July 29, 2014
Turkish Deputy PM: Women Shouldn’t Laugh in Public
Hundreds of women posted photos of themselves laughing to protest remarks that women should refrain from laughing in public.
The Clarion Project: Challenging extremism/promoting dialogue
The Deputy PM of Turkey Bülent Arınç said today that women should refrain from laughing in public, because it’s immodest. In response to Arınç’s remarks, hundreds of Turkish women posted pictures of themselves laughing on social media platforms.
Arınç, who spoke at an Eid el-Fitr gathering yesterday said, “[The woman] will know what is [forbidden] and not haram. She will not laugh in public. She will not be inviting in her attitudes and will protect her chasteness.”
Following Arınç’s remarks, hundreds of women protested by posting pictures of themselves laughing on Twitter and other social media sites like Instagram.
Arınç chided Turkish women saying, “Where are our girls, who slightly blush, lower their heads and turn their eyes away when we look at their face, becoming the symbol of chastity?” he said.
This is not the first time that a member of PM Erdogan’s AK Party expouses misogynist views in public.
Erdogan himself announced plans to crack down on abortions and Caesarean section births. In 2008, he gave a speech on International Women’s Day in the city of Usak in which he advised women to have at least three children, but he said that he preferred that they have five.
In 2010, he told a group of women’s rights activists who he invited to Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul: “I don’t believe in equality between men and women.”
Is the United States Spilling Its Allies’ Secrets?
November 1, 2013
The news of the last few weeks has been filled with complaints that the United States is electronically spying not only on enemies but on allies as well. As I wrote in a previous blog post, if we have in fact targeted the cell phones of leaders of friends and allies, such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, we should stop. Yes, the world is a dangerous place and gentlemen do read each others’ mail, but deliberately targeting the leader of an ally such as Germany is wrong and stupid. And especially so given the risk, these days, that such conduct will leak and damage important allied relationships.
Spying this way on allies is bad enough. Revealing their secrets to the press is even worse. Yet we have a pattern of doing this when it comes to Israel, and the most recent example came on October 31.
Earlier this past week a Syrian military base in Latakia was hit, and apparently an important quantity of missiles meant for delivery to Hezbollah were destroyed. There was speculation about the attack, including suggestions that Israel rather than Syrian rebels conducted it. But Israel remained mum, as it always does. It believes that its security is greatly enhanced by such silence, in part because bragging about these attacks might well humiliate Hezbollah or Assad and push them into some kind of retaliation. It is for this reason that Israel sought absolute American and Israeli official silence after its attack on the Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007. Indeed Israel still to this day, six years later, does not officially acknowledge that it conducted that attack. The United States remained silent about that attack until the danger of retaliation was thought to be gone.
But once again this week American officials told the press that Israel was responsible for an attack on Syria as soon as it occurred.
Here is the CNN story:
Israeli warplanes struck a military base near the Syrian port city of Latakia this week, an Obama administration official told CNN on Thursday. An explosion at a missile storage site in the area was reported in the Middle Eastern press, but an attack has not been confirmed by the Israeli government. The target, according to the Obama administration official, was missiles and related equipment the Israelis felt might be transferred to the Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah. The official declined to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the information.
U.S. officials did this as recently as July, as a New York Times story reported:
Israel carried out an air attack in Syria this month that targeted advanced antiship cruise missiles sold to the Syria government by Russia, American officials said Saturday. The officials, who declined to be identified because they were discussing intelligence reports, said the attack occurred July 5 near Latakia, Syria’s principal port city.
And we did it in May:
A series of powerful explosions rocked the outskirts of Damascus early Sunday morning, which Syrian state television said was the result of Israeli missile attacks on a Syrian military installation. If true, it would be the second Israeli airstrike in Syria in two days and the third this year…An American official, who asked not to be identified because he was discussing intelligence reports, said the targeted shipment consisted of Iranian-made Fateh-110s
There is a pernicious pattern here, and other examples could be cited. Add this to the NSA revelations, and the United States seems to be aggressive in stealing the secrets of some close allies and aggressive in ignoring the interests of allies by conveying intelligence information to the press. The continuing leaks about what Israel has been doing are dangerous and damaging. Israel is acting where we are not, enforcing red lines when we have failed to do so, and assuming risks we have refused to take. We act as a poor ally if we repeatedly and indeed recklessly increase the risk to Israel by treating sensitive information as fodder for the press.
Turkey’s Erdogan – an Autocratic Islamist Bigot
October 28, 2013
After over 50 years of Israeli-Turkish intelligence co-operation and sharing, the Turkish disclosure to Iran of the identities of Mossad operatives – apparently subsequently executed, illustrates the depths to which Israel-Turkey relations have descended under Islamist autocrat, Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan.
Erdogan seeks to conceal his true intentions and convey the illusion that he is himself a role model for an enlightened Islam which blends with democracy.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Erdogan is a fanatical Islamist and a vile bigot who lavishes praise on the Moslem Brotherhood, Hamas and Hezbollah and whose behavior is more reminiscent of an Ottoman Sultan than a democratically elected leader.
Erdogan has employed Islamist demagoguery to win three elections and has exploited his power and position to intimidate the media and destroy the opposition. He has purged the Army of its secular officers through primitive show trials and brutally repressed freedom of speech. Today, there are more imprisoned journalists in Turkey than in Communist China and perhaps any other country in the world.
Erdogan’s brutal response to environmentalist protesters against the redeveloping of Gezi Park in central Istanbul a few months ago, injuring over 4000 peaceful demonstrators, exemplified his authoritarianism and brutality. Der Spiegel quotes Turkish human rights organizations attesting that he subsequently engaged in a campaign to punish journalists, teachers and other activists involved in the protests, arresting at least 3000 people including children.
Since his demagogic outburst against President Peres in Davos live on TV in January 2009, followed by his dramatic storming out of the meeting, Erdogan’s attitude towards Israel has dramatically deteriorated. He shamelessly allies himself with the genocidal Hamas and refers to Israel as a “terrorist state” which “massacres children” and “knows well how to kill”. Only a few weeks ago, Erdogan hosted Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in Turkey for the third time in twelve months.
Clearly, he reached the conclusion that as a major Israel global basher he reaps dividends amongst the Arab masses and furthers his dream of becoming head of a new Ottoman Sunni empire.
Erdogan’s anti-Zionism is a natural extension of his anti-Semitism. As far back as 1974, he directed and played a leading role in a play entitled Maskomya, based on the evil global influence of Jews, Communists and Freemasons. As Mayor of Istanbul in 1998, he stated “Today the image of the Jews is no different from that of the Nazis”. In 2006 he endorsed the popular virulent anti-Semitic film “Valley of the Wolves” about an American Jew who trades in body parts. He blamed the Gezi Park environmental protest on the “interest rate lobby”, the “dual loyalists” and the “rootless cosmopolitans”, clear references to “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”. His deputy explicitly attributed the blame for the riots on the Jewish diaspora.
Erdogan has made outrageous statements in international circles. At a UN conference in Vienna in February, Erdogan stated, “Just like Zionism and fascism, Islamophobia must be regarded as a crime against humanity”.
Only a few weeks ago he blamed Israel for the upheavals in Egypt stating “What is said about Egypt? That democracy is not about the box. Who was behind this? Israel is. We have evidence in our hands”. When subsequently pressed to substantiate this xenophobic outburst, all he could do was to quote the French Jewish philosopher Bernard Henri Levy, not an Israeli, who had made negative references to the Moslem Brotherhood in 2001.
One of Erdogan’s favorite remarks is “There is no Islamic terror”. He also publicly undermines American efforts to boycott Iran and continues to provide Teheran with reliable trade outlets. Nonetheless, the US still considers Turkey a principal ally with which it shares “bonds of trust”.
In June 2012, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu launched “The Global Terrorism Forum” a counter-terrorism organization comprising thirty founding members, in which Israel was notably excluded. In September 2013, the US and Turkey expanded this organization by creating a $200 million joint venture fund – “The Global Fund for Community Engagement and Resilience” – purportedly to combat extremist ideologies amongst young people in the Moslem world. American taxpayers are footing the bill for this exercise, organized by an Islamist leadership that endorses Hamas, the Moslem Brotherhood and has shamelessly hosted former Iranian president Ahmadinejad and President Omer Hassan al Bashir, the genocidal leader of Sudan charged with war crimes.
The surreal nature of Turkish influence is best exemplified by the ongoing story of the Mavi Marmara flotillas that sought to break Israel’s weapons embargo on Gaza in May 2010. Following the international incident, Erdogan demanded that Israel issue an unequivocal apology for the death of nine Turkish protesters associated with Al Qaeda who were aboard the boat. When Israel acted in accordance with the ruling of an independent UN inquiry that found that it need not apologize for the loss of lives, Erdogan recalled his ambassador, orchestrated show trials against IDF personnel, and sought to exclude Israel’s involvement with global organizations, including NATO – this, from a leader who has never acknowledged his country’s massacre of one-and-a-half million Armenians in World War I.
Following his visit to Israel in March 2013, President Obama allegedly pressed Prime Minister Netanyahu to apologize and pay compensation to the Turkish terrorists’ families. Despite bitter condemnation in Israel, Netanyahu complied in order to restore relations with Turkey so that Israel and Turkey could cooperate on issues emerging in Syria. Erdogan agreed to cooperate with Israel at all levels.
