The likelihood of an all-out regional war in the Middle East
is increasing, the head of the IDF Home Front Command said on Monday, Channel 10
Speaking to the Institute for National Security Studies,
Major General Eyal Eisenberg said that such a conflict could potentially include
the use of weapons of mass destruction.
Eisenberg cautioned that the Arab Spring could turn into the
“Radical Islamic Winter.”
Eisenberg also noted that a new weapon was used by Gaza
militants in the recent round of escalation in the south, which led the Home
Front Command to instruct the public to seek shelter under two roofs, rather
than one. †
Christian Science Monitor (Link)
- Ariel Zirulnick (September 2, 2011)
Turkey-Israel relations dipped to a new low today over a
long-awaited United Nations report on the Gaza flotilla debacle, freezing a key
regional alliance despite more than a year of attempts to resuscitate ties.
Turkey announced today that it is expelling Israel’s
ambassador and suspending all joint military agreements after failing to secure
a formal apology from Israel for the deaths of eight Turks and one
Turkish-American on May 31, 2010, when Israeli commandos boarded the Mavi
Marmara, the flagship of the flotilla.
The convoy of ships had been seeking to break Israel’s naval
blockade of Gaza, which Israel said was necessary to prevent the Islamist
militant group Hamas from obtaining weapons but which many in the international
community had objected to on humanitarian grounds.
The UN report, due to be formally released today but
leaked yesterday by The New York Times, surprised many by declaring
Israel’s blockade of Gaza as legal. While it criticized Israeli commandos for
using “excessive and unreasonable” force in halting the mainly Turkish flotilla,
it requested merely that
Israel “express regret” for the deaths and pay unspecified reparations to
the families, the Times reported.
YNet News (Link)
- Dudi Cohen, AP and AFP (August 30, 2011)
The Israeli Navy (INF) has decided to boost its presence and
patrols near Israel’s maritime border with Egypt due to a viable terror threat
in the area, as Iran announced it was set to send its 15th fleet to the Red Sea
as well to “convey message of peace and friendship to all countries.”
Israeli security sources told the Associated Press on
Tuesday that two additional warships have been dispatched to Israel’s Red Sea
border with Egypt. Another source said that the operation was routine, telling
Reuters that “two naval craft have been sent to the Red Sea. This is not
On Monday, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen Benny Gantz ordered
that deployment across the entire southern sector be bolstered, especially in
the area near the Israel-Egypt border, following intelligence indicating an
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that Iran was
determined to eradicate Israel, ISNA news agency reported Thursday.
“Iran believes that whoever is for humanity should also be
for eradicating the Zionist regime (Israel) as symbol of suppression and
discrimination,” Ahmadinejad said in an interview with a Lebanese television
network, carried by ISNA.
“Iran follows this issue (the eradication of Israel) with
determination and decisiveness and will never ever withdraw from this standpoint
and policy,” the Iranian president added in the interview with the Al-Manar
The remarks by Ahmadinejad came one day before the annual
anti-Israeli rallies named Qods (Jerusalem) Day, which are held nationwide in
Iran on the last Friday of the fasting month of Ramadan.
Ahmadinejad on Monday said that Iranians and Muslim nations
worldwide should hold Qods rallies and show their willingness to dispose of this
“infectious tumor and this regime full of rascality.”
The Iranian president provoked international condemnation in
2005 when he said that Israel should be eliminated from the map of the Middle
East and transferred to Europe or North America. †
Stratfor Global Intelligence (Link)
- George Friedman (August 22, 2011)
In September, the U.N. General Assembly will vote on whether
to recognize Palestine as an independent and sovereign state with full rights in
the United Nations. In many ways, this would appear to be a reasonable and
logical step. Whatever the Palestinians once were, they are clearly a nation in
the simplest and most important sense — namely, they think of themselves as a
nation. Nations are created by historical circumstances, and those circumstances
have given rise to a
Palestinian nation. Under the principle of the United Nations and the theory
of the right to national self-determination, which is the moral foundation of
the modern theory of nationalism, a nation has a right to a state, and that
state has a place in the family of nations. In this sense, the U.N. vote will be
However, when the United Nations votes on Palestinian
statehood, it will intersect with other realities and other historical
processes. First, it is one thing to declare a Palestinian state; it is quite
another thing to create one. The Palestinians are deeply divided between two
views of what the Palestinian nation ought to be, a division not easily
overcome. Second, this vote will come at a time when two of Israel’s neighbors
are coping with their own internal issues.
