For a leader who is about to have the rug pulled from under his government by members of his own coalition, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was in chirpy mood as he left the US to head home to Israel.
Various statements he made prior to taking off have left observers wondering what exactly he and President Bush had planned during Olmert’s visit to America. Ha’aretz reports Olmert as having told reporters: "…it would appear we are very close to a decisive crossroads in Gaza," and that "The people of Israel have reason to be pleased with the results of the visit to the U.S. in relation to all sensitive security matters concerning the future of the state."
One has to wonder if that includes Hezbollah, Syria and Iran as well as Hamas in the Gaza; after all, he did say ‘all sensitive security matters…’ Action against Hamas in the Gaza has been on the cards and threatened for some time so Olmert would feel quite comfortable talking about what for many has been seen as a long time coming anyway, but action by Israel against Hamas in the Gaza is hardly likely to go unanswered by their allies Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. The question is, however, will Israel pre-empt any Hezbollah retaliation by launching an attack against them at the same time as they go into the Gaza, or will they, as usual, create some kind of false flag event that will provide them with the excuse they think the world would be happy with for them to attack Lebanon to try, once again, to defeat Hezbollah once and for all.
And then, of course, there is the big question; is this really all about drawing Syria and the big prize, Iran, into the conflict providing the casus belli for the US to attack Iran?
The window of opportunity is closing in on both leaders as their respective tenures draw to a close. There will never be a docile, subservient and fragmented Palestinian state while Hamas and Hezbollah are around. Obama will support Israel but would not support a pre-emptive attack against Iran. To achieve their aims, Bush and Olmert may just think that now is the time to strike using Hamas in the Gaza as the springboard to the final confrontation.
The world should be frightened.