But, unsurprisingly, the Turkish Prime Minister has failed to adhere to his commitment. Immediately after Israeli issued its apology, Erdogan announced his intention to visit Gaza, and demanded that Israel lift its maritime blockade against Hamas. Six months later, Erdogan still has not restored diplomatic relations nor suspended the show trials of senior Israeli officials. The Greek ambassador to Israel informed the Jerusalem Post that Turkey was still continuing to block Israel’s participation in NATO. This month, President Abdullah Gul stated that Israel had extended its apology “too late.”
In the light of this, it is disappointing that Obama continues to praise Erdogan as a “moderate Islamist” who “has shown great leadership”, ignoring the fact that he had effectively breached and violated all the undertakings brokered by him in relation to Israel and continues to seek to actively undermine efforts to impose sanctions on Iran . Not to mention that only a few weeks ago Erdogan announced a “strategic partnership” with China!
The reality is that whilst the inveterate anti-Semite Erdogan has his way, he will veto any efforts to improve relationships with Israel, despite the major strategic and economic benefits that would accrue to both countries.
Thus, even if the US clings to the fantasy that Turkey represents a moderate, democratically influenced form of Islam, we should not delude ourselves. Erdogan is running an anti-Semitic, anti-Israeli regime that supports Hamas and the Moslem Brotherhood. As long as he remains in power, Israel-Turkish relations will remain cold at best.
The Washington Post
Turkey blows Israel’s cover for Iranian spy ring
October 16, 2013
The Turkish-Israeli relationship became so poisonous early last year that the Turkish government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is said to have disclosed to Iranian intelligence the identities of up to 10 Iranians who had been meeting inside Turkey with their Mossad case officers.
Knowledgeable sources describe the Turkish action as a “significant” loss of intelligence and “an effort to slap the Israelis.” The incident, disclosed here for the first time, illustrates the bitter, multi-dimensional spy wars that lie behind the current negotiations between Iran and Western nations over a deal to limit the Iranian nuclear program. A Turkish Embassy spokesman had no comment.
Israeli anger at the deliberate compromise of its agents may help explain why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu became so entrenched in his refusal to apologize to Erdogan about the May 2010 Gaza flotilla incident . In that confrontation at sea, Israeli commandos boarded a Turkish-organized convoy of ships carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza. Nine Turks were killed.
Netanyahu finally apologized to Erdogan by phone in March after President Obama negotiated a compromise formula. But for more than a year before that, the Israeli leader had resisted entreaties from Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to heal the feud.
Top Israeli officials believe that, despite the apology, the severe strain with Erdogan continues. The Turkish intelligence chief, Hakan Fidan, is also suspect in Israel because of what are seen as friendly links with Tehran; several years ago, Israeli intelligence officers are said to have described him facetiously to CIA officials as “the MOIS station chief in Ankara,” a reference to Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security. The United States continued to deal with Fidan on sensitive matters, however.
Though U.S. officials regarded exposure of the Israeli network as an unfortunate intelligence loss, they didn’t protest directly to Turkish officials. Instead, Turkish-American relations continued warming last year to the point that Erdogan was among Obama’s key confidants. This practice of separating intelligence issues from broader policymaking is said to be a long-standing U.S. approach.
U.S. officials were never sure whether the Turkish disclosure was done in retaliation for the flotilla incident or was part of a broader deterioration in Turkish-Israeli relations.
Israeli intelligence had apparently run part of its Iranian spy network through Turkey, which has relatively easy movement back and forth across its border with Iran. The Turkish intelligence service, known as the Milli Istihbarat Teskilati, or MIT, conducts aggressive surveillance inside its borders, so it had the resources to monitor Israeli-Iranian covert meetings.
U.S. officials assessed the incident as a problem of misplaced trust, rather than bad tradecraft. They reasoned that the Mossad, after more than 50 years of cooperation with Turkey, never imagined the Turks would “shop” Israeli agents to a hostile power, in the words of one source. But Erdogan presented a unique challenge, as he moved in 2009 to champion the Palestinian cause and, in various ways, steered Ankara away from what had been, in effect, a secret partnership with Jerusalem.
The Israeli-Turkish intelligence alliance was launched in a secret meeting in August 1958 in Ankara between David Ben-Gurion, then Israel’s prime minister, and Adnan Menderes, then Turkey’s prime minister. “The concrete result was a formal but top-secret agreement for comprehensive cooperation” between the Mossad and Turkish intelligence, wrote Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman in their 2012 book, “Spies Against Armageddon.”
The groundwork had been laid secretly by Reuven Shiloah, the founding director of the Mossad, as part of what he called a “peripheral alliance strategy.” Through that partnership, Israelis provided training in espionage to the Turks and, ironically, also to Iranians under the shah’s government, which was toppled in 1979.
Fidan, the Turkish spy chief, is a key Erdogan adviser. He became head of the MIT in 2010 after serving as a noncommissioned officer in the Turkish army and gaining a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland and a doctorate in Ankara. After Fidan took over the Turkish service, “he rattled Turkey’s allies by allegedly passing to Iran sensitive intelligence collected by the U.S. and Israel,” according to a recent profile in the Wall Street Journal. The Journal also noted U.S. fears that Fidan was arming jihadist rebels in Syria.
The Netanyahu-Erdogan quarrel, with its overlay of intelligence thrust and parry, is an example of the kaleidoscopic changes that may be ahead in the Middle East. The United States, Israel, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are all exploring new alliances and struggling to find a new equilibrium — overtly and covertly.
Palestinian Media Watch (PMW)
October 3, 2013
Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik
During the current peace talks, and on the same day Palestinian Authority Chairman Abbas asserted at the UN the Palestinians’ goal of achieving peace, an Abbas representative and other PA and Fatah officials were busy honoring terrorist Abu Sukkar.
The PA and Fatah held a well-attended memorial in Ramallah for Ahmad Jabara Abu Sukkar who planned a bombing attack, using a refrigerator filled with explosives, that killed 15 Israelis and wounded over 60 in Jerusalem in 1975.
At the ceremony, Abbas’ speech, which was delivered by Fatah official Jibril Rajoub, referred to Abu Sukkar as “a hero” and “the legend” who “outlined a path for us.” Abbas’ speech stressed that Abu Sukkar is a role model and that “Fatah lost a beacon”:
Abbas’ words read by Rajoub: “Abu Sukkar, the legend who walked on earth, Abu Sukkar, who with the sweat of his brow, with his faith, with his sincere belonging outlined for us a path and wrote a page [of history] that is unforgettable and indescribable… Believe me that Abu Sukkar is worthy of being named the most noble among the noble [prisoners]… [Abu Sukkar] is worthy of receiving the utmost honor and appreciation from us. To the people of [village] Turmus Ayya and to Abu Sukkar’s family, I say: ‘You lost a hero, but we, Abu Sukkar’s comrades… in Fatah and in the Palestinian National Movement, lost a beacon…'”
Abbas went on to praise terrorist Abu Sukkar as “a giant”:
“I cannot but say that Abu Sukkar lived as a giant and died as a giant. He should remain in our hearts with this glory, this greatness.”
During the ceremony, terrorist Abu Sukkar’s family was given a plaque of honor by member of the Fatah Central Committee Jibril Rajoub representing Mahmoud Abbas, Minister of Prisoners’ Affairs Issa Karake, District Governor of Ramallah Laila Ghannam, and Chairman of the Prisoners’ Club Qadura Fares.
As part of the ceremony, the organizers chose to show interviews with different people about Abu Sukkar’s life. A released prisoner described how the attack “cost the Zionists many lives and contributed to raising the Palestinian people’s morale.”
The following day, official PA TV broadcast a film about the terrorist’s life. In the film, member of Fatah Central Committee and Fatah Commissioner of Arab Relations and Relations with China, Abbas Zaki, praises the bombing attack:
“He started [out] with a wonderful and high quality operation (killing 15) using a refrigerator [bomb], that made the enemies lose sleep.”
In July, Palestinian Media Watch reported that the PA gave the “refrigerator bomber” an official military funeral, during which Abbas’ representative, Secretary-General Tayeb Abd Al-Rahim, in an interview referred to Abu Sukkar’s “good and wonderful deeds for this nation… [which] will always remain an example for us.”
These words of praise were also included in the PA TV film about Abu Sukkar.
The official PA daily reported that the recent memorial was organized by the PA Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs and the Prisoners’ Commission in the Fatah Recruitment and Organization [Commission], among others.
Terrorist Ahmad Jabara Abu Sukkar was sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years for the bombing attack, but was released from prison after 28 years as part of a goodwill gesture from Israel to the PA in 2003. He was a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council and an advisor to Arafat on prisoners’ affairs. He died of a heart attack in July of this year.
PMW has documented how PA and Fatah officials continue to glorify terrorists. While Abbas at the UN asserted that the Palestinians wish for peace, a ping pong tournament named after terrorist Dalal Mughrabi and sponsored by Jibril Rajoub was announced.
The following are longer excerpts from statements made at the PA memorial for terrorist Abu Sukkar and from the film about his life broadcast on PA TV:
Moderator at the PA memorial for terrorist Ahmad Jabara Abu Sukkar: “The speech of President Mahmoud Abbas will be delivered by Jibril Rajoub, member of Fatah’s Central Committee.”
