American officials continue to seek ways to restart peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel. Behind this is the growing debate about how to deal with Palestinian duplicity. Palestinian Arabic language propaganda is decidedly hostile to any peace deal. The message Palestinians see every day is that Israel must be destroyed and that going through the motions of peace talks can be used as a tactic to weaken Israel. Many academics, journalists, and government officials in the West refuse to believe the Palestinian duplicity and insist that under the right conditions permanent peace can be achieved. Most Israelis no longer believe this, as they have experienced decades of Palestinian duplicity and terrorism. But in the West, the reality of Palestinian goals is not acceptable politically and is often simply ignored.
Israel believes the civil war in Syria is being prolonged by Iranian and Russian support for the Assad dictatorship and Western refusal to back the rebels with military support. This help is being withheld because so many of the most powerful rebel factions are openly Islamic radicals. Western nations do not want to risk giving money or weapons that will end up in the hands of the Islamic radicals and eventually be used to do violence against the West. So Israel continues to move more military forces north and is building a better security barrier along the Syrian border. Israel believes that the Assads will eventually fall and that then there will be a showdown between the Islamic terrorist rebels and the majority (over 80 percent) of Syrian rebels who do not want an Islamic dictatorship.
Israel is asking the United States to halt weapons shipments to Egypt until something can be done about the violently anti-Israeli attitudes of the newly elected leaders of Egypt. Even the new Egyptian president, Mohammed Morsi, has been seen on video making “Israel must be destroyed” speeches as recently as 2010. The U.S. believes they can persuade Morsi to change his attitudes now that his Moslem Brotherhood is in power. Morsi is going through the motions of making such a shift in attitude but still talks to his followers as if nothing has changed. Meanwhile, Morsi is acting more and more like just another Egyptian dictator. This has triggered a growing number of demonstrations against the new government. Although the Moslem Brotherhood has long talked democracy, they are having a hard time getting one to work in Egypt.
Meanwhile, the Egyptians are having growing problems with the Islamic radicals in Gaza, some of them hostile to the new Egyptian government and wanting a more strict Islamic dictatorship right now. It’s not just talk, and the Gaza backed groups have branches inside Egypt, particularly the Sinai desert which surrounds Gaza. In response to this, Egypt is seeking to halt weapons smuggling into Gaza. In the past month at least one weapons shipment a week is intercepted, and the Egyptians have begun flooding smuggling tunnels to reduce the flow of weapons into Gaza and terrorists coming out into Egypt.
Meanwhile, Israel and Hamas are holding mostly secret talks in Egypt. The Moslem Brotherhood is trying to broker a more lasting and effective ceasefire deal between Hamas and Israel, as well as protection for Egypt from Islamic terrorists based in Gaza. While the Egyptian Moslem Brotherhood hates Israel, they are more concerned with being attacked by even more radical Islamic groups. The Egyptians also have to face serious economic problems brought about by continued unrest and hostility to the new government by many in the business community. The Moslem Brotherhood has to get the economy going, and that won’t happen without peace at home and more foreign assistance (investing in Egypt and buying Egyptian exports). For the last two years chaos and uncertainty in Egypt has driven away foreign trade (including many tourists) and put more Egyptians out of work. This is not what Egyptians expected when they risked their lives to overthrow the Mubarak government.
February 15, 2013: In Bulgaria police raided the hotel room of Hama officials who had arrived two days earlier for meetings with Bulgarian officials. Bulgaria said there was no record of such meetings and the Hamas officials were expelled. Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by the European Union.
February 14, 2013: In the West Bank three Palestinians were arrested when an AK-47 was found in their vehicle. There is growing violence between Palestinians and Jewish settlers in the West Bank. The settlers take extraordinary security measures but illegal settler vigilante groups attack nearby Palestinians and that perpetuates a cycle of retaliation. The main difference is that the Palestinians always attack with the intention of killing someone, while the settlers avoid killing anyone. Palestinian terrorist groups are also frustrated that they cannot easily get into Israel, so the settlers make the next best target.
Israel admitted that in February 2010, it had secretly imprisoned an Israeli with dual Israeli-Australian citizenship and that the man (Ben Zygier) had committed suicide in an Israeli prison later that year. All this was kept secret, which is usually done when it involves espionage, especially Mossad (Israeli external espionage) agents providing information to a foreign country. This sort of secrecy in cases like this is common in most of the world but not in many Western democracies, where a free press is able to dig out more and more details. The whole story on the Zygier case has yet to be revealed and may take years for it all to come out. Meanwhile, there will be a lot of speculation, some of it entertaining and most of it wrong.
February 9, 2013: A car bomb went off in Tel Aviv, wounding two people. This was apparently part of a war between two criminal gangs.
February 5, 2013: Bulgarian investigators issued their report on the terrorist bombing of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria last year. The Bulgarians agreed with an earlier Israeli investigation that the attack was carried out by the Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist organization. Hezbollah is a Shia radical group that is obsessed with destroying Israel and turning Lebanon into a Shia religious dictatorship. The two main suspects involved appear to be hiding out in Lebanon, where Hezbollah controls the southern part of the country. Authentic Australian and Canadian passports were used by the attack planners to get in and out of Bulgaria. This reminded everyone that for decades, Hezbollah has strived to establish members overseas, especially in Canada and Australia, where legitimate passports could be obtained by Lebanese born migrants and then used to help carry out international terror attacks. Canada has discovered that there are thousands of their passports held by people who spend most of their time outside of Canada. Israel and Bulgaria also want the EU (European Union) to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization. The U.S. and Israel have already done this, but local politics and anti-Israeli attitudes have prevented such a move in Europe. Hezbollah called the Bulgarian report part of an international conspiracy to defame Hezbollah.
February 4, 2013: Israeli raids in the West Bank arrested 23 Hamas members, including three members of the Palestinian parliament.
February 3, 2013: Israel admitted that it had sent warplanes to bomb Syria last week and that the raid was to prevent Hezbollah from getting more capable Russian-made anti-aircraft systems from Syria. Israel indicated that it would continue raids like this as long as Hezbollah stood ready to attack Israel again.