Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Possible or Probable?

Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran are all sending messages to the USA on the eve of President Bush’s visit to Israel.

Hamas fired a relatively long-range 122mm Grad missile out of Gaza, landing the other side of the Israeli sea-side city of Ashkelon, the first time Hamas has fired past the nearby Negev desert and the familiar target of Sderot.

Terrorists fired two 107mm Katyusha rockets into the western Galilee. Both landed in Shlomi, one near a residence the other in a street. There was no damage or injuries.It is not clear if the missiles were fired by Hezbollah, a militant faction of Fatah, or Al-Qaida. Observers say that little takes place in S. Lebanon without Hezbollah's knowledge or approval.

UNIFIL, The UN Peace-Keeping force in Lebanon, responsible along with the Lebanese government, for preventing Hezbollah from firing rockets into Israel, said they were investigating the event.

Israeli politicians pointed the finger of blame at the Lebanese government, whose army was supposed to be controlling Southern Lebanon. Israel’s Minister of Defense Ehud Barak called the Hezbollah missile attack ‘grave,’ but reportedly isn’t going to do anything in retaliation. At least until President Bush leaves the region.

According to Israel Radio, Hezbollah began a series of attacks that lead to the last War in Lebanon because Lebanese politicians wanted to disarm that terrorist group. The radio analysts said that by bringing heat on the region, Hezbollah showed that it could destroy Lebanon internally if it wanted to, and invite Israel to help from outside by baiting her into military retaliations.

Iran attacked from a different front, sending warships close to the American fleet sailing near the Straits of Hormuz, even sending out a message saying they were about to attack. The US ships prepared to blow the Iranians out of the water but at the last minute, just 200 yards from the US ships, the Iranians turned back.

Israeli analysts say that Bush is coming to Israel to not only reassure Israel that they consider the Iranian nuclear threat real, but also to discuss an American plan to put a neutral military force in the West Bank, to fill the vacuum once Israel withdraws, and the Palestinian Authority declares a state.

Analysts say the US has raised the idea of Jordanian or Egyptian troops to fill this role. However, U.S. Sec. Of State Condoleeza Rice blasted Egypt Monday for not doing enough to seal up the tunnels along the Philadelphi route, which Israel turned over to Egypt for safe-keeping, after the Israelis pulled out of Gaza.

Should the peacekeepers that U.S. President Bush has in mind for the West Bank do as lousy a job as the Egyptians are doing, then the peace will be very brief. Both Egypt and Jordan have vested interests in keeping up good relations with the Palestinians, including Hamas. Just as Egypt has been reticent to impede Hamas’ activities in Gaza, pundits believe Egypt will be just as reticent to impede Palestinian militants, including Hamas, who might attack Israel from the West Bank once a Palestinian State is established there.

Jordan is a weak monarchy with the Palestinians making up a majority of the population. While the young king is definitely pro-American, he is also not anti-Arab. Analysts think that placing him in the position of protecting Israel would only backfire. Historians remind observers that Jordan officially rid itself of the West Bank shortly before making peace with Israel, turning the land over to the Palestinian Authority. Jordan returning to the West Bank with a military force seems highly unlikely, and undesirable.

Any “Peace Keeping” force that moves into the West Bank will have to be prepared to fight the Palestinian militants, from Hamas to Islamic Jihad, to the Tanzim, or the Fatah Martyrs Brigade. These peacekeepers will not be a group on a picnic in Iceland’s beautiful fiords. The peacekeepers must be pro-active, adopting a role much different from the UNIFIL or Lebanese soldiers, who try as much as possible to just stay out of Hezbollah’s way.

According to one report the Palestinians claim that the West Bank settlers are the main obstacles to peace. US representatives have reportedly assured the Arabs that a process is in place as part of the Road Map to deal with the settlers.

Some report that the US has proposed a “Trilateral Commission” made up of the US, Israel and the PA, to deal with the issues of implementing the Roadmap. According to an Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs press release, “one of the first principles of the Roadmap is the obligation of the Palestinian leadership to stop terrorism and dismantle the terrorist infrastructure.”

One analyst wrote that President Bush expects a lot from a Palestinian Authority that can barely keep itself in office, let alone run a state. By turning over a state to President Abbas, Mr. Bush is ignoring the reality that Mr. Abbas has no ability to enforce any decisions made by the Trilateral Commission.

This analyst thinks that perhaps Mr. Bush hopes that just by waving the magic wand of US acceptance over Abbas power will follow, sort of a take on Field of Dreams, if you build it they will come, philosophy. By making believe Abbas is in control, and giving him a “State,” that the Palestinian Population will abandon Hamas and Islamic Jihad and follow him down the yellow brick road.

Another says that this approach, not new in American politics, is sort of like supporting Batista in Cuba while ignoring that Castro was leading his troops to victory.

But then, this is the Middle East, and while as Israel’s first President Chaim Weizman said, everything is possible, but not everything is probable. In the current US push for peace only time will tell what is possible and what is probable.