Anchor Aaron Schachter talks to Steven Cook, Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, about what is at stake in Israel’s neighboring countries, in light of the new conflict between Israel and Hamas.
Cook said: “The Israelis could be looking at a situation in which their relations are deteriorating with Egypt, faced with the possibility of two fronts in Gaza, and in the north from Hezbollah, and the crumbling of its relationship with Jordan. All around, a nightmare scenario”
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Aaron Schachter: Steven Cook is a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Steven, the dynamics of the region have shifted dramatically as a result of the Arab revolution. What is your foremost concern about the escalation of violence between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza?
Steven Cook: Well, my foremost concern is the durability of relations between Israel and Egypt, which has been a pillar of US policy in the Middle East for the better part of the last three decades. Given the new government in Egypt and demands by the Egyptian public for accountability, and accountability on the Palestinian issue, it’s going to be very, very hard for the new Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi to contain public outrage and demands that his government to do something qualitatively different from what his predecessor had done in terms of real help to the Palestinians in Gaza. That’s gonna be, put a lot of pressure on Egypt-Israel relations and US-Egypt relations.
Schachter: Now as you say, Egypt is a big question mark, but there are lots of other wild cards in the region. There’s a concern that Hezbollah could start firing rockets into Israel from the north. The civil war in Syria is raging now and just this week protests began in Jordan over a rise in fuel costs. Where does this go from here?
Cook: Indeed those are all major concerns. I think Jordan is a country to watch right now. As you say, the demonstrations are the result of a spike in energy costs to Jordanians. Given the large concentration of Palestinians in Jordan, the situation in Gaza as it unfolds may have a dynamic effect on Jordan and these demonstrations. Remember, Jordan is besides Egypt, on the Syria front, Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad released a statement condemning the Israeli violence in Gaza. I don’t believe that anybody in the region took that very seriously. It’s true that there has been some fire that has landed on Israeli territory and the Israelis have responded, but the Israelis have done everything possible to avoid getting themselves involved in Syria’s civil war. There is also this very real concern however, that Hezbollah in Lebanon will start firing on the Israelis and in fact, the war in Lebanon in 2006 actually began as a result of violence in Gaza, so there is always this concern that a second front, a northern front can be opened up against Israel. And of course, Hezbollah since that conflict in the summer of 2006 has rearmed itself and certainly has the kind of weaponry that can hit Israel’s major cities, including, obviously, the great Tel Aviv area. So the Israelis could be looking at a situation in which their relations are deteriorating with Egypt, faced with the possibility of two fronts in Gaza and in the north from Hezbollah, and the crumbling of its relationship with Jordan. All around, a nightmare scenario.
Schachter: That was Steven Cook with the Council on Foreign Relations. You can get the latest on the Gaza conflict, The World’s Matthew Bell is tweeting what he’s seeing and learning on the ground. Follow him at matthewjbell. I’ve also got a blog today about the social media war between Israelis and Palestinians, that’s at theworld.org. This is PRI.
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