Posts Tagged ‘Netanyahu’

Fighting ‘Islamic State’ is not the Israeli priority

December 24, 2014

By Nicola Nasser*

Defying a consensus that it is a priority by the world community comprising international rivals like the United States, Europe, Russia and China and regional rivals like Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia, Israel, like Turkey, does not eye the U.S. – led war on the IS as its regional priority. Nor fighting Israel is an IS priority.

The Israeli top priority is to dictate its terms to Syria to sign a peace treaty with Israel before withdrawing its forces from the occupied Syrian Golan Heights, Palestinian territories and Lebanese southern lands.

For this purpose, Israel is determined to break down the Syria – Iran alliance, which has been the main obstacle preventing Israel from realising its goals. Changing the ruling regime in either Damascus or Tehran would be a step forward. Towards this Israeli strategic goal the IS could not be but an Israeli asset.

“To defeat ISIS (The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria as the IS was previously known) and leave Iran as a threshold nuclear power is to win the battle and lose the war,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the UN General Assembly last September.

Therefore, “it should not come as a surprise that the (Benjamin) Netanyahu government has not yet taken any immediate steps against IS,” according to Amos Harel, writing in Foreign Policy on September 15.

However, information is already surfacing that Israel is “taking steps” in the opposite direction, to empower the IS and other terrorist groups fighting and infighting in Syria.

Israeli daily Haaretz on last October 31 quoted a “senior Northern Command officer” as saying that the U.S. – led coalition “is making a big mistake in fighting against ISIS … the United States, Canada and France are on the same side as Hezbollah, Iran and [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad. That does not make sense.”

Regardless, on September 8 Israeli daily The Jerusalem Post reported that Israel has provided “satellite imagery and other information” to the coalition. Three days later Netanyahu said at a conference in Herzliya: “Israel fully supports President [Barack] Obama’s call for united actions against ISIS … We are playing our part in this continued effort. Some of the things are known; some of the things are less known.”
Obama’s call was the green light for Israel to support Syrian and non- Syrian rebels. Syrian official statements claim that Israel has been closely coordinating with the rebels.

Israeli statements claim theirs is confined to “humanitarian” support to “moderate” Syrian opposition, which the U.S. has already pledged to train and arm in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Turkey. A significant portion of the $64 billion earmarked for conflicts abroad in the budget legislation signed by Obama on December 19 will go to these “moderates.”

Both Israel and the U.S. have no headaches about whether the “moderates” would remain as such after being armed with lethal weapons or whether it remains appropriate to call them “opposition.”

But the Israeli “humanitarian” claim is challenged by the fact that Israel is the only neighbouring country which still closes its doors to Syrian civilian refugees while keeping its doors wide open to the wounded rebels who are treated in Israeli hospitals and allowed to return to the battle front after recovery.

IS close to Israeli borders

The Israeli foreign ministry on last September 3 confirmed that the U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff whom the IS had beheaded was an Israeli citizen as well. In a speech addressed to Sotloff’s family, Netanyahu condemned the IS as a “branch” of a “poisonous tree” and a “tentacle” of a “violent Islamist terrorism.”

On the same day Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon officially outlawed the IS and anyone associating with it.

On September 10, Netanyahu convened an urgent security meeting to prepare for the possible danger of the IS advancing closer to the Israeli border, a prospect confirmed by the latest battles for power between the IS and the al – Nusra Front on the southern Syrian – Lebanese borders and in southern Syria, within the artillery range of Israeli forces.

On November 9, Ansar Bait al-Maqdis (ABM), which has been operating against the Egyptian army, released an audio clip pledging allegiance to the IS to declare later the first IS Wilayah (province) in the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula, south of Israel.

On last November 14 The Israeli Daily quoted Netanyahu as saying in a private defense meeting that the IS is “currently operating out of Lebanon … close to Israel’s northern border. We must take this as a serious threat.”

However, “in truth, as most of Israel’s intelligence community has been quick to point out, there are no signs that anything of the sort is actually happening,” according to Amos Harel, writing in Foreign Policy five days later.

Moshe Ya’alon told journalists in September that “the organization operates far from Israel” and thus presents no imminent threat. Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery, on November 14, wrote: “The present and former generals who shape Israel’s policy can only smile when this ‘danger’ is mentioned.”

