Friday, June 29, 2007

Michael Totten has put up a couple of posts on the subject of whether another war is imminent this summer between Israel and a variety of enemies - Syria, Iran, Hizbullah, Hamas, or Al Qaida. He's relying on an intelligence estimate by Amos Yadlin, the head of Military Intelligence. As an update to the latest post, he includes this:
UPDATE: A reader emails: My daughter just came from spending five months at Ben Gurion University in Beer-Sheva. She had a wonderful time studying, hiking, camping, student demonstrations, working in soup kitchens, skiing up north, petra...etc. She came home two weeks ago and just matter of factly stated that "everyone knows there is a war coming."

That is pretty much how the "Israeli street" feels right now according to just about everything I've heard and read lately.

An article in Haaretz on June 6 reports on a number of troubling developments on the border with Syria:
Syria is in the midst of an effort to strengthen its forces, at all levels, through multibillion-dollar arms procurements, mostly funded by Iran. Ties between the two countries have been strengthened, and Israeli intelligence sources describe this as a strategic alliance. Senior officials from Damascus and Tehran have held frequent meetings lately.

The arms purchases, mostly from Russia, include short-range ground-to-ground missiles, advanced antitank missiles and anti-aircraft systems. In addition, the Syrians have acquired short-range rockets with satellite guidance systems, whose precision capabilities are very high. The Syrian army is trying in one fell swoop to upgrade itself from a force whose hardware had deteriorated into rusty hunks of metal to a modern army.

In addition, for the first time in many years, the Syrians have greatly expanded their training and invested in defensive fortifications on the Golan Heights. They are giving special attention to their civil defenses, including hospitals, sirens and bunkers.

Israeli security sources believe that these Syrian preparations are mainly defensive, at least for the time being. Nevertheless, they say, such preparations require a higher level of alert on Israel's part. For some months, Israel has deployed added forces in defensive formations on the Golan Heights and intensified its training of ground troops. Since the Golan Heights is one of the IDF's main training grounds, these exercises have a double effect: They improves preparedness while also allowing for greater alert levels.

Another Haaretz article from the same day reports on the establishment of ministerial committee to discuss "the security threat posed by Syria." Here's an interesting analysis of the situation that discusses both the Syrian offers for talks with Israel and Syrian military preparations.

Before I got to Israel two weeks ago I was worrying myself about the threat of war with Syria, since it would certainly not be any fun to be here during a war, but since I've gotten here, no one on the "Israeli street" that I've spoken to thinks that there's a war coming. On the other hand, when I was in Israel last summer at this point, and the subject of Lebanon and Hizbollah never came up in conversation with my friends and acquaintances, so what the Israeli street thinks now may be just as uninformed as it was last summer.

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