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Entries in Israeli Defense Forces (2)


What Israel Needs from Iran: Threat, Not Democracy

newestpicssThe recent warning of Meir Dagan, head of the Israeli intelligence service Mossad, that Iran would have a nuclear bomb ready for use by 2014 was echoed by the Israeli Chief of General Staff, Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi, on Thursday. Speaking at a graduation ceremony for new Air Force pilots in Hatzerim, Ashkenazi said:
The reelection of the Iranian president, his remarks on his intention to harm Israel, and his efforts to obtain unconventional weapons, require us to be prepared to deal with every threat, far away and nearby… As the chief of general staff I know - only a strong and high quality IDF will keep war at bay and if necessary, will subdue the enemy and win.

According to Ashkenazi, the only way to feel secure is to ensure that Israeli society is on a permanent military footing.

Support for Ashenazi came from Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak: “Our hope is that this will not be required but in the Middle East, the threats posed to our security are not theoretical.” Barak underlined "the unique situation" in which Israel faced "the threat of being wiped out" by an "irrational dictator":
The scope of threats against us has widened from Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists to Iran, which is working to attain nuclear capabilities. We will not remove any option from the table and advise others to do the same.

Of course, those "others" who have not understood the importance of the threat include the Obama Administration.

Israel-Palestine: The Politics of Prisoner Releases

sadadThe political ground in Palestine changes again. Arrests and violence have tapered off, at least for the time being, and on Monday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas ordered the release of hundreds of Hamas prisoners held in the West Bank.

Many officials interpreted Abbas' decision as  the outcome of last week’s mutual declarations of Hamas and Fatah that they would exchange lists of detainees to break the ice before forthcoming discussions in Cairo. Azam al-Ahmad, the head of the Fatah bloc in the Palestinian Legislative Council, said: "The gesture aims at putting an end to division and lays the ground for Palestinian reconciliation talks to be held by Egypt next month."

This is a partial explanation for Abbas' move, but its wider implications should be noted. After Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had declared the recognition of a de-militarized Palestinian state, surrounded with ironclad security provisions, the Palestinian Authority leader needed to hit back. And, unless many occasions in the past, Abbas had some leverage.  Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, in his meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, might have maintained the hard-line position of the Netanyahu Government on Israeli settlements, but Clinton did not fold. So Abbas, if he could get an easing of tensions with Hamas, might be in a position to put some pressure on Tel Aviv. 

This is not the end of the story, however.  Israel tried to play down the Abbas initiative --- "It is just an exchange of prisoners for the expected round of reconciliation talks" --- but recognised that this might not be enough. So, on Tuesday, Israel released the Hamas speaker of the Palestinian parliament, Aziz Dweik, who had been in prison since 2006. This was no minor prisoner: Aziz Dweik had been captured by Israeli Defense Forces just after Hamas militants had abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006 and had been a possible bargaining chip for Shalit's return.

The moral may be that moving detainees about might buy time and a bit of breathing space, but it is no substitute for firm agreements. Next scene? The Fatah-Hamas talks in Cairo.