Syria is in chaos, with an extended and significant resistance against the
regime having emerged. Meanwhile, Egypt is struggling with internal tension over
the fall of President Hosni Mubarak and the future of the military junta that
replaced him. Add to this the
U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and the potential rise of Iranian power, and the
potential recognition of a Palestinian state — while perfectly logical in an
abstract sense — becomes an event that can force a regional crisis in the midst
of ongoing regional crises. It thus is a vote that could have significant
Last year, an international crisis exploded when Israel
stopped a flotilla of ships from breaking its naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.
The incident left Israel feeling more isolated, but some Jews
saw the pages of scripture coming alive through the crisis.
When Israeli commandos stormed the Turkish-owned flagship,
Mavi Mamara, leading the flotilla, things quickly turned deadly. Pro-Palestinian
activists attacked the soldiers, who then defended themselves. Nine activists
died in the melee.
Israel acted to keep weapons out of Hamas-controlled Gaza,
but that didn’t stop an international rush to judgment.
The U.N. Security Council condemned Israel and called for an
Sweden, Ireland and other nations planned boycotts against
the Jewish state.
Gaza terrorists launched an incessant rocket and mortar
offensive at southern Israel Saturday, wounding at least 11 people across the
The barrages followed a declaration by the Izz al-Din al-Qassam
Brigades – Hamas’ military wing – saying that its armistice with Israel was
Saturday morning, the Color Red alert sounded in the greater
Beersheba area. A subsequent explosion was reported in the city around 9 am. The
projectile landed in an open area just outside Israel’s largest southern city,
injuring one person lightly. Magen David Adom paramedics attended to both.
Seven other people suffered light injuries while running to a
nearby shelter. They arrived at the Soroka University Medical Center in
The Jerusalem Post (Link)
- Lahav Harkov (August 18, 2011)
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni (Kadima) called on the
government to retaliate following Thursday’s terrorist attacks near Eilat.
“The terrorist attack requires Israeli action, which Kadima
will support,” she said at a meeting of Kadima mayors.
“The attack in the South completely changes the equation,”
Livni added. “We need a new way of thinking about closing the border between
Israel and Egypt.”
National Union MKs also called for border security to be
“This government failed at sealing the southern border before
tens of thousands of illegal immigrants, signaling to all the terrorist
organizations in the area that there is no problem penetrating the Israeli
border,” MK Arye Eldad (National Union) said.
He added: “Only a dramatic change in instructions to open
fire and targeted killings of the heads of Beduin gangs in the Sinai and the
Negev will successfully close our border.”
- Itamar Marcus & Nan Jacques Zilberdik (August 17, 2011)
Official Palestinian Authority TV broadcast a documentary
which stated that the PA plans to build an Arab residential area in place of the
Western Wall Plaza in Jerusalem, “when they [Israelis] disappear from the
picture, like a forgotten chapter in the pages of our city’s history.”
The Western Wall, a remnant of the Temple Mount, is Judaism’s
holiest and most important prayer site.
The PA TV documentary further rejected the Jewish connection
to Jerusalem, referring to Jewish history as “their false history,” while the
Jews’ praying at the Western Wall was called “sin and filth.”
YNet News (Link)
- Attila Somfalvi (August 17, 2011)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Wednesday that
Israel will not apologize to Turkey over the 2010 flotilla incident, despite an
earlier demand by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to do so.
Clinton spoke with Netanyahu, asking Israel to apologize to
Turkey for killing nine of its citizens aboard the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara ship
in May 2010. However, Netanyahu made it clear that given the current situation
in the Middle East, Israel will not issue an apology.
Later on Wednesay, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said
it would be impossible for Turkish-Israeli ties to improve unless Israel
apologised and paid compensation for the killing of the nine Turks.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a news
conference in Istanbul that “if the Palmer Report does not contain an apology,
both sides and the United States know what we will do.” He did not elaborate.
