Thursday, July 31, 2014

This time not all the Arabs are with Hamas against Israel

The New York Times ran a revealing article about how some Arab states are siding with Israel over Hamas. 

The piece by David Kirkpatrick, who is based in Cairo for the paper, was not-so-subtly skewed against Israel.

I hope I am not being unfair, but as I read the tone of the piece, Kirkpatrick is basically saying – this is not the way it is supposed to be.

And he seems disappointed.

There is a spitball thrown in about Israeli bombings of UNRWA facilities – as if these are just neutral shelters and not rocket-launching sites; and as if all the fatalities are attributable to Israel when the Times itself has reported Hamas's culpability in some cases.
The piece, it strikes me, is also an inferred apology for Secretary of State John Kerry.

But for all my nitpicking here, I am glad to see this coverage. 

Israel is not isolated and – just as in the case of Iran's drive for nuclear weapons – Jerusalem is in sync with Egypt and the Gulf States while Washington is not.

[In fact, on Iran, I'd say that even Ankara is not thrilled.]

Kirkpatrick writes how Israel has the tacit support of Arab states led by Egypt in its war against Hamas in Gaza.

Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have lined up behind Cairo in backing Jerusalem's just military campaign against the Islamic Resistance Movement also known as Hamas.

The Arab Spring, a populist uprising which began in 2010 and empowered political Islam – meaning Islamist forces – unleashed chaos and threatened conservative Arab leaders.

On the whole, the Middle East is worse off today.

The Islamist war in Tunisia continues.

That's true, too, in Algeria.

Libya is a total mess.

Slowly but surely the Islamists are solidifying their position in Morocco though for now violence there is minimal.

You can blame the mess in Syria on the Arab Spring too. And as Syria goes so goes the failed state of Lebanon.

Iraq you can't blame on the Arab Spring. But that's a mess too.


In contrast to previous Palestinian-Israeli fighting in Gaza, Arab leaders are not pressuring Washington to tell Israel to stop.

"That gives the Israelis leeway," Martin Kramer, an expert on Mideast politics and president of Shalem College in Jerusalem, told Kirkpatrick.

Neither the Cairo-led coalition nor Israel want to see Hamas come out of the current fighting as the most "powerful Palestinian player," said Kramer.

I think the same can be said for the Fatah leadership but they are conniving, twisted, and gutless and understandably Kirkpatrick avoided interviewing them. 

Though maybe a follow up article is coming. I just find the Fatah folks so hypocritical. Their ineptitude lost them Gaza after Israel handed it to them on a silver platter when we disengaged.

They gave us a taste of what might happen if the "West Bank" were handed over to the boys from Fatah.


Khaled Elgindy of the Brookings Institution told Kirkpatrick much the same. "There is clearly a convergence of interests of these various regimes with Israel." 

"The Arab states' loathing and fear of political Islam is so strong that it outweighs their allergy to Benjamin Netanyahu," the ubiquitous Aaron David Miller told Kirkpatrick.

Hamas is, of course, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. 

President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt overthrew his Muslim Brotherhood predecessor Mohamed Morsi in July 2013. 

While Hosni Mubarak and Morsi led Egypt, Hamas used tunnels between Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula to smuggle weapons and contraband. Mubarak liked to watch Israelis bleed slowly.

Morsi was greedier.

Under Sisi not only have the tunnels been sealed but the border crossings have been only intermittently open.

A storekeeper in northern Gaza said, "Sisi is worse than Netanyahu, and the Egyptians are conspiring against us more than the Jews. They finished the Brotherhood in Egypt, and now they are going after Hamas," according to Kirkpatrick.

In navigating the new constellation of Mideast alliances, the hapless Kerry has come under well-deserved criticism for turning to Qatar and Turkey to serve as his intermediaries with Hamas instead of Egypt.

 Doha and Ankara are backers of Hamas. Qatar not only funds Hamas its Al Jezzera reports on the war. Though in fairness, Al Jezzera is no more or less anti-Zionist than Sky News and Co. which aren't funded out of the Arabian Gulf (as far as we know).

Meanwhile, an Israeli delegation is now in Cairo and Hamas officials from Qatar are expected to arrive there later Thursday as Egyptian intelligence officials make another effort to bring about a cease-fire, Israeli news media has reported.

