Israel: All Quiet On The Southern Front

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June 5, 2014: Egypt is again ruled by a military man (Abdel Fattah al Sisi), much to the relief of Israel. Many Egyptians (especially Moslem Brotherhood fans) boycotted the recent voting. Thus only 47 percent of registered voters turned up and 97 voted for the former general. In 2012 deposed (a year ago) presided Morsi won with 51.2 percent of the vote (by 52 percent of registered voters).  Sisi won 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. To make that removal stick some 1,400 have died since then, mostly Morsi supporters and Islamic terrorists operating in the Sinai Peninsula. The Islamic terrorists oppose Sisi for the same reasons as Morsi supporters but do not cooperate with them. 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.

Sisi becoming president brings the revolution full circle as the long-time dictator Mubarak, ousted in 2011, came out of the army, as have so many other corrupt and long-serving Egyptian rulers. The army has recovered nicely since the 2011 unrest and is now grabbing control of even more of the economy. The army insists that it controls less than one percent of the economy. But the network of former officers in management positions (and able to decide what their companies do with their money and operations) indicates the military has links to over a third of the economy. These officers take care of each other and support the continued power of the military in Egypt.

In Egypt the election of a former general to be the new president means that the corrupt businessmen who had backed and benefitted from the military dictatorship for decades retain their economic and political power. These wealthy families used their economic clout to ensure that another general became the next leader. The army regained its political power in large part because the Islamic and secular rebel groups spent too much time going after each other. Indeed, the biggest problem Egypt has with these dictatorships is not just the single dictator running things but that the small segment of the population that kept the dictator in power and were well rewarded for doing that and usually able to survive a revolution. These privileged groups were not eager to flee or give up their wealth. The dictator's supporters always strive to retain or regain their power. The Old Order has substantial economic and political resources and is willing to use them to retain power and wealth. This often works, especially in the Arab world.

Meanwhile far to the north a growing number of Syrian rebels, and pro-rebel Syrian civilians are beginning to suggest the unthinkable; seek an alliance with Israel. For over half a century nearly all Arab states have waged a military (not successful) and media (increasingly successful) campaign to destroy Israel. But many Syrians have noted that their own government has done far more harm to the Syrian people than Israel ever did. It’s been noted that if you bring a badly injured Syrian to the Israeli border the Israelis will provide medical aid and, especially for women and children, take the injured to an Israeli hospital and return them to the border when they are well. Israeli warplanes have carried out several attacks on Syrian government efforts to move advanced weapons to Lebanon. While this is done to prevent those weapons from being  used by Hezbollah, which is based in southern Lebanon, it also reminds Syrians that the Israeli Air Force can do pretty much whatever it wants to do in Syrian air space. If the rebels were allied with Israel the rebels could finally get some air support. The Israelis could also provide more access to logistical and medical support (paid for largely by the Arab and Western nations already backing the rebels). Despite obvious difficulties (like death threats from Syrian rebels who still believe all the anti-Israel propaganda) such an arrangement would go a long way towards achieving a long-sought peace deal between Israel and Syria, at least if the rebels won. It is unlikely to happen.

Meanwhile an interesting trend in Arab media is the growing number of articles, letters-to-the-editor and online comments that points out some obvious (but unpopular) truths about the Arab world. These include certain obvious facts; that most Moslem victims of violence are killed by other Moslems and despite over half a century of animosity towards Israel by a larger, and because of oil income, quite wealthy Arab coalition, Israel not only still exists but thrives compared to its Arab opponents. By every measure the much reviled Jews have done better than the Arabs. Until recently Arabs openly discussing these truths faced arrest or violence (often fatal) from those opposed to freely talking about a lot of forbidden subjects. But after decades of living the lies more and more Arabs, including many leaders and senior business, government and religious officials are mentioning the unmentionable. This discussion often includes pointing out those Arab states that seem to be doing better; like Dubai and some other states the UAE/United Arab Emirates. It then follows that the successful Arab states are much less corrupt, better run and, well, more like Israel (but without lots of Jews). It’s an interesting trend.

June 4, 2014: Two mortar shells were fired from Syria into Israel. An Iron Dome anti-rocket attempted to intercept one of the shells but missed. In any event the two shells caused no injuries but did start a brush fire. This was the first use of Iron Dome in the north (Syrian and Lebanese borders). Israeli intelligence believes the two shells were not deliberately fired into Israel and were part of a celebration by Syrian troops who had recently driven rebel forces from much of the Israeli border.

June 3, 2014: In the West Bank soldiers took into custody a Palestinian man who approached an Israeli base while holding a knife, a Palestinian flag and shouting “God is Great.” Earlier in the day Israeli warplanes hit Islamic terrorist targets in Gaza. This was in retaliation for several rocket attacks from Gaza in the last two days. So far this year at least 150 rockets and mortar shells have landed in Israel. Nearly all of these came from Gaza, where Hamas is supposed to suppress such activity in accordance with a ceasefire agreement. Hamas insists it tried (which it does, up to a point) to control the other Islamic terrorist groups in Gaza but was unable to prevent all misbehavior by these rival (and much smaller) Islamic terrorist groups.

Turkey put ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) on its list of international terrorist organizations. ISIL is run by Iraqis and earlier this year was expelled from al Qaeda and declared (by most other Islamic terrorist groups) to be an outlaw organization). ISIL operates mainly in eastern Syria and western Iraq.

In the West Bank a Palestinian opened fire on an Israeli checkpoint and wounded a policeman. Return fire killed the Palestinian.

In Egypt former head of the army Abdel Fattah al Sisi was declared the winner of the May 26-28 presidential election.