“Israel is facing a choice: deeper relations with Turkey or
open a gap with the Turkish state that will not be overcome very easily,” he
Stratfor Global Intelligence (Link)
- George Friedman (August 15, 2011)
On Dec. 17, 2010, Mohammed Bouazizi, a Tunisian street
vendor, set himself on fire in a show of public protest. The self-immolation
triggered unrest in Tunisia and ultimately the
resignation of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. This was followed by
in a number of Arab countries that the global press dubbed the “Arab Spring.”
The standard analysis of the situation was that oppressive regimes had been
sitting on a volcano of liberal democratic discontent. The belief was that the
Arab Spring was a political uprising by masses demanding liberal democratic
reform and that this uprising, supported by Western democracies, would generate
sweeping political change across the Arab world.
It is now more than six months since the beginning of the
Arab Spring, and it is important to take stock of what has happened and what has
not happened. The reasons for the widespread unrest go beyond the Arab world,
although, obviously, the dynamics within that world are important in and of
themselves. However, the belief in an Arab Spring helped shape European and
American policies in the region and the world. If the assumptions of this past
January and February prove insufficient or even wrong, then there will be
regional and global consequences.
The Jerusalem Post (Link)
- Gil Shefler (August 13, 2011)
The Palestinians set September 20th as the date for the
much-anticipated vote over Palestinian statehood at the United Nations,
according to AFP.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki informed UN
Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas
will ask the international community to recognize Palestine as a sovereign state
on the first day of the annual opening gathering at UN headquarters in New York.
“Abbas will personally present the request to UN Secretary
General Ban Ki-moon... at the opening of the sixty-sixth session,” he was quoted
as saying by the French news wire. “[Abbas] will insist on this historic
initiative and Ban Ki-moon will present the request to the Security Council.”
The announcement cast aside speculation that the Palestinians
might quietly step back from their bid for statehood in response to mounting
international pressure against it.
The Media Line (Link)
- Arieh O’Sullivan (August 8, 2011)
Like a postcard sent from the battle ground, a Roman sword,
still in its leather-bound wooden scabbard, was unearthed in a Jerusalem ditch
where it had apparently lain since the revolt that destroyed the Second Temple
almost 2,000 years ago.
Archaeologist Eli Shukron told The Media Line it was a
rare find and the only one that could definitely be linked to the Great Revolt
by the Jews against the Romans in August 70 A.D.
The discovery was even more symbolic for the archaeologists
since it came just a day before Jews mark the destruction of the Temple on the
9th of the Jewish Month of Av, which falls on August 9.
The iron sword was discovered in a dig carried out by the
Israel Antiquities Authority in Jerusalem’s ancient drainage channel that ran
from the site of the ancient Temple through the City of David to the Siloam
The Jerusalem Post (Link)
- Yaakov Katz (August 4, 2011)
Israel and the United States started their annual joint naval
exercises in the Mediterranean Sea this week again without the participation of
the Turkish navy, in another sign of Jerusalem’s deteriorating ties with Ankara.
Called Reliant Mermaid, the annual exercise was started over
a decade ago and included the Israeli, Turkish and American navies. The
objective of the exercise is to practice search-and-rescue operations and to
familiarize each navy with international partners who also operate in the
The exercise was last held with all three partners in the
summer of 2009 but following the Israeli navy raid on the Mavi Marmara last May,
Turkey pulled out of the 2010 drill.
The IDF had expected Turkey would not participate this year
The Trumpet (Link)
- Robert Morley (August 2, 2011)
When the United States government and al Qaeda agree on
something, you know that can’t be a good thing.
In this case, they both want Syrian President Bashir Assad to
step down. Bizarrely, that’s not all they agree on. On July 11, U.S. Secretary
Hillary Clinton said, “President Assad is not indispensable. … Our goal is
to see that the will of the Syrian people for a democratic transformation
occurs” (emphasis added throughout).
