SHALOM FROM JERUSALEM!
Below is my latest monthly news and analysis report, written for the CFI ministry in the UK and for all of you subscribers. Although it was thankfully a relatively quiet month here in Israel, there were several warning signs that serious trouble may lie ahead as the Palestinians prepare to declare unilateral
statehood in September amid escalating upheaval in nearby Syria, and the prospect of an IDF attack upon Iran’s nuclear program, which according to an ex-CIA official is also being planned for September. All of the details are below.
Like everyone around the world, I was shocked by the mass killings in Norway last Friday. I’ve been to that beautiful country four or five times, and always enjoyed my stay and meetings there in Oslo and on the west coast. I want to share my condolences with all of my friends and readers there, as I have with
several Norwegians who live here in Jerusalem. The fact that the confessed killer apparently espouses neo-Nazi views and could carry out such a heinous plot did not really surprise me—I dealt with that sort of thing in my native Idaho in the 1970s, as detailed in my first book, Holy War for the Promised
Speaking of America, I’ve written a whimsical commentary about a clash going on between two congressional representatives who come from South Florida, where I was mugged. It’s based on an actual experience I had when I goggled their addresses to see if either one represents the area where I was attacked in April, only to find their district dividing line runs right down the middle of the road where I was struck! When I wrote to one of them, I got a message saying due to heavy email volume, she could only receive my note if I live in her district! So I put in the zip code from where I had been staying, and the result was as I wrote in the article. Particularly if you live in North America, you might enjoy reading it on my web site, www.ddolan.com. I’ll also submit it to WorldNetDaily, but don’t think they usually run satirical commentaries.
I do want to deeply thank the many who wrote very kind notes after reading my mugging account, which is also posted on my site and elsewhere. I was especially gratified to receive about ten messages from people saying they were also hosting a “pity party” at the time they read it, and it helped put their
problems into perspective.
FLOTILLA FAILS AS DOMESTIC ISSUES TAKE FRONT AND CENTER
July began in Israel as it does all too many months-with government officials and the media focused on a pending crisis situation with dire international ramifications. The issue this time was the planned multi-ship flotilla designed to aggressively challenge Israel’s naval blockade of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
Instead, the flotilla foundered due to direct intervention from Greece, a country that had been decidedly anti-Israel in its foreign policy until recent years. Instead, the national news was dominated by several domestic issues that mirrored some of the things which helped spark the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ revolts in a number of regional Muslim countries. Among them was the growing lack of affordable housing in Israel, where prices have soared in recent years, fast-rising food and utility prices, and low wages which set off an escalating work strike by doctors and other medical personnel that disrupted normal services at Israel’s hospitals and some clinics.
While a tiny remnant of the planned flotilla did manage later in the month to make its way close to Israel’s territorial waters before being peacefully intercepted by IDF naval vessels, the real issue at sea was a dispute with Lebanon over the exact territorial boundaries between the two neighboring
countries. The dispute provoked more threatening words from the Iranian-backed Shiite Hizbullah movement, even as reports circulated that the militia was rapidly removing its stored weapons from nearby Syria as the internal crisis there intensified. Israeli military forces remained on extra high alert as the escalating public revolt and fierce Assad family regime counter-crackdown spread to the Syrian capital, Damascus. This came as a former CIA official claimed that Israel will launch a military assault against Iran’s burgeoning nuclear production program this coming September, saying the United States
government is aware of this and busy preparing for it.
Israeli leaders kept up their public opposition to the Palestinian Authority’s planned September eclaration of statehood at the United Nations in New York. Meanwhile the relative calm of recent months along the Gaza Strip border was shattered as a series of rockets and mortar shells were fired into Israeli territory, prompting return IDF military action. At the same time, an opinion survey was eleased showing that most Palestinians see the so-called “Two State Solution” as merely a springboard for further violent assaults upon Israel, ending with the country’s ultimate annihilation.
