The war in Lebanon may have ended, but the situation in the region, the direct threat that compelled the military offensive into southern Lebanon in July continues to linger overhead.

When Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz agreed to activate IDF reservists for the war in Lebanon, they vowed to continue bombarding Hizbullah positions in Lebanon until the terror organization would release IDF soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. Olmert made a number of statements to the press, that a ceasefire was out of the question until the terror organization released the soldiers, unconditionally. He stated firmly that this was a prerequisite to the halt of the military offensive.

The same forceful position was adopted regarding Hamas’s release of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, believed to be held in Gaza. Now, almost four months later, all three remain captive, the Hizbullah threat has not been neutralized, and Israel faces threats of an Iranian nuclear weapon as well as daily rocket attacks from Gaza. Experts also warn the northern border will in all likelihood heat up again in the “near future.”

In addition, the new developments vis-?-vis North Korea’s nuclear abilities signal additional trouble, as the technology might quickly find its way in the hands of Israel’s enemies.

Vice Premier Shimon Peres on Wednesday stated that the next decade in Israel may present itself with Israel’s neighbors working in earnest to develop nuclear weapons. A second possible scenario, stated Peres, is that the region finds itself with Israel and her neighbors living side-by-side, in peace, after having signed peace treaties with one another.

It was Peres who recently commented that sanction against Iran will be of little or no value, explaining the widespread poverty in that country will make economic sanctions undetectable.

Earlier in the week, addressing the opening plenum assembly of the Knesset winter session, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert extended his hand to peace, calling on Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to sit and talk, to enter into direct dialogue with him towards achieving a peace agreement with Jerusalem. Siniora responded to Olmert’s peace overture, stating Lebanon would be the “last country to sign an agreement with Israel.”

Olmert added that while he would like to enter into talks towards a comprehensive peace agreement with Syria, at present this is an impossibility, explaining that Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad is still an ardent supporter of terrorism, working in concert with Hizbullah, permitting the Iranian weapons supply train to reach the hands of terrorists in southern Lebanon,

On yet another front, albeit resulting in the same threat, in his meeting in Moscow on Wednesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Olmert emerged empty handed, without receiving diplomatic assurances of Russian support to neutralize Iran. In actuality, it is Putin’s country which made Iran’s advance in the nuclear sphere possible. It was Putin’s advanced anti-tank rockets which penetrated the armored skins of IDF Merkava tanks in southern Lebanon during the war in the summer, and it is Putin who continues to sell advanced weapons to Syria, the very same weapons being used by Hizbullah. Nonetheless, Putin continues to assure Jerusalem the weapons shipped to Damascus will not be turned against Israel.

Following North Korea’s announced successful testing of a nuclear weapon, the international community woke up, somewhat, but this has not changed the European Union’s (EU) position regarding Iran. EU Foreign Minister Javier Solana continues to call for dialogue with Tehran, insisting America’s call for stiff political and economic sanctions against Iran will not achieve the desired results, insisting dialogue is the way to go.

The EU is backed by Russia and China, all preferring to talk to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rather than imposing sanctions against his country.

In Gaza, the frequency of Kassam rocket attacks into the Sderot and western Negev regions continues to increase, with Hamas terrorists ignoring stern warnings and statements released by Defense Minister Amir Peretz. During the past 36 hours, no less than seven weapons smuggling tunnels were uncovered by IDF forces operating along the Philadelphi Route.

Philadelphi Route, which runs through Rafiah, maintains vital strategic importance to Israel. Back before Israel retreated last Summer, then-IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya’alon warned against the disengagement, opposing Israel’s handover of Philadelphi Route to Egypt. Ya’alon warned that Egypt does not have the capabilities, and possibly not the desire, to halt weapons smuggling into Gaza.

Many believe Ya’alon’s outspoken opposition to the disengagement led to the decision not to grant him a fifth year in office as is traditionally the case. Then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, himself a war hero, confidently announced that the disengagement would bring stability and peace to the region, admitting minor skirmishes could be expected, but promised a better tomorrow. His view was supported by then-Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, who now serves in Ehud Olmert’s cabinet as minister of transportation. Today, Mofaz carefully alludes to the current Minister of Defense, Amir Peretz’s incompetence, his lack of experience and unsuitability for the senior defense post.

Ya’alon, who has since joined the Jerusalem-based Shalem Center, continues to release statements to the media, warning of the impending dangers, painfully stating that we are now paying the price, the consequences for the actions of the previous administration.

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