BLOG 232 December 29, 2014
With a new year only a few days away, the media will begin their prognostications for what’s coming down the track in the coming year. Probably most of predictions will turn out to be little more that wild guesses. Making divinatory projections about the Middle East will be little better – but then again, why not give it a try?
With an Israeli election in March, you can bet the political tension will heat up. Because their government is a coalition system, the juggling and horse trading will become fierce. Whether Netanyahu will stay or leave will be analyzed up to the last minute. He could go.
One of the issues that may prove explosive is whether the pursuit of a two-state solution for the struggle with the Palestinians is profitable for Israel. American Secretary of State John Kerry just announced the only path to peace is the two-state route. Less than 24 hours earlier Economy Minister Naftali Bennett dismissed that idea was unrealistic. With states like Egypt and Jordan now recognizing the value of Israel’s existence for the larger Arab world, support for a Palestinian state may be slipping enough that Israel would dare to drop the idea. As radical as such a solution might be, the Middle East has a long history of abrupt changes and unanticipated shifts. The Palestinians are playing their cards to the United Nations and the European Union which doesn’t impress Israel. The Israelis have no tolerance for Palestinian terrorism and might see a radical shift as having nothing to loose but a lot of heated rhetoric. Sound far out? Who knows?
With more than 200,000 citizens killed and a million wounded, the Syrian civil war rumbles into its fourth year with no end in sight. The war has reached a chaotic stalemate going nowhere. Many Syrians, who were part of the original rebellion, now feel their gamble to de-throne Bashar al-Assad is a failure. The rebels have broken into various Islamic groups that fight with each other more than they attack the government troops. The Nursa Front (aligned with Al Qaeda) and the Islamic State (ISIS) battle over their differing interpretations of Islamic practice while ISIS has been loosing ground in Iraq. Unfortunately, no one now seems to remember why the war started in the first place. While these groups uniting could bring a quick end to civil war, no one in one group can trust the other. In the south, rebels trained in a covert CIA foray have more freedom of movement. However, their recent successes have come with the help of the Nursa Front that has weakened government military with their suicide bombing attacks. Strange contradiction.
While Israel knows Assad is a bitter enemy, they have stayed on the sidelines because they believe “the devil you know” is to be preferred to “the devil you don’t.” Other prognosticators believe the USA wants Syria split between Assad’s forces and the Sunni extremists. Is that possible? Not in the near future.
What’s ahead in 2015? One sure bet is a long grinding war accomplishing nothing.
Happy New Year.