Israel: The Russian Threat


September 17, 2015: Israeli and Russian diplomats are quietly trying to work out an arrangement regarding the recent Russian military buildup in Syria. Russia plans to bring in warplanes and modern anti-aircraft systems and already has several hundred soldiers and air force personnel operating near the Syrian coast. The Israelis have bombed previous shipments of Russian anti-aircraft systems into Syria because they were believed likely to end up in Lebanon (with Iran backed Hezbollah) or in Iran itself. This could get ugly.

Palestinians are once more instigating violent protests around the al Aqsa mosque (which is just above the Wailing Wall, a popular Jewish holy place and tourist attraction) in Jerusalem. The current campaign began a year ago. Seeing an opportunity to grab more headlines , sympathy and, hopefully cash contributions from the Moslem world, the PLO invested some effort and cash to get something going. It is working and Israelis are calling for the government to wake up and admit that many of the violent “protestors” are organized and should be arrested.

The last time this kind of violence got out of hand was in 2010 when Palestinians  threw stones at people below al Aqsa. The Palestinians were protesting Israeli settlers and Israeli policies in general. This happens periodically, even though Israeli security forces try to keep Palestinian troublemakers out of al Aqsa. Israeli police sometimes have to go into al Aqsa to deal with these disturbances before they lead to serious injuries. This usually results in even more violence before the police can haul everyone out. This is then denounced throughout the Moslem world as an Israeli atrocity against Palestinians and Islam.

It’s not just about al Aqsa. The Palestinians feel it is a religious obligation to attack Jewish religious shrines everywhere (especially in the West Bank where some are also Islamic holy places.) This attitude is common throughout the Islamic world but especially among Arabs. Another irritation for Moslems is Israelis who call for the rebuilding of the ancient Jewish temple, which originally occupied the post where the al Aqsa mosque was built. Even calling for allowing Jews to worship on the temple mount is considered anathema and stopping this through violent protest (by organized groups of Moslem men and women) was the main rationale for the current outbreak of violence.  

The problems with al Aqsa are not unique. Moslems frequently built mosques on the ruins of places where other religions had temples or even religious shrines. This still causes resentments, and sometimes violence (as in India where many mosques were built over destroyed Hindu temples.) This sort of thing is an ancient practice and many Christian churches are built on the sites of older temples. The difference is that there is no problem when there are no more followers of the religion whose temple sites were built on. Moslems did destroy some religions during their conquests, and still want to wipe out Hinduism and even Judaism (which is supposed to be respected, according to Moslem scripture). This institutional antagonism against other religions is a root cause of most of the religious violence involving Moslems. Many in the West are either ignorant of this or would prefer that is was not true and deny it. But anyone reading the mass media in Moslem nations gets the “kill the non-believers” message loud and clear. While leaders of most Moslem majority nations realize that this hatred is not a sane basis for foreign policy, they still have to show support for it at home, while trying to be nice to foreigners, especially more powerful ones.

Israel has been dealing with this hatred since before the current state of Israel was created in 1948. Back then the Arab states declared that Israel had no right to exist and most Arabs still believe, and sometimes act, on that belief. Israel deals with the resulting violence by Moslem civilians by imposing more restrictions on the Palestinians until the violence subsides. Arabs, in particular, declare these methods as war crimes and demand that Israel be punished. This consumes a lot of time and effort in the UN, where Arab oil money has made it lucrative for non-Moslem states to go along with these poisonous passions.

In Gaza Hamas is facing growing public protests because of Hamas inability to effectively administer the area. There are shortages of all sorts including hours without electricity. At the same time Hamas diverts economic aid to military purposes and urges young men young men to volunteer for military training and join terror organizations. This has led to public calls for the return of Israeli rule. The Israelis left in 2005 as a peace gesture that was not reciprocated.

Meanwhile Egypt has become less of a problem for Israel since the 2011 Arab Spring revolution. Although Egypt again has a former general as an elected leader and a return to many of the police state features of the pre-2011 government, Egypt is now much less tolerant of Islamic terrorism, even if it is groups that say they are only interested in attacking Israel. Egypt and Israel now cooperate a lot more in counter-terrorism matters although there has apparently been no big shift in Egyptian public opinion (still largely hostile) towards Israel. In some ways Egypt is getting back to normal with large demonstrations by government employees (including police) demanding better pay and working conditions. Islamic terrorists are still active, especially in Sinai but these groups are less and less active, apparently because of heavy losses due to very active security forces. Yet Egyptian Islamic radicals, many of them let out of prison after the 2011 revolution, are still calling for a religious dictatorship along with violence against Israel and non-Moslems in particular. This includes the Egyptian Christians, mainly the Copts, who converted to Christianity more than 500 years before the Islamic invaders arrived in 639. Copts  are still over ten percent of the population. The stubbornness of the Copts in refusing to convert to Islam has led to centuries of persecution. By 300 AD most Egyptians were Christians, nearly all of them belonging to the local Coptic sects. When the Moslems invaded threats and incentives were used to encourage conversion to Islam. By 1000 AD Moslems were the majority. Ever since, Egyptian Moslems have sought, often with violence, to convert the remaining Egyptian Christians. Some converted, but increasingly over the last century, Copts have simply fled the country. This is accelerating as it becomes obvious that the new government cannot or will not halt the growing persecution of the Copts. The new government has also proved unable to do much about the corruption, which was the main reason many supported the 2011 revolution. There is fear that there will be another revolution soon, not about radical Islam, but the crippling corruption.

