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PM Netanyahu in Israel's Galilee Region in the North (Photo taken by Amos Ben Gershom, CC Israeli GPO)

In a dramatic move, Iran may be on the brink of expanding its military forces in Syria southwards towards the Israeli border. This was disclosed during Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu's recent visit to Paris for talks with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron. According to Israeli reporters, the cease-fire accord forged by the U.S. and Russia will allow Iranian forces to move to within twenty kilometers (twelve miles) of the Syrian-Israeli frontier on the Golan Heights. Netanyahu told his French host that Israel categorically rejects such a step. Iran, which declares openly its intention to destroy the Jewish state, has dispatched thousands of its Revolutionary Guards as well as large quantities of weapons to keep Assad in power. Israel is also said to have information that Iran now intends to build its own air base and naval port in Syria. Netanyahu was quoted as saying that 'such steps would alter the strategic picture in the region'. The Israeli leader reportedly told US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that he opposed this aspect of the ceasefire proposal. A senior Israeli official also told reporters:

       'The agreement as it stands today is very bad and does not take into account nearly any of Israel's security concerns. It creates a very worrying reality in southern Syria. Moreover, there is not a single word (restricting) Iran, Hezbollah or Daesh terrorists now located in Syria'.

Israel's position on the Syrian civil war is to stay out as far as possible: it shoots back if any stray fire comes from across the Syria border into Israel, and activates air power to interdict any shipments of sophisticated weapons via Syria to Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. Netanyahu has also declared that Israel will not sit idly by if Iran tries to establish 'forward bases' in southern Syria, similar to Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. From Jerusalem, it looks as if Moscow and Washington are trying to enforce the cease-fire at Israel's expense if Putin and Trump are ready to grant Iran a new and even more powerful military presence on neighboring Syrian territory. What possible explanation is there for allowing Iranian military forces to move closer to the Israeli border? Israel is already threatened by Hezbollah, Iran's proxy in southern Lebanon, which has amassed a huge arsenal of over one-hundred thousand rockets and missiles targeted at Israel. What sense does it make for the Trump administration to consider extending this threat from Lebanon to along the Syrian border?

Murderous Muslim attack on Jerusalem's Temple Mount...

Jerusalem, Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall

Friday morning, July 14th: Thousands of Muslims have flocked to Jerusalem's Temple Mount for the weekly prayers. Suddenly three Israeli Arabs armed with submachine guns race into an entrance where two Israeli Druze policemen are on duty. The two guards are facing the Jewish side of the area, apparently to prevent any Jewish visitors from straying into the part where Muslims pray. Therefore, they have their backs to the Muslim attackers and are gunned down like sitting ducks. (Why the guards had their backs turned to possible Muslim attackers should be one of the questions investigated in the inquiry). The terrorists continue on their rampage but are shot by other Israeli policemen. One of them plays dead and then jumps to his feet and tries to make a run for it before he is shot dead. (This again illustrates the danger of dealing with terrorists and suicide bombers who may have explosive vests concealed under their shirts or jackets.)

In any case, the Arab killing of two Druze policemen has the potential of starting a blood-feud between Israel's Arab and Druze citizens.

The fact that the killers were three young Israeli Arabs, who enjoyed the full rights and privileges as other citizens, sent shock waves through the state. Although Israeli Arabs do perpetrate acts of terrorism from time to time, it still comes as a shock. The vast majority of Israeli Arabs are interested in making a living and getting along like their Jewish counterparts. They enjoy all the medical and social benefits of one of the most advanced welfare states in the world. Moreover, in this case, the Arab terrorists had murdered two Israeli Druze policemen. The Druze are a very proud Middle Eastern people who are not Muslims but practice a secret faith of their own. They live primarily in Middle East countries where they have a reputation for being very loyal to the state where they make their homes. At the same time, like the Jews, they have a strong bond with their kinsmen everywhere. In Israel, they serve in the IDF, where at least one is a pilot as well as in the Israeli Police. They are highly respected and an 'alliance of blood' has been forged between Israeli Jews and Druze. Consider this: during the Syrian civil war, the al Nusra militia guerrillas fighting Assad's forces closed in and began to threaten Druze villages on the Syrian Golan Heights. Israeli Druze were extremely worried and threatened to cross into Syria and go to the aid of their kinsmen. Netanyahu apparently informed Israeli Druze leader that the IDF had warned al Nusra, in no uncertain terms, not to threaten any Druze in Lebanon. That policy is still in force today and the forces fighting each other in Syria know full well the IDF is protecting the Druze.

