Disagreements between the American and Israeli governments took a turn for the worse as the U.S. quietly released a classified 1987 report on the Israeli nuclear weapons program. The existence of that program is no secret, but details are. No more. The U.S. also announced that unless Israel did what the American government wants and agrees to a peace deal with the Palestinians the U.S. might no longer support Israel in the UN (and thus allow the Moslem nations to push through anti-Israel resolutions). The recent reelection of the Israeli government that disagrees with the U.S. on Iran and the Palestinians angered many senior American officials and despite the U.S. being generally pro-Israel many American politicians are coming to agree with their European counterparts that Palestinian calls for the destruction of Israel and track record of violating previous agreements is not as important as Israel leaving the West Bank and allowing an independent Palestinian state to operate. The Israelis point out that they did that in Gaza and look how that turned out. Western leftist politicians insist it will be different this time but to most Israelis this is a matter of life or death and every day the many Israelis who understand Arabic can tune into Palestinian and Arabic media and hear calls for the destruction of Israel, no matter what it takes. That includes pretending to make peace as a tactic to weaken and eventually destroy Israel. This is not fringe stuff in the Arab world but very mainstream, often government produced and distributed. As much as Israelis would like peace with Palestinians and Arabs in general, the other side makes it clear that real peace is not possible and ultimately only the destruction of Israel will do. Many Western politicians and voters simply cannot accept this and insist it is all a misunderstanding.
The U.S. and Israel are also divided by what the Israelis see as an American effort to reduce pressure on Iran over the Iranian nuclear program in return for more cooperation in defeating ISIL. The Arab countries openly back Israel in this dispute and fear America might leave them at the mercy of a nuclear-armed Iran. Israel points out that their Arab and Western critics would, and do, respond as Israel does when attacked by nearby terrorists but that fact is ignored when it comes to Israel. Well, not completely. Many Arabs, especially Arab diplomats who know a lot about Israel and the Palestinians, privately agree with the Israelis. But to openly point out the reality of the situation in the Moslem world will get you death threats, or worse. In the West it’s safer to point out the obvious although in leftist political circles the pro-Palestinian supporters can be loud and even a little violent at times. In Europe this has led to more tolerance of anti-Semitic violence and more European Jews moving to Israel (and elsewhere). The anti-Israel situation in Europe is largely the result of millions of Moslems moving to Europe (often as refugees) in the last few decades. The Moslems tend to cluster together and leftist politicians seek the support of Moslems by backing positions favored by Moslems (like the destruction of Israel). The leftist politicians are often placated by introducing, or just supporting, anti-Israel proposals in the UN. These have little chance of passing, but show Moslem voters in Europe that they are being served.
While Arabs cannot speak out in support of Israel (or even cooperation with Israel against common enemies), such cooperation continues and since the 1980s has grown. Saudi Arabia has always been the major supporter of greater, and open, cooperation with Israel. It’s an open secret that this relationship exists, has existed for decades and continues to be useful for both Arabs and Israelis. This is especially true when it comes to common enemies like Islamic terrorists (especially ISIL) and Iran. Israel wants the Arab states to go public about these relationships but because of decades of anti-Israel propaganda most Arabs would violently protest against any Arab government that admitted the truth of the Arab-Israel relationship. Yet there is progress, however slow, towards openness about the Arab-Israeli cooperation. This can be seen with the Arab battles with ISIL and Iran. Israel has apparently made itself useful in both areas, including the recent Saudi intervention in the Yemeni civil war. Despite all this quiet cooperation, no Arab government has yet dared to contradict the popular myth that ISIL was the creation of the U.S. and that somehow Israel is secretly allied with Iran against the Arabs. Israeli cooperation with the Iranian monarchy (before the Islamic revolution of 1979) is offered as proof. For these Arab fantasies there is always some kind of proof.
The Israeli border with Lebanon has been quiet since January, although Hezbollah is making more threatening noises. On the Syrian border there have been no direct attacks across the border and even the stray bullets and mortar shells are less frequent. But al Nusra (an al Qaeda affiliate) Islamic terrorists have taken control of most of this border and Hezbollah personnel have been seen there as well. Israel has been accused of collaborating with al Nusra by treating some badly wounded al Nusra men. This is apparently more of an arrangement to gain information and a peaceful border. Ultimately al Nusra wants to destroy Israel and they are not giving that up.
In early March the Palestinian government (PLO) in the West Bank said it was going to stop security cooperation with Israel. This was in response to Israel withholding tax payments. That was in response to the PLO trying to join the ICC (International Criminal Court) so that it could better agitate for prosecuting Israel for war crimes (basically anything Israel does to defend itself against Palestinian terrorism). The withholding of $127 million a month makes it impossible to pay the many PLO civil servants. It’s these thousands of jobs that keeps the PLO in business because otherwise Palestinians regard the PLO leadership as corrupt and inefficient. In reality there was no interruption in security cooperation, apparently because the Israeli security and intelligence forces are very useful to the West Bank Palestinian government which is under constant attack by Hamas supporters and various other political enemies or simply Palestinians who had been cheated by the notoriously corrupt West Bank bureaucrats who get first shot at the millions Israel is withholding.
The U.S. also has rocky relations with Egypt, which many American leaders see as reverting back into a pre-2011 corrupt dictatorship. Because of that perception the U.S. is withholding military aid. Egypt calls for the restoration of this aid because Egypt is in the midst of fighting Islamic terrorists, especially in Sinai and the Libyan border.
