Israel in the Middle East – piggy in the middle

Israel is getting caught in the middle of intra-Arab feuds as well as the international rivalries playing out between Iran/Russia/Assad and the USA/Syrian rebels. The “playing field” is becoming increasingly perilous and we have to be constantly alert to the dangers on our borders.

Let’s start with the power play between Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas in Gaza. Arlene Kushner explains:

Israel has been supplying a solid percentage (over 50%) of the electricity that was being used by the people of Gaza. Some additional electrical power was secured via one generator located in Gaza.

And a small additional percentage was provided (rather erratically) by Egypt.

With all of this, Gaza was not receiving electricity 24/7: there were substantial blackout periods.

Until very recently, in accordance with agreements reached when Hamas overthrew Fatah in Gaza in 2007, the Palestinian Authority continued to honor certain responsibilities for what goes on in Gaza. This included payment to Israel for the electricity provided – which is supposed to be taken out of the tax revenues collected by Israel for the PA.

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Now the PA has begun doing battle with Hamas over control in Gaza. To that end, Mahmoud Abbas is attempting to substantially weaken Hamas.

About two months ago, the PA began to levy heavy taxes on the fuel it delivered to Hamas for Gaza’s electric generator. Subsequently, Hamas, saying the cost was prohibitive, shut it down. That reduced electricity to four hours a day.

Following this, the PA informed Israel that it was going to cut back by 40% on payments for the electricity supplied by Israel. The PA then specifically requested that Israel cut back on the electricity it delivered by a commensurate amount.

About two months ago, the PA began to levy heavy taxes on the fuel it delivered to Hamas for Gaza’s electric generator. Subsequently, Hamas, saying the cost was prohibitive, shut it down. That reduced electricity to four hours a day.

Following this, the PA informed Israel that it was going to cut back by 40% on payments for the electricity supplied by Israel. The PA then specifically requested that Israel cut back on the electricity it delivered by a commensurate amount.

This past Sunday, the Security Cabinet discussed the issue and decided that electric power would be cut back by 40%. This would mean that electric service would be provided to Gaza only some two to three hours a day. It is not clear how this cutback was to proceed – all at once, or in stages.

There are several reasons why the cutback may not be a good idea, but the most compelling is the fact that Abbas is using Israel for his own political ends. We should not be in the middle of a PA-Hamas power play.

And as to be expected, Hamas is using this crisis to stir up even more trouble:

Hamas officials have put out a statement saying that the cutback would be “catastrophic and dangerous because it harms all ways of life in Gaza. It will accelerate the deterioration of conditions and cause an explosion in Gaza.”

Arlene Kushner details even more convolutions in Abbas’ machinations:

Some analysts are saying that Abbas is trying to cause the collapse of Hamas, that he hopes the people will finally have had enough.

But Hamas leaders are not the type to tolerate a popular protest. In any event, Hamas will sidestep blame by telling the people that it’s Israel’s fault.

In fact, a representative of the PA, which requested the cutback, is also blaming it on Israel.

This where Arlene stresses the danger that Israel might get embroiled in a war not of its making. The electricity crisis might drive Hamas into a corner which might then launch a war to distract Gazans from their plight:

How convenient for Abbas, then, to promote a situation that might result in Israel fighting his battles for him. If Hamas attacked and we then took Hamas down, he would claim Gaza. Olso had originally allocated this area to the PA.

From that vantage point, he would have greater world prestige, greater leverage in several quarters. He would proclaim that the Palestinian people were now united in one state.

On the back of our war sacrifice.

There are undoubtedly many reasons to take down Hamas, but this, my friends, is not one of them.

Netanyahu of course is well aware of this situation and is trying to de-escalate it via talks with Egypt, with the latter agreeing to pick up some of the slack:

Egypt will provide hundreds of tons of fuel oil for the Gaza Strip’s only power station, a measure expected to ease the ongoing electricity crisis in the Palestinian enclave, local media reported Tuesday.

The Safa news agency, which is close to Hamas, citing an unnamed official, said that 500 tons of fuel a day will be trucked through the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza, enough to bring the power station back on-line.

The power station was expected to return to operation by Wednesday, however, even at full capacity it cannot supply all of Gaza’s electricity needs.

And as if we didn’t have enough to worry about, look who Hamas has been cozying up to:

Israel’s northern border meanwhile has also become very volatile since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war. The hostilities are spreading further towards Israel and there is imminent danger of Iran via its proxies taking control of the border region. Things got much more complicated a couple of days ago when the US shot down a Syrian warplane in Russian-controlled airspace, followed by the US shooting down an Iranian-made drone as well.

This prompted the Russians to threaten to shoot down any Western aircraft in the vicinity:

“Any aircraft, including the international coalition’s planes and drones, discovered west of the Euphrates River, will be accompanied by ground and air-based anti-aircraft defenses as aerial targets,” Moscow said in a statement Monday.

The Russians took provocative action by buzzing US Navy ships while Iran flexed its muscles by launching missiles ostensibly at ISIS as the Telegraph reports:

Meanwhile, an armed Russian warplane flew within five of a US reconnaissance aircraft over the Baltic Sea on Monday. US officials said the armed Su-27 buzzed past the American aircraft in a way that was “provocative” and “unsafe”.

An Iranian missile is launched at Islamic State targets in Syria, Sunday

In another first, Iran – another close Assad ally – fired ballistic missiles at IS targets in eastern Syria, in the province of Deir el-Zour, later on Sunday. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard described the strike as revenge for Islamic State attacks on Tehran earlier this month that killed at least 18 people and wounded more than 50.

