Israel is more likely than ever, as the United Nations meets to vote on whether to recognize a “Palestinian state” in the region.
The stakes for Israel
The stakes for Israel involve its national survival. The 1949 Armistice Lines mark off the territory at issue. Israel captured this territory in 1967, the last time that Israel faced enemies on three sides.
The territories are not contiguous, either. To the east lie Judea and Samaria, also known as “The West Bank” ever since Jordan annexed them in 1949. To the west: the Gaza Strip, including the one city (Gaza City) among the Five Cities of the Philistines under Arab control.
George Friedman of the Strategic Forecasting Company (StratFor) lays it on the line. Each territory has a different faction controlling it, with different ideologies and priorities. Al-Fatah sits on Judea and Samaria, and has made overtures (of doubtful sincerity) of peace. Hamas (the Islamic Resistance Movement) controls the Strip, and has always wanted war. And when, as, and if the UN votes to “recognize” a “Palestinian state,” each faction will claim that the UN means them, not the other group.
The broader context
But Friedman sounds a more dire warning. Al-Fatah is a secularist group. Its ideology is strictly political pan-Arab nationalism, without the religious dress of Islam. Hosni Mubarak was a nationalist in that mold. So are Moammar Qadhafi of Libya and Bashar al-Assad of Syria.
Hamas is an Islamist movement by name. In fact it is part of the Muslim Brotherhood. That is the group now moving to take power in Egypt. It is also the group likely to take power in Libya.
Egypt and Libya have another thing in common that Friedman did not mention. The United States, thanks to Barack H. Obama, has assisted in the overthrow of the secularist strongmen in both countries. Israel might want to ask itself what is going on here. The United States has always been Israel’s closest ally worldwide. Now we see America enabling Islamist regimes that are spoiling for a war with Israel.
Syria is a different case. Friedman describes the Syrian civil war as one between a Shia-allied regime and a Sunni population. The regime is a key supporter of the Iranian-linked Hezbollah (Party of Allah). Both Iran and Hezbollah want Syria to survive. (Both also blame the United States for engineering the uprising, though the United States hasn’t done much more than talk about it.) And both would gladly jump into a war with Israel to take the pressure off Syria.
Friedman mentioned last week’s triple ambush in the Negev. He said flatly that Hamas surely knew what was going on, and could have stopped the ambush, but didn’t. He also said that Hamas loves to hide behind front groups and pretend innocence.
But he did not mention fresh evidence that Egypt might have taken part in that ambush. From Ha’aretz (The Land) comes this report saying that at least three of the terrorists who took part in the ambush were Egyptians. Recall that some of the men who attacked a bus filled with soldiers on leave wore Egyptian uniforms. The Ha’aretz report seems to confirm this.
The Fresno Zionism blog has this report that goes into greater detail. How did an Israeli counter-terrorism police officer die? Those same Egyptians shot him.
Here is the story as I heard it, attributed to eyewitnesses: the police counterterrorism officers were observing the Egyptians across the border at a range of several hundred meters. It was late in the day, and the Egyptians were preparing to leave their position, taking apart equipment, etc. Suddenly, several bursts of automatic fire came from the Egyptian side. The Israelis rushed to take cover and return fire, and at this point [Officer Pascal] Avrahami was hit. No one else was wounded on the Israeli side.
The bullet that hit him was an ordinary Kalashnikov slug, not a round from a sniper weapon. At that range, it was a very lucky shot.
Ha’aretz said that a sniper killed Avrahami. But witnesses on the ground seem to say otherwise. And if their account is correct, then Avrahami’s death was not an accident.
Why did at least three Egyptians, wearing the uniform of Egypt, take part in that attack? Were they extremists who killed three Egyptian regulars and took their uniforms? Were they renegades, wearing their own uniforms while acting against orders? Or did Egypt just try to start an all-out war with Israel, and use those three as plausibly disavowable catspaws?
How a new war might start
Israel has said in advance that they will call up reservists next month. Clearly they are preparing for war, if, when, and where it comes. Friedman suggested that Hamas and Al-Fatah could each start something in its territory. Hezbollah could also march southward out of Lebanon. (Or they could start firing anti-ship missiles at Israeli drilling ships in its new natural-gas exploration region in the northeastern Mediterranean. They and Hamas could even “tag-team” Israel, with Hamas firing missiles out of Gaza City.)
Israel has two choices: either hit Gaza with everything she has, or sit back and take it. Israel would have ample cause to move into Gaza; Hamas has fired rockets at Israeli villages in the Negev for years. Friedman does worry that any war would push Egypt toward a Muslim Brotherhood government. But that might happen anyway, if it is not a “done deal” already.
And in that case, the Camp David Treaty is dead. That could spread the war even wider.
- Egypt recalls ambassador
- Israel under attack from Egypt, Gaza
- Israel’s oil could provoke next war
- Anti-Semitism program disbanded at Yale
- Two-state solution draws Swiftian protest
- Naksa protests underwhelming; some staged
- Temple Institute to Obama: MYOB!
- Middle East in ferment ahead of ‘Naksa Day’
- PR war over Israel
- Palestinian state unwanted, maybe illegal
- Israel and Hamas – two standards of law
- Hamas gains open border with Egypt
- Israel should ignore the media
- Obama speech in England shows: UN over US
- Israel bought the land first
- Netanyahu speech shifts burden to Palestinians
- Obama Israel policy – flying his true colors
- Obama AIPAC speech not helpful
- Israel 1967 borders have no basis
- Obama speech fuels rage
- Obama speech solves nothing in Middle East
- Middle East unrest in perspective
- Stand by Israel!
- An Israeli speaks out
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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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