8 TORCH / Fall 2006 The Volatile Middle East By Frank Jenista, Ph.D. I mportant events have changed the Middle East over the past year — the victory of the radical party Hamas in Palestinian elections, a month of open warfare between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon, determined pursuit of nuclear technology by Iran, and continuing conflict in Iraq. The consequences are potentially enormous, and future directions are unclear. Let’s take a brief look at the major players and what may be ahead. Israel Last year, then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon took the dramatic step of removing Israeli troops and settlements from Gaza, handing control over to the Palestinian Authority as part of a “land for peace” strategy intended to create two states, Palestine and Israel, living side by side in peace and security. Despite this major Israeli initiative, rockets continued to be fired into Israel from Gaza, and radicals tunneled under the border to kidnap an Israeli soldier, resulting in Israeli attacks on radical leaders, the arrest of Hamas party members, and the breakdown of any progress toward a two-state solution.