I don't think the Saudis, Hashemites, or Egyptians harbor secret Zionist sentiments. Like Mahmoud Abbas and the other "moderates" they subscribe to the phased plan for Israel's destruction.

Be that as it may, there has never been a better time to liquidate the Hamas threat. As I said yesterday, you can't take Hamas out of the Palestinian heart, but you can remove the Hamas bone from the Israeli throat.

Never has there been a better time. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Day 23 of the 2014 Gaza War

The pillbox incident which claimed the lives of five IDF soldiers on Tuesday leaves me shaken.

They were in a lookout tower facing Gaza. They left both the compound gate and the entrance door open.

Repeat -- based on an enemy video -- both doors we're left open. No one on our side is disclaiming.

It was Mohammad Deif who introduced the propaganda video of this incident. 

When Hamas tunnel commandos crawled out of their hole, literally, they had easy access to the pillbox. The gate was open. And the door was open.

The soldiers had no apparent supervision. They were not experienced combat soldiers; they'd been taken out of a course to man this post. But they were soldiers and they were surprised from behind at Nahal Oz.

Gaza surveillance is usually carried out by electronic means conducted by well-trained female soldier-specialists. 

This tragic incident was a fashla -- a botch up of the first order. Add it to the list of deadly mistakes that deserve to be investigated. 


The cabinet meets again.  Supposedly the PM and DM are willing to go to ceasefire brokered by Egypt with details to be worked out once the firings stop.

 Sounds on the face of it absurd but that's what is being reported.

Israeli reporters keep talking about tunnels destroyed. Hamasniks killed.

Obviously, what matters is the tunnels we didn't destroy yet or don't know about.

What matters is that Hamas command and control is untouched.

We're hearing that Hamas is turning to Egypt, if true, it is significant because Hamas has exceedingly strained relations with Cairo. It is a sign of weakness. 


It troubles me that smart Israelis are still waiting for salvation from Mahmoud Abbas. Somehow, they say, he will be part of the Gaza solution, in the long term.

There is zero evidence to backup such a supposition, it is a castle built in the air.

That is why I'm inclined today to conclude--

If this war does not end with Hamas on its last legs -- with Israel's deterrence restored -- the message to Hizbollah, much less Iran, and other enemies in the region will be that Israel does not staying power for The Long War.

The constellation of July 2014, with a non threatening Egypt in the south, a Syria riven by civil war in the noth, a Hezbollah tied down in Syria -- Iraq out of the picture - a non threatening ruler in Jordan, and solid control over Judea and Samaria -- this constellation is unlikely to be with us for the next phase of The Long War.

So, my conclusion is, we need to mobilize this country for retaking the Strip and treating it as a buffer zone in the making until the Hamas military threat is removed. 

We will never take Hamas out of the Palestinian heart, but we can take the Hamas bone out of our throat. Now, or maybe, never.   




Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Is Barack Obama THE worst US president for Israel?

Some say that President Barack Obama is "the worst president ever" for Israel.

I think the jury is still out. Competition is stiff.

Richard Nixon let us bleed during the Yom Kippur War.

Gerald Ford wanted to reassess the overall US - Israel relationship to side with the Arabs.

Jimmy Carter, well, put simply, he's a Jew-hater - always was. Not much more to say. And that is not a charge I throw around.

Ronald Reagan's heart may have been in the right place but he saved (1982) than recognized the PLO (1988). 

George H.W. Bush gave us James "F*uck" Israel Baker - who brought Tom Friedman into the decision making process at the State Department even as Uncle Tom "reported" for the NYT.

Bill Clinton enabled Oslo and all the metastasized from it. Friends don't let friends Oslo themselves.

Oslo - not disengagement - got us to where we are today in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza.

George W. Bush gave us the Road Map and pursued policies that weakened America bogging it down in Iraq and leaving it depleted to deal with al-Qaida and Iran.

Which brings us to the Obama presidency still in progress. 

It is certainly shaping up to be among the worst -- from Israel's point of view. 

From Day 1 of his presidency when he forced Mahmoud Abbas to insist on a "settlement" freeze until Day 20 of the 2014 Gaza War when he sent the sputtering hyperactive John Kerry to muddy the waters here -- Obama has been an unmitigated disaster.  But I understate. 

