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Posts

Crisis in the Sinai

A Preliminary Analysis, 19 August, 9.00am; updates 19 and 21 August, , Miri Weingarten, JNews
(See also JNews, Egypt withdraws ambassador from Israel over officers’ deaths, 20 August)
Palestinian Attack on Eilat, 8 Israeli and 6 Gazan Dead, Richard Silverstein, 18 August 2011
The Return of the Generals, Uri Avnery, 19 August
A changed agenda?, Adam Keller, August 19, 2011
Israel’s Eilat Venture
, Tallha Abdulrazaq, 18 August 2011
Medical Aid for Palestinians appeal
Let IDF into Sinai, Ron Ben-Yishai, 19 August 2011

 



Miri Weingarten, 19 August, 9.00am

UPDATE Nr. 1, 19 August 2011

Analysis of events and of Israeli media coverage following yesterday’s Eilat attacks, with preliminary analysis of events since then.

Since yesterday there has been a concentrated effort in Israel to direct public and international attention regarding the Eilat attacks away from Egypt and onto Gaza.

It began just an hour or so after the attacks. While all Israeli media sources seemed taken by surprise and automatically analysed the attacks within the context of the Sinai peninsula and the Egyptian control over it – Minister of Defense Ehud Barak said unequivocally and very promptly that the attacks, which all came from the other side of the Egyptian borders, originated in Gaza, their organisers were in Gaza, and the response would be in Gaza. Israeli press immediately followed his lead without criticism, thus preparing the way for the evening attack in Rafah which killed 6, including at least 2 central leaders of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) as well as a woman and a two-year-old child. Hamas immediately denied all involvement and all night long no group took responsibility. Following the airstrike, however, PRC declared it would retaliate and rocket fire into Israel resumed.

Airstrikes on Gaza continued in several parts of the Strip. So far at least 17 injuries and 7 dead are reported.  On the Israeli side one soldier and one border guard sniper are dead, as well as 6 civilians. The majority of the 40 injuries were very slight and currently less than a dozen remain in hospital. This morning another 7 civilians were injured (one seriously) by a Grad rocket on Ashdod.

In fact the story seems to be mainly in the Sinai, and it relates both to Egyptian government aspirations for control there and to Israeli gas interests. Groups of saboteurs have five times bombed the gas pipeline from Egypt to Israel in the area of Al Arish and last week, with Israeli agreement, large Egyptian forces moved into the demilitarised zone to ‘cleanse’ the area. at least 2 were killed and several were injured last week as a result. Yesterday’s attacks were apparently a predictable retaliation. According several sources Israel requested freedom to respond within Egypt and to take temporary control of 7km around Taba but Egypt refused (US tried to convince them, to no avail). Israel then nonetheless commenced airstrikes last night along the border and within it, and in one strike two Egyptian conscripts in the Central Security Forces were ‘accidentally’ killed. There is little open information but it seems there is an uncomfortable and fragile joint coordination between Egypt and ISrael forces now acting in the northern Sinai and this is the heart of the story. It is very risky due to the unstable status of Egypt’s current authoritarian intermediate military government (the SCAF) which is hated by many of the young Egyptians. A demo is planned for 12 today outside the Israeli embassy in Cairo in protest at the killing of the two soldiers.

Israel  is doing its utmost to hide this story from Israelis and foreign press seems to take its cue from ISraeli, not other sources, selling the Gaza-attacks Israel-retaliates story. Israeli outlet Haaretz (under new editor Aluf Benn), even when covering the killing of Egyptian soldiers, does not detail locations, arousing suspicions as to just how far into the Sinai Israeli forces are (could this be another 1982 Lebanon story?)

An interesting development this morning was the declaration of responsibility by Tawhid Wa-AlJihad (connected to AlQaida Iraq).

As for further context regarding timing – obviously this comes as a great relief for a government expecting not only a Palestinian statehood bid next month but also significant social unrest that was threatening to address the core issue of settlements.

We will report more as the story develops. For the meantime those of you on twitter may want to use the names in the link below, and add to them also @WillOuda, @Solarah and @adamakary.  @Zeinobia from Egypt also adds relevant info. Follow them to know what’s really going on. http://www.tweetdeck.com/twitter/occpal/~qpFHK . The social uprising in Israel has the hashtag #j14 or #j14eng, the attacks are often tagged #Eilat

UPDATE Nr 2 19 Aug 2011

Further developments since this morning:

-several more Palestinians killed and drones, apache, F16 attacks ongoing on all parts of Gaza, both against militant targets and Hamas offices. Children and women among those killed. Most recent was a strike on a motorbike returning from hospital, killing a doctor, his brother and his nephew aged 5.

-death toll among Egyptian security up to 6 (Egyptian demos at Israeli embassy in Cairo and consulate in Alexandria, the former still ongoing, with tensions there high and marked presence of riot police);

-forensic reports on the Egyptian soldiers according to some sources reportedly show they died of gunfire, not a rocket. Egypt has officially requested a probe into the killings, but seems to be continuing coordination with ISrael on operations in North Sinai.

-Israeli media have been hosting military experts advocating either a retaking of Philadephi route between Gaza and Egypt or some sort of offensive in Sinai along the border, and in any case Netanyahu promised this evening to continue retailiation in Gaza.

-Israeli rhetoric on Egypt is heating up, saying the border is no longer secure or peaceful, and that Egypt must be seen as responsible.

-The Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), fingered by ISrael as responsible for yesterday’s terrorist attacks, and who have been the targets of assassinations for the past 24 hours, has today officially denied all involvement in the attacks (AFP).

-Rocket fire continues to several parts of southern Israel, both Qassam and Grads, with damage and some injuries, the most serious in a synagogue in Ashdod (7 injured, one serious).

-Hamas and the Azz EdDin AlQassam Brigades have declared an end to the truce tonight and called on all groups to use force against Israel

UPDATE 21 Aug 2011

Interim Analysis

* Politically, the key victim of the escalation (apart from civilians) is the political leadership of Hamas
* The crisis marks a possible end to the PA/Fatah-Hamas reconciliation and complication of the related statehood bid
*  In Egypt, the crisis could redefine a divide between the SCAF interim government and the prodemocracy movement
* In Sinai, no leads yet on the identity of the Eilat attackers
* Israel apparently seeks further increase of Egyptian forces in the eastern Sinai, and a limited air offensive on Gaza (already underway).

