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ISRAEL, EGYPT & U.S. - ALL IN SAME BOAT

Is there a link between the recent U.S. terror alert in the Middle East and North Africa and the reported Israeli air strike against terrorists in Sinai that was triggered by an Egyptian tip-off? Absolutely, when the global Islamist terror threat is considered. It reflects not only on how to cope tactically with imminent terror threats but also on America's global strategy.

 

'...The U.S. step in closing down its embassies served Islamist radicalism, possibly even more than the result of a real terror attack'.

The Obama administration was taking no chances. After the Benghazi terror attack last September that killed four Americans including Ambassador Chris Stevens, it closed its diplomatic missions throughout the Middle East (including Israel) and North Africa. The U.S. had intercepted an electronic media call from al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri that indicated an impending terror attack, possibly in Yemen. This was accompanied by a sharp rise in electronic terror 'chatter' raising concerns that multiple attacks were planned. The alarm bells were ringing from the intelligence community to the Whitea House. Nothing happened. Was it a false alarm and a deliberate attempt to spook the U.S.? Or did Zawahiri scratch the attack after realizing the U.S. had gone on top alert? Whatever the reason, IDF (ret) Gen.Yoav Gallant said: 'American intelligence officials are highly professional and I believe the U.S. had no alternative but to take drastic steps in light of the circumstances'. However, some Israeli experts were of the view that al-Qaeda had won a tactical victory by using scare tactics - the U.S. appeared weak and pushed the panic button. Dr. Reuven Burko contended: 'Today there is not one American security official who is ready to take a chance and not respond with the greatest urgency to every warning. The U.S. step in closing down its embassies served Islamist radicalism, possibly even more than the result of a real terror attack'.


Israeli air strike in Sinai...

An estimated 600 Hamas terrorists have moved from Gaza into Sinai since former President Morsi took office in June, 2012.


This is apparently what happened. On August 8th, Egyptian intelligence detected a squad of Islamic Jihad terrorists preparing to launch a deadly anti-aircraft missile at an Israeli plane from across the border in Sinai. Apparently unable to intercept the terrorists in time, the Egyptian Army sent an urgent message to the IDF. From its known location, the terrorists could easily shoot down an Israeli aircraft packed with vacationers flying to the popular resort of Eilat on the Red Sea. After receiving the 'heads up', IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz ordered the Eilat airport to be immediately closed down. All flights within range of the anti-aircraft missile were cancelled. As part of the peace accord, Egyptian controlled Sinai is demilitarized except for a limited Egyptian policing force. It was only the second time the IDF had operated inside Sinai since the peace treaty was signed in 1979. Such an important decision could have only been approved by Egypt's acting leader Gen. al-Sisi. An IAF drone then carried out the mission reportedly killing five terrorists caught in the act. Shortly after, an anonymous Egyptian security source told the media that Israel had carried the attack. In Cairo, the Muslim Brotherhood was furious, accusing al-Sisi of collaborating with Israel. A subsequent Cairo statement reputed the report that an Israeli drone had carried out the mission by saying the Egyptian Army was responsible. In addition, Egyptian reinforcements approved by Israel, were continuing their current offensive against Islamist and Palestinian terrorists, who have tried to turn Sinai into a mini-Afghanistan. (An estimated 600 Hamas terrorists have moved from Gaza into Sinai since former President Morsi took office in June, 2012). Official communiqués highlighted the fact that the Egyptian Army killed and captured more Islamist terrorists, who had killed 16 Egyptian soldiers and abducted seven others.


Universal terror threat...

...throughout many pro-Western countries in the Middle East, there is a perception that American politicians, pundits and 'Foggy Bottom' officials are somewhat naive about politics in this part of the world.


What stands out is the close collaboration between Israel and Egypt in facing the same Islamist threat that forced Washington to close down its diplomatic missions throughout the region. After Israel previously agreed that the Egyptian Army could send tanks into Sinai, which are banned by the peace protocols, General al-Sisi apparently reciprocated by permitting the Israeli preemptive strike in Sinai. No doubt the Egyptian leader was well aware this could improve his image in Washington and shed more positive light on the debate on whether or not he had carried out a 'military coup' against President Morsi. In Israeli eyes, Gen. al-Sisi is one of the 'good guys' who is standing up to the threat of a dictatorial Muslim Brotherhood that would eventually turn Egypt into another Iran. Not only in Israel, but also throughout many pro-Western countries in the Middle East, there is a perception that American politicians, pundits and 'Foggy Bottom' officials are somewhat naive about politics in this part of the world. Abdulrahman al-Rashed, the director of the Al Arabiya News Channel took issue with Senator John McCain and others who see Gen. al-Sisi as violating their Jeffersonian principles about democracy and democratic elections:


'The dispute with the Muslim Brotherhood (in Egypt) is only linked to how it manages the state. The Brotherhood must accept complete democracy and not a selective one. It must accept a constitution that grants rights to everyone and protects everyone's rights. It must accept the separation of powers. The ousted President (Morsi) and his comrades attempted to ignore these principles and thus pushed different parties to unite against them'.


Just get on with it...

There are monumental issues at stake for both sides - so just get on with it!


Three days before Israeli and Palestinian negotiators start getting down to brass tacks, Israel announced plans to build nearly 1200 housing units in territory over the old 1967 green line. The Palestinians obviously condemned this as a provocation while the U.S. middle man said it was not helpful. One day after the talks are renewed, Israel is to free 26 Palestinian terrorists with blood on their hands. This was the price that Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas extracted from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for returning to negotiations aimed at founding his own Palestinian state. This is another quirk in Middle East politics. In any case, Netanyahu, who is facing fierce criticism from relatives of the Israeli victims murdered by the terrorists, as well as veiled threats from his ' Jewish Home' coalition partner, had to save face by agreeing on the new housing units. They are planned for Jerusalem neighborhoods and inside the settlement blocs, which will likely remain inside the Jewish state in any future peace deal with the Palestinians. But with U.S. mediator Martin Indyk back in the region, the talks are expected to get underway despite the Israeli and Palestinian posturing. Two days before the new housing announcement, Netanyahu sent a letter of protest to U.S. Secretary of State complaining that Abbas is continuing to slander Israel. There are monumental issues at stake for both sides - so just get on with it!

David Essing

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