Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Arlene Kushner on Turkey, Syria, The Palestinians -- And The Tamar Gas Field

From Arlene Kushner:
April 2, 2013

Heads Held High

Pesach concluded last night here in Israel, and will end at dark tonight elsewhere.  My hope is that each of you has had a joyous and meaningful holiday -- and that the joy and sense of purpose it conveyed will remain.
I'm going to go backward in this posting and look at some of what has occurred during the days that I was away from my computer.  But I want to begin here with an excellent talk by Chief Rabbi of England, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, who just weeks ago addressed the AIPAC Conference in Washington DC.  (With thanks to Rebecca M.)  It sets an important tone for us.
Rabbi Sacks begins by addressing the state of the world, with its growing anti-Semitism, which today takes the guise of anti-Zionism.  And then...then he speaks about the glories of Israel -- most specifically about Israel as the most stunning expression of the Jewish commandment to choose life.  No editorial comment is necessary.
For the serious content, begin at 1:30 minutes into the talk: Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks Speaking about Israel at AIPAC

After you listen to what the rabbi says, you may want to share his words.  It is rare indeed for people to hear the things that Rabbi Sacks is saying.
The issue of the apology by Prime Minister Netanyahu to the Turkish people for mistakes in handling the Mavi Marmara incident that may have lead to the deaths that ensued continues to be a hot subject of discussion. 
It is clearer now than when Netanyahu first offered that apology precisely how much pressure had been put on him.  Obama's campaign to secure Israeli-Turkish "reconciliation" hardly began with his visit here, and Secretary of State Kerry was involved as well. 
Of particular note is this, from Herb Keinon in the JPost:
"The timing of the apology was carefully considered...and it was done during Obama's visit to make it seem like a gesture to the US president and thereby make it easier to sell to the Israeli public."  (Emphasis added)
All that drama of the phone call on the tarmac. I hope the Israeli public knows by now that it's been "had."
According to Gonen Ginat:
"Every letter in that apology was calculated. Every word was debated. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama personally decided what to say."  (Emphasis added)
Isn't that great?  The American president putting words into the Israeli prime minister's mouth because he, Obama, "needed" the apology.  Needed it even though he knew, says Ginat, that "Erdogan's anti-Semitism will continue to burst forth."
Phone calls from British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Netanyahu in the wake of the apology leads to a plausible suspicion that the EU or some of its members were also pushing for this.
The hard truth, however, is that this attempt to "fix" matters via the apology obscures deeper problems.  Minister Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi) said last week, "It seems that since [the] apology, Erdogan is doing everything to make Israel regret it.  He is running a personal and vitriolic campaign..." 
And it goes deeper than this. As Ely Karmon wrote in Haaretz:
"Although the diplomatic and economic relations between Israel and Turkey could be (note: "could be" not "have been") reestablished quite quickly, the sensitive military and strategic cooperation is much more difficult to achieve, in view of the deep changes in the ranks of the Turkish military and intelligence echelons..."  (Emphasis added)
Daniel Pipes, who was adamantly opposed to the apology, concluded last Thursday that:
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.  (Emphasis added)
I wish the wake-up would be that easy. 
The Turks have apparently agreed to stop pursuing legal persecution of Israeli military figures connected to the Mava Marmara incident, although this is not all together clear -- just as it is not clear that Erdogan really intends to reinstate full diplomatic relations with Israel.  The Turks declared that they now have a significant role in the "peace process," and were disabused of this notion by Israel.  They also declared that Israel will now stop the blockade of Gaza.  While national security advisor Ya'akov Amidror, has made it clear that this is not the case -- and that the naval blockade is still in force, it does seem that there will be a further loosening of restrictions regarding goods allowed into Gaza via land crossings.
Negotiations are proceeding with regard to how much compensation will be paid by Israel to the Turkish families of those who were killed.  Turkey is demanding one million dollars per family, while Israel is offering one-tenth of that.
To top it all off, Erdogan maintains a strong relationship with Hamas and has announced that he will be visiting Gaza later this month (something that is decidedly not to the liking of the PA).
Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry's Diplomatic and Security Bureau, says, regarding Erdogan's boasts:  It's important to distinguish between the "foam and the wave."  True.  A nice metaphor. But there's a whole lot of bombastic anti-Israel foam on top of that wave.
I close on this subject by sharing what Caroline Glick had to say (emphasis added):
"On Saturday [ a week ago], the Arab League convened in Doha, Qatar and discussed Israel’s apology to Turkey and its ramifications for pan-Arab policy. The Arab League member states considered the prospect of demanding similar apologies for its military operations in Lebanon, Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

The Arab League’s discussions point to the true ramifications of the apology for Israel. By apologizing for responding lawfully to unlawful aggression against the State of Israel and its armed forces, Israel did two things. First, Israel humiliated itself and its soldiers, and so projected an image of profound weakness. Due to this projected image, Israel has opened itself up to further demands for it to apologize for its other responses to acts of unlawful war and aggression against the state, its territory and its citizens from other aggressors."
Every time I write about Syria, I say the situation is deteriorating further.  And that's all there is to say.  There is no good ending in sight there. 
Sometimes, as I contemplate the situation, I am astounded, that we in Israel sit here peacefully and prosperously, directly at the border of the mayhem to our northeast.  I would like everyone to contemplate this.
The rebels -- a dubious and hardly moderate bunch -- are gaining in territory and in strength.  Arab countries and Turkey have done airlifts of weapons to the rebels: There have been in excess of 160 military cargo flights by Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, with some CIA coordination regarding such matters of acquisition of the arms to be shipped.

