Is Middle East War Inevitable?

No one in the Middle East is calling for war, but a dangerous pre-war mood is growing. Four factors, none of them new but each destabilizing on its own, are compounding one another: lack of hope, dangerous governmental policies, a regional power vacuum, and the absence of active external mediation.

BERLIN – Fuad Siniora, Lebanon’s former prime minister, is a thoughtful man with deep experience in Middle Eastern politics. So when he speaks of “trains with no drivers that seem to be on a collision course,” as he recently did at a private meeting in Berlin, interested parties should probably prepare for unwanted developments. Of course, no one in the region is calling for war. But a pre-war mood is growing.

Four factors, none of them new but each destabilizing on its own, are compounding one another: lack of hope, dangerous governmental policies, a regional power vacuum, and the absence of active external mediation.

It may be reassuring that most Palestinians and Israelis still favor a two-state solution. It is less reassuring that most Israelis and a large majority of Palestinians have lost hope that such a solution will ever materialize. Add to this that by September, the partial settlement freeze, which Israel’s government has accepted, will expire, and that the period set by the Arab League for the so-called proximity talks between the Palestinians and Israelis, which have not seriously begun, will also be over.

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