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IRAN & ISRAEL GO TO THE BRINK

Iranian missile reading in Hebrew letters 'Israel must be wiped out!'

Is it now Iran's call? For the first time, Iranian forces in Syria have attacked Israel by launching a missile at a target inside of Israeli territory - the winter resort at Mt. Hermon. Fortunately, for the thousands of Israelis in the area, and indeed even for the Iranian personnel stationed in Syria, Israel's Iron Dome Defense intercepted and shot down the Iranian missile. For, if it had landed and killed Israelis, it would have triggered a full-blown war with the Iranian forces in Syria.

Although Israel has tried to steer clear of any significant involvement in the Syrian civil war, it has conducted a determined military operation to destroy the Iranian buildup and the supply of advanced Iranian weaponry via Syria to Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. The Israeli Air Force has been at the forefront. Recently former IDF Chief of Staff Gen. Gadi Eizenkot told the New York Times, "We struck thousands of targets without claiming responsibility or asking for credit." This would seem to imply that Israeli jets have also targeted ISIS.

The Russian connection

Putin, so far, has no beef with Israel's attacking Iranian targets as long as Russian personnel in Syria are not endangered.

In retaliation to the Iranian escalation, Israel launched a major strike against Iranian targets in Syria. As usual, Israel notified the Russians, through their hotline, in advance. It would appear that Putin, so far, has no beef with Israel's attacking Iranian targets as long as Russian personnel in Syria are not endangered. (This is the result of last September's deadly incident when the Syrians launched a barrage of missiles and mistakenly shot down a Russian transport, killing all of its 15-member crew.)

As things currently stand, Iran has changed the unwritten rules of the game by launching that rocket at an Israeli civilian target. This at a time when a senior Iranian air force commander has joined the Ayatollahs in declaring that Iran will wipe Israel off the map. Netanyahu has replied, in effect, "We will do whatever it takes to stop Iran."

Iran's Call

It is now Iran's call - either it sticks to the previous cat-and-mouse game of building a military structure inside Syria and fighting off Israeli airstrikes, or it broadens the arena into again launching rockets inside Israel. If they persist, the Iranians will have stepped off the brink!

Apropos, the Eizenkot interview

Reading the talk-backs by a number of New York Times readers, the unbridled criticism that is often leveled at the Jewish state was striking (some of them actually by readers with Jewish-sounding names). I'm not referring to the crude anti-semites who castigate the Jewish state as a cover for attacking Jews in general. I'm referring to well-written criticism, often quite erudite, that holds the Jewish state to a much higher standard than they do for their own USA. For example, in the current crisis between Israel and Iran, would they have also objected to President Kennedy's risking WWIII by imposing the blockade of Cuba to bar the arrival of Soviet missile to Fidel Castro? Should Israel do nothing to prevent Iran from gradually building another arsenal of tens of thousands of rockets to launch at Israel, as they already have with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon? Or how would they react if indeed North Korea, or indeed Iran, openly threatened to wipe the US 'off the map' while they openly proceeded to develop nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles to deliver them?

Barak, Clinton, and Arafat during peace negotiations. Photo credit: PD-USGOV

That is not to say that the Israeli government does not warrant criticism for its handling of the Palestinian issue. Many Israelis agree. But in the final analysis, have the Palestinians (and that includes "moderate" President Mahmud Abbas) ever accepted the idea of a Jewish state? And this is not simply semantics - the moderate Abbas insists that all three of four million descendants of the 660,000 Palestinian refugees must return to their former homes inside Israel. This, in effect, would also wipe Israel off the face of the map! In this vein, I advise these critics, if they are interested in the facts, to read former Prime Minister Ehud Barak's autobiography of what he offered Yasser Arafat at Camp David. Bill Clinton has verified that Barak offered Arafat an independent Palestinian state with minor territorial exchanges and even the partition of Jerusalem. And what happened? Dennis Ross put it in American lingo, "Arafat refused to step up to the plat."

Arafat did not give a formal answer, he just packed his bags and flew home to Ramallah. Some of his sidekicks told Ross something to the effect of, 'the Palestinians would kill Arafat if he had accepted Barak's generous offer.' Also, consider Arki Sharon's unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Instead of grasping this opportunity and declaring 'no more terrorism' and proposing the Gaza evacuation be followed by a similar Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank while pledging, as did Anwar Sadaat, "No more war, no more terrorism," Hamas turned the Gaza strip to a launch pad for rocketing Israel. Oh Yes, let's not forget Israel's naval blockade of Gaza; to do what exactly? To prevent Hamas from smuggling in rockets from Iran and elsewhere to launch a surprise attack on the Jewish state.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

But let's not forget the 'moderate' Abbas. He contends, "The Jews are not a legitimate people entitled to self-determination - they are a religious group, and religions are not entitled to states." So, what to make of all of this? Whether it's a hawk, like Netanyahu, leading Israel, or a dove like Ehud Barak, the Palestinian answer is always a flat NO.

This is not to say that Israeli governments should not sincerely seek to reach some peaceful solution or even a kind of halfway-house between terrorism and peace. Let's not forget Yitzhak Rabin, who tried to do so with Yasser Arafat, but since then Israel has not had one day free from the threat of Palestinian terrorism. Not that this justified Israel's building of settlements wherever it chooses on the West Bank. But unless and until the Palestinians agree that the Jews, one of the oldest and historically documented peoples on the planet, are entitled to their own state (say similar to those 57 Muslim declared stated in the Islamic conference), it is hard to envision a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But to end on a more optimistic note, Israel has achieved peace with Egypt and Jordan, while other Muslim states in the region are quietly forging commercial and perhaps military accords with the Jewish state.


Political Analyst David Essing

 

 

David Essing

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