posted Dec. 4, 2006
Analysis: 2007 - The Year of War
by Yaakov Katz
2007 will be the year of war, both in Lebanon and in the Gaza
Strip, and possibly even against Syria. It could happen this
spring, or perhaps in the summer.
According to Military Intelligence's (MI) assessment for the
coming year, there is a high probability that Israel will find
itself fighting at least two wars on two fronts, one against the
Hamas army being created in the Gaza Strip and the other against
Hizbullah, working hard to regain its strength after the war this
Despite a cease-fire on the Gaza front, Hamas has spent the last
week smuggling weapons into the Strip through the tunnels running
Hizbullah, despite Security Council Resolution 1701 and UNIFIL's
presence in southern Lebanon, has received shipments of antitank
missiles, short-range rockets and long-range missiles from Syria
since the war ended.
The Syrian military is on high alert and has the IDF concerned
that without political "engagement," war could erupt there.
According to MI's assessment, if Israel offered Syria a renewal
of dialogue, President Bashar Assad would accept. However, if
Israel does not make any diplomatic overtures toward Syria, in
line with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's declared policy, the
chance of war will only increase.
While the defense establishment is genuinely concerned with the
ongoing Hizbullah protest in Beirut and the effect it will have
on the fragile situation in the North, MI is not surprised by
Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah's attempt to topple Prime Minister Fuad
Saniora's US-backed government.
The massive demonstration in Lebanon is more than just a standard
anti-government gathering. It is a clash of cultures - one led by
Saniora interested in an independent and westernized Lebanon and
the other led by Nasrallah and powered by Iran, interested in a
radical and religious regime, or as MI sees it, an extension of
Iran and the axis of evil.
Syria is also contributing to the tension and, according to MI,
is the leading suspect in the assassination two weeks ago of
Lebanese Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel. The Saniora
government's decision to establish an international tribunal to
try those responsible for the assassination of Rafik Hariri in
2005 was a major blow for Assad and the ongoing protest in Beirut
is partially his way of payback.
The IDF does not anticipate long life for the cease-fire in Gaza,
obtained November 25 in a phone call between Olmert and
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. In addition to the
daily Kassam rocket attacks since the cease-fire went into
effect, the Palestinians have continued smuggling weapons into
the Strip from Egypt.
Hamas's "army" in Gaza already numbers several thousand troops,
believed to be armed with advanced antitank missiles, Grad-type
Katyusha rockets as well as anti-aircraft projectiles, possibly
Soviet-made SA-7 shoulder-fired missiles.
The assumption in the IDF is that the cease-fire will not last
long, maybe another couple of weeks at the most. The major
problem is that unlike the cease-fire in 2005 before Israel's
unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip, this time the
Palestinians do not have any incentives to enforce or uphold the
It is also important to differentiate between the Strip and the
West Bank. While Hamas is building an army, Gaza is
self-contained, cut off from the rest of Israel. The West Bank is
different. With the security fence incomplete, a decision to
remove roadblocks and permit free passage for Palestinians could
enable terrorists to enter Israeli cities. The only way to
prevent terror there is to maintain an IDF presence in the West Bank.
But not everyone in the defense establishment agrees that the way
to prevent terror in the West Bank is by retaining a stifling
Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj.-Gen.
Yosef Mishlav has been recommending the removal of roadblocks and
free passage between West Bank cities for some months now,
claiming the move would stimulate positive economic developments
within the PA. If Israel fails to do so, Mishlav has warned, war
could also erupt in the West Bank.
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