In the past few months, I’ve been asked by so many of my American audience for updates on the political situation in the MidEast. It seems there is less than limited coverage of actual events unfolding throughout the region, and even that is radically slanted and misrepresented. I thought I would get away from the “news-junkie-addiction” I had developed back in the States, but it has more than intensified here. And so, after weeks of incredible research, here is my take on what is happening:
The developments and players here are more than complex, built upon years and years, and layers upon layers of perceived wrongs, switching alliances, and actual problems. Like a sticky, old spiderweb encrusted with layers of dust, the problems are many and complicated. So, please bear with me…
Most of you by now have heard of the recent spate of seemingly random terror attacks on the Jewish population throughout Israel. It started around Yom Kippur and is insidiously evil: both dangerous and meant to instill a spirit of fear, as well as to gain attention from the media for the Palestinian cause of alleged “Israeli occupation.” It started with knife attacks in Jerusalem, and has radiated outward to other parts of the country. All very calculated. Mahmoud Abbas is leader of the Palestinian Authority, and he is losing power rapidly to other groups vying for attention and control of the West Bank and Gaza. (Please take a look at the map of Israel below. The West Bank is not a little sliver of land as it sounds, but the huge purple swath in the middle that nearly divides the North from the South. This leaves an 11 mile strip of land in the center from which Israel would have to defend itself. Gaza, on the coast, was previously owned by Israel, but given up for peace, displacing all the Jewish inhabitants, to the Palestinians ten years ago. They have since been using it as a military launch pad for attacks under the control of Hamas, instead of building a peaceful society.).
Besides Abbas (Palestinian Authority and Fatah), Hamas is also fighting for control. Since 1937, land for an independent Palestinian state has been offered four times, and rejected four times. The first in 1937 with the Peel Commission Report; again in 1947 as part of the Petition Plan; in 2000 at the Camp David Accords; and finally in 2008. All were flatly rejected as the Palestinians wanted complete control of the Holy Land and Jerusalem. They refused to recognize a Jewish state or its existence in the land. The Palestinians for the most part have been using the land occupation narrative as the source of their unrest. That story line has shifted to a more dangerous one in the past month, since Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles for the Jews. Hamas has been receiving funds and direction from both Iran and Hizbollah (Lebanon). It is in the latter’s interest to further sow seeds of unrest in Israel and depose Abbas in the West Bank. Abbas at the moment is not liked and holds very little clout among the people. Seemingly, the directives from Iran and Hizbollah have mutated from a political to a religious narrative. The local imams are now calling for a holy obligation to regain the Temple Mount in the Holy City of Jerusalem. They are calling for un uprising and unrest and for the “pure blood of martyrs” who are willing to give their lives in the killing of Jews, either by knife attack or car ramming incidents. This is not yet a true Intifada, however, it has been called for. Despite recent arms and ammunitions caches being discovered at the holy mount; numerous arrests of terror suspects; and the closing of the Temple Mount (Al Aqsa Mosque area) to all but Muslims, there is more. The UN has just recognized Palestine as an independent state and, in coordination with the Palestinians, last week they called for international intervention and oversight of the area. The Palestinians then proclaimed their desire for complete ownership of the entire area, including the Kotel, Western Wall Plaza, the most sacred place in the world for the Jewish people and Israel. This announcement was then dropped after 36 hours, but it was put forth nonetheless. Hamas is using the mosque as leverage to gain political authority over the West Bank in their rise for dominance with the Palestinian peoples. When there is an increase in terror, Hamas gains favor.
As I have stated, the problems are many. It does not help that the funds pumped into the West Bank and Gaza for relief and education are mostly being used for purposes of training terrorists. The conditions are awful across the border. There is a 47% dropout rate in the schools as opposed to a 1% dropout rate in the rest of Israel. There are few (at best) social clubs, sports or cultural opportunities for them. Because of their insistence on armed resistance, and terror attacks against the resident Israeli population, walls and fences have had to be erected and checkpoints established, much to their own detriment. Many of the youth see absolutely no hope or future, and aspire to martyrdom to achieve recognition and financial stipends for their families upon their deaths. Because of social media, the fans can be flamed through the population of youth in little time. Gangs of terrorists (usually in their early teens to mid twenties in age) form posses atop the mountain passes hurling large rocks, cinderblocks and flaming tires down upon the motorists stuck on the roads below. Just two weeks ago, the Joint List Members of the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) who represent the Arabs, held a rally of over 20,000 in the town of Saknin in the Galilee Region. They called for an upsurge in “protests” and solidarity with the pro-Palestinian cause. There have been weapons caches discovered by the IDF in Nazareth and Jenin, and in the Upper Golan area. Terror rings have been arrested before they could carry out their coordinated attacks in Tiberias and Nazareth. The stabbings have radiated outward from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, the central Gush Dan region, and to Beersheba in the South. A few rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel, exploding in barren fields causing no casualties, but stirring up fear. There are few agreed upon solutions, especially as the Palestinians will not recognize the existence of the Jewish state in their charter.
