Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Arlene Kushner on Israel to Egypt: Thanks, But No Tanks

From Arlene Kushner
August 22, 2012

Those Tanks

But before I speak about tanks, I want to share good news, as I had promised:
Many of you on this list have been following the situation of the nine-year old Noam Jay ben Inbar, who was found to have cancer growing in his heart and on his lung and was thought to be terminal.  About two months ago, an MRI that was done showed that since the last scan there had been no further growth of the large mass, which had been aggressively enlarging.  And so it was decided to start him on an experimental drug.  I understand that the form of cancer this boy has is so rare that a case is seen perhaps once in 20 years.
I learned yesterday that Noam has been permitted to come home, with the understanding that regular checks will be necessary.  His most recent MRI showed a modest decrease in the size of the tumor.  He's got a very long way to go, but this is the first sign of a reversal of a condition that the doctors not so long ago had thought was hopeless. 
And so, Baruch Hashem, may he continue to improve. And please, continue to pray for him.
As to those tanks: PM Netanyahu is walking a tightrope. And the situation here is as filled with complexities and nuances as anything I've written about in my last few posts.

The tanks are being brought into the Sinai by Egypt.  It is not clear whether they are the first to be brought in, or, as one report indicated, they are heavier, US-made tanks that were not included in the recent understanding between Egypt and Israel.
Credit: rfi
There seems a disagreement as to whether this deployment is a violation of the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty.  That tanks are forbidden in a demilitarized Sinai is clear. But Israel is granting permission for troops and equipment to be brought in beyond the limits of the treaty, and considers it acceptable under the circumstances.
What is significant for Israel is that the Egyptians ask, and that our government have a say in what is deployed.  The Israeli government says there was no approval for these tanks.
The Egyptians are saying that this is in coordination with Israel, as approval was given, without a time limit, for equipment to be brought in to "purge the area of armed criminals," as one officer put it.  The Egyptians are bristling at the notion that everything has to be cleared with Israel: permission was given to do the job and that should be enough.
For the Egyptians there are sensitive issues of national sovereignty -- they deeply resent not being permitted to do as they choose in the Sinai.
There are, in fact, many issues to be addressed here.  Israel worries about how much equipment is truly needed to take on the terrorists, and how much is being brought in to set an unacceptable precedent.  The tanks themselves do not represent a true threat to Israel; there is no thought that Egypt intends to turn them on us momentarily and in any event they could be taken out.  But the precedent of a Sinai that is no longer demilitarized...
Then there is the matter of when the operation will be considered finished and the equipment removed.
I would not want to suggest in any way that simply trusting the Egyptians with regard to their intentions would be a wise policy.  However, my sense of it is that the job they have taken on is of major proportions and that they are serious about doing it.
My eyes were opened as to the scope of what they are dealing with when I encountered and shared the news yesterday about 3,000 jihadi terrorists hiding in caves near the border with Israel, protected by Bedouin tribes. We are not talking here about a band of a two or three hundred terrorists who can be rounded up, or killed, quickly. Taking on those 3,000, it seems to me, means real battle.
And the simple fact is that while Egypt is going after them for their own reasons, it does us a favor as well.  The damage that those 3,000, already near our border, might do is enormous.  
Former Military Intelligence head Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin said on Army Radio today that he didn't find the tank deployment worrisome:
"Terrorism is fought with tanks.

