Recent opinion polls in the West Bank reveal that a majority of Palestinians there approve of the current “knife terrorism” campaign and that most Palestinians would vote for Hamas if elections were held right now. This is no secret to the current (Fatah) leaders in the West Bank and one reason they support the knife terrorism so energetically and effectively. While Hamas is hated by the people of Gaza, West Bank Palestinians don’t experience that daily while they do endure the corrupt and inept rule of Fatah. The Fatah media campaign has also convinced most Palestinians it is Israel that is refusing to negotiate peace when in fact it is the Palestinians who turned down two peace deals in the 1990s and instead tried terror campaigns to get more. Both of these “intifadas” failed and Fatah has sold the illusion that the third intifada (the “knife intifada) will succeed. Since 2000 Palestinian media constantly pushed the idea that Israel has no right to exist and must be destroyed. Palestinians who disagree with this must either emigrate or keep silent. For most Palestinians its easier to praise the knife. The knife terrorism campaign has, in three months, left 22 Israeli dead and over 250 wounded. But 130 Palestinians have died (mostly in failed attacks). Palestinian media depicts unsuccessful attacks that result in attackers being killed or wounded as Israeli attacks against random (and innocent) Palestinians.
The Palestinian governments in the West Bank and Gaza are unique in that they openly boast, to their own people, of waging terror campaigns against Israel while managing to convince the rest of the world that it is not terrorism but simply self-defense. The two Palestinian governments are also at war with each other but they are much less willing to discuss that openly, except to tell their own subjects to tell that those other Palestinians are evil and up to no good.
The West Bank Palestinian government is the most outrageous in its approach to terrorism against Israelis. The West Bank leaders (the Fatah party), openly discuss tactics on Palestinian TV and radio, to keep their people informed on what they should, or should not do. For example, the current campaign that uses individual civilians wielding vehicles, rocks or knives to attack Israeli civilians (who are less likely to be armed or able to fight back that soldiers or police) is described as more effective that traditional methods. That, Fatah leaders explain, is because the international media defines terrorism as mass attacks (with explosives and guns) while civilians attacking with kitchen knives or their cars can be explained away as individual frustration at Israeli oppression. Less publicized is the fact that for every Israeli killed this way six Palestinians die. But Fatah has that covered as well because one of the bills that cash-strapped Fatah pays punctually are the monetary awards to those Palestinians who are wounded in these attacks. Larger sums are paid to those sent to prison and even more to the families of Palestinians who get killed. Some Western and Arab donors to the Palestinians have cut their aid as these payments for violence against Israelis gets more publicity. The Fatah leaders are working on that problem and when they come up with a solution they will get on Palestinian TV and let everyone know.
Fatah also appears to see these latest knife terrorism tactics as a long-term effort as there is more and more coverage of how to kill Israelis on Palestinian TV shows directed at young children. This is supplemented by special toys (a rock throwing doll) and videos of young children showing how to conceal and use a knife when attacking Israelis. Fatah sees children willing to kill and die as the salvation of the Palestinian cause (the destruction of Israel).
Israeli intelligence believes that over 30 percent of Hezbollah’s 20,000 trained fighters have been killed or wounded in Syria so far. Hezbollah is there at the request of Iran, which helped create Hezbollah (to protect the Shia minority in Lebanon) in the 1980s and continued sustaining the group with cash, weapons and technical assistance. The heavy losses in Syria were unpopular with Lebanese Shia and Hezbollah pulled most of its forces back to the Lebanon border and concentrated on keeping Islamic terrorists out of Lebanon. Iran took a huge popularity hit in Lebanon by forcing Hezbollah to enter the Syrian war in defense of the Assad government, which is hated by most Lebanese as well as most Syrians.
