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The Middle East’s Hair Trigger

TEL AVIV – Across the Middle East, a fatalistic conventional wisdom is taking hold: war is unavoidable. Some see war as a way of resolving an increasingly deadlocked situation, shaking up a dysfunctional regional order whose main actors are not only at loggerheads, but are also incapable of resolving the legitimacy deficits of their respective regimes.

A volley of incendiary remarks between Israel and both Syria and Hezbollah has fueled anxieties about the possibility of war on Israel’s northern border. The level of sensitivity is such that the latest tension was initiated by the Syrians, who misinterpreted as a threat Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s call to start peace negotiations precisely in order to prevent “an all-out regional war.”