Egypt is hosting another round of Palestinian reconciliation talks. The last round, in late September, was hosted by Turkey and ended with an agreement to meet next in Egypt and keep negotiating. Fatah and Hamas agreed to take concrete steps towards forming a unified Palestinian government by holding elections in Gaza and the West Bank. This would select a new Palestinian parliament. That parliament has not functioned since 2007 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 after the Israelis left. Hamas won the last Palestinian elections in 2006 because they were seen as less corrupt than Fatah. Hamas was also much more into using 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 Fatah and Hamas openly condemn Arab states that recently made peace with Israel or are considering doing so. That means Fatah 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. Fatah and Hamas are both turning to Iran for military and economic aid. At the moment Iran cannot afford to give much. Fatah sees Iran favoring Hamas and the Hamas plan to use subversion and violence to eliminate Fatah in a reunited Palestinian government. Fatah is desperate, having lost most foreign aid and about to lose more because of its refusal to stop diverting a large fraction of foreign aid to reward imprisoned Palestinians who have killed or at least attacked Israelis. The families of dead terrorists also receive payments. All this encourages Palestinians to undertake attacks.
Heard On The Street
Another round of Middle East opinion polls, which included Israel as well as the U.S. and Germany, sought to determine which country was considered the greatest threat to Middle Eastern security. The results were similar to those expressed in an earlier polls conducted after several Arab and other Moslems states decided to officially recognize Israel. Another recent poll had shown that Arabs are much were more optimistic that a peace deal with the Palestinians can be achieved in the next five years.
Only 15 percent of Israelis believe a Palestinian peace deal 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.
The most recent poll of average citizens shows only two Middle East nations (Israel and the UAE) consider Iran a greater threat to peace than Israel. That is progress because a decade ago few Arabs would even consider a more favorable attitude towards Israel. Most Arabs are familiar with the Iranian threat but 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 position 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 emphasizing that 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 for those attitudes 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. For many Moslems this is an unpleasant truth that has been avoided for centuries.
Arab public opinion did not see Iran as the greatest threat. It was the U.S. and Turkey that were most frequently cited as the greatest threat. This was true even in the U.S. and Germany. All those decades of anti-Israel propaganda often included accusations that American support for Israel was part of a larger plot against Islam. Arab leaders were more realistic but for a long time were prisoners of the anti-Israel propaganda that had long been popular in the Middle East and in the last few decades has become more fashionable in Europe and the United States.
November 17, 2020: In the north, (Golan Heights) Israeli troops, during an early morning patrol, found and neutralized a roadside bomb that was planted next to border fence near a road. Hezbollah has long used this tactic along the Lebanon/Israel border. Israel accused Syria of responsibility for this latest incident because the Syrians will not block Iran-backed groups from the border and ignores these Iranian supported Islamic terrorists attempts to kill Israelis. Over the next 24 hours Israel carried out airstrikes against the Iran-backed groups responsible. At least three people were killed and one wounded because of these airstrikes on Iranian bases in Syria. The Iranian Quds Force handles organizing these operations and sustaining the local militant groups working for Iran.
November 15, 2020: In the south (Gaza) several rockets were fired at the city of Ashod. Iron Dome intercepted some of them while others landed in uninhabited areas. The 2 AM attack was followed by multiple attacks on Hamas targets in Gaza.
November 14, 2020:
In eastern Syria (Deir Ezzor province) there was several airstrikes against Iranian and Syrian army targets. The aircraft could not be identified and were thought to be Israeli. However some of the jets turned north after an attack, heading for SDF (U.S. backed Syrian Kurds) territory. Neither Israel nor the U.S. would comment.
November 11, 2020: In Germany the Israeli Navy accepted its first Saar 6 corvette from the German builders. These 1,900 ton warships are the largest ever to serve in the Israeli Navy.
Before this the largest Saar ships were the three 1,075 ton Saar 5s. The Saar 6 ships are to be armed with a 76mm gun, anti-missile/aircraft systems and anti-ship missiles. The Saar 6 ships have a max speed of 46 kilometers an hour and normal endurance of 10-12 days. Crew size is 70. After some crew training this first Saar 6 ship will travel to its base in Israel. For the last five years Israel has been upgrading its fleet of Saar class warships with new Israeli made radars and EW (Electronic Warfare) equipment. Currently the Israelis have sixteen Saar type ships in service (one Saar 6, three Saar 5, ten Saar 4.5, and two Saar 4). Most of the older Saar 4s were retired, sold off, or converted to Saar 4.5.
November 10, 2020: In the north (Lebanon) Israeli forces detected and shot down another Hezbollah UAV. The last such incident was in July. This time Hezbollah accused Israel of taking control of their UAV and guiding it into Israel.
