Israel: Arabs Abandon Palestinians

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June 16, 2015: The Palestinians feel betrayed by Saudi Arabia for recently going public about the long-term, but secret (or at least not admitted) Saudi security relationship with Israel. Now the Saudis and Qatar are openly working on more cooperation deals that will not be secret. The Palestinians should not have been surprised at this move because the oil-rich Arab Gulf states have long urged the Palestinians to unite and negotiate a peace deal with Israel. The Jordanians and Egyptians are living proof that such deals work to the benefit of all concerned. The continued division of the Palestinian into Hamas and Fatah factions and apparent unwillingness of the both of them to really cooperate or try to make peace with each other and Israel has many Arab states giving up on their support of the Palestinian cause which, according to both Fatah and Hamas, is the destruction of Israel. The Arab donor states are also angry at the continued corruption and mismanagement and how that cripples the effectiveness of billions in aid donated to the Palestinians. Given the growing threat from Iran the Arab Gulf states have done the math and concluded that they need Israel more than they need divided, corrupt and uncooperative Palestinians.

Egypt has become a lot more friendly towards Israel of late. This really began in 2014 when Egypt found itself at war with Islamic terrorists in Libya. Now Egypt is also at war with Shia rebels in Yemen. In both cases the Egyptians are not eager to actually do anything but have to ready for the worse. That’s because Egyptian security forces are still needed to deal with local Islamic terrorists (and political opposition that is allied with some of the terror groups). This makes Egypt a more cooperative ally of Israel, who share an Islamic terrorist threat in Gaza.  The newly elected Egyptian government is not accepted by all Egyptians and is seen by many as similar to the corrupt and incompetent Mubarak dictatorship overthrown in 2011. On a more basic level the country is broke and dependent on foreign donors to keep functioning. The two major donors are the United States and the Arab Gulf states. The Americans don’t want Egypt invading Libya and the Arabs want assurances that if the situation in Yemen gets really bad they can depend on some Egyptian troops. So far the Egyptian leadership has been able to keep its two major donors happy by saying much (about despicable terrorists in Libya and evil Shia rebels in Yemen) and doing as little as possible. Some Egyptian warships are helping to blockade Yemen (and held safeguard ships headed to and from the very lucrative Suez Canal).

Israel is closely watching their Syrian border lately as Hezbollah battles al Nusra rebels for control of the areas adjacent to Israel. Hezbollah is losing this struggle. Israel is more concerned with Hezbollah than al Nusra (who has been more willing to enforce a temporary truce with Israel). While Hezbollah leaders make speeches about attacking Israel, they tell their military commanders and political operatives that ISIL and al Qaeda are the biggest immediate threat. This is one thing Hezbollah and Israeli military leaders agree on.

For Israel the one big problem with al Nusra is that they are allied with ISIL and both these groups, especially ISIL, are very hostile to Druze (an Islamic sect considered heretical by most mainline Moslems). Over a hundred Druze have already been murdered by Islamic terrorists in Syria and there is a sense of desperation. The 130,000 Israeli Druze have been pressuring Israel for over a year to rescue Druze living across the border in Syria if those Druze are persecuted by ISIL or other Islamic terrorists. Israel has apparently agreed to help but the details are still being worked out. The solution could be either allowing Syrian Druze into Israel and provide refuge or moving into the border areas where the Syrian Druze live and establishing a “safe zone.” This would preserve the lands of Syrian Druze and not turn them into refugees, but would also be more expensive (in cash and lives) for Israel by establishing a new border. Israel is willing to do something for the Syrian Druze because the Israeli Druze are the only Arab Israeli s subject to conscription and many of those serving in the Israeli military agree that Israel should help the Syrian Druze living near the Israeli border. Despite their small numbers (less than two percent of the population) Druze serve as career military and in elite combat units more frequently than Jewish Israelis.

In 2012 the 20,000 Druze living in the Golan Heights (captured from Syria in 1967) openly turned against the Syrian government. Before that most (over 80 percent) of these Druze refused the offer of Israeli citizenship. Since 2012 many more have applied. The Syrian government had long treated the Syrian Druze well, as long as they supported the minority Alawite dictatorship that ruled the country. The increasing violence against Druze in Syria has turned these normally pro-Syria Druze against the Assad dictatorship. But many Syrian Druze (mainly older ones) still harbor positive attitudes towards the Assads.  The growing and very real threat from Islamic terrorist groups has managed to unite the Syrian Druze in agreeing to work with their fellow Druze in Israel and cooperate with the Israelis. Because Israel trusts its own Druze it is willing to let Israeli Druze ensure that an alliance with Syrian Druze does not lead to Islamic terrorists getting into Israel. It’s only a matter of time before Israel acts on this matter. Meanwhile Israel has asked the United States to get involved as well but there has been no response yet. In contrast the leaders of the more than 200,000 Lebanese Druze insisted they needed no help from Israel, but did not offer to help their fellow Druze in Syria. This is local politics at work because Hezbollah is, in theory, as hostile to Druze as ISIL or al Qaeda. But in practice Hezbollah has not attacked the Druze as long as the Lebanese Druze at least appear to support Hezbollah.

