Israel: It’s Complicated


December 13, 2022: Palestinian terrorism and violence is still a problem but not a critical one. Iran still threatens to launch a major attack from Lebanon or Syria but so far has been unable to do so. Lebanon has suffered growing economic decline and political chaos since 2019. Lebanese consider Iran the major cause and that makes Hezbollah less popular and effective. Israel has taken advantage of that by hiring more Lebanese to act as informants or agents. These jobs pay well and, for exceptional performers, it is possible to gain residence in Israel if the agent is under suspicion and at risk of arrest. Israel has used this program for decades but the number of agents was usually quite low. In times of great chaos in Lebanon, Israel expanded its network, then gradually reduced it as the situation in Lebanon calmed down. Iran has been a major disruptive force in Lebanon for two decades and is now hated more than Israel or Syria.

The new threat in the region is an increasingly aggressive Turkey. Currently Turkey is trying to restore its good relations with Israel. For over a decade an Islamic government in Turkey demonized Israel in order to gain support from Arab neighbors. That did not work and Turkey has to use force and coercion to subdue and exploit Arab neighbors. Reviving good relations with Israel is now a major goal. One reason for this is the fact that many Turks wanted to keep good relations with Israel and now a lot more agree with that. The Islamic party in Turkey and its leader Recep Erdogan are in danger of being voted out of office and every vote counts, especially those of pro-Israel Turks.

Meanwhile the Turks have become a major player in Syria, which has endured civil war for a decade and eventually brought in Iran, which spotted trouble-making opportunities. Iran then became a patron of the Shia minority government of Syria. It was only natural for Iran to come to the aid of the Shia Assad government when most of the Syrian population (Sunnis) went to war with the Assads. In 2015 Russia got involved as the Assads were its reliable partner in the Middle East. Then there was Israel, which Iran wanted to destroy but the Russians wanted to protect and Turkey was somewhere in the middle. Now Turkish and Russian mercenaries in Syria are fighting each other. Iran has become a major ally of Russia because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine earlier in the year. Turkey is trying to exploit this (Turkey and Russia have been rivals for centuries) and resuming diplomatic and economic ties with Israel is part of that. Historically, what is going on in Syria is an unnatural act. Russia, Turkey and Iran have centuries of mutual hostility and frequent wars defining their relationship. That made their alliance in Syria unusual and now things are returning to the usual state of mutual hostility and competition. Russia and Turkey want Israel on their side while Iran only wants to destroy Israel. Since the 1980s Iran has been misruled by a religious dictatorship that prefers a state of perpetual war with Israel and the United States until these two “enemies of Islam” are destroyed. The Iranian population has grown increasingly hostile to their religious dictatorship and currently another revolution is a possibility to replace the religious dictatorship with a true democracy.

The only real threat for Israel is Iran and Israel has been at war with Iran in Syria for nearly a decade. Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes and a few commando operations against Iranian operations in Syria. This has cost Iran a lot of lives and money and is one of things restive Iranians want to halt by pulling Iranian forces out of Syria and Lebanon. But first the Iranians have to shut down the Iranian religious dictatorship, which is expected to put up a fight rather than shut down.

Internally, Israel has made itself a very hostile arena for Islamic terrorists. Palestinian terrorists are another matter. The problem is that while some Palestinians want to negotiate a two-state deal with Israel, the radical factions want to destroy Israel, to the exclusion of any other relationship. Dealing with the radical factions is a problem in most Moslem majority states and has been for over a thousand years. Add to that their high and chronic levels of corruption and you have an extremely difficult situation for Israel.

