Saturday, August 23, 2008

"Caught Between"

Arlene Kushner

Never mind that Israel isn't flexing her muscles to the maximum that she might, she is, in no regard a superpower. And when the dynamics between the superpowers shifts, and tensions ignite, it ultimately has an effect -- or several effects -- on us here. It is still too soon to know how it will all play out, but this is some of what we're seeing:

Israel had been selling weapons to Georgia, but stopped with the current crisis, afraid that we would incur unnecessary wrath from Russia (which subsequently played down concerns). At the same time the government invited domestic criticism for abandoning a victim of Russian aggression.


In moves reminiscent of the cold war, the US this week signed a defensive pact with Poland that will place 10 US interceptor missiles in that country just 115 miles from the Russian border. A retaliatory response from an infuriated Russia -- possibly in the Middle East -- was seen as a possibility, and the following scenario then enfolded:

Syrian President Bashar Assad went to Russia Thursday and met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Assad, who had been taking a totally pro-Russian line during the Russian-Georgian hostilities, invited the Russians to place the sophisticated Iskander missile system -- with a range that could reach all of Israel -- on Syrian soil. He suggested that both because of the US deal with Poland and Israel's relationship with Georgia, this might appeal to Medvedev.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia was thinking of responding to Assad's invitation, but qualified this by saying only defensive weapons would be supplied, which would "not harm the region's strategic balance." But even defensive weapons -- presumably anti-aircraft missiles -- would have an effect if Israel found it necessary to fly over or attack sites in Syria, as was the case when we took out the reactor.

Amidst a flurry of protests, acting Russian ambassador to lsrael Anatoly Yurkov told Ynet, "Why in the world would we need to deploy our missiles here? Against whom? We have no enemies in the region." And Medvedev placed a "business as usual" call directly to Olmert.

Finally Assad, likely thinking better of it, denied he had made such an offer. But withdrawal of an offer to place the Iskander system in Syria does not necessarily mean that Assad will walk away empty-handed; he went hoping to buy Russian military equipment.


Incomprehensibly, in the face of all of this, the government is continuing to pursue indirect negotiations with Syria via Turkey.

MK Gideon Sa'ar (head, Likud faction) criticized this, saying that it gave Syria increased international legitimacy.


Another rejection: According to Channel 10 news, the US has refused a request by Barak to buy the Boeing 767 aircraft, which can be used for refueling mid-air, reportedly because this would appear to give assistance to Israeli plans to hit Iran.

Israel already has plans that have a mid-air refueling capacity, as well as jets that can reach Iran without refueling.


According to a Palestinian news agency, Ahmed Qurei, head of the PA negotiating team, speaking at a Fatah gathering in Ramallah, said that he didn't believe a final agreement with Israel would be possible in 2008.

"We [will not] accept less than a Palestinian state with the 1967 borders (sic) with East Jerusalem as its capital. [And including] a just solution of the issue of the refugees based on the international resolutions and the right of return."

Saying that eastern Jerusalem must be the spiritual, economic, and geographical center of the Palestinian state, Qurei stressed that there would be no partial deal -- that everything had to be agreed upon "in one package."

This is good news for us. If the PA will not consent to signing on to a partial deal (with Jerusalem still unresolved) it becomes considerably less likely that Olmert will commit to paper formally what Israel is willing to concede.


Hamas also agrees that Jerusalem is critical to Palestinian interests, but it, of course, is not promoting a final "one package" deal. Said Ismail Haniyeh:

" one can cede Jerusalem, the city from which the Prophet Muhammad ascended to the heavens. [Note: this is not from the Koran, which never mentions Jerusalem by name, but from later legend.]

"Jerusalem will be retrieved to the Palestinians not through negotiations or by hugging and kissing the enemy, but by way of jihad, blood, shahids and resistance. With Allah's help, Jerusalem will be returned."


