Violence surrounds Israel
The Middle East continued its slide into chaos this week.
Hamas and Fatah reached agreement on a new Palestinian unity government to be headed by current P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas until new elections are held later this year.
The United States closed its embassy in Damascus, Syria, amid the deteriorating situation in that country.
Riots continued on the streets of Cairo.
The Obama administration imposed tough new sanctions against Iran’s central bank.
Any of these developments can be viewed as bad news for Israel because any one can lead to fresh outbreaks of violence that reach the Jewish state.
Clearly, the P.A. development is not good news for Israel. Even in the absence of a peace treaty with the Fatah-controlled West Bank, there were at least talks going on until recently.
But those talks failed, and like the P.A. appeal to the United Nations for recognition, this unity deal is likely an end run around the peace process, designed to force Israel’s hand.
That’s a dangerous game to play in that Hamas, which doesn’t accept Israel’s right to exist, stands a good chance of winning the upcoming election. If that happens, Israel faces the prospect of rocket attacks on two fronts. That’s a predicament we suspect no Israeli government would long tolerate.
Which brings us to Syria. The shuttering of the U.S. embassy, with other Western countries expected to follow suit, isolates Syrian President Bashir Assad, which may seem like cause for celebration. After all, he is the conduit between Iran and its proxy army in Lebanon, Hezbollah, with Iranian weapons shipped through Syria to Hezbollah fighters. An end to Assad would mean an end to the arms pipeline, right?
Well, Daniel Byman, a professor in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and a senior fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, who spoke in Pittsburgh last month at a World Affairs Council forum, told us that the arms flow to Hezbollah would likely continue if Assad falls. Even if the land route is cut off, Iran would simply fly the weapons in. Hezbollah, which is part of the Lebanese government, controls the ministry, which just happens to control the airports.
Meanwhile, an isolated Assad, emboldened by the United Nations Security Council’s failure to pass a resolution condemning his attacks on his own people, could use anti-Israel fervor in his country to divert attention from his own crimes. Might he again allow Palestinians in his country to converge on the border with the Golan Heights as he did last year on Nakhba Day? We’ll have to stay tuned.
To the south, violence in Egypt will preoccupy an already anti-Israel government, leaving it not too concerned about securing its southern border with Israel against Hamas attacks.
Finally, while we support the Obama sanctions, Israel must be prepared for an Iranian backlash, which could come through its Hezbollah and Hamas proxies.
Conditions are ripe for violence against the Jewish state in 2012, and only prudent diplomacy, with a little help from Israel’s friends, can put it off.