From a mountaintop in nearby Cyprus, American and British cyber spies have been hacking into Israel’s most closely guarded secrets for years. In a startling expose, the Intercept website has revealed a joint American-British operation ‘to steal a bird’s-eye-view’ of Israeli drone operations. Not only that, they are also monitoring any Israeli preparations for a military strike against Iran’s nuclear sites. This is how Intercept described what one Israeli has deemed as the gravest penetration of Israel’s ‘holiest of holies’:
“American and British Intelligence secretly tapped into live video feeds from Israeli drones and fighter jets monitoring military operations in Gaza, watching for a potential strike against Iran, and keeping tabs on the drone technology Israel exports around the world.”
The operation, code named ‘Anarchist’, was run by America’s National Security Agency and Britain’s Communications Headquarters. The report, which was also carried simultaneously by Israel’s Yediot Ahronot and der Spiegel in Germany, is linked to leaks from Edward Snowden, the NSA whistle blower.
Dr. Roman Bergman, an Israeli journalist who specializes in intelligence, says the massive American-British operation also targeted Iran and the ongoing civil war in Syria. But Barack Obama designated Israel as a country of ‘presidential interest’, in other words to be given top priority. Not only were the U.S. and Britain closely monitoring drone strikes, it’s as if the communications spies were sitting in the cockpits of Israeli fighter jets and looking over the pilots’ shoulders. The bottom line is that Israel’s vaunted aerial operations are stark naked to American and British eyes!
Until now, the U.S. was known to be eagerly gathering intelligence on the IDF’s operations and capabilities in light of the clash between Obama and Netanyahu, but the new revelations are mind-boggling. As things now stand, apparently any Israeli preparations to launch a surprise strike against Iran will be detected in advance by Washington and London. This, and the fact that Israeli air operations are now exposed on a video screen will challenge Israel’s high-tech brains to come up with new solutions.
Greece, Cyprus, Israel alliance…
Cyprus may be exploited by the U.S. and Britain for spying on Israel, but it is also the center for a new emerging alliance it the Middle East. While most of the region is embroiled in bloodshed, Prime Minister Netanyahu traveled to Nicosia for an historic meeting with his Greek counter-part, Alexis Tsipras, and Nicos Anastasiades of Cyprus. They laid the groundwork for a tripartite deal that would carry natural gas from Israeli and Cypriot offshore deposits by pipeline through Greece to Europe. In addition, the three countries also agreed to co-operate on a joint electricity grid and counter-terrorism.
Olive branch to Turkey…
There is one rather big fly in the ointment – Turkey disputes the Cypriot claim to the offshore gas deposits that are located between the two enemies. Turkey invaded Cyprus on behalf of the Turkish-Cypriots in 1974 and still remains in control of the northern part of the Mediterranean island despite UN resolutions demanding its withdrawal.
But bear in mind that Israel and Turkey are now considering a rapprochement, after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan failed in his bid to become leader of the Arabs by dramatically dumping the Jewish state. (The clash with the Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, which tried to illegally run Israel’s blockade of Gaza was a ruse by Erdogan to cut ties. Israel’s naval blockade, deemed legal by a UN enquiry, is enforced to prevent Hamas from smuggling in more rockets to launch into Israel.)
From Nicosia, Netanyahu extended this invitation to Erdogan in Ankara:
“Our cooperation with Greece and Cyprus stands on its own. While we believe it should have happened some time ago, we are pleased by the current progress. It does not depend on our efforts to normalize our relations with Turkey. We are trying to do this. I do not know if it will succeed, but I think we will continue our efforts to do so. Turkey and Israel have had excellent relations in previous years. We did not want them to deteriorate and we did not cause this deterioration. We will welcome any change in policy.”
