October 15, 2020:
Opinion polls conducted in Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia and the UAE (United Arab Emirates) show that Arabs are much more optimistic that a peace deal with the Palestinians can be achieved in the next five years, Only 15 percent of Israelis believe this is possible while in the Arab states between 53 and 76 percent believed it possible. Arabs are split on establishing relations with Israel without a Palestinian peace deal. Nearly half of Arabs would establish ties with Israel without a Palestinian peace deal. That is progress because a decade ago few Arabs would back this approach. Most Arabs are unaware of how opposed the Palestinians are to any peace deal that does not involve the elimination of the Israeli government and killing or expelling all Israeli Jews. For decades the official Arab line was that the Palestinians desired peace with an Israeli state. That was once true but over the last two decades that attitude has changed and now the official Palestinian in Gaza and the West Bank is that Israel must be destroyed. Proof of this is available in Palestinian print and electronic media and it may take a while for most Arabs to accept that the Palestinians are no longer interested in peace with Israel. Some Arabs already realize this and are pointing that the Palestinian leaders have been increasingly corrupt and incompetent, which is why most Arab states supply much less (or none) aid to the Palestinians. Most of that aid gets stolen or spent to reward terrorists.
Another factor that cannot be ignored is that the Middle Eastern Moslem states have been violently hostile to non-Moslems for over a thousand years. That is hard to change because there is so much encouragement of that attitude in Islamic scriptures (the Koran). A growing number of Moslems realize that this hostility has been a major liability for Moslems because the non-Moslems are more powerful militarily and advanced scientifically in part because they have far fewer problems with religious differences and violent religious radicals. A growing number of Arabs are speaking out about what, to many Moslems, is an unpleasant truth that has been avoided for centuries.
Change is possible, even for the hard core Palestinians. Yahya Sinwar, the new (since early 2017) Hamas leader wants to concentrate on economic development in Gaza and has cut back on military (and terrorist) spending. Hamas no longer plans for any major violence with Israel but still allows harassment. This includes the fire-balloon campaign and the weekly, often violent, protests at the Israeli border fence. There are still a lot of other Islamic terror groups in Gaza and Sinwar has cracked down on any that threaten Hamas rule. Many of these Islamic terror groups want to keep attacking Israel but Sinwar is increasingly harsh in opposing groups that favor violence. Sinwar doesn’t want a civil war in Gaza but he also realizes that emphasizing economic growth at the expense of anti-Israeli violence can itself generate violent opposition within Gaza. The Israelis are willing to do business but not at the expense of their own security and the lives of Israelis. In other words Sinwar has to control the smaller Islamic terror groups that are still determined to kill Israelis, no matter what the cost to Gaza and Hamas. Sinwar hasn’t got much choice because he is one of the few Palestinian leaders who admit that fighting Israel is futile and trying to do so is only causing more problems for all Palestinians. Most Palestinian leaders are unwilling to admit or confront the truth. Decades of their own corruption plus repeated losses when attacking Israel is a bad habit that is difficult to change. Sinwar is trying but he has only been in power for three years and has many enemies in Gaza who want to kill him.
In negotiations sponsored by Egypt, Hamas and Israel are apparently close to signing a six-month ceasefire that would allow $100 million in Qatari economic aid into Gaza, lifting the tight embargo and allowing much needed, and delayed, infrastructure and economic projects to proceed. This all depends on Hamas enforcing the cease fire on their side of the border. These negotiations have been going on for over six months and during the time Hamas has kept the border violence down. Sort of a quasi-cease-fire.
