In a Discussion Panel held at Al-Zaytouna Centre in Beirut, in Coordination with the Middle East Studies Centre in Amman As many local, regional, and international sources and politicians mention the possibility of witnessing a new war in the Middle East, involving Israel and any -or all- of the "refusal front" parties (Hamas/ Gaza, Hizbullah/ Lebanon, Syria and Iran); Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations held a Discussion Panel about "Israel and the Possibilities of War in 2010," on 22/4/2010. The Discussion Panel was organized in coordination with the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies in Amman, and was attended by a select of intellectuals and academics of concern with the Palestinian issue. The opening address was by Dr. Mohsen M. Saleh, general manager of Al-Zaytouna Centre, who welcomed the guests hoping the discussion will be fruitful. Saleh furnished for the discussion by posing the central questions that arise when discussing the issue of Israel and war possibilities; questions that are "left open for the discussants and guests to address." These questions include: the possibility of Israel taking serious military action such as war; and in case it did, on which front would that be? Or would it be on more than one front?; the nature of such a war, would it be a limited military campaign or strikes with specific targets, or will it follow the two recent scenarios of 2006 and 2009 in being more exhaustive and open?; and what about the retaliation or expected reactions of the opposite party/parties?; etc Saleh stressed that answers to such questions are neither straight-forward, nor necessarily definite or available. He added that the need to discuss them arises from the fact that such questions involve a large set of factors and variables, of which the most prominent are the internal Israeli situation, the internal situations in neighbouring areas (Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and Iran), the surrounding regional environment (Arab 'moderate' regimes) and the international situation, specifically the American position. The First Session The first session of the discussion panel focused on arranging the available informational background on the various related aspects, and it started with four lengthy interventions: first, about the internal Israeli scene (presented by Hilmi Moussa); second, on the possibility of a war between Israel and Gaza (Dr. Jawad al-Hamad); third, on the possibility of a war between Israel and Lebanon/Hizbullah (Birgadier Dr. Amine Hoteit); and fourth on the possibility of a war that involves Iran (Dr. Talal Atrissi). In addressing the Israeli internal scene, Hilmi Moussa, the specialist in Israeli Affairs, attempted to answer the question: "Is there an already-taken Israeli decision regarding launching a war, whether on any of the above mentioned fronts?". He started by emphasizing that Israel is unlike any other country in that it is essentially founded on the principle of power and deter factor. Israeli politicians and strategists link Israel's sustainability with its ability to maintain its power; thus among the basics of the Israeli national security theory is that "Israel's existence doesn't bear any military defeat." Moussa noted however the difference between continuous preparation for war, and taking an actual decision to wage a war; especially in the current regional setting that changed after the July 2006 war and the war against Gaza in 2009. The resistance movements have been on the rise, while the Israeli-American relations have changed in light of the current crisis faced by the US in the Middle East. Moussa excluded the possibility of Israel waging a war currently against any of the parties mentioned above, although it does threaten with that as a form of political bargaining. For Israel, the current situation as it is serves its interests more than a war: Gaza doesn't impose any serious threat, and the West Bank succumbs under the Israeli settlement and Judaization plans, including Jerusalem. This argument was supported by other discussants, who consented that Israel doesn't save any effort in investing the current situation of Palestinian schism, the freeze in the settlement process, and the existence of a "common" Israeli-Egyptian goal (besieging and suffocating Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and thus deem its resistant/ Islamic model of governance to failure). Dr. Jawad al-Hamad, head of the Centre for Middle East Studies in Amman, elaborated on the possibility of Israel waging a war against Gaza, and what goals could Israel seek from such a war. The major reason behind any military action taken by Israel currently, including war, is its need to strengthen its morale following the last two wars of 2006 and 2009; when it failed in achieving its goals. Gaza is the most probable target being the weakest front, although Gaza today is not an Israeli top-priority strategic concern. The general climate within Israel indicates preparedness to this war, politically and militarily, awaiting the right moment to launch it. Al-Hamad described the waging of a war against Gaza as "merely a matter of time, and regional and international development." It is worth-noting here that the discussants' arguments have varied widely on this issue, where many arguments stressed that a full-war against Gaza Strip is unlikely, since Israel could by no means seek the reoccupation of the Strip, neither it wants to. Most common in these arguments was the possibility of Israel taking limited steps such as assassinations and incursions, or limited military campaigns; in case it opted for a military approach in dealing with the Strip. As for Lebanon, and the possibility of observing a war on Israel's northern front, specifically with Hizbullah, Brigadier Dr. Amine Hoteit said that the region is witnessing currently a phase of "parading power". Moving to a stage of "using power" is dependent on two major considerations: the offensive power being sure of its ability to achieve its goals first, and second its ability to employ politically the results of this war to its advantage and interests. In the case of Lebanon and after the 2006 war, the changes are not in favor of Israel waging such a war, especially in light of the recent meeting in Damascus between Nasrallah, Assad, and Ahmadinejad. Hoteit stressed what Moussa earlier mentioned, that the process of power restoration, and preparing for war, is an ever-lasting process in Israel; but taking the decision to start a specific war and the accompanying details of waging is postponed for the respective moment. He concluded that a war against Lebanon is unlikely in the foreseeable future (6-16 months in military terms). 'Iran and the possibilities of war' was the topic of the fourth and last before opening the floor for discussion- elaborated statement by Dr. Talal Atrissi. Atrissi started by a briefing on the American-Iranian relations since Obama's arrival, where Obama initially expressed his intent for dealing differently with Iran by going back to dialogue; then after the Iranian elections, the relations went back to deterioration, with threats of "considering all possible options to deal with Iran." Atrissi argued that all the international efforts to pressure Iran have failed, including those to dismantle its alliance with Syria, and attempts to infuse an internal state of turmoil following elections. He added that the currently discussed sanctions will not be effectively harmful to Iran, since both Russia and China object to such sanctions. This leaves two possibilities: first, the military option, and the resulting Iranian reaction that the US currently is incapable of expecting or foreseeing its nature and limits (will it retaliate fiercely, or in a confined manner, or will it choose to play the victim role?); and as such the US cannot take such a risk while it is still stumbling in Iraq and Afghanistan, especially that the Arab gulf states are not keen to such a step. The second possibility would be to deal realistically with a "nuclear Iran," while setting red lines on Iran's utilization of its nuclear capabilities; examples of such restrictions could be, forbidding the use of nuclear weapons, forbidding the selling or transferring of nuclear technology, prohibiting its reach to "terrorists", etc. Staying out with these two possibilities, according to Atrissi, indicates clearly in itself a significant change in the American dealing with Iran, "to the extent that we can rule out the possibility of observing a military action against Iran in the current circumstances." He added that even limited strikes are unlikely, because of the vagueness that surrounds the Iranian retaliation scenario, and what could that infer on the regional and international scene.