There’s a lot of “ugly” here in the Middle East. And while I intend to move on to matters other than Egypt, I begin with the latest in that place of violence and turmoil. The Brotherhood — calling for an uprising across the country — is determined that matters will be as difficult as possible. There great reason to worry about Egypt:
This morning, Brotherhood people stormed the Republican Guard headquarters where Morsi is being held. The military, saying that terrorists had tried to storm the building, fired upon the crowd. Reports are that some 43 have been killed and hundreds wounded.
The casualties are likely to further inflame Brotherhood anger.
Meanwhile, turmoil grows in the Sinai, which is rife with radicals and terrorists.
The crossing between the Sinai and Gaza at Rafah is being kept closed and some 40 tunnels have been destroyed in the last couple of days; this to preclude Hamas involvement in what is taking place.
Terrorists have fired on the police station near the crossing and at three military checkpoints in the Sinai. On Saturday a Coptic priest was shot dead by a gunman.
Additionally, yesterday a pipeline that supplied gas to Jordan was blown up by Islamic militants south of El Arish in the Sinai.
Reports are surfacing about a major operation in the Sinai planned by the military. According to the Maan (Palestinian Arab) News Agency:
“…coordination is ongoing between the Egyptians and the Israelis to bring military vehicles, troops and jets into Sinai to fight terror.
“‘The Egyptian military activity in the Sinai is coordinated with Israeli security elements and authorized at the most senior levels in Israel, in order to contend with security threats in the Sinai that pose a threat to both Israel and Egypt,’ the army said in a statement.”
The nature and the quantity of military equipment that Egyptian officials want to bring into the Sinai must be cleared by Israeli officials, for they transcend what is permitted by the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, which mandates demilitarized areas in the Sinai.
This bridge was crossed before during the Morsi administration, although I believe even more equipment — particularly with regard to plane — is planned for use in the Sinai this time. Many here in Israel are opposed to the granting of such permission and vastly uneasy about the potential repercussions of this change in the status quo down the road. Questions are raised regarding whether all the equipment being brought in is truly of the sort needed to battle local radicals.
I don’t see that Israel has much option in the matter, however. It would be exceedingly impolitic in the current situation to refuse to allow the military to bring in equipment it says it needs to take out terrorists and radicals in the Sinai. What is more, it truly is to Israel’s benefit that battle should be done with them. During the Morsi administration, a great show was made of acting against them, while in fact not much was done. This time, it might be different. Might.
Now as to Kerry’s continuing efforts:
Two days ago, Al Hayat (London) reported that Kerry’s plan for generating “peace talks” includes cessation of all building in Judea and Samaria outside the major settlement blocs and the release of 103 prisoners arrested before Oslo.
Perhaps worst of all, according to this report, Israel would be required to allow the Palestinian Arabs to build in Area C.
Required? Area C, according to the Oslo Accords, is fully under Israeli control, both civil and security. As it is, Israeli authorities are looking the other way or conferring quiet blessings on Palestinian Arab projects in Area C. But to make it part of a concession formally? An outrage and an infringement of our rights that should not be permitted.
According to Times of Israel:
“Other sources in the report were quoted as saying that the plan includes a pledge by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to publicly commit to negotiations using the model laid out by US President Barack Obama during his visit to the region: two states living side by side, on the basis of the 1967 lines with land swaps, as well as Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.”
This is vile. Seeking a pledge by the prime minister to negotiate on the basis of the 1967 armistice line — because that’s what Abbas demands.
The talks would continue for a period of six to nine months, and be broken into three phases, during which time final status issues would be discussed. Work towards stimulating $4 billion in investments would proceed at the same time.
Netanyahu’s office has had no comment on this “plan.”
While Israel Hayom reported yesterday that:
“A senior Israeli official said on Saturday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has no intention of caving to Palestinian demands ahead of talks…”
Netanyahu is seeking “an assurance that negotiations will be held over a long period of time and will cover all the issues.
“[He] wants to avoid a situation whereby Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will try stepping away from the negotiating table after a few meetings and turn to the United Nations in September under the premise that Israel is to blame for the failure of the talks.”
At the same time, Abbas continues to make it clear that he intends to make no concessions and is proud of this.
The concern here is not that Israeli concessions will result in a “Palestinian state,” but that they will weaken the Israeli position by establishing precedents and facts on the ground.
I have just read a statement in a news source that Kerry will ask Netanyahu to commit to negotiating on the basis of the 1967 line because in 2009, during his talk at Bar Ilan University, the prime minister already committed to a Palestinian state on that line.
