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Azmi Bishara is a Palestinian Christian politician. He was a member of the Israeli Knesset representing the Balad party from 1996 until resigning in April 2007, Bishara is still the leader of that party. Bishara holds an Israeli citizenship. I believe he is presently living in El Cairo. Upon return to Israel, he would have to face charges.|
Possibilities of war: the Levant
Could a regional war erupt on fronts other than Iran, such as Lebanon or Gaza? Azmi Bishara weighs the evidence
It has been demonstrated that the war on Gaza, as waged within the framework of the Egyptian and Israeli borders with the Strip, is unlikely to develop into a full-scale war since there is no tangible manifestation whatsoever of a concept of collective Arab national security that would regard aggression against Gaza as a threat. Arab national security exists virtually, in pan-Arab ideology, but not on the ground where it should be. Perhaps one day it did and I will grant this possibility so as not to digress into a tangential discussion. But today it does not. Some Arab nationalists left over from the era of Arab nationalist regimes are forever lecturing the current Egyptian regime that it is in its interests to regard Israel as an enemy (ignoring the fact that Egypt is bound by a peace agreement with Israel, if not more, and that the regime has a clearer idea than they do of who its enemies are). Their attempts to base their case on collective Arab security, as though there were concrete practical arrangements for such a thing, are pathetic. Apart from betraying an intellectual deficiency, they reflect an inability to stand in opposition. For otherwise why would they be offering the regime advice and guidance in order to open its eyes as to where its 搕rue?interests lie?
Israel is relying on a steel wall to stop the tunnels and tighten the blockade in the hope of undermining the regime in Gaza or forcing it to accept Egypt抯 conditions in exchange for reopening the taps to the essentials for life. Alternatively, the wall could drive Gaza to erupt on its own accord in order to prevent the stranglehold from becoming a protracted routine that it could not tolerate. After all, subjecting an entire people to a starvation campaign, which is the purpose of the 揳rchitectural installations? is a kind of act of war. If its strategy fails, Israel may attempt to invade Gaza again. For the time being, however, Israel wants to revive what is falsely and fraudulently called the 損eace process? It has become crucial to the Israeli economy, so much so that, according to the governor of the Bank of Israel, three per cent of the Israeli gross national income is contingent upon the mere continuation of the process. It is directly correlated to the increase in rates of domestic and foreign investment in Israel. However, the 損eace process?also forms the environment most conducive to rallying the international community against Iran, the resistance, and the 揳xis of extremism?in general.
Simultaneously, Israel is continuing its siege against Palestinian resistance by means of assassinations in the West Bank and Gaza. Since the end of the war on Gaza, Israel has killed more than 170 Palestinians among who were several resistance fighters in Gaza as well as key resistance figures in the West Bank. The assassination of Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh in Dubai was consciously intended to convey three messages: that Israel does not forget those on its wanted list, even after decades; that the fight against the smuggling of arms into Gaza is war; and that Israel does not feel obliged to respect the sovereignty of Dubai. The latter fits into the scheme of pressures against Dubai which, as a major commercial and financial outlet for Iran, makes it possible to tighten the economic noose around Tehran. Israel once violated the sovereignty of Jordan, with which it has strategic relations. Although the late king Hussein made Tel Aviv pay the price, this has not taught Israel to respect the sovereignty of other nations. I suspect the brazenness of the Al-Mabhouh assassination was intended, rather than the consequence of 搇ogistic glitches? which compounds one抯 astonishment at the total silence of Arab officialdom on that crude and aggressive abuse of the sovereignty of another Arab country. The statements issuing out of Europe were another matter entirely. Political officials there were in the awkward position of being confronted with the pictures and passport identities that were so quickly unearthed by the Dubai police, even though it is hardly a secret that European security agencies sympathise completely with Israel in the 搘ar on terror?
Under the current state of no war, Israel will persist in its assassination policy and the blockade against Gaza with the aim of sapping the Palestinian resistance. The aim might also be to support the Ramallah authority. If so, that model shows no signs of success. In fact, the news from there is grim, to say the least. Conditions in the West Bank are such that it is difficult to see how it can possibly go on under the continued occupation combined with the Netanyahu approach of solving things through economic policies.
LEBANON AND SYRIA: For some time it has been customary to regard the Israeli desire to resuscitate the deterrent power of the Israeli army as a possible cause for the next war on Lebanon. So it may be. But on its own it is not sufficient to justify a war to the world or to Israeli society. The Israeli government would have to come up with another reason to launch a war so that it could then justify using the war to revive the Israeli army抯 deterrent power. However, the more important question is if Hizbullah is not just a tactical adversary but also a strategic one, as it proved during the last Israeli invasion of Lebanon, will Israel wait until that adversary acquires an even more powerful arsenal? The answer here is to be found, in part, in the behaviour of Hizbullah since that war and in how it is analysed by political and military officials in Israel. If Hizbullah, as its latest political platform and in its behaviour since the war suggest, has shifted from a programme for the liberation of Palestine to an ideology for the liberation of Palestine, which only means the refusal to recognise and make peace with Israel, and if it has reduced its military options from missile assaults at and across the Israeli border to a strategy of defending Lebanon only when it is attacked, why should Israel attack? Hizbullah has effectively fallen in with UN Resolution 1701 with respect to the part pertaining to a ceasefire. In other words, the July 2006 war effectively accomplished its objective of bringing a halt to Lebanese resistance operations (albeit at an exorbitant cost that proved very humiliating to Israel) even though it failed to eliminate the resistance as an armed political entity. Now Hizbullah claims that it had halted resistance operations before the July 2006 war, apart from those intended to initiate prisoner exchange deals. In fact, there had been several border skirmishes as well as threats of resistance in Shebaa, but that is another matter. What is important here is that in its interactions with other Lebanese parties Hizbullah has made it clear that it intends to avoid giving Israel an excuse to go to war (not that Israel ever needed excuses, it adds by way of an aside). So, again, why should Israel attack? Evidently, the Lebanese front is becoming more like the Syrian front, which is to say in a state of mutual deterrence. The margin of manoeuvrability for the resistance in Lebanon has narrowed, just as it has on the Syrian-Israeli front: either there is war or there is not; there is no room for resistance activities in between.