Clouds of War: The Year Ahead for Israel

On its northern border, Israel watches Hezbollah regroup and grow in power after last summer's four-week war.

On its southern border near the sea, chaos reigns in Gaza - one of the world's chief collecting points for terrorists and weapons.

To the north and east is Syria, stocked with chemical weapons and eager to make mischief against Lebanon and Israel.

And finally, from the Persian Gulf sits Iran bidding to be nuclear, dedicated to Israel's destruction, and eager for the Islamic re-conquest of Jerusalem.

Just five months from now, Israel will mark the 40th anniversary of the six-day war, when Israeli soldiers expanded the nation's borders and put Jerusalem under Jewish control for the first time in 2,000 years.

In 2007, Israel's enemies will try to advance their jihadist plan to take back Jerusalem and Israel for Islam.

At the forefront is Iran, which funds Islamic terrorist groups and militias, and by the account of most experts is one to four years away from making nuclear weapons.

"Israel would like to see sanctions imposed on Iran before it tests a nuclear device. But in addition to pessimism about the effect of those sanctions, Israel is also planning for the possibility they may go at it alone militarily against Iran and launch a military strike. And that day may come," said Yaakov Katz, military reporter for the Jerusalem Post.

Iran's proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah, is now the strongest political force in the country. Israel's military sees the re-arming of Hezbollah from the Syrian border, but can do little about it.

"One way to stop that would be bomb the trucks, bomb the convoys," said Katz. "But there would be major diplomatic backlash as a result of that, which Israel at this point isn't able to risk."

While some in Washington call for dialogue with Israel's enemies, some Middle East analysts, such as author and lecturer Michael Widlanski, warn that such a move would send the wrong signal.

"If we try to placate Syria and Iran, it'll be like trying to placate a fire by throwing more twigs on the flames. The fire isn't gonna be convinced, it'll just get bigger," said Widlanski.

Widlanski says the Islamists are feeding off of the perceived defeats of the U.S. in Iraq and Israel in Lebanon.

He said, "In this neighborhood, the perception of strength is strength. And if you are perceived as being weak, you will be mugged; you will be attacked; you will be raped. And so the most important thing you can do to protect yourself is not to avoid a fight, but to project a perception that you can defend yourself and your interests."

Israel's next big problem may be its nearest one: Gaza and the West Bank.

Tons of high grade explosives and other materials have arrived through tunnels such as the ones one group of Israeli soldiers found on the Egyptian border.

And Hamas, with its large supply of rockets and inspired by the success of Hezbollah in Lebanon, is building a 10,000 man army and digging in for a fight.

"We saw in the summer in Lebanon a major series of underground reinforced bunkers that were used by the Hezbollah to launch attacks against Israel," said Katz. "Hamas is trying to do the same: to dig and build these bunkers in the Gaza strip, prepare for war against Israel."

Widlanski asked," So who's going to stop Iran? Who's going to stop Syria? Who's going to stop Hezbollah? Who's going to stop Hamas? Is the whole world with its billions of people waiting for six million Israelis to do the job for it?

In 2007, the answer to all of those questions may be "yes."