As the Israeli military moves decisively against their terrorist tormentors, some pundits are worried that the IDF incursions in to Gaza could precipitate a Middle Eastern war. Specifically, they point out that Syria may take advantage of the deployment of Israel’s defense forces and attack.
This is not in the cards – unless Baby Assad has totally gone off the deep end. Any attack begun by Assad’s admittedly larger but inferior forces will be finished by a qualitatively superior IDF in a matter of days. The only threat Syria poses is a surprise attack where they would have the initiative. But since the Israelis are on high alert and ready for him, Assad can do nothing but sit in his summer house and cower as Israeli jets buzz overhead. And the weak resistance of the Palestinians to the IDF thrust so far only shows that for all of their rhetoric and bluster, Hamas is an empty shell militarily.
The Jordanians? The Egyptians? Not a chance. Both those nations are too dependent on largess from the west to risk alienating Europe and America by initiating hostilities. The Lebanese are extremely angry but can’t muster much in the way of a military response given their domestic political situation. Hizbollah may end up tweaking the Israelis by firing a few rockets into the Jewish state but since they do this all the time, it won’t amount to much.
In short, the coalition of Arab states that went to war with Israel in 1967 and 1973 has changed dramatically. Only Syria remains as a real military threat to Israel. And Assad realizes that it would be a huge gamble going it alone against the IDF. A humiliating loss coupled with his retreat from Lebanon last year would convince the political and military elites in Syria that perhaps it was time for a change of leadership.
It appears that Hamas is discovering how stupid it is to pull on the lion’s tail and not expect a response:
An Israeli military official said a total of 64 Hamas officials were arrested in the early morning roundup. Of those, Palestinian officials said seven are ministers in Hamas’ 23-member Cabinet and 20 others are lawmakers in the 72-seat parliament.
Palestinian parliament speaker Abdel Aziz Duaik and Religious Affairs Minister Nayef Rajoub, brother of former West Bank strongman Jibril Rajoub of the rival Fatah party, were among those rounded up. There were conflicting reports about whether Deputy Prime Minister Nasser Shaer, who has called for the release of Israeli Cpl. Gilad Shalit, was arrested.
Officials will be questioned and eventually indicted, the Israeli army and government officials said.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said the ministers and lawmakers were not taken as bargaining chips for Shalit’s release, but because Israel holds Hamas responsible for attacks against it.
“The arrests of these Hamas officials … is part of a campaign against a terrorist organization that has escalated its war of terror against Israeli civilians,” Regev said.
There is some intelligent speculation that Hamas has engineered this crisis deliberately, that it seeks to discredit “moderate” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. There may be something to this speculation in that the incursion by the Israelis as a result of the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier (as well as the firing of about 800 rockets by terrorist groups associated with Hamas into Israel’s settlements over the last month) has discredited Abbas’ calls for dialogue with Prime Minister Ohlmert while strengthening the hand of the radicals:
Earlier, Israeli Public Security Minister Avi Dichter issued a direct threat to kill Hamas chiefs in Syria, the base of the movement’s political leader, Khaled Meshaal. He said Israel had issued warnings to Syria about the presence of Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders in Damascus but that they were disregarded.
“This therefore gives Israel full permission to attack these assassins,” he argued.
An aide to Mahmoud Abbas said the Palestinian president called Assad to ask him to persuade Meshaal to help free the soldier. Assad promised to do so, but there have been no results, the aide said.
It is ironic that the Palestinians calling on their Arab neighbors for help in getting a “negotiated release” of captives in Israel in exchange for the young Israeli soldier followed so close on the heels of the IDF’s incursion. They were unwilling to release the young man prior to Israel’s military thrust which proves that the Jewish state knows exactly where to hit their enemies and make them howl. And the arrest of so many Hamas officials will serve to put the terrorists on notice that no one is immune when it comes to Israel’s determination to protect its citizens from the constant threat of attack from terrorists.
Once again, the Palestinians are proving that when it comes to trying to play hardball with the Israelis, they are simply out of their league.