Where does all this leave Israel, particularly as Iran mentioned Israel along with ISIS as being its chief enemy? Prime Minister Netanyahu warned Iran not to threaten Israel:

A day after Iran’s rare missile strike against Islamic State forces in Syria, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Tehran not to test Israel’s resolve.

“Our security forces constantly monitor Iran’s activities in the area and its efforts to give sophisticated weapon systems to Hezbollah; we monitor their actions and their words, and I have one thing to say to Iran: Don’t threaten Israel,” Netanyahu said.

It is believed that the missile strike was also designed to draw a red line for Sunni terrorist groups and to deter the U.S. and Israel, since the missiles used are considered accurate and can fly some 430 miles.

The good thing is that the Iranian missiles were apparently a big flop:

Iran’s much-vaunted missile strike on Islamic State targets in Syria late Sunday was a flop, with six of the seven medium-range missiles it fired failing to hit their target, Israeli sources said Monday.

But sources quoted in Hebrew media on Monday evening said three of what they said were the seven ballistic missiles didn’t even make it as far as Syria, falling to earth in Iraq, and only one of the seven landed in its intended target, an Islamic State base in Syria’s mostly IS-held Deir Ezzor province. Another of the seven landed hundreds of yards away, in the city of Mayadin.

“If the Iranians were trying to show their capabilities and to signal to Israel and to the Americans that these missiles are operational, the result was rather different,” Channel 2 analyst Ehud Yaari said. It was “a flop,” said Ya’ari. “A failure.” Still, he added dryly, “it photographed well.”

Speaking to The Times of Israel later Monday, Ya’ari said his information was based on security sources, and that these sources were “amazed” at the poor performance of the Iranian missiles. “This is what they have to show for 30 years of missile development? Even Hezbollah can do better,” he quoted the sources as saying.

Ya’ari noted that Iranian officials, trying to cover up the extent of the failure, have been repeating over and over in the past few hours how successful the missile strike was.

Nevertheless Israel must not underestimate its enemy. Concern is growing in Israel over a Shiite corridor linking Iran to the Mediterranean:

As tensions between the US and Iran escalate in Syria, concern is growing in Israel that the Tehran regime is pressing ahead with its goal of carving out a land corridor stretching through Iraq and Syria to the border with the Jewish state, a leading expert on the region said on Tuesday.

Jonathan Spyer — a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center (GLORIA) in Israel who has reported extensively from Syria — told The Algemeiner that Iran’s ultimate goal was to “complete a contiguous corridor from Iran itself via Iraq and Syria to Lebanon and the border with Israel.”

The fast-multiplying confrontations in Syria involving US forces could spiral into a deeper conflict with both Russia and Iran, as both countries attempt to consolidate the territories under their control as ISIS weakens.

The eastern part of Iran’s land link — dubbed by some as the “Shiite corridor” — is reported to have already been secured. In a dispatch from the region earlier this month, Jerusalem-based journalist Seth Frantzman said Iraqi militias allied with Iran reached the border with Syria on May 29.

Spyer warned, “The advance of Iran’s corridor would have a major impact on the type of war Iran and its proxies could in the future wage on Israel. The weeks ahead will show whether the US and its allies on the ground will act to prevent this.”

Let us hope and pray that our leaders keep a steady course and a weather eye on all Israel’s fronts.

*My headline in no way implies that I accept the derogatory epithet of the Arabs calling the Jews “pigs and apes”. My wording is taken simply from the childhood game of one child standing between two others who are throwing the ball over his head.
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6 Responses to Israel in the Middle East – piggy in the middle

  1. Pingback: Israel in the Middle East – piggy in the middle – 24/6 Magazine

  2. Charlie in NY says:

    I’m not sure what the PR concern of Israel defending against a Hamas attack resulting in the PA ruling over Gaza might be. The world already interprets Israel’s response to Jordan’s 1967 attack as the Jewish liberation of the Palestinian Arabs from the yoke of Hashemite oppression in order to give them a state on all the lands as to which, a mere three years before, the PLO had formally renounced all claims of Palestinian sovereignty (Article 24, PLO 1964 Charter).
    Israel needs to continue to act in its perceived best interests and that’s why they have the government they do. If the issue is existential, Israel will not play the part of Czechoslovakia at Munich.

    • anneinpt says:

      It’s not so much a PR concern – although there’s that too – but rather, Hamas being backed into a corner and then launching another war on Israel. Of course Israel will win, and as you say, we have to ignore international PR, but who needs the loss of life, the paralysis of the economy…

      Then again, Hamas is never short of excuses to launch wars at the time of its own choosing.

      Isn’t the Middle East fun? (/sarc)

  3. Reality says:

    It’s all such a mess!I’d say let the vatious Arab factions fight themselves to death but leave us out of it.Meanwhile at every BDS or anti Israel demonstration,I srael is blamed for occupying Gaza whilst we’re not there and haven’t been for over 10 years!I think we should put up a huge wall high and deep ,cut off all supplies and contact and let them stew in their own mess

  4. Autumn Cote says:

    Would you be OK if I cross-posted this article to WriterBeat.com? I’ll be sure to give you com6plete credit as the author. There is no fee; I’m simply trying to add more content diversity for our community and I liked what you wrote. If “OK” please let me know via email.

    Autumn
    AutumnCote@WriterBeat.com

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