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U.S. President Donald Trump, King Salman of Saudi Arabia, and Egyptian President Abd El-Fattah El-Sisi at the 2017 Riyadh Summit. The meeting is cited as one of the catalysts for the "Qatar Crisis" (Photo by The White House)

While the rest of the world was looking for the 'smoking gun' in James Comey's testimony against President Donald Trump in Washington, some intriguing developments were going on in the Middle East. After Trump's recent visit, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Gulf States ganged up on Qatar for its support of Iran, the Muslim Brothers, and Hamas. It triggered a diplomatic and commercial earthquake throughout the region. It stands to reason that the Arab states would not have taken such drastic steps without the green light from the US President. Even though America maintains a big air base with 10,000 troops on Qatar, Trump has accused Qatar of backing Islamist terrorism.

The facts: unlike all the other Sunni Arab states, Qatar is on good terms with Shiite Iran. In addition, it supports the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt against President Al-Sisi while also backing Daesh, Al Qaida and Hamas in Gaza. (The IMF estimates that Qatar is the richest country in the world per capita with an average annual income of $127,000 compared to Israel with $35,000). As for the Jewish state, independent-minded Qatar maintains some informal ties, despite its support for Hamas. But Trump and the Shiite Arab states have concluded that Qatar has gotten too big for its britches, so to speak, and decided to take it down a peg or two. Its capital, Doha, is isolated in the Persian Gulf and will be forced to mend its ways.

A new stage in Israeli-Palestinian dispute?

...the Palestinian President no longer demands Israel halt all building in the West Bank as a condition for returning to the table.

Prime Minister Netanyahu and West Bank President Abbas absolutely agree on one thing - neither has an iota of confidence in the other. But when it comes to Donald Trump that's another thing; both want to keep on his good side. And when the new President starts prodding them, as he did on his recent visit, they had best deliver. First to Abbas - one of his top advisers has just stated on record that the Palestinian President no longer demands Israel halt all building in the West Bank as a condition for returning to the table. This has been a cast-iron demand by the Palestinians for renewing the peace talks. In the past, Bibi refused and so negotiations remained in the deep freeze. On the other hand, the Israeli authorities were to have decided on building 2,100 new housing units in Judea/Samaria, including a new settlement but that has again been delayed for some reason or the other. Instead, Bibi conferred with settler leaders. Later, some of them warned they would try and topple the PM if he does not order the bulldozers to start moving. Bibi is in a bit of a pickle - if the US is trying hard to resuscitate the peace talks and Abbas has just given up his key demand, how will new Israeli building be viewed in the Oval Office?

In any case, Netanyahu has reiterated his pledge that all the settlers will remain in their homes in any future peace deal with the Palestinians. Speaking in a Knesset session marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Six Day War, the PM declared:

       'I explain that everyone has the right to live in his own home, that no person will be uprooted from his own home'.

This implies that Bibi is dead against evacuating any Israeli settlements on the West Bank.

Operation Focus

Gamal Abdel Nasser

The current stage in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict dates back to June 6th, 1967. The combined armies of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq were massed on Israel's borders. Egypt's charismatic President, Abdul Gamal Nasser, was leading the onslaught, threatening to annihilate Israel and drive the Jews into the sea! Egypt's leader had whipped up Arab public opinion to a fever pitch with huge demonstrations throughout the Arab capitals calling for Israel's destruction. It posed the greatest threat since the Arab armies invaded the newborn Jewish state after the Arab world rejected the two-state solution adopted by the UN in 1947. In Israel, the IDF was mobilized while civilians were instructed to dig trenches for defense and graves for the many fallen soldiers from the impending war. Nasser followed up by closing the Straits of Tiran, effectively cutting off shipping to the Jewish state which came through the Straits of Tiran and the Red Sea. After Foreign Minister Abba Eban made a fruitless trip to Washington and Paris seeking diplomatic aid, French President Charles de Gaulle even had the gall to warn Israel against launching a pre-emptive strike against the hundreds of thousands of Arab soldiers massed on Israel's borders. (Israel thought it had a prior American commitment from President Eisenhower to come to Israel's aid but President Lyndon Johnson said not so!) Two weeks of mounting tension even forced IDF Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin to order himself to take a couple of days’ rest at home. Meanwhile, a former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Dayan was appointed Defense Minister and he ordered the top secret 'Operation Moked' (Focus) to begin what proved to be an all-out effort to break the Arab stranglehold of Israel.