So while the Jewish state is being bombarded by the BDS movement in the West, Jerusalem is being courted by many of its neighbors in the Middle East. Look at the landscape of growing partners in peace: From Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, even Turkey on one hand and the Kurds on the other, and now Greece and Cyprus. When will the Palestinians wake up to the fact that Israel is too strong to wipe off the map, no matter what Iran says? All it would take would be for Palestinian leaders to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and a compromise at the table that would enable it to survive any future assault (if Hamas took over again in the future). But that is not likely to happen.
And in the current vacuum, the vast majority of Palestinians and their leaders have joined forces with a minority of Israeli Right wingers who have reached the conclusion that there is no Palestinian peace partner. These Israelis argue that Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert all tried by making major concessions – it was a real ‘territory for peace’ approach as demanded by the whole world, and all Israel got back was more terrorism. It turned into ‘territory for terror’ on the part of the Palestinians. (Take Gaza, for example).
So Israel faces this dilemma: Right wingers say it’s been proven that there is no Palestinian partner, so it makes no difference if we build settlements or not. The Left says Israel must not lose hope, make nice to the Palestinians, and certainly not build any more on the West Bank.
There is also a third camp in between – what IsraCast has supported in the past. It goes like this: it remains to be seen whether the Palestinians have really given up their eternal goal of destroying the Jewish state. Neither Yasser Arafat nor Mahmoud Abbas offered any credible evidence that they have. But in the interim, Israel should not build more housing or confiscate property outside of the settlement blocs. It is this activity that fuels the BDS movement. It makes sense from both the political and moral viewpoint. Even pundit Dan Margalit, one of Netanyahu’s most ardent supporters, has taken this position:
“The current state of affairs at this moment restricts Israel’s freedom of action in Judea & Samaria (West Bank). This must be understood by the strongest supporters of settlement building. They must also accept that ‘there is a proper season for all things’. The test now is not how many Israelis live over the old 1967 line, but the strength of the boycott movement, and we see that the populating of any new home there sparks a new and detrimental storm.
If Netanyahu is not ready to stand before the nation and before his supporters and announce a total freeze on building outside of the settlement blocs, then maybe one of the rabbis in the settlements of Beth El or Ofra will stand up in their synagogues this Sabbath and tell the worshippers: ‘There must be a cessation in settlement building, back off until it blows over’.”
Margalit’s appeal makes sense, and IsraCast has previously proposed the same approach. Why restrict settlement building to the existing settlement blocs? Simply, as articulated by former U.S. President George Bush, this very small part of the West Bank would be required for Israel’s security in a final peace treaty. Moreover, it would put Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on the spot about returning to the table with the will to forge a fair peace accord. In addition, it would open the door to form a more Centrist coalition government with the former Labor party now known as the Zionist Camp. But Margalit is aware that without massive support by the settlers themselves, hardliners in the Likud would try to topple him and probably do it.
Terror tunnels from Gaza and Lebanon…
Has Israel found a solution to the tunnels being dug by Hamas from Gaza into Israel? Israelis living along the sixty-five kilometer border have said they hear the sound of tunneling from time to time. The IDF has now confirmed that Hamas has been busy building new tunnels, after most were destroyed during the fifty-day war in 2014. In fact, Hamas actually admitted that seven of its men died underground when the tunnel collapsed on them recently during a heavy rainstorm.
The IDF, which did not adequately prepare for the tunnel threat last time, apparently has learned the lesson. Channel 1 TV has shown video of sensors built into the ground along the Gaza frontier to detect the new tunnels. They will serve to prevent the terrorists from again tunneling into Israel from Gaza in order to kill Israeli civilians or take hostages. Israel developed Iron Dome, a highly effective missile defense that has neutralized the rocket threat from Gaza; hopefully it has found a similar solution for the terror tunnels.
In the north, Hezbollah may have taken a page out of Hamas tactics by also tunneling under the Lebanese frontier into Israel. They are known to have built tunnels inside southern Lebanon to store rockets for firing at Israel. Now armed with some 100,000 rockets and missiles supplied by Iran and Syria, it is not known if they are actually tunneling under the border to launch surprise attacks on Israeli civilians.