October 14, 2020: For the second time this year Israeli hackers have shut down
the Iranian Shahid Rajaee container port near the Strait of Hormuz. In May Iranian officials admitted that local government networks had been hit with an Internet based attack that crippled container operations. The official insisted the attack did no lasting damage to port operations. But commercial satellite photos later showed trucks (delivering or going to pick up containers) backed up on roads to the port. An unusually large number of container ships were stuck waiting to get a berth. In a rare move Israel took credit for the hack, which was meant to halt port operations for several days. Israel rarely takes credit for these attacks but did so in this case to warn Iran there would be a lot more of this if Iran did not halt its efforts to hack Israeli public utilities, as in a recent effort against a local water supply system. The Iranians had attempted to hack Israeli water systems in late April. It has not been revealed what triggered the latest Cyber War attack on Iran. Bandar Abbas is the major military and commercial port in Iran. The container port is part of the Bandar Abbas complex and where all the modern tech and consumer goods arrive. Shutting down Bandar Abbas for months, or more, would be quickly felt by most Iranians. The other major Iranian port is Kharg Island, in the Persian Gulf. This is the main export facility for 90 percent of oil and gas shipments. Income from these exports pay for over a third of the government budget. The current sanctions have reduced oil exports by 70 percent or more.
October 12, 2020: In Egypt (Sinai) soldiers, acting on a tip, caught some ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) men observing a checkpoint in preparation for an attack. The two ISIL men refused to surrender, opened fire and were killed.
October 11, 2020: Egypt is hosting peace negotiations between the two rival government in Libya. The weaker government, the GNA, is backed by Turkey while the stronger government, the HoR, is backed by most Arab states and Russia.
October 8, 2020: The EU (European Union) has turned down PA (Palestinian Authority) requests for more loans. The PA needs the money because it refuses to have any dealings with Israel, including accepting tax revenue collected by Israel for the PA. The Palestinians are angry because of Israeli plans to annex parts of the West Bank where Israelis live. The recent peace deals with Gulf Arab states included Israeli assurances that there would be no annexations. This did not satisfy the PA, especially since the Gulf Arab oil states also refused to loan money to make up for the cash the PA was refusing to take from Israel. As part of the Israeli-Gulf Arab peace deal both Israel and the Gulf Arabs will try to get the PA to change its demands for the destruction of Israel and refusal to settle for anything less. The Gulf Arabs are now openly criticizing the corruption and self-destructive actions of the PA. All this has been going on for over two decades. There was almost a peace deal in the late 1990s, with Israel offering more than it will now. Most Palestinians were willing to accept that offer but radical factions demanded the Israeli proposal be rejected and Israel be destroyed. The PA backed a major terror operation against Israel but that was defeated by 2005 and the West Bank was cut off from Israel, putting many Palestinians out of work. The PA is still calling for the destruction of Israel in their state controlled media. One thing Israel, the Arab Gulf states and the EU agree on is that Israel will not allow itself to be destroyed to appease the Palestinians. Now the EU is following the Gulf Arab example and telling the Palestinians openly and bluntly that demanding the destruction of Israel is not going to happen and the EU and Gulf Arabs are no longer financing such fantasies.
October 6, 2020: Israel ordered the seizure of any Palestinian funds paid to Palestinians inside Israel, for dead or imprisoned Palestinians terrorists found inside Israel be seized. The PA has been transfer such money eligible Palestinians living in Israel. The amount seized was about $100,000 but it means the PA will have to find another way to pay these kin of Palestinian terrorists, including those who died trying to kill Israelis.
October 5, 2020: In the south (Gaza) Israel bombed a Hamas military facility after someone in Gaza fired a rocket into Israel. The rocket did no damage.
October 2, 2020: In the West Bank Israeli police arrested Hassan Youssef, the Hamas leader in the West Bank. Youssef had been free to operate in the West Bank as long as he stayed away from any terrorist activities. He had apparently violated that condition.
October 1, 2020: Lebanon and Israel agreed to negotiate their maritime border dispute in an arrangement brokered by the United States. Lebanon is still technically at war with Israel. That plus the presence of Iran backed Hezbollah in southern Lebanon made any previous negotiation efforts impossible to carry out. This time Hezbollah is in decline as is its patron Iran. Lebanese who favored negotiation with Israel are no longer in the minority. The border negotiations will be held at a Lebanese town on the Israeli border. There is no guarantee that the negotiations will produce an agreement, but it is progress.
