Far-Reaching Changes Threaten Israel And Western Interests in Mediterranean
There are dramatic changes in the security picture on Israel's southern border, but you would not know it by reading, listening to, or watching most of the American press or listening to press briefings at the White House or the State Department.
Arab terrorists have escalated attacks from Gaza and Sinai, hitting a shopping center in southern Israel in a rocket attack Tuesday.
This was part of a tenfold jump in attacks on Israel's southern border last month -- from ten to 99 rocket barrages -- leaving two Israelis dead and four wounded.
But much of the Western media, such as the Associated Press and Fox News, have been reporting that Israel's borders have been quiet.
"Israel's border with the Gaza Strip has been largely quiet since a major Israeli offensive 3 1/2 years ago, but there have been sporadic flare-ups of violence since," asserted an AP report Tuesday, describing the terrorists in Gaza as "militants."
Bulletin to AP and Fox: About 200 rockets fell on Israel from Gaza and Sinai in June, along with several bloody cross-border raids -- coming against the backdrop of the rise to power in Egypt of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose leader has been invited to talk with President Barack Obama.
Egypt's new president, Muhammad Morsi, supports Arab terror attacks -- which he calls "martyrdom operations" -- and he has publicly called for establishing an Islamic caliphate in Jerusalem, which happens to be Israel's capital.
"The Quran is our constitution. Jihad is our path, and death for the sake of Allah is our most lofty aspiration," cried Morsi in a campaign speech just a few weeks ago.
Israeli security officials have changed the country's strategic posture to reflect the fact that the Egyptian border can no longer be deemed a peaceful border and that the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty is in danger.
Under ex-president Husni Mubarak, Israel criticized Egypt's lackadaisical policing of the Sinai, but in the last year, the situation has gotten worse, as eleven local Bedouin tribes thrive off arms smuggling, drug-running, and human trafficking. It is feared that an Islamist regime might actually encourage some of these activities.
More than half a dozen different terror groups -- some affiliated with al-Qaeda -- are operating in the Sinai Desert, which is supposedly controlled by Egypt, and in the Gaza Strip that is controlled by Hamas, an organization that is essentially a child of the Muslim Brotherhood that now rules Egypt.
Egyptian officials and leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood have warned Israel of dire consequences if it tries to intervene in a major way in either Gaza or Sinai, but Israel is increasingly concerned about the huge stockpiles of rockets and the growing willingness of terrorists to use them.
Some top Israeli officials are aghast at the way the Obama administration is supporting the Brotherhood-led government in Egypt, inviting its leader, Muhammad Morsi, for talks with President Obama in a few weeks.
Maj. Gen. Amos Gilad chastised American officials for their naïve welcoming of the "Arab Spring," which he said is bringing brutal elements to power under the guise of "democracy" -- such as the repression of women and non-Muslim minorities.
Gilad, who heads the Israeli Defense Ministry's political branch, said Islamist parties, such as the Brotherhood in Egypt, really want an Arab caliphate, or empire.
Other Israeli analysts say that the Brotherhood's rise in Egypt also parallels the drive of Israel's powerful northern neighbor, Turkey, which is led by Islamist leader Recep Erdoğan.
Turkey's Islamist leader has supported Hamas in Gaza and tried to isolate Israel militarily and diplomatically.
Like the new Egyptian president, Morsi, Erdoğan has also spoken publicly of his dreams of an Islamic caliphate led by Turkey, much like the Ottoman Empire.
But these are not the only worrisome signs from the Islamist leader of Turkey. For example, under Erdoğan's leadership, Turkey, a NATO member, has opposed Israeli participation in NATO exercises, and it backed an effort by Turkish extremists to crack Israel's blockade of arms to Hamas terrorists in Gaza.
Turkey has also turned down U.S. requests for assistance in the war in Iraq.
President Obama has said that he sees Erdoğan as a moderate ally and friend and suggested that Erdoğan mediate between America and Iran's ayatollahs on the issue of Iran's nuclear weapons program.
So far, the Obama administration's courtship of Islamist leaders in both Egypt and Turkey has yet to lead to the desired results.
Dr. Michael Widlanski, an expert on Arab politics and communications, is the author of Battle for Our Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat, just published by Threshold/Simon and Schuster. He is a former reporter, correspondent, and editor respectively at The New York Times, Cox Newspapers, and The Jerusalem Post, and he served as a strategic affairs advisor in Israel's Ministry of Public Security and as an advisor to Israeli negotiating teams in 1991-92 at the Madrid Summit and thereafter.