It was an Israel Air Force operation that had been perfected over a period of eleven years.

It was an Israel Air Force operation that had been perfected over a period of eleven years. For the first time, Israel's Channel Ten TV was allowed to divulge most of the details. Military correspondent Alon Ben David was permitted to interview and report on one of the most daring air attacks in history.

After the Suez Campaign in 1956, it was clear to the IDF that it was only a matter of time before the Arab countries would try again to destroy the Jewish state. Vastly outnumbered on the battlefield, it was decided that the best strategy would be to build an Air Force operation that would guarantee superiority in the air that would even up the odds. With a force of some 200 attack aircraft, a detailed plan was drafted to be practiced and perfected on a daily basis. Every squadron and every pilot knew exactly what his mission was. It was so secret that not even the rest of the Israel Air Force or the IDF knew what was going on. The pilots trained on specially built models of the Egyptian air bases and special weapons and tactics were devised for destroying the Egyptian aircraft on the ground before they could even take off.

Mordechai Hod (on the left) (Photo by Zoltan Kluger - Public Domain)

Indeed, every aspect of the operation was examined with the view: 'How can we do it better'. So, in May and early June when an atmosphere of a second Holocaust pervaded the Jewish state, Air Force commander Motti Hod and his pilots were supremely confident they could wipe out the entire Egyptian Air Force, gain total air superiority and bomb the hell out of the large Egyptian ground forces mobilized in Sinai and on the Golan Heights.

The idea was that nearly all of the 200 Israeli jets would take off one after the other, fly in total radio silence to their targets, and then simultaneously bomb all of Egypt's nineteen air bases. The question was at what time. Intelligence experts noted the practice was for Egyptian aircraft to conduct early morning flights. The pilots would then land, take a shower and go to breakfast - most would be in the dining room at 7:45 AM. This was the exact time Israeli aircraft would simultaneously hit all of the Egyptian airbases. The first and all-important mission was to destroy the runways, which would prevent Egyptian aircraft from taking off. Everything went like clockwork; wave after wave of Israeli jets swooped down, dropped their bombs and rockets, and then flew back to Israel. After they had landed, ground crews raced in to refuel and rearm the aircraft in just over seven minutes. Then the jets took off again headed for their new targets - barely time for a cup of coffee. Operation Moked began at breakfast time, by lunch the Egyptian Air Force was to all intents and purposes wiped out.

Then the IAF turned to the Syrian Air Force - everything happened so swiftly that Syrian civilians in Damascus went up to their roofs to wave at Israeli pilots flying in overhead, believing they were Syrian aircraft. The IAF destroyed some 451 Arab aircraft in the Six Day War while losing 19 aircraft and 24 pilots.

Terror comes home to roost in Tehran...

2017 Shooting at parliament building in Tehran (Photo by Tasnim News, CC BY 4.0)

Daesh is being clobbered in Syria and Iraq, so it is retaliating in Manchester, London, and now even Tehran, of all places. Remember Daesh are Sunni Muslim terrorists whereas the Iranian regime is Shiite Muslim, bitter enemies. Daesh suicide bombers attacked the Iranian Parliament and the mausoleum of the venerated Ayatollah Khomeini, killing 11 people and wounding many more. In a way, it was a sort of poetic justice; the Iranian government, according to the US State Department, is the leading state sponsor of terrorism worldwide. Among other atrocities the Iranians, using Hezbollah terrorists, are believed responsible for blowing up the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992 which resulted in the murder of 29 people and wounded 240 others. Two years later, Iran is also believed to have blown up the Jewish Community Center in the capital, killing 85 people and wounding hundreds more in Argentina's worst bombing ever. But when Daesh is being squeezed, its operatives, some who have been trained in the Middle East, can be expected to carry out more revenge attacks in Europe and wherever they can. The impact of these atrocities can also 'inspire' other Muslim supporters to carry out more 'lone wolf' attacks wherever they can. In addition, they are being incited over the internet.


David Essing

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