Check the band­width — no one else is tun­ing in

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY TIM MAR­SHALL

IT IS hardly a sil­ver lin­ing, but the vi­o­lence tak­ing place in the wider Mid­dle East may ac­tu­ally be a re­strain­ing fac­tor in what hap­pens next in the Is­raeli-Pales­tinian con­flict.

Bluntly put, ev­ery­one is busy else­where right now, and that in­cludes the ac­tor who has pushed his coun­try back onto the Mid­dle East stage — Rus­sia’s Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin.

Hizbol­lah may be tempted to make things worse by fir­ing into Is­rael, but its forces are stretched, hav­ing lost hun­dreds of men in Syria prop­ping up Pres­i­dent As­sad’s regime. It is now en­gaged in a ground as­sault in north­ern Syria sup­ported by Ira­nian troops and Rus­sian air strikes.

When Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu met Putin in Moscow last month he made it clear that Is­rael would not tol­er­ate the move­ment of Hizbol­lah and Ira­nian forces to­wards Is­rael’s borders. They are both cur­rently pointed north.

Putin knows it is in his in­ter­ests to keep it that way. Rus­sia may be a far greater mil­i­tary power, but it is op­er­at­ing a long way from home.

Tur­key is em­broiled in its own fight­ing, is pre­oc­cu­pied with cre­at­ing a “safe zone” in­side Syria, and is con­cen­trat­ing on an elec­tion.

Egypt has no in­ter­est in fan­ning the flames in Is­rael and thus help­ing Ha­mas, and is con­cen­trat­ing on sup­press­ing Is­lamist at­tacks in Si­nai.

Diplo­mats some­times talk about “band­width” — how much time and ef­fort can be de­voted to a par­tic­u­lar cri­sis, ei­ther to make things bet­ter, or worse. Few of the ma­jor play­ers have much band­width avail­able to de­vote to this latest, much smaller cri­sis.

Nat­u­rally Daesh and other Is­lamists will use the sit­u­a­tion for pro­pa­ganda pur­poses, but with lim­ited ef­fect.

Else­where the Saudis and other Arab gov­ern­ments are call­ing for calm in Is­rael/Palestine while si­mul­ta­ne­ously cham­pi­oning their cho­sen ji­hadist group in­side Syria. Jor­dan is slowly be­com­ing bank­rupt ow­ing to the pres­sures of the refugees it has taken in. Its lead­er­ship do not want a mas­sive out­break of vi­o­lence in the West Bank.

So, no one ex­cept Ha­mas ap­pears to be read­ily pour­ing petrol onto the flames of a po­ten­tial Third In­tifada. Ha­mas seeks to con­trol the West Bank as well as Gaza and knows that col­laps­ing the PA dur­ing an in­tifada may be the quick­est route.

The wild cards are Hizbol­lah and Iran: bor­der skir­mishes could bring Is­rael fully into the Syr­ian war. This in turn would open up a sec­ond “front” if the feared in­tifada be­came real.

Ha­mas wants it, so far no one else seems to. Tim Mar­shall is a for­eign af­fairs an­a­lyst and editor of www.the­whatandthe­why. com.

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