* Hamas. In the West Bank Israel is rounding up hundreds of Hamas members from several towns (mainly Hebron and Bethlehem so far). In Gaza Hamas has been hurt politically by the current round: the local armed groups opposing rapprochement with the PA and by extension with the West have the initiative, while Hamas at first lagged behind. Even within Hamas the armed wing, Ez EdDin AlQassam Brigades, declared an end to the lull before the Hamas political leadership did. The latter are still trying to find a way to calm the flames by talking to international community (including Turkey, Egypt). But basically they have already lost what they sought: The international community is unlikely to recognize Palestinian political reconciliation including Hamas when rockets are flying again. Hamas political leaders, even if they wanted to, are now unable to control the fire and Israeli analysts are repeatedly hammering in that ‘Hamas is responsible. Hamas is responsible’. (in Israeli FM Lieberman’s case, always a step ahead, it’s ‘the PA is responsible’).

* The Israeli offensive. Much depends on whether Israel now decides to go forward with a Cast Lead 2 or limits itself to a slightly smaller scale attack that stops shortly before 20 Sep (date scheduled for UN statehood bid). Last night Israel’s cabinet convened to discuss this. For the meantime it seems they tend to ‘limit’ the escalation to airstrikes damaging infrastructure; targeted assassinations of ‘Hamas’ and ‘other terror organisations'; rocket interception by Iron Dome; and increased coordination with Egypt in the Sinai (See for example here)  – with no land operation right now. Of course, once started, the attacks will take on their own dynamic, including public pressure in Israel to hit hard following rocket attacks (Kadima, the opposition party, is leading on this). As stated in the last analysis, Israeli media took Barak and Netanyahu’s claim that the Eilat attacks originated in Gaza’s PRC at face value so there is little knowledge in the Israeli public of the political engineering behind this crisis.

* The 20 Sep statehood bid. PA may now drop/postpone the reconciliation and/or the statehood bid – a major victory for Israel if it occurs. In any case, the statehood bid will now be heavily compromised by the renewed split of the Palestinian body politic. It will also be impacted by the scale of the current offensive and rockets attacks, and by how soon these come to an end.

* Egypt. The new Egypt complicates matters for both Israel and Hamas. Israel may have thought it was doing a bit of manipulation when it immediately pointed the finger at Gaza after the Eilat attacks but it may not have reckoned with the full implications and complications of a) the real identity of the attackers, still unclear, and b) crossing over into Sinai and killing Egyptian soldiers and the impact of this on the Tahrir youth who are furiously demonstrating outside the embassies now. Israeli officials, whose close coordination with the Egyptian military continues, don’t want to destabilise public relations with Egypt and are now doing a quick rethink. Depending on who makes the decisions now in Israel and Egypt, this could now die down or turn into a serious diplomatic chill. It remains to be seen what the Egyptian street can do to affect this – unlikely they will allow “business as usual” to continue and as one tweep wrote from Cairo last night ‘seems all Tahrir is here, ironically we find unity at the Israeli embassy’.

* Sinai. No leads yet on identity of the Eilat attackers. According to Egyptian sources, three Egyptian Bedouin corpses were found along the Egypt-Israel border – no identification yet. Also, the head of a suicide bomber who detonated himself after the Eilat attacks inside Egypt is reportedly at El Arish hospital, presumably for forensic purposes. There seems to have been major anger in Sinai at some of the roundups by Egyptian army recently. Representatives of SCAF met yesterday in north Sinai with local Bedouin communities to ‘bury the hatchet’. Politics in the Sinai are very unclear now, to say the least. There is a risk of this developing into a swamp of low-level intervention in the border region of Sinai, Lebanon style (or like the Jordan/West Bank in 1968-69). It seems Israel would prefer Egypt to do such intervention in Sinai on its behalf, by increasing the number of Egyptian soldiers allowed into East Sinai. At most, Israel might consider retaking the Philadelphi Route between Gaza and Sinai but even this carries a cost as it involves retaking responsibility for Gaza humanitarian access.

In the meantime, Gaza’s residents are paying the price of this complex crisis, as are southern Israeli civilians.

* International NGO staff are leaving Gaza now, while UN are staying. Apart from them, no one but medical cases are allowed out of Erez and Rafah Crossings today.

All this still subject to new developments, which are evolving rapidly.


Palestinian Attack on Eilat, 8 Israeli and 6 Gazan Dead

Richard Silverstein, 18 August 2011

For anyone who hasn’t read Huck Finn, you must.  Tonight calls to mind the harrowing section of that novel about the feud till death of the Hatfield and McCoys.  In American parlance, since the publication of the book, the phrase has come to mean any sort of family feud.  But go back and re-read it and you’ll see that this was anything but a mere feud.  It was pure blood lust and vengeance ending with the decimation of two entire families along with all the dreams of even the most innocent and peaceful among them.  That is what the Israeli-Palestinian conflict calls to mind on this sorrowful day.

What can one say?  That the Palestinian attack was atrocious (despite the fact that some of those attacked were Israeli soldiers–a distinction some of my Palestinian friends may make, but which feels especially hollow today)?  That the Israeli revenge response was equally heinous since it killed two innocent children?  Yes, to both of these.

One thing my friend Dena Shunra pointed out to me earlier today when we commiserated about the day’s events was Ehud Barak’s adoption of the language of the Jewish terror underground.  He stated that today’s terror attack would merit a “price tag” (read, “blood vengeance”) response.  For any who don’t know the phrase, it’s used by the most radical of the settlers and Hilltop Youth to denote their policy of pogrom-like attacks against Palestinian civilians whenever the Israeli government or Palestinians themselves commit an act which they feel threatens their hegemony over the Occupied Territories.  This includes shooting elderly Palestinians, poisoning and burning their olive groves, killing their farm animals, beating up young Palestinian shepherds, poisoning water wells, and burning mosques.

This hooliganism is bad enough.  But to think that the defense minister of the State of Israel is adopting the same language (and the same tactics apparently, writ large) is beyond horrifying.  Every time I read something like this I think that these people don’t understand that there WILL be an accounting both for their language and deeds.  ”Price tag” is, of course, collective punishment, which is illegal under international law.  But it’s worse than that.  Because “price tag” is deeply integrated into the Israeli consciousness as a strategy of the most odious, homicidal members of its society.  So now, the defense minister has become the same as a masked settler gunmen trolling for Palestinians to whack.  Is this what Zionism has come to for these people?

And at this point, lest the anti-Zionists among us cheer too loudly, I should make clear that this is blood lust Zionism, one that I reject in favor of a Zionism that rejects any violence as a way to resolve this conflict; a Zionism that says that two peoples can live together on this land without one dominating or murdering the other.

But finally, I think the only thing that one can say is that any Israeli government that refuses to negotiate a final end to this conflict on terms that just about everyone knows, will reap many more such attacks.  Before some of my right-wing pro-Israel readers jump down my throat (they’re firing up their keyboards as they read these words), I am not condoning Palestinian terrorism (or “resistance” or whatever you wish to call it).  I deplore it just as I deplore what amounts to Israeli terrorism in response.  But it is a simple fact that the terror will never end until there is a settlement (no, not that kind of settlement!).  And everyone except the Israeli far-right (within which I include Netanyahu and virtually his entire government) knows this or should know it.