Still,  to paraphrase Zhou Enlai when asked about the French Revolution: On Obama and Israel it is still "too early to tell" whether he is the absolute worst. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Day 14 The 2014 Gaza War

As Israel enters Day 14 of its operation aimed at halting Hamas from firing rockets and tunneling into its territory, the apparent mastermind behind the group's "military" wing Izz ad-Din al-Kassam Brigades, Mohammed Deif, remains as shadowy a figure as ever.

I do not know if the subterranean cities throughout Gaza are his idea or part of Iranian and Hezbollah doctrine carried to fruition by Hamas.

While satellite news stations such as CNN, SKY and others show pictures of dazed civilians and injured children and terribly tragic scenes of death and mayhem – no camera is allowed to show Hamas gunmen.

Only Hamas's mild-mannered, fire-breathing, spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri appears before the cameras.

Hamas's political leadership is in hiding as is its "military" echelon. 

They are in tunnels running underneath apartment buildings, hospitals, schools, UN compounds, and mosques --  equipped with electricity and running water. 

Some tunnels are used internally for communication, others lead to bunkers – such as one under Shifa Hospital where senior Hamas leaders are believed to be holed up.

Ambulances are available when they need to move from point to point.

Still other tunnels are dug from within homes on the Gaza side into Israel. These are intended – as we've in recent days – to be used for infiltration into Israel.

Hamas desperately wants to carry out a major terrorist strike before the current round of fighting ends. This could be a mass slaughter of Israelis or a kidnapping.
Hamas claimed a kidnapping overnight. Whether this was a communications glitch by them or part psychological warfare, I do not know.

The current round of fighting is tied to the Hamas kidnapping of three teenagers in Gush Etzion. Recall Hamas had been calling for such a kidnapping. It praised the kidnapping. The kidnapper/murderers are affiliated with Hamas and obviously their ability to avoid capture all this time reflects support from the Hebron Hamas branch. Officially, Hamas claims it did not directly order the operation.

As a guerrilla/terrorist strategist, Deif has taken a multi-pronged approach to the conflict: shooting rockets at Israel with a special effort made at hitting metropolitan Tel Aviv (for the emotional impact). He's used rudimentary drones. Sent commandos by sea. Dispatched (repeatedly) squads of terrorists via tunnels.

Anything to kill Jews -- anywhere in Israeli-occupied "Palestine."

Hamas has ordered Gaza's civilians to ignore Israeli warnings (by phone, leaflet, radio and text) and insisted they stay in the neighborhoods where its rocket launchers and tunnels are located – to protect these vital assets. 

The civilians serve a double purpose: they protect and camouflage rocket launchers and arsenals. And when they are killed in the process they provide fodder for Palestinian propagandists and their "useful idiots" in the media.
Deif was born in 1965 in the Gaza Strip. He became active in the Muslim Brotherhood – the parent organization of Hamas—in 1989, soon joined Hamas and then Izz ad-Din al-Kassam Brigades.

He was an acolyte of Yahya Ayyash, one year his senior, known as the Engineer. 
Ayyash was liquidated in 1995. 

Keep in mind that this was after Yitzhak Rabin had installed Yasser Arafat in the West Bank and Gaza. He'd been exiled in Tunisia after being allowed to escape from Beirut (under pressure from Ronald Reagan).

Deif, Ayyash's understudy, moved up in the ranks after Imad Akel, Izz al-Din al-Kassam commander, was killed in 1993.

Again, it is important to emphasize that Hamas grew popular and potent precisely when Israel offered massive concessions to the Palestinians under the Oslo agreements.

The PLO (under Arafat and now under Mahmoud Abbas) have pursued the phased plan for the destruction of Israel. They are prepared to sign deals and accept whatever territory Israel will fully abandon. Obviously, not even Abbas will recognize the right of the Jewish people to a national home anywhere in the Middle East. But he is willing to think in the long term and "accept" Israel for now.

Hamas opposes such half measures.

Deif became the top Hamas military commander in the wake of the targeted killing of Salah Shehade in 2002.

Since the Engineer was killed, though, Deif has played a role in just about every major Hamas operation against Israel -- from the kidnapping and murder of IDF soldier Nachshon Wachsman in 1994 to a string of heinous bus bombings, to the development of Hamas rocket capabilities.