Lest some of my readers also see this statement and believe it, I provide a correction here. Netanyahu spoke about two states living side-by-side. Unfortunate enough. But no where does he speak about the borders between those states being defined by the 1967 line (an armistice line). In fact, he says that Jews have ancient rights to Judea and Samaria — and makes it clear that the settlements are not the cause of tension between Israel and the PA.
How fast and loose people play with the facts.
Right now, Kerry’s wife is very ill, and his personal situation may delay his next visit here. Maybe he’ll have time to rethink his entire preposterous position.
Barry Rubin — in his article, “Chaos in Middle East Grows as the U.S. Focuses on [Harassing] Israel” — sums up the situation well (emphasis added).
Playing on a NYTimes headline, Rubin has coined his own: “Kerry Shuttles as the Middle East Burns.”
“Once again the United States is too busy trying to get the Holy Grail of Arab-Israeli peace while every country is in turmoil. Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Iran, etc., are in dangerous crises. Yet the White House stays wake at night not about Benghazi but about fantasizing on dream-boundaries in Jerusalem. Once again, U.S. policy is trying to free Palestinian terrorists convicted of murder while tens of thousands of innocent people are being killed or imprisoned.
Not only is peace unobtainable because of Palestinian intransigence, but the powerful Islamist and nationalist forces don’t want peace. Peace with Israel would stir up more unrest and violence. Any Arab leaders who made peace would face overthrow and assassination. Everyone in the Middle East knows this; it often seems that nobody in Washington does. And Tony Blair, the negotiator for the Quartet–U.S., EU, UN, Russia–has been to Jerusalem 75 times in a decade with nothing to show for it.”
Please, also see a significant piece by Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, on “Kerry and the struggle over the Jordan Valley” (emphasis added):
Gold makes the case, both historically and with regard to current security needs, for Israel to retain the Jordan Valley, which Kerry would have us relinquish. (The Valley is a part of Area C, it must be noted.)
Not only is there concern about movement of enemy forces coming from the east — should Jordan fall to Islamists, for example. There is this issue as well:
“Second, Israeli control of the Jordan Valley is… needed also for neutralizing the growing threat from advanced weapons that can be smuggled to terrorist organizations. Israel learned the hard way that when it left the Philadelphi Route at the outer perimeter of the Gaza Strip, the scale of weapons smuggling, particularly from Iran, surged, and Gaza became a strategic threat to Israeli cities.
Military strategists are aware how important this factor is in winning counter-insurgency wars of the future. After spending ten years hosted by U.S. commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan, Max Boot just published a 600-page book on the history of guerrilla warfare. He suggests that there are five factors behind the success of insurgency forces; the fourth is their ability to obtain reinforcements in the form of weapons or even manpower.
“When Boot looks at Israel’s success in halting the wave of terror attacks in its cities in 2002, he cites the “IDF’s success in sealing off the West Bank” from resupply as a key component of its strategy. Boot’s analysis makes sense. In Gaza, where Israel no longer could control of the outer perimeter of the territory at the Philadelphi Corridor, it lost its counter-insurgency war with Hamas and other groups and withdrew. But in the West Bank, it defeated terrorism by fulfilling this essential precondition for winning a counter-insurgency campaign by retaining the Jordan Valley.”
What Gold points out is that “Western diplomats…have been predisposed to accepting the Palestinian narrative on territory and the Israeli narrative on security. This struggle has direct implications for the future of the Jordan Valley.
“…Israel is many times inundated with suggestions that it replace the IDF with international forces,,,For Israel, relying on international peacekeepers in the Jordan Valley would be far too great a risk for any responsible Israeli government to take.
“Currently, in order to back up Secretary of State Kerry’s shuttle diplomacy, the U.S. has begun a quiet dialogue with Israel over how it might have its security protected should it withdraw the IDF from the West Bank.”
That is, the US proposes international forces in the Jordan Valley to protect us when we pull back.
This is the stuff of nightmares and cannot be allowed to happen. Gold does not believe it will.
There was a massive explosion in an arms depot in the Syrian port city of Latakia, a couple of days ago, with some 10 to 20 Syrian soldiers killed. But there is no consensus as to what caused it — bombs from foreign aircraft, cruise missiles fired from warships, or something else. Syrian officials are saying that it was caused “by a terrorist group aligned with al-Qaida.” Israel is “studying the situation.”
Latakia is historically an Alawite center.
Hezbollah may begin to play a lesser role in the civil war in Syria. Two different factors play into this.
