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Can Israel fight a war on three fronts? A nightmarish scenario

By Alon Ben-Meir - posted Thursday, 16 March 2017


In addition, businesses would be closed for weeks, supplies of food and medicine will become increasingly scarce, schools will be shut, and hospitals will be overwhelmed. Moreover, the military will be stretched, especially if Israel ends up invading Gaza and Lebanon while bombing Iranian installations in Syria, overpowering the Palestinian uprising, and protecting settlers in the West Bank.

To prevent such a nightmarish scenario, the Israeli government may feel that they are justified to conduct widespread bombing on all three fronts. Given the fact that much of Hezbollah and Hamas' rockets are embedded in civilian communities, there will likely be tens of thousands of civilian casualties. Moreover, attacks against Israel by Iranian forces in Syria may well force Israel to bomb targets in Iran, focusing in the main on the country's nuclear installations.

How the Arab world, Europe, the US, and Russia will react is hard to predict. One thing, however, is clear: much of the Middle East will be on fire and it will be hard to fathom how perilous the consequences will be.

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Yes, Israel will technically win the war, but it will be the most devastating victory in the annals of warfare in modern times.

This may seem like an unlikely scenario, but the probability of it is increasing every day. If Netanyahu is truly concerned about Iran establishing a permanent military base in Syria from which it can seriously threaten Israel's national security as he professes, he cannot rule out such a terrifying possibility.

His seriousness about the Iranian threat is now tested by his action or inaction on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I maintain that there is no better time to look very carefully at the two state-solution to be preceded by a process of reconciliation, in the context of a comprehensive Israeli-Arab peace, especially now that the Arab states share his concerns about the Iranian threat.

More than any time before, the Arab states led by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco, and Qatar are in a position to exert significant influence over the Palestinian Authority and Hamas to enter into serious negotiations, provided that Israel shows a genuine appetite for real peace.

Netanyahu and some of his recalcitrant ministers can demonstrate that by first stating that Israel has no intentions of annexing more Palestinian territories, and second by declaring a moratorium on the expansion of settlements for at least one year.

If Netanyahu's coalition partners do not support such an initiative, he should have the courage to fire them and establish a new government with the left and center parties that support a negotiated peace with the Palestinians.

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Netanyahu has only paid lip service to the idea of a Palestinian state, but if Israel's very existence is on the line because of the Iranian threat as he persistently asserts, he has the capacity and public support to pursue that objective. He has a propitious opportunity to forge peace and usher in a more promising and secure future that Jews in and outside Israel are yearning for.

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About the Author

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.

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