I should add that at this point I’ve given up hope on the Israeli political system to produce an answer.  Neither the far-right nor the center (Kadima, Labor) are capable of doing it.  Peace can only be imposed from the outside.  Not that I credit much hope that the world community will have the courage or vision to intervene. No, I’m afraid there will have to be more wars, more killings.  The Hatfields and McCoys haven’t shed enough blood yet to move the world’s conscience.  I’m afraid that one must almost commit genocide against the other before action is taken.  I hope to God I’m wrong and my bleak vision is too pessimistic.  Prove me wrong, that’s all I can ask of Obama, the EU, NATO or the Quartet: prove me wrong.

Israel claims to have killed the top leadership of the Armed Resistance Committees, the Gaza group which supposedly orchestrated the attack.  I don’t know whether elements of this claim are true or not.  I don’t know whether this group was responsible and I don’t know whether those killed were the authors of the crime.  But one thing strikes me as strange.  If you were a Gazan who planned a major terror attack would you hide out in the same house with the other top leaders of your group?  It doesn’t sound plausible to me.  If I were a terrorist (thank God, I’m not) I’d hightail it outa there to Egypt; or else I’d separate from my comrades and say: “it’s each man for himself.”  Coming days will perhaps uncover some of these mysteries.

Netanyahu announced with smug satisfaction that the authors of the crime were no longer among the living.  But how or why does this matter?  Are terror attacks such specialized operations that they can’t be planned and executed by any reasonably intelligent individual or group?  So what if you kill one or three or a battalion of terrorists.  There will be 10 to take the place of every one you kill.  And who knows, the one you kill may be replaced by someone truly brilliant at his job who will cause you ten times the suffering of the one you murdered.  Such happened when Hassan Nasrallah took over from the Hezbollah leader Israel murdered.

Israel’s strategy seems to be to inflict so much pain upon the other side that eventually it will be forced to concede to superior numbers and power.  But what the Syrian opposition and Palestinian resistance has shown for decades is that there is no threshold of pain beyond which they will yield.  The same cannot be said for Israel, which has often withdrew from supposedly ironclad military positions in south Lebanon, Gaza, etc.  But if there are any Palestinians who think they can win a war of attrition, they too are foolhardy because they may have to exhaust their entire supply of male fighters in order to finally wear Israel out.  And what benefit is there in this if four out of every five (say) male Palestinians is dead?  Would that be a victory?

Israel blames Hamas for the attack though pointedly it hasn’t yet struck specifically Hamas targets.  It claims that there is virtually no difference between the Armed Resistance Committees and the Islamist movement.  That may be true or it may not.  But there is one intriguing recent development which may (or may not) have borne on the attack itself.  Yesterday, the Egyptians announced they were at an impasse in the Gilad Shalit negotiations and that each side refused to budge from their positions in order to achieve compromise.  Could it be that either Hamas saw this as an opportunity to punish Israel for failure of the negotiation; or the Armed Resistance Committees, without Hamas’ blessings, took advantage of the deadlock to strike its own blow for Palestinian resistance?  Who knows.

To complicate matters even further, Al Jazeera relays a report by Egyptian state media that an IDF Apache attach helicopter purusing armed men from Egypt into Gaza fired on and killed two Egyptian policemen:

…Two Egyptian policemen were killed when the Israeli aircraft opened fire near the Rafah border town with the Palestinian Gaza Strip, the official MENA news agency quoted an Egyptian military official as saying.

“An Israeli plane was pursuing infiltrators on the other side of the border until they reached Rafah and fired at them. There were several Central Security members there and they were hit by the gunfire,” the official told MENA.

This could be why Israel has been extraordinarily careful in not ascribing blame to Egypt for the terror incident though it appears the Gazan attackers trekked through the Sinai from Gaza to Eilat to carry out their assault.  In the light of the possible IDF cock-up and killing of Egyptian police, it wouldn’t take much to inflame Israeli-Egyptian relations, which are in a very delicate stage after the overthrow of Israel’s main-man, Hosni Mubarak.

The moral of the tale as far as this attack is concerned is that when there is stalemate it does not mean maintenance of the status quo.  It means the gremlin-demons on each side take charge and make their own statements in blood.  This happened after Rabin’s assassination when the Palestinian’s launched repeated terror attacks against Israel which torpedoed Shimon Peres’ chances of winning the elections.  This in turn brought Bibi to power the first time.

So in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict stasis doesn’t equal status quo, it equals death.




The Return of the Generals

Uri Avnery, August 20, 2011

SINCE THE beginning of the conflict, the extremists of both sides have always played into each other’s hands. The cooperation between them was always much more effective than the ties between the corresponding peace activists.

“Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” asked the prophet Amos (3:3). Well, seems they can.

This was proved again this week.

AT THE beginning of the week, Binyamin Netanyahu was desperately looking for a way out of an escalating internal crisis. The social protest movement was gathering momentum and posing a growing danger to his government.

The struggle was going on, but the protest had already made a huge difference. The whole content of the public discourse had changed beyond recognition.

Social ideas were taking over, pushing aside the hackneyed talk about “security”. TV talk show panels, previously full of used generals, were now packed with social workers and professors of economics. One of the consequences was that women were also much more prominent.

And then it happened. A small extremist Islamist group in the Gaza Strip sent a detachment into the Egyptian Sinai desert, from where it easily crossed the undefended Israeli border and created havoc. Several fighters (or terrorists, depends who is talking) succeeded in killing eight Israeli soldiers and civilians, before some of them were killed. Another four of their comrades were killed on the Egyptian side of the border. The aim seems to have been to capture another Israeli soldier, to strengthen the case for a prisoner exchange on their terms.

In a jiffy, the economics professors vanished from the TV screens, and their place was taken by the old gang of exes – ex-generals, ex-secret-service chiefs, ex-policemen, all male, of course, accompanied by their entourage of obsequious military correspondents and far-right politicians.

With a sigh of relief, Netanyahu returned to his usual stance. Here he was, surrounded by generals, the he-man, the resolute fighter, the Defender of Israel.

IT WAS, for him and his government, an incredible stroke of luck.

It can be compared to what happened in 1982. Ariel Sharon, then Minister of Defense, had decided to attack the Palestinians and Syrians in Lebanon, He flew to Washington to obtain the necessary American agreement. Alexander Haig told him that the US could not agree, unless there was a “credible provocation”.

