THE COMING WAR IN THE MIDDLE EAST
AN ANALYSIS OF THE PRESENT SITUATION AND A PATH IT COULD TAKE
The failure of the recent talks organised by President Clinton with regards to a joint Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement suggests that perhaps the last opportuniy to secure a lasting peace may have been missed. It has been missed because the topics for discussion are provocative and neither side has shown the imagination necessary to secure an agreement.
As Chamberlin once said about Hitler, so to may it be said that Yasser Arafat has "missed the bus", the crowd that kept up the struggle from Tunis no longer has the esteem of the Palestinian people. Rife with rumours of extravagant lifestyles and accused by the likes of Hamas as having sold out to the Israelis and the Americans, Arafat's time appears to be passing. The Palestinian people are fed up with the present situation and they are beginning to look elsewhere for leadership.
The Israeli people too are starting to look elsewhere, and Ehud Barak is seen by many in Israel as having compromised too much. The man attracting most attention is the Likud Party leader, Ariel Sharon. The man Palestinians hold responsible for inciting the present intifada. He has steadfastly maintained he is not interested in peace as has attracted considerable support amongst orthodox Jews in particular. The upcoming February 6th Election in Israel will really decide what direction the Middle East overall will take, there are only two options, peace or war, there is no middle ground. Barak himself said to the Israeli people that this election is really a referendum on whether there is going to be a continuation of the peace process or the commencement of hostilities. As Sharon is well ahead of Barak in the polls one can imagine the Israeli people feel it is time for the IDF to finish the job in the occupied territories.
On the other side of the green line the people seem resigned to the fact that conflict is looming on the horizon. The militant factions in Palestine are also gaining support, especially amongst the young. The constant curfews, shootings, unemployment and funerals have led to one conclusion. That the time for talking has ended. Mr Hassan Youssof, leader of Hamas on the West Bank, claims the Palestinians have no choice:
"If people go to your home to kill one or two of your kids or throw you out on to the streets, will we give them roses or will we fight?"
Although there is little indication on the mainstream media, the situation in the Middle East is slowly escalating. In the countryside the IDF assisted by settlers cut down fruit trees planted by Palestinian framers, the leaders of various Palestinian organisations are being assassinated, and the isolation of the Palestinian centres of population is increasing as the IDF buildup in the West Bank continues. Barak is pressuring his US allies for more money, Israel plans to ask the US Congress for 0 million on top of the billion it already receives in annual military aid, to help fund IDF preparations for war.
0 million to fight stone throwing youths, who for most of the intifada have been the front line troops of Palestine. Not likely, Israel is looking with concern towards its borders. On the northern border, the Lebanese Hizbollah and the Syrian army are poised. Israeli flyovers and mock air-raids over Lebanon have been becoming more frequent. This flagrant violation of Lebanon's airspace raises not a single word of complaint. Lebanon and Syria's ties to Iraq and Iran are also of concern. On the eastern and southern borders, lie Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, supposedly friendly to the US and Israel, whereas in reality there is much enmity especially amongst the civilian population towards the handling of the intifada by the Israelis. One can imagine that tensions are smoldering underneath the facade that exists at the moment
Yitzhak Frankenthal, a Israeli analyst, speculated on January 2nd as to what might happen if war did break out:
"If no peace agreement will be forthcoming within the next few days we will face a fierce, ruthless and violent struggle on both sides. There is no doubt that a Jewish underground will emerge and target the Palestinian population. The underground will try and bring about a national disaster by bombing mosques, perhaps even the El-Aqza mosque and target Palestinian leaders. As counter attack, Palestinian organizations will target Israeli
citizens especially in the West Bank and Gaza. Attempts will be made, perhaps successfully, to target commercial planes, buses, markets and others densely populated areas. The unrest between the two sides will be terrible. Israeli response will bring Egyptians, Moroccans, Jordanians, Syrians and Lebanese to rally and pressure their governments to take action against Israel. Iran and Iraq will not sit by and the developing conflict may lead to war with missiles against the Israeli population. It is quite possible that the missiles will have non-conventional warheads. After hundreds, perhaps thousands of deaths on both sides, an agreement will be enforced on Israel by the big powers and the free world. Seemingly, apart from the "marginal" aspect of thousands of lives lost, the outcome will be excellent and a peace agreement will be signed between Israel and Palestine. The main problem will be that peace will not be a true peace, and although it will be enforced on both Israelis and Palestinians, this could not be regarded as peace but as a cease fire arrangements based on political solutions evoking continued acts of terror for many more years."
The history of the middle east has long been one of violence and bloodshed, I do not wish for any of this to come to pass. With the prospects for peace looking as bleak as ever it seems the Israeli electorate will decide what path the year will take after February 6th, 2001. If there is conflict it will not be like the 1967 war. Both sides possess chemical weapons and the Israelis have a significant nuclear arsenal at their disposal. You cannot ignore the importance of the situation. It will impact on the rest of the world. What price must be paid for the freedom of the Palestinian people?