On the Other Side of the World

On the Other Side of the World

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

As America digs out of the chaos of the almost two year election circus, Israel has begun its own three month cycle leading up to national elections on January 22, 2013. Nothing should be more stark for American observers—leaving aside the candidates and the politics of the election—than the sense that Israel, another democracy can actually go through this electoral entire process so fast. It will cost a pittance of what the American election did and it will be done with an absolute minimum of public advertising and rallies. Practically speaking this election model certainly has much to envy from an exhausted American public.
In the midst of the campaign, however, Israel now is facing a set of potential dangerous security threats from multiple directions. The civil war in Syria has now produced random shellings into Israel.  With Israel’s retaliation, this constitutes the first military contact between the two countries since the Yom Kippur War. While apparently unlikely to escalate, at least at the moment, it is clear that the instability in Damascus is now even pouring across the border to Israel.

Meanwhile the meetings in Qatar this weekend may be the first sign of an effort to form a viable alternative regime for Syria which could begin an internal process of bring various factions together. It also might be able to present a potential regime option that the U.S. and its allies might be able to support. If this produces a regime change as well as some sense of permanence, it could well give Israel some renewed stability in the North.

The Syrian refugee crisis in Turkey is not only producing a humanitarian tragedy, but is sending President Obama there during his trip to the Indian sub-continent beginning at the end of this week. It will also insure the establishment of a full battery of U.S. Patriot missiles on the Turkish border with Syria to protect against potential Syrian incursions.

Refugees also are pouring into Jordan presenting a similar problem for King Abdullah. Problem here is that the refugees are spreading out all over the country and apparently into the West Bank. This could produce genuine long-term problems for Israel unless the Jordanian Government manages the situation more effectively than they have done to date.

Along the Gaza Strip Israel has had to deal with a recent intensification of rocket assaults across the border instigated by Hamas and Islamic Jihad. After some retaliation this too seems to be quieting down; although the entire southern border including Egypt remains in a state of tenuous stability.

Finally, commencement of the reported U.S.-Iranian bi-lateral talks, which were announced before the U.S. election, has not officially begun. In addition, Iranian involvement in the south with Hamas or in the north with Syria or Hezbollah, presents a constant worry to Jerusalem.

Not exactly a great time for an election, but in times of crisis—elections or not—Israelis always manage to pull together.

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