Monday, October 23, 2006

Situation Along Israeli Borders Drifting Toward Violence Once Again

With all the justified focus on the war in Iraq, the situation involving the Arab-Israeli conflict has not been getting quite so much attention. But a number of recent developments are foreboding.

Since the cease fire in the Israel-Hezbollah war Aug. 14, the Israel-Lebanon border has been quiet. But now there are reports that Hezbollah continues to rearm, the United Nations force and the weak Lebanese Army have been ineffective at preventing this, and, nearby, the Assad regime in Syria has been making threats to initiate action against Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights, an area which has been quiet since 1973.

Just last week, the French commander of the U.N. force warned Israel about further Lebanese overflights, asking them to stop. The Israelis responded that since Hezbollah is rearming, the overflights will continue.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Army chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, has undertaken an inspection tour of army units on the Golan Heights, seized from Syria in the six-day war. Given the Assad threats, the units are being strengthened and brought to a high state of preparedness. On the one hand, Israel has warned Syria that an attack on the Golan Heights would be met with a devastating response against Syrian installations. On the other, the Israeli Olmert government is said to think Assad is merely blustering and does not mean to do anything in the near future.

No such sanguine assessment is coming from the Israelis on the situation in Gaza, where clashes between Palestinians and Israeli armed units are occurring almost on a daily basis. A considerable number of deaths has resulted, and the Israelis are talking of plans to take possession of the Egypt-Gaza border area to prevent the smuggling of additional arms into Gaza. Israeli intelligence believes Hezbollah and its Iranian patrons are trying to arm Gaza terrorists more substantially, and they note that Gaza rocket attacks on southern Israel have not ceased.

As far as the Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, whose kidnapping started the round of fighting in June, he has not been released, and now the Israelis have accused Iran of giving $50 million to Syria to prevent any release, despite continuing negotiations to do so.

Gaza is a powder keg, and may well be the next site of substantial Arab-Israeli warfare. But there are also internecine clashes between PaleStine Liberation Organization and Hamas factions. I don't normally quote Fox commentator Bill O'Reilly, but he is totally correct when he says, "The Islamists not only hate Jews and Christians, they hate each other."

The Israelis have had little to say publicly on the situation in Iraq, but they have to be concerned. A defeat of the Bush Administration in the Mid Term elections in two weeks could have ramifications eventually for American support of Israel, it doesn't take a genius to see that.

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