The Turkish Bounce
The war in Syria, in particular the recent Russian intervention, has had one tangible benefit for Israel. Turkey, long a foe of Russia and not happy with Russian troops fighting right on the Turkish border, has agreed to resume diplomatic relations with Israel. Since 2002 the Islamic government of Turkey has been battling Turkish secularists and trying to improve relations with other Islamic countries (including ancient rival Iran). This new policy meant adopting an anti-Israel attitude after decades of close relations with the Jewish state. In 2010 Turkish politicians backed themselves into a corner by supporting the Turkish radical group (IHH) that organized a convoy of ships that tried to break the Gaza blockade. Nine Turkish members of pro-Terrorist Islamic charity IHH were killed when they attacked Israeli commandos landing on one of the ships. Despite video evidence that the nine Turks attacked the Israeli commandos with metal pipes and knives, the nine are considered martyrs in Turkey and the Islamic politicians who run the government cut diplomatic (and many other) relations with Israel because Israel would not take the blame for the deaths of the nine Turks. Israel refused to do this, because it is politically impossible to take the blame when so many Israelis blame the Turks for supporting the Gaza flotilla, which was trying to open supply lines for Hamas, an organization openly dedicated to the destruction of Israel. The Turkish leaders also had a problem in that many Turks do not back IHH and blame Israel, including many commanders in the Turkish armed forces. Five years of strained relations because of all this was finally ended because the Turks found they have a real enemy next door in Syria and can no longer afford to maintain the illusion that Israel is a problem.
Scary Silence In Sinai
The Egyptian counter-terror campaign in Sinai is believed to have reduced the number of active Islamic terrorists (outside of Gaza) from 4,000 to a few hundred in the past few years. The decreasing number of Islamic terror attacks seems to attest to that. In the last few months the Sinai Islamic terrorists appear to have concentrated on finding better hideouts and reorganizing to better deal with the security situation. Egypt revealed that it had destroyed twenty Gaza smuggling tunnels in November. Since 2011 Egypt has shut down (and usually destroyed) over 2,000 of these tunnels. The Egyptians have also made it much more difficult to build new ones and keep them operational. Thus Gaza has been more isolated than ever before. In November the security forces also seized nearly 500 illegal firearms and even more other types of weapons (grenades, explosives). Most of these seizures took place along the Libyan border and in Sinai. Over the last two months Egyptian security forces have greatly reduced Islamic terrorist activity inside Egypt but Libya and Gaza are still an active source of Islamic terrorists and Egypt is unable to completely shut down this problem in either place. The situation in Gaza has calmed down sufficiently for Egypt to release over a hundred terrorism suspects arrested in Sinai.
The Libyan Lament
Egypt continues its tight border controls with Libya. Mainly Egypt wants to keep weapons and Islamic terrorists from entering Egypt and stop illegal migrants (some of them new recruits for ISIL in Libya) from crossing into Libya. Smugglers still get a lot of people and goods into and out of Libya using the fact that the 1,100 kilometer long border largely runs through thinly populated desert. The desert route is more expensive and many illegals cannot afford it. Egypt continues making public calls for international help, from anyone, to help stop the violence and chaos in neighboring Libya. Egypt has been making this appeal for most of the year. These appeals have, so far, been answered with silence. Egypt has carried out some unofficial air strikes but wants an “international effort” (at least one other nation besides Egypt) to carry out an open and official air support campaign. One of the two governments in Libya (the UN recognized one in Tobruk) also called for some international help and got the same response as Egypt. In the meantime Egypt has developed closer, and sometimes official, economic relations with the Tobruk government. This includes a recent deal to buy two million barrels of oil from fields Tobruk controls. Egypt probably got a big discount but this deal was probably worth over $50 million to the Tobruk government. Egypt has, since at least 2013, provided the Tobruk some covert military support (trainers, advisors, special equipment). That appears to be continuing.