The Egyptian anti-terrorism effort, which is most active in northern Sinai, killed 173 Islamic terrorists in February and more than that during the first three weeks of March. While some of these deaths are the result of ambushes, bombs and assassinations, most occur during the frequent raids in Sinai on known or suspected Islamic terrorist bases or hideouts. There have also been substantial seizures of weapons, vehicles and equipment along with documents and data taken from laptops and cell phones. In addition to terrorist and (far fewer) security force deaths, as many as a hundred civilians a month are dying, either as collateral casualties in a terrorist attack (or military air strikes or artillery fire) but mainly from Islamic terrorists seeking to intimidate civilians to back the Islamic terrorists or at least remain neutral (not report Islamic terrorist activities to the police).
Egypt, looking to strengthen its military muscle, has placed an order for 24 Dassault Rafale Fighter Jets. Egypt has a long history of buying from the French and currently have some 100, Mirage V’s and Mirage 2000’s, in service. These two predecessors to the Rafale have served the Egyptian air force well, seeing action most recently in the 2014 bombing of Libya. But these Mirages are getting old and will have to be retired within the next ten years. Egypt has a large force of American F-16s, but the U.S. has lots of rules that prevent some countries from buying more and the rules change all the time. France is less judgmental when it comes to selling warplanes.
Nearly 50,000 Egyptians have left Libya since February to escape the growing Islamic terrorist violence there. This flight was triggered by a February 15th ISIL video showing 20 Egyptian Christians (Copts) being beheaded on a Libyan beach. Many Egyptians still work in Libya doing jobs Libyans will not or cannot do and being paid for with oil income. Before the 2011 revolution over a million Egyptians worked in Libya. But the growing chaos in Libya has sharply cut oil production and many Egyptians are returning because they are losing their jobs or not getting paid. Since mid-February Egypt has declared war on ISIL but has not carried out any more air strikes against ISIL targets in Libya since February.
March 26, 2015: Egypt announced it had joined a coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, to crush the pro-Iran Shia tribal rebels in Yemen. Most of the hundred or so warplanes that launched attacks on Yemen today were Saudi. The coalition currently consists of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Sudan, Morocco, UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar. The United States is openly providing logistical and intelligence support while Israel is quietly providing intelligence and other forms of assistance. Egypt is contributing some warplanes and warships as well as several thousand troops. Saudi Arabia already has over 150,000 troops on the Yemen border, many of them very near the areas where the Shia tribes live. There are similar Shia tribes on the Saudi side of the border, but these Shia have been quiet throughout the years of Shia unrest in northern Yemen. Israel has a keen interest in the success of the Yemeni intervention because of the threat to Israeli access to the Red Sea. If the Shia rebels took Aden (the largest port in Yemen) they would have the ability to block the entry to the Red Sea (via Mandab Strait), through which passes over three million barrels of oil a day and lots of trade for Saudis Arabia, Israel and other nations that border the Red Sea. Shia rebels entered a smaller port near these straits a few days before the Saudi intervention but so far the Red Sea access threat has been theoretical.
March 23, 2015: Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia have finally agreed to resolve their dispute over Ethiopia’s Blue Nile River Grand Renaissance Dam project. Egypt is concerned about its water supply. Ethiopia wants to produce electricity. Sudan also has water worries. The nations released few details but the Ethiopian government said that it will not disrupt the river’s flow. Downstream countries (like Egypt and Sudan) will receive priority on electricity.
March 17, 2015: In a hotly contested Israeli election the current hardline government held on to power. While much was made of the Palestinian issue in the election, it was really about economic issues. We think in general but we live in detail.
March 14, 2015: In Egypt 41 judges were ordered to retire after being accused of being pro-Moslem Brotherhood. Most of these judges only protested the military ousting the elected Moslem Brotherhood candidate elected president in 2013. Since then a retired general has been elected president and he is rebuilding the police state that was overthrown in 2011. This has included sentencing hundreds of Moslem Brotherhood members to jail or execution for the violence that followed the 2013 coup. The current government is urging all government employees to seek out and expose any Moslem Brotherhood members who are government employees.
March 10, 2015: A video appeared on the Internet showing a 10 year old ISIL “cub” shooting a kneeling foreigner in the head with a pistol. The executed man was a 19 year old Israeli Arab accused of spying for Israel. That is not completely unlikely but the Israelis don’t usually recruit men this young or unreliable. The executed man was reported by his family to have joined ISIL in October 2014. His family opposed the move and stayed in touch via sell phone and the Internet. In early 2015 the family discovered that their son had been imprisoned by ISIL for trying to leave. Apparently someone at ISIL thought they could make something of this by accusing the teenager of espionage and executing him on video. ISIL is all about grabbing media attention but in this case they are not doing much to increase recruitment among Israeli Arabs or Palestinians. French later identified the ISIL man in the video as a French citizen who had been arrested for Islamic terrorist activity before.
March 9, 2015: There were several explosions in Gaza, believed related to Hamas rocket building and testing. Israel denied any involvement with the explosions. Four Hamas men were said to have been wounded.
March 7, 2015: Off the Gaza coast Israel opened fire on four Palestinian fishing boats that had moved away from the legal fishing zone and refused Israeli calls to halt and turn around. One Palestinian was killed before the four boats turned around. Smuggling is very lucrative and the Israelis have made it very difficult to smuggle anything in via the sea. But Palestinians keep trying. The Egyptian Navy also has trouble with Palestinian boats but usually just arrests the offenders.
March 6, 2015: In Jerusalem a Palestinian drove in car into a group of people near a police station and injured four policemen and a civilian. He resisted arrest and was shot and wounded before being subdued.