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MIDEAST MIRROR 08.07.15, SECTION A (ISRAEL)

 

One year after

 

Military matters dominate the front pages of most Israeli newspapers on Wednesday.

Israel Hayom leads with the publication of video footage taken from the helmet-mounted camera of an IDF soldier who was killed during 'Black Friday,' as events in Rafah during last year’s war in Gaza on August 1, 2014 have become known. The video and audio released show that, as soon as it became apparent that an Israeli soldier was in danger of being taken captive, the IDF implemented the Hannibal Procedure, which allows for massive, indiscriminate and disproportionate use of firepower – even at the risk of killing large numbers of civilians and the kidnapped soldier. Use of this procedure was one of the main criticisms that were leveled against the IDF in the aftermath of Operation Protective Edge.

Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post focus on the conclusions and lessons that the IDF learned from last summer's conflict.

The Jerusalem Post headlines the IDF's new combat doctrine to deal with Hamas, which is based on the destruction of the organization's military wing. According to this version of the briefing, the IDF has concluded that any future objective would be to shorten the length of any future engagement with Hamas. The new concept, created together with the Shin Bet, calls for eliminating the Ezzedin al-Qassam Brigades if war erupts again in the South. 'We have new components and an approach, which was shown to the chief of staff and received his approval,' a senior IDF source said. 'There will always be a need for adjustments to fit [future] circumstances, but we have a concept, and we have plans.'

In contrast, Haaretz's lead headline focuses on a recommendation by senior IDF officers to Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, calling on him to open the border crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip. Exactly a year after the Gaza war, the IDF says that Hamas has been left without real achievements from the fighting and is politically isolated, with its ties with Egypt strained. Precisely for these reasons, Haaretz writes, senior defense officials believe that Israel could help achieve relatively long-term quiet by easing economic restrictions and some limitations on the passage of people and goods from the Gaza Strip.

One recommendation would allow thousands of Palestinians to travel abroad by entering Israel via the Erez crossing and leaving the country to Jordan via the Allenby Bridge. Another would permit merchandise into Gaza through the Karni crossing and expand use of the Kerem Shalom crossing. In addition, permits would be issued for Palestinians from the Gaza Strip to work in Israeli communities near the border. President Reuven Rivlin, speaking Monday at a memorial ceremony for those killed in last summer’s war, said that, 'The rehabilitation of Gaza is also an Israeli interest, but the only condition for this rehabilitation is that Gaza ceases being a front for attacks on Israel.'

Meanwhile, a senior Hamas official said the organization has a vested interest in maintaining the shaky clam with Israel. Speaking to Israel Radio, Hamas deputy foreign minister Ghazi Hamad said that Hamas 'doesn’t want another war' and has 'an interest in keeping the calm in Gaza.' Hamad claimed that there was no chance that Hamas' military wing would work to escalate the situation.

Elsewhere on the Palestinian front, the papers report that Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister, Riad al-Malki, said Tuesday that a French diplomatic bid to advance a United Nations resolution to restart the peace process between Israel and the PA has been abandoned by France. However, senior PA officials in Ramallah later told Haaretz that al-Malki's comments were not entirely accurate, and were based more on his analysis of the updates he had received on the matter than on official information from Paris.

In other news, Iran is still a front-page story for most of the papers. As the deadline for reaching a deal in Vienna was extended for another 48 hours, attention shifted – almost inevitably – to the tensions that the negotiations are creating between Israel and the United States. Citing a report that originated in the Boston Globe, Israeli papers report that senior American officials said Tuesday in a briefing to reporters in Vienna that, over the last 10 days, the head of the U.S. negotiating team had tried three times to contact Israel's national security adviser to update him about progress in the negotiations. According to the officials, Undersecretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman had not managed to reach National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen due to scheduling constraints, but added that she planned to brief him in the near future.

Sherman had updated her Israeli counterparts the day she arrived in Vienna two weeks ago, and planned to talk to Cohen in the near future. A senior official in the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem said that Sherman's last update was indeed received by Israel some 12 days ago, but denied that there had been American attempts to relay further updates. 'Since the last briefing 12 days ago, we have not rejected any proposals for additional briefings,' the official said.

The American remarks follow a report in Haaretz earlier Tuesday, in which Israeli officials were quoted as saying that the government in Jerusalem had a fragmented picture of what has happened in the negotiating rooms in Vienna over the last 10 days. The Israeli officials said that over the last few weeks there has been very little contact between Netanyahu and senior advisers in the Obama Administration regarding the nuclear issue. Since this round of talks in Vienna began, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had not spoken with Netanyahu on the telephone even once.

