Could Israel face a nine-front conflict?
On Thursday, May 3, Israel mobilized six reserve battalions and received the government’s permission to mobilize 16 more, a security measure due to potential problems in the Sinai desert and the volatile situation in Syria, or so we are told. But the mobilization of 22 battalions means that there is more to this situation than meets the eye.
Eight months ago the present writer discussed the probability of a nine-front war. Despite the low-key tone of “a security measure,” Israel now seems to be close to that situation.
Almost-nuclear Iran; Hezbollah; the Sinai, with its entrenched al-Qaeda bases and other terror groups; Egypt, if the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) has its way; Syria; and the two internal fronts of Hamas and the PA if they can get their acts together, comprise seven of the nine fronts.
Let’s look first at Iran.
Iran is in deep trouble economically, as its oil production is the lowest in 20 years and its mullocracy is losing popularity with its rank and file. The nuclear option for which it has been in hot pursuit for 10 years has now turned into a political liability with voters as sanctions slowly impair the economy. The decline is "the result of the country's growing isolation due to its nuclear program," so the mullahs are scared because the time may be ripe for another round of internal unrest and open demonstrations for regime change.
The mullahs' popularity has not been enhanced by Israel’s ten years of successful covert operations against Iran’s WMDs; and Israel’s newly purchased nuclear submarine, with nuclear-armed cruise missiles giving Israel expanded "second-strike" capabilities in case of an Iranian nuclear attack, will soon be added to its Persian Gulf fleet, and offer Iranian leaders the opportunity to reconsider their disdainful attitude toward MAD.
The mullahs desperately need a distraction for their unhappy voters.
Hezbollah is better armed now than it was before the 2nd Lebanon War, and has successfully cowed the UN “peace keepers.” But it has suffered a loss of popularity due to its support for Assad and growing isolation. That can be remedied most easily by opening a northern front with renewed missile and other terror attacks against Israel. Such an action would justify more Iranian efforts to achieve nuclear capacity.
And as is the case with Hezbollah, if Iran gave Syria the order, it would be a boon and a blessing for Syria to join in. Assad could turn attention from the slaughter of its innocents and call for Syrian unity in the great jihad against Israel.
Egypt and the Sinai are a bit more complicated.
The Sinai is a haven for drug smuggling, human trafficking, gun running, and terrorist groups including al-Qaeda; but the Egyptian armed forces have not been able to clean up the mess. Operation Eagle, almost a year old, is a total failure, for which, true to form, the Egyptian government blames Israel.
And compounding this problem is the uncertainty about Egyptian politics. MB leaders have made clear that they want to renew the state of war with Israel. Currently the Egyptian army is still in control, but with a significant Islamofascist majority in the Egyptian Parliament and an MB candidate the front runner for presidential elections, Egypt could turn into an active military enemy overnight.
The other two fronts are internal.
Hamas is the loser in the Arab Spring: losing popularity, losing Iranian and Syrian support due to its backing of the MB’s revolt in Syria, facing competition from other more aggressive terror groups, and facing the impatience of its own rank and file due to its not killing enough Jews. Polls taken earlier this year found “a significant decline in the popularity of Hamas in the Gaza Strip and a decrease in the positive evaluation of the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip.”
Hamas may also be losing some control over its terror cohorts who have continued rocket attacks on Israel despite Hamas-mandated cease-fires. When Hamas has exercised its authority, the results have backfired. When Hamas forces wiped out one al-Qaeda unit supported by Iran, for instance, a serious crisis developed with Tehran.
But the most serious challenge comes from its former ally in terror, Harakat al-Jihad al-Islami fi Filastin, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ.) PIJ until recently was subordinated to Hamas; but the insurgency in Syria has changed things.
The leading force behind the anti-Assad demonstrations is the MB. But Bashar al-Assad and his nepotistic Alawite network in Syria are all proxies of Iran. Iran wants Hamas to support Assad and to oppose the MB in Syria. Hamas has refused. In response, Tehran has cut back on its funding for Hamas. And probably not coincidentally, the PIJ, newest recipient of Iranian funds and weapons not previously seen in the Gaza Strip, has begun to chaff at Hamas’ rule and its terrorists have launched attacks on their own in defiance of Hamas orders. With Hamas out of favor with Iran, PIJ terrorists can show off their new clout and independence by targeting Israel with their new mobile self-propelled rocket launchers smuggled in from Libya.
Hamas’ weakened position may be the reason that it is willing to reconcile with Abbas. And this brings us to the last front, the West Bank.
Arabs in the West Bank are getting impatient with postponed elections and the inability of Hamas and the PA to form a united political front. Palestinian frustration towards a leadership seen as inept, out of touch and repressive is rising to dangerous levels, and some outside observers suggest that a revolt may be brewing, and not at the ballot box.
Fatah-Hamas reconciliation, polls showed, was the single most important issue for most Palestinians, outstripping even peace talks with Israel. But neither Hamas nor Fatah can agree on how to share power in an interim government or how to merge their respective security forces. Moreover, Abbas has ruled illegally for three years. His term officially expired in January 2009. This was the case with Arafat, who ruled unconstitutionally from 2000 when his term as president expired, until his death from AIDS in 2004.
Fearful of the precedent set by the Arab Spring, Abbas has responded to public frustration by becoming increasingly authoritarian. In the past six weeks, according to the Palestinian human rights network Al Haq, nine bloggers and journalists have been jailed. Faced with a government whose legitimacy is being steadily eroded, Palestinians are quite possibly closer to erupting against their own leadership than ever before.
But the clearest sign that things are seriously deteriorating in the PA is that suddenly after 6 post-intifada years of cooperation, the PA police force decides not to work with the IDF any more in preventing terrorism and arresting known terrorists in the West Bank. Moreover, Abbas has resurrected Arafat’s old Palestinian revolving door policy for jailed terrorists. This action is a green light for terrorists in the West Bank to resume terrorism.
When we combine this turn of events with Abbas’ threat to dissolve the PA, we can suggest that the meeting with Mesha’al and Abbas last year and on May 2, 2012, may have been planning sessions for a unified political action against Israel. It looks like Abbas and Mesha’al are developing a special relationship very similar to the one that existed in the early 2000s between Arafat and the Hamas founder, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. They were bitter ideological opponents, but in agreement about terrorism against Israel.
Hamas is ripe for such an arrangement since, as noted above, its position has been weakened; and a good solution would be to get together with Abbas and recreate the good-cop/bad-cop act that Arafat and Yassin perfected in the early days of the 2nd intifada, in order to side-track the growing opposition among West Bank and Gaza Strip voters who see them both as corrupt and ineffective in their war against Israel.
So each country or terrorist organization comprising the seven fronts needs desperately and quickly to burnish its anti-Israel credentials for internal political purposes. How to do this? Use the one tried-and-true sure-fire solution that has worked for 64 years – attack Israel.
Will Israeli Arabs whose sympathies lie with Hamas or Fatah or Hezbollah sit idly by, with folded hands, as their brethren begin on seven fronts at once what they hope will be the last great final jihad? That’s a rhetorical question.
So Israel has raised the level of terror alerts in the West Bank, mobilized its reserve battalions, and expanded its nuclear submarine fleet; because we all may be looking into the barrel of the next great Middle East war, which may, God forbid, turn out to be a nuclear war, thanks in part to the dithering of America’s President.
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