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One of the more unpleasant consequences of Russia’s involvement in the Middle East is the formation of a formidable military and political coalition along Israel’s northern border. As I write, Hezbollah, Assad’s Syria and Iran are establishing a united force in southern Syria, protected and armed by the Russian military, and with tight links to the New Iraq.
This coalition is unlike any enemy Israel has faced before. It is not a force that Israel can simply bomb out of existence (like Hamas in Gaza, or – formerly – Hezbollah in Lebanon). Moscow will not allow that. What’s more, in combined strength the new Anti-Israel Northern Border Coalition (from here-on AINBC) is perfectly capable of defending itself. Though his country itself has been burnt out, Basher Al-Assad’s huge military still exists and is now dangerously concentrated in the south of the country. Hezbollah is the most effective terrorist force Israel has ever had to contend with. And Iran, unleashed by Obama’s utopian ‘nuclear deal’, now awaits a payment of 100 billion dollars in previously frozen funds; enough to purchase an army strong enough to dominate the region. To have this monster in the most contested area of the Middle East may prove to be a game-changer.
How might Israel get out of this? No commentary (in Israel or the West) as yet seems to offer an answer. Nuclear weapons (Israel is estimated to have over 200) are practically useless because of Moscow’s involvement. A conventional bombing campaign would risk Russian and Iranian reprisals. The Syrian army, so concentrated in the area adjacent to Israel, forbids a ground invasion. What can be done? At the moment, precious little.
AINBC doesn’t have a single policy yet, but when it develops one, several things will almost certainly be on the agenda. Syria will want the Golan Heights back. Hezbollah will want Sheba Farms back. The Palestinians, emboldened by a sympathetic super-power in the neighbourhood, will demand an acceleration of the peace process.
Indeed, who can say with certainty that the current Palestinian hate-crime epidemic is not related to a new feeling of political invulnerability?
In case you’re unaware of this epidemic (not impossible given the shameful lack of media coverage in the West), you should know that Palestinian criminals in the Greater Jerusalem area are stabbing people with kitchen knives simply for being Jewish. Dozens of Israelis have now been killed or injured, every one of them completely innocent of any wrongdoing. The IDF military, designed for much larger and very different operations, is overwhelmed, along with Israel’s police force, health sector and local funeral services. No end to the violence has yet come into view.
Given these mounting troubles, it must be conceded that Israeli leaders have been far too serene about the prospects for regional and internal peace in recent years. The surrounding states (or ‘ring states’ as some Israeli strategists refer to them) – with the pleasant exception of Jordan – are demographically booming, developing in arms, and degenerating in attitudes.
If the State of Israel is to survive (in the very long term), its leaders must regain their previous realism. They must confront AINBC while it is still in its larval stage. If that develops to its fullest potential, and if it allies itself (which it surely will) with the most intolerant factions of the Palestinian movement, Israel may find itself facing the greatest existential risk in its modern history.