"As long as the operation in Sinai is focused and comprehensive against the terrorists there, I think we need to look at things realistically and not split hairs — because Israel has already approved in principle allowing Egyptian forces to enter Sinai in numbers that exceed what the peace treaty stipulates."
But not everyone agrees with this take.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, for example, in a meeting yesterday, expressed sympathy with
"Morsi's need to display his authority in Sinai, especially following the bloody attack there recently."  But he said, nonetheless, that, "...we are very concerned that he deployed tanks without coordinating it. Israel must not come to terms with Egypt's violation of its peace treaty with us."
Some analysts caution that we must not become trapped again, as we were caught, oblivious, in 1973 (the Yom Kippur war).
Just days ago, I spoke to an Arab-speaking Israeli journalist who told me,
"The Israeli government will put blinders on with regard to what Egypt does in the Sinai now.  Israel is in no position to deal with this, and does not want to know."
And, while there is some truth to what he said, I am delighted to note that he was wrong at a basic level.  Israel is stepping carefully and does not want to rupture our relationship with Cairo. But Netanyahu definitely does not have blinders on and seems to me to be comporting himself well.
There is no official word on this from the Israeli government, which is as it should be, I think. But Netanyahu has registered protests about the tanks and asked that they be removed.  Quiet unofficial protests, both directly and via the US.  No press conferences, no statements to the UN.  Yet he has let the Egyptians know what the Israeli position is.
I am not able to say what will happen next if Morsi ignores these protests.
One official source said that Egyptian refusal to remove tanks that Israel has not consented to allow into the Sinai would be a casus belli (an act justifying war).  Technically he may be correct, but my response here is "Yea, right..."  We are not about to go to war to get Egypt to remove those tanks.  Which may have a good deal to do with why the protests are unofficial.
Since writing yesterday about the fact that the American role as witness to the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty does not make the US a guarantor, I have acquired additional information. According to today's JPost :
"On the same day the treaty was signed,  Israel and the US signed a memorandum of agreement stipulating that 'should it be demonstrated to the satisfaction of the United States that there has been a violation or threat of violation' of the agreement, the US 'will take such remedial measures as it deems appropriate , which may include diplomatic, economic and military measures...'"
And so the US does have a responsibility to the situation here, and it is appropriate that Israel has turned to the Americans to intervene. 
But, lest we expect too much, we must keep in mind that Obama is currently courting Morsi. First, the US must be convinced that there has been a violation. And then the American government would have to decide if and how to act.
Obviously, the US is no more prepared to intervene militarily over this than Israel is.  Leverage might be brought to bear economically -- with regard to withholding of monies for Egypt. But this is considered unlikely, as well.  And still, there might be some diplomatic pressure brought to bear that means it is not simply Israel and Egypt locking horns.
And so I say it again: We must watch and see. 
Yesterday, I cited an article by Guilo Meotti, who listed several instances in which the US declined to support Israel.  In response to this, I received a message from reader Keith B., who said:
"But in 1973, when the Israelis were running low on supplies, Nixon sent an airlift to Israel, via the Azores (Portugal was the only European country who would let the U.S. refuel its airplanes) to resupply Israel, which suffered horrendous losses in the opening of the October 1973 war. In 1973 Nixon backed Israel."   
Keith is absolutely correct, and I thought his observation was important enough to share with everyone. Fair is fair. What I also share here is my response to him:
The point made [by Meotti] still stands -- the US let Israel down time and time again. Bottom line, then, is that it is not black and white: there were times when Israel was helped by the US, and times when the US  let Israel down.  All of which means, in a pinch we cannot depend on the US. 
That said, there is one action that Obama is threatening to take that pleases me:
"President Obama warned Syria on Monday that it would face American military intervention if there were signs that its arsenal of unconventional weapons was being moved or prepared for use. It was Mr. Obama’s first direct threat of force against Syria, as he has resisted being drawn into the bloody 18-month rebellion."
The specter of Assad's arsenal of unconventional weapons falling into the wrong hands is enough to keep one up at night.  I'm glad the world is worried about this -- understands the absolute severity of the situation -- and is prepared to act.  Addressing this problem should not fall only to Israel.
I share here a link to a MEMRI video, with English subtitles, of the terrorist (released in the Shalit exchange) who facilitated the Sbarro terrorist attack, Ahlam Tamimi, recounting the joy she and all those around her felt at the murder of innocent Jews.

It will make your blood run cold, but it must be seen and shared broadly. Because people need to understand.
Palestinian Arabs  yesterday marked the 43rd anniversary of the attempt by a deranged Australian Christian, Deni Rohan, to set fire to the Al Aksa mosque. 
The PA's Mahmoud Abbas utilized the event to declare once again that there is no Jewish connection to Jerusalem: all the excavation work done in Jerusalem, he said, "will not undermine the fact that the city will forever be Arabic, Islamic and Christian.
"There will be no peace or stability before our beloved city and eternal capital is liberated from occupation and settlement."
Please note: "our beloved city and eternal capital."  No talk about just eastern Jerusalem and sharing the city with the Jews. The Arabs have a propensity for co-opting Jewish and Israeli positions. "Eternal capital" is Israel's phrase.  Jerusalem has never, ever been the capital of an Arab state, never mind a Palestinian Arab one.
I started with good news, and I will finish here with good news items as well:
"Scientists at the Hebrew University - Hadassah Medical School have discovered a peptide (small protein) derived from the HIV virus that interferes with a cell’s ability to repair itself.  The peptide weakens cancer cells, making them more vulnerable to conventional therapies."
Read: HIV Peptide Packs a Punch for Cancer Treatment
" Israeli company BioHug Technologies demonstrated their BioHug Vest – for calming people with autism or those just with high stress levels.  The vest was invented by an Israeli whose autistic child could not bear human hugs."
"Currently, DNA found at a crime scene has to find a match in the police databases, to play a part in catching the criminal.  But now researchers at Israel’s Tel-Hai Academic College are developing a chip that can use unmatched DNA to identify the sex, height, age, hair color and type, eye color and ethnic background of the offender — and even if he/she is right or left-handed."
The bottom line here? Israel is amazing. Doing medical advancement, hi-tech and more, even in the face of tanks, non-conventional weapons, and all the rest.
© 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.
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