WASHINGTON, Jan. 8 (UPI) -- While the world's eyes are fixed on the U.S. presidential inauguration of Barack Obama on Jan. 20, another election with equal importance for the future of the United States is looming in Israel three weeks later.
Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni failed in her efforts in November to form a new Israeli coalition government and called for elections. They will be held Feb. 10, and Israeli opinion polls have put the nationalist Likud Party led by former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu firmly in the lead over the two current coalition partners, Livni's own Kadima Party and the venerable Labor Party led by Defense Minister and former Prime Minister Ehud Barak.
If Netanyahu and his Likud Party win, as is still generally expected, it will mean as much for the United States as for Israel. Why? Because the U.S. government's Middle Eastern policy is effectively the tail on Likud's dog. Many American neoconservatives, those great guys who gave us the war in Iraq, are de facto members of Likud. Several leading American neocons wrote Likud's strategy for Israel, which calls for the destruction of every Middle Eastern country that could be a threat to Israel. The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003 represented in part that strategy being put into effect.
Those who imagined that President-elect Barack Obama's victory on Nov. 4 would result in the neocons being shown the door are in for an unpleasant surprise. Under the guise of neoliberals, they are no less influential in the Democratic establishment than in the Republican one.
The only way Likud could get shut out of a Democratic administration would be if Obama had bypassed the whole establishment in choosing his foreign and defense policy appointments. And he did not.
Like figures on a medieval clock, the Republican and Democratic establishments succeed each other in an unbroken chain of policy failure.
A Likud government in Israel come next spring would make two wars virtually certain: a war between Israel and Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shiite Party of God in southern Lebanon, and a war between Israel and Iran.
The Israeli military leadership recently announced that in the event of another war with Hezbollah, Israel would destroy Lebanon's civilian infrastructure throughout the country. Since the neolibs will make certain that the United States backs Israel to the hilt, worldwide Islamic anger over the unnecessary destruction of a small, helpless Middle Eastern country, at least a third of whose people are Christians, will focus as much on the United States as on Israel.
Islamic Fourth Generation War organizations will get a huge boost to their recruiting and fundraising, while the legitimacy of Islamic states with ties to the United States will be further weakened.
Even worse, an Israeli attack on Iran, in turn, could bring about the loss of the army that the United States still keeps deployed in Iraq.
(Part 2: The danger of out-of-control wars across the Middle East)
(William S. Lind, expressing his own personal opinion, is director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism at the Free Congress Foundation.)