly, the expert also highlighted the lack of public reaction and engagement with the war. It could be because of a genuine non-interest as their perception is that it is a distant region, or due to censorship in Chinese media.

INDIA (Tanvi Madan)

Madan started by stating that the region matters because it is part of India’s “extended neighborhood”. Modi’s response is explained first, by its country’s own experience dealing with counterterrorism. Indians feel empathy on this issue as they recently remembered the 26/11 Mumbai Attacks. Second, it goes in line with Modi’s discourse about fighting Islamic extremism. India has a close relationship with Israel as it has been its most reliable military supplier.

India’s position in favor of Israel has been broadening out as it proposes a two-state solution as well as the recognition of Palestine. Modi has initiated diplomatic calls with his foreign minister towards other Gulf Arab states, which took place even during COP-28. This broadening strategy has also been evident in recent UN General Assembly resolutions. India has passed from abstaining to being in favor of resolutions condemning terrorist attacks and calling for the release of hostages, showing concern about the attacks on the civilian population and demanding the respect of International Humanitarian Law. In the end, India wants a peaceful resolution to this conflict. Stability in the region is vital not only in geopolitical terms but also economically.

TURKEY (Aslı Aydıntaşbaş)

Aydıntaşbaş introduced Turkey’s position as being unique due to Erdogan’s personalized regime. He has taken ownership of the Palestinian issue using it in its domestic discourse. She described its response as emotional, ideological, and neo-ottomanist.  Erdogan’s legitimization of Hamas after the October 7th attacks has isolated Turkey from the region. Such strong terms and rejecting viewing Hamas as a terrorist organization have served as a self-sabotage strategy. So, it has prevented Turkey from acquiring a key role to guide or lead hostage negotiations and mediation. Aydıntaşbaş argues that his personal and ideologized posture is an anomaly as he usually follows a geopolitical pragmatism. This strategy allowed him to bargain with both parties in other conflicts, including normalizing relationships with formal enemies, but not in this issue. His defense of Hamas is comparable to his affinity for the Muslim Brotherhood.

In addition, regarding Turkish-US relations, this conflict has added a new extra layer of complexity, and declining affinity. The growing anti-Israeli sentiment in Turkish society also complicates matters. This has been driven by Erdogan’s domestic platform in the media, which is reminiscent of a new “Pax Ottomanica”. In the end, his closed approach has made it difficult for Turkey to achieve its goals in the Palestinian space trying to take a mediator role, as the political environment created has increased divergence with Turkish allies. As the expert stated, it has frozen Turkey out of the conflict.



The Kremlin has managed to separate its concerns on fundamentalism and terrorism domestically from its support for Hamas as an actor in a region where Russia wants to have more of a say. Russia has not defined Hamas as a terrorist organization as it is not a threat to Russian citizens. Nor has it condemned Hamas for what they did in Israel.

Russia’s geopolitical calculations have changed. Concerning Syria, Russia’s involvement is still there, but to a lesser extent than before. Now, Russia is concentrating its resources on Ukraine. The deconflicting arrangement made with Israelis is ongoing but since October 7th cooperation may be defraying. Since the conflict broke out, they have strongly supported Palestinians and offered to play a mediating role. This is due to their interest in increasing their presence in the region and dissatisfaction with how the US arranged the Abraham Accords

However, as Stent pointed out, there is a new dimension worth exploring: relations with Iran. Although they were contentious in the past, now they are different.  Their relationship has gotten closer, as can be seen from the fact that Iran is the major supplier of drones to Russia. In this line, Russia may alter its stance on Iran’s nuclear program, being less strict about it.


Its ability to talk to both sides has characterized Chinese foreign policy strategy in the Middle East. In a way, they differentiate themselves from the “US-biased hegemonic power.” They portray themselves in speeches as a neutral proponent for peace, signaling alignment with non-Western states. In this case, by lending support to the Palestinian cause. Consequently, since October 7th its position has damaged its ties with Israel. This is the result of their strategic calculation: it is better to alienate Israel rather than all the other counterparts in the region.

Nevertheless, as Kim pointed out, it is not a desire for Chinese leaders to rock US-China relations. They have criticized the US performance in the region but have not stepped up as a world power savior. China has little appetite for coordination with the US. It has no interest in sharing the US role of being the security provider of the region, as it believes that was what fueled the US decline.


Regarding the Indian case, they have followed a similar approach since 1992 when they normalized relations with Israel. The current PM has adopted a more open policy, as it was the first to visit Israel. At the same time, his administration recognized Palestine, visited Ramallah and met with the Palestinian authority. They have provided Palestinians with humanitarian assistance, and this is not something new. During COVID-19, India facilitated vaccines to them as well. Nevertheless, as Madas states, what is difficult in this open approach is how to strike the right balance.


Finally, regarding Turkey, their defense of Hamas is part of a long-standing policy. They envision Hamas as part of the political process—as they won elections. They distinguish between the political and the military branches of Hamas. In addition, when it comes to US-Turkish relations, Aydıntaşbaş described it as a failed marriage. In Turkey’s eyes, the US presence in the region impedes their power projection, not only in Palestine but also in Syria, and Iraq. The media’s portrayal of the US is much like China’s: it is an agent of chaos in the region. In the end, divisions will remain with the current Turkish approach and not only with the US but also with other regional actors. As Aydıntaşbaş states, Turk’s vision has burnt more bridges.

Interested in how in this context of the war in Israel and Gaza the disruption of the maritime route in the Red Sea has affected these actors and which are going to be their responses or how their relations are from a US policy perspective? If that is your case, we recommend you watch the full conference.

Link to the conference:

Global actors in the war in Israel and Gaza (Brookings): 

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Conference of December: …

by Judit Rauet Tejeda time to read: 6 min