JERUSALEM, Israel - Israel's strike into Gaza just days ago changed the complexion of the Middle East. What effect this will have on the region will be one just of the major questions for the coming year.
When Enough is Enough
After seven years of nearly daily rocket attacks from Gaza, Israel finally said it had had enough.
"No country in the world would have tolerated what the State of Israel did for seven years," Danny Seaman, director of the Government Press Office, said. "A quarter of a million have for this past seven years been under duress, under almost daily barrage of missiles. No country would accept the violation of its sovereignty."
Israeli planes struck dozens of Hamas targets and delivered a major blow to the Islamic group committed to the destruction of the Jewish state.
One Nuke Away…
But Hamas represents just one of Israel's enemies. Iran is just a nuclear bomb away from changing the Middle East landscape. A U.S. intelligence report says Iran could have the capacity to build one nuclear bomb by the end of 2009.
"This is the most dangerous Iranian regime in history and if they get nuclear weapons and Iran attaches those weapons to the high speed missiles they already have, Iran could do in six minutes what it took Adolf Hitler almost six years to do and that is to kill six million Jews," said best-selling author and Mideast analyst Joel Rosenberg.
If true, Israel must decide within months whether it can and should attack Iran's nuclear facilities - and do it most likely without the blessing of the Bush and Obama administrations.
After dealing with Hamas on its southern border, Israel might have to deal with another one of Iran's proxies on its northern border.
Hezbollah in Lebanon, armed with 40,000 missiles, can now reach almost every part of Israel.
Israel's Political Landscape
In the midst of these security threats, Israel plans to hold elections on February 10.
For weeks polls showed former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had the best chance to win, but the recent incursion into Gaza may help two of Netanyahu's main challengers: Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
If the Gaza campaign reduces the threat of Hamas, then Israeli voters might turn their support to both Livni and Barak.
Yet whoever is elected may face a hard diplomatic shove for a Palestinian state from Europe and perhaps from Washington.
With a diminished Hamas, Washington might increasingly look to the Palestinian government of Mahmoud Abbas as their answer to a two-state solution.
The Russian Bear Rises Again
From the north, Israel faces another ominous development, a more aggressive Russia.
"They've been providing the Syrians and the Iranians with very advanced weapons for about three years," said author and columnist Caroline Glick. "So Russia has been playing an increasingly negative role in the Middle East from an Israeli perspective."
At War with an Ideology
Meanwhile, after the 2008 slaughter in Mumbai, security forces in all western-style democracies will be on guard for the next big target in the jihadists' global war against the West.
Jonathan Spyer is a senior fellow at IDC Herzliya.
Spyer explained, "It's gonna mean standing firm and not being taken in by the illusion that dialogue and concessions are possible to these organizations, to the idea that these organizations only want us to be a little nicer to the Palestinians or a little bit nicer in Kashmir or a little bit more conciliatory elsewhere."
"That's not the issue," he said. "This is an ideology. It's an ideology that's right now on the way up. It's an ideology that's at war with the West."