SINKING THE FLOTILLA
The Israeli Foreign Ministry celebrated a rare international victory during July as the long anticipated multi-national ship flotilla was successfully prevented from sailing towards Israeli coastal waters. Amid widespread fears that the planned Freedom II flotilla might provoke another violent IDF clash at sea with some of the participating ships, as happened the end of May last year, the relief was palpable in Israeli government circles. It was widely acknowledged that a major international diplomatic campaign launched by the Foreign Ministry some months ago to prevent the hostile attempt to break the Israeli Gaza Strip naval blockade was the sole reason that the ships-which included ones dubbed The Audacity of Hope from the United States, the Freedom from Ireland and the Tahrir from Canada-had the wind knocked out of their sails.
The fact that diplomatic relations with Greece have dramatically improved over the past three years played a crucial role in the success of the Israeli flotilla prevention campaign. It was the government in Athens, led by Prime Minister George Papandreou, which prevented the provocative ten-boat flotilla from departing the Greek port of Piraeus where the ships were docked (originally many more ships than that were expected to participate, but the numbers dropped to just ten after several countries announced in recent months that they would prevent announced sailings from their national ports).
When the new flotilla plan was first unveiled earlier this year, the various participating human rights and aid groups and individual activists were hoping to once again set off from Turkey, a Muslim country which had sadly morphed from one of Israel’s closest regional allies to a near enemy under the
leadership of Prime Minister Recep Erdogan. However, Turkish officials asked the Hamas-backed organizers to move their departure location after national elections were announced for mid-June (won by Erdogan’s party), to prevent the flotilla from becoming an issue in the Turkish campaign. The choice of Greece as a replacement flotilla staging country proved to be the death knell that Israeli officials were hoping and working hard for.
Israeli diplomats at the United Nations and in various international capitals argued successfully that no country on earth would allow foreign ships carrying un-inspected cargo to sail into the main seaport of a neighboring hostile entity that is known to be smuggling in weapons for use against it. That the organizers claimed they would only be bringing in harmless aid cargo made no difference, they noted, since only previous inspection could confirm this. They added that under universally-recognized international law, Israel has the legal right to blockade the Gaza Strip since regular armed attacks are launched from the area upon Israeli civilian and military targets. Echoing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s repeated public statements, the diplomats added that Israel would gladly allow any non-threatening cargo to be transported to the Gaza Strip from its own ports (as eventually occurred last year) if ship captains simply requested permission to dock in them. They also pointed out that under the new military regime currently ruling Egypt, any legitimate aid cargo could also be easily passed along to Gaza Strip residents via the southern Gaza border crossings from the Egyptian-ruled Sinai Peninsula.
In other words, the Freedom II flotilla was nothing more than yet another attempt by various foreign individuals and groups openly hostile toward Israel to score worldwide propaganda points on behalf of a terrorist body supported byIran, Syria, Hizbullah, Al Qaida, the Muslim Brotherhood and other regional
lights. This reality was evidently accepted by most Western leaders whose flagged ships and citizens were due to take part in the provocative and unnecessary “aid” flotilla.
In the end, one lone ship did make the voyage three weeks later on July 19-a French yacht dubbed the Dignity for the sailing. Traversing Greek waters after falsely claiming to be heading for Cyprus, the small vessel carried a mere 17 pro-Hamas activists on board. Originally flotilla organizers had boasted
that around 1,500 people would take part in the planned multi-ship sailing. Israeli naval commandos attempted to negotiate with the yacht’s captain, telling him they would gladly help guide the ship to either an Egyptian or Israeli port where the cargo could be inspected and then passed along to the Gaza Strip.
After the offers were flatly refused, the commandos boarded the boat without resistance from the 17 activists, who were then taken to Ashdod Port just a few miles north of the Gaza Strip (itself the ccasional target of Iranian-supplied Grad missiles fired by Hamas and Islamic Jihad militiamen).