The Sunni Muslim countries of United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudia Arabia, and Jordan are allied with Fatah. They are calling for the rebellion to be brought under control, so the region can be stabilized. The West Bank also shares a border with Jordan to the East. Hamas is Shi’ite, backed by Iran/Hizbollah. With all the unrest happening internally, this creates a great smoke screen for the buildup in the North. It is extremely difficult to put out many fires at once, and if the people are only focused on the internal acts of terrorism, their eyes are diverted from the bigger, more threatening picture. This is by no means meant to diminish the reality the Palestinian situation inside Israel.
Where does the United States come in? For years now, we have been hearing Obama refer to what everyone else calls ISIS – as ISIL. He is very deliberate in using this name. What is the difference? What actually is ISIL? Very interesting indeed. ISIL stands for The Islamic States of Iraq and the Levant, very different than just the Islamic State in Syria. ISIL is a self-titled caliphate, a multi-national region that extends from Turkey in the North, including Syria, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon all the way down to Egypt. If you look at the map above, what one nation stands in the middle of this Muslim caliphate, the Levant? Yes, it is little Israel.
The Islamic State is now a viable presence in Iraq. It is an organized force controlling Bagdad, Ramadi, Mosul, and Falluja, all territories conquered after the United States pulled out of the region. Iraq is now split into three warring camps:Iran/Shi’ites, ISIS/Sunnis, and the Kurds. There is much infighting as they struggle for power over the region. Israel is bordered by Syria to the Northeast. Assad and the Alawite Regime, which is more secular, although dictatorial, is pitted against the rebel forces (the Free Syrian Army and the Kurds, moderates relatively speaking) and the combined forces of ISIS and Al Nusra (Sunni). Russia, China, and Cuba have entered the game to back up Assad. In just the past week,in addition to what they had already placed in the area, Russia has brought 30 fighter jets, plus cargo planes and attack helicopters into Syria. Also propping up the Assad regime under Russia, 2000 Iranian Revolutionary guards, 2000 Iraqi Shi’a militia and 1000 Hizbulla elite from Lebanon(supported by Iran) have crossed into Syria and are camped around Quneitra just a few miles off Israel’s Northeastern border. According to Elhanan Miller of the Times of Israel, IS is gaining ground on the Golan border, operating openly now. Russian airstrikes have been targeting both the rebels and IS throughout Syria, but now they are active closer to Israel. Assad and the Russians according to Russian intelligence and operations are strategizing a much larger presence in the area. In addition, 30 plus fighter jets are now stationed at Latakia in Syria, 155 miles north of Israel and at Al Tiqaddum Air Force Base outside Bagdad. This creates an “arc of power” making what they call an impenetrable elect/cyber barrier across the MidEast making Israeli penetration more than difficult as Iran continues to develop ballistic missiles which can be used to deliver nuclear warheads. And although there have been meetings between Netanyahu and Putin over the use of airspace and the right of Israel to defend her borders, the Russians are flying ever closer in their bombing sorties (nearer the Golan).
So, Iran is baking Hamas and the insurgency of Palestinian terrorists against Israel, creating a real threat, but also a smokescreen for strategies to the North. The situation is very complex as Prime Minister Netanyahu has to carefully strategize for all fronts as well as deal with internal affairs. Not only must he act to alleviate the present situation, but plan for whatever the future holds. Hopefully in the next month I will continue this post in light of what is happening to the South of Israel as well.
sources include: ` Times of Israel; Breaking Israel News; DEBKA file; Arutz Sheva; The Jerusalem Post; Fitnaphobia; Jerusalem Online; Memri; Legal Insurrection; Mosaic.