Member of the Fatah Central Committee Jibril Rajoub: “Abu Sukkar, the legend who walked on earth, Abu Sukkar, who with the sweat of his brow, with his faith, with his sincere belonging outlined for us a path and wrote a page [of history] that is unforgettable and indescribable… Believe me that Abu Sukkar is worthy of being named the most noble among the noble [prisoners] because he is Abu Sukkar. Abu Sukkar, who spurned his American passport, who scorned the life of comfort, who returned to the homeland [from the US] to fulfill our dream, is worthy of receiving the utmost honor and appreciation from us. To the people of [village] Turmus Ayya and to Abu Sukkar’s family, I say: ‘You lost a hero, but we, Abu Sukkar’s comrades… in Fatah and in the Palestinian National Movement, lost a beacon…’
I truly believe you did Abu Sukkar an injustice by asking me to speak, because I do not think that all the dictionaries would be able to do this man justice. Nonetheless, I suggest that everyone read about the life experience of Abu Sukkar, from the day he left [his village] Turmus Ayya until his return to Turmus Ayya. He went to jail. With his simplicity, his honesty and his sincere belonging he was a role model for tens of thousands of prisoners and detainees…
I cannot but say that Abu Sukkar lived as a giant and died as a giant. He should remain in our hearts with this glory, this greatness, with this sincere, honest and constant smile that lasted until the last moment of his life.
I salute our prisoners, one more time, brother commander Marwan Barghouti, our comrades in the [Fatah] Central Committee, brother Ahmad Sa’adat… We love and value you and your families, and foremost among them Um Al-Qassam (Marawan Barghouti’s wife) whom we salute.”
During the ceremony terrorist Abu Sukkar’s family was given a plaque of honor by member of the Fatah Central Committee Jibril Rajoub representing PA Chairman Abbas, Minister of Prisoners’ Affairs Issa Karake, District Governor of Ramallah Laila Ghannam, and Chairman of the Prisoners’ Club Qadura Fares.
Marwan Barghouti – serving five life sentences for orchestrating terror attacks against Israeli civilians. When arrested in 2002, he headed Fatah’s military wing, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades. After he was convicted and imprisoned, he was re-elected member of the Palestinian Authority parliament.
Ahmad Sa’adat – serving a 30-year sentence for heading the PFLP terror organization. A song at a PFLP event also praised him for planning the assassination of Israeli Minister of Tourism Rehavam Ze’evi in 2001, but he has not been tried for this crime.
Released prisoner Muhammad Al-Beiruti, about Abu Sukkar’s terror attack, excerpt from film shown at PA memorial for Abu Sukkar:
“We all know that Abu Sukkar’s operation (i.e., terror attack) was transporting a refrigerator that had been wired [with explosives] by another person, and placing it on Zion street [in Jerusalem]. This operation cost the Zionists many lives (15 were killed) and contributed to raising the Palestinian people’s morale.”
Member of Fatah Central Committee and Commissioner of Arab Relations and Relations with China, Abbas Zaki, about Abu Sukkar’s terror attack, excerpt from film shown on PA TV the day after the PA memorial:
“He started [out] with a wonderful and high quality operation (i.e., terror attack) using a refrigerator, that made the enemies lose sleep. He started [out] as an exemplary, self-sacrificing fighter and also in prison he was with a noble group of our Palestinian nation and they turned the detention centers into combat [training] schools.”
Secretary-General of the Presidential Office, Tayeb Abd Al-Rahim, about terrorist Abu Sukkar, excerpt from film shown on PA TV the day after the PA memorial:
“Brother Abu Sukkar was released 10 years ago. For over eight years, he has participated in activities and [attended] house visits to families of Martyrs (Shahids). We miss this man. He will remain in our minds and veins. His memory and his good and wonderful deeds for this nation and for this nation’s cause will always remain an example for us to emulate.”
The following is an excerpt from the official PA daily, stating who organized the PA memorial for terrorist Abu Sukkar:
“The [PA] Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs, the Prisoners’ Club, the Supreme Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs and the Prisoners’ Commission in the [Fatah] Recruitment and Organization [Commission] held a memorial in the Ramallah Auditorium for fighter (i.e., terrorist) Ahmad Jabara ‘Abu Sukkar’, most veteran of the Palestinian prisoners.”
Ahmad Abu Sukkar – planned a bombing attack in 1975 in which a refrigerator filled with explosives was detonated on a main street in Jerusalem. 15 people were killed and over 60 people were wounded. He was sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years, but was released from prison after 28 years as part of a goodwill gesture from Israel to the PA in 2003. He was a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council and an advisor to Arafat on prisoners’ affairs. He died of a heart attack in 2013 in the PA.
FDD (Foundation for the Defense of Democracy)
Thorn in the Side
Why is Turkey sheltering a dangerous Hamas operative?
Sept. 17, 2013
Turkey is a member of NATO and an aspiring member of the European Union — but it has one alliance that sets it apart from its Western counterparts: It’s an important base of operations for at least one high-ranking member of the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made no secret of his desire to transform Hamas into an accepted member of the international community. In 2011, he told a U.S. audience that the Palestinian party was not a terrorist group, and he has repeatedly vowed to visit the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Ankara has also provided Hamas with significant financial support — as much as $300 million, according to some estimates.
In his attempts to strengthen Hamas, Erdogan has also allowed his country’s ties with Israel to suffer. The Turkish leader famously stormed offstage during a contentious 2009 panel with Israeli President Shimon Peres, in protest of Israel’s isolation of Gaza. Relations between Ankara and Jerusalem plummeted further the following year, after Turkey’s largest NGO dispatched a flotilla that tried to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza, leading to clashes between Israeli commandos and activists that left nine Turks dead.
More recently, however, the two countries have take steps to bury the hatchet. This year, U.S. President Barack Obama facilitated a phone call between Erdogan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which began a process that resulted in Israel issuing an apology for the incident and agreeing to pay reparations to the victims’ families. Mutual interests in Turkey — namely the ouster of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad — have provided additional hope for rapprochement.
However, Erdogan’s support for Hamas could become a serious stumbling block for a further warming of ties with Israel. The Turkish premier’s ties with Hamas remain as strong as ever — in fact, they appear to have deepened.
Turkey currently serves as the home for Hamas operative Saleh al-Arouri, whom the Palestinian movement’s website identifies as the founder of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s armed wing, in the West Bank. One senior Israeli intelligence official described him to me as “one of the most important leaders of Hamas … involved in a lot of things including finance and logistics.”
Arouri’s presence in Turkey raises the stakes in what the official calls a “dirty game” that Ankara is playing with the militant group. Just this year, Hamas’s military wing in the West Bank kidnap soldiers and civilians and even planned to bomb an outdoor shopping mall. As the head of the West Bank’s Qassam Brigades, Arouri may well have directed those attacks from Turkey.
Arouri was originally recruited by Hamas while studying at Hebron University, and he has served as a high-ranking military leader for the movement since the early 1990s, according to U.S. court documents. After serving several stretches of jail time, Israel released him in March 2010, possibly as part of an effort to secure the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. After Arouri’s release, he served as a political official in Hamas’s headquarters in Damascus, where he reportedly played a role in negotiating the Shalit deal, which brokered the soldier’s freedom for more than 1,000 Palestinians in Israeli custody.
When Hamas parted ways with Syria over the Assad regime’s massacres in the country’s ongoing civil war, Arouri left Damascus and is believed to have started operating out of Turkey last year. He has not been shy about his presence there: In March 2012, for example, he was part of a Hamas delegation that took part in talks with Turkish officials, including Erdogan. In October 2012, he traveled from Turkey to Gaza to attend the visit of Qatar’s emir to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
But diplomacy appears to be only one part of Arouri’s job. He is also allegedly involved in Hamas’s illicit financial networks. In April 2013, Israeli security services announced the arrest of two Palestinians for smuggling money from Jordan to Hamas operatives in the West Bank. During the interrogation, according to the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, one smuggler admitted that he was moving the money upon the orders of Arouri.
Presumably, those orders were issued from Turkey. The veteran Israeli analyst of Palestinian affairs, Ehud Yaari, recently noted that Turkey is allowing Arouri to direct efforts to rebuild Hamas’s terrorism infrastructure in the West Bank. If Arouri really has, as Yaari writes, “taken sole control of the movement’s activities in the West Bank,” Turkey appears to have in effect taken over from Damascus and become Hamas’s West Bank headquarters.
If Arouri is behind the funding, recruiting, or planning of any of these Hamas operations in the West Bank, it will have grave consequences for Turkey. To the letter of the law, Turkey could meet criteria as a state sponsor of terrorism. Strange friends for a nation that views itself part of the Western alliance.
Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the U.S. Treasury Department, is vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Israel and the Gulf states: It’s complicated
They have many common interests, but now more than ever,
any rapprochement needs to remain secret, some officials say.
So why did Jerusalem open a ‘virtual embassy’ in the Gulf?
Times of Israel
August 9, 2013
In February 2009, a few days after Israel concluded its Operation Cast Lead against Gaza terrorists, the chief of protocol at Qatar’s Foreign Ministry invited Roi Rosenblit, who at the time headed Israel’s interest office in Doha, for a meeting in his office. Rosenblit knew exactly what awaited him: a few days earlier he had seen how then-Qatari prime minister Hamad bin Jassim, angry over Palestinian casualties, announced live on al-Jazeera that the period of normalization with Israel needed to end.
The Qatari diplomat welcomed Rosenblit, friendly as always, served him tea with za’atar, and then handed him an envelope. In the letter, the government of Qatar politely yet determinedly informed the Israeli that he had one week to close down the Israeli mission on 15 al-Buhturi Street, and leave the country.
Since then, Israel no longer officially maintains diplomatic relations with any of the Arab states in the Gulf — or does it?