Haniyeh, it must be noted, added this:

"...the Israeli-Arabs are safeguarding the Al-Aksa Mosque; it is as if they are inside the belly of a whale. They represent the Islamic nation. We send them our regards, especially to Sheikh Raed Salah.

Sheikh Salad is founder of the Islamic Movement in Israel, a radical Islamist group of Arabs with Israeli citizenship working against the wellbeing of Israel.


As happens on a regular basis, fallacious and inflammatory claims by Arabs regarding Israel's intent to destroy the Al Aksa Mosque on the Temple Mount have again been circulating. These charges serve at one and the same time to incite against Israel and rally various Arab factions together in a common cause.

Mohammad Al-Saqer, who is the parliamentary president of Kuwait, has just called upon the Arab League and other Arab groups to combat an Israeli scheme to divide the Al Aksa Mosque, so that it is half for Jews, half for Muslims.

He said that the Israeli digging under the Mosque has reached a dangerous stage. This charge about digging is ludicrous. For the remains of the Temple lie under the Mount and all digging is strictly forbidden by the Israeli Antiquities Authority and all rabbis. But let's not get confused by facts.

Much is being made, as well, of the anniversary of a fire set at the Al Aksa Mosque in 1969, which caused damage to one wing. And here, too, reality is obscured, for the fire was set by an Australian tourist, Michael Dennis Rohan, of the Worldwide Church of God, who told the police he hoped this would hasten the second coming of Jesus. That the fire was quickly put out by the Israelis is forgotten as the libel spreads that Israel paid Rohan to do it.


And in the face of all of this, what does foreign minister and candidate for Kadima leadership Tzipi Livni have to say?

Given the increasing power of extremists, time is of the essence to reach an agreement with the Palestinians. The only possibility for reaching an agreement is with the leadership that exists now in the Palestinian Authority.

This is the stuff of nightmares. Rather than rushing, we should be pulling back and reassessing.

Can it truly be that she doesn't understand? The increasing power of extremists has already infected the Fatah party, which is moving towards a more radical (and Islamist) line. It renders the so-called moderates impotent, so that they would not be able to honor any agreement with us.


Contrary to recent reports that she might go to elections if she secured victory in the Kadima primary, she is now calling for a unity government.

Interestingly, even though she continues to lead in Kadima polls, her lead weakens -- Mofaz gets stronger -- if the question is asked who would be preferred in time of national crisis. Apparently those responding with a move toward Mofaz, given this hypothetical situation, don't understand that we are in crisis now.


Investigators are questioning Olmert for the sixth time today.

An attempt is being made by Israeli law enforcement officials to secure US immunity for Talansky for testimony he might still give here. He is in trouble with the FBI for what he has already revealed, and thus is afraid to come back and say more.


We have been on guard for some time -- and Israel has warned Israelis traveling abroad to be watch for kidnapping attempts -- but now a warning has come from a sheikh in Hezbollah that they are coming close to time to exact revenge for the assassination of Imad Mugniyah in February.

"The revenge will be shocking and huge surprises are in store," he said. He spoke about all-out war, as Israel would respond to this attack.

Even though all precautions without reservation must be taken, I cannot help wonder how much of this is bombast. Why would they warn of an attack rather than using the element of surprise?


Khaled Abu Rakaiek of the Tel Sheva local Bedouin Council in the Negev has been indicted in Beersheva court for attempting to make contact with an agent of Al Qaida and Global Jihad, with the intent of starting a cell to carry out terrorist attacks in Israel.

Abu Rakaiek was formerly a student at the Technological College of Beersheva, where he acquired computer knowledge that allowed him to surf the Internet, make contact with radical groups, and download information on preparing belts.


According to a new Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs report by Lt. Col. (res.) Jonathan Dahoah Halevi, off-shoots of Al Qaida -- Jaish al-Islam (army of Islam), Army of the Umma, and Fatah al-Islam -- have freedom of movement in the Hamas-ruled Gaza. In fact, Jaish al-Islam has been officially recognized by Hamas as a legitimate armed movement in Gaza.

And here we sit?

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