Saturday, July 29, 2017

Israel: Waiting For The Coming Northern Storm, Tensions Still High Between Israel And Jordan, Arab Violence Resumes In Jerusalem, Palestinians: The Metal Detector Scam

Waiting for Israel's next northern storm

Northern Israel faces threats from Hezbollah and the danger that a miscalculation could result in war on the Golan.

An uptick in fighting in late June, as Ramadan was coming to a close, refocused attention on the Golan. Israel struck Syrian army tanks after projectiles from Syria landed on the Israeli Golan. The IDF spokesperson says the subject is too hot at the moment to discuss. A complex and combustible mix of Sunni, Druze, Alawite, and Shi’ite villages along the border from Lebanon to the Golan and Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian civil war increase the chances for war with Israel.

The question residents of northern Israel are asking today is when the status quo on the border will change and the war spill over into Israel. A tour of the border today shows just how close things are to the spark that can set a new round of fighting in motion between Israel and neighboring forces.

Lt. Col. (res.) Sarit Zehavi runs Alma, an organization that conducts tours and research on Israel’s security challenges on the northern border. Standing in the sweltering heat in late June she pointed to Hezbollah flags and posters just meters from the Israeli community of Metula. She sees two scenarios that could lead to escalation. “First is that Iran gives an order to Hezbollah for its own interests.”

She compares the relationship between Hezbollah and Iran to that of employee and boss. Iran may decide to react to new sanctions or other pressure by encouraging Hezbollah to strike Israel. “Another scenario is miscalculation,” she says. In that scenario Hezbollah attacks Israel estimating only a small response. Soldiers and civilians are killed and Israel retaliates and the conflict escalates into a wider war.

Even though the Assad regime has been one of the most implacable foes of Israel of Israel in the region for decades, hosting Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal after 2001, it also kept the border quiet for forty years after the 1973 war. In April 1975, the CIA told the US president that Hafez Assad recognized Israel’s military superiority.

“There is no possibility that Israel can be destroyed,” Assad told the Americans. But his weakened son, tied down in civil war, has come to increasingly rely on Iran, Russia, Hezbollah and other allies.

In cordial discussions with Russia, Israel has stressed the desire that no permanent Iranian or Hezbollah presence remain in Syria after the war and Israel has expressed concern that Iran intends to build permanent bases in Lebanon. This is part of wider Iranian influence peddling that includes a corridor of influence and arms stretching from Tehran via Iraq and Syria to Beirut and Hezbollah.

Hezbollah’s political and military power has increased in the last decade. Although it suffered thousands of casualties supporting Assad In the Syrian conflict, it gained valuable experience and has an arsenal of more than 100,000 rockets.

The power dynamics are reversed today, Syria’s president relies on Hezbollah. To balance this, Israel has seen the Syrian rebels as sharing common interests along the border.

Since the fall of 2014 most of the Israel- Syria border has been controlled by different rebel groups. This includes the most extreme groups such as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham and Islamic State, the latter of which has increased the pocket it controls in the southern Golan in the last year.

Although fighting can be heard from the Golan and the military intermittently closes parts of the border to tourists if there is a threat, there is an illusion of quiet today.

Hezbollah uses the terrain effectively – it constructs towers, it builds rooms in new houses in villages to store weapons, and it burrows in among the civilian population.

Israel Air Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel told the Herzliya conference in June that the Air Force could accomplish in 58-60 hours what it did in 34 days in 2006.

“Unimaginable in its scope” is how he describes Israel’s power. Nasrallah responded on June 23 with claims that war with Israel would involve thousands of Shi’ite fighters from Iraq, Yemen, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

 Friday, 56 members of the Jordanian parliament signed a petition calling to expel Israeli ambassador Einat Schlein and to bring back Jordanian ambassador to Israel Walid Obeidat. The topic is meant to be discussed in parliament on Sunday. 

With 195 seats in the Jordanian parliament the number of signatures mean that roughly a quarter of parliament supports halting normal diplomatic relations with Israel.   