It is widely believed that Jerusalem still maintains some sort of engagement with various states in the Persian Gulf region. Yet the government is extremely careful not to publicly admit such ties — in order not to jeopardize them. One thing is certain: Jerusalem is vocally advocating for stronger ties with the overwhelmingly Sunni Gulf states in the Gulf, hoping both for commercial opportunities and geo-strategic advantages. On July 18, the Israeli Foreign Ministry opened a Twitter channel exclusively “dedicated to promoting dialogue with the people of the GCC region.” The GCC, short for Cooperation Council of Arab States in the Gulf, includes Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, and Kuwait. (Never mind that Israel still officially considers Saudi Arabia an enemy state and prohibits its citizens from entering the country.)
Within less than a month, the “official channel of the virtual Israeli Embassy to GCC countries” picked up more than 1,100 followers. On Tuesday, on the occasion of the Eid al-Fitr holiday (which marks the end of Ramadan), the channel hosted a live chat with Foreign Ministry director-general Rafi Barak. The top diplomat mostly stuck to slogans, saying that Israel is interested in peace and neighborly relations with all its neighbors. One Kuwaiti wanted to know how he could visit Israel in the absence of an Israeli embassy; “You can apply for a visa in any Israeli mission abroad,” Barak responded, suggesting citizens of Arab states turn to the Israeli embassy in Amman.
Benoit Chapas, a EU official dealing with the Gulf states, wondered whether Israel had any “plans to reopen” its offices in the area. “We will be happy to,” Barak replied.
He might as well have said: “we already did,” because, since earlier this year, Israelis know that the Foreign Ministry has recently taken a symbolically meaningful and potentially significant step indicating that ties between Israel and the Gulf are warming up again. A carelessly edited version of the 2013 state budget revealed that Israel opened a diplomatic office somewhere in the Persian Gulf. On page 213 of the document, readers learn that between 2010 and 2012, Israel opened 11 new representative offices across the globe, including one in the Gulf. Foreign Ministry sources in the know said they asked the Finance Ministry to remove the sensitive clause from the budget, but it is still there for anyone to see.
The exact nature of that mission — where it is, how many diplomats are or were stationed there, and whether it is still open — remains unclear. Unsurprisingly, the Foreign Ministry is unwilling to comment any further on the issue. “Others in the Foreign Ministry disagree with me, but as I see it, talking about it publicly would serve absolutely no purpose, other than risking whatever cooperation we have,” an Israeli diplomat well-versed in Jerusalem’s relationship with the Arab world said.
Indeed, the secrecy surrounding Israel’s mysterious office in the Gulf goes so far that even senior diplomats, including those dealing on a daily basis with the GCC, gave The Times of Israel conflicting information about it. Some asserted that “we have absolutely nothing” in the Gulf and that the line in the budget must have been an error. Others admitted that there is — or was — something but declined to detail.
Not everyone in the Foreign Ministry is happy with the idea of establishing a “virtual embassy” to openly engage with the residents of the Gulf states via social networks. “This ‘virtual activity’ will put our tangible activity at risk,” one diplomat opined.
Israel and the Arab world have been engaging for decades, in various, mostly clandestine ways. In the 1990s, in the wake of the Oslo Accords, trade and political ties grew stronger, so much so that the Israeli chamber of commerce published a guide in Hebrew on how to do business in the Gulf. In 1994, then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin visited Oman, where he was greeted by Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said (who is still reigning in Muscat). In 1995, a few days after Rabin was assassinated, then-acting prime minister Shimon Peres hosted Omani foreign minister Yusuf Ibn Alawi in Jerusalem.
In January 1996, Israel and Oman — which has always been Jerusalem’s best friend in the GCC — signed an agreement on the reciprocal opening of trade representative offices. “Oman believes that the current step will lead to continued progress in the peace process, and increased stability in the region,” the Israel Foreign Ministry declared at the time, adding that the office’s main role will be “to develop reciprocal economic and trade relations with Oman, as well as cooperation in the spheres of water, agriculture, medicine, and communications.”
Four months later, Peres visited Oman and Qatar to officially open “Israel Trade Representation Offices” in both capitals.
At the airport in Doha, the Israeli prime minister reviewed an honor guard before heading to the Royal Palace for a meeting with Qatari Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani (who ruled until last month, when he abdicated the throne in favor of his son).
Headed by a small team of three Israeli diplomats, the offices in Muscat and Doha functioned “basically like a regular embassy — just without the Israeli flag,” an official stationed in both missions recalled.
The overt ties with Oman didn’t last for even half a decade. In October 2000, in the wake of the Second Intifada, Omani rulers felt the public opinion turned against Israel, suspended relations and closed the mission. The Israeli Foreign Ministry expressed regret at the decision, emphasizing that the cessation of contact and dialogue does nothing to advance the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. “In days of crisis, it is especially important that lines of communication between countries be kept open,” the ministry declared.
However, despite shutting down the Israeli representative office, located on Muscat’s Al-Adhiba Street, the government of Oman quietly encouraged Israeli diplomats to stick around, as long as the ongoing engagement between the two countries stayed secret.
Official diplomatic relations with Qatar survived for nine more years, until Emir Hamad’s rage (or perhaps that of his subjects) led him to ask the Israelis to close up shop. But just like the ruler of Oman, the Qatari leader also hinted that, while the official channel needed to be closed, he would not mind if Israeli diplomats in his country continued their work, as long as they do it under the radar.
A few months after Qatar had expelled the Israeli mission, the country’s rulers twice offered to reestablish ties — including a reopening of the office in Doha. In return, the Qataris demanded that Israel allow the small Gulf state to take a leading role in the rebuilding of Gaza. They also demanded Jerusalem publicly express appreciation for the state’s role and acknowledge its standing in the region.
According to Haaretz, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was initially inclined to accept the offer but eventually declined, mainly because the Qataris also demanded to be allowed to bring large amounts of cement and other construction material into Gaza, which Israeli officials said ran counter to the state’s security interest. The Qataris cannot hope “to restore cooperative relations with Israel without agreeing to reopen the trade office,” a senior Israeli official said at the time, according to a secret diplomatic cable published by the whistleblower website WikiLeaks.
So far, Oman and Qatar are the only GCC states that agreed to openly maintaining diplomatic contacts with Israel. Yet it is well-known that Jerusalem had (and might still have) contacts to probably most other states in the region. These clandestine ties are mostly the domain of the Mossad. On its website, the spy agency openly states that one of its key goals is “Developing and maintaining special diplomatic and other covert relations” and one can safely assume that Israeli agents are in touch with officials from at least a handful of Arab states in the region that would never admit to having any contacts with Israel.
Take Bahrain for example. Jerusalem and Manama never maintained diplomatic relations, but, in 2005, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa boasted to an American official that his state has contacts with Israel “at the intelligence/security level (i.e., with Mossad),” according to a different secret US diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks. The king also indicated willingness “to move forward in other areas, although it will be difficult for Bahrain to be the first.” The development of “trade contacts,” though, would have to wait for the implementation of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the king told the ambassador.
Other WikiLeaks documents show that senior officials from both countries have spoken in recent years, such as a 2007 meeting between then-foreign minister Tzipi Livni and Bahraini foreign minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed Al Khalifa in New York. The Bahraini foreign minister in 2009 also signaled that he was willing to meet Netanyahu to try to advance the peace process, but ultimately decided not to go ahead with the plan.
It is not difficult to figure out why the Gulf states would be interested in closer cooperation with Israel. Most importantly, the Jewish state is a regional superpower, widely assumed to possess an impressive nuclear arsenal, and has openly vowed to prevent Iran from acquiring such weapons. The Gulf states, some of which have decades-old territorial disputes with Tehran, are just as scared as Israel is of a nuclear-armed Iran.
“In the Gulf, there is a particular concern over Iran and what appears to be the lackluster performance in Obama’s administration in stopping them from getting nuclear weapons,” said Prof. Joshua Teitelbaum, senior research associate at Bar-Ilan University’s Begin Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. “This will lead, if it hasn’t already, to closer cooperation between Israel and the Gulf states.”
Indeed, Arabs in the Gulf believe in Jerusalem’s role in fighting Iran “because of their perception of Israel’s close relationship with the US, but also due to their sense that they can count on Israel against Iran,” then-Foreign Ministry deputy director-general (and current ambassador to Germany) Yacov Hadas-Handelsman said during a briefing with senior US officials in 2009. ”They believe Israel can work magic.”
But it’s more than just Iran. Israel and the Gulf states also have in common their fear of extremist political Islamism, such as practiced by Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, or Hezbollah. While it is true that Qatar has good ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas — last year, the emir became the first head of state to visit Gaza since it was taken over by the Palestinian terrorist group in 2007 — the GCC states in general are afraid of political and religious extremists that threaten their rule, especially from Shiite elements. (Qatar is unique in the sense that it manages good relations to all players in the region and even the US).
According to experts, the Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait, are more worried about the Muslim Brotherhood than about Iran. “Israel and Gulf states seek stability and they work together to further this stability. This leaves lots of room for common tasks, as long as they keep it secret,” said Teitelbaum, whose research focuses on political and social development in the Arab world and the Persian Gulf in particular.
If the GCC and Jerusalem are in the same camp, geo-strategically speaking, why the need to sweep any sort of cooperation under the rug? “Why should they cause problems when there are none?” Teitelbaum said. “They have so many other issues to deal with, the last thing they need to is to publicly call for cooperation with Israel.”
Public opinion in the Arab world was always against Israel, and Qatar and Oman could only allow themselves to open up to Israel after Rabin’s peace process had come into gear. As soon as Israeli-Palestinians violence flared up, they cut all official ties.