Finally, Netanyahu used the occasion of the official memorial ceremony for Theodor Herzl to speak out against the deal. Israel, he said, is 'preparing for any scenario, determined to defend ourselves from danger.' Netanyahu went on to quote exiled Iranian film director Mohsen Makhmalbaf, who once described Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei as 'worse than Hitler.' 'If he could,' Netanyahu quoted Makhmalbaf as saying, 'he would destroy the world.' Iranian President Hassan Rowhani, the film director said, was 'without power, only the spokesman of the Supreme Leader.'

 

OUR INTERESTS, THEIR INTERESTS: Writing in Yedioth Ahronoth, Giora Eiland says that Israel's interests regarding the Gaza Strip do not necessarily negate the possibility of a long-term truce with Hamas – and that Israel should incentivize Hamas to abide by the terms of any such agreement.

"Some of the key lessons of Operation Protective Edge would have been learnt during the fighting itself or in the immediate aftermath of the 50-day conflict. Still, exactly one year after the outbreak of hostilities, there are some lessons that are better examined with the benefit of hindsight.

There are two classic mistakes that keep on being repeated – and not just here. The first mistake is to incorrectly describe the situation or to misread the narrative. Israel has consistently misread the situation in Gaza since 2006. The narrative, as we see it, is as follows: Hamas is a terrorist organization that grabbed control of the Gaza Strip in a violent coup and, as such, its regime is illegitimate. It rules by force over 1.8 million poor and impoverished civilians. This being the case, Israel must boycott anyone who talks with Hamas. Since Hamas is a rather weak terrorist organization, it can be defeated militarily without too much fuss.

But the real situation in Gaza is rather different. The Strip has become a de facto independent state in every respect. Hamas is not a terrorist organization in the same way that al-Qa’ida is; rather, it is a movement that was elected in a (more or less) democratic process, it faithfully represents the views of the population it rules over and it has their support. If this were not the case, Hamas would not have been able to usurp all of the national resources of the Gaza Strip to build up such an impressive military arsenal and such a threatening network of tunnels.

The second mistake is an ill-defined map of interests. The national interest of the State of Israel is not some utopian dream; it is something that is important enough that we are willing to pay a price to achieve. When it comes to the Gaza Strip, we only have security-related interests: we want to ensure that rockets are not fired at our towns and cities and we also want to ensure that Hamas' military capabilities are eroded in the future. We do not have any territorial, economic or political interests. Although Israel and Hamas remain enemies, this does not mean that there is a total and complete clash of interests between us. This means that Israel can afford to allow Hamas to get what it wants – in exchange for a long-term truce.

The stubbornness that has characterized Israel's policies regarding Gaza since 2006 and until just recently, which dictates that it is in our interest to promote the presence and influence of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza, not only fails to serve any of our interests, but also fails to achieve our primary goal – which remains security-related.

The rocket fire by Hamas which sparked Operation Protective Edge was, first and foremost, the result of frustration over the halt of money transfers to Gaza and Israel's 'success' in preventing various parties from donating money to Gaza. If Hamas sees the establishment of a sea port as the most important symbol of independence, Israel should agree to let this happen in exchange for Hamas agreeing to stop developing long-range missiles. If Hamas rejects this proposal, we have lost nothing and have won one round in the international battle over Israel's 'blockade' of the Gaza Strip. If Hamas does agree, Israel enjoys a two-fold victory.

Some people argue that a sea port in Gaza would pose a threat to Israeli security. But the level of threat is not determined by whether or not Gaza has a sea port; what matters are maritime inspections. It should be relatively easy to reach some kind of agreement that would answer all of Israel's security concerns. And let's not forget that it will take years for construction of the sea port to be complete, which would incentivize Hamas to maintain the quiet.

In retrospect, there's no question that Operation Protective Edge created an effective deterrence. When the fighting ended, Hamas had less than a third of the number of rockets it did before the operation and now it is finding it hard to replenish its arsenal, its military leadership was significantly reduced and the massive destruction that Gaza sustained obligates Hamas to focus its attention on rebuilding, rather than launching any new military adventure. Long-term quiet is achievable if, in addition to an effective deterrence, we create some kind of incentive for Hamas to refrain from attacking us. Such an incentive does not necessarily run contrary to Israel's vital security needs."