Israel “certainly does not see the group as an external threat” and the “Islamic State also does not yet pose an internal threat to Israel,” according to Israeli journalist and Associate Policy Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, Dimi Reider, writing in a Reuters blog on last October 21.

What Netanyahu described as a “serious threat” in the north does not yet dictate any Israeli action against it because “we must assume that Hizballah,” which is allied to Syria and Iran, “does not have its house in order,” according to the Israeli premier.

The presence of the IS Wilayah on its southern border with Egypt is preoccupying the country with an internal bloody anti-terror conflict that would prevent any concrete Egyptian contribution to the stabilization of the Arab Levant or support to the Palestinians in their struggle to end the Israeli occupation of their land, let alone the fact that this presence is already pitting Egypt against Israel’s archenemy, Hamas, in the Palestinian Gaza Strip and creating a hostile environment that dictates closer Egyptian – Israeli security coordination.

Therefore, Israel is not going to “interfere” because “these are internal issues of the countries where it is happening.” Israel is “informally … ready to render assistance, but not in a military way and not by joining the (U.S. – led) coalition” against the IS, according to the deputy head of the Israeli embassy in Moscow, Olga Slov, as quoted by Russian media on November 14.

Jordan is another story

However, Israel’s eastern neighbours in Jordan and Syria seem another story.

“Jordan feels threatened by IS. We will cooperate with them one way or another,” ambassador Slov said. Jordanian media has been reporting that more than 2000 Jordanians had already joined al-Qaeda splinter the IS, al-Qaeda’s branch al-Nusra Front or other rebels who are fighting for an “Islamic” state in Syria. Hundreds of them were killed by the Syrian Arab Army.

The Daily Beast on last June 27 quoted Thomas Sanderson, the co-director for transnational threats at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, as saying that Israel considers the survival of Jordan as “a paramount national security objective.”

If Jordan requested Israeli assistance in protecting its borders, Israel would have “little choice” but to help, the Beast quoted the director of the Israeli National Security Council, Yaakov Amidror, as saying.

As a precaution measure, Israel is building now a 500-kilometre “security fence” on its border with Jordan.

While Israel is willing and getting ready to “interfere” in Jordan, it is already deeply interfering in Syria, where the real battle has been raging for less than four years now against terrorists led by the IS.

A few weeks ago The Associated Press reported that the IS and the al-Nusra had concluded an agreement to stop fighting each other and cooperate on destroying the U.S. – trained and supported rebels (The Syrian Revolutionaries Front and the Hazm movement) as well as the Syrian government forces in northern Syria.

But in southern Syria all these and other terrorist organizations are coordinating among themselves and have what Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) called “a gentleman’s agreement” with Israel across the border, according to Colum Lynch in Foreign Policy on June 11.

Last October, Al-Qaeda branch in Syria, al-Nusra, was among the rebel groups which overtook the only border crossing of Quneitra between Syria and the Israeli – occupied Golan Heights. Israel has yet to demonstrate its objection.

“Many Sunnis in Iraq and the Gulf consider ISIS a bullet in their rifles aimed at Shiite extremism, in their bid to restore their lost standing,” Raghida Dergham, a columnist and a senior diplomatic correspondent for the London – based Arabic Al-Hayat daily, wrote in the huffingtonpost on September 19.

A political public agreement between Israel and the Gulf Arabs has developed on a mutual understanding that the dismantling of the Syria – Iran alliance as a prelude to a “regime change” in both countries is the regional priority, without loosing sight of the endgame, which is to dictate peace with Israel as the regional power under the U.S. hegemony. The IS is “the bullet in their rifles.” From their perspective, the U.S. war on the IS is irrelevant, for now at least.

* Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Birzeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories (nassernicola@ymail.com).

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Obama’s ‘Big Prize’ to Earn Nobel Peace Prize

November 27, 2013

By Nicola Nasser*

Indeed, US President Barak Obama has gone a long way to earn his Nobel Peace Prize, which was prospectively and in advance awarded in 2009 to the 44th president of the United States while less than eight months in office.

However, Obama’s “big prize” to make him “feel that I deserve” the Nobel Prize as he had said then will be waiting for him until he ends the ongoing Israeli war on the Palestinian people and occupation of their land, at least since 1967.

This Israeli war lies at the heart of both the wars Obama inherited as well as those he has just averted and has been all along the source of regional wars, instability and insecurity as well as the source of the deep-rooted anti-Americanism in the Middle East.