First, Lebanese Shiite supporters of Hezbollah and family members — particularly in the Ba’albek region — alarmed by the number of Hezbollah fighters, including senior commanders, who have been lost in Syria, are petitioning Hezbollah leaders for a pullback in the deployment of Hezbollah men into Syria.
The opinion expressed by those seeking a pullback is that “their children had fought Israel in 2006 and other wars, ‘in response to the call for resistance against Israel.’
“However, they said their men’s participation in the fight against the Syrian rebels, in defense of the Syrian government, was ‘shameful’ and that it was ‘unacceptable’ to embroil their men in a war in which they ‘had no interest at all.’
It is hoped that a delegation can be sent to Iran, to explain that Hezbollah cannot continue to bear the burden it currently carries without assistance, and to seek the deployment of Iranian troops to join the fighting.
This was reported by Asharq Al-Awsat.
And then, at a Gulf Cooperation Council meeting on Friday, it was decided that sanctions against Hezbollah would be instituted because of its involvement in fighting with Assad.
“The meeting was convened ‘to develop mechanisms to monitor movements, financial transactions and business operations of Hezbollah.’
The “decision to impose sanctions was taken ‘after the discovery in GCC states of several terrorist cells linked to the group.”
The Council consists of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman.
We cannot afford to lose sight of Iran, no matter what else is going on. I’m picking up different stories about the rate of nuclear development there, how Israel can handle matters, etc.
I will not belabor all of this here, but wish to make several significant points.
Israel has stood alone in her concern about the implications of a nuclear Iran. It’s a very lonely place to be. If I believe that Netanyahu is serious about anything, it is his concern about this, which goes back several years unremittingly.
I myself had thought we would have hit Iranian nuclear installations by now. But I clearly have no inside information and lack the capacity to explain why we haven’t, and what ramifications and considerations he is dealing with. I don’t know what is being done behind the scenes or what understandings are in play with other nations.
What I do believe — or strongly suspect — is that there have been two red lines. One is the line our prime minister drew on a chart at the UN last year. This one has to do with how close to developing that bomb Iran is. (Presumably Iran is very close to the line but has not yet crossed it.)
But there is another line, in terms of our ability to hit those installations, which are being buried way underground. We may have passed the time when we any longer have the capacity to hit directly because we lack the equipment — the 30,000 pound bunker busters that the US possesses and refuses to sell to us (and obviously has not used).
Admittedly, there is other sorts of damage we might do, but a direct hit may be possible only via the US at this point. And the prospects of this happening are probably just about nil.
I am deeply unhappy to have to write this…
and disturbed, to boot, by the perception being embraced in many quarters (particularly at the White House) that the Iranian president-elect, Hassan Rohani, is a “moderate,” and that renewing negotiations might be in order.
Please see Joseph Klein’s piece on this (emphasis added):
“The Obama administration is using the election of Iran’s new president-elect, Hassan Rohani, as an excuse to consider resuming negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. Iran is cleverly running the clock, using the election of the moderate-appearing Rohani as bait to lure the Obama administration and its European allies into another round of useless talks while Iran forges ahead to develop a nuclear arms arsenal.
“Rohani, a cleric, had served as the Supreme National Security Council chairman under Presidents Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (1989-1997) and Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005), and was Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator from 2003 to 2005. He is perceived as a ‘moderate’ compared with the other candidates who ran for president against him. However, everything is relative. Hundreds of reformist and pragmatic candidates, and all women, were barred from running. Rohani was the last so-called ‘reform’ candidate standing…
“…Rohani is an insider. He is reported to be very close to Khamenei…
“‘Dr. Rohani is absolutely in the pro-regime camp. He is loyal to the Ayatollah Khamenei and is committed to obeying his wishes and orders,’ the Iranian Christian leader, Dr. Hormoz Shariat” is reported to have said.
In terms of demeanor and rhetoric, Rohani is expected to project a far more reasonable image than the outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Indeed, Rohani was highly critical of Ahmadinejad and refused to serve in his administration. However, a shift in style does not mean a shift in substance.
“Rohani sees negotiations as merely a tactic to buy time in advancing Iran’s nuclear program. It is worth noting that Ayatollah Khamenei had specifically requested his appointment as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator in 2003, a post he retained until Ahmadinejad came to power…
“Even if Iran’s new president-elect Hassan Rohani wanted to steer Iran’s nuclear policies in a fundamentally different direction, which is hardly likely, he will have no power to do so. Hardliner Ayatollah Khamenei will continue to be in charge, which means no real change.”
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.