A few days later, the most extreme Palestinian group, led by Abu Nidal, Yasser Arafat’s mortal enemy, made an attempt on the life of the Israeli ambassador in London, paralyzing him irreversibly. That was certainly a “credible provocation”. Lebanon War I was on its way.

This week’s attack was also an answer to a prayer. Seems that God loves Netanyahu and the military establishment. The incident not only wiped the protest off the screen, it also put an end to any serious chance of taking billions off the huge military budget in order to strengthen the social services. On the contrary, the event proved that we need a sophisticated electronic fence along the 150 miles of our desert border with Sinai. More, not less, billions for the military.

BEFORE THIS miracle occurred, it looked as if the protest movement was unstoppable.

Whatever Netanyahu did was too little, too late, and just wrong.

In the first days, Netanyahu treated the whole thing as a childish prank, unworthy of the attention of responsible adults. When he realized that this movement was serious, he mumbled some vague proposals for lowering the price of apartments, but by then the protest had already moved far beyond the original demand for “affordable housing”. The slogan was now “The People Want Social Justice”

After the huge 250,000-strong demonstration in Tel Aviv, the protest leaders were facing a dilemma: how to proceed? Yet another mass protest in Tel Aviv might mean falling attendance. The solution was sheer genius: not another big demonstration in Tel Aviv, but smaller demonstrations all over the country. This disarmed the reproach that the protesters are spoiled Tel Aviv brats, “sushi eaters and water-pipe smokers” as one minister put it. It also brought the protest to the masses of disadvantaged Oriental Jewish inhabitants of the “periphery”, from Afula in the North to Beer Sheva in the South, most of them the traditional voters of Likud. It became a love-fest of fraternization.

So what does a run-of-the-mill politician do in such a situation? Well, of course, he appoints a committee. So Netanyahu told a respectable professor with a good reputation to set up a committee which would, in cooperation with nine ministers, no less, come up with a set of solutions. He even told him that he was ready to completely change his own convictions.

(He did already change one of his convictions when he announced in 2009 that he now advocates the Two-State Solution. But after that momentous about-face, absolutely nothing changed on the ground.)

The youngsters in the tents joked that “Bibi” could not change his opinions, because he has none. But that is a mistake – he does indeed have very definite opinions on both the national and the social levels: “the whole of Eretz Israel” on the one, and Reagan-Thatcher economic orthodoxy on the other.

The young tent leaders countered the appointment of the establishment committee with an unexpected move: they appointed a 60-strong advisory council of their own, composed of some of the most prominent university professors, including an Arab female professor and a moderate rabbi, and headed by a former deputy governor of the Bank of Israel.

The government committee has already made it clear that it will not deal with middle class problems but concentrate on those of the lowest socio-economic groups. Netanyahu has added that he will not automatically adopt their (future) recommendations, but weight them against the economic possibilities. In other words, he does not trust his own nominees to understand the economic facts of life.

AT THAT point, Netanyahu and his aides pinned their hopes on two dates: September and November 2011.

In November, the rainy season usually sets in. No drop of rain before that. But when it starts to rain cats and dogs, it was hoped in Netanyahu’s office, the spoiled Tel Aviv kids will run for shelter. End of the Rothschild tent city.

Well, I remember spending some miserable weeks in the winter of the 1948 war in worse tents, in the midst of a sea of mud and water. I don’t think that the rain will make the tent-dwellers give up their struggle, even if Netanyahu’s religious partners send the most fervent Jewish prayers for rain to the high heavens.

But before that, in September, just a few weeks away, the Palestinians – it was hoped – would start a crisis that will divert attention. This week they already submitted to the UN General Assembly a request to recognize the State of Palestine. The Assembly will most probably accede. Avigdor Lieberman has already enthusiastically assured us that the Palestinians are planning a “bloodbath” at that time. Young Israelis will have to exchange their tents in Tel Aviv for the tents in the West Bank army camps.

It’s a nice dream (for the Liebermans), but Palestinians had so far showed no inclination to violence.

All that changed this week.

FROM  NOW on, Netanyahu and his colleagues can direct events as they wish.

They have already “liquidated” the chiefs of the group which carried out the attack, called “the Popular Resistance Committees”. This happened while the fire-fight along the border was still going on. The army had been forewarned and was ready. The fact that the attackers succeeded nevertheless in crossing the border and shooting at vehicles was ascribed to an operational failure.

What now? The group in Gaza will fire rockets in retaliation. Netanyahu can – if he so wishes – kill more Palestinian leaders, military and civilian. This can easily set off a vicious circle of retaliation and counter-retaliation, leading to a full-scale Molten Lead-style war. Thousands of rockets on Israel, thousands of bombs on the Gaza Strip. One ex-military fool already argued that the entire Gaza Strip will have to be re-occupied.

In other words, Netanyahu has his hand on the tap of violence, and he can raise or lower the flames at will.

His desire to put an end to the social protest movement may well play a role in his decisions.

THIS BRINGS us back to the big question of the protest movement: can one bring about real change, as distinct from forcing some grudging concessions from the government, without becoming a political force?

Can this movement succeed as long as there is a government which has the power to start – or deepen – a “security crisis” at any time?

And the related question: can one talk about social justice without talking about peace?

A few days ago, while strolling among the tents on Rothschild Boulevard, I was asked by an internal radio station to give an interview and address the tent-dwellers. I said: “You don’t want to talk about peace, because you want to avoid being branded as ‘leftists”. I respect that. But social justice and peace are two sides of the same coin, they cannot be separated. Not only because they are based on the same moral principles, but also because in practice they depend on each other.”

When I said that, I could not have imagined how clearly this would be demonstrated only two days later.

REAL CHANGE means replacing this government with a new and very different political set up.

Here and there people in the tents are already talking about a new party. But elections are two years away, and for the time being there is no sign of a real crack in the right-wing coalition that might bring the elections closer. Will the protest be able to keep up its momentum for two whole years?

Israeli governments have yielded in the past to mass demonstrations and public uprisings. The formidable Golda Meir resigned in the face of mass demonstrations blaming her for the omissions that led to the fiasco at the start of the Yom Kippur War. The government coalitions of both Netanyahu and Ehud Barak in the 1990s broke under the pressure of an indignant public opinion.

Can this happen now? In view of the military flare-up this week, it does not look likely. But stranger things have happened between heaven and earth, especially in Israel, the land of limited impossibilities.



A changed agenda?

Adam Keller, Friday, August 19, 2011

Someone in the wild Sinai peninsula took a decision and sent a big, well equipped squad to infiltrate across the border into the Israeli Negev, attack buses and cars and engage in running battles with soldiers and  shoot and kill and kill indiscriminately. And presto, in one minute the agenda changed and the public mood changed into a state of emergency and war at the gate and in all communications media there was no more talk of social protests, nothing but terrorism and army and security issues.

