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A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman

June 18, 2007 The Challenges Facing Defense Minister Barak

Ehud Barak was sworn in as the new Minister of Defense this afternoon in the Knesset.  What are the decisions that he must make?
First, what should be done with the hundreds of Palestinians trying to get out of the Gaza Strip and enter the West Bank?  Israeli policy until now only let a few higher ranking Fatah member cross.  The rest have not been allowed to cross.  The fear is Hamas operatives will cross as well.  Unfortunately, the situation of those refugees caught in the middle is worsening.  Today there was an armed incident in which four Palestinians were killed. 
Barak's most immediate crisis is liable to do with the pending humanitarian crisis in Gaza.  In less than a week Gaza will begin to run out of essential food and fuel.  What should Israel allow to pass to Gaza, and even more problematic- how?  There was a system that allowed the transfer of goods to Gaza.  It was run by Fatah, and now there is no one to talk to.  Deputy Minister of Defense Sneh was asked today what Israel can do.  His answer was that he did not know.  The Palestinians who had worked with Israel at the transfer points are accused of being traitors by Hamas, who opposes any contact with Israel.  In the meanwhile, Israeli media has been reporting that Fatah has been pressuring Israel and not open up the crossing- they want Hamas to stew in its juice.
This brings us to the next challenge: to prop up a totally incompetent Fatah government. It would seem that Hamas did not plan to conquer all of Gaza.  What happened was simple: most of the Fatah men just ran, and like a house of cards, all of Gaza fell to Hamas in three days.  Meanwhile, even in the daily propaganda contest between Hamas and Fatah, Hamas seems to winning, with daily attacks on Fatah while Fatah seems unable to fight back. 
Now that we have covered the easy problems, Barak needs to develop a policy for dealing with an Al Qaeda offshoot in Lebanon.  They seem to be responsible for yesterday's missile attack.  How does one deal with a group whose one real goal is creating chaos?  Once he deals with the problems in Lebanon, Barak can turn his attention to Syria.  Barak must make sure that the army is ready for a war with Syria, while at the same time doing all he can to avoid it.
Finally, once he has solved all these immediate problems, Barak can turn his attention to the impending Iranian nuclear threat. 
Good Luck Minister of Defense Barak- Israel is counting on you!.