Israel: Fanatics All Around

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May 16, 2012: In Syria the revolution against the Assad dictatorship continues, with Islamic terror groups playing a larger role. Several recent suicide bombings were the work of Sunni Arab terror groups, and these outfits will expect some favors (sanctuary and the freedom to launch attacks on neighboring countries, especially Israel). The border with Israel is heavily guarded but Syria has long prevented terrorist groups (enjoying sanctuary in Syria) from launching rockets into Israel. That could change in a post-Assad Syria and, at the very least, would be a major topic for negotiation between Israel and the new Syrian government. As with Egypt, there's the possibility that the rebellion in Syria might turn into an extended civil war. That could send thousands of refugees in Israel's direction. There would be international pressure to take some of the refugees for humanitarian reasons.

May 15, 2012: A rocket fired from Gaza landed harmlessly in southern Israel. Meanwhile, Hamas officials in Gaza publically called for more vigorous efforts to kidnap Israeli soldiers, so that each of these Israelis could be exchanged for hundreds of Palestinians held on terrorism charges.

May 14, 2012: In northern Lebanon armed factions backing different sides in Syria fought a battle that left five dead and over a hundred wounded. The Lebanese army stood aside as pro-rebel Sunni Arab gunmen fought Alawites supporting the Alawite Assad family of Syria.

May 13, 2012: In the Sinai peninsula an Egyptian soldier was killed by an old landmine. There are over 10 million mines and unexploded munitions in the Sinai as a result of three decades of hostility between Israel and Egypt.

In return for increased Hamas support in security matters, Israel has allowed more Gaza exports out. Unlike smuggled goods, legit exports are easier to sell in international markets. Egypt has said it would open its border but has not done so because many Egyptian security officials warn that this could increase terrorism and other crime inside Egypt.

May 11, 2012: In Egypt a large demonstration against the caretaker military government (in front of the Defense Ministry) left one dead (a soldier), 370 wounded, and 170 arrested. Many Egyptians believe the military is using its temporary powers to manipulate the elections (via blocking some candidates and later falsifying election results) to gain victory for pro-military candidates. The military is one of the most corrupt institutions in the country but survived last year's revolution by backing the rebels at the last minute and allowing the Mubarak dictatorship to fall. But many Egyptians want to elect a new government that will go after the many corrupt military officers. Israel is less concerned with a new government cancelling the 1979, peace treaty than one that allows anti-Israel terrorists to base themselves in Egypt. A more immediate problem in Egypt is the collapse of the economy last year, because of the revolution and the many investors who pulled their money out of the country because of the uncertainty. Some of that money was stolen (as the result of decades of government corruption) and was moved for fear of post-revolution prosecution and confiscation. The threat of more unrest and prosecutions scared off legitimate investors and many of the tourists who are such a large source of jobs. Egypt has very little oil and gas and a large population supported by a culture of corruption that cripples economic growth. Israel fears chaos in Egypt, the kind of conditions that encourage anti-Israel terrorism.

A rocket fired from Gaza landed harmlessly in southern Israel.

May 10, 2012: The Hamas leadership in Gaza publicly announced that it would not automatically attack Israel if Israel bombed Iranian nuclear facilities. This is all about Sunni Arab oil money (from Saudi Arabia and its neighbors) replacing Iranian support. The Shia Iranians were never all that popular among the mainly Sunni and much more secular Palestinians of Gaza. The Gulf oil money is also trying to buy a peace deal between Palestinians and Israel but there is a lot more resistance to that. Palestinian media in Gaza and the West Bank continue to call for the destruction of Israel and praise terrorists who kill Israeli civilians. The Palestinians refuse to tone down this 24/7 hate campaign, which makes it quite clear that any peace negotiations are really just a ploy to help destroy Israel. Meanwhile, Hamas is serious about achieving some kind of truce with Israel, if only to improve the Gaza economy and reduce the growing popular anger against Hamas. To that end Hamas formed a special "anti-rocket force" in March. The 300 policemen assigned to this unit try to prevent smaller Islamic terror groups from firing rockets and mortar shells into Israel. This has led to a decline in such attacks but some still take place. Hamas refuses to attempt the destruction of these smaller groups. Such an effort would make Hamas a pariah among Islamic terror groups, something Hamas cannot afford.

May 8, 2012: A rocket fired from Gaza landed harmlessly in southern Israel.

The prime minister surprised everyone by forming a new coalition government with his conservative Likud and the rival centrist Kadima party. Normally the parliamentary elections do not give any of the main parties a majority (needed for form a government) and a coalition with several minor parties is used to form a government. That has led to problems with the increasingly unpopular demands of the several small religious conservative parties. Over the last few decades these "Haredi" parties have obtained many benefits, like exemption from the draft and generous welfare payments (so men can spend all their time with their religious studies and religious activism). This has allowed the religious parties to grow stronger. Haredi are now 12 percent of the population and demanding laws restricting the movement and dress of women and enforcement of their ultra-strict religious rules on everyone. Most Israelis see this as the kind of religious fundamentalism that causes so many problems in Moslem countries and want no part of it. The new coalition government is expected to reverse decades of government benefits for the Haredi, and this will cause loud and violent public protests by the religious radicals. There might even be violence, as more and more Haredi are favoring violence to achieve religious goals.

 


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