Posted by Joshua on Thursday, April 29th, 2010
A reporter asked me two questions about the possibility of war between Israel and its enemies. They were:
1. Does war between Hizbullah and Israel seem increasingly likely?
2. On what factors does keeping the calm depend?
Here is my answer:
1. War grows ever more likely the longer President Obama fails to organize his effort at Arab-Israeli peace and put some muscle behind it.
2. There are two sides to the conflict. One side is made up of Israel, which hopes to expand its borders into Arab land it captured in the 1967 war. It is backed by Egypt and Jordan, countries which have made peace with Israel and to which Israel has returned the land it conquered.
The other side is made up of Syria, Lebanon and the Palestine, all of which have lost land to Israeli conquest and annexation. Iran is backing the Syrian side. They have stated that they will resist this annexation and fight to get their land back. This makes war inevitable.
There are two ways to resolve this dispute. One is to make peace and find a compromise over land. This is the long-term solution.
The second is for Israel to continue preemptive bombings and incursions to weaken its enemies. This is the short term fix, but it can continue for an indefinite period so long as the US is willing to back Israel and help prevent its enemies from improving their weapons systems or acquiring nuclear capacity.
The down side is that these wars radicalize the region and draw America ever further into a costly and never ending “Global War on Terror.”
The war option has prevailed over the last decade, ever since the Oslo process died in 2000. The 2006 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the 2007 bombing of Syria’s purported nuclear plant, and the 2009 bombing of Gaza are the most obvious cases in point.
Resistance and preemptive wars are likely to continue as the chosen policy unless a sincere peace process is jump started soon.
Unfortunately, as US elections loom on the horizon, the prospect that the Obama administration will want to get into a test of wills with its close ally, Israel, diminishes. This makes war look ever more likely. In the short term, neither side wants war. It would be too costly. They will raise the rhetorical heat and go through the motions of a stare down in preparation for a game of chicken… But what happens if no one holds them back after all the growling, teeth gnashing and head feints?
News Round Up
Scud fiasco opens door for Israeli aggression
‘With or without the missiles, there is a crisis now … of broad proportions,’ says Analyst
By Michael Bluhm
Daily Star, April 29, 2010
….Whatever the truth about the Scuds, Israel has been building the case for another assault on Hizbullah and Lebanon since shortly after UN Security Council Resolution 1701 ended the 34-day war in 2006, said Paul Salem, head of the Carnegie Middle East Center. Israel then widened its argument for another war based on the “new alignment” in Lebanon after May 2008, when the Doha accord ended days of civil strife by creating a government including Hizbullah representatives, Salem added. With Hizbullah part of the state structure, Israel would be free to destroy any part of the Lebanese state in any future combat, Salem said.
Israel will not begin any armed strike on Lebanon in the short term, however, because of the region’s more pressing and significant problems, the analysts said. For example, the US is hammering out details with Russia and China on a new round of UN sanctions against Iran over the Islamic Republic’s disputed nuclear program, and Israel will have to wait out US diplomatic efforts to defuse the Iranian crisis before commencing a new war in the Middle East, Salem said.
“The main issue remains Iran,” he said. “I don’t think there will be a war in the next six months.” The Scud crisis “is saber-rattling, but it increases the risk of war, certainly,” he added. “Tensions are higher, certainly. Israel has more justification,” he added…..
Retired General Elias Hanna said, “In any case, the Scud crisis reaffirms that Lebanon sits firmly in the Iran and Syria-led camp opposing Israel and so would absorb the consequences should that enmity explode into war. It means that Lebanon is really f****d,” he said.
Qatar blasts Israel on Scud claims
Thu, 29 Apr 2010
Qatar’s Prime minister has charged Israel with posing new threats against Lebanon and Syria by accusing Damascus of supplying Scud missiles to Hezbollah. …. “Launching threats against Lebanon or Syria is unacceptable and we’ll do whatever we can to foil Israeli foolishness,” said Sheikh Hamad at a press conference quoted by Lebanese daily Naharnet. “Israeli threats are not strange and it’s very important for Israel to realize the failure of its previous military adventures and hopefully they have grasped the lessons,” he added.
“… “Don’t forget that the office of the Secretary of Defense [sees its role as to] ride herd on the uniformed personnel,” the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Patrick Clawson said. Part of their job “is to keep the uniformed military [from] speak[ing] out on policy issues.”
The suggestion is that Gates’s showing of high honor to the Israeli defense chief may have been a message to those specifically in the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Central Command to, in essence, clam it. ……
…… At a joint Gates-Barak media appearance at the Pentatgon Tuesday, Israeli Channel 10’s Gil Tamari asked … “Secretary Gates and Minister Barak, …. if you can just explain us, why do you host this press availability now?” Tamari asked. “Is it because this administration would like to portray a feeling of business as usual with the Israeli government when the general perception, as you well know, is that business is not so usual between Israel and the United States right now?