June 14, 2015: In Egypt Islamic terrorists used explosives to bring down several electricity transmission towers and cut power to several hundred thousand people.

June 13, 2015: Egypt has opened the Rafah border crossing with Gaza for three days. Some 15,000 Gazans signed up for an entry permit. Since 2013 this crossing, the only legal one from Gaza to Egypt, has been closed most of the time because Hamas continues to provide sanctuary for Islamic terrorists in Gaza, including groups that make attacks in Egypt. Hamas has always denied this but the Egyptians believe they have overwhelming evidence that Hamas is lying. Egypt does open the Rafah crossing periodically, usually for three days at a time, so Palestinians can do some shopping or take care of other chores (like obtain medical care.) It is understood that if any terror attacks in Egypt can be traced back to these Rafah access periods the crossing will be open much less frequently and for shorter duration. So far Hamas has maintained tight screening on its side of the crossing, as have the Egyptians on their side and there have been no problems. Despite that this is only the second time this year that the Rafah crossing has been opened and this time it’s mainly to allow Gazans to prepare for the annual holy month of Ramadan. Meanwhile Egypt continues to search for and destroy smuggling tunnels between Gaza and Egypt. This effort has been very effective. There are still tunnels but they are much more expensive to build (because of a buffer zone the tunnels have to be longer) and tend to be discovered and destroyed quickly. This makes it much more expensive to smuggle anything, or anyone, through the tunnels. The Egyptians believe that Islamic terrorists use the tunnels to get in and out of Gaza and, most importantly, to move bombs built in Gaza to Egypt where they kill Egyptian soldiers, police and civilians.

On the plus side Hamas is trying to build on the action of an Egyptian appeals court earlier this month that reversed an Egyptian February declaration that Hamas was a terrorist organization. Hamas called on other Arab states to protest this and attempt to reverse what Egypt was doing but that appeal failed. Most Arab states agree with Egypt that Hamas uses terrorism and supports other groups that do so. This appeals court ruling was not popular in Egypt.

Hamas is trying to rebuild its relationship with Egypt and Israel by going after the more troublesome Islamic terrorist groups based in Gaza. Of the most concern are the growing number of such groups that declare they are now part of ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant).  Such groups are openly at war with Israel and Egypt (and most other Arab governments in the region, as well as Iran and Turkey).

June 11, 2015: The missile alert system sounded alarms in Ashkelon (a city of about 120,000 on the coast 16 kilometers north of Gaza) when a rocket was spotted coming out of Gaza. The warning system computer calculated that the rocket trajectory would take it to Ashkelon and air raid alarms automatically went off. But the rocket malfunctioned and crashed inside Gaza. This happens with growing frequency, indicating that the locally made rockets have poor quality control and some of the imported factory made ones are not much better.

June 10, 2015: In Egypt police guarding a major tourist attraction (Karnak) repulsed an Islamic terrorist attack, killing three attackers while others appear to have fled. Two policemen and two civilians were wounded. Most of the Islamic terrorist violence is in northern Sinai. It was there that most of the 141 Islamic terrorists killed in May died. The violence is somewhat lower for June. The government is concerned with the growing number of Islamic terrorists in Egypt who are declaring themselves allied with ISIL, as that group is far more violent. ISIL is also a lot more unpopular in Egypt, in large part because ISIL has been hunting down and kidnapping or killing Egyptian Christians in Libya.

A respected Russian Internet security firm revealed that it had found new spyware software in three hotels used by delegates to negotiations with Iran over sanctions and the Iranian nuclear weapons program. The spyware was described as a much improved version of Duqu and that Israel was probably behind this. Israel denied any involvement. In 2012 Internet security researchers accused Israel of a similar stunt when new spyware was found throughout the Middle East. Similar to Stuxnet and Duqu (both created by a joint U.S.-Israeli effort for use against Iran), the new spyware was called Gauss, and it was used to monitor Hezbollah financial activity. Gauss was apparently unleashed in 2011, and had already done its job by the time it was discovered.

June 9, 2015: Two more rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel. There were no casualties or property damage.

