Check the bandwidth — no one else is tuning in
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.