Powerful countries know that it is dangerous to be seen to flinch, because enemies take heart and allies’ knees begin to knock. A great power also knows that if it sets out on a military adventure without setting achievable goals, it can get into bad trouble. What’s true for great powers is doubly true for beleaguered Israel, which failed to dismantle Hezbollah’s power over Lebanon. But the Lebanon war’s failure may yet provide an opening to peace if Israel is bold enough to seize it.
The world has two chief aims in the area between Cairo and Teheran: to maintain peace in the wider Middle East so that oil flows freely through the Persian Gulf; to steer the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians toward a settlement that guarantees the safety of Israel in its internationally recognised borders, while meeting the Palestinian people’s legitimate national aspirations for their own state. The two issues have long been connected, but the main link is now President Bashar Al-Assad’s Syria.