There was a rather silly sideshow to this thwarted drama during the month-an operation dubbed Flytilla by the Israeli media. Frustrated flotilla organizers announced that if they could not steam into Israeli-patrolled coastal waters due to Greek intervention, they would instead fly into Ben Gurion airport and
then head to Palestinian Authority-controlled territory north and south of Jerusalem to ‘show solidarity’ with the Palestinians residing there. Analysts noted the irony in this plan since the Palestinian Authority is still struggling to reach a consensus with the rival Hamas movement which is demanding that its
candidate become PA prime minister in the yet to be created new ‘unity’ government.
In the event, just over 120 people even made it onto jets carrying passengers to Tel Aviv and Eilat after officials in Jerusalem issued lists of many hundreds of known anti-Israel activists they warned would not be allowed to enter the country, prompting various airlines to keep those people off of their aircraft
in accordance with international aviation rules.
FRESH THREATS FROM LEBANON
Three Israeli petroleum companies that are involved with American and other foreign partners to develop huge natural gas fields discovered in recent years off of northern Israel’s Mediterranean coast revealed on July 21 that substantial new deposits have recently been identified under the seafloor.
While this would normally be a cause for great rejoicing in Israel, the reality is that the off-shore gas fields are already becoming another major source of friction between Israel and its northern neighbor, Lebanon. Officials in Beirut claim that some of the deposits lie under their rightful territorial waters, not
Israel’s. Israeli government and military leaders had already expressed concerns that oil drilling platforms to be erected in the area might be subject to physical sabotage from Syrian submarines and ships which operate in the area from their port base of Latakia, where Russian vessels are also stationed.
The latest dispute with Lebanon began to fester after Israel signed a maritime territorial accord with the Greek-speaking government ruling most of divided Cyprus last December. Apparently seeing yet another opportunity to bash the hated “Zionist entity,” the radical Shiite Hizbullah movement, which now effectively governs Lebanon via its new proxy Prime Minister, Nijab Mitaki, launched a fierce verbal blast against Israel over the issue on July 14-the fifth anniversary of the start of Hizbullah’s horrendous three week missile blitz launched against northern Israel. Speaking via Hizbullah’s Manar
television network, deputy leader Naim Qassem firmly rejected Israeli and American offers to help map out mutually acceptable maritime boundaries. Instead, he threatened war, proclaiming that “Lebanon will remain vigilant in order to regain its full rights, whatever it takes.” He said that so-called “Israeli threats do not frighten us,” adding surreally that “Israel knows its threats fall on deaf ears in Lebanon after it tasted the bitter taste of the powerful Lebanese resistance,” an apparent reference to the 2006 conflict which Hizbullah started and neither side clearly won.
Later in the month, the Lebanese government signed a “memorandum of understanding” with Iran to jointly develop any oil and gas deposits that are discovered inside Lebanese territorial waters. Israeli officials say the prospect of Iranian petroleum personnel poking around the area near to where
Israel’s huge natural gas deposits are located is unsettling, to say the least. The memorandum came as the United Nations special representative to Lebanon, Michael Williams, told reporters that the small Arab country is at least seven years behind Israel in development of its natural offshore oil and gas
deposits. He urged the Mitaki government to pass laws which would allow foreign companies to begin drilling in the area forthwith.
The UN official’s remarks came just weeks after the world body announced that its special committee looking into the 2005 assassination of pro-Western Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri had issued indictments against four Lebanese suspects connected to the extremist Shiite movement. The indictments, which were firmly rejected by Hizbullah leaders, have markedly increased political tensions in the Land of the Cedars, with some Israeli analysts saying it was probably next in line to join the violent “Arab Spring” upheaval still gripping many countries in the tense region as the hot summer months roll on.
Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, son of the late slain leader who was himself ousted from power in a bloodless Hizbullah coup last spring, warned that “these people stand accused, and they must be put on trial.”