December 19, 2015: In Damascus an Israeli missile killed a Hezbollah commander, Samir Kuntar. The next day four rockets were fired into northern Israel from Lebanon but did no damage. Israeli artillery responded. Kuntar was notorious in Israel where he was released from prison in 2008 as part of the swap that got Hezbollah to return the bodies of two Israeli soldiers killed in Lebanon. Kuntar was in prison for a 1979 terrorist attack in Israel that left a policeman and two civilians dead. Kuntar was hailed as a hero when he returned to Lebanon in 2008 and later joined Hezbollah. Kuntar was a rare Druze who became an Islamic terrorist. Thus he was seen as valuable to Hezbollah and the Assads for his ability to attract Druze support. However Israel is believed to have gone after Kuntar because he was suspected of working directly with Iran, not Hezbollah, to organize terror attacks inside Israel. For this reason a major revenge attack by Hezbollah is not expected. Many Syrian Sunni Arabs openly (via the Internet) thanked Israel for killing Kuntar who, as an agent of Iran, was seen as a threat to Sunnis as well as Israelis. Israel may have gained the needed information on exactly where Kuntar was from Sunni Arab rebels in Syria. Israel is on speaking terms with some of these groups, mainly to help keep the peace along the border. One rebel group (the FSA) took credit for killing Kuntar. It is also believed that Israel used an air or ground launched missile to get Kuntar in order to avoid possible trouble with the S-400 anti-aircraft missile system Russia is believed to have operational in Syria.
December 17, 2015: A rocket was fired from Gaza into Israel. There were no casualties or property damage. Israel fired back at the launching site. No one took credit for this rocket. This is the third such incident in December.
December 16, 2015: The United States issued another warning to Americans planning visits to Israel or the Palestinians territories. The knife terrorism there was still considered a threat to foreigners, especially Americans. Jerusalem was called a particularly risky place for American as was the West Bank and Gaza. Americans were warned to stay out of Gaza and some areas of the West Bank.
December 15, 2015: On the Gaza border a roadside bomb failed to harm Israeli soldiers who were passing by while patrolling the security fence. A Shia Islamic terrorist group (Al Sabirin) claimed responsibility. Hamas provides sanctuary for Al Sabirin because it is an Iran backed group that is dedicated to carrying out attacks against Israel. Hamas provides support in order to continue receiving cash and other aid from Iran. Al Sabirin was founded in 2013 and sought to recruit 400 men but has not been able to obtain even half that. The problem is that few Palestinians are Shia and not many are willing to convert for a job as a Shia Islamic terrorist. Iran has cut most aid to Gaza because Hamas supports the fight against the Assad government in Syria. This is necessary because most of the foreign aid Hamas does get is from Sunni Arab oil states. When Hamas gets too much pressure from Egypt or Israel about Al Sabirin violence some of the Shia terrorists will be arrested, and within a week, once things have quieted down, released.
December 13, 2015: Israeli warplanes bombed two Hamas facilities in Gaza after a rocket was fired from Gaza into Israel. There were no casualties or property damage.
December 10, 2015:
For the first time Israel is opening an officially recognized trade office in a Persian Gulf country. The UAE (United Arab Emirates) will host the office in Abu Dhabi. The Gulf Arabs are growing bolder in admitting their diplomatic, intelligence and economic relationships with Israel. In part this is because “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Israel is the official “worst enemy” of Iran which most Arab Gulf states regard as their most dangerous foe officially or unofficially. Since the late 1940s Israel has officially been the enemy of all Arab states because Israel defeated the Arabs in several wars as far larger Arab armies tried to destroy Israel and drive all Jews out of the region. Part of this campaign led to the creation of the “Palestinian people” in the 1960s and repeated assurances that the greatly outnumbered Israelis would eventually succumb to Arab might. That never happened and the Palestinians became notable only for their corruption and continued incompetence in dealing with Israel or each other. The Arab Gulf states, long the major financial supporters of the Palestinians, grew impatient with Palestinian failures, especially the inability to even form a united government. At the same time these wealthy Arab oil states were in need of a strong local ally. Israel has, for decades, offered to join a defensive alliance against Iran. In the 1990s unofficial (and very secret, to avoid popular Arab backlash) cooperation began. This grew as enthusiasm for the Palestinians declined.
December 8, 2015: In Egypt (northern Sinai) a roadside bomb killed four soldiers. ISIL was believed responsible as ISIL is one of the few Islamic terrorist groups still active in Sinai.
December 6, 2015: Israeli warplanes bombed two Hamas facilities in Gaza after Israeli military vehicles were twice fired on near the Gaza border over the weekend.
December 4, 2015: Egypt closed the main border crossing with Gaza after opening it for two days so that aid supplies and stranded (and verifiable) Gazans can return to Gaza and foreigners can leave. Egypt only opens the border crossings like this if Hamas cooperates. Israel has a similar policy.