Ends…

 

FAR-REACHING CONCESSIONS: Writing in Maariv, Alon Ben David says that, even before Iran and the six world powers finalize the nuclear deal in Vienna, the Islamic Republic is expanding its influence across the Middle East and is enjoying an economic boon.

"The most significant development in the Middle East, which will affect the future of the entire region, is happening right now in Vienna. The reports that Israel is getting about the negotiations between the six world powers and Iran are far more worrying than the possibility that ISIS is establishing a presence along our southern border. It seems from here that the United States is, step by step, capitulating on all of its negotiating principles and is giving the Islamic Republic its dream deal and giving Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei everything that he has demanded.

From what we are able to glean, it appears that the United States will allow Iran to keep its underground reactor in Qom in such a state that it could, within a matter of weeks, become a military facility for enriching uranium. The U.S. has also backed down from its demand that Iran allow intrusive inspections of its military installations – including those that are not officially linked to its nuclear program. France – which is the last righteous man in the Austrian version of Sodom and Gomorrah – opposed that concession. This bad deal will leave Iran within touching distance of a nuclear bomb the day after the agreement expires – or when Tehran decides that the time has come to violate the terms of the deal.

The Obama Administration has gone so far in making concessions to Iran that the likelihood of the deal being torpedoed – either by the U.S. Congress of by one of America's European partners – increases with every day that passes. That would be the ideal scenario from an Israeli perspective. The far-reaching American concessions, coupled with a new deadline for reaching an agreement, has merely increased the Iranians' appetite.

But the U.S. has made concession on other issues, too, apart from the nuclear issue. The Vienna talks are like a game of water polo: all we can see is what is happening above the waterline; below the surface additional negotiations are being held, in which the United States is turning Iran into its regional ally. It is providing the Islamic Republic with a stage in what used to be Iraq; it accepts the Iranian presence in Yemen, which provides Tehran with a strategic foothold on the Red Sea; and it has no problem with continued Iranian support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Hizbollah or even Hamas.

Despite the Sunni-Shiite war that is splitting the Middle East into two clear camps, Iran has managed to renew its relationship with Hamas in the Gaza Strip and has started supporting it materially as well. Iranian money now makes up 60 percent of the budget of Hamas' armed wing. Since he who pays the piper calls the tune, commanders in Hamas' armed wing are now taking orders from Tehran.

For the time being, the head of Hamas' armed wing, Mohammed Deif, is accepting the authority of the organization's political leaders, who are keen to maintain the quiet with Israel and to examine the Qatari proposal for a ceasefire. But he, along with the rising star of Hamas, Yihya Sanwar (who was one of the founders of Hamas' armed wing, was involved in the kidnap and murder of Nachshon Wachsman and who was freed as part of the Gilad Shalit exchange deal), is also pressing for a resumption of hostilities with Israel.

Iran's control of Hizbollah is much tighter. In recent years, Hassan Nasrallah has become merely something of a figurehead leader. The person who is really calling the shots and who really decides what Hizbollah does is Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force.

Iran is satisfied with the events of the two years since Hassan Rouhani was elected president. Last year, despite the sanctions and the plunge in oil prices, Iran's economy grew by 1.5 percent. Compared to other countries in the Middle East, this is an impressive level of economic expansion. Within the next few days, Iran will also be handed an agreement that recognizes its nuclear capabilities and allows it to resume trading with the rest of the world. Its economy will grow even more.

From the moment that a deal is signed, Iran will start to earn an awful lot of money and the chances are that it won't use this money for charity. It will establish itself as a regional superpower and will continue to expand its influence over the region during the 19 months that U.S. President Barack Obama has left in office – safe in the knowledge that no one will try and stop it.

What can Israel do in light of this agreement? It's worth keeping an eye on the findings of the Locker Committee, which examined Israel's defense budget and which is due to submit its recommendations next week. Yohanan Locker spent almost three years serving as Binyamin Netanyahu's military secretary and the prime minister's worldview will doubtless be reflected in Locker's recommendations. Netanyahu wants to maintain Israel's ability to launch military action against the Iranian nuclear program and it seems inconceivable that he would agree to cut defense spending. If anything, he will want to increase the budget."

Ends…

 

REASONS TO BE WARY: Writing in Israel Hayom, Ronen Yitzhak lists five reasons why a fresh round of fighting between Hamas and Israel is more likely than most people admit.

