Pavlov in the Middle East

Here we go again.

In the last 48 hours, the Israeli Air Force bombed twice in Syria. Foreign sources (as the Israeli government is keeping mute for now) say the targets, near the capital Damascus, were long-range missiles en route from Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon. The Israeli Cabinet was convened hastily and Iron Dome anti-missile batteries were deployed in the north. Nobody knows yet what will happen after this clear casus belli act by Israel, which violated the sovereignty of two countries (Lebanon and Syria).

All this is “more of the same”. Israel, as President Obama rightly noted, has the right to defend itself against threats, present and future. So no big news. What is more interesting, however, is the timing.

Only a few days ago the Arab League reiterated its backing of a peace proposal based on land swaps, a proposal that has been put forward by the Saudis a decade ago and has been rejected (or ignored) by Israel’s governments since. The new US Secretary of State called this a “big step” forward, and announced he will be coming to the region soon for promoting new peace talks.

This is all scary stuff for Netanyahu’s government. Peace is the last thing on its agenda (despite rhetoric to the contrary).

So, in a classic Pavlovian conditioning reaction, the government turned to the age-old, tested antidote to any peace rumblings in this region: the threat of war. By bombing the capital of Syria at this particular moment in time, the government made sure the drums of war drown out any mumbling about peace. It has put us all back safely in our comfort zone, and now all the attention is focused on how the other side will respond, how we will respond to that response, and so on and so forth.

Peace talks? When missiles are flying? Are you crazy?

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