While Israel considers Iranian nukes the biggest threat the Israeli military considers Hezbollah and Islamic terrorists in Syria (al Qaeda and ISIL) to be the most immediate threat. Hezbollah is again threatening to attack Israel, in large part of divert attention (in the Moslem world) from the fact that Hezbollah forces are killing lots of fellow Moslems in Syria and Iraq. As happened in 2006, Hezbollah might carry out attacks (to kill or capture Israelis) along the Israeli border could trigger another war. Israel believes (and openly states) that Hezbollah has about 100,000 Iranian supplied rockets pointed south. Satellite and aerial photos were recently made public that showed Hezbollah building rocket storage and launching facilities inside Hezbollah controlled villages near the Israeli border. Israel indicates if attacked it will bomb these facilities despite the presence of Lebanese civilians. These fortified villages also have bunkers for Hezbollah fighters as well as firing ports for machine-guns and anti-tank missile launchers. Meanwhile Hezbollah accuses American warplanes of providing support for ISIL forces in Syria and Iraq. No proof is provided and accusations like this are common (and often believed) throughout the Arab world. Many Arabs consider ISIL an American and/or Israeli creation, Many Iranians continue to openly (in Iranian media) insist that the CIA and Israel were responsible for the September 11, 2001 attacks. While some Arabs agree with this most prefer to believe that all the attackers were Arabs (most, in fact, were Saudis).
Israel has sent more troops to their Syrian border lately as Hezbollah fights to force al Nusra rebels away from the border. Israel is more concerned with Hezbollah than al Nusra (who has been more willing to enforce a temporary truce with Israel). While Hezbollah leaders make speeches about attacking Israel, they tell their military commanders and political operatives that ISIL and al Qaeda are the biggest immediate threat. This is one thing Hezbollah and Israeli military leaders agree on.
The 130,000 Israeli Druze (an Islamic sect considered heretical by most mainline Moslems) are pressuring Israel to rescue Druze living across the border in Syria if those Druze are persecuted by ISIL or other Islamic terrorists. Either that or help these Druze get into Israel and provide refuge. Druze are the only Arabs subject to conscription in Israel and many of those serving in the Israeli military agree that Israel should help the Syrian Druze living near the Israeli border. Despite their small numbers (less than two percent of the population) Druze serve as career military and in elite combat units more frequently than Jewish Israelis. In 2012 the 20,000 Druze living in the Golan Heights (captured from Syria in 1967) openly turned against the Syrian government. Before that most (over 80 percent) of these Druze refused the offer of Israeli citizenship. Since 2012 many more have applied. The Syrian government had long treated the Syrian Druze well, as long as they supported the minority Alawite dictatorship that ruled the country. The increasing violence against all demonstrators, including some Druze, in Syria turned normally pro-Syria Druze and Hamas against the Assad dictatorship. But many Druze (mainly older ones) still harbor positive attitudes towards the Assad dictatorship in Syria. Meanwhile since 2011 Israel has provided medical treatment to over 1,600 badly injured Syrian civilians (some of them Druze) and rebels.
The Iranian nuclear threat is not just an Israeli problem. The U.S. and many other Western nations are pressuring Iran to agree to halt its nuclear program. Israel has made it clear that it will only accept true compliance and verifiable proof that the Iranian nuclear weapons program is shut down. The latest Iranian demands regarding inspection (advance warning and none in military facilities) is in direct conflict with Israeli demands (which are backed by many Americans and Europeans). Iran (backed by Russia) also insists that sanctions not be automatically re-imposed if Iran is found in violation of the treaty. So after much diligent negotiating there is really no agreement. The sanctions remain in place. The Iranian negotiators believe that if they can get any sanctions lifted the West would have a more difficult time restoring them because of Iranian misbehavior. The U.S. now openly admits that the “military option” is still available if sanctions do not succeed in getting the Iranian nuclear program shut down. Israel keeps saying the same thing.
In addition to nukes, Iran already has plenty of ballistic missiles and is building more. Nations across the Gulf in Arabia are buying more anti-aircraft weapons that will stop ballistic missiles. There is one major flaw in all this. The Americans point out that all those Patriot (in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar and Kuwait) and THAAD (on order for UAE with Saudi Arabia Qatar considering it) anti-missile systems could be a lot more effective if they were part of a joint system. At that point the United States could add its Patriot batteries and Aegis equipped ships stationed in the Gulf to the joint system. Adding Israel would be useful for all concerned but that is unlikely to happen, officially at least, any time soon. Meantime the Israelis are the only ones with long range missile warning and tracking radars. This Arab aversion to cooperation led to none of them seeing a reason to buy long range radars. The Americans point out that the Iranians are certain to exploit this lack of coordination and that gets the attention of the Arabs, who have a long history of Iranian aggression carried out using clever and diabolical methods. Cooperation is unlikely right away, but the current attempt has a better chance of succeeding than past ones. Iran being close to getting nukes and increasingly open about its plans to conquer the Arabian states has created an atmosphere of desperation in Arabia. From desperation comes willingness to try anything, even cooperating with your neighbor.