"According to Hamas' prime minister in the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniyeh, 'we will continue to fight the occupation and will lead the Palestinian people's resistance.' Haniyeh was speaking to Arab journalists two months ago, during a briefing on the organization's operational capabilities. Indeed, since the end of Operation Protective Edge, Hamas has focused on repairing the damage that Israel caused it, on raising morale and motivation among its fighters and improving their operational expertise. Hamas plans not only to kidnap soldiers in the next conflict; it wants to capture an IDF position and to use drones and other advanced weapons. It is also preparing itself for a long and continuous bombardment by the IDF.

While no one knows what will lead to the outbreak of fresh hostilities between Israel and Hamas, the political realities of the Middle East mean that it will happen sooner than anyone thinks. First of all, Hamas’ status in Gaza since the end of Operation Protective Edge has been in steady decline. Not only has it been unable to point to any concrete achievements, its main demand- the establishment of a sea port in Gaza – has not been met. This is harming Hamas standing and prestige.

Secondly, the rocky relationship between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority is pushing the former onto the sidelines. The dismantling of the Palestinian unity government, the arrest of Hamas activists in the West Bank and the increased pressure on Hamas from the Palestinian security forces are having a negative impact on the organization. The rebuilding of Gaza, which is on hold since most of the $5.5 billion that was pledged last year has not been delivered – leaves thousands of Gazans without permanent homes, suffering from massive unemployment and getting increasingly desperate by the day. All of this has intensified pressure on the Hamas regime there.

Thirdly, Israel's shaky international standing could encourage Hamas to launch attacks. Although Israel went some way to restore its deterrence capabilities by the end of Operation Protective Edge; international criticism – both political and military – could erode that deterrence. This could lead Hamas to believe that Israel would not have international backing for military action against Gaza and could spur it to renew hostilities, on the assumption that Israel's reaction would be far more muted than last summer.

Fourthly, Hamas wants revenge. Even though it seemed at first that Mohammed Deif had been killed in an airstrike on his home in late July last year, there is increasing evidence that he survived and has resumed his role as Hamas' main military commander. His desire to reassume control of Hamas' armed wing – and his desire to avenge the death of his wife and son in that Israeli airstrike – could motivate him and his organization to launch a new offensive.

Finally, there's Hamas’ tense relationship with Egypt. Reports of cooperation between Hamas and Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which is attacking Egyptian forces in the Sinai, could force the Egyptian army to take direct action against Hamas and to try and clip its wings within Gaza itself. Under these circumstances, whereby Hamas has nothing to lose, it could renew hostilities with Israel in order to win popularity among the Palestinian people and alleviate pressure from Egypt and the Palestinian Authority."

Ends…

 

DON'T FORGET THE WEST BANK: Writing in Israel Hayom, Yossi Beilin says that, if Israel agrees to a long-term truce with Hamas in Gaza, it must, at the same time, open dialogue with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

"A long-term ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas, in exchange for the opportunity to rebuild and develop the Gaza Strip, is the most reasonable proposal under the tough circumstances that have emerged. Peace is impossible at the moment from Hamas' perspective; the organization is not ready to make an ideological concession and to forswear the use of weapons in order to achieve its goal. In contrast, it could – based on countless historic precedents of Islamic leaders reaching limited-term agreements with their enemies – agree to a long-term truce.

As far as Israel is concerned, a long-term truce would provide a very welcome period of quiet in the south and, if Hamas does not abide by the terms of an agreement, Israel would be entitled to rescind anything that it has done as part of the deal. But without addressing the problem of the West Bank, any ceasefire between Israel and Hamas could lead to an increase in violence by Hamas in the West Bank and could undermine Israel's security cooperation with the Palestinian Authority.

Just as it was a mistake for Ariel Sharon to make do with a withdrawal from Gaza and a symbolic withdrawal from part of the West Bank, while ignoring the new regime established by Palestinian President Mahmoud 'Abbas; it would be a mistake for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to ignore Ramallah. He would end up losing everything that he gained in Gaza on fighting in the West Bank.

If it is true that indirect contacts are being held with Hamas over a ceasefire and normalization of relations, Israel must simultaneously engage the Palestinian Authority in talks. It is clear that the PLO is not happy with rumors that Israel and Hamas are close to a long-term truce deal. It sees this as part of an Israeli policy of divide and conquer and as a reward to terrorism. It also accuses Israel of ignoring the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, which has been coordinating security matters with Israel for years and which operates primarily on the diplomatic stage, while eschewing terrorism. Even if Israel doesn't like this Palestinian campaign of 'lawfare,' it should 'reward' the Palestinian Authority for forswearing violence.