CRISIS ESCALATES IN SYRIA
Amid continuing Arab and international media reports stating that both Hizbullah militiamen and Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces are actively aiding the rogue Syrian Assad family regime to brutally suppress the massive popular uprising sweeping that country, reports emerged that Hizbullah has been rushing its stored weapons out of Syria in case the regime is finally forced out of power.Israeli media reports say surveillance satellites have photographed dozens of trucks ferrying Iranian and Syrian-supplied missiles and other heavy weaponry across the border in recent weeks. Included were said to be at least eight missiles similar to the Scuds fired by Saddam Hussein at Israeli coastal targets in 1991. Western Middle East experts say the collapse of the Assad regime would probably spell the end of Hizbullah’s dominance of Lebanon, since it relies heavily on the neighboring Syrian dictatorship dominated by the Alawite sect, a Muslim sub-group that emerged from Shiite Islam, for its political
dominance in Beirut.
With some international human rights groups now estimating that well over 2,000 Syrians have been killed so far in the intensifying popular revolt, most of them protestors, the despotic Assad regime stepped up its violent repression against the spreading uprising, which ominously moved to the capital Damascus for the first time in mid-July. After relatively tepid remarks calling upon autocratic officials to curb their deadly military operations against their own people, the American administration finally began to issue stern warnings to Assad that the vile slaughters would not be allowed to continue unanswered by the international community. Officials in Washington were especially angry when Assad unleashed his goons to attack both the American and French embassies in Damascus after those country’s ambassadors to Syria visited protest camps in the western city of Homs. While hardly the unleashing of NATO warplanes such as is occurring in Libya, the apparent show of solidarity was obviously too much for the ruthless Assad and his family cohorts who have lorded it over Syria for many decades. Israeli analysts said the embassy attacks demonstrated that the totalitarian Syrian regime is turning increasingly desperate as the uprising escalates. Noting that Assad commands one of the largest standing armies in the world and produces copious amounts of deadly VX and Sarin nerve gas stored in several of the cities currently under military siege, they warned that the crisis has now escalated to the point where the dictatorship may order military strikes upon Israeli targets as a diversionary tactic meant to unite his mostly Sunni Muslim subjects behind him. Such attacks would most likely be launched by Assad’s surrogate Hizbullah forces, they added, giving rise to extra concerns over the reports that fully-assembled SCUD-type missiles are now streaming into Lebanon. At the same time, the Israeli analysts also questioned the popular media characterization of the Syrian protesters as being “pro-democracy,” instead terming most of them as “anti-Assad” Muslims who would like a Sunni Islamic regime to replace the current Alawite one. Either way, they remain bitter opponents of Israel, as Assad understands and may attempt to manipulate to Israel’s peril.
Officials in neighboring Jordan were said to be increasingly concerned over a growing flood of Syrian refugees seeking shelter in their small country. After being forced to absorb hundreds of thousand of Iraqis fleeing warfare and violence in that neighboring country, nervous Jordanian leaders don’t need
any more apples to upset the delicate applecart that is their small country. Israeli leaders are said to be concerned that some of the “refugees” might in fact be Syrian government and Iranian agents entering Jordan with the ultimate purpose of further destabilizing the pro-Western government in Amman and/or launching terrorist attacks upon Israeli embassy personnel stationed there.
LOOMING WAR WITH IRAN?
