As Israel’s borders—and the region—heat up
Since Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s visit to Israel last week, during which Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu openly and in Panetta’s presence decried U.S. policy toward Iran as ineffective, Israeli media have been reporting further bitter charges against Washington by Israeli officials.
On Sunday Ynet, website of the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot, reported that “the Obama administration’s efforts to calm down the Israeli government on the topic of Iran have not made an impression with Jerusalem decision makers,” and that
Senior officials…leveled severe criticism against the US, declaring that the American position on a date for a military strike against Iran was a “wretched red line.”
“The US’ stance is pushing the Iranians to become a country at the brink [of nuclear capability],” explained sources well versed in the nuclear issue. “The Americans are de facto allowing the Iranians to continue to enrich uranium and become a country at the brink. We are not prepared to allow that [to happen].”
Ynet quotes the officials as saying further:
“The Americans say that the ayatollahs’ decision to construct a bomb is the red line…. Who knows when they’ll decide and what they’ll decide.
“The centrifuges are spinning and the uranium enrichment level is growing significantly over the past few months. The Iranians are not impressed with the threats and continue on their path in spite of the heavy sanctions.”
And on Monday the daily Israel Hayom reported that a senior Foreign Ministry official had “slammed the U.S. administration for refusing to declare the P5+1 talks with Iran a failure.” Those talks have now stalled with no date set for a further round. And yet—centrifuges spinning and all—European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and the chief Iranian negotiator have agreed to discuss things again at the end of this month.
“[T]he Iranians,” the Foreign Ministry official told Israel Hayom, “think that they are protected because of the talks,” and “added that many Israeli officials believed the coming elections were the reason behind the U.S.’s refusal to declare that the talks had broken down, as the administration did not want to be responsible for further rises in fuel prices.”
The mood of growing alarm about Iran, and growing frustration over the Obama administration’s failure to deal realistically with the problem, is only exacerbated by mounting global-jihad activity on Israel’s borders.
To the north, on Sunday analysts for the daily Haaretz warned of “growing involvement of Al-Qaida operatives in the fighting against the Syrian army,” with several thousand Al-Qaida fighters now in Syria and some of them “fully cooperating with the rebels’ Free Syrian Army.”
The immediate concern in Israel is that Al-Qaida and other global-jihad terrorists will encroach on Israel’s Golan Heights border with Syria, and the Israeli army has been preparing for that contingency—along with the even graver scenario of Assad’s chemical and biological weapons falling into terrorist hands.
But if, regarding the northern border, those remain scenarios for the time being, Israel’s southern, Sinai border with Egypt erupted on Sunday night with a very real incident when as-yet-unidentified terrorists—Sinai- or Gaza-based—took over an Egyptian checkpoint and killed about 15 Egyptian border guards there.
The terrorists then drove two vehicles full-speed toward the Israeli border—where one of them blew up and the other was targeted and destroyed by the Israeli air force, thereby averting what could have been a major, devastating terror attack within Israel.
Sinai has already been a hotbed of global-jihad terror since the fall of Hosni Mubarak in February 2011, with the regime of Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi—and now, also, Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi—unable or unwilling (or some combination of the two) to regain control.
With a terror incursion from Sinai taking eight Israeli lives a year ago and another attack killing an Israeli workman two months ago, Sunday night’s successful interception reflects heightened vigilance—but, while an achievement, hardly guarantees further quiet.
Netanyahu, visiting the site of the attack on Monday, said it was
clear that Israel and Egypt have a common interest in maintaining a peaceful border between them. However, when it comes to the security of Israeli citizens, it seems time and again that Israel must and can only rely on itself. No one can fulfill this role except the IDF and the security agencies of the State of Israel and we will continue in this manner.
Given the unsatisfactory talks with Panetta last week, the words conveyed a resonance going beyond the issue of the Sinai border.
The year and a half since the onset of what the West hailed as the “Arab Spring” has been a difficult time for Israel, which has to bear the brunt of regional realities produced in part by Western delusions. That pertains to Egypt, where the Obama administration helped push the moderate Mubarak from office and since then has backed the Brotherhood; and arguably to Syria, where earlier and stronger Western intervention on the rebels’ side may have helped them prevail before global jihadists began pouring into the country (though admittedly, even then, the Assad regime may have emerged as the lesser evil).
And it pertains to Iran, which has been encouraged by the rising Islamist tide and not at all deflected from its nuclear path by the West’s sanctions and talks. Whether Israel will apply the paradigm of “relying only on itself” to the Iranian issue remains to be seen, but these days it seems more a possibility than ever.