It had been a difficult month for Prime Minister Netanyahu – truly, a very hard month. A Prime Minister under siege, caught in a bind. Tent encampments and more  tent encampments sprouting up all over the country, demonstrations and protests and more demonstrations. The demands for affordable housing and for Social Justice and for a Welfare State occupy the center stage, and the Free Market economics which Netanyahu had worked so hard to foster since he was Finance Minister are suddenly cast into doubt. What did he not try? He used sticks and he used carrots, he tried to entice the protesters with committees and benefits and rabbits drawn from the hat and he tried to castigate them as Leftists and pampered sushi-eaters, and they went on to protest and demonstrate and extend ever further the tent encampments and get their rallies to the peak of three hundred thousands in Tel Aviv. Just yesterday morning, the protesters arrived at the home of Eyal Gabbai, Nethanyahu’s Chef de Bureau, and he spoke forthrightly and made it clear to them that the Free Market system will not change, and there will be no taxation on the rich and there will be no Welfare State in Israel. And these cheeky youths did not accept these clear clarifications from their government, and just announced that they will increase ever more their protests and demonstrations.

How, how to change the focus and move the public agenda in a different direction? Perhaps finally September will come and the Palestinians will go to the UN and demand to have their state and thus help to distract public opinion in Israel? But the big show at the UN is only due on September 20, how to get through another month until then? Besides, would even that change the tendency of public opinion? What if the Palestinians hold mass demonstrations in late September, without any violence, and demand to have some Social Justice, to be free in their country and no longer live under occupation – would this be enough to change the agenda? It might even get a bit of sympathy among Israelis.

But not all is lost, and relief for the harassed Netanyahu came from the usual quarter, out of the deserts of Sinai came the dramatic initiative to change the Israeli public agenda. And it so happened that Israel’s fine security services had long since prepared a plan to liquidate Gazan leaders which just needed to be put into operation, and now put into operation it was forthwith, and all at once Israel’s Air Force took off for  Rafah and made the hit, an instant and huge success, and immediately afterwards could the Prime Minister make a full-blooded patriotic Address to the Nation people over all channels and offer congratulations to the brave soldiers and the valiant pilots and the diligent security operatives and deliver a stern warning to the Palestinians and offer condolences to the bereaved and wish the injured a speedy recovery and how great it felt at last to make a long speech without a single word about social problems, just like in the good old days. And of course, as soon as Gaza was hit, Israelis all over the South knew that the time has come to seek shelter and expect the worst, and indeed the Qassam and Grad rockets were not slow in coming, naturally prompting the Air Force to counter-attack on more Gaza targets and bring on more missiles on Israel the escalation is mutually escalating – and who would now dare demand a cut the in the defense budget in order to promote social causes?

But what the social protest activists do now in their tent encampments? Would they quietly yield to the changed agenda and meekly disappear from the scene? If that’s what Netanyahu is counting on, he should think again.

I would like to give the floor to Social Protest activits, with a selection of messages posted in the past twenty-four hours on the Offiical Housing Protest Facebook Page.

______________________

Voices from the grassroots field

Yigal Cohen: We will not let terrorism beat us!

Ittai Hertzberg: I just read this piece of news:
Deputy Minister Ayoub Kara calls upon demonstrators to dismantle their tents and call off their protest, in solidarity with the wounded in the attack, as “it’s time to be united in the struggle against terrorism”.
Ayoub Kara, don’t you have another appointment scheduled with neo-Nazis in Austria?

Arnon Shaked: How sad, Bibi and his government got a terrorist  attack just in the nick of time. There is only needed a small military operation to make him happy. That’s what they think about human life, it’s like a game to them.

Yossi Levy: This protest cannot stop, this protest will not stop. We must continue to protest, we must continue to protest. This protest will not stop! [modeled on a well-known Israeli song].

Friends, do not have to bow down low, we can prove that we can go on. Express our respect for the victims, with quiet rallies, go on  going out to  protest. Let the wounded heal and recover and rise up from their beds as patients in a better health system!
Let the soldiers on discharge find a better higher education system.
And a better Israel for all citizens.
Continue! Continue!
.

Tamar Aviyah: We undertake to continue the protest even if military action starts. Protests throughout the country.

Avi Hevroni: Finally, we will have to learn to go on demonstrating even after such events. There is no choice. It can not be stopped. This may sound insensitive but it’s not. There is no other way you can keep this issue alive in a country where there is no certainty of tranquility and security.

Avishai E. Edenburg: Now is perhaps the most crucial moment for this movement. We all had this cynical thought, that we would fold everything down and go home like good children, when security issues come to the fore. No. We will not fold down, not until our needs are seriously addressed.

Shlomo Ohana: Friends, let’s have a moment of silence for the Housing Protest. It was nice while it lasted, but now it’s over.

Bikosh Bik: Well, Shlomo, speak for yourself. If you feel OK with the situation as it is, good for you… But you can’t decide for others what is good for them and what they will do or not do.
*
Eshkar Eldan Cohen: Continue the protest, full steam ahead!
What happened today is a tragedy for the families of those killed and wounded. But it also a tragedy when men and women die from illness because of difficulty in purchasing drugs, or when people’s  health is damaged because they could not buy proper food, and when disabled people lack what they urgently need, and when people are discharged from hospital prematurely due to shortage of beds in rehabilitation, and when children go to school when  their parents could not afford to buy textbooks, when people die because there were no beds free in Intensive Care – all these are tragedies. The military and government failure in their role to defend the border leads to tragedy. Also their failure to take care of daily needs. So the protest must go on, for those who manage to survive and want to go on living.

Meir Ben-Or: Mr. Prime Minister:
After the attack in the south, probably you will probably send out call-up orders also to the leftists who live in tents and eat sushi, just as you will send them the rightists and the settlers. You will sent us into action in Gaza which would  probably be followed by overall war, and who knows where it would end. I just ask you, Mr. Netanyahu, for one small favor. Just remember us who will go away to fight for you and for Sarah and for all your distinguished colleagues, and to eat dust (instead of sushi). Of course, if we do not come back from this war, then all bets are off and you are exempt from all obligations…

Ashkar Alden Cohen: Do not go to this delirious war. You do not have to!

Neora Barak: Do not stop the protest in any situation. We are not indifferent.  We are consistent and determined, we have patience and we will see who blinks!
Human pain and identification with the families of the victims does not mean giving up the momentum already created. We must not create a dangerous precedent of stopping the demand for social justice. Like it did not contradict the demand for release of Gilead Shalit. Suddenly the government sent a negotiator to Egypt to get him. That was only because the protests put some pepper up their ass.
We should not give up, there is a silent majority looking up with hope at this protest. Do not forget this!