Claims by an ex-CIA official that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is planning
to launch a military strike upon Iran’s burgeoning nuclear program in September received widespread media attention in Israel. The mid-July comments were made by retired CIA officer Robert Baer during an interview he gave to a Los Angeles radio station. He said Israeli leaders especially want to target the large Natanz nuclear facility where Iran has recently stepped up its uranium enrichment program-a key component in the development of nuclear weapons. While refusing to pinpoint exactly what his startling prediction was based upon, he did state that Pentagon brass have “issued a warning order” to US military leaders located around the Middle East to prepare for possible counter-attacks from the Shiite Iranian regime against American targets in Iraq and other regional locations. Baer, who operated out of US embassies in Damascus, Beirut and other regional countries for over 21 years, maintained that Netanyahu wants to draw the United States into any conflict that erupts as a result of its difficult military operation. He cited remarks made earlier in the month by former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who warned Israeli government leaders that an IDF strike could spark off a much larger war involving Iran’s allies Syria, Lebanon and Hamas. Baer claimed this indicated that Dagan is aware of a concrete plan to launch such an operation in the near term. He said the September date was likely since the Palestinian Authority is planning to make its unilateral statehood declaration late in the month at the United Nation’s world headquarters in Manhattan, which could spark off violence in the Palestinian street. Netanyahu’s office offered no comment on the ex-CIA official’s broadcast comments.
Meanwhile the head of Israel’s Homa Missile Defense Agency, Uzi Rubin, told
reporters that Iran has now overtaken North Korea in the development and
production of long range ballistic missiles that can reach all of Israel and
southeast Europe. Citing several recent test firings from Iranian soil, he said
some of the missiles have been passed on to Iranian Revolutionary Guards
stationed with Hizbullah forces in Lebanon. Rubin expressed special concern
over the Fateh-110 ballistic rocket which operates with a sophisticated laser
guidance system and can target ships at sea from very long distances. He
said up until now, Iran was only known to possess more traditional cruise
anti-ship missiles that fly parallel to ocean waters.
Writing in the Jerusalem Post’s weekly magazine, Israeli columnist Dovid
Efune said that the regional unrest currently gripping many Arab countries
actually provides the perfect backdrop for an IDF strike on Iran’s threatening
nuclear program. Citing a Wall Street Journal report in early July detailing the
growing use of Iranian weapons against dwindling American forces operating
in Iraq, he opined that the US administration might be more open that many
believe to an Israeli operation that would effectively reduce Iran’s military
capabilities. Further than that, Efune wrote that many Israeli government
and military leaders are not afraid of a wider conflict with the Iranian regime
and its allies, seeing it as anyway inevitable at some point and the only way
to finally deal with hostile Hizbullah and Hamas forces, if not with the
besieged Syrian regime.
GAZA ROCKETS AIMED AGAIN AT ISRAEL
After several months of relative calm, a slew of Palestinian rockets and mortar
shells were fired at Israeli civilian targets beginning in mid-July. Several
landed close to the large coastal city of Ashkelon, which has often been
targeted in the past. The firings prompted renewed IDF air strikes upon
rocket firing militiamen and Hamas outposts, killing a number of Palestinian
fighters in the process. The action came as the Arab League officially endorsed the Palestinian Authority’s announcement that it will declare unilateral
state hood at the UN the second half of September, a move opposed by Israel, the United States, Germany and other countries but supported by over 100 UN member states.
Anticipating stepped up Palestinian violence in the run-up and aftermath of
the planned one-sided declaration; the IDF has increased its acquisition of non-lethal riot suppression equipment, including tear gas, rubber bullets and
protective plastic shields. Media reports detailing the growing IDF preparations came as an opinion poll conducted by pro-peace Jewish American and Palestinian groups revealed that two-thirds of all Palestinians still support the 1974 PLO “Phased Plan,” which stated that any land captured by, or granted to the Palestinians be used as a staging ground for further attacks upon Israel until the Jewish State is destroyed. To say the least, the results were not gratifying to the survey’s Arab and Jewish sponsors. With tensions mounting as the possibly tumultuous month of September draws
ever nearer, it is essential to remember, as we pray, that “Blessed is the nation
whose God is the Lord, the people that He has chosen for His own inheritance”
DAVID DOLAN is a Jerusalem-based author and journalist who has lived and
worked in Israel since 1980. David Dolan is currently finishing his new novel, which is titled MILLENNIUM: THE LORD REIGNS.
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