April 23, 2012: Israeli troops have been preparing for another war in Lebanon for six years now, and in the last year operations into Syria have been considered as well. While there is more violence coming out of Gaza (nearly a thousand rockets and mortar shells in the past year, versus less than twenty from Lebanon) Hezbollah has the larger and more aggressive military force. Both Hamas and Hezbollah are quite open about their plans to eventually resume fighting Israel. For example, efforts to negotiate a peace deal with Hamas have stumbled over Hamas insistence that only a truce, not a peace deal, is possible. Since Hamas set up shop in Gaza eleven years ago over 12,000 rockets and mortar shells have been fired from Gaza into southern Israel, killing 40 and wounding several hundred. Hamas exists, for the most part, to destroy Israel and does not hide that element of their charter.
Yet another war is brewing over who has the rights to some of the 122 trillion cubic feet of natural gas under the eastern Mediterranean. Worth nearly two trillion dollars, Israel has laid claim to about a quarter of it and is already drilling. But Turkey, Greek Cyprus, and Lebanon all have overlapping claims. Turkey and Lebanon threaten to use force to secure their claims. The Lebanese have not got the means to apply force, but Turkey does. Worse, Turkey does not recognize the Greek Cypriot government (while the rest of the world does) and insists Turkish occupied northern Cyprus (recognized by few countries) get some of the natural gas wealth. The battle for all this newfound wealth could cost more than it is worth, but in this part of the world that is not much of an obstacle for warmongers.
Hamas and Hezbollah continue their efforts to kidnap Israelis and hold them for ransom. This is because Israel will pay a lot more to free an Israeli than Palestinians will pay to free a Palestinian. But Israeli counter-terror operations continue to arrest potential kidnappers and disrupt these plots before they can be executed. This is an ongoing effort that consumes lots of resources and gets very little publicity.
The Palestinians have growing internal problems. Although most Palestinians consider Fatah (which controls the West Bank) the most corrupt Palestinian political party, Hamas (which controls the 40 percent of Palestinians who live in Gaza) is catching up. Although Hamas sounds more radical in its attitude towards destroying Israel, the two organizations preach the same "wipe out Israel" line to their people via print and electronic media. Hamas is also becoming as corrupt as Fatah. Since taking control of Gaza five years ago Hamas has reduced the street crime but its economic and social policies have produced a 30 percent unemployment rate and a corrupt Hamas ruling class that uses force to enrich themselves. It's a police state with religious overtones, and everything that goes wrong is blamed on Israel.
Egypt seems headed for another revolution, with Islamic conservatives taking on the Egyptian military. The generals ordered their troops to stand back when the Mubarak government was under attack by thousands of demonstrators (most of them non-religious democrats) last year. But the Islamic conservative parties had political organizations that could mobilize people to vote for Islamic candidates, while the students and urban democracy demonstrators that led the revolution did not. Faced with the prospect of a government dominated by Islamic conservatives the army has become more involved in the elections, putting up its own candidates for president and finding ways to hurt the Islamic parties. The generals believe that the Islamic conservatives are seeking to drive corrupt officers out of the army, and that seems pretty accurate. The army wants to avoid a direct takeover, as that could trigger a bloody civil war. A "managed" election is a safer way to go.
April 22, 2012: The Egyptian natural gas company supplying gas to Israel cancelled the 2005 deal, claiming unspecified contract violations by Israel. The Egyptian gas provided 40 percent of the fuel for Israeli power plants. The pipeline also carried gas to Jordan. The gas deal was always unpopular in Egypt, with opposition leaders insisting the former Mubarak government pocketed much of the money and that Israel was paying too little. Although the contract runs to 2020, Israel will soon be using less of the Egyptian gas because of huge natural gas deposits recently found off the Israeli coast. Egyptian terrorists have damaged the gas pipeline 14 times this year alone, and Israel has had to import gas to make up for the shortages.
Israeli intelligence believes Lebanese Shia militia Hezbollah is heavily involved in Syria, trying to keep the Assad dictatorship in power. But the rebels appear to be winning, and Israel fears that if the Assad dictatorship collapses, Hezbollah will use its thousands of trained gunmen to loot Syrian weapons and munitions. That's a big problem for Israel because Syria has hundreds of ballistic missiles, some armed with chemical weapon warheads. This prospect might trigger Israeli intervention to seize and destroy the Syrian chemical weapons before anyone else can get them. Israel won't admit they are planning an operation, but senior Israeli commanders are openly complaining about the fate of Syrian chemical weapons.
April 21, 2012: Israel warned its citizens to get out of Sinai because terrorists there were planning to attack or kidnap Israelis in the area. Egypt protested this warning, saying the Sinai Peninsula was safe, especially for Israeli tourists. But since the Mubarak dictatorship was overthrown in Egypt last year, Egyptian counter-terrorism efforts have diminished, especially in the Sinai.
In the West Bank, Israeli border police arrested two Palestinian men who were carrying explosives, a knife, and a pistol. The two were charged with attempted terrorism.
April 20, 2012: Police have analyzed fragments of rockets fired from Sinai at the Israeli town of Eilat twice since March and found that the rockets were smuggled from Libya. An increasing number of weapons stolen from Libyan military bases last year are showing up in Egypt, but exact numbers are hard to come by.
April 18, 2012: Iran announced that it had arrested 15 foreigners and Iranians and charged them with spying and terrorism. Israel was blamed for organizing this effort.
April 11, 2012: On the Egyptian border an Egyptian border policeman was wounded in a gun battle with smugglers trying to get African migrants into Israel.
April 8, 2012: Two more rockets from Gaza landed in Israel.
April 7, 2012: Hamas executed three people in Gaza, one for being an Israeli spy, the other two for murder. In the last seven years Hamas has officially executed 32 people and murdered several hundred more during police or terror operations (usually against political rival Fatah).
An Israeli UAV fired a missile at two Palestinians attempting to fire rockets into Israel.
Outside Jerusalem police found four machine-guns and 500 rounds of ammunition in a Palestinian car, they arrested the driver.