While Israel was not asked to join the international coalition against ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) when it was formed in 2014, it was already accepted that Israel was regularly cooperating with many Arab states in counter-terrorism efforts. Israel was not allowed to join the anti-ISIL coalition because the ten Arab members of this twenty country coalition are still trapped by decades of their own “Israel must be destroyed” propaganda and rhetoric. Many Arabs now regret this rigorous anti-Israel policy but it has become a part of Arab culture and very difficult to change or even discuss openly. While many middle-aged and older Arabs are still inclined to be anti-Israel this is not the case with a growing number of younger Arabs. A recent poll of young (18-24) Arabs in 16 Arab countries found that the respondents listed their top four obstacles to the Middle East as ISIL (27 percent), terrorism (32 percent), unemployment (29 percent) and Israel (23 percent). The respondents were given fifteen obstacles to choose from so that total responses added up to 235 percent as those taking the survey could list all of the items they felt relevant. Many did not list Israel at all. Similar surveys over the last decade have shown a trend in the decline of younger Arabs blaming Israel for Arab problems.
In Gaza Hamas has imposed a new “luxury tax” on imports (legal or smuggled). This is very unpopular because Hamas defines luxuries very broadly and many food items and household essentials are subject to the tax. Hamas has always had money problems but their fiscal crises has gotten worse as Egypt continues to block access (because Hamas provides sanctuary for anti-Israel Islamic terrorists). Then there is UN, Western and Arab aid donors pressure on Hamas to stop diverting aid to military uses. Hamas refuses to stop, especially the rebuilding of military tunnels in Gaza and into Israel. Meanwhile Israeli military leaders responsible for the Gaza border are asking, unsuccessfully so far, for permission to attack the tunnels headed for Israel before they reach Israel itself. Despite all this Israel has agreed to allow massive amounts of construction materials into Gaza in return for UN assurances that UN inspectors would monitor where the stuff goes. This is to see if the UN will do anything when confronted with obvious evidence of Hamas diverting construction materials to military uses. No one expects this to work as Hamas has made it clear that any aid groups that interfere with Hamas activities will be expelled for “anti-Palestinian” activities and denounced as Israeli puppets. This has worked in the past, and will probably continue to work until everyone (Gazans and aid groups) get angry enough to confront Hamas over it. More Gazans are angry at Hamas, really angry. Often Gazans are angry enough to join the Israeli informant network. While this pays well, it can get you killed if Hamas catches you. Despite its unpopularity in Gaza, Hamas is gaining more adherents in the West Bank. Gaza residents believe that is because Hamas does not run the West Bank and the Palestinians there are not reminded every day how corrupt and cruel Hamas is.
Meanwhile Hamas supporters in the West Bank find themselves under more pressure from local (Fatah controlled) government to keep quiet and behave. Many Hamas supporters believe only force (including terrorism) will overthrow the corrupt (much more so than Hamas) Fatah government of the West Bank. Fatah response has been so widespread and sometimes violent that some Western aid organizations in the West Bank are demanding that Fatah go easy on the Hamas backers.
Egypt has become a lot more friendly towards Israel since 2014. Egypt needs all the friends it can get. While Egypt is now officially at war with Islamic terrorists in Libya and Shia rebels in Yemen, the government is not eager to actually do anything. That’s because the security forces are still needed to deal with Islamic terrorists and political opposition that is allied with some of the terror groups. This makes Egypt a more cooperative ally of Israel, who share an Islamic terrorist threat in Gaza.
The newly elected Egyptian government is not accepted by all Egyptians and is seen by many as similar to the corrupt and incompetent Mubarak dictatorship overthrown in 2011. On a more basic level the country is broke and dependent on foreign donors to keep functioning. The two major donors are the United States and the Arab Gulf states. The Americans don’t want Egypt invading Libya and the Arabs want assurances that if the situation in Yemen gets really bad they can depend on some Egyptian troops. So far the Egyptian leadership has been able to keep its two major donors happy by saying much (about despicable terrorists in Libya and evil Shia rebels in Yemen) and doing as little as possible. Some Egyptian warships are helping to blockade Yemen (and held safeguard ships headed to and from the very lucrative Suez Canal).
Egypt has no legal economic interests in Libya but some Libyans complain that many of the illegal migrants coming through Libya on their way to Europe are being helped along by corrupt Egyptian border police. It’s not surprising that the border police can be bribed as these are the same border police that worked for Mubarak. Actually, most of the security forces are men who long worked for Mubarak and are as corrupt and undisciplined as ever. The 2011 revolution shocked the police and many found it prudent to behave for a few years. But now the bad habits have returned and the government is not cracking down on pro-government media that report on this bad behavior.