Elsewhere in Egypt (Sinai) police found and disabled a bomb found near a security facility while also destroying seven more smuggling tunnels into Gaza.

June 2, 2014: Hamas and Fatah have sworn in their new unity interim government. Israel sees this as a ploy to hurt Israel by getting Hamas out from under international sanctions and condemnation for its Islamic terrorist activities. Thus while the new “unity government” has taken over the administration of Gaza, Hamas retains its military bases and control over the 20,000 security personnel they have put on the government payroll since 2007 (when Hamas took control of Gaza and expelled Fatah). The new unity government is to hold elections in six months to select a new parliament and the group with the most seats will form a new government. This will be the acid test. Both Hamas and Fatah believe they can win, but only one side will and the loser will likely refuse to accept the outcome and the Palestinians will again be divided. That’s the assessment of most Israelis, but many in the Arab world and the West are more optimistic. In the meantime Israel plans to deal with the interim government as a potential threat, no matter what outsiders say or demand. Israel backs its attitude by pointing to the public discussions going on in Gaza (where many Hamas hardliners disagree, very strongly, with this “unity government” approach) and the West Bank (where the Fatah controlled media is full of officials discussing what a splendid scam this “unity government” idea is.)

Several rockets were fired from Gaza and Syrian into Israel. There were no casualties.

June 1, 2014: A rocket was fired from Gaza into Israel. There were no casualties. This was the first such attack in a week.

In Egypt (Sinai) troops arrested three men and accused them of using sniper rifles for months to kill or wound soldiers and policemen. These snipers have been energetically sought because of the increasing effectiveness of their attacks. Elsewhere in Egypt (on the Libyan border) six border guards were killed when they were intercepted by some armed and quite aggressive Libyan smugglers. Police believe this was a deliberate attack by a large smuggling gang upset about several recent border police actions against smuggler convoys trying to get into Egypt. Bribes don’t work as well as they used to because the smugglers are often bringing in weapons which are sold to gangs and Islamic terrorists who are fighting the security forces on a regular basis.

May 30, 2014: In Egypt (Cairo) a bomb killed an Islamic terrorists who was transporting the device on a motor bike to be used against a nearby police station.

May 29, 2014: In the West Bank a Palestinian man approached an Israeli checkpoint wearing a suicide bomb vest. He tried to conceal it under a jacket but it was a hot day and the jacket made Israeli police suspicious. The police ordered the Palestinian to halt or be shot (before he could get close to the checkpoint) and the bomber did so and surrendered. If the bomber had been successful this would have been the first suicide bomb attack in the West Bank since 2008.

May 28, 2014: The latest American funding ($176 million) for Iron Dome comes with a catch . T he United States insists that the portion of U.S. made components increase to 30 percent this year and 55 percent in 2015. Currently about three percent of the Iron Dome components are made in the United States. Building more of the components in America is no problem because Israel worked with American suppliers to design and develop many of the Iron Dome components. This demand that more American aid money be spent in the United States is nothing new. The U.S. has been doing it for years and the persistent unemployment in the United States led Congress to insist that more of the several billion in annual military and economic aid to Israel be spent in the United States. The Israelis don’t like it, but the aid is needed and it is free.

May 27, 2014:  A recent opinion poll showed that most Israelis do not believe the Palestinians really want peace and that a real peace deal with them is not possible. This attitude is the result of having access to Palestinian electronic media, which makes it quite clear that the goal of Fatah and Hamas is the destruction of Israel, not any kind of permanent peace. Nearly all Israelis believe most of the international media is pro-Palestinian.

May 24, 2014: In Egypt (Sinai) a bomb killed one Islamic terrorist who was apparently getting it ready for use. Another Islamic terrorist who was there lost his arm and was arrested.

May 22, 2014: In Egypt (Sinai) police found a car with four men inside, all dead from recent gunshot wounds. Police identified one of the dead as wanted Islamic terrorist leader Shadi al Menei. The Sinai based terrorist gang he was thought to lead later claimed that Menei was not dead and was not the group leader. This situation remains murky. Police believe the four dead men were killed because of some kind of personal or Islamic terrorist feud. Elsewhere in Egypt (Cairo) a bomb killed two Islamic terrorists who were apparently getting it ready for use.

May 21, 2014: In Egypt (Sinai) a bomb attack left one dead and six wounded.

May 20, 2014: In Egypt (Sinai) troops called in an air strike that left six Islamic terrorists dead. Egypt uses F-16s, smart bombs and guided missiles to support ground troops.

May 18, 2014: Israeli troops conducted several raids in the West Bank and arrested 13 people. This raids are a regular occurrence (usually several times a month) and are carried out because of intel about new terrorist groups getting organized or planning attacks on Israel. A lot of the intel comes from Palestinians (both officially via Fatah and unofficially via informants hired by Israel). Meanwhile, despite the recent reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, Fatah controlled police continue to arrest Hamas activists (or tip off the Israelis to do it for them).

May 16, 2014: Near the Libyan border angry (at not getting paid) militiamen freed 250 Egyptian truck drivers who were detained the day before in an attempt get their late wages. The militia men apparently received convincing assurances that the money was on the way. It is common for senior officials to steal wages for subordinates (and blame it on someone, or something else.)

May 15, 2014: Many of the Syrian government forces that defeated the rebels in the central Syrian city of Homs are now being moved to the Israeli border, apparently seeking to clear that area of rebels.

Violent demonstrations in the West Bank (to commemorate the Arab defeat in the 1948 war to destroy the newly declared state of Israel) led to two Palestinian teenagers being shot dead. No one knows who did it although the Palestinians are accusing the Israelis. An investigation is under way.

 

 

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