Perhaps ironically, the Arab Spring does not make easier for the Gulf states’ autocratic leaders to get closer to Israel again, experts say. For the first time in history, public opinion has become a determining factor of the Arab world’s political system, and the rulers in the Gulf will think twice before admitting any sort of engagement with the Zionist entity.
It’s not so much about the Gulf nations’ love for the Palestinians. “The leaders of the GCC states couldn’t care less about the 1967 borders,” said a Jerusalem source intimately familiar with GCC politics. “For all that matters to them, the Green Line could be somewhere between Ohio and Maryland. It is the conflict that bothers them, because it strengthens the radical forces in the region.”
The recent resumption of Israeli-Palestinians peace negotiations, unlikely as they are to yield any results, will not be enough to allow the Gulf states to openly reengage with Israel. There are ways, however, in which Israel could make it easier for them to work towards an détente, Teitelbaum suggested. For example by speaking positively about the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative – in which the entire Arab world offered normal diplomatic relations with Israel in return for a comprehensive agreement with the Palestinians – or making a similar proposal to reach regional peace.
In the mean time, the GCC states will just stand on the sidelines and go on with business as usual — covert cooperation in the economic and intelligence fields but no official rapprochement. “Unless there is an official treaty with the Palestinians, I don’t think we can expect anything like formal relations,” Teitelbaum said. “That’s just how they are. From their perspective, it just doesn’t much sense…they have everything to gain from keeping it the way it is currently.”
Sandmonkey, Egypt, And The IMF
April 12, 2013
When I began this blog a little more than two years ago, one of the early posts was entitled “Free Sandmonkey.” Sandmonkey is the “nom de blog” of Mahmoud Salem, then Egypt’s most famous blogger, and he had that day in 2011 been “ambushed & beaten by the police, my phone confiscated, my car ripped apar& supplies taken,” as he informed his readers. He continues to be one of the most interesting and persuasive commentators on events in Egypt.
Today he has written an article entitled “A View from Cairo: Egypt Is Too Big to Save,” published by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Mr. Salem’s conclusion is this:
If Washington pushes the IMF to expedite the loan under the current economic and political conditions, it will not succeed in stabilizing the country or restoring investor confidence. Rule of law is key — a loan without necessary reforms would be money wasted on propping up a failing government for a few more months, further entangling Washington with the Morsi administration at a time when the latter’s long-term survival is increasingly costly and doubtful.
He is in my view absolutely right. He explains how much trouble Egypt is in, and how little Washington appears to understand it:
Two years after the popular revolt that toppled Hosni Mubarak, Egypt appears headed toward a “failed state” scenario. While Cairo has not yet defaulted on its debts — an economic hallmark of nearly all erstwhile states — it already meets many of the other political conditions associated with comprehensive failure. In Washington, the discussion is narrowly focused on the implications of the rapidly deteriorating economic situation, with little appreciation that the financial morass is inextricably linked to the government’s increasingly authoritarian politics. If the ruling Islamist party does not change its approach, the economy will not improve, and the state will move closer to collapse.
Egypt’s economic problems require a political as well as economic solution; throwing money at them –even if we had the money– is not enough. The Qataris will find this out and not even they have enough spare cash lying around to keep Egypt going if its government refuses to change its current policies.
The Islamists Multi-Staged Strategy for Victory Over the West
January 21, 2013
Muslim cleric Yousef al-Qaradawi arrives in Tahrir Square on Feb.18, 2011 to lead Friday prayers after the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. One of the mistakes that the West makes is that it doesn’t listen to what the Islamists are saying. If only we listened, we could hear their strategy. In November 2011, Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi, the top Muslim Brotherhood theologian and arguably the most influential Sunni cleric in the world, called on Muslims to embrace “gradualism.”
The doctrine of gradualism is successful because we fail to appreciate the ability of the Islamists to be skillful political strategists. Gradualism is an intelligent form of jihad based on pragmatism, patience, long-term planning and self-evaluation.
The Islamists evaluate their performance and recalibrate their strategy accordingly. The West misinterprets this as being “moderate,” when in reality, not all Islamists are as reckless as Al-Qaeda.
“Gradualism in applying the Sharia is a wise requirement to follow,” Qaradawi declared, stating that Mohammed followed it.
The Islamists, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, have always worked in stages. In December, the Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide, Mohamed Badi, outlined six phases:
1.Sharia over the individual
2.Sharia over the family;
3.Sharia over the society;
4.Sharia over the government;
5. Resurrection of the Caliphate and finally,
6.“Mastership of the world.”
The Muslim Brotherhood is in the process of completing the fourth phase in Egypt.
In this stage, the Islamists implement Sharia by describing it as their form of “democracy” and “freedom.” They will argue that each democracy is different and so we must be tolerant of their version. Sheikh Qaradawi explains, “What I am for is a genuine type of democracy, for a society driven by the laws of Sharia that is compatible with the values of freedom, human rights, justice and equity.”
Muslim Brotherhood logoQaradawi admits that “our democracy is different.” Secular democracy like that in the West does not honor God and is immoral. “Democracy itself also can make what it wants as lawful, or prohibit anything it does not like. In comparison, the Sharia as a political system has limits. If we are to adopt democracy, we should adopt its best features.”
As far back as 1982, the Muslim Brotherhood had drawn up a 12-point strategy to “establish an Islamic government on earth.” It was discovered when the Swiss authorities raided the home of Yousef Nada in 2001 and is referred to as “The Project.”
The document says to exercise “flexibility at the local level” and “to reconcile political engagement and the necessity of avoiding isolation on one hand, with permanent education and institutional action on the other.”
It calls for “controlling the local centers of power through institutional action” and to build alliances with other Islamic groups even if there are disagreements. It supports “temporary cooperation” with non-Muslim groups that are anti-Israel and “struggle against colonialism.”
The strategy document says the worldwide Brotherhood must “support movements engaged in jihad across the Muslim world” but “should not look for confrontation with our adversaries, at the local or the global scale, which would be disproportionate and could lead to attacks.”
It talks of constructive “self-criticism” and using the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to further its strategy, “since it acts as the keystone of the renaissance of the Arab world today.” In other words, use the conflict to radicalize the masses.
Hamas, a wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, also acts in accordance with gradualism. In December, the leader of Hamas stated that it was working towards the “interim objective of liberation of Gaza, the West Bank, or Jerusalem.” The destruction of Israel, or in the Islamists’ words, the “liberation of all Palestine,” follows.
Wherever the Muslim Brotherhood and similar Islamists operate, there is a phased strategy—even in the United States. The Islamic Circle of North America, one of the most powerful Muslim-American groups in the U.S., explained its five phases in its handbook published in 2010 and it very closely follows what Badie said in Egypt.
The phases are: Educating yourself; Converting your family; Outreach into the community; “establish an Islamic society” on the state level and then a “united Islamic state, governed by an elected khalifah in accordance with the laws of Sharia.”
An FBI memo written in 1988 likewise documented that a source, apparently within the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood in the U.S., described a six-phased plan.
At the time, the Muslim Brotherhood, specifically the International Institute of Islamic Thought and the North American Islamic Trust, were working on the first phase. It included creating “political action front groups with no traceable ties” so that it can “peacefully get inside the United States government and also American universities.”
The source told the FBI that Brotherhood operatives “claimed success infiltrating the United States government.”
In 2004, the FBI found seized another Brotherhood strategy document that describes its “work in America as a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying Western civilization within.” It describes 5 phases:
1. The “secret establishment of leadership”
2. “…gradual appearance on the public scene.” This phase calls for “infiltrating various sectors of government,” “gaining religious institutions,” “gaining public support and sympathy,” and “establishing a shadow government.”
3. “Escalation phase.” This focuses on “utilizing mass media” and the document says that this stage is “currently in progress.” Unfortunately, we do not know when this was written.
4.“Open confrontation with the government through…political pressure.” It also calls for “training on the use of weapons domestically” and says that there are “noticeable activities in this regard.” Could this have something to do with the Jamaat ul-Fuqra training camps on American soil?
5. The final phase: “Seizing power to establish their Islamic Nation under which all parties and Islamic groups are united.”
The Islamists have a comprehensive long-term strategy for victory that’s been around for decades. It’s about time that we made one of our own.
On Second Thought … Maybe that Israeli Apology to Turkey was a Good Idea
March 29, 2013
That prediction was born out in spades.
The municipality of Turkey’s capital city, Ankara, put up billboards on city streets reveling in the Israeli apology. They are not subtle, showing a sad-looking Netanyahu beneath a larger, buoyant Erdoğan, separated by the Mavi Marmara itself. Addressing Erdoğan, they read: “Israel apologized to Turkey. Dear Prime Minister, we are grateful that you let our country experience this pride.”
Ankara municipality’s gloating billboards.
Erdoğan himself claims not only that the apology has changed the balance of power in the Arab-Israeli conflict but that it obligates Israel to work with Ankara in its diplomacy with the Palestinians. He told parliament: “The point we have arrived at as a result of our consultations with all our brothers in Palestine and peripheral countries is increasing our responsibility with regard to solving the Palestinian question and thus is bringing about a new equation.” Erdoğan also claimed that Israel agreed to cooperate with Turkey on talks with the Palestinians. Hürriyet Daily News goes on to paraphrase Erdoğan: “He said all his regional interlocutors, including Khaled Mashaal of the Hamas, admit that a new era has begun in the Middle East what they all call after Turkish victory on Israeli apology.”
