Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

Israel developing strong ties with China

August 9, 2008

Comment: In keeping with the Olympic spirit…

(Haaretz) — “I keep hearing compliments about the ancient culture of the Jewish people and the old tradition,” says Nadai, who took up his post in China about a year ago, “and about the ability to build a modern country out of them in a span of 60 years. These comparisons make the Chinese feel close to us: They, too, have a glorious tradition and they, too, are trying to develop a modern country quickly. They feel that they have something to learn from us.

“Only recently a large team of Chinese state television employees visited Israel for a period of three weeks, to research the ‘Israeli miracle.’ Now they are visiting several places in the world that used to have large Jewish communities, in order to examine the Jewish community’s influence on its surroundings. Their idea is to try to decipher the secret of the Jews’ success.”

Nadai says that, “as a diplomat who has served in other countries in the past, I can say that there are no parallels today to such an attitude toward Israel and the Jews…” Click for full article

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On Israel and the coup d’etat in Mauritania

August 7, 2008

[Western Saharan Nation of Mauritania. BBC images]

For those of you who didn’t notice, Mauritania had a coup on Aug 6. Ousted President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi and Prime Minister Yahya Ould Ahmed Waqef represented the first democratically elected government in the Western Saharan nation. Mauritania was also one of only three Arab League nations to have full diplomatic relations with Israel. There is no evidence yet that the new military junta will alter its friendly ties with Israel (or that they will succeed in lowering food or gasoline prices in the country). However Israel is monitoring the situation closely and the new Israeli ambassador to Mauritania, Miki Arbel, will delay his departure.

In fact, among the military junta’s primary grievances against the Abdallahi government was its overtures to Islamic hardliners in Mauritania with alleged ties to an al-Qaida-affialiated terror network believed operating in north Africa. That and the presidential decree ordering their dismissal hours before the coup.

So it would seem the new guys are at least secular minded/anti-Islamist, although clearly it’s not the same thing as being pro-Israel (think Hafez al-Assad, Bashar al-Assad, Saddam Hussein etc.) If nothing more the coup serves as a reminder to Israel of the fragility of any diplomatic agreement it signs with flimsy governments — and some of its diplomatic partners in the region indeed have flimsy, unpopular governments like that of the Palestinian National Authority’s Fatah.

And recall that the Shah of Iran was overthrown in 1979, showing that even seemingly strong governments can dissapear in a flash, and with it any agreements signed with Israel. Nobody knows what will happen in Egypt after Mubarak dies, but he’s made that fatal flaw of a man in his 70s not grooming a viable successor, save for his son Gamal (nobody in Egypt wants Gamal). Even Nasser and Sadat — both far more popular leaders than Mubarak — didn’t have such audacity.

And when Mubarak of Egypt or Fatah’s Mahmoud Abbas goes, don’t think a Jeffersonian democracy will step in. The Muslim brotherhood in Egypt has a strong following and may step in if a secular government fails to hold its grip on power, just as Hamas (the Palestinian offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood) may take over Palestinian leadership even in the West Bank.

The al-Assad regime in Syria has never been at peace with Israel. Yet still, should it be overthrown in a coup — far from unprecedented in Syria, although the al-Assad regime has been remarkably resilient — the Muslim Brotherhood will be its most likely replacement. That would be an even worse situation for Israel. So if nothing more, the coup in Mauritania can serve to remind Israel of these unpleasant realities, before it becomes too comfortable with the current situation or trades land for peace with a flimsy partner. Agreements can become null and void overnight, but land can’t be taken back once ceded away.

Kevin!

