​Palestinians walk past Israeli tanks in Gaza City during a truce, 24 November 2023. 'Israel's actions have ignited a wave of anger among the youth across the Middle East.' (AFP)

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This year has been a turbulent and eventful one for the Middle East, marked by geopolitical shifts, escalating conflicts and tragic disasters.

As we reflect upon the tumultuous events of 2023, it is crucial to consider what next year might hold for the Middle East.

Over the past year, major political developments, in particular the Saudi-Iranian deal and the normalisation of Assad's Syria, seemed to hold the potential to reshape the region, with reduced tensions and openings for resolving protracted conflicts.

Yet 2023 also witnessed conflict escalation, with the outbreak of fighting in Sudan in April and Israel's barbaric campaign in Gaza from October.

Moreover, a series of disasters, natural and man-made, in particular Libya's Derna dam collapse and earthquakes in TurkeySyria and Morocco, brought huge civilian suffering and a combined death toll of over 53,000. 

None of these major events were particularly foreseeable, yet they have been defining moments in the region in 2023. Despite the unpredictability of events, certain key trends have emerged, likely to significantly shape the Middle East as we move into 2024. 

Gaza will loom large

Firstly, Israel's ongoing campaign of destruction in the Gaza Strip is poised to continue shaping the region's agenda into early 2024. Israel's national security adviser last week indicated that the operation could extend for months, suggesting a protracted, asymmetric conflict likely to further reduce the Strip to rubble.

Even if a long-term ceasefire were to be reached soon, the fundamental issues surrounding Gaza, including security and governance, remain unresolved and will dominate regional discussions.

In particular, the issue of who bears the responsibility of rebuilding Gaza will loom large over policy discussions, as the Arab states and western donors that have previously funded reconstruction following multiple rounds of destruction will inevitably face a major dilemma in whether to do so once more. 

The repercussions of this campaign extend beyond immediate geopolitical consequences. As highlighted at the 2023 Doha Forum, Israel's actions, which amount to collective punishment and crimes against humanity, have ignited a wave of anger among the youth across the Middle East and beyond.

This sentiment is not just a fleeting reaction, but rather one that is expected to resonate for years, possibly decades, influencing the socio-political landscape of the region.

Whether in 2024 or in years to come, this demographic and political fault line will eventually contribute to the collapse of peace treaties between Israel and various Arab states, such as Egypt and Jordan, as authoritarian leaders struggle to remain in touch with popular sentiment, which is resolutely anti-normalisation...

Read the full opinion at Middle East Eyes