China Daily

Middle East at momentous crossroad

Tensions between Israel and Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah were effectively eased last week thanks to the mediation efforts that successfully hammered home the point that an all-out war between the two sides will serve no party’s interest. That makes more sense if the presidential elections of both Iran and the United States are taken into account.

But the Houthi of Yemen and the Islamic Resistance of Iraq, both backed by Iran, launched at least two joint attacks on Israel’s Haifa port last week, and claimed their anti-Israel military collaboration will intensify.

So the latest attacks on Haifa indicate Teheran and its regional allies are seeking to put Israel under continued international pressure.

The anti-Israel forces view maintaining their military pressure on Israel from the north and other directions as extensions of the Gaza conflict, and they hope to help drain and distract the Israeli military, and fuel the internal political divisions and build tensions with Israel’s allies.

However, as long as the Benjamin Netanyahu government does not change its opposition to Palestinian statehood, the continuous trade of hostility between Israel and its regional rivals will only serve to make the former more determined that violence must be met with violence.

Instead of prompting Tel Aviv to give a serious thought to a truce with Hamas, the looming war to the north with Hezbollah, a much more powerful group than Hamas, is only spurring the Netanyahu government to prepare for an attempt to create a new 10-mile (16.09-kilometer) buffer zone above Israel’s current border with Lebanon through a new war.

That means the attempts regional forces have been making to try and force Israel to end its offensive in Gaza have stimulated the situation to go the opposite way, forcing Tel Aviv to reevaluate Israel’s security conditions in other directions and act accordingly.

Although the US does not support a war between Israel and Hezbollah, it will by no means sit idle while its closest regional ally faces more security threats than it did before the start of the Gaza conflict.

By mooring its amphibious assault ship USS Wasp strike group and the Marine Expeditionary Unit in the Eastern Mediterranean coast of Israel, the US is projecting its military power in a bid to deter Israel’s regional rivals.

Anonymous White House officials have already bristled at the “purported logic” of Hezbollah arguing that Israel would see an end to Hezbollah attacks by reaching a cease-fire agreement with Hamas in Gaza, claiming that an elusive cease-fire deal in Gaza would go a long way in quieting tensions on the Israel-Lebanon border.

It is clear that while Hezbollah, Houthi and Islamic Resistance are trying to give support to Hamas in Gaza by coordinating their respective pro-Palestine campaigns, neither Tel Aviv nor Washington buys that, as both of them are intent on addressing threats from these groups separately.

Tel Aviv is now still focused on Gaza seeking to consolidate its gains in the Palestinian enclave as permanent Israeli strategic assets, just as it has done with Palestinian lands that it has occupied since 1967.

Netanyahu will hope to take advantage of his planned visit to Washington this month, when he is due to address the US Congress on July 24, to lobby for more US support for his government to effectively address Israel’s security threats, including those from Hezbollah. But Washington might try to convince him that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, as the Republican presidential candidate holds a more pragmatic attitude toward the way in which the Gaza crisis should be settled.

He seems to recognize that the onus will always be on the US to end the Gaza crisis.

Editorial, China Daily

Categories China Daily Opinion