Responding to America’s overtures to the anti-government protesters, al
Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri warned the pro-democracy activists not to deal
with America. America would only corrupt them, he said. He called Assad,
however, a “leader of criminal gangs,” an “aggressor,” an “oppressor,” and a
“traitor” to his people. He applauded the pro-democracy activists’
efforts to teach Assad a “lesson.” And he hailed Syrian protesters as “mujahideen,”
or holy warriors.
Both America and al Qaeda are pushing for democracy in Syria.
Yet for all the talk, that is mostly all it is. Neither group has much influence
The Telegraph UK (Link)
- Adrian Blomfield (August 1, 2011)
The offer, which emerged tonight appeared to represent a
major climb-down by Mr Netanyahu, who has consistently refused to discuss
specific borders of a future state.
A government official in Jerusalem told The Daily Telegraph
the offer was dependent on the Palestinians dropping their campaign for
statehood at the United Nations next month and accepting Israel as a Jewish
The offer appears to cross Palestinian red lines, and it
seemed likely to be rejected — although the onus is now likely to be placed on
the Palestinians to present a counter offer.
Mr Netanyahu reacted angrily when the 1967 proposal was made
by Barack Obama in May but was now said to be offering to trade Israeli
territory on its side of the line for West Bank land where its main settlements
UNIFIL said Monday that Lebanese fire on IDF troops earlier
in the day was uncalled for, and that the latter had not crossed into Lebanese
territory, as the country’s army had claimed. The facts did not stop the
Lebanese president from rebuking Israel for “provocation,” however.
On Monday morning Lebanese soldiers opened fire on Israeli
soldiers patrolling the border, who returned fire. Lebanese news agencies
reported at first that a Lebanese soldier was hurt during the exchanges of fire,
but UNIFIL Spokesman Neeraj Singh later refuted the claims.
Lebanese President Michel Suleiman praised the army for its
conduct. Suleiman blamed Israel for repeated aggression and provocation against
his country. “The Israeli enemy tried again to revert back to attacks and
provocations in the Wazani region, but you stood guard,” he told the troops.
A preliminary investigation by UNIFIL, which was forwarded to
the IDF, shows that Lebanese forces opened fire because they thought the IDF
soldiers had crossed the border.
But IDF sources are insisting that the Israeli troops
remained on their side. They say a Paratroopers force was on vehicular patrol
when suddenly they were fired upon, and returned fire with their rifles.
A team of Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) officers has
just finished setting up Hamas’ first commando unit especially trained to combat
any Israel military force entering the Gaza Strip, DEBKAfile’s military
sources report. The new “Al Qods Brigades” unit of 400 men is to be the first of
three. A week ago, July 23, the first unit held a passing-out parade and
leave-taking ceremony from its two Iranian instructors.
DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources report that the pair
arrived in the Gaza Strip in the latter half of May on Iranian passports which
gave their cover names as Morteza Rahban and Hojjat Safar-Zadeh.
Their journey took them from Sudan through Egypt and Sinai
where they were led by Bedouin smugglers to the contraband tunnels accessing the
Gaza Strip. They went back to Tehran by the same route.
The two officers were members of the IRGC’s notorious Al Qods
Brigades which undertakes overseas terrorist and covert activities on behalf of
the Iranian regime. For the Al Qods commander Gen. Qassem Suleimaini, setting up
a Hamas commando force in Gaza was a high and immediate priority.
Bridges For Peace (Link)
- BFP Israel Mosaic Radio - Joshua Spurlock (July 25, 2011)
A small golden bell—that was apparently originally sown on to
the clothing of a high official in Jerusalem roughly 2000-years-ago and bring to
mind the Biblical priestly garments—has been discovered in an archaeological
excavation. According to an Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) press release,
the rare gold bell has a small loop on its end and is presumed to have come from
the edge of a garment. In the Bible, Exodus 28:33 describes the robe of the high
priest: “Upon its hem you shall make pomegranates of blue, purple, and scarlet,
all around its hem, and bells of gold between them all around.”
The IAA press release said of the possible connection of the
discovered bell to the priesthood, “It is impossible to know for certain if the
bell did indeed belong to one of the high priests; however, the possibility
should not be entirely discounted.”
