Israel is Sitting PrettyBy Ted Belman
Israel is sitting pretty. Sure she has problems, but her future is bright. Even her present is not too shabby.
Of immediate concern is the attempt by the PA to gain recognition and membership in the UN in the upcoming session in September. To this end the PA has agreed with Hamas to unify, thinking it would strengthen their case at the UN. Not so fast.
Actually unification is proving more difficult to achieve than implied, due to irreconcilable differences. These differences have more to do with tactics rather than goals, as they both want to destroy the Jewish state, and to their unwillingness to share power. So, at last reading, they have decided to postpone concluding an agreement until after September, if ever.
The most the PA can expect at the UN is recognition by the General Assembly, of Palestine with the '49 armistice lines as borders. But such recognition will change nothing on the ground and will be meaningless. The US has made it clear that it will veto its admission to membership. Furthermore, Israel has succeeded, diplomatically, in turning the EU around on the matter of recognition. A few months ago, Britain, France, and Germany were threatening Israel to accept the armistice lines as the basis for negotiations, failing which they would vote for recognition. Now they are lined up with the US and Israel in urging the PA not to go to the UN for recognition.
Israel has successfully made the case that such a unilateral move by the PA would be a violation of the Oslo Accords which mandated no unilateral moves and a negotiated settlement. Israel has made it clear that such a move would result in unilateral moves by Israel and the end of the Oslo Accords. This means the end of the PA created pursuant to these accords.
The primary unilateral move mooted by Israel is the extension of Israel law to the settlement blocs, which would make the blocs sovereign territory of Israel. It would also replace occupation law over these territories. Many in Israel are demanding that Israel not stop there but that she should do the same for all of Area "C" over which she currently has full control pursuant to the Oslo Accords. These lands contain 300,000 Israelis and 10,000 Arabs. Israeli grassroots are now mobilizing a major campaign to increase Israeli support for such a move.
The last thing the Quartet wants to see is the end of the peace process because its control over Israel would also end. It prefers to keep Israel shackled to the Oslo Accords while it violates them by demanding Israel concede more that the Accords required. It also violates them by interfering in negotiations.
Last I heard, Abbas is still determined to go the UN. If he does, he risks alienating the US and the EU and ending the PA and his job.
The US and the EU have argued that the turmoil in the Middle East makes it all the more imperative that Israel make concessions for peace. But they have never made the case. Israel is not buying it and neither are independent thinkers. In fact Israel believes the opposite is true.
The US will not allow the US-brokered peace agreement between Israel and Egypt to be abandoned by Egypt. A new poll conducted by Egypt's ruling military regime showed that a 67 percent majority of Egyptians want to maintain their nation's peace treaty with Israel. This contradicted an earlier poll which showed that 54% of Egyptians wanted to scrap the agreement.
Israel Today commented, "There is speculation that the new poll conducted by the Egyptian regime could be rigged. Egypt receives a massive amount of American military aid as a condition of the Camp David Accord. But, the numbers could also show a shift in attitude."
The US has brought the Muslim Brotherhood in from the cold in the vain hope that it can be managed. Hamas is moving closer to Egypt and away from Syria in the belief that the Assad regime cannot last. This may or may not be problematic for Israel but it is certainly problematic for Jordan who needs Israel more than ever to protect it. In fact Jordan wants Israel to remain in Judea and Samaria (West Bank) because it's in Jordan's best interest that she does. When Jordan pushes the peace process, she does so to pacify her citizens and to show Arab solidarity, but she doesn't mean it. Palestinian nationalism is a threat to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. She prefers the status quo, thank you very much.
Syria is on the ropes and is expected to go down for the count. Turkey has been threatening to invade Syria, ostensibly to set up a safe zone for refugees but she may remain there and perhaps end up controlling Syria and by extension, Lebanon. The US is coordinating all this with Turkey and Israel. Remember, Syria and Lebanon used to be part of the Ottoman Empire. The US and Saudi Arabia have been trying to separate Syria from Iran for years and this may just be the way to do it.
At the same time, there are reports that the US is propping up the Assad regime by calling for it to talk with the opposition rather than calling for it to resign. Elliott Abrams is critical of this realpolitik and writes:
I hope that the US will come to its senses and follow the Turkey option above set out. In fact, we see the fruits of the US coordinating efforts in the fact that Turkey did not back the current flotilla.
A week ago Lebanon formed a new government dominated by Hezb'allah loyalists and pro-Syrian politicians. Thus Lebanon can be counted on to be a strong part of the Iran/Syria axis and Turkey is being rejected due to its restored alliance with the US.
But Hezb'allah is not home free. According to the leading Arab international daily, alsarq alawsat, it is under duress because the majority of Lebanese do not want a sharia state nor do they want Hezb'allah to involve them in a devastating war with Israel. To make matters worse four top leaders of Hezb'allah have just been indicted for killing Lebanon's beloved PM Rafik Harari. Finally, Hezb'allah may be losing her Syrian patron and has begun removing her arms stored in Syria.
It remains to be seen how the Syrian/Hezb'allah relationship develops. Will it strengthen or will it fall apart? Will Turkey, with US support, be passive or aggressive? Time will tell.
Greece, which previously was totally in the Arab camp, switched sides in the last year. Israel and Greece have been warming relations since Israel's relations with Turkey took a turn for the worse. Israel plans to export gas to Europe through Greece and Israelis are vacationing in Greece rather than in Turkey. And now Greece has stopped the flotilla from leaving her ports, at least for now.
The Quartet, in a surprise move, issued a statement in which it supported Israel and discouraged the flotilla.
Good news, indeed.
Saudi Arabia recently threatened to acquire nuclear weapons as a needed defense against Iran who will soon be nuclear. It is noteworthy that Israel has had the bomb for four decades but Saudi Arabia saw no need to acquire her own capability 'til now. Israel was not perceived as a threat. Saudi Arabia no longer looks to the US for protection because it is not reliable. In any potential war with Iran, the Saudis see Israel as an ally.
The Palestinians did not rise up against Israel because they had no reason to. They have more rights and economic well being than Arab citizens of Turkey, Syria, Jordan, or Egypt.
The primary threat to Israel is the possibility that Iran or its proxies will use WMDs, be they chemical, biological, or atomic, to bring Israel down even if it means their own destruction; the Samson Option if you will. Will Israel pre-empt? Your guess is as good as mine. But one thing is certain. Neither Syria nor Lebanon wants war with Israel because it will result in a massive defeat for them and the loss of power by Assad and Hezb'allah.
Even President Obama has been neutered by his campaign for reelection. His so-called tough love has been put on hold until his second term which, judging by the polls, may not materialize. A Republican president is much more likely to stand with Israel.
Ted Belman is the editor of Israpundit and a retired lawyer. He made aliya two years ago and lives in Jerusalem.
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