The revolts sweeping through the Mediterranean and the Middle East have exposed the tremendous shortcomings of EU policy towards the region. That policy mistakenly equated short-term stability with deeper and long-term sustainability. In a number of recent speeches, European commissioners have admitted they were wrong to prioritise short-term interests, centred on economic cooperation, security and migration management.
Over the last 12 months, Israel and Lebanon have become embroiled in a legal and diplomatic battle over rights to undersea natural gas fields along their common but disputed maritime border. This could potentially provide the spark to ignite the next war between the Jewish State and the Islamic Resistance Movement Hezbollah. A gigantic deposit of natural gas (Leviathan) estimated to contain 453 billion cubic meters of natural gas, at a likely market value in the hundreds of billions of dollars, was discovered in June 2010 approximately 130 kilometres offshore of Haifa. Alongside natural gas, the Leviathan is also believed to yield 4,2 billion barrels of oil.
With the Middle East in turmoil and the Quartet (the US, UN, EU and Russia) eager to resume the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under intense international pressure to prove he is serious about achieving peace.
It is possible that at some point in the next 15-18 months Israel’s policy-makers and military officials will need to decide whether or not to attack Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. That would certainly be one of the most complicated decisions since the establishment of the State of Israel. What political considerations would influence it? And, what short-term strategic developments would be set in motion either by a nuclear-ready Iran or by an Israeli military strike against Iran’s nuclear installations?
On 17 November, the residents of Ghajar, a divided village straddling the border between Lebanon and Israel, took to the streets to protest against the Israeli Security Cabinet’s approval of a plan to unilaterally withdraw the Israel Defence Force (IDF) from the northern half of the village.
On 31 May, the same day as the Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla that killed nine Turkish citizens, the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) carried out a rocket attack on a military vehicle near the Iskenderun Naval Base, killing seven Turkish sailors and injuring six others. This coincidence and the fact that it was not a conventional PKK attack, taking place outside its traditional area of operation, raised strong suspicions that the two incidents were related.