The Political Calculus of the Attacks

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JERUSALEM: TIME's Johanna McGeary says the attacks on Hizballah guerrillas in Lebanon are largely a result of political pressure Israeli Prime Minister Peres faces as the May 29 parliamentary elections near. "Peres' perceived weakness is that he is not tough enough," says McGeary. "He now has the opportunity, given the recent firings of Katyusha rockets into northern Israel, to show voters that he will act decisively against threats to Israeli security." The U.S. response to the attack has so far been decidedly low key. The White House urged restraint, but placed the blame on Hizballah for firing rockets into Northern Israel. "The U.S. is staying out of this conflict," says McGeary. "They are not putting pressure on Israel to curtail its military activities, hoping that the attacks will bolster Peres' popularity and secure his reelection." Adding to the volatility of the situation, McGeary says, is that Syria would like to see hard-liner Benjamin Netanyahu, who is unlikely to pursue a peace agreement, replace Peres. "The Syrians have been under Western pressure to deliver peace and have been stalling in the negotiations. Hafez al Assad is not ready for a comprehensive peace, which would entail opening up Syrian borders to trade and tourism. Assad's dictatorial hold on the country might be severely undermined by open borders."