31/08/2012

Israel: the declared non-diplomacy

According to the Israeli government, the terrorists who attacked, on 5th August, a border guard station in northern Sinai, killing 16 Egyptian soldiers, would seek to further destabilize the Middle East. Their intention was to hit hard the Egyptian regime and to question the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt, causing a general change in the Middle East. However, although this isn’t yet a crisis, Israel was very concerned about the deployment of tanks in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, the first since the end of the war in October 1973. Indeed, Israelis have complained to the US government about this deployment of Egypt without their consent, to crush the terrorist forces, dangerously armed, who have apparently searched for refuge and protection in al-Halal. Israelis fears that the presence of a number of Egyptian troops in the Sinai, especially those equipped with tanks and warplanes, threatens to destabilize the region even as Egyptian President, Mohamed Morsi, belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood organization. The government of Israel asked if Egypt has as goal the change of the status quo in Sinai and, therefore, of the Camp David agreements: in fact, in recent weeks, Mohamed Morsi has reiterated that the situation in the Sinai can’t continue and promised that Egypt would take control of the peninsula.

Meanwhile, diplomatic relations between Iran and Israel have deteriorated further and military confrontation between both countries seems almost inevitable. The armed confrontation between Israel and Iran would be very dangerous because it could trigger a chain reaction, given that the Iranian government has good economic and diplomatic relations with China and Russia, which couldn’t tolerate an aggression against the government of Tehran. An Israeli military strike could be avoided, or at least delayed, until the next presidential elections in the United States: in fact US President Barack Obama doesn’t wish a new war during the electoral campaign. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seriously ready to attack Iran, using the pretext that this last is currently developing nuclear weapons. In August, Israeli blogger Richard Silverstein has announced the existence of secret plans developed by Israel to attack Iran, but today nobody can predict when the war will start, despite the tension is very high now.

Moreover, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ali Khamenei, has threatened a military response in case of attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. To reduce casualties due to possible reaction of the Iranian state and the Lebanese Hezbollah, which are ready to launch on Israel hundreds of missiles of all kinds, the Israeli army has taken measures to test advances defence systems, such as “The Home Front Command, mobile alerts system test”. Finally, it should be remembered in this regard that military action against Iran could have a profound impact on the Israeli economy. According to the forecasts of the BDI-Coface, if Israel were to opt for a military action to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, the economic losses would be at least 167 billion shekels, that is to say 42 billion dollars, equivalent to 5.4% of GDP in Israel in 2011. The military option is increasingly held up by Israel to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, the diplomatic options having all failed so far. But such a scenario isn’t without risk for Israel and the region. Has Israel only the means for such an action?

GIACOMO MORABITO

University of Messina