The bell itself was discovered during an archaeological
excavation of a drainage tunnel that runs from the Shiloah Pool (Pool of Siloam
beneath the City of David) to near the Western Wall. In the region of the
excavation, back during the Second Temple Period (first century AD), there was a
main road above the channel, which was linked with a bridge, known today as
Robinson’s Arch, that led up to the Temple Mount.
Turkish newspaper Hurriyet on Monday reported that Prime
Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is considering moving to a “Plan B” which will see
relations with Israel suffer further by downgrading the level of Turkey’s
diplomatic staff in Israel.
On Sunday, Erdogan said that he still expects an apology from
Jerusalem. “We will wait for the Israelis’ decision a certain period. If they
don’t apologize by this time we shall move to plan b,” he said.
According to Hurriyet, “Plan B” means cooling down relations
with Israel. One of the most significant steps will be downgrading the level of
Turkey’s embassy staff in Israel. Ankara recalled its ambassador following last
year’s flotilla event. It is also possible Turkey will not approve an Israeli
ambassador to replace Gaby Levy.
On Sunday, the Turkish newspaper
reported that the Palmer report has ruled that IDF soldiers boarded the ship
with “the intent to kill.”
According to the report, Israel is
considering compensating the families of the nine people killed aboard the ship,
and intends to issue a statement regretting the loss of life - regardless of
Turkey’s demand for an official apology. †
The New York Times (Link)
- Mark Landler (July 20, 2011)
It is a truism of Middle East peacemaking that the United
States is the pivotal player — the most credible broker between the Israelis and
the Palestinians. But with talks at a standstill, the Obama administration now
finds itself on the sidelines, and Europe is emerging as the key diplomatic
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and the
Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, have crisscrossed the Continent in recent
weeks, trying to woo leaders who are weighing whether to support a Palestinian
bid for statehood at the United Nations in September. Neither man has visited
Washington since the spring.
That may suit the administration just fine. The White House,
several officials said, has deliberately kept a low profile since President
Obama’s speech on the Middle East in May, in which he tried unsuccessfully to
break the stalemate by
proposing a starting point for negotiating the contours of a Palestinian
Europe’s rising role stems not only from American fatigue
with a seemingly intractable problem, but also from the peculiar dynamics of the
Palestinian campaign at the United Nations. With more than 100 countries, most
in the developing world, expected to support Palestinian recognition — and the
United States almost certain to oppose it — Britain, France and Germany are
viewed as influential swing votes.
The Trumpet (Link)
- Brad Macdonald (July 19, 2011)
Around the world, people love to have their minds stirred by
humanity’s ancient edifices. Be it the Parthenon in Greece, built 2,400 years
ago for the goddess Athena, China’s Great Wall, Rome’s famous Coliseum, the
Vatican’s Basilica of St. Peter or the Taj Mahal, these iconic structures
capture imaginations and have become gateways into history.
In June, another imagination-stirring edifice was added to
This structure is not only older, but more remarkable and
more inspiring than any of the others. Situated just outside the Old City in
Jerusalem, the Ophel City Wall site sits between the City of David and the
southern wall of the Temple Mount. Now open to the public, the Ophel Wall
features ancient artifacts dated to the 10th century
B.C., a period during which the ancient kingdom of Israel experienced
extraordinary expansion under King David and his son and heir, Solomon. Among
the Ophel discoveries is an impressive edifice—a 70-meter-long and
6-meter-high wall—constructed during King Solomon’s reign.
The Jerusalem Post (Link)
- Caroline Glick (July 18, 2011)
Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas is in Europe this week seeking to
convince the Spanish and Norwegian governments to support the Palestinian bid to
sidestep negotiations with Israel and have the UN General Assembly recognize
Palestinian sovereignty over Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem in addition to Gaza.
The Palestinians know that without US support, their
initiative will fail to gain Security Council support and therefore have no
legal weight. But they believe that if they push hard enough, Israel’s control
over these areas will eventually unravel and they will gain control over them
without ever accepting Israel’s right to exist.
Fatah’s UN gambit, along with its unity deal with Hamas,
makes clear that the time has come for Israel to finally face the facts: There
are only two realistic options for dealing with Judea and Samaria.