Naturally, Israel tried repeatedly to assassinate him. 

For instance, in 2002, he lost an eye in such an attempt. In 2006, another try left him wheelchair bound with a spinal injury.

When Ahmed Jabari met his demise in 2012 Deif  resumed his role (if he ever really gave it up) as the organization's top strategist. 

Now, as Israel begins to bury its fallen soldiers – and we can anticipate more funerals in the days ahead – it is clear that Hamas has taken a major hit.

What we don't want is a premature ceasefire.  

Regrettably, US Secretary of State John Kerry (Poof, as I call him) is on the way to the region right now with just that in mind.

Like the administration he is part of, Kerry is a "soft" friend of Israel. His heart is not in it.

Israel needs time to degrade Hamas. Now that Egypt is not allowing weapons into Gaza – which it did through the Mubarak years – we stand a chance at "demilitarizing" the Strip.

But this will take time.

It is clear that Hamas wants to keep fighting because it continues to unleash barrages of rockets at Israel.  It has nothing to lose -- except dead Gazans which is of no importance to its fanatics.

The more launchers and rockets and tunnels the IDF can destroy, meanwhile, the better.

The more Hamas assets can be killed -- the better.

Afterwards, the IDF must move in and out of Gaza as needed just as it does in Judea & Samaria. It is time to stop making a fetish about operating in Gaza. I myself have been guilty of this thinking. But now I see that we need freedom of operation in Gaza.

Israel does not want to rule over the Strip, and does not want – not now anyway – to topple Hamas. The alternative to Hamas is the feckless Mahmoud Abbas (who lost the territory to Hamas in a violent ouster) or the even more fanatical Salafis and company.

What the IDF can do in Gaza is not in the realm of slam dunk – you know, like the US in Iraq. 

This is an ongoing problem -- the result not of disengagement but of Oslo --  that Israeli policymakers must not again allow to get so out of hand.



Monday, July 14, 2014

Triumvirate of Netanyahu, Ya'alon, and Ganz Oversees Israel's Gaza Campaign Trying to Repair Problem Dating Back to 1993 Oslo Deal

Israel Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon just told Israel Radio that Hamas will rue the day it started the latest round of fighting with the Jewish state.

We can only hope so.

That depends on Israel keeping up the pressure on Hamas without being drawn into a premature land operations.

Ya'alon, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and IDF Chief of Staff Binyamin "Benny" Gantz are the triumvirate who are conducting Israel's Operation Protective Edge against Hamas in Gaza.

By law, Netanyahu must also consult with a six-member security cabinet which he expanded to eight participants.

The security panel has met at least once daily since the conflict began on July 8th. The members are Netanyahu, Ya'alon, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, Finance Minister Yair Lapid, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, and Communications Minister Gilad Erdan.

The security cabinet must authorize military operations.

Netanyahu has also occasionally invited other cabinet members including Yuval Steinitz, a former strategic affairs minister and Yaakov Perry, a former Shin Bet chief to participate in the deliberations.

Military and intelligence officials brief the security cabinet, usually Gen. Aviv Kochavi, chief of the military intelligence, Shin Bet head Yoram Cohen, and Mossad chief Tamir Pardo.

Netanyahu has also taken pains to brief the Knesset (parliament) Foreign Affairs and Security Committee and the heads of the main opposition factions, including the official opposition leader, Labor Party chairman Isaac Herzog.

At the July 13 meeting of the full cabinet, Netanyahu defined the goal of Operation Protective Edge as "the restoration of quiet for a long period while inflicting a significant blow on Hamas and the other terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip."

The Gaza Strip was turned over to the Palestinian Authority as part of the 1993 Oslo Accords between Israeli premier Yitzhak Rabin and PLO leader Yasser Arafat in 1993. Arafat arrived in Gaza in 1994. While Israel withdrew from most of the Strip in 1994, it retained security control and a string of civilian settlements until 2005 when premier Ariel Sharon unilaterally pulled out of the territory.

Rockets began slamming into Gaza's Jewish settlements from PLO-controlled Gaza long before the disengagement. 

In other words, even under the PLO -- the area was not demilitarized.

In August 2007, Hamas ousted Arafat's successor Mahmoud Abbas from the Strip. According to its charter, the Islamic Resistance Movement is committed to the destruction of Israel.

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