August 5, 2008

A four-year-old girl was left behind by her parents at Ben-Gurion Airport on Sunday afternoon as her family made its way to Paris. Only after taking off, the parents were informed by a flight attendant that they had forgotten one of their five children in IsraelClick for full article

U.S. to explore upgrades for Israel’s missile defense capabilities

July 29, 2008

Comment: I blogged on this topic earlier, noting that ballistics expert Dr. Nathan Farber’s appeal to bring the Phalanx interceptor system and other systems to the Western Negev received far too little attention — while Israel awaits the slow completion of Iron Dome. This would help Israel take a more defensive posture in the short term while giving the country more breathing space to contemplate a long term political solution. By no means do I believe the advent of any weapons system could solve this problem, of course. Now it appears Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has come around, making the acquisition of these systems a key issue in his current U.S. visit, largely to the credit of Dr. Nathan Farber and Ha’aretz for pushing the story. Kudos. (I did my part, but let’s face it nobody reads my blog)

(Haaretz) — “[Israeli Defense Minister] Barak is considering purchasing or borrowing several Phalanx automated cannons from the United States. The cannons intercept incoming mortar shells and short-range rockets, and would be used to defend Sderot and other Negev towns from rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

The defense minister was expected to ask Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to appraise the Phalanx’s performance.

That assessment will be used to help the government decide whether to bring the anti-missile system to Israel.

The new development comes after a series of articles in Haaretz, in which Dr. Natan Farber – an expert in ballistic missiles from the Technion – expressed his support for the project.

However, several Defense Ministry officials said the Phalanx system is not effective enough, and argue that Israel should focus on developing the Iron Dome defense system, which will not be ready before 2011…” Click for full article

‘Attacking Iran Could Backfire Badly’

July 22, 2008

[Shipping Lanes in the Strait of Hormuz]

Comment: The Iranian problem: Damned if you do, damned if you don’t

“But Moshe Ma’oz an Israeli Professor Emeritus of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem… told The Middle East Times that any attack on Iran would be an “absolute disaster.”

“I doubt very much that Iran will attack first. All the Iranians need to do is close the Gulf of Hormuz and thereby threaten the West’s supply of oil if they want to flex their muscles. They will not strike first but if attacked their ability to retaliate on a significant scale is worrying,” explained Ma’oz…” Click for full article

Perspectives on Israel/Syria Progress

April 30, 2008

[Israeli soldiers overlooking the Golan Heights]

There’s been a spike in chatter about renewed Golan Heights negotiations on a level not heard since last summer, following Syrian expatriate affairs minister Buthaina Shaaban’s announcement on Al Jazeera television over a week ago that, “Olmert is ready for peace with Syria on the grounds of international conditions; on the grounds of the return of the Golan Heights in full to Syria.”

The usual debate spawned by renewed talks over the Golan Heights, a part of Syrian territory captured by Israel in the 1967 War, was sharpened today after Dr. Samir Taqi, an aide to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (who is also the high-level emissary handling Syrian government contacts) stated on Al-Manar television (Hizbullah’s media arm) that “It would be naive to think Syria will neglect or abandon its strategic alliances that do not stem from the Arab-Israeli conflict.” His statment only confirms what renowned Syria expert Patrick Seale already said last year about the limits of Syria’s likely concessions in any peace agreement with Israel — drawing the line at cutting historical regional alliances with Iran, Lebanon and the various Palestinian groups. This is what Seale had to say last June as Golan Heights talks were then beginning to heat up:

“Olmert has hinted that he is ready for a deal with Syria if it severs its links with Iran and Hizbullah and ends its support for Hamas and other Palestinian militants. These are wholly unrealistic preconditions — rather like asking Israel to sever its ties with the United States. Syria’s ties with Iran and with the Shi‘ite community of South Lebanon are decades old and will not be loosened until there are clear signs that Israel is ready for a withdrawal from occupied Syrian and Palestinian territory and a comprehensive peace.

So the question is this: If it’s unrealistic to expect that Syria will cut ties with its regional allies, and indeed Syria is not prepared to make these concessions to Israel, then why should Israel give up the Golan Heights? For what? It would be very easy for Syria to renege on any promises made to Israel, but for Israel there is no going back once it pulls out of the Golan, destroys its settlements there and makes way rapid Syrian settlement of the land. All the risk is lopsidedly with Israel, at least over the immediate issue.