Elad Shechter: The government wants protest forgotten. They asked the Jerusalem encampment to cancel the demonstrations (which shows how much the government thinks only of its own interests ). So it is important to manifest our presence and show that with all the sorrow and the pain, citizens are struggling also to live in a better country!

Not only does the protest not divide the people – it unites them for the first time in decades. The tents strengthen us against enemies from outside as well as inside. There is no contradiction between defending the country and improving it: before ’48 we were able to struggle to formulate an ideology and therefore there is no reason we can’t do it today. This is our War of Independence.
If the protest organizers cancel the scheduled actions, we would go on without them! 

Sivan Wolchinsky: That’s right! In Kiryat Shmona there will be a march ending with a rally. Certainly one thing does not come at the expense of the other. You have to remember that in the aftermath of such terrorist attacks the state often defaults on its responsibility to provide aid to the wounded, to give them benefits for disability (physical and mental…). Social Security payments could be very hard for them to get, for no justified reason! This is the real test – now more than ever, get to the streets!

Charles Arthur James: I would like to propose a “middle of the road” solution. Both mourning and a protest. On Saturday night we will not hold mass demonstrations. Events will take place in tents, circles of study, lighting candles in memory of those killed and writing letters of support to the wounded, holding hands and creating a human chain along Rothschild Boulevard, and more activities like this. In this we will show that we are united in pain, but do not let terrorism destroy our struggle for a better quality of life here.

Eyal Ap: The occupation and the settlements are part of what creates such situations, in which we cannot just go on with “a normal protest” that does not touch upon the conflict. That’s why we must demand an end to conflict, demand true security which only peace can give.

Bikosh Bik: Eyal, this is not necessarily .. It is also possible to adopt a protest policy that says that the social and economic situation is no less important than the security situation … without going into the unresolved debate about the conflict.

Matan Bar: We all feel pain and grieving over the deaths of innocents. Our outcry will be the continuation of the protest, despite all. For us, for the dead, and for the mourners. Another “Cast Lead” operation in Gaza? Again an enshrining of the khaki uniforms? Talking of security and silencing the voices on education, equality, welfare? We grieve for and and honor the victims, but we also continue the protest whose hope they also shared. Will will not cooperate with the war drive of Bibi – Barak – Lieberman! We will not run again to kill and die in Gaza under the outworn banner of ‘state security’. We will walk in silence at the rally Saturday night, we will remember the dead, and will continue to press our demands upon the ministers and the prime minister!

The protest organizers announce:

We march in silence – the pain of all, the protest of all

On Saturday, August 20 at 9:00 pm, we all march together with the entire Israeli people, from Habima Square to the Charles Clore Garden. It would be a peaceful march with torches and candles, designed to remind the Prime Minister that even in these difficult times, he is still responsible for welfare and health just as he is responsible for security. When the march gets to its destination in the Charles Clore Garden on the Tel Aviv coast, we will all sit on the grass in wide circles or intimate discussion, talk, discuss, argue and  sing – everything quietly, in silent respect for and solidarity with the victims of the criminal terrorist attacks.

This is the pain of all, this is the protest of all of us.

Quietly, but firmly. Because the people which demonstrates is the same people which is hit by the fire of our enemies. And their determined demand for a deep change in the order of economic priorities and for comprehensive social justice does not at all come at the expense of fighting terrorism – on the contrary. A people whose members are responsible for each other, struggle together for the future and strength of the State of Israel, are a strong people who can stand up to all their enemies.

Together with in the circles, honoring us with their presence, will be the best of Israel’s artists, their voice devoid of the help of microphones, their guitars not connected to any amplifier. They will sing with us in pain and hope, for all of us have no other country – except the State of Israel.

Millie Duluoz: There is no such thing as a silent protest.

Ori Milstein: That’s exactly what they want. Be quiet. We’re good kids. God forbid that we should demand defense budget cuts. A silent protest is an oxymoron. Like was said here before, there is no need to apologize, no need to reduce our force.
I’m personally going to cry out when I get there. Otherwise it will simply be a  surrender, a nail in the protest’s coffin. If they manage to silence us now, what would happen if riots break out in September?

Hila V Goldstein: Dear firebrands! People were killed today. In the South there is a kind of war. A silent protest is the best now.

Bar Hefetz: It should not be silent and not be in Tel Aviv, it’s time to express social solidarity, go the Gaza border communities and cry out that we’re not afraid, not afraid of Hamas, and also not afraid of this evil government which is just trying to scare us and silence us. No, don’t be silent!
*
David Bochris: We undertake to continue the protest even if military operations begin. Protest all over the country!

Ido Daniel: TV stopped talking about the incident and broadcast a miserable  program on cooking ….. And the football games have a moment of silence and the players put on a black band to honor the dead, and then go on playing…  Power is in the continuity, must show that we are continuing!

Gil Orlev: I understand all who are angry that it is to be a silent rally (why quiet? One terrorist attack. Life goes on, including all the junk programs on TV). I want to say on record that I much more sympathize with you than with the other side to the debate. Yet we must not ignore all the people who feel uncomfortable with a shouting rally when such things happen. Do not argue with feelings. There are situations where it is impossible to please everybody. I think the organizers deserve credit for trying to think of everybody and find a creative solution. There is room for two voices. We have a silent action, demanding peace and social justice.

Einat Doz’ovni: I have the experience of a quiet walk with only 200 people, which had a mesmerizing intensity. There is no need to shout in order to be heard.

Star Rajuan: I live in Gan Yavne, I was woken up twice this night by the sound of sirens. I they to keep optimistic also under air raid alarms, I hope you do too.  We will continue to cry out – loudly or silently, each in their own way. To demand both justice and peace.

Peace will mean that fewer people would be killed. And justice will mean that fewer people will die because they  do not have money for medications, treatments or food.


Israel’s Eilat Venture

 

Tallha Abdulrazaq, 18 August 18 2011

Early today, several gunmen launched an attack from across the Egyptian side of the Egypt-Israel border. Striking from the Sinai, the attackers managed to attack the Israeli coastal town of Eilat with small arms, mortars and anti-tank rockets. Although details of the attack are still sketchy at best, Israel has reported 7 fatalities and some 29 injuries and is pinpointing the source as Gaza.

But how did Israel come up with this conclusion? As soon as I heard the news I was on Twitter analysing the various feeds and checking news websites from Haaretz to Aljazeera, and even the BBC and CNN. So far as I could tell, the identities of the attackers were completely unconfirmed by anyone, nor had any group come forward to claim this quite successful attack on Israel.