On that same day around 200 people demonstrated in Amman calling "Death to Israel" and demanding the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty be abolished. Unable to protest in front of the Israeli embassy, which is protected by Jordanian security, the demonstrators stood in a nearby location. 

In July 23 an Israeli security guard at the Israeli embassy in Jordan shot and killed Jordanian teenager Mohammad Jawawdah who assaulted him using a screwdriver. The guard shot and killed the teenager and hurt the Jordanian landlord who was present in the house. The incident took place in the house the guard was living in which was in the compound of the embassy.

On Monday night the entire Israeli diplomatic mission to Jordan returned to Israel with the guard and were received by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. King  Abdullah of Jordan was angry by what he deemed to be a hero's welcome and called the Israeli leader "provocative"and warned that this Israeli attitude "enrages us".

Israel had requested that ambassador Schlein return to Jordan and resume her duties but the Jordanian government refuses to accept her until Israel provides them with assurances that the guard will be put to trail. The Jordanian Foreign Office handed over to Israel their file of the investigation. 

Arabs resumed violence in the Old City of Jerusalem on Friday as soon as midday Islamic prayers ended at the Al Aqsa Mosque in the Temple Mount compound. According to the Islamic Waqf Authority, 10,000 Muslims were present in the mosque for prayers.
Demonstrators were hurling rocks at Israeli security personnel in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi Joz. Police responded with stun grenades. Four of the rioters were injured.
Numerous mounted police and those in armored patrol vehicles were present on the streets. Clashes were also reported in the ancient Judean cities of Bethlehem and Hebron, where Arab youth attacked Israeli forces as well. 

Men under 50 were barred from entering the Temple Mount compound for prayers on Friday in light of warnings that plans were in place for demonstrations and riots at the site. 
Those who were not allowed to enter the compound gathered instead in the streets surrounding the site, as they had for the two weeks prior, during the Muslim boycott directed by Arab leaders in Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
By late Thursday night, more than 100 demonstrators were wounded in the violence, which included stone throwing also aimed at Jews praying at the Western Wall.

A Palestinian teenager posted on Facebook his intention to become a "martyr," before entering the home of a Jewish family in the West Bank and slaughtering three of its members. While this terrorist was being treated for his wounds in an Israeli hospital, the Palestinian Authority celebrated his actions and set in motion the mechanism according to which he will receive a salary of more than $3,000 per month for his attempt to become a "martyr" through murdering Jews.

Then, on July 23, a terrorist in Jordan -- the country that has religious custodianship over the Temple Mount through the Islamic Waqf -- attacked an Israeli security officer at the Israeli embassy compound in Amman. In self-defense, the officer shot and killed him, catching another Jordanian in the crossfire. In an deal between Israel and the Jordanian authorities, the guard and other embassy staff were released, apparently in exchange for a promise that the metal detectors would be removed from the entrance to the Temple Mount.

The metal detectors, however, had nothing to do with the real reason for the inflamed atmosphere -- stoked by PA President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction and the terrorist organization Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip -- in spite of the fact that the attack that spurred their installation was committed by Israeli Muslims against Israeli Druze. In reality, the security measures were taken by Israel to protect all people entering the site -- where only Muslims are allowed to pray, while Christians and Jews may visit only under strict surveillance.

Proof that the violence was not provoked by measures that were actually aimed at preventing terrorists from infiltrating deadly weapons onto the Temple Mount lies in the fact that metal detectors and are commonplace at most prominent mosques in the Middle East, and more than 5,000 surveillance cameras (and 100,000 security guards) monitor pilgrims to Mecca in Saudi Arabia during the annual Hajj. Furthermore, everyone visiting the Western Wall in Jerusalem, another Jewish holy site, is required to pass through metal detectors before entering the plaza -- a protection taken for granted.

The ongoing incitement against Israelis -- this time using metal detectors as the excuse to claim that the Jewish state is attempting to change the "status quo" on the Temple Mount -- not only disgraces Islam; it hurts the Palestinians whom the world claims to want to defend.

It is time for the international community to recognize this and stop enabling radicals to use the Palestinian people as pawns in their greater agenda, transparent to everyone, including all Muslims: to obliterate Israel through delegitimization.

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