A recent opinion poll in Gaza found that half the residents wanted to move out and settle somewhere else. Some 63 percent were very unhappy with the way Hamas was running the place but the same percentage supported the continued rocket attacks on Israel. The irony in this is that the 2014 war, which was largely responsible for a subsequent 15 percent drop in Gaza GDP and an unemployment rate of over 40 percent, was caused by Hamas not stopping escalating rocket attacks on Israel. In effect, Gazans are supporting actions that would cause another war with Israel and criticizing Hamas for the aftereffects. At the same time only a third of Gazans felt they could openly criticize Hamas without being punished. The same percentage of Palestinians in the West Bank felt that way about Fatah. Most worrisome to Israel is that the majority of Palestinians supporting attacks on Israel. Thus a recent poll found that 53 percent of Israelis approved of a proposal to segregate bus passengers in the West Bank so Israelis and Palestinians never travelled on the same busses. This is a reaction to the growing incidence of “lone wolf” attacks on Israelis by Palestinians, involving the use of knives, large rocks or firebombs (flammable liquid in a bottle). Some of these attacks are fatal, more often to the attacker than to the victim but Israelis are being killed or wounded by this violence and a crowded bus is an ideal place to carry out such attacks.

An Israeli newspaper revealed that the government had, over a four year period, carried out some twenty tests of the effect of “dirty bombs” (bombs using high explosives to spread radioactive material). The tests were conducted in a remote area of the Negev Desert and came to the same conclusions as similar tests the Americans had conducted earlier. That is the dirty bombs would have a much bigger psychological impact (causing panic) than physical (casualties or damage) impact.

June 8, 2015: The government ordered Iron Dome anti-rocket batteries moved into position to protect the southern towns of Ashdod, Netivot, Ashkelon and Beersheba from rocket attacks from Gaza. This was in response to a sudden increase in the number of such attacks.

June 7, 2015: For the second day in a row Israeli warplanes hit Islamic terrorist targets in Gaza in response to rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel. This is the third such air strike in the last two weeks, all in response to rocket attacks. Israel also closed two crossings from Israel to Gaza as a further incentive for Hamas to shut down the groups behind these attacks. Hamas has a problem with that because cash shortages (donors are abandoning Hamas because of the corruption) have limited the number of security personnel Hamas has available to take on well-armed and fanatical Islamic terror groups. Moreover, most Gazans support the rocket attacks and don’t support Hamas. Despite that at least a hundred of these unruly Islamic terrorists have been arrested recently and Hamas police killed one of their leaders during an effort to arrest him. These dissident Islamic terror groups are threatening open war with Hamas if this “harassment” does not stop but the leaders of these smaller terror groups know that such an armed rebellion against Hamas might destroy the sanctuary they have in Gaza.

Meanwhile Israeli leaders criticized the fact that Western media and diplomats tend to ignore these rocket attacks from Gaza and Palestinian “lone wolf” attacks inside Israel while criticizing Israeli efforts to defend themselves from this violence. Israel leaders also note that many Western political activists are for sanctions against Israel but not against ISIL. This sort of thing seems absurd to Israelis but not enough people in the West seem to be notice.

June 4, 2015: For the first time Saudi Arabia publicly admitted that it had been secretly meeting with Israel. The Saudis explained that this was because both Israel and Saudi Arabia had mutual concerns about Iran and nothing more than that. Most Arabs know better and these meetings have been no secret even if their existence was denied officially. For a long time Arabs could not speak out in support of Israel (or even cooperation with Israel against common enemies). That has been changing since the 1990s and the growing power of al Qaeda and ISIL. Cooperation against common foes (mainly Islamic terrorism and Iran) has grown since its modest beginnings in the 1980s. Saudi Arabia has always been the major supporter of greater, and open, cooperation with Israel, but never on an official level. Israel has long urged their secret Arab allies to go public about these relationships but because of decades of anti-Israel propaganda most Arabs believed their people would violently protest against any Arab government that admitted the truth of the Arab-Israel relationship. Then again Arab leaders may simply be paying attention to opinion polls. A recent one showed that 54 percent of Saudis saw Iran as their principal foe, followed by 22 percent for ISIL and only 18 percent for Israel (long in first place). Some Arab leaders have spoken out in favor of Israel, but that usually generated more death threats for themselves than approval from other Arab leaders.

May 29, 2015: Israel warplanes bombed two Islamic terrorist training camps in Gaza in response to recent rocket attacks on Israel. No one was injured during the training camp attacks.

In Egypt, a four day meeting of 150 Libyan tribal leaders resulted in the formation of a national Tribal Council, which will work with the more recently elected parliament (in Tobruk) to unite all the tribes to stop the civil war. This unification would not include any Islamic terrorist groups, including the Moslem Brotherhood (which presents itself as non-terrorist but does have an Islamic terrorist faction). The tribal leaders insisted on the Islamic terrorist ban but also backed UN efforts to achieve peace in Libya and rejected any foreign military intervention. This conference was organized by the Egyptian government without the cooperation of the Tobruk or Tripoli governments. Egypt backs the Tobruk government and encouraged all tribal leaders at the conference to do so as well. Apparently most did.

 

 

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