No less notable is Erdoğan’s petty put down of the Israeli side:
Erdoğan said his conversation with Netanyahu took place under the witness of Obama but he wanted first to talk with the US President as he missed his voice. “I talked to him and we have reviewed the text and confirmed the [apology] process. we have therefore accomplished this process under Obama’s witness,” Erdoğan said, adding this phone conversation has also been recorded alongside with written statements issued from all three sides.
Ryan Mauro sums up Turkish actions over the past week:
Erdoğan is extending his time in the spotlight by demanding that Israel pay $1 million to each of the nine casualties’ families, ten times the amount Israel has offered. He isn’t yet dropping his case against the Israeli generals involved in the raid, nor is he fully restoring diplomatic ties with Israel. And he’s announced that he will visit the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip in what is a thinly-concealed victory lap.
Indeed, the Turkish gloating has been so conspicuous and extended that it may have prompted to a healthy sense of reality. So long as the Mavi Marmara incident hung over their relations with Ankara, Israelis and others could believe that this would magically undo the past decade. The illusion could persist that the Turks, however unreasonably, just needed to put this unpleasantness aside and things would revert to the good old days.
Now that Israelis humiliated themselves and Erdoğan is rampaging ahead, some are awakening to the fact that this apology only made matters worse. Naftali Bennett, Israel’s minister of economy and trade, slammed the Turkish response: “Since the apology was made public, it appears Erdoğan is doing everything he can to make Israel regret it, while conducting a personal and vitriolic campaign at the expense of Israel-Turkey relations. Let there be no doubt — no nation is doing Israel a favor by renewing ties with it. It should also be clear to Erdoğan that if Israel encounters in the future any terrorism directed against us, our response will be no less severe.”
Boaz Bismuth of Israel Hayom colorfully notes that Israelis “didn’t expect to feel that only several days after Israel’s apology, Erdoğan would already be making us feel that we had eaten a frog along with our matzah this year.”
Perhaps after all the apology was a good thing. For a relatively inexpensive price – some words – Israelis and others have gained a better insight into the Turkish leadership’s mentality. It’s not that they suffer from hurt pride but that they are Islamist ideologues with an ambitious agenda. If the misguided apology makes this evident to more observers, it has its compensations and possibly could turn out to be a net plus.
Israel’s apology to Turkey was a mistake
March 28, 2013
Israel’s apology to Turkey for “operational errors” in the Mavi Marmara incident is a diplomatic mistake both in terms of substance and timing. It’s hard to understand or justify Israel’s weekend apology to Turkey. While the use of Israeli force in the Mavi Marmara “flotilla” incident was not very elegant, it was perfectly legitimate – as the UN-appointed “Palmer Commission” unequivocally determined. Moreover, the incident was a Turkish provocation that warrants a Turkish apology, not an Israeli one.
Worse still, the hopes in Jerusalem for a new era in Israeli-Turkish relations in exchange for the apology are simply illusory.
The Israeli apology will hardly stop Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s regular Israel-bashing rhetoric. Nor has it secured a clear Turkish commitment for the resumption of full diplomatic relations.
Moreover, Erdogan already has conveyed his intention to visit Hamas-ruled Gaza. Such a visit is a slap in the face to both Jerusalem and Washington.
Turkey, under the AKP, an Islamist party, has gradually adopted a new foreign policy, fueled by neo-Ottoman and Islamist impulses, whose goal is to gain a leadership role in the Middle East and the Islamic world.
Attaining this objective requires harsh criticism of Israel, which has generated great popularity for Erdogan and Turkey. Unfortunately, vicious attacks on Israel come easily for Erdogan, who is plainly and simply an anti-Semite.
Israel has failed to fully grasp Turkey’s new Islamist direction. For several years already, we no longer have a pro-Western Turkey with which Israel can cooperate in the turbulent Middle East. Ankara and Jerusalem have very different views on a variety of issues. While Turkey is truly an important and powerful player in regional politics, its behavior over the past decade actually harms Israeli interests. It does not follow the US policy on Iran and helps circumvent the international sanctions imposed on Tehran. As a matter of fact, Turkey helps Iran, a country with genocidal intentions toward Israel, to progress in its nuclear program.
Turkey also sides with Hamas, an Islamist terrorist organization dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish state, and helps it entrench its rule in Gaza and gain international support and recognition.
Turkey is also actively helping radical Islamic Sunni elements take over Syria. It also supports the idea of violent opposition against Israel’s presence in the Golan Heights. As such, the hope that Israel and Turkey can cooperate together with the US in limiting the damage from a disintegrating Syria has little validity.
Furthermore, Turkey, still a NATO member, is obstructing the efforts of Israel in developing its ties with this organization. The Turkish position in NATO also hinders the Western alliance’s ability to deal more effectively with the Iranian nuclear challenge.
Turkey’s policy in the Mediterranean similarly clashes with Israeli vital interests. Its bullying of Cyprus interferes with Israel’s plans to export via this island its newly found gas riches to an energy- thirsty Europe. Turkey, that sees itself as an energy bridge to Europe, does not want the Israeli competition. It may even use military force to maintain its role in the energy market.
What is also important is how the Israeli apology will be perceived in a region whose prism on international relations is power politics. Inevitably, Israel under Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will be seen as weak, bowing to American pressure. Public regrets about use of force erode deterrence and project weakness.
Perceived weakness usually invites aggression in our tough neighborhood.
This is also what Ankara thinks, which is very problematic for Israel. Moreover, Tehran and Cairo, both ruled by radical Islamists, cherish the Turkish victory over the Zionist entity.
The Israeli-initiated apology is an American diplomatic success, but reflects a dangerous American misperception of Turkey as representing “moderate Islam,” which is incredible naïve. Turkey is distancing itself from the West and its values.
Nowadays, more journalists are in jail in Turkey than in China.
Israel’s friends in Turkey, part of the democratic opposition, must be bewildered as Israel hands Erdogan a diplomatic achievement, buttressing the grip of the Islamist AKP on Turkish politics.
The timing is particularly troubling.
Turkish foreign policy is in crisis because its much-heralded approach to the Middle East (“zero problems with its neighbors”) is in shambles. Turkey needed a diplomatic success here more than Israel did. Israel could have negotiated a better formula to end the impasse in bilateral relations.
Only very recently, we heard Erdogan call Zionism a crime against humanity. He did not apologize, as he should have, but told a Danish newspaper that he was misunderstood.
“Insulting The President:” A Crime In Ramallah
March 28, 2013
I’ve written before (here) about the epidemic of prosecutions by Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood president for the “crime” of insulting him.
That epidemic is spreading to the West Bank, where the Court of Appeal in Bethlehem just affirmed the one-year jail sentence of a journalist for the “crime” of insulting Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas. The court also said the TV journalist Mahdouh Hamamreh had been guilty of broadcasting “false news”– another catch-all that allows a government to throw journalists in jail for saying things the government and its leaders just don’t like.
Abbas is, I think, playing with fire here. The PA is perennially short of funds and reliant on American and European aid. Turning the PA back into the kind of dictatorship we saw under Arafat will endanger that aid, as it should. Punishing people for the “crime” of “insulting the president” will appear to European and American legislators to be particularly repellent to their democratic traditions– as it is to international human rights laws. The PA Magistrates Court and Court of Appeal have now acted, and it is time for Abbas to act: to pardon Hamamreh and to order to prosecutors to stop this farce.
What To Do About Syria
March 26, 2013
The continuing, and worsening, crisis in Syria leaves some analysts confused and their writing not very useful. The best guide to what is happening, and what the United States should do, is the writing of Fred Hof of the Atlantic Council. Hof was until last year a key figure in the making of American policy toward Syria, though we can see from his analyses that all too often his excellent advice was rejected by the Obama Administration.
On March 18, Hof wrote a thoughtful article entitled “Syria: A Slippery Slope?” Here he addressed the view within the Obama administration that any further involvement is simply too risky.
Here is Hof’s warning:
Does the crisis in Syria present a slippery slope? It does indeed. Obama is no fool when he conjures up the image of an involuntary slalom down a precipitous slope with hungry gators waiting below. What he may not fully appreciate is that the headlong descent is already underway. Even if he had not put the credibility of his office and the United States on the line in August 2011 by calling on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step aside, he would still be obliged, eventually, to confront the reality that the nature of the struggle for Syria puts him on the slope whether he wants to be there or not. For all of his power and skill as commander-in-chief, Obama is already on the slope and careening downward….What is happening in Syria would be bad enough were it a big island in the Indian Ocean. Yet it is not….The implications of Syria’s state failure for a neighborhood containing allies and close friends of the United States are the reasons why the United States is already losing its footing on a steep hillside. Will the administration really be able to cite a prior engagement in East Asia as Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Israel howl for help?
Hof’s conclusion is stark:
If it is possible that a regime now unable to defeat a disjointed, poorly armed, and inadequately equipped rebellion would be spurred to decisive victory by the loss of its air assets, its Scud missiles, and its ability to coordinate military operations, then perhaps there is reason to give credence to the most extreme and objectively incredible of the slippery slope arguments. What cannot be denied, however, is that the United States is on the slope and headed down. Holding the Syrian crisis at arm’s length is not an option; it will not break the fall. If hand rails are to work, they must be of American design and construction. We will not dictate or micromanage Syria’s end state. There is no guarantee of success in terms of rescuing Syria and building a decent relationship with it, one based on equality and mutual respect. But we will neither avoid the slope nor break our fall just because we would like to be somewhere else.