In any case, the Arab killing of two Druze policemen has the potential of starting a blood-feud between Israel's Arab and Druze citizens. What the Druze expected was a serious message of condolence and regret from the leaders of the Israeli Arab community, however, that has not been forthcoming. Apparently, Israeli Arab politicians are reticent to issue such a response for fear of annoying militant Arab voters.

There is a movement supported by some Right wing politicians that campaign for rebuilding the Jewish Temple on Temple Mount, which is now occupied by the Al Aqsa Mosque.

Immediately after the terror attack at one of the most sacred sites in the world, Israel temporarily closed the Temple Mount area. But at the same time, the PM declared that Israel had no intention of changing the status of Temple Mount. Consider this: when Jordan controlled the Temple Mount area it barred it to Jews and Christians living in Israel. Even Israeli Muslims were not allowed. Paradoxically the Jewish liberation of the sacred site enabled Israeli Arabs to visit it for the first time. However, at the time Defense Minister Moshe Dayan decided the Muslim Wakf Religious Authority would continue its administration of the Temple Mount site. (After the advent of Islam, the Muslims co-opted Temple Mount of the Jews, in order to build the Al Aqsa Mosque). But why did Dayan decide to allow the Wakf Muslim Council to administer the Temple Mount site which has now become the greatest flash-point between Jews and Muslims on a global scale? At the time only one prominent Israeli Rabbi Shlomo Goren, the IDF's chief rabbi, ruled that Jews could pray on the Temple Mount, all the other rabbis forbade it on religious grounds. However, in recent years, the Temple Mount question has gained more and more importance in the role of Judaism in Israeli nationalism. There is a movement supported by some Right wing politicians that campaign for rebuilding the Jewish Temple on Temple Mount, which is now occupied by the Al Aqsa Mosque. From time to time, there have been outbreaks of stone throwing by Muslims on Temple Mount at the Jewish worshippers praying down below at the Western Wall.

As a result of the Muslim attack, there is even more bad blood between Israeli Arabs and Druze now, which will hopefully dissipate. Only time will tell if some angry Druze will try to retaliate. In any case, tension is still running high at Temple Mount where Israeli police have installed metal detectors to prevent any more Muslim worshippers from smuggling sub-machine into Temple Mount, which is a mosque and synagogue all rolled into one. However, Muslims refused to pass through the metal detectors and clashed with Israeli policemen. The Muslims claim the metal detector check is an Israeli infringement on their religious rights; the right to do what exactly - smuggle in more sub-machine guns?

At the risk of sounding cynical: Prime Minister Netanyahu is under extreme scrutiny these days with numerous allegations of fraud swirling around him and some of his associates. The Temple Mount attack gave Bibi the opportunity to act like a reliable leader, which he did by quieting Muslim concern worldwide that Israel might take drastic steps in light of the Muslim attack. But at the same time, one of the suspects in the German submarine scandal has reportedly decided to spill the beans and turn state-witness in a plea bargain with police investigators. If so, when the case begins to unravel it could lead very close to the PM. However, Likud Knesset whip David Bietan has just declared that Netanyahu will not resign even if he is indicted because the law does not obligate him to do so. At the time, Bibi was abroad on an official trip to Hungary and was not available for comment.


David Essing


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