Thursday, May 17, 2007

Another tour of the Middle East

My first blog was on December 30, 2006 and it was called Setting the Scene. I did a 360 degree tour of the immediate region from the rooftop and briefly described what was going on there

Today, The basic elements are still the same but the entire picture is much worse.

In Jerusalem sits a discredited government living on borrowed political time, traumatised by the Winograd report on Lebanon II and incapable of making strategic decisions. In Sderot, on the border with Gaza, thousands of residents have been evacuated as scores of qassam missiles devastated homes and caused numerous injuries. After years of incessant bombardment the government still hasn't found the money to build proper shelters for the people of Sderot. Even the evacuation of its terrified residents was partially funded by the Russian oligarch Arkady Gaidemak who, once again, caught the government with its pants down and put up the cash for buses and hotels.

If the people of Sderot are living in a nightmare, their neighbours in Gaza are in hell. Chaos reigns as the cease-fires between Hamas and Fatah collapse in quick succession. The fighters on the ground take matters into their own hands, ignoring the commitments of their leaders. Criminal hamulot compete with the various security forces for control of teritory. No-one is safe, life has ground to a halt and to add the misery of ordinary Gazans , Israel has begun to respond the qassam attacks. So, for amusement during the long hours at home, the children of Gaza can wonder whether the shots outside are from a Hamas killing squad or an Israeli attack helicopter.

On the other side of the half-closed border between Gaza and Egypt, the oppressive Mubarak regime is beginning to feel the heat of public discontent. The Islamic parties have joined up with the Left and criticism of the regime is more vocal than ever. Mubarak's face fell when the Hamas gained power in Gaza because he knew that this would strengthen the Islamic street at home. Is the tide turning in Egypt? If so, it will be bad news for Israel . An Islamic government could revoke the peace treaty.

Across the dwindling stream known as the Jordan, the monarch is concerned that the anarchy in the Palestinian Territories will spill over to his fragile kingdom. "We're on the same side," he told Israeli visitors recently. Abdullah is pushing the Arab League peace plan and quite rightly But with the Palestinians in the midst of a civil war, Abu Mazen has a few other matters on his mind while Olmert has the Gaza situation to add to his tzoress.

In Damascus, Bashar Assad is still making peace overtures but is also reportedly stockpiling missiles. Three out of four intelligence agencies in Israel assess that he's sincere about peace talks. Olmert (surprise, surprise) heeded the advice of the fourth. The Americans didn't complain.

What's left. Lebanon is still unstable, Nasrallah has come out of hiding and the Hizbullah have started planting flags along the border again.

Summer's here and the time is right for dancing in the streets!

The photo (not mine) is of Azrieli Towers in Tel Aviv on a foggy winter morning. When you're in fog its hard to see a way out.

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