November 8, 2020: Egypt has eased covid19 restrictions in order to get the economy going. That has had some success, with the unemployment rate going from ten percent in mid-2020 to about seven percent now. The underemployment situation is much worse and household incomes have suffered greater declines than the unemployment rates indicate. Another factor in the economic recovery is the major role the UAE (United Arab Emirates) plays as an investor and customer. The UAE has already invested about $7 billion in the Egyptian economy and is negotiating terms for another $7 billion. The negotiations involve assurances that the Egyptian government will actively cooperate to prevent the local corruption from crippling UAE efforts. I
nternational surveys of nations to determine who is clean and who is corrupt currently rate the was UAE as the least corrupt nation in region. The UAE was ranked 21st out of 180 nations in international rankings compared with 23rd in 2018. The most corrupt was Syria and many other Arab states were on the “most corrupt” end of the list. Egypt not that bad and is ranked 106th while neighbor Israel is 35th and the United States 23rd. Most least corrupt nations are largely northern European plus Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. The UAE is Egypt’s largest single export customer, taking eleven percent of exports. One area where the UAE cannot help much is rebuilding the Egyptian tourism industry. The covid19 restrictions have cut tourism income by 80-90 percent since early 2020. Normally tourism
accounts for 11 percent of the GDP and provides jobs (directly or indirectly) for 12 percent of the work force. There is no quick fix for the tourism problem although some of the foreign tourists are starting to return.
November 7, 2020: The U.S. revealed that it had worked with Israel to locate Abu Muhammad al Masri, the al Qaeda deputy (number 2) commander, in the Iranian capital Tehran. Once located, two Israeli Mossad agents killed Masri on August 7th. This was the seventh anniversary of al Qaeda bombing of several American embassies. Masri was believed to have organized that attacks and knew the Americans were searching for him. He, like many other senior al Qaeda officials, was hiding out in Iran under an assumed name The U.S. was searching for Masri and when they found him in Iran they requested Israeli help in killing the terrorist leader and one of his associates, the widow of Osama bin Ladens son. Israel has long maintained a network of agents in Iran, something the U.S. had not been able to do.
November 6, 2020: Thailand has selected Chinese UAVs to replace the Israeli ones the Thai military has been using for decades. The Chinese UAVs are cheaper, have more features and the manufacturer will provide a simulator to help with training. Technically the army UAVs being replaced are used to adjust artillery fire. The army artillery has few opportunities to use their big guns in action so the UAVs spend much of their time down south helping with counter-terrorism efforts.
November 1, 2020: In the south (Gaza) a fire balloon from Gaza landed in an Israeli. The bomb squad neutralized the device and there were no casualties or damage. Such attacks are rare now because Hamas is making a serious effort to maintain the current ceasefire with Israel. This makes it possible to bring more goods into Gaza and keep the reconciliation talks with Fatah going.
October 31, 2020: In the West Bank Palestinian police shot dead Hatem Abu Rizek, a leader in the
Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. In both Gaza and West Bank there are members of pro-Fatah terrorist groups like Islamic Jihad and Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. In the West Bank men from these groups are expected to maintain a low profile, if only to avoid getting killed or captured by the Israelis. Both these groups have produced a lot of “rogue terrorists” who refuse to take orders or advice from anyone. Some Palestinians believe the police were out to kill Rizek, not arrest him.
October 27, 2020: In the Philippines the Israeli candidate (Sabrah), won the competition to supply the Filipino army with light tanks. The Israeli firm (Elbit) will supply 18 tanks (8 tracked and 10 wheeled) plus two support vehicles. Elbit is also supplying 28 6x6 wheeled armored vehicles for $47 million.
October 24, 2020: The Sudanese government and Israel agreed to open trade and economic ties. Sudan’s and Israel’s negotiators called for normalized relations, which some media reported as diplomatic recognition. Not quite. But trade and investment deals are in the offing. Until today Sudan was officially at war with Israel. Is it fair to call Sudan the fifth Arab nation to make a peace deal with Israel? Yes. The negotiations and trade agreements indicate that a state of war no longer exists.
October 22, 2020: In southern Syria (
Quneitra province) an Israeli airstrike in the Syrian Golan Heights killed several Hezbollah members who were their trying to prepare attacks on Israel.
October 21, 2020: Egypt has more problems with the source of the Nile River. Ethiopia contends Sudan’s terrible floods this fall would have been worse without the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Blue Nile. That may or may not be true since the White Nile has also flooded. Ethiopia responds that the GERD will definitely help Sudan control floods in the future. Despite complaints by Sudan and Egypt, Ethiopia began filling the GERD’s reservoir in July. On October 5 Ethiopia announced the GERD would begin generating electricity in late 2021.
October 18, 2020
In Yemen a new Iranian ambassador was appointed, replacing one that had left Yemen in 2015 when the civil war escalated. The old ambassador was for the pre-civil war Yemen government. Hassan Irloo, the new ambassador, is a known officer of the Quds Force. Like the Quds commander who serves as the ambassador to Iraq, Irloo does not report to the Iranian Foreign Ministry but to the IRGC headquarters. Before he got the Yemen assignment little was known about Irloo except that he was a Quds officer who was rising in the ranks for accomplishments that were kept secret. This is common with Quds commanders, mainly because Quds is seen as a terrorist organization and successful Quds commanders tend to be responsible for a lot of death and destruction carried out in the name of Shia Islamic domination of the world. In reaction to that, Israel and the United States have been tracking down and killing the more notorious Quds commanders. Irloo had to be smuggled into Yemen and that was accomplished by the end of October. The arrival of Irloo is reassuring for the rebels, who have been on the defensive for more than a year. Despite that the legitimate Yemeni government has internal problems that the rebels may be able to take advantage of.
October 15, 2020: In northern Mali (Kidal) a roadside bomb was used against a UN supply convoy escorted by Egyptian peacekeepers. One peacekeeper vehicle was hit, killing one peacekeeper and wounding another. Egyptians are eagerly sought as peacekeepers because Egyptian troops often have recent experience dealing with Islamic terrorists.