Either the Palestinians will take control of Judea and
Samaria, or Israel will annex them.
If the Palestinians take control, they will establish a
terror state in the areas, which – like their terror state in Gaza – will use
its territory as a starting point for continued war against Israel.
The intensive U.S. efforts to create an agreed outline for
renewed negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have failed, Israeli
and Palestinian sources have told Haaretz. The sources said the Palestinian
leadership is more determined than ever to pursue the recognition of an
independent Palestinian state at the United Nations in September.
An Israeli source who was close to talks held by the U.S.
administration with both Israeli and Palestinian officials told Haaretz the
Americans was unable to find a formula that both parties could accept and take
to the negotiating table. He said the Americans were working on a formula that
would combine President Barack Obama’s speech at the State Department on May 19
and his speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on May 22. Such a
formula would offer the Palestinians the 1967 border with territorial exchanges
while promising Israeli recognition of Israel as the national home of the Jewish
Both parties raised numerous objections to Washington’s
proposal, leading the administration to conclude that neither was ready to
resume talks. The Americans therefore decided to settle for a generic Quartet
statement containing only a single bit of real news - announcing the dispatch of
a team of senior diplomats to hold another round of talks in Jerusalem and
Ramallah and report back to Obama personally.
Hudson New York (Link)
- Alan M. Dershowitz (July 11, 2011)
The recent attempts by anti-Israel extremists to break
Israel’s naval blockage of Gaza and to flood Israel’s airports with
troublemakers have failed.
The ships of fools, knaves hypocrites, bigots, and supporters
of terrorism that tried to sail from Greece have now apparently been run
aground. Most of the hard-left extremists have gone home following a decision by
the Greek government to prevent the boats from leaving Greek ports. And those
who tried to flood Israel’s airports are being deported. The resulting fiasco,
which was designed to discredit Israel, has succeeded only in discrediting the
Israel bashers on the boats and planes by exposing their true purpose.
The alleged purpose of the ships was to feed the starving
Arabs of Gaza. The problem is that the Arabs of Gaza are not starving. Nor are
they in need of outside help.
According to reporting by The New York Times, Gaza has been
thriving recently. Luxury hotels are being built; stores are stocked with food;
beaches are filled with children; and life is far better than in neighboring Al
Arish, which is across the border in Egypt.
The U.S. has decided to formally resume contact with Egypt’s
Muslim Brotherhood group - which does not recognize Israel – in a move that
could further alienate some Jewish voters already skeptical of President Barack
Obama, it was reported.
“The political landscape in Egypt has changed, and is
changing… It is in our interests to engage with all of the parties that are
competing for parliament or the presidency,” said the official, who confirmed
the news to Reuters on condition of anonymity.
The Muslim Brotherhood - founded in 1928 to promote a
conservative version of Islam in politics, culture and society – has previously
had some communication with the U.S. through Brotherhood Members of Parliament
who had been technically elected as independents. U.S. diplomats had been
instructed only to deal with Brotherhood members in their role as Members of
YNet News (Link)
- Ronen Medzini, Attila Somfalvi, Ahiya Raved, Elior Levy and Omri Efraim
contributed to this report (June 24, 2011)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Thursday a plan
aimed at pressuring Hamas into releasing captive soldier Gilad Shalit two days
before the five-year anniversary to his abduction. Netanyahu said he has decided
to change Israel’s
policy towards terrorists incarcerated in the country.
The prime minister said that Israel has no other obligations
beyond adhering to Israeli law, international law and international treaties.
Speaking at the Presidential Conference in Jerusalem he said that the State will
put an end to the Hamas prisoners’ excessive conditions.
He did not specify the steps the government will take to
alter confinement conditions but noted that he has canceled the “absurd”
protocol allowing terrorists to enroll in academic studies. “There will be no
more doctorates of terror,” he said, “This party is over.”
In March 2009, a committee headed by then Justice Minister
Daniel Friedmann recommended worsening Hamas prisoners’ conditions. No other
decisions were made since. The committee recommended limiting family visits and
denying physical contact, banning television, radio and newspapers and changing
legislation to prevent administrative release and lawyer visits.