The Middle East is a historic land bridge between the three continents and a melting pot for so many civilisations over many millennia. It is at the heart of the planet earth and cradle for three major Gnostic religions. The imprints of history are stamped on the people; displaying a unique racial mix and on the culture, literature and political traditions. The ruins of antiquity bear testimony to a turbulent past. The region stands sentinel on the Mediterranean shores, guards Suez-Red Sea - Eden Sea routes controls access to the Persian/Arab Gulf. It has a bitter history of conflict between races, cultures and religions, from Roman-Persian rivalry, a prolonged period of crusades to the prevalent intractable conflict to death between Zionist Israel and its neocon under-wrighters on the one hand and the hapless Palestinians and their Arab/Muslim supporters on the other. The battleground has remained unchanged with accompanying punishment and pain suffered by its habitants throughout the history which has left a legacy of vendetta at the sub-conscious level. It is marked by deep paranoia of insecurity, intolerance, irreconcilability, insensitivity and cruelty. Today, it is pre-dominantly a Muslim majority zone with exception of Israel and Lebanon which are more evenly multi-religion polities. Its strategic centrality and material riches especially oil invite hostile and aggressive attention from the oil thirsty developed world. The inner politico-religious mistrust and fault-lines are so deeply entrenched that any viable security covenant from within the region will never evolve. Hence whether it was the Iran-Iraq War, the Lebanese issue or Arab-Israeli conflict extra-regional forces hold the balance and dictate terms. The USA inherited the guardianship of the oil rich region from the British when they withdrew from the East of Suez after humiliating Suez crisis in 1956. Bipolarity of the Cold War era was eminently manifest in the Middle East where Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen had pro-Soviet leanings and the rest of the zone was allied with the US - the West is one way or the other. It was then a potentially explosive but strategically balanced arrangement with defined affiliations and well-regulated environment due to the Cold War standoff. The first chink in the armour appeared in 1973 after Yom Kappur war when Egypt unilaterally broke ranks from the Soviet bloc. It tilted the strategic balance in favour of the US-Israeli nexus. Israel was once for all protected from a joint Arab threat under the Egyptian leadership. There is a whole lot of wisdom in this popular statement that there could be no war in the Middle East without Egypt and no peace without Syria. Having averted a multi-front war, Israel does not show any inclination for durable peace. The zone has become a US-Israeli preserve with unchallenged capacity to shape the environment in their favour. They are focused on keeping a quasi-conflict situation in the region to achieve long-term strategic objectives. The only major opposition in her way emanates from Iran lying on the regional periphery with Syria and Lebanon providing a land bridge against Israel and operational linkage to the Palestine. However this nexus is tenuous, indirect and insubstantial. Similarly, on her own, Syria has a limited military capacity to seriously challenge Israeli domination. Her internal dynamics further impinge on her ability to forge and lead any Arab alliance, as she always had played a supportive role to the Egyptian leadership. Thus the prevalent strategic picture can be summarised as follows: ? With the dissolution of Soviet Union, no serious politico-military challenge to US-Israeli nexus exists in the region. ? With Egyptians neutralised from the hostile Arab alliance, there is no system of states/forces to construct a coherent front. ? The moderate oil rich states led by Saudi Arabia are providing the balance through a political, moral and material leverage on USA and the developed world. ? An isolated Iran has a certain capacity to disturb Israeli hegemony through its proxies in Syria - Lebanon and Palestine but it has limited strategic influence. ? Libya and Sudan; two out of area Pan-Arab players have been neutralised through prolonged coercion and isolation. The region is beset by internal ideological, political, socio-ethnic and sectarian divides. Almost all the states including Israel are ruled by minorities hoisted by the Cold War dynamics. They are not inclined to mobilise their masses who once energised can turn on their own regimes to avenge victimisation and inequalities. These systems therefore are constrained to seek outside support to remain in being. With a regressed Russia, uncertain EU and reluctant China, the zone suffers from lack of equilibrium with total advantage to Israel. The demise of the Soviet Union and consequent global unipolarity has damaged the strategic equation irreparably for a long time to come. The current US predilection for Israel's security and paramount ascendancy in the region had verged on issuance of a license to kill in the dying days of the Bush era. It has delivered the parting kiss of death to so many innocent Palestinians. It may well be the revenge for the shoe throwing insult hurled at Mr Bush in Iraq. The vendetta prone Zionists and their western surrogates have strange ways of taking revenge. To the Zionists all Arabs are contemptible sub humans. One cannot forget the Israeli leaders pronouncements about Arab people and their culture since five decades to fathom the depth of this hatred and paranoia. The cold-blooded haughtiness of Israel's foreign minister mirrors the past. The ineffectual rocket attacks by Hamas on the expiry of the ceasefire with Israel were unfortunately ill timed, ill conceived and presumptive. They should have understood the imperatives of the pre-veiling operational environment. Was Hamas enticed into it or did it fail to disassociate itself from this operational folly committed by some extremist fringe? Whatever the answer, it played directly into Israeli hands which created havoc with precious lives and civic infrastructure worth almost $1.5 billion. Having reached a strategic impasse both Fatah and Hamas must change their operational posture and start playing on the psycho moral pitch. On the political front, the Arab League must embrace Saudi King Abdullah's formula for peace which can become the basis for negotiations. But simultaneously, a broad based massive non-violent movement should follow the great tragedy and courageous resistance. The Palestinians must work hard to agitate and mobilise the Arabs, the Muslims and the rest of world at large in their support. It should, in essence, become a global moral response. Who will convince Israel to listen to reason? An effective challenge to her psychopathic behaviour can emerge from within. There are divergent and indignant voices from the native Jews (Sephardim), the intellectuals, the human and civil rights organisations and conscientious objectors. These voices of dissention can grow louder and stronger if encouraged. The newly elected Democrat US President Barack Obama with his Cabinet of talent and intellectual substances may adopt a more humanely nuanced approach to this tragedy. The universal moral backlash should gather momentum and help in alleviating the desperation, pain and anguish written on the face of Palestine in the short-term and correcting the strategic imbalance in the region in the long run. The writer is a retired major general, ex-chairman of the POF Wah and Pakistan Steel Mills, Karachi