The Israeli claim that the source of all this violence stems from Gaza is perhaps a vague accusation, intentionally ambiguous so as to make people instantly assume the Hamas government in power in the Strip. The source could very well be Gaza, though it is highly unlikely to be Hamas or a faction from within, but it might be a group external to the enclave who are disgusted by the continuing illegal siege of Gaza and decided to mount an attack although this is also unlikely.

What many have failed to notice, even when I bombarded them on my Twitter account, is that Israel essentially controls the Sinai in its entirety. Many may read this, particularly Egyptians, and say, “But didn’t Egypt win back the Sinai after the 1973 Yom Kippur War?”

On the surface, they did, and this is exactly the kind of PR campaign that then Egyptian president, Anwar Sadat, wanted his population to believe. The facts on the ground tell a different story. At the end of the 1973 war, the Egyptian Third Army was encircled, cut off and would have been annihilated where it not more useful for the Israelis to keep them as a bargaining chip. Also, Israel threatened Cairo itself. Once the peace treaties were signed years later, Sadat received nominal control over the Sinai to increase his political credibility, and Israel got to safely withdraw costly forces from a strategic location. The price was that not even the Egyptian Army is allowed to move units into the Sinai to this day without Israel’s knowledge or permission.

Apart from scant border patrol forces, the Egyptians have no real military presence in the Sinai at all, and since ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak came into power, the Egyptian government was complicit in most Israeli activity in the region, most visibly and recently being the underground barrier to prevent the Gazan tunnel economy. How did the Israelis maintain a watch on the Sinai and Gaza without its own troops and without a major Egyptian force in the region? The answer is via the use of local Bedouin tribes, armed and paid to keep the Palestinians in check without being a major threat themselves.

Since the ousting of Mubarak and the hopeful, yet slow, onset of democracy in Egypt, the Egyptian government has distanced itself from Israel somewhat. It has opened the Rafah border crossing (though I must stress that they have not opened it completely as is frequently misunderstood in the media) and it is trying to distance itself from overtly supporting Israeli measures against Gaza without antagonising the Zionist state.

This has meant that the Bedouin’s that Israel and Egypt essentially allowed to police the Sinai expanse have not been having such a profitable time as before. As a result of this, they might have attempted to antagonise the Egyptian military government and force it into an uncomfortable situation by attacking gas lines as has occurred recently, and by also possibly perpetrating the Eilat attacks. It is also possible that Israel, who would benefit from further instability, allowed this attack to happen or even encouraged it. After all, Israeli border and aerial surveillance is extensive, and one might be forgiven if he found it hard to believe that Israel did not see a team of men armed with mortars coming.

Israel benefits in a multitude of ways. For one, Egypt is no longer a certain ally as it used to be in the days of Egypt’s despotic rule, personified in Mubarak himself. Although the Egyptian military government has not shown any overt hostile action towards Israel and is unlikely to do so, Israel knows that if real democracy takes a hold of Egypt they are unlikely to benefit from this strategically. Many Egyptians are already calling for the scrapping or revision of the peace treaty between the two countries. Now that an attack has been perpetrated from across the Egyptian Sinai border, Israel will use that as an excuse to bolster military units in the Sinai area under the guise of national security. Indeed, Israeli officials have already commented on this need.

By blaming the source of this violence on Gaza, specifically Hamas, Israel can gain some diplomatic leverage as it is concerned about what will happen this September when Palestinian statehood gets inevitably vetoed by the US. It may not be officially recognised, but this action will finally put the nightmare of the two state solution to bed, and Israel has been relying on that diplomatic card to provide them and their collaborators in the PA with credibility for decades. If the blame is laid at the door of the Palestinians, then Israel can use that as proof that the UN bid and the Eilat attack were just a Palestinian effort to derail the peace process.

Leading on from the above point, Israel will also benefit from blaming the Palestinians by increasing their military attacks on the Gaza Strip. Indeed, it may not be too difficult to surmise that Israel is keen on significantly weakening Palestinian resistance and so therefore will now use the Eilat incident as one piece of justification in building up a case for a second act on the tragedy that was Operational Cast Lead.

Israel can now justify increasing protection of its borders from an Egypt it is uncertain about, divert diplomatic attention away from the Palestinians and their right to any state whatsoever, and also it can strike at its enemies and punish the Palestinian and Gazan population collectively for not bowing to their Israeli overlord before a popular reaction in Egypt will force the government there to act. A sweet bit of icing on this cake is that it may even detract attention in domestic Israeli affairs from the so-called “J-14” protests, and refocus all that public rage back onto the Arab enemy.

All in all, it is clear to see who benefits the most from the Eilat attacks. Certainly not Hamas who has publicly denied any connection to this attack, and if they did it would stand to reason that they would be more than happy to claim it for themselves as they have done hundreds of times before to affirm themselves in their position as the only Palestinian faction who really fights Israel. Instead, the only real beneficiary seems to be the apparent victim itself; Israel.

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MEDICAL AID FOR PALESTINIANS

Press statement, 19 August 2011 – 14.00GMT

donate-here

CHILDREN KILLED AS ISRAELI AIRSTRIKES POUND GAZA

MAP IS CALLING FOR EMERGENCY SURGICAL KITS IN RESPONSE TO SEVERE SHORTAGES

In the past 24 hours Israel has carried out at least 12 airstrikes across Gaza.  Gaza hospitals are reporting the killing of a 2-year old child and 13-year old Mahmoud Abu Samra. Many more are reported wounded.

Terrifyingly for Gaza civilians, Israel’s Defence Minister has threatened to use “full force” against Gaza – in response to an attack by unknown gunmen in southern Israel on Thursday.

Palestinian journalists based in Gaza have described a “state of panic” in response to the sustained bombing.

Dr Mona El Farra, a Gaza physician, tells how Israeli bombs terrify civilians. She goes on to say: “my main concern now is how to coordinate with other health providers, the emergency health services, while we lack basic medications and supplies in most of the health facilities.”

MAP’s team in Gaza are bracing themselves for the worst. They have been in direct contact with the hospitals since the bombing started and have requested support to ready supplies.

MAP recently released its last Emergency Surgical Kits to hospitals in Gaza due to severe shortages of surgical equipment which was causing cancellations of surgery. As the situation in Gaza grows increasingly tense and unpredictable, it is essential that we replace these emergency supplies as soon as possible.

During the last war on Gaza, our stock of surgical kits allowed us to respond within hours. Each kit we released was able to treat over 100 casualties. Without these prepositioned supplies, MAP will not be able to respond immediately when shortages reach another critical low nor when the conflict escalates.