September 25, 2020: Fatah and Hamas, following negotiations hosted in Turkey, have agreed to take concrete steps towards forming a unified Palestinian government by agreeing to hold elections in Gaza and the West Bank to elect a new Palestinian parliament. That parliament has not functioned since 2007. That was because in
2005 Israeli troops left Gaza as a peace gesture that backfired. Hamas, a radical Palestinian offshoot of the Egyptian Moslem Brotherhood, had established itself in Gaza and sought to take control of Gaza after the Israelis left. Hamas won the last Palestinian elections in 2006 because they were seen as less corrupt, but Hamas was also much more into the use of violence against Israel, and that came with a cost to all Palestinians. When Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007 they refused to allow an any further elections. This left the Palestinians divided with Fatah still controlling the West Bank, where 60 percent of Palestinians lived. Holding elections is one thing, both Hamas and Fatah agreeing on the outcome is another matter. Both the PA and Hamas openly condemn Arab states that have recently made peace with Israel or are considering doing so. That means the PA and Hamas are openly criticizing the UAE and Saudi Arabia, long the most generous Arab donors to Palestinians. No more, mainly because of the corruption that kept much of that money from getting to Palestinians that needed it. The PA and Hamas are both turning to Iran for military and economic aid.
September 22, 2020: In northern Syria (Idlib province) the fighting between Syrian and rebel forces in southern Idlib has grown more intense this month. The Syrians want to eliminate the last rebel stronghold but the concentration of surviving Islamic terrorist rebel groups in Idlib know they are making a last stand and believe that because they are on a Mission From God they will somehow prevail. The Assad troops are not nearly as motivated and if it weren’t for Russian airstrikes and artillery support would make no progress at all. The Iranian mercenary ground forces were a casualty of the 2o17 Iranian cash crises. Iran has sent token forces to help out in Idlib but is concentrating most of its forces near the Israeli border. That has led to hundreds of Israeli airstrikes, which often damage Syrian forces that operate closely with the Iranians. The Israeli intel is disturbingly good and their missiles dependably accurate. The Israelis hit the Iranians and, whenever possible, leave Syrian forces alone. The Assads bluster and protest to please their Iranian patrons but understand that Israel does not want to be at war with the Assads and the Assads appreciate that.
September 21, 2020: In the north (Golan Heights) Israel troops destroyed two army observation posts on the Syrian side of the border. The two posts were 500 meters from the nearest Israeli border fortifications and were destroyed by a rare night time commando raid. Syria did not acknowledge the raid or disclose casualties. Going in on the ground allowed the Israelis to grab documents and perhaps even a prisoner. It was believed that these observations posts were established at the request of Iran and was compiling information on Israeli border activities for future Iranian attacks.
September 20, 2020: Algeria will not consider establishing diplomatic and economic relations with Israel, as several other Arab nations have recently done or are considering. This includes Western neighbor Morocco, which has always been friendly towards Israel. Tunisia agrees with Algeria in opposing relations with Israel. Libya is still divided by a civil war, with Turkey intervening to assist the weaker pro-Islamic government faction while the UAE, Egypt and Russia back the more powerful secular faction.
Foreign mass media speculate that recent talks between Sudan and the UAE could lead to a Sudan-Israel peace agreement of some type. Economic decline and recent floods have increased Sudan’s need for economic assistance and food aid. The UAE, which just signed a peace deal with Israel, has indicated it is willing to supply Sudan’s transitional government with economic assistance.
September 14, 2020:
In eastern Syria (Deir Ezzor province) there was another Israeli airstrike against Iranian weapons being stored near the Al Bukamal crossing into Iraq. There were ten deaths (two Syrian, eight Iraqi), all of them pro-Iran militiamen. This is the third Israeli airstrike in Deir Ezzor province this month.
September 11, 2020: In northern Syria (Aleppo) an Israeli airstrike damaged an Iranian military facility outside the city.
Bahrain agreed to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel. Bahrain is the second Gulf Arab state to do this. The larger UAE did so in August and Saudi Arabia is considering such a move. Meanwhile the Saudis have agreed to open their air space to Israeli commercial aviation.