May 26, 2015: Despite the August ceasefire another rocket was fired from Gaza into Israel and landed near Ashdod, some 20 kilometers from Gaza. This was the third rocket fired since the ceasefire and Israeli warplanes responded by hitting four Islamic terrorist training camps in Gaza. There were no casualties on either side and Hamas responded in an unusual fashion by arresting some members of the group believed responsible. Israel is also pressuring Hamas to make good on promises to station Hamas guards on their side of the Israeli border to prevent Palestinians from getting too close to the border fence (to try and cross, to place a bomb or simply to harass Israeli patrols). The Israelis shoot at these Palestinians and that sort of thing happens every month.
May 24, 2015: In Jerusalem two Arab teenagers threw a firebomb at a home. One of the attackers was identified by security video and soon arrested. The other attacker is being sought.
Egypt announced that it would contribute ground troops to deal with the Yemeni rebels if necessary. This is a change in policy as before Egypt said it would only send in ground troops if Iran attacked Saudi Arabia. The Saudis are not confident in the ability of their ground forces to win a quick and decisive ground battle in Yemen. Anything less would reflect badly on the Saud family which created the kingdom in the 1920s after years of victories by the pro-Saud tribal warriors. It has always been assumed by most Saudis that Saudi troops were still capable of kicking ass. To discover otherwise would stir up internal opposition to Saud family rule of the kingdom. It has been known (in Saudi Arabia and throughout the region) for decades that the Saudis had lost their military edge. But because of all that oil wealth the Arab language media has not dwelled on the situation.
May 23, 2015: In Jerusalem an Arab teenager stabbed two Jewish teenagers. The attacker was identified by security video and soon arrested.
May 21, 2015: Iran openly threatened to attack Israel, using the pro-Iranian Hezbollah militia in southern Lebanon. Iran says that Hezbollah now many Iranian rockets aimed at Israel. This announcement was in response the recent Israeli release of aerial and space satellite photos showing Hezbollah moving fighters, headquarters and equipment into residential areas in order to provide more protection from Israeli air attack. Hezbollah has made such moves in the past before carrying out major attacks on Israel.
May 20, 2015: Israeli customs inspectors discovered a shipment of 120 rings from Turkey, headed for a distributor in the West Bank, that were adorned with ISIL symbols and slogans and obviously intended for ISIL fans. The rings were seized and the counter-terrorism services alerted. The importer was notified that he had 30 days to appeal the seizure.
May 19, 2015: Israel recently ordered $1.9 billion worth of smart bombs from the U.S. This order mainly consists of JDAM (22,000 kits for 500, 1,000 and 2,000 pound bombs).
May 16, 2015: In Egypt a court gave former (deposed in 2013) president Mohamed Morsi, and 105 of this supporters, death sentences for trying to turn Egypt into a religious dictatorship and using violence to help make that happen. In 2012 Morsi won with 51.2 percent of the vote (by 52 percent of registered voters) to become president. Within a year millions of Egyptians were in the streets protesting Morsi (and Moslem Brotherhood) attempts to rewrite the constitution and turn Egypt into an “Islamic republic.” A former general (Sisi) won the next election mainly because he was seen as responsible for forcibly removing the ineffective (in reviving the economy) and unpopular Moslem Brotherhood from control of the government in July 2013. Making that removal stick has led to over 1,500 have dead since then, mostly Morsi supporters and Islamic terrorists operating in the Sinai Peninsula. Some 20,000 (or more) Moslem Brotherhood members are in jail. About 3o percent of the dead have been soldiers and police, which has made the counter-terrorism effort into a quest for vengeance by the security forces. Attacks on soldiers and police continue but the security forces are fighting back and the attacks diminish as more and more of the most violent opposition groups are taken apart. This is how Egypt defeated a major Islamic terrorist uprising in the 1990s. But that victory did not cure the disease, it only addressed the symptoms. Egypt is still looking for a cure.
Hours after Morsi was condemned to death (a sentence that will probably never be carried out) four judges driving to northern Sinai were ambushed by Islamic terrorists and three of the judges were killed. Islamic terrorists are increasingly attacking judges and other government officials in an effort to get the government to back off on its counter-terror efforts. The military recently reported that in the last seven months nearly 750 Islamic terrorists had been killed, most of them in Sinai.
May 14, 2015: In northern Gaza there was an explosion at a Islamic terrorists training camp that left at least fifty wounded. Locals report that an unexploded Israeli missile from the 2014 war was found and some people were trying to disarm it. A crowd gathered to watch and that’s why there were so many injuries.