In a more recent article entitled “The United States, Europe, and the Case of Syria,” Hof notes how weak we have been in Syria–while Iran and Russia have been strong:
There is nothing dishonorable or naive on the part of Europe and the United States in wishing to see a peaceful, negotiated transfer of power in Syria. The problem is that two key parties—the Syrian regime and the Russian Federation—see no value in it. Russia and the Assad regime are likely weighing the clear, on the ground determination of Iran and Hezbollah to produce a favorable military outcome against what they perceive to be uncertainty in the West. Assad believes Iran will save him. Russia thinks it can be on the winning side. Both sense they can deal a real blow to the United States and its allies. The collective response of the United States and Europe to this reality is, at best, discordant and confused.
Hof calls upon us to recognize a new government on Syria territory, and he does not sugar-coat what this means:
[A] decision to support the formation and functioning of a new government on liberated Syrian territory would not be a rhetorical, empty gesture or checking a box to produce a symbolic deliverable for a ministerial-level meeting. It would involve real work and real commitment. A government must be able to govern. It will need resources and on-the-ground technical assistance and advisory services. It may well need help defending populations under its jurisdiction. It should be recognized by Europe, the United States, and the Friends of the Syrian People as the legal government of Syria and credentialed as such at the United Nations. All of these things will require of the United States and Europe a strategic paradigm shift. This is not about strategic communications and messaging. It is about facing reality in Syria and changing the calculation of the Assad regime.
Both articles are worth reading in full, for Hof is doing what the Obama administration is still refusing to do: face reality. Today all the choices facing us bring considerable risk, due to two years of passivity that allowed the situation to become steadily worse. But allowing more time to pass will mean more jihadis gathering in Syria, more civilian deaths, more refugees, more regional instability, and more difficulties in ending the violence in post-Assad Syria. Waiting is not a strategy, nor is hoping that someone will assassinate Assad.
The incremental steps the administration has taken, always many months too late, do little more than illuminate the errors of its previous refusal to act–to take the very same steps when they would have done more good. It is baffling to read that Secretary Kerry is eager and anxious to jump into the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process,” and to hear the President say that “Secretary of State John Kerry intends to spend significant time, effort, and energy” on it, while Syria burns next door. To put it gently, if those are really the Secretary’s priorities they are incomprehensible.
Prime Minister Netanyahu told Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan that he had good talks with US President Barack Obama on the issue of regional cooperation and the importance of Israeli-Turkish relations. The Prime Minister expressed regret over the deterioration in bilateral relations and noted his commitment to working out the disagreements in order to advance peace and regional stability.
Prime Minister Netanyahu said that he saw Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s recent interview in a Danish newspaper and expressed his appreciation for the latter’s remarks. The Prime Minister made it clear that the tragic results regarding the Mavi Marmara were unintentional and that Israel expresses regret over injuries and loss of life. In light of the Israeli investigation into the incident, which pointed out several operational errors, Prime Minister Netanyahu apologized to the Turkish people for any errors that could have led to loss of life and agreed to complete the agreement on compensation.
Prime Minister Netanyahu also noted that Israel has already lifted several restrictions on the movement of civilians and goods to all of the Palestinian territories, including Gaza, and added that this will continue as long as the quiet is maintained. The two leaders agreed to continue to work on improving the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territories.
Erdoğan’s remark on Zionism ‘dark and false’ says Netanyhau
Turkish PM says Zionism is a crime against humanity,
eliciting widespread condemnation
White House slams remark as “offensive and wrong”
U.N. sec.-gen. warns that comments deepen rift with Israel
Reuters and Israel Hayom Staff
March 2, 2013
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday accused Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of making a “dark and false” statement by calling Zionism a crime against humanity. Erdoğan’s statement, made at a U.N. meeting in Vienna on Wednesday, was also condemned by the head of Europe’s main rabbinical group who called it a “hateful attack” on Jews. “Just as with Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism, it has become impossible not to see Islamophobia as a crime against humanity,” Erdoğan said at the U.N. Alliance of Civilizations forum, according to Turkish media reports.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also condemned the Turkish prime minister’s comments on Friday, calling his statements “hurtful and divisive,” and accusing him of adding to criticism of comments that risk deepening Turkey’s rift with Israel. Ban’s spokesman said the secretary-general had heard Erdogan’s speech at a U.N. meeting in Vienna on Wednesday through an interpreter. “The secretary-general believes is it is unfortunate that such hurtful and divisive comments were uttered at a meeting being held under the theme of responsible leadership,” the spokesman said in a statement.
Ties between Israel and Turkey have been frosty since 2010, when nine pro-Palestinian Turkish activists were killed in a clash with Israeli commandos aboard the Mavi Marmara, a ship that was part of a flotilla that tried to breach Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.
In recent weeks, there has been a run of reports in the Turkish and Israeli press about efforts to repair relations between the two countries, including a senior diplomatic meeting earlier this month in Rome and military equipment transfers. The reports have not been confirmed by either government. No one was immediately available from Turkey’s foreign ministry to comment on the new criticism of Erdoğan from Netanyahu and the European rabbinical group.
A statement from Netanyahu’s office said he “strongly condemns (Erdoğan’s) statement about Zionism and its comparison to Nazism.” The Zionist movement was the main force behind the establishment of the State of Israel. “This is a dark and false pronouncement the likes of which we thought had passed into history,” Netanyahu said.
Pinchas Goldschmidt, chief rabbi of Moscow and the head of the Conference of European Rabbis, said Erdoğan’s criticism of Zionism amounted to anti-Semitism. “This is an ignorant and hateful attack on the Jewish people and against a movement with peace at its core, which relegates Prime Minster Erdoğan to the level of (Iranian President) Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and, to Soviet leaders who used anti-Zionism as a euphemism for anti-Semitism,” Goldschmidt said in an emailed statement. “The irony of these comments will not be lost on the families of those slaughtered during the Armenian genocide, a crime still not recognized by the Turkish government,” he added.
The White House also condemned the remarks. “We reject Prime Minister Erdoğan’s characterization of Zionism as a crime against humanity, which is offensive and wrong,” White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement. “We encourage people of all faiths, cultures, and ideas to denounce hateful actions and to overcome the differences of our times,” he said.
Armenians accuse Ottoman Turks of committing an orchestrated campaign of massacres against Christian Armenians during World War I. Turkey, which was established as a republic after the Ottoman Empire collapsed, denies those killings were genocide and says both sides lost lives in internecine fighting during the chaos of war.
The Conference of European Rabbis is an umbrella group of 700 religious leaders in Europe, where an estimated 1.7 millions Jewish people live. About 17,000 Jews live in Turkey, a country of 76 million people.
Police: Palestinians fabricated price-tag attack near Nablus
Efrat Forsher and Lilach Shoval
March 1, 2013
Residents from Palestinian village of Qusra near Nablus claim price-tag vandals torched six vehicles in their village last week, but police find testimonies contradictory and not in line with facts on ground • Fighting between rival clans suspected.
Judea and Samaria Police stated on Thursday that a Palestinian report of a price-tag attack near Nablus was in fact fabricated, and that the torching of a car blamed on right-wing extremists was in fact the result of clan rivalry.
Price-tag attacks are often carried out by right-wing extremists in a show of protest to government sanctioned evacuations of illegal outposts in the West Bank. The vandals in most cases vandalize Palestinian cars and mosques, though in the past there have been attacks on Christian sites as well as IDF bases. Most of the price-tag attacks in recent years have yet to be solved; this was the first time police announced that an attack had in fact been fabricated.
Last week residents from the Palestinian village of Qusra near Nablus filed a complaint with the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (CoGat), in which they claimed settlers from Esh Kodesh, an outpost near Shiloh, snuck into the village at night and torched six cars. According to the residents who filed the complaint, they had pictures of one of the burned vehicles.Investigators found peculiarities in the case from the very beginning. Among them, the fact there was no “appropriate” graffiti that alluded to a price-tag attack, and that the Palestinians did not present any pictures of the other vandalized cars. On Wednesday, four residents of Qusra arrived at the police station to file a formal complaint, but their testimonies contradicted each other and were not in line with the facts on the ground. Following the dubious complaint and a review of all the evidence collected in the investigation, the police arrived at the conclusion that the price-tag attack had never occurred, and that the torched vehicle was the product of fighting between rival clans.
A spokesman for Esh Kodesh said, “The Arabs are causing provocations and being backed up by the media. The headlines claiming that residents of Esh Kodesh went into Qusra last weekend and torched a car went hand in hand with the unrest [the current wave of violent protests in the West Bank] and put community members’ lives in danger.”Meanwhile, speaking at a graduation ceremony for commanders in Judea and Samaria Thursday night, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz stressed the need for the IDF to be ready for all possible scenarios. “We must anticipate all possible events across the different fronts and be able to put things in the right proportion. Every day there are events that can potentially develop throughout the entire region,” he said.
Futile Israeli Efforts to Win Ankara Back
February 18, 2013
The Government of Israel, we learned yesterday from a Turkish source, has delivered Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) equipment by ELTA, a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries. that gives military aircraft protection from electronic attacks. Not only will the AWACS planes, in the wording of the Today’s Zaman article, “greatly increase [the Turkish air force’s] dominance over Turkey’s own airspace” but they will also be useful to it in the Syrian civil war and vis-à-vis “tensions with Israel and Greek Cyprus over the issue of gas drilling.”
|What a Turkish air force AWACS looks like.|
Ankara ordered the systems years ago but the Israelis held them back following the Mavi Marmara incident in 2010. In part, the Israeli decision to deliver them resulted from pressure from Boeing, manufacturer of the AWACS planes. But in part, it has to do with a hope in Israel that the Turks will again become friendly; this move comes in the context of back-channel talks between the two governments and the decision last week, by Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot, Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, in the words of Israel Defense, to “allow the entry of Turkish experts and construction materials for the largest Turkish hospital building in the Gaza Strip, ahead the visit of Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan in Gaza.”