“And … is the real perception of the Pentagon — that, like [Centcom commander] General [David] Petraeus suggested, that the United States is paying a price with the life of American soldiers when Israel is not reaching peace with the Palestinians?” Tamari continued.
Gates jumped in to answer the second question.
“First of all, General Petraeus did not say that the lack of progress in the peace process is costing American lives,” Gates said. “And no one in this department, in or out of uniform, believes that.”
In Washington, Jerusalem mayor asserts no freeze
April 28, 2010
(JTA) — Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat called the Obama administration’s demand for a construction freeze in eastern Jerusalem a “slap in the
Barkat during a meeting with reporters in Washington on Tuesday night also denied that there is a de facto freeze on building in Jewish
neighborhoods of eastern Jerusalem.
“There are more buildings being built right now,” Barkat said. “In a place like Jerusalem, we need to build for both Jews and Arabs. If we
give the Palestinians any hold at all on the city, it will be a Trojan horse for the Jews in Jerusalem.”
Regarding the strained relations between the United States and Israel, which began after the Jerusalem municipality approved new housing
construction in eastern Jerusalem during a visit in March by Vice President Joe Biden, Barkat said, “It takes time to recover from an
attack by an ally such as the U.S., but I believe that the tensions are now behind us.”
….At his news conference with U.S. House of Representatives minority whip Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), the
Republicans took shots at the White House.
“You see strong bipartisan support” in Congress for Israel’s claim to Jerusalem, Cantor said, “as opposed to what is coming out of the White
From MEMRI Blog: Event in Damascus today Involving Iraqi Ba’thists
… The High Committee of the National Democratic Front [a Ba’th-centered group] called for “a carnival” to be held in Damascus today to support the Iraqi resistance [which often translates into acts of violence.] The carnival, organized by a wing of the Iraqi Ba’th party under Yunis Al-Ahmad, who was accused by the Iraqi government of carrying out terrorist acts in Baghdad, will be held in one of “cultural centers” in Damascus “to underscore the role of the Iraqi national resistance.” One objective of the “carnival” is to unify the various elements of the so-called resistance movement. This will be the first such event, held publically, in Damascus.
The Iraqi Ba’th party comprises two wings – the one that is organizing the event in Damascus under Yunis Al-Ahmad, and the other which is under former Iraqi vice president Izzat Al-Douri. The two wings differ on strategy.
26 Convicted in Egypt Attack Planning
By MICHAEL SLACKMAN, April 28, 2010, NYTimes
CAIRO — An Egyptian court on Wednesday convicted 26 men of belonging to a Hezbollah cell that was charged with planning to attack Israeli tourists in the Sinai Peninsula, fire on ships passing through the Suez Canal and smuggle weapons, supplies and people through tunnels to the Gaza Strip.
The men’s sentences ranged from life in prison to six months in jail. Prosecutors had asked for the death penalty for several defendants, including Muhammad Youssef Mansour, also known as Sami Shehab, who had been sent by Hezbollah to set up the cell in Egypt.
The decision not to issue death sentences was seen as a calculated effort by Egypt to avoid inflaming relations with Syria, a prime sponsor of Hezbollah, a militant, social and political organization in Lebanon, regional experts said. Egypt and Syria have been at odds for several years over the handling of the Palestinian crisis and over Syria’s relations with Iran.
“This is a sign of an Egypt that is interested in de-escalating and finding moderate solutions for an issue that loomed very big in the background in its relations with Syria and Lebanon,” said Amr Hamzawy, regional director for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Beirut.
As the verdict was read in a packed Egyptian courtroom, 22 defendants sat behind bars in the prison dock. They shouted “Allahu Akbar,” or God is great, when the verdicts were read.
The other four defendants, including the leader of the cell, Mohammed Qublan, were tried in absentia. Mr. Qublan and two others who were on the run were given life sentences.
The case against the group arose as relations between Egypt and the Hezbollah chief, Hassan Nasrallah, grew extremely heated. Mr. Nasrallah had publicly criticized President Hosni Mubarak, saying that Egypt was not doing enough to aid the Palestinians during the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip in late 2008. Mr. Nasrallah effectively called for a popular uprising against the president, while Egypt accused Hezbollah of being a proxy for Iran.
Mr. Nasrallah acknowledged setting up the group in Egypt but insisted that it was organized only to help the Palestinians, not to conduct terrorist attacks on Egyptian soil. Mr. Mansour’s lawyers had said that their client had proposed attacks in Egypt but that Mr. Nasrallah had rejected that plan.
In court on Wednesday, the judge, Adel Abdul Salam Gomaa, dismissed the defense’s claim.
“Is targeting ships in the canal support for the Palestinian cause?” the judge asked as he read the verdict. “Is preparing explosives and targeting tourist resorts support for the Palestinians?”
Laura Kasinof contributed reporting.