To his credit, President Obama, true to his promise to “end a decade of wars,” wound up the war on Iraq, now coordinating winding down his country’s war on Afghanistan next year and twice this year he has navigated successfully to avert and avoid dragging his country into wars on Syria and Iran.

It doesn’t matter much whether Obama has gone thus far out of principle or under the pressures of the financial crisis in his country and the emerging geopolitical realities internationally and regionally in the Middle East.

Pressures would be more likely an interpretation if one is to judge by his shift from his former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s call on Syrian rebels not to disarm with the aim of enforcing a regime change in Syria to the US co-sponsoring now the upcoming Geneva – 2 conference on January 22 for a political solution of the Syrian conflict.

But the “out of principle” interpretation seems more likely if one is to judge by the AP wire story about the background of the Iran deal, which revealed that Obama was conducting “secret talks” with Iran for about a year before the election last summer of the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, to whose “moderation” a lot of credit was attributed for the success of negotiating the deal.

It is true that Obama’s ongoing “drone war” on Yemen, Pakistan and elsewhere, his “leading from behind” in the NATO-led war on Libya, his “warships diplomacy” and “sanctions war” on Syria, Iran and of late on Egypt all vindicate calls for rescinding his Nobel prize, but ending the ongoing Israeli war on the Palestinian people remains his only daring peace move that will tip the balance to his credit for good.

Except for his failure to deliver on his promise to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp on the Cuban territory, the Arab – Israeli conflict remains the most critical foreign policy area where his deeds still do not match his words.

Long before his opposition to the US-led war on Iraq in 2003, Obama came of political age in the campus anti-nuclear movement of the 1980s and was elected as an anti-war figure; at a presidential campaign debate in South Carolina in 2007 he spoke about meetings with the leaders of Iran, North Korea, and other nations hostile to his country. He was awarded the Noble Peace Prize “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation” and for his vision and work “for a world without nuclear weapons.”

After his new START treaty with Russia cutting down the two countries’ nuclear arsenals, disarming Syria of its chemical arsenal and restricting Iran’s nuclear program to peaceful purposes, disarming Israel of its nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction remains the litmus test which will determine the credibility of Obama’s endeavor “for a world without nuclear weapons” and will qualify him to “deserve” the Nobel Peace Prize.

After the signing of the four-page “Joint Plan of Action” interim nuclear deal between Iran and the 5-plus-1 partners in Geneva on this November 24, “He can now also say he has avoided a third war,” according to Bruce O. Riedel, a former administration official who is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, quoted by The New York times last Monday.

However the “third war” has been raging bloodily and mercilessly for less than three years now in Syria, “led from behind” by his administration and either openly armed, financed and logistically supported by the US regional Qatari, Saudi and Turkish allies or proxies, it doesn’t matter which, or away from media spotlights by the US Israeli strategic ally.

Partnering with Russia to conclude the January 22 Geneva – 2 conference with a successful political solution of the Syrian conflict, by drying up the regional sources of arms and money that fuel the conflict, will be Obama’s “small prize” towards earning his Nobel prize.

But his “big prize” will remain tied to ending the sixty five-year old Israeli war on the Palestinian people.

Israel’s warmongering against Iran, Syria, Lebanese Hezbullah and Palestinian anti-Israeli occupation resistance movements besieged in the Gaza strip stands isolated in the face of a consensus by the world community on pursuing Obama’s pledge that “diplomacy would continue” because, as he said last Sunday, “we cannot close the door on diplomacy, and we cannot rule out peaceful solutions to the world’s problems.”

“The plan of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu … has been to launch a massive military assault on Iran that has no guarantee of success in ending the nuclear program but would almost certainly unleash a region-wide war.” (http://www.philly.com, Nov. 24, 2013)

Netanyahu condemned the Iran deal as an “historic mistake;” he stated that “Israel is not bound by the agreement” and has the right to “defend itself by itself” before sending his cabinet minister Naftali Bennett to Capitol Hill to rally Congress against the White House and the State Department and calling on American Jews to oppose the policies of Obama’s government. Netanyahu leaves no doubt that he is well determined to abort the Iran deal and deprive Obama from earning his Nobel Peace Prize.

* Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Birzeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. nassernicola@ymail.com