September 16, 2015: In Gaza a rocket fired towards Israel malfunctioned and landed inside Gaza. There was no damage or injuries. This is the third time in three weeks that rockets fired toward Israel have failed and crashed in Gaza.

September 15, 2015: Egypt apologized for the September 12 deaths of eight Mexican tourists. Air force helicopters and bombers attacked the four vehicles the Mexicans and their Egyptian guides were travelling in after the vehicles and had stopped for a picnic lunch. The remote desert area requires special permission to enter, which the tour guides had obtained. Apparently no one told the military because the tourists were mistaken for Islamic terrorists who also sometimes travel through this area. The military was pursuing some Islamic terrorist suspects when the tourist vehicles were spotted and attacked. Tourism normally accounts for 12-15 percent of GDP and a lot of the essential foreign currency needed to pay for imports. Since the 2011 uprising tourism revenue has declined. In 2010 tourist spending amounted to $12.5 billion. The 2011 revolution cut that to $8.8 billion. It bounced back to $10.5 billion in 2012 but was down again in 2013 and fell again as Islamic terrorists concentrated their efforts on tourists.

September 14, 2015: On the Gaza border Israeli soldiers arrested five Palestinians who were trying to get through the security fence.

India revealed that in early September it had approved the purchase of ten Israeli Heron TP UAVs. This model is equipped to carry smart bombs and guided missiles. India is paying about $40 million each for the Heron TPs. India has been buying Israeli UAVs for over a decade. The recent purchase was revealed in response to Pakistan announcing its first use of an armed UAV.                                                        

September 13, 2015: In Jerusalem Arab men throwing rocks at cars caused one Israeli driver to crash. The 64 year old driver died from his injuries. The casual violence (rock and fire bomb throwing) against Israelis has been going on for a long time. Most of this (nearly a hundred attacks a week) takes place in the West Bank, where Israeli security forces do not crack down as effectively as they do inside Israel. There Israeli police will use lethal force if an attacker is using a weapon (like a fire bomb) that will likely seriously injure or kill someone. For example, throwing a fire bomb at a vehicle can get you shot. Police also pursue offenders more effectively inside Israel, making it far more risky to throw things at people and vehicles. Despite that, these attacks are becoming more frequent in East Jerusalem. The dispute here is over Israeli claims that Jerusalem is (as it was in antiquity) is the capital of Israel. Palestinians insist that Jerusalem belongs to them and is the capital of a non-existent Palestinian state.

September 12, 2015: In Egypt (northern Sinai) a major offensive against Islamic terror groups in the area left 64 Islamic terrorists and two soldiers dead. Since this offensive began on the 7th nearly 300 Islamic terrorists have been killed. Eight soldiers have also died in an operation mainly intended to cripple ISIL efforts to establish a presence in northern Sinai.

September 11, 2015: Egypt denied news stories that Egypt had sent 800 soldiers to fight Shia rebels in Yemen.

September 8, 2015: The United States added three Hamas leaders to its list of “specially designated global terrorists". Those on the list can be prosecuted in the United States if they are caught by American law enforcement agencies.

September 7, 2015:  Israel has decided to put a security fence on its last unfenced border, the one with Jordan. This project will take several years and cost $1.6 billion, plus millions a year to maintain. This is mainly to keep out refugees from Syria and Iraq. Meanwhile Israel has nearly completed a 240 kilometer fence along the Egyptian border, mainly to keep illegal migrants (usually from Africa) out. The Israeli security fence with the West Bank will eventually be 760 kilometers long, mainly because it makes so many twists and turns to deal with unresolved territorial disputes and Israeli settlements in the West Bank. But even when it was half finished it was blocking the most easily used terrorist crossings and that caused the Palestinian terror campaign to collapse. The new fence along the Egyptian border not only stopped nearly all the illegal migrants but a lot of the other smuggling (especially drugs).

September 4, 2015: In the north, on the Syrian border, a bomb on the Syrian side killed a prominent Druze cleric (Sheikh Wahid Balous) and seven others. Syrian government agents are believed responsible because Balous was an outspoken critic of the Assads and that helped turned the Druze (about five percent of the population) against the government.





Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close