The major obstacle to any peace deal was Palestinians insisting on Israel recognizing "right of return without discrimination." That means that the Palestinians who fled the newly formed Israel in the late 1940s, and their millions of descendants, can return to Israel and get all their abandoned property back. Israel would also have to pay compensation. While most of those original refugees are now dead, many Palestinians would not return, but enough could do so and change the demographic composition of Israel, turning it into a country with an Arab majority. This, for both the Palestinians and Israel, is the equivalent of “destroying Israel." Palestinian governments in the West Bank (Fatah) and Gaza (the more radical Hamas) refuse to consider compromise on the Arab Return issue and now demand that the only solution is to kill or expel all Jews from Israel so that Arab refugees can return. The neighbors (Arab and Turkish) don’t want a radical Palestinian government taking over Israel by force and have become increasing open about opposing the Palestinian radicals. This helps but doesn’t solve the problem.

For Egypt Hamas, Islamic terrorists and drug smugglers are mutual problems that Israel and Egypt have come to corporate with each other to deal this these things. The Islamic terrorists, especially ISIL, and the smugglers are under control. Hamas is another matter. After nearly a decade of trying to work with Hamas, Egypt switched to the Israeli approach of isolating Hamas in Gaza and treating the ruler of Gaza as a hostile neighbor. Hamas does not want to destroy Egypt but would like to see a radical Islamic government in charge. Most Egyptians do not want that and tolerate imperfect democracy as a livable alternative. There’s a similar situation in Jordan and, at one time, in Lebanon. Syria has always been hostile, in part because of its Shia minority dictatorship.

Israel is more comfortable with industrialized nations. Israel is a major source of innovative solutions when it comes to tech, medical care and military matters. That has made Israel a major trading partner with Europe and the United States as well as an unofficial member of NATO.

December 12, 2022: Iran has completely halted financial support for Arab some of the Arab terrorist organizations that survive on Iranian financial support. Some Iran backed groups in Gaza and Lebanon have been unable to pay their personnel or rent on facilities they use.

December 11, 2022: In southern Syria (Damascus) Hezbollah has been moving weapons from warehouses near the airport to ones that are more heavily fortified and four kilometers from the Israeli border. These new storage bunkers are guarded by Hezbollah gunmen in Syrian army uniforms and the bunkers identified as belonging to the Syrian military. The immediate Israeli response was to attack a Syrian air defense radar in the area and near the Jordan border. Israel aircraft also dropped pamphlets throughout areas near the Syrian border warning Syrian troops to stop aiding Hezbollah or Iranian operations if they want to avoid Israeli airstrikes or command raids.

December 10, 2022: Israel ordered an unannounced three-day training exercise that included 5,000 reservists and 8,000 active-duty conscripts. These exercises usually assume an Iranian or Iranian sponsored attack from Lebanon or Syria. The training exposes the troops to the problems involved getting to the combat area and deploying. This is not as simple as it looks when so many troops are involved. Which route each unit uses and the possibility of disruption by traffic jams or enemy fire often means problems during the exercise. In addition to the troops, supplies have to be moved up as well. There are several of these exercises each year and most are a little different and involve a different combination of troops. Some involve close coordination with the air force. The troops' units are trained to be adaptable. The army plans these exercises and keeps the details and timing secret.

December 7, 2022: The Lebanese government says that over the last three years they have arrested 185 Lebanese on suspicion of being Israeli agents. Before 2019 there were only four or five of these arrests a year. Israel never comments on this and the increased arrests are either the result of increased Israeli espionage in Lebanon, or the Lebanese looking for someone to blame for all the economic problems Lebanon has suffered since 2019. Most local and foreign observers blame these problems on government corruption and incompetence.

December 6, 2022: French Rafale jets completed several days of joint familiarization exercises over Israel with Israeli F-16s. The Rafales arrived on a French aircraft carrier off the Israeli coast. These joint training exercises have become more common and Israel has become something of an unofficial member of NATO. This often means sharing a lot of its F-35I knowledge with NATO nations. Israel not only has to deal with Russian aircraft and electronic systems in Syria but an even more dangerous threat from Iran. NATO air forces are eager to share some of the Israeli experience.

December 5, 2022: In the West Bank Israeli security forces carried put several operations to arrest various wanted terrorists. Most of the arrests were made without any violence but in some cases, Palestinians attacked the Israelis and this resulted on one Palestinian killed and six wounded by return fire.

