A Tense Situation in the Middle East

  • 3 March 2008

There is no question that the Middle East presently lives some tense and complicated times in more than one place and at more than one level. The future appears to be open to all dangerous possibilities.

Israel continues its brutal campaign in Gaza, causing scores of casualties of dead and wounded Palestinians, in an open-ended operation that followed threats against the Strip by Israeli leaders. One former Likud member of the Israeli Knesset even demanded that a town in Gaza be razed so that “the Palestinians can realize what the Israeli army can do.” In Lebanon, the political crisis deepens as the date for the election of a new president for the country approaches (March 11). Tension between Hizbullah and Israel has also increased to the point that some expect a slide into open warfare soon, especially after the assassination of Hizbullah commander `Imad Mughniya.

With elements of tension and conflict increasing in intensity and the collapse of hopes for a solution to the Lebanese crisis through the Arab initiative of early January, reconciliation and peace are hard to come by. In addition, the hopes for a breakthrough in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that was the essence of the Annapolis Conference have been replaced by caution and trepidation. The upcoming Arab Summit meeting slated for Damascus at the end of March – that is supposed to be the venue for building a unified Arab stance toward the area’s crises – has become enmeshed in discord and division resulting from the Lebanese crisis and a myriad other Arab crises.

This dangerous situation in the region, in which war seems to always trump peace, needs two important developments. The first should be for the Arab world to devise a common Arab vision that would do away with intra-Arab conflicts, both within and between states, and that would help in alleviating threats and dangers. This could be achieved in the upcoming Damascus meeting. The second should be a vigorous effort internationally to halt Israeli aggression which thwarts any attempts to reach the sought-after peace. Arabs should also call upon the international community to assist in defusing the festering crises in such an important and strategic region for the benefit of the whole world.