There would be other risks for Syria however, such as further isolating itself in the Arab world and vis a vis its Iranian ally. In a Ynet op-ed (Israel’s largest circulation newspaper) Guy Bechor of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliyah argues quite persuasively that such a move is indeed against Israel’s interest, and even against Syria’s interest.

Rather than a step towards lifting Israel’s regional pariah status, a peace treaty would only serve to bring Syria down with it, making it a pariah by association. This is what happened when Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel. To this day there’s a major thoroughfare in Tehran named after Khalid Islambouli, the man who assassinated former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat after he formally recognized Israel in the peace agreement. This may be a sign of what Syria can expect from Iran should it make peace with the enemy.

On the other hand Dr. Moshe Ma’oz, who is regarded as Israel’s foremost expert on Syria, also a personal friend of mine, believes it would be worthwhile for Israel to give up the Golan Heights. He argues that Bashar al-Assad is serious about peace with Israel, but doubts that Ehud Olmert is as serious on the Israeli side, predicting Olmert’s reluctance will last for at least the remainder of Bush’s presidential term in the United States.

Ma’oz holds no illusions that Syria will immediately cut ties with any of Israel’s regional enemies but believes, as he has stated in other forums, that Syria may reduce these ties following a peace agreement. Ma’oz’s view here is similar to Seale’s understanding that these ties can eventually be “loosened.” The hope is that any such reduction in relations will come in the realm of military assistance to Hamas, Hezbollah etc. Perhaps over-optimistically, perhaps not, Ma’oz believes that peace is the best security, even better than any security advantage offered by the strategic Golan Heights. Watch his interview with IBA television here

‘The Audacity of Hebrew’

April 12, 2008

(Senator Barack Obama on tour in the Israeli-Chistian Arab village of Fassouta)

(LA Times) — “Regular assessments in the Israeli press of each candidate’s support for Israel consistently show Obama trailing John McCain and Hillary Rodham Clinton, who are regarded as basically tied. Perhaps mindful of that dynamic, Obama’s camp has begun a push for Jewish and pro-Israeli votes, including the unveiling of a campaign blog in Hebrew.”

Olympic Headache

April 10, 2008

Dude, Israel should never host the Olympics. That would be a terrible idea.

“The criticism adds to the PR nightmare suffered by the Chinese over the torch procession, which has been repeatedly disrupted by pro-Tibet protestors. Yesterday, the authorities were forced to deliberately extinguish the flame for the first time ever as it passed through Paris…” Click for full article

‘Israel, U.S. plan to release details on Syria attack’

April 6, 2008

So we finally get to know who was right and who was wrong after all the speculation surrounding just what Israel attacked in Syria last September, and why. Assuming they tell us the truth, that is. It’s interesting that the announcement comes just as tensions are heating up on the northern border. The timing may be deliberate, as a reminder and a warning to Syria and Lebanon (particularly Hizbullah, whose response to Imad Mughniyah’s assassination we still await) that Israel can strike anywhere in their respective countries, anytime.

(Haaretz –) “Israel and the United States are coordinating the release of details on the air force strike in Syria last September, which foreign reports claim targeted a nuclear installation Syria was constructing with North Korean assistance. American officials may reveal details of the strike later this month during congressional hearings. Even though the defense establishment in Israel is opposed to any publication of details of the attack, the Prime Minister’s Bureau and U.S. President George W. Bush’s administration are of the opinion that it is now possible to reveal details because there is little chance of a conflagration as a result of a Syrian decision to avenge the attack…”

‘Israeli-Turkish relations tense as Erdogan says Qassams don’t kill’

January 24, 2008

erdogan1.jpg

(Haaretz) — Relations between Israel and Turkey have become very tense in the last two days, after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed that no Israelis have been killed by Qassam missiles, while every Israel Defense Forces attack in the Gaza Strip kills dozens of Palestinians. Senior Foreign Ministry officials Wednesday issued a protest to Turkey’s ambassador to Israel, Namik Tan, and requested clarifications of Erdogan’s remarks… Click for full article