Israel Defense continues: “There are voices within the Israeli defense establishment calling for the end of the Marmara crisis vis-à-vis Turkey, by finding a formula of apology, in order to return to the Israeli-Turkish alliance against Syria and Iran.”
Comments: (1) As the Turkish newspaper itself notes, the AWACS will potentially be used against Israel in the Mediterranean Sea. (2) This move fits into a larger pattern of an Israeli and more broadly a Western reluctance to recognize the AKP-dominated government of Turkey as hostile. Neither appeasement nor seduction will work. The time has come to come to see Erdoğan & Co. as the opponents they are. (February 18, 2013)
February 17, 2013
It would be far easier to understand Egypt if the trend lines pointed up or down, rather than presenting an immensely complex picture. But consider two groups of issues: relations with Hamas, and respect for human rights.
It was reasonable to assume that a Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt would be very much more accommodating to Hamas than the Mubarak regime had been–and Hamas so assumed. But in the last week we have seen two striking decisions by the Morsi government and the Egyptian military. First, they have once again refused to allow Hamas to open an office in Cairo. The Jerusalem Post reported as follows:
Egyptian security forces rejected a Muslim Brotherhood request to establish a Hamas office in Cairo after it had left its Damascus headquarters, according to Egyptian security sources quoted by Iraqi paper Azzaman on Tuesday. The security sources were quoted as saying that they put national security considerations first, especially now when Egypt is facing unrest and the new office could lead to further disturbances. The paper also quotes an anonymous security source who said there are three training camps for al-Qaida-linked groups in the northern Sinai.
Here, Egypt is clearly putting security matters ahead of ideological preferences. It is doing the same thing by trying to destroy the smuggling tunnels that link Gaza to Sinai and permit Hamas to import weaponry and to gain tax revenue. Here is part of a Reuters story:
Egyptian forces have flooded smuggling tunnels under the border with the Palestinian-ruled Gaza Strip in a campaign to shut them down, Egyptian and Palestinian officials said….Reuters reporters saw one tunnel being used to bring in cement and gravel suddenly fill with water on Sunday, sending workers rushing for safety. Locals said two other tunnels were likewise flooded, with Egyptians deliberately pumping in water….An Egyptian security official in the Sinai told Reuters the campaign started five days ago. “We are using water to close the tunnels by raising water from one of the wells,” he said, declining to be named. Dozens of tunnels had been destroyed since last August following the killing of 16 Egyptian soldiers in a militant attack near the Gaza fence….
All good news. But meanwhile, what’s happening inside Egypt? On the human rights front there is reason to despair, and the chairman of the Egyptian Human Rights Organization, Hafez Abu Seada, has just written in Al Ahram that “As the situation stands, a grim future lays ahead for democratic transformation and human rights in Egypt. There is a legal edifice that fails to furnish solid human rights guarantees and the same type of gross human rights abuses that sparked the revolution are resurfacing with increasing frequency.” Egypt’s new draft constitution “fails to offer the necessary safeguards for human rights. In fact, the drafters of the constitution avoided the term ‘human rights’ altogether.” He continues:
Egyptians affiliated to religions other than Sunni Islam were clearly offended by crucial segments of the new constitution. The three representatives of Egyptian churches withdrew from the Constituent Assembly in protest against articles that would undermine the civil state and pave the way for a theocratic state under the hegemony of a Sunni religious establishment….As for rights violations, the freedom of opinion and expression is under heavy attack. Journalists and media figures critical of the policies of the president and the ruling party are being sued and reported to the public prosecutor in unprecedented numbers. For the first time in Egyptian history, the office of the president has filed suits against journalists on the charge of “insulting the president….”
Abu Seada notes as well that the new constitution “chipped away at the rights of Egyptian women, deleting the stipulation of gender equality that had existed in the 1971 constitution.” But here the real news is even worse: there is an epidemic of sexual harassment and rape in Egypt, Raymond Ibrahim reports. And women who take to the streets to protest publicly are often themselves subject to yet more abuses. As two female journalists based in Cairo, Sophia Jones and Erin Bianco, wrote last June, “it is an everyday psychological and sometimes even physical battle. We open our closets in the morning and debate what to wear to lessen the harassment—as if this would help. Even fully veiled women are harassed on Cairo’s streets.” Lest the assessment seem too gloomy, it was confirmed to me by an American official just last week.
How can we fit all these pieces together? Sadly, by seeing the new regime as an Islamist version of the old Mubarak regime. Concerned with Egypt’s national security interests, unwilling to offend the security forces or to cleanse them, uninterested in human rights, focused on retaining power above all else. No wonder Abu Seada concluded that without significant change “a grim future lays ahead for democratic transformation and human rights in Egypt.”
Israel Concerned for Jordan’s Stability
Alon Ben David for Al-Monitor Israel Pulse.
The kingdom of Jordan — the last strategic buttress that Israel still has in the Middle East — has so far managed to maintain its stability amid the wave of revolutions sweeping the region. Yet, successful as King Abdullah II of Jordan may have been in forestalling unrest that could threaten his reign, Jihad elements currently fighting in Syria have already marked him as their next target — following Syrian President Bashar Assad. The collapse of King Abdullah II’s regime would in all probability pose the most significant threat to the security of Israel. However, the Israeli public seems to be in effect oblivious of and indifferent to the goings-on in the country neighboring Israel on the east. At the same time, official Israel is keeping mum about its contacts with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
The day after the citizens of Israel had cast their ballots in parliamentary election, their Jordanian neighbors on the east cast their votes in an election Jan. 23 constituting a small step forward in the reform plan of King Abdullah II, which is designed to turn Jordan, gradually and carefully, into a parliamentary democracy. The Muslim Brotherhood movement in Jordan called for a boycott of the election. And although the results reflected the continued hegemony of the tribes loyal to the regime, Islamist candidates that are not associated with the Muslim Brotherhood managed to garner 25% of the seats in parliament.
It appears that even the opposition elements in Jordan, watching the violence raging in the surrounding Middle Eastern countries, have opted for a peaceful change of regime rather than its dissolution by revolution. All the same, while the king is trying to cope with the opposition that has evolved among the tribes traditionally loyal to him, fears are growing that the instability on the outside will seep into Jordan and shake it from within. It is estimated that thus far, more than 300,000 refugees from Syria have fled to Jordan and that the flow of asylum seekers will increase still further: 36,000 of them found refuge in Jordan in January alone. The growing influx of refugees from Syria is liable to change the demographic balance in the kingdom (whose population currently numbers 6.2 million) and to facilitate the entry of Jihadist elements that would threaten the stability of the regime.
Over the last decade, Jordan scored quite a few successes in its endeavor to block the entry of Jihadist terrorists from Iraq and Syria. In most cases, Jordan also managed to foil the plans of those terrorists who had penetrated the country. Thus, for instance, it thwarted the plans by an al-Qaeda cell to launch a chemical terror attack back in 2005, and more recently, it detained 11 Jordanians who entered the country last October from Syria carrying explosives intended for use against Western targets in the kingdom. Be that as it may, the ever growing number of Jihad activists who poured into Syria in the past two years and their free access to the wealth of weapons left behind by the retreating Syrian army present Jordan with a new threat, on a totally different order of magnitude.
As far back as the civil war in Iraq, the Jihadists put the Hashemite Kingdom in the crosshairs as a preferred target for attack. In 2005, terrorists who infiltrated into Jordan from Iraq killed 60 people in a terror attack on hotels in Amman. However, at the time, Jordan was but one of a range of targets of the organizations associated with al-Qaeda, while recently it has been marked by the Jihad organizations as their next target for attack. It clearly emerges from Jihadist discourse on social networks that the terrorist cells currently engaged in battle against Assad plan to turn south to Jordan once they overthrow the Syrian president. And after toppling the Hashemite regime, they would be free to open war against the Jews in Israel.
It should be noted that it isn’t only the Sunni Jihadists who threaten the Jordanian kingdom. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah militants deployed in Syria in vast numbers are also liable to flow into Jordan. Not to mention the approximately half a million Palestinian refugees living in Syria who could fundamentally change the demographic balance between the tribes of Trans-Jordan and the Palestinians in the kingdom. If this sizzling dish is spiced up by chemical seasoning derived from the non-conventional arsenal of Assad, the result is bound to be a highly volatile recipe.
In the last few months, the Jordanian king reinforced his forces along the Syrian border in an attempt to prevent the infiltration of undesirable elements — apparently with considerable success. For years, the Hashemite kingdom served as the eastern security border of Israel and as a buffer between Israel and the Sunni and Shiite terror elements in Iraq. However, under the present circumstances, it’s hard to tell whether the stability of past years will be maintained. Indeed, Israel has already started to plan a security barrier the length of its long border with Jordan.
Once construction of the security fence along Israel’s border with Egypt is completed and the 60-kilometer [37-mile] high barrier in the Golan Heights is set up, Israel intends to begin building a security fence along its 238-kilometer [148-mile] border with Jordan.
As always, Israel hopes to see King of Jordan Abdullah II reigning over his country for many years to come. At the same time, it is realized that in the wake of Mubarak and Ben-Ali, Gadhafi and Assad, no Arab leader is impervious to the regional upheavals, even though he may be considered a descendant of Prophet Muhammad himself.