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FIREWORKS ON GOLAN HEIGHTS AND IN WASHINGTON

Israel's northern border: tanks, troops, Iron Dome missile batteries and Israeli spy planes are prepared for battle.

IDF troops gathering along Israel's northern borders

 It is the IDF's biggest build-up along the Syrian-Lebanese frontier since the Second Lebanon war in 2006. And with very good reason; according to foreign reports, an Israeli rocket attack killed Jihad Mughniyeh, the son of the Hezbollah's former Chief of Staff and Iranian General Muhammad Allahdadi. Ten other Iranian and Hezbollah fighters also died in the targeted killing. Jihad was obviously out to avenge the mysterious assassination of his famous father, Imad, in Damascus in 2008. Since then Hezbollah has been biding its time, warning it will make Israel pay for the killing of Mughniyeh senior.

 'Rise up early and kill him first'...

'If someone is plotting to kill you, rise up early and kill him first!' - Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 72:1

 Officially, Israel has stayed mum, but UN observers in the border region spotted two pilotless drones crossing into Syria from Israel shortly before the rocket attack. Later they were sighted flying back to Israel. Channel 1 TV has now quoted Israeli sources as saying that the joint Hezbollah-Iranian team was finalizing plans for a major Hezbollah strike into Israel, possibly at Israeli civilians. If so, it was an Israeli pre-emptive strike in keeping with the biblical saying:

 'If someone is plotting to kill you, rise up early and kill him first!'

 

Gen. Mohammad Jafari

 Both Iran and Hezbollah have threatened vengeance. The commander of the powerful Revolutionary Guards, Gen. Mohammad Jafari, has warned of 'devastating thunder bolts' that will rock the Jewish state. Israel takes this very seriously, and that explains the massive IDF alert. One evening, Israeli civilians in one area were told to 'go in doors, lock their doors and put out the lights' until further notice. But after a few hours that alert was lifted. A senior IDF officer has also briefed community leaders on the situation and local civilian watchmen have been beefed up. On the other hand, it is possible that Hezbollah and Iran may try to strike at Israeli or Jewish targets abroad. For example, the Iranian bombing of the Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires that murdered 85 people in 1994.


 Could the current tension lead to an all-out war with Hezbollah similar to the war in 2006 which was provoked by a Hezbollah cross border attack that killed eight Israeli soldiers and the kidnapping of two others who also died?


Israel has signaled it will act if it learns that another such strike is in the works. In addition, Israel has also drawn a second red line - it will interdict the shipment of Iranian or Syrian strategic weaponry to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

 It's possible but not probable. Israel has signaled it will act if it learns that another such strike is in the works. In addition, Israel has also drawn a second red line - it will interdict the shipment of Iranian or Syrian strategic weaponry to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Although Hezbollah and Iran are now chomping at the bit to avenge the latest drone killings, they are also up to their necks fighting the Free Syrian Army and ISIS on the side of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Back in Beirut, Lebanon's leaders have appealed to Hezbollah to keep Lebanon out of any new war and refrain from attacking Israel from Lebanese territory.


 If the IDF did launch the drone strike, it came in the middle of the current Israeli election campaign. This spurred speculation that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu might have initiated it to improve his re-election prospects. But consider this: before any such cross border attack is launched, senior IDF intelligence and operations officers would first have to recommend it to IDF Chief of Staff Gen. Benny Gantz, who would have sign off on it. Only then would it go up the chain of command for approval by Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon and the Prime Minister. Former senior officers and defense ministers have said it was out of the question that Israel's political leaders would dare dictate a dangerous military operation in order to boost their political prestige. Opposition leaders Yitzhak Herzog and Tzipi Livni of the Zionist Camp (Labor), who are embroiled in a bitter campaign with the PM, issued this supportive statement:

 'We have full confidence that the Chief of Staff and the IDF will defend Israel's security and take necessary actions also during an election campaign. Israel's security is not a campaign issue'.


'We don't check the identities of those we know are planning to attack Israel. Their blood is on their heads'.

 And what of the obvious risk involved in killing an Iranian general? Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin, who is now their shadow defense minister, concurred:

 'We don't check the identities of those we know are planning to attack Israel. Their blood is on their heads'.


 But although both Iran and Hezbollah may be leery about escalating to an all-out war with Israel, they will seek revenge in the future.


 Terror in Tel Aviv...

Attacker running after people who had escaped the bus in Tel Aviv (photo credit: Channel 2 News)

 Tel Aviv on the Sunday morning rush hour: pandemonium and terror erupt on a packed bus in the heart of the city. A twenty-three-year-old Palestinian from the town of Tul Kerem on the West Bank suddenly pulls out a butcher knife and stabs the driver, fifty-five-year-old Herzl Biton. But Biton manages to press the button opening the bus doors so that passengers can escape. He is credited with saving many lives. The fifty-five-year-old bus driver also manages to fight off his attacker and slam on the brakes before he collapses from several stab wounds. However, the assailant is already on a stabbing spree knifing anyone within reach. The passengers run for their lives - a video clip shows the attacker stabbing a fleeing woman in the back, smashing her down into the road.