December 4, 2022: In the south (Gaza) Israel carried out an airstrike against an underground Hamas rocket workshop where rockets were assembled and stored. There were large secondary explosions as the Israeli missiles detonated in the underground facility. Hamas had assembled a large (for them) number of anti-aircraft guns and missiles near the bombed facility. These weapons fired at the Israeli aircraft but caused no damage. The Israelis usually remain high enough to avoid the anti-aircraft fire and launch missiles or guided bombs at targets.

December 3, 2022: In the south (Gaza) Hamas fired several rockets into southern Israel. None of them caused any injuries or damage. This was the first Hamas use of rockets against Israel since early November.

December 2, 2022: In the West Bank a civilian stabbed a Border Police officer. The attacker was killed.

December 1, 2022: In the West Bank someone fired at an Israeli bus but none of the Israelis on the bus were injured.

November 30, 2022: In the West Bank Israeli security forces killed the local leader of the Gaza-based Islamic Jihad leader as well as a leader of the local al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.

The United States confirmed that Abu al-Hassan al-Hashemi al-Quraishi, the leader of ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) was killed in Syria a month ago by U.S.-backed Kurds. ISIL said it had selected a new leader but would not reveal his name. ISIL has fallen on hard times since founder (in 2014) and first leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in 2019. His successor lasted until 2022 and the next leader lasted less than a year, as he was killed in October. The new ISIL leader is probably less experienced than his predecessors. Founder Baghdadi was the most talented ISIL leader and his successor was nearly as competent. After that name recognition and leadership skills declined considerably. There are still thousands of ISIL members in the Middle East, Africa and Asia but they have become more of a local nuisance than a major threat.

November 23, 2022: In Jerusalem two terrorist bombs went off in difference locations within half an hour. The bombs had been placed in concealed locations and apparently detonated remotely. The explosions killed one civilian and wounded 18 others. No one has claimed responsibility.

In southern Syria (Damascus) a roadside bomb killed Iranian colonel Davoud Jafari, an IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) technical adviser on aerospace matters. Iran blamed Israel for the bomb and no one claimed responsibility. Iran openly said it could retaliate against Israel. Iran upgrades to anti-aircraft defenses around Damascus and Jafari appears to have been involved with that.

November 22, 2022: In the West Bank three Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces. The Israelis were seeking to arrest some wanted terrorists. Some Palestinians resisted the arrests. So far this year about 120 Palestinians have died in the West Bank during clashes with Israelis.

November 19, 2022: In northwest Syria (Latakia and Hama provinces) Israeli air strikes destroyed several Iranian targets, most of them warehouses for storing newly arrived weapons. Four Syrian soldiers died and one was wounded.

November 13, 2022: In central Syria (Homs province) an Israeli airstrike on an air base killed five Syrians, two of them soldiers.

November 12, 2022: Turkey refused to deport several members of Hamas after Israel requested they do so in order to reduce the Hamas threat to Israel. Turkey does not regard Hamas as a terrorist group. This indicates that Turkey wants to be a mediator between Israel and the Palestinians. Complying with the Israeli request would have made mediation impossible. Nevertheless, sentiment in Turkey is that the Turkey-Israel reconciliation will continue because it is based on common geopolitical interests. This includes economic, energy and security interests. In other words, the Iranian threat, trade and developing offshore natural gas mean Turkey and Israel have good reasons to cooperate. This was demonstrated in October with the appointment of a Turkish ambassador to Israel.

November 9, 2022: In the West Bank three Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces carrying out two raids seeking to arrest suspects.

In eastern Syria (Deir Ezzor province), a convoy of 22 Iranian operated fuel trucks was hit by a UAV air strike shortly after crossing into Syria from Iraq. At least ten people were killed, all of them Iranian. No one took credit for the attack and that leaves Israel, which has been using such UAV attacks in Syria against Iranian forces. The trucks were headed for Lebanon and some were believed to contain weapons.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close