UPDATES 9 am Israel time, Thursday, September 12 2013:
**Two extremely serious threats against Israel came to light overnight:
First, Vladimir Putin, in comments directed toward Americans said that while there is no doubt that poison gas was used in Syria, it could have been used by the Syrian regime or the rebels in an attempt to arouse the reaction of the superpowers. Then he went on to drop this bombshell: “Reports that militias are preparing another attack–this time against Israel–can not go ignored.”
–What does Putin know that we don’t know? Is some rebel “militia” that has control over a repository of Syrian chemical weapons planning a chemical weapons or poison gas attack against Israel? Perhaps we Israelis should not put away our gas masks so quickly.
Second, the terrorist military arm of Fatah, the Al-Aksa Martyrs’ Brigade, which is under the direct control of Mahmoud Abbas and the PLO, declared that it will begin a suicide bombing campaign in Jerusalem tomorrow (Friday). The declaration said that the campaign is meant to draw world attention to the “attempt of Israel to Judaize Jerusalem.”
–Whatever you want to say about the Al-Aksa terrorists, they usually carry through with their threats or at least die trying. Everyone in Jerusalem needs to be on the highest alert tomorrow and for the foreseeable future.
**It has been another violent 24 hours in the Sinai. 11 Egyptian security personnel were killed at the Egyptian facility for military intelligence near Rafah when a car bomb exploded outside the building. The Egyptian response was to ramp up their attacks on terrorist positions and to intensify the attempt to create a buffer zone along the Gaza border.
**Housing Minister Uri Ariel of the Jewish Home Party (Bayit Yehudi), who has said he will visit the Temple Mount everyday to show that Jews have a right to pray in their holiest place, was on the Temple Mount again yesterday with a group that included Jerusalem city council candidate Dov Kalmanovitz and Ariel Cohen.
In direct contravention of the Islamic Wakf’s prohibition on Jewish prayer on the Mount–an absurd prohibition it had no right to establish in a place of Israeli sovereignty–Cohen raised his hands and recited the Birkat Kohanim (Priestly Blessing). Let us hope that this will be the beginning of a movement to eradicate the control of the Islamic Wakf.
It is not a terribly original thought this morning, but your humble servant believes that what we have just felt here in the Middle East is an earthquake of about 9.0 on the political Richter scale.
What I am referring to of course is a massive tectonic shift in power from United States to Russia. The American and Russian tectonic plates had already been moving toward each other for a long time, but they finally collided in Syria. The resulting slide of the American plate under the Russian one has rocked us all no matter how much we may seen it coming.
Suddenly Russia is the power player in the neighborhood.
Nowhere can this be better seen than in what happened concerning Iran yesterday.
On the one hand we had the Obama White House easing sanctions against Iran. Announced by the U.S. Treasury Department, non-profit NGOs that deal with sports, disaster relief, human rights, wildlife conservation, medical supplies, and “other programs” will no longer have to apply for permission to enter Iran and “conduct business there.” This relaxation comes days after President Obama granted 11 countries exemptions to the Iranian sanctions. According to those in the know, all of these easings are meant as “goodwill gestures” to the new Iranian president–the media proclaimed “relative moderate”, Hassan Rouhani.
On the other hand, we had Moscow providing goodwill gestures of its own yesterday. Not even 24 hours after its emergence as the power player in Syria, the Putin government declared that it would sell S300 missiles to Iran and that it would build a second nuclear power plant at Bushehr for the Iranians. Both of these are to be done on an accelerated scale with tentative agreements to be signed tomorrow in meetings between the Russians and Rouhani.
Where does all of this leave Israel? Pretty much on its own.
In Obama’s speech to the American people on Tuesday night he included this curious sentence (which he stumbled over as he read it off the teleprompter and which has escaped commentary):
Neither Assad nor his allies have any interest in escalation that would lead to his demise, and our ally, Israel, can defend itself with overwhelming force, as well as the unshakable support of the United States of America.
Not to overly parse this, but what this says to your humble servant is that “yes the U.S. and Israel are allies”, and “yes Israel has the unshakable support of the U.S.” , but “no, being and ally and providing unshakable support does not extend to helping Israel in a military attack should the need arise.” As Obama put it, “Israel can defend itself.”