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Will Israel go to war in 2011?

A war between Israel and its neighbors could be triggered by an Israeli miscalculation. Recent statements by Israeli Generals, warning of an upcoming conflict – the worst yet, according to them – may act as a self-fulfilling prophecy

Foreign observers of the Middle East have lately begun to sound the alarm about the possibility of a large scale war breaking out between Israel and its neighbors. Le Monde, for example, warns:

This deadlock [in peace negotiations] is forcing the Israeli army to draw up plans for further wars based on the “security concept” – that anyone who refuses to accept Israel’s rule in the region is a “terrorist” to be eliminated. No other country, not even the US, has such a comprehensive security concept, which means that Israel is permanently at war. Who will the Israeli army attack next?

The Economist makes a similar argument (my emphasis):

Sadly, there is reason to believe that unless remedial action is taken, 2011 might see the most destructive … war [between Israel and its neighbors] for many years… any number of miscalculations could ignite a conflagration.

Unfortunately, considering statements made over the past year by several Israeli Generals, such a miscalculation seems all too likely.

A cable that was recently transferred from Wikileaks to the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten, summarizes a meeting between outgoing Israeli Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi, and an American congressman. The meeting was held on November 15th, 2009, over a year ago (ten months after the end of the Gaza War). In the meeting, Ashkenazi told his host that Israel is on “a collision course” with both Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. It is therefore preparing for a large scale war.

Just three months ago, the outgoing Chief of Military intelligence, Major General Amos Yadlin, darkly warned about the deceptiveness of the “unprecedented” quiet enjoyed by Israel on all fronts (the last year has seen no significant attacks from either the West Bank, or Gaza, or Lebanon). Yadlin predicts that the “next military conflict” will happen on multiple fronts and may incur more fatalities than previous rounds.

A few days later, he was echoed by the new head of Israel’s Southern Command, which stated that the next conflict with Hamas is not possible, or even likely: no, it is nothing short of “inevitable”. The outgoing head of the Command, and incoming Chief of Staff, Major General Yoav Galant, was in all probability the “Israeli security official” who was quoted by Yedioth, on October 22nd, arguing that Hamas will accelerate its preparations for another round of conflict with Israel, following their success in smuggling large amounts of cash from Iran to the Gaza strip.

This is a familiar, yet chilling, pattern. When all is quiet, our enemies are using the lull to rearm themselves for the next round. When negotiations proceed, their upcoming failure is billed as the cause for an imminent conflict. When negotiations stall, the impasse will surely end in war.  All the rivers run to the sea of war, yet the sea is never full.

The past has taught us to listen to estimates and analysis emanating from Israel’s security apparatus. Not because these assessments are usually correct. On the contrary, Israeli intelligence agencies have won a hard-earned reputation for gross incompetence and egregious errors. They excel in locating a target and destroying it, less so in anything that requires a higher level of understanding and sensitivity.

Yet it is precisely those errors that make their opinion so important. Due to Israel’s position as the dominant regional power, both its perceptions and its misperceptions can have a substantial impact. But it is the latter that may have particularly disastrous consequences, by creating a new reality, often acting as self-fulfilling prophecies.

I have seen this dynamic unfold from up close, both from within and from outside the system, in the series of conflicts in which Israel has engaged over the past decade (though this tendency can be traced in almost all of Israel’s wars).

Before the outbreak of the Second Intifada, in September 2000, the IDF had been preparing for conflict with the Palestinians for several years. All the systems were ready to go into a full-scale war, and did so at the first sign of trouble.

The 2006 Lebanon war may have been triggered by the kidnapping (and killing) of three IDF soldiers by Hezbollah. But it was the feeling among decision-makers that the organization was a bomb waiting to explode that turned a minor (if outrageous and inexcusable) incident into a bloody conflict that left hundreds dead, thousands injured, and tens of thousands without homes.

Finally, the latest war, in Gaza in 2009, was justified by Hamas’ rocket attacks on Israeli civilians, which were and are a serious and indefensible war crime. But the escalation was surely fueled by the IDF’s view that Hamas was eventually going to go to war with Israel; and by the conclusion drawn from this assessment – that it must toppled at all cost, even if this would entail breaking Gazans’ spirit through a cruel siege that devastated their economy.

Let us hope that history is not repeating itself.

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    COMMENTS

    1. yas unfortunately ,in meny cases our thoughts make reality…its sad but the ones that can help but don’t ,are the jornalists who make good money from statements like this .in israel panic sells!

      Reply to Comment
    2. Monster

      The 2009 assault wasn’t “justified” by Hamas rocket attacks (that didn’t kill anyone), those rockets were retaliatory strikes for killing several Palestinians in cold blood. Israel once again broke the ceasefire, then cries victim when they get bit by the dog.

      Here’s hoping they bite off more than they can chew next time they mess with Hezbollah and get their rears handed to them again.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Richard

      Israel was attacked first, the intent of firing artillery into enemy territory is not to display fireworks but to harm and kill people; the country of Israel was provoked and was justly defending itself. If you hit a sleeping lion or bear for no reason will it not attack? There is also the issue of the repeated arguments by Hamas justifying the harming of innocent civilians, they are the ones provoking with the rocket attacks, being unreasonable in negotiations and afterwards using flawed rhetoric to justify acts such as killing children or firing rockets into this country whenever they want to and really instigating things. Hamas will have to go to the table and negotiate with Israel and not just in words but actions, even if rockets are fired after negations are perpetrators being caught, are laws being imposed to fine and punish responsible individuals? Where there is a will there is a way, unfortunately actions are showing a true lack of will to work with Israel. When will this end, do you want your children and grandchildren to continue to go to war over this issue or do you want them going to university becoming architects, politicians, engineers, lawyers or doctors truly bettering your country or continue going to war? Many countries in the world have negotiated and came to peace and reaped the benefits of doing so, one can only hope the same can occur with Israel’s neighbors.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Rotorman

      @Monster

      You are correct. People forget that coming up to the zionist Cast Lead war on the Palestinian people of Gaza, the zionist enclave violated the truce by initiating a very bloody assassination campaign that killed many.

      The poor Palestinians futility retaliated with inadequate home made rockets. This reaction was what the zionists used as a casus belli to butcher Palestinians.

      The first strike by the zionist during Cast Lead was on a police parade ground full of graduating police cadets because the zionist considered them as “Hamas forces”. Dozens of young Palestinian men were dismembered and disembowelled by US supplied munitions deployed by depraved zionist forces.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Yasir

      Its a prophecy being fulfilled on both sides. And as per prophecy ISRAEL will fall, even zionists know that.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Adam

      The Turks can be killed, but they can never be conquered

      Napoleon

      Reply to Comment
    7. PRESIDENT OF LEBANON

      Comment deleted by moderator.

      Reply to Comment