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F-35 Stealth Jets to Israel – Act II of Obama’s Political Drama

The delivery of the first two F-35 stealth fighters to Israel this week marks the close of Act II in President Barack Obama's Middle East policy. Act I was based on Obama's nuclear deal with Iran. It removed the only thing that could have fouled up his decision to cut America's losses and get out of the Middle East. Failure to find a diplomatic solution to suspending Iran's nuclear weapons program could have triggered an Israeli preventative strike that would have drawn in the US militarily. From Obama's point of view, this was and is a deliberate and rational policy. The fireworks with Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu were simply an inevitable result - collateral damage, it wasn't all personal, 'it was business'. Even Ben Rhodes, apparently in a lapse of megalomania, bragged how he and his buddies had pulled the strings of the American media like puppets.

Further evidence of the Machiavellian side of Obama is the appalling case of the ongoing civil war in Syria that has killed well over 400,000 people and counting. It even includes what the UN has called an ongoing genocide of the Yazidi people, while the leader of the Free World looks on. Even officials in the US State Department, who have to pour over the gory details every day, cannot stomach the carnage. That is why 51of them signed a petition to the boss, Secretary of State John Kerry, protesting that American policy in Syria has all but collapsed.

This will also go down as part of Obama's legacy. On the other hand, it's the President's right to decide what is right for America. What is not, is spending more blood and treasure in the Middle East, which is now undergoing a tectonic change - the greatest since Sykes and Picot divvied it up exactly one hundred years ago.

Act II in Fort Worth...

However, it's not as if Obama sold out Israel; no way, the military aid keeps flowing to Israel. The delivery of the first two F-35 stealth fighters to the Israel Air force is proof positive. Everyone knows they are just what the doctor ordered, if in the future the Iranians break out for A-bombs. So, although Obama let the Iranians keep most of their nuclear weapons facilities in tact,, he is allowing giving Israel the counter weapons to cope with them. But timing is of the essence and this takes us to Act III.

The Iranians are now cashing in on the economic bonanza. Ironically, Iran Air has just signed a $25 billion deal with Boeing. Iran gets airliners while Israel gets F-35s, not so bad after all. The curtain is going down on Act II of the Obama drama. The question is whether 'the smoking gun' from Act I, the Iranian nuclear deal, will reappear in Act III? This indeed is the question, but it will not be answered until probably well after Obama leaves the White House in January. So we're in for a long intermission with a new President in office. In thanking the US for the F-35s. Israel's new Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman stated categorically:

       'It is clear and obvious to us, and to the entire region, that the new F-35s, the Adir (dubbed in Hebrew - awesome), will create a real deterrence and enhance our capabilities for a long time'.

Incidentally, a Brigadier in the Israeli Air force has indicated the IAF has an answer to the sophisticated Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missile system that has been deployed in Iran. When asked by reporters if the IAf has an answer to the threat, the senior officer responded:

       'The S-300 is a challenge. We are preparing for an array of scenarios, the IAF will know how to respond to this challenge'.

Ironically, America's exit from the region has spurred the Sunni Arab countries states to seek a closer relationship with the Jewish state. It's the old adage, 'The enemy of my worst enemy is my friend'.

In this case, the ascendancy of Iran bolstered by the nuclear deal with America, is their worst enemy. Paradoxically the supply of American F-35 jets to Israel is perceived to also serve their interests. Recently, the Egyptian and Jordanian ambassadors in public speeches appealed to the Israeli government to make some political moves to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. While Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan wish to quietly close ranks with Israel against Iran, they still have to cope with the 'Arab street' that supports the Palestinians. The fly in the ointment is the Aram countries insist on Israel adopting the 'Saudi initiative' that Jerusalem views as to far-reaching. But there should be no underestimating the Sunni rift with Shiite Iran and the sense that Obama has dropped them like a hot potato in favor of Tehran. As one Arab commentator remarked bitterly:

       'Obama has visited Hiroshima - but he has left us with the threat of a thousand Hiroshimas (from a nuclear Iran)!’

As for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, has he gone off his rocker? In an official address to the EU's governing council he repeated some of the worst lies against the Jewish people since the Middle Ages. He accused Israeli rabbis of calling on the government to poison the wells of Palestinians in Judea & Samaria (West Bank)! He even gave the name of the rabbi whom he claimed was instigating the crime. So far, there is no record of such a rabbi. Would you believe it, Abbas actually received a standing ovation from the EU representatives in Brussels. At the same time, Abbas refused to meet with Israel's President Reuven Rivlin, a fervent advocate for peaceful co-existence, who was also in the neighborhood. Maybe Abbas is fuming that the Arab states are drawing nearer to Israel and have put the Palestinian issue on the back burner.

On this score, both Turkish and Israeli officials are leaking that an Israeli-Turkish rapprochement is just around the corner. The highest hurdle has been the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza to prevent repeated attempts by Hamas to smuggle in more rockets and weapons to fire at Israel. Jerusalem has insisted that there must be a fail-safe system to bar this from happening. It is hard to see Netanyahu budging, and rightly so, unless a reliable alternative can be implemented. If there is a break-through it will be a major achievement that would obligate Hamas to concentrate all its efforts on improving the lot of the Palestinians in Gaza and refrain from further rocketing of Israel.

Prior to the ascendancy of Turkish President Tayyip Recep Erdogan, Israel and Turkey enjoyed a 'Silent Alliance' of the two most powerful states in the region. However Erdogan, who had delusions about becoming leader of the Arab world, dumped Israel in order to curry favor with the Arabs. Erdogan's regional pivot turned into an abysmal failure. The experts agree the Arabs will never accept a non-Arab as their regional leader.

Britain votes to quit EU - Cameron to resign:

The polls showed it could happen, but when it did, the referendum still rocked the world. Like most countries, Israel is shocked by the British vote to leave the European Union. Amid all this uncertainty, there is a consensus in Israel that Prime Minister Cameron was a firm friend of the Jewish state and most Israelis are sorry to see him go. Cameron had led a campaign to oppose the BDS campaign against Israel. As for the political implications, it was still too early to assess. At present the EU is supporting a French proposal to convene an international conference on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, a step that Prime Minister Netanyahu strongly opposes.

The Brexit camp ran on the slogan of 'Take our country back!' - a protest against the influx of migrants from Eastern Europe, who compete with the locals for jobs and housing. Apparently a majority the 'have-nots' felt they were paying too heavy a price for Britain's having to comply with EU law. However, now the Brits will have to pay another price because the economists predict that quitting the EU will have a negative impact on Britain's standard of living. That will mean that one-and-all will wind up with lower wages, devalued pensions and higher prices for imported products after the devaluation of sterling. Granted, this will encourage British exports and tourism. But the bottom line may be - 'The Brits have shot themselves in the wallet!'

Donald Trump has praised the result of the referendum, believing it will strengthen his campaign in the US where he is running on a similar pitch of 'America first!' But after the downside of the British referendum becomes clearer, it may backfire. If true that Britain will now be worse off economically, many American voters may think twice about voting for a radical leader like Trump. But it's early days, and the long-term outcome is still an open question.



David Essing

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