Each Emergency Surgical Kit costs £30,000

For the latest information visit www.map.org.uk or follow us on twitter at @MedicalAidPal

Ends //



Let IDF into Sinai

Ron Ben-Yishai, 19 August 2011

Op-ed: Deployment on border clearly insufficient; it’s Egypt’s turn to allow Israeli forces into peninsula

Israel’s anti-terror defense strategy and the IDF’s perception of using power on the Egypt border collapsed on Thursday. They were based on the assumption that this is a border of peace, thus equally dividing the responsibility for security on both sides of the border.

Israel also believed that Egypt, with its obsession over its sovereignty in Sinai, is responsible for providing us with security against terror attacks and smuggling from its territory – and therefore Israel is not entitled to thwart attacks in Sinai.

These assumptions were valid and even justified, apart from isolated incidents, for decades. This is how the IDF built the perception of operating its forces and preparing to secure the borderline: Namely, “mobile defense”, saving on power and resources.

There was no change even when the inflow of infiltrators from Sinai to Israel grew. Only about a year ago, the government finally decided to build a fence, which will likely provide improved security against infiltrations and terror attacks – and will be completed by 2013, if all goes as planned.

But things took a dramatic turn in the meantime. Several months ago, following President Mubarak’s downfall, the Egyptian government and security forces lost control of Sinai. Bedouin tribes, making a living off smuggling and protecting hooligans, have become the masters of the area, which turned into a shelter and hotbed for Global Jihad.

Hundreds of prisoners, members of fundamentalist Salafi organizations who escaped from prison during the upheaval, found safe shelter there. Others fled to Gaza. Many of them collaborated with Sinai’s Bedouins and set up groups called “the Islamic Shabab”, operating under the banner of Global Jihad.

The peninsula has also turned into a highway of weapon and explosive transfers to and from Gaza, and provides logistic support for the Gazan organizations led by Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. They too know that the IDF will not violate the Egyptian sovereignty in Sinai and won’t raid or bomb them.

In light of this development, the defense minister has decided to speed up the construction of the fence. Some 100 kilometers (62 miles) will be built by the end of the year, in addition to the existing 45 kilometers, and the construction of all 200 kilometers will be completed next year. In any event, there is no fence in the area of the attack.

Price of ‘mobile defense’

Since February, intelligence warnings on terror attacks against Israel from Sinai have been piling up and becoming more and more frequent. The writing was on the wall, but Israel has failed to draw all the conclusions.

Indeed, the forces on the border were reinforced occasionally in accordance with intelligence information, but once the warnings faded away, they were sent elsewhere. The “mobile defense” perception with diluted forces remained unchanged while waiting for the border fence to be completed.

The Gaza-based Popular Resistance Committees took good advantage of the breached border. This radical organization is comprised of people who used to belong to other organizations in the past, mainly Hamas and Fatah, but left because they were not aggressive enough for them. They were looking for action.

The Committees quickly began initiating operations against Israel, taking part in the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit among other things. According to all signs and information, the main target of Thursday’s combined attack was abducting another soldier. They also planned to detonate explosive belts they were wearing on the army and rescue forces dispatched to the area.

The combined offensive was well-planned for a long time. Intelligence was collected by more than 10 people who left Gaza through the Philadelphi Route tunnels, wearing uniform resembling that of the Egyptian army.

Egyptian army cooperating with terrorists

The Israeli intelligence spotted this trend and issued warnings. The information pointed to a terror attack by the Popular Resistance Committees – likely an abduction attempt – about to take place in the Eilat area in the coming days.

But the warning was sufficiently accurate. The IDF boosted its forces in the area with Golani troops. The police sent special elite units to Eilat, likely assuming that the attack would take place within or near the city. But the terrorists surprised them. They acted north of Eilat.

The mountainous area and breached border allowed the terrorists not only to reach Israel secretly, but also to escape into Sinai shortly after carrying out the attack. They knew very well that the IDF would avoid chasing them into the peninsula so as not to violate the Egyptian sovereignty.

To be on the safe side, they chose to come out directly from an Egyptian military post located on the border. It’s unlikely that the Egyptian soldiers didn’t notice them, but they did nothing to stop them or warn the Israelis of their arrival.

Later, they even fired on IDF forces dispatched to the area, probably with the intention of covering for the terrorists who remained alive and continued to exchange fire with the Israeli soldiers. This cooperation with terrorists is a phenomenon which must be dealt with.

Let forces in despite peace deal

The Edom Division is responsible for the area in which the attack took place. The forces at its disposal are too little to block such a long border passing through a tough mountainous area. Sinai’s Bedouins are well aware of the “mobile defense” methods. What they don’t see is the technological and human intelligence collection system.

It’s reasonable to assume that this system does not have the same means and abilities as similar systems in the Gaza Strip and northern border. This is why they failed to spot the explosive devices planted in the area. It’s perfectly clear that the poor means and the army’s diluted deployment in the area are incapable of hermetically closing the border. The thousands of refugees and job seekers infiltrating Israel from this area prove it.

Now, when it’s perfectly clear that the IDF’s deployment on the border does not meet the threat, Israel must draw conclusions. The defense minister decided to speed up the construction of the fence on Thursday. In spite of the heavy financial expenses, when the situation gets tough the pockets suddenly open.

In addition, the eight-minister forum decided last week – following Barak’s recommendation – to allow additional Egyptian forces into Sinai, in spite of the fact that this is an alleged violation of the peace agreement, which bans the entry of massive Egyptian forces into the peninsula.

Egyptian operation efficient, but for who?

Indeed, the Egyptians have launched their own operation in the area. But this operation is aimed, first and foremost, at serving their own economic and governmental interests, thus focusing on northern Sinai, where the gas pipeline passes, and El Arish, the center of Egyptian rule in the peninsula.

The operation has already been partially successful. Bedouins have fled to the high mountain range of central Sinai, knowing that the Egyptian forces will face difficulties fighting them there. It’s reasonable to assume that the Thursday’s terrorists arrived from that area by car and later by foot.

It’s a known fact that offensives provide the best defense. Therefore, Israel should seriously consider demanding that Egypt let the IDF occasionally send forces into central Sinai, to the area near the border, in order to foil attacks and pursue terrorists. At least until the border fence is fully completed. We let them send their forces in, now it’s their turn to show some flexibility.

If they refuse, it may be necessary to recruit American pressure on the Egyptian High Military Council to accept the demand or use a firm hand, just like it’s doing in northern Sinai.

As for the Israeli side, i.e. the IDF, answers are still required for at least two questions in light of Thursday’s events:

  • In light of the warning received, why didn’t the IDF stop civilian vehicles from travelling along the border without military escort?
  • In light of the anarchy in Sinai and the slow process of constructing the border fence, why wasn’t the intelligence and lookout deployment on the border reinforced, including with UAV flight day and night? Have we once again fallen into costly complacency?

I have no authorized answers to these questions right now. It’s quite possible that the answer is imbedded in the questions themselves.

 


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