Read: Arms Airlift to Syria Rebels Expands, With Aid From C.I.A.
The CIA has also been sharing intelligence selectively with certain rebel groups.
On the other hand, Iran is still supplying Assad with weapons, with the Iraqis permitting use of their air space for their delivery.
Our military is exceedingly wary of spillover into the Golan Heights that encroaches on Israeli territory.   The Syrian territory across the line from the Israeli Golan is no longer controlled by Assad's forces. 
OC Northern Command Maj. Gen Yair Golan, understands that Syria's disintegration "could bring Iran to our very doorstep" via terror groups along the Golan Heights border.  Thus he suggests that:
"one of the defensive measures that we of course cannot rule out is creating a defensive buffer zone on the other side of the border, together with interlocutors who will have an interest in cooperating with us against other elements who threaten them too."
The IDF will also soon deploy a new intelligence and reconnaissance unit at the border with Syria.
But it's not just movement of terror groups into the Golan that is of concern. There is also the "spilling over" of the conflict that involves shooting into Israeli territory.  Just over a week ago, Syrian gunmen fired at Israeli military patrols in two separate incidents  -- once on Saturday night when they shot at an IDF jeep on patrol near the border.

IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said at that point, "Our understanding is that it wasn't stray fire."
A second incident occurred the next day, when automatic weapons were fired at an IDF patrol.  
The IDF then fired a guided missile at a Syrian machine gun nest near the border, destroying it. Whether it was a rebel or a government site is unclear. 
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon: said the Syrian fire was a
"violation of Israel's sovereignty. We take the fact that Syrian shots were fired at an IDF patrol in Israeli territory last night and this morning very seriously.

"Any ... fire from the Syrian side will be answered immediately by silencing the sources of fire when we identify them."
Specifying that this was government policy, Ya'alon stated:
"Israel will respond immediately to any violation of Israeli sovereignty or fire from the Syrian side,...We will not allow the Syrian army, or any other element, to violate Israeli sovereignty by firing on our territory."
Amos Gilad (identified above) further clarified that there is a response even if the shooting into Israel was unintentional.
"Israel should not be the target of any attack -- because after all, if you accept something that was unintentional, that could lead to something intentional in the end."
As there have been numerous incidents of wounded Syrians coming into Israeli territory, Israel has bolstered the teams of medics who are prepared to respond to these situations.  They are working out of a medical facility that has been situated in an IDF post near the border. 
Very seriously injured Syrians are brought into hospitals in northern Israel for treatment.  Something else people need to be made aware of.
The Jobar Synagogue in Damascus, said to be built on the location where the prophet Elijah anointed his successor, Elisha, was 2,000 years old.

The Jobar Synagogue in Damascus
Credit: thegatewaypundit
It has now been looted of its priceless artifacts and burned to the ground.  Each side is blaming the other.
The PA is now saying that the US will announce a peace plan in two months.  This has shown up in multiple sources.  However, it essential to remember that it is the PA and not the US saying this.  This comes after expressions of deep disappointment in Obama by PA officials, who had said they don't expect much to happen.  All that Secretary of State Kerry has had to say is that talks have been very positive.
There are rumors, as well, regarding what the US -- i.e., Kerry -- would like Israel to do to bring the PA to the table.  I'll pass on discussing these, as they are unverified.
Reports continue to surface of increased Palestinian Arab violence in Judea and Samaria, and planned terrorist attacks that were thwarted. 
For example, the Shin Bet and the IDF, working together in the first two months of this year, broke up an extensive Tanzim (Fatah) terror network based in the village of Beit Fajjar, not far out of Bethlehem.   They were responsible for a series of shooting and firebomb attacks on Migdal Oz in the Gush Etzion area, and admitted that they intended to continue such attacks in Gush Etzion.
The latest Arab illegal encampment adjacent to E1, set up to protest Obama's visit, has been taken down.  Two-hundred police accomplished the eviction, which was not resisted, within 30 minutes.
Egypt is falling apart.  Literally.  As this posting is already long, I'll come back to this in further detail at a later time. Suffice it to be said here that because of an economic crisis, and resultant hunger, the population is demonstrating actively against the Brotherhood regime.  Chaos and civil war are possibilities not far down the road.
Former Israeli ambassador to Egypt, Zvi Mazel, describes the situation here:

Read: Egypt becoming a nightmare for Muslim Brothers
I had been advised by one of my Arabic speaking sources some months ago that the Egyptian army, which preferred to avoid involvement if possible, was still a force to be reckoned with, and might reassert control at some point.  Mazel suggests something similar, with the prospect of the military averting that chaos or civil war.  The only potential problem is that the Morsi regime has now allowed Brotherhood people and other jihadists into the military academy, in an effort to change the political orientation of the military. 
Last here today is very good news as natural gas from the Tamar reservoir in the Mediterranean Sea began flowing to a terminal in the port of Ashdod on Sunday.
The gas from the Tamar field will supply 50 to 80% of Israel's natural gas needs over the next 10 years.

Read: Israel Taps an Offshore Natural Gas Field
After a $ 3.5 billion investment over a period of four years, during which drilling and exploration was done, the project has now come to fruition. 
Tamar is thought to have reserves of up to 238 billion cubic meters (8.4 trillion cubic feet). The field, roughly 130 kilometers (81 miles) west of Haifa, is owned jointly by Noble Energy, an American company, and three Israeli firms, Delek, Isramco and Dor Alon.
The reserves are expected to save NIS 13 billion in market a year, and yield NIS 450 billion in state revenue over the next 25 years.

Read: 'Tamar gas field has given Israel energy independence'

Israel's Tamar gas field
Credit: Albatros

© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.

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