Israel must keep the PLO in the loop regarding its contacts with Hamas (which, it seems, are indirect); if possible, it must also seek to reach understandings with Ramallah about a ceasefire, since the PLO – not Hamas – is Israel's official partner for political agreements. An agreement with the PLO – even a partial one – is important in and of itself, and in order to ensure that a ceasefire in Gaza is viable. An agreement with Hamas which bypasses the Palestinian Authority would be convenient for the current Israeli government. After all, even some of the more right-leaning members of Netanyahu's coalition have expressed their support for a more liberal policy regarding Gaza. Israel has already left the Gaza Strip and, if Hamas promises a period of quiet, it might just be possible for Israel to convince the international community that we are not responsible for the fate of 1.5 million Gazans.

But there's a down side: A ceasefire in Gaza could lead to an increase in Hamas activity in the West Bank, if only to justify to its supporters its willingness to enter into a truce with Israel. At the same time, the Palestinian Authority – under the impression that Israel prefers an agreement with Hamas over dialogue with Ramallah – could scale back security cooperation. That would be the downside of what we all agree would be a positive deal with Hamas."

Ends…

 

 

MUTUAL MISTRUST: Writing in Haaretz, Chemi Shalev says that any nuclear deal with Iran would have created friction between the U.S. and Israel, but with Netanyahu and Obama at the helm, this agreement is even more risky.

"From an Israeli point of view, a nuclear agreement between the United States and Iran was going to be a hard sell in any case. Even if such lovebirds as George Bush and Ariel Sharon or bosom buddies like Bill Clinton and Yitzhak Rabin were leading America and Israel right now, a nuclear accord with Tehran would have tested the U.S.-Israeli 'special relationship.' Iran is too fanatic and formidable and Israel is too experienced and apprehensive for it to be otherwise.

But with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Obama going head to head, the danger is that the special ties between the two countries will suffer extensive damage as well. Their mutual lack of trust and their sincere belief in each other’s bad intentions can only inflame an already volatile bilateral confrontation.

Of course, it can be argued that any agreement negotiated while the Bush/Sharon or Clinton/Rabin duos were in power - as well as Clinton/Barak or Bush/Ehud Olmert - would have looked completely different at this stage anyway. Sharon and Rabin would have used their personal sway in the White House in order to have a say in the contents of any agreement, and Bush or Clinton would have heard them out and taken their suggestions into consideration, at the very least. Their basic trust in each other’s personal sincerity and commitment to bilateral ties would have safeguarded the overall relationship from any general harm.

But with the dialogue of the deaf that goes on between Netanyahu and Obama, with their increasingly shrill public discourse and with their mutual suspicions disabling their ability to lend an attentive ear, Israel has been effectively shut out of influence in the place where it matters most, the White House.  Rather than devote their energies to a constructive give and take over the past months, both leaders have been sniping at each other while amassing reservoirs of pent up anger and frustrations that will be unleashed in one dangerous burst, if and when an Iran agreement is signed. And while both men obviously share a rational appreciation of the ties that bind their countries, the past six years have shown that it is their mutual and arguably irrational mistrust that often determines their behavior.

Netanyahu subscribes to the Michael Oren view of Obama that sees the U.S. president as inherently hostile to Israel in general and to Netanyahu in particular. Whether it is Obama’s Muslim background, his Third World identity, his liberal upbringing, his Jewish-leftist indoctrination or any combination thereof; Netanyahu does not believe that the President has Israel’s best interests at heart. Famously asked by CNN’s Jim Costa a few months ago whether he trusts Obama, Netanyahu pointedly replied: 'I trust that the president is doing what he thinks is good for the United States.'

Obama’s view of Netanyahu isn’t any better. In his eyes, the Israeli prime minister’s policies endanger Israel’s Jewish identity and international standing and often force the U.S. into un-splendid isolation at world forums. Whether it’s his Likud upbringing, his conservative worldview or the cumulative effect of Sheldon Adelson’s influence and largesse, Netanyahu has repeatedly and openly sided with Obama’s political enemies and has often seemed to be gunning for Obama because of who and what he is, rather than the specific policies that he pursues.

The animosity and mistrust between the two has led to what some international relations experts describe, in a slightly different context, as a 'spiral model' of deteriorating ties: Steps taken by otherwise trustworthy countries are misinterpreted as manifesting hostility, leading to countermeasures that produce similar reactions on the other side.  In his book 'Trust and Mistrust in International Relations', University of Wisconsin’s Andrew Kydd highlights a factor of spiral models that seems particularly pertinent where Netanyahu and Obama are concerned: 'The tendency of actors with benign self-images to believe, without justification, that others share this benign image, so that if others engage in hostile behavior it must be a result of malevolence on their part.'

