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Predicting Mideast news in 2008

NBC News' Martin Fletcher takes a look ahead at what issues are likely to shape the ongoing conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians during 2008.
/ Source: NBC News

TEL AVIV, Israel —  So looking ahead, what lies ahead for this most volatile of regions in 2008?

Gaza has to be top of the list. It's an invasion waiting to happen. Israeli generals are itching to hit back at the militiamen firing Kassam rockets at Israeli towns; while the government would dearly like to destroy Hamas in Gaza and restore power to the Fatah party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Peace talks
The above would permit Abbas to talk peace with Israel on behalf of Gaza, in addition to the West Bank, giving him more strength and bargaining power, as well as credibility. Either way though, 2008 should see real progress towards a peace agreement, even if it's only on paper and is unenforceable. At least it will set guidelines for the future. And with President Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayad in the West Bank, at least Israel now has Palestinian leaders it can, by its own definition, talk to.

Israeli internal strife
As part of its commitment to the roadmap, Israel is obliged to close down illegal outposts in the West Bank. So far the government has managed to slide out of it, but this year could see serious strife inside Israel as Israeli troops battle Jewish settlers to clear out these so-called mountaintop outposts. Orthodox Israeli soldiers could well cause serious rifts by obeying their rabbis instead of their army officers.

Israel's former Prime Minister and military hero, or villain if you prefer the definition of his enemies, still lies unconscious, attached to machines. It's been two years. Surely his machine will be turned off in 2008?

More of the same?
In Israel, nobody is expecting peace, or miracles, or hoping for much of anything, beyond more stability.

But on the Palestinian side of the wall and fence that Israel is building along the length of the West Bank, and in Gaza, which is suffering from sanctions and enclosure, more of the same means only, eventually, more trouble.

Martin Fletcher is an NBC News' Tel Aviv bureau chief and lead correspondent. Click here to see how Martin's predictions for 2007 turned out.