Early today two terrorists — intent on a major "martyrdom" operation — managed to infiltrate into Israel from northern Gaza but were shot and killed before they got far. The sort of infiltration they achieved was highly unusual, as there is a fortified fence across the area. Almost certainly with assistance from one or more persons on the other side, they utilized sophisticated equipment and relied upon a heavy fog in the area to help them slip through. Dressed as IDF soldiers, they were carrying explosives and a variety of weapons. It is believed they were headed for a Negev town.
I never receive news like this without a prayer of gratitude that what might have been was averted. Incidents such as this one keep us mindful: They’re out there, they’re still trying to get us.
Looking northward with regard to defense , Israel is expanding the deployment of its Arrow missiles. Anticipating that the next war — whether with Syria or Iran — will involve a huge onslaught of missiles, the Air Force has decided to place the Arrow — which is capable of intercepting all of the operational ballistic missiles in Iran and Syria — in a larger number of locations.
A newer Arrow — the Arrow 3 — is currently under development; this missile intercepts incoming missiles at a higher altitude than the current missile. Additionally, a new, advanced version of the Patriot, which takes out lower altitude missiles, is to be put in place to serve as a third layer of defense.
Additionally, the Defense Ministry recently made inquiries to the Pentagon regarding two American-made missile defense systems – the Terminal High Altitude Air Defense (THAAD) and the Aegis. Reportedly, there is heightened coordination — with exercises being held — between our forces and US forces in preparation for the possibility that the US might transfer equipment to Israel.
My (layperson’s) take: This preparation is, in one respect, reassuring — we would be remiss if defense weren’t being prepared to the maximum. But we’d be sorely mistaken in imagining that with this in place we are "protected." The key lies in offensive capability, about which, of course, nothing is being said. May it be as thoroughly prepared as our defenses.
Returning to the political front…
Binyamin Netanyahu, head of Likud, has reportedly approached Avigdor Lieberman, who heads Yisrael Beitenu, about running jointly in the next election. Netanyahu, eager to unify right-wing forces and looking to strengthen Likud with the Russian immigrant population here, has offered to save slots for Yisrael Beitenu on the Likud list. Lieberman was at one time associated with Likud. No agreements have been reached yet.
Sources close to Netanyahu say that he is not willing to save slots on the Likud list for those who bolted from Likud for Kadima and are now thinking of returning. These individuals would have to take their chances in the Likud primary. There is considerable ambivalence within Likud about taking back those who walked away in favor of Kadima: suffice it to say they are neither respected nor trusted.
From Arab news sources comes the report that Abbas definitely does not intend to run again for PA president when his term is over in less than two years. Abbas is embroiled in heightened tensions with Farouk Qaddoumi; he currently controls Fatah’s Central Committee, which is rejecting Abbas’s moves. Put simply, Abbas grows more and more impotent.
Qaddoumi is most definitely not a "moderate" — he declined to come to PA controlled areas with the signing of the Oslo Accords, preferring to stay in Tunis because he was against any peace treaty with Israel. His control within Fatah is a sign of things to come.
With this comes indication that Salam Fayyad is being promoted by the US as a replacement for Abbas — but resented by many within Fatah precisely because he is the "US candidate."
Meanwhile, regarding Hamas…
According to a London-based Arabic newspaper, al-Sharq al-Awsat, cited by YNet, Ghazi Hamad, spokesman for Haniyeh, has resigned his position because of his feeling that it was a mistake for Hamas to take over Gaza. He believes that Hamas should be making moves toward reconciliation with Fatah.
And Mashaal today told CNN that Shalit is alive and well and that his release is being negotiated with Israel via Egypt.
While according to Israel Radio, Islamic Jihad’s military wing has announced that all of its activities, including launching of Kassams, will be coordinated with Hamas.
The UN Security Council voted on Friday to extend the mandate of UNIFIL for another year, but had declined to expand the mandate of this international force of 13,600. It is supposed to assist the Lebanese army in deploying in the south of Lebanon to create a buffer zone free of Hezbollah forces, and has many restrictions placed upon it.
Token recognition was given to Israeli concerns , with added clauses calling for the immediate release of kidnapped IDF reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev without pre-set conditions, as well as condemnation of terror attacks against UNIFIL troops operating in the area. Without teeth, such clauses are totally meaningless. Do the terrorists attacking UNIFIL troops care if the UN has condemned them? They likely take it as a point of pride.
As Israeli Ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman pointed out, the flow of weapons from Syria continues and there is still a Hezbollah presence in the south.
This is a joke. And yet our foreign minister — who helped promoted this force in the first place last year as a way to resolve matters via "diplomacy" — praised the action to extend the mandate.
What makes this all more revolting is that this past week the UN special envoy to the Middle East, Michael Williams, was here and urged Israel to take "further steps" to strengthen Abbas. He thought we should start with more prisoner releases.