 Fortunately, driving behind the bus were three guards from the penitentiary service. They realized that something was wrong when the bus started travelling in fits and starts and then came to a complete stop in the middle of the road. When they witnessed frantic passengers racing off the bus and yelling “terrorist, terrorist!” they drew their revolvers and gave chase. After a foot race they shot the terrorist in the leg and arrested him. Nine people were rushed to the hospital, some in critical condition, including the driver. Three are still hospitalized, but all are out of danger. Ten other passengers had to be treated for trauma.


In this case, it was another 'lone wolf' who got up in the morning, bought a butcher knife, and started stabbing Israeli passengers on a bus.

 During the nineties when Yasser Arafat orchestrated a wave of suicide bombers on Israeli buses, a special unit of guards was organized to protect people travelling on buses. If there are more attacks the public may demand similar protection. Actually in Jerusalem, there are special guards who patrol the light-rail system.


 In this case, it was another 'lone wolf' who got up in the morning, bought a butcher knife, and started stabbing Israeli passengers on a bus.


 Mossad, Iran and Israeli-American politics...

Obama & Netanyahu (photo credit Pete Souza)

 The Mossad is Israel's equivalent of America's CIA or Britain's MI-6. Like their kindred spirits, they are responsible for foreign espionage and report directly to the state's top political leader. It is an iron law for the men and women in these top-secret organizations, that while serving they would never present their private views to foreign politicians. Definitely not; even if they differed with their political masters. It would be tantamount to treason. Yet this is at the core of the latest feud between Prime Minister Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama. It swirls around the nuclear negotiations with Iran and whether to decide on imposing future sanctions if the talks fail on the third deadline of June 30th.


 It is fair to say that Netanyahu has been the driving force behind Obama's support for the sanctions to halt Iran's nuclear weapons project. However, although the IAEA has now confirmed that Iran has stopped enriching 20% uranium in return for the easing of some sanctions, there is still a long way to go before Tehran will agree to abort its nuclear program. For example, these are some of the key issues that must be resolved to prevent the Iranians breaking for nuclear weapons in the future:

The Iranians refuse to allow international inspectors into its secret Parchin test site where a huge explosion rocked the region recently. Israel has stated it has 'reliable information' that the Iranians have conducted tests for nuclear weapons at Parchin.

 

  •  The Iranians refuse to allow international inspectors into its secret Parchin test site where a huge explosion rocked the region recently. Israel has stated it has 'reliable information' that the Iranians have conducted tests for nuclear weapons at Parchin.
  •  Iran insists on completing its Arak reactor that could supply plutonium for building A-bombs.

 


 Not only Israel but also Iran's Sunni rivals throughout the Middle East such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and Jordan are also scared stiff about the Ayatollahs getting A-bombs. They will not agree to accept what Hillary Clinton once described as an American 'defense umbrella' to protect them from a nuclear Iran. The entire Middle East is waiting and watching to see if President Obama will be bamboozled by the charm campaign of President Hassan Rouhani. Why could it be otherwise after Obama's back-down over Syrian President Assad's use of chemical weapons against his own people?


 Neither are the Sunni leaders 'stupid or foolish' (Kerry's adjectives), and view North Korea as a perilous precedent. Nor do they think it is in Obama's DNA to ever launch a military strike against Iran. On the contrary, he prefers to kick the can down the road and leave the Iran file for his successor. And that is most likely the perception in Tehran, where Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards call the shots and not the smiling President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.


 Dirty tricks anyone?

 What can be said about the escalating diplomatic dispute between Netanyahu and the Obama administration? Simply this - Bibi pulled a fast one by colluding with his Republican friends on an invitation to address a session of the US Congress just two weeks before Israel's election on March 17th. This flagrantly violates the principle of fair play in a democratic election. It would have been more honorable for Netanyahu to postpone his appearance in Washington until after the election. Moreover, Bibi will be intervening in the ongoing dispute between Obama and those Republicans and Democrats who want to vote now on future Iranian sanctions. Netanyahu is sacrificing Israel's national interest for his own private political gain, believing that his third address to Congress will boost his prospects with Israeli voters.


Mossad Chief Tamir Pardo

 It could backfire. What if the Democrats decide to boycott Bibi's appearance? Obama and Kerry have already decided not to see Netanyahu in Washington, contending they do not want to 'influence a democratic election in a foreign country'.


 But not only Bibi plays dirty tricks. Secretary Kerry has divulged information from a closed door session, at which Mossad Chief Tamir Pardo was reported to have said:

 'Deciding on future Iranian sanctions now would be like throwing a grenade into the process'.

 Pardo has categorically denied saying any such thing, adding the opposite was true. Kerry by the way did not attend that off-record briefing and was apparently quoting from the leak to Bloomberg.



 

David Essing

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