Thus, Netanyahu’s virulent opposition to the Iran deal and his willingness to delve in internal U.S. politics to block it are interpreted in the White House as manifestations of the Israeli prime minister’s personal animus and not of his conviction that the deal poses a truly existential danger. Similarly, Obama’s very willingness to engage with Iran as well as his support for Palestinian statehood aren’t simply an expression of American interests, as he sees them, but concrete proof of sinister intent.

A nuclear deal with Iran, if signed, would be an earth-shattering addition to this already quaking Middle East landscape. The fight for its approval in Congress, intertwined as it has become with election year politics, will be nothing short of furious. Nonetheless, under other circumstances, and with other leaders, there would be little doubt that the bedrock of U.S.-Israeli ties is strong enough to sustain it. With Netanyahu and Obama at the helm, there is a far greater danger of sustaining lasting damage.

And even if one ascribes equal blame to both leaders for the state of their union, in the end, only one of them is a superpower, and the other a strong but nonetheless utterly dependent ally. As Clinton once said, Netanyahu often seems to forget which is which."

Ends…

 

7/7 AND PROTECTIVE EDGE: In its editorial on Wednesday, The Jerusalem Post says that last summer's Gaza war and the terror attacks in London a decade ago help to illustrate the common threat Israel and other Western states face today as they come under attack by radical Islamists.

"Just one day after Israelis gathered on Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl Military Cemetery to mark a year since Operation Protective Edge, Britons held their own memorial service in London on Tuesday to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of a series of terrorist attacks on London’s Tube and bus networks.

These two seemingly arbitrary dates help to illustrate the common threat Israel and other Western states such as Britain face today as they come under attack by radical Islamists. France, Australia, Canada and Belgium have all seen acts of extreme violence that were directly or indirectly inspired by the ideology and aims of a violently reactionary stream of Islam.

A cult of death, a racist hatred of Jews, Hindus, Christians and 'unbelievers' and the desire to restore a long-vanished, despotic empire ruled by a medieval Muslim jurisprudence are the common features of the groups that carry out these attacks. In this sense, Hamas and Islamic Jihad are no different than Islamic State, Jabhat al-Nusra or other al-Qa’ida-affiliated organizations in the Middle East, Europe or elsewhere.

It is common for the news media, foreign political leaders and other shapers of world opinion to attempt to 'contextualize' the terrorist attacks directed at Israelis by Islamist groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah. When Palestinians target civilians in drive-by shootings or ambushes and when they fire rockets and mortar shells at residents of the South, the aggression is framed within the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

For instance, an Agence France-Presse story on the Rosenfeld murder opined that 'West Bank settlements are considered illegal under international law and Israelis have been attacked previously in and around them, as well as in annexed east Jerusalem,' as though this somehow explained the reasoning behind it.

But this is a slippery slope. For if we are to buy in to the view that Jewish settlements are the root cause of Palestinian terrorism, or that the creation of a Jewish national homeland on 'Muslim land' in the wake of the Holocaust is the Jews’ original sin that justifies Palestinian retaliation, what is to prevent us from making similar causal relations between 7/7 and former British prime minister Tony Blair’s policies in Iraq and Afghanistan or between 9/11 and U.S. imperialism or between the 2004 Madrid train bombings and Spain’s foreign policies? From the point of view of Hamas or Islamic Jihad, the dismantling of settlements in Judea and Samaria and the expulsion of Jews from the West Bank will not resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Only the eradication of the Jewish state will. And even this will not bring about a change in Hamas’s charter, which includes The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Similarly, there is nothing short of a complete capitulation to Islamists’ dictates – the transformation of Europe into a caliphate, mass conversion, application of Shari’a law – that will appease the terrorists who carried out the attacks in London in 2005 and in Sousse less than two weeks ago.

The only reasonable option is to stand and fight for Western values, whether you find yourself in Jerusalem or London, Paris or Brussels. Those who look for 'root causes,' in contrast, will be doomed to make increasingly shameful capitulations.

At the same time, every effort should be made to search out and forge ties with any moderate elements in Palestinian society and in Israel’s Arab neighbors who realize the grave threat that Islamic State poses for them. A unified front against extremism is the only way to keep this side of the world safe and minimize the chances of another war in Gaza or another terrorist atrocity abroad."

Ends…

 

 

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