UPDATES 9 am Israel time, Thursday, November 21 2013:
**Today marks 29 years that Jonathan Pollard has been imprisoned in the United States for passing information about Arab countries to Israel–29 years since he futilely attempted to gain asylum at the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C. and was rebuffed under orders from Shimon Peres.
It is long past time for Pollard to be released. If you happen to live in the United States, please write your congressman, senator, and President Obama and demand that Pollard be released forthwith. His continued incarceration is a travesty of justice.
**A follow-up: last week, israelstreet had an update about a letter of request that had been sent to the Vatican seeking the return of sacred items from the Second Temple. That letter detailed the belief that these items were possibly in the Vatican “treasury” following their having been looted by Roman soldiers more than 2000 years ago. Yesterday, the Vatican Ambassador to Israel, Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, surprisingly responded to the letter of request saying that the Vatican would be happy to return the objects–if evidence can be submitted that they are indeed in the Vatican’s possession.
The next step will be for representatives of Israel to have access to the Treasury in order to look for the objects. Unfortunately, the chances of that request being granted are somewhere between slim and none.
**PM Netanyahu has been in Moscow for the last 24 hours ostensibly trying to persuade Putin not to buy into the coming agreement with Iran. By all reports, Netanyahu’s efforts are falling on deaf ears–as there is renewed talk that an agreement with Iran could come as early as this weekend.
But there is another reason that Netanyahu may be in Moscow, a reason that is discussed in today’s blog.
A completely new air defense system with surface to air missiles, advanced attack helicopters, new squadrons of MiG-21 jets, and additional SU-25s, Pak FA T-50s, MiG-35s, and MiG-27s–these are all part of a vast $4 billion dollar package of arms that Russia is supplying to Egypt at virtually no cost to Cairo (2 billion of the debt has been immediately forgiven and the other 2 billion is being paid for by countries in the Arabian Gulf–notably Saudi Arabia).
The transfer of all of these weapons will take place in the next 40 days.
What is the purpose of the arms infusion? According to the Egyptians and the Russians, the purpose is for the Egypt to achieve “military parity” with Israel.
In short, the already complex relationship between Egypt and Israel has just become more complex. Following the fall of Mubarak whose steady hand kept the Egyptian border calm for decades, that relationship has been alternately shaky and solid.
Former President Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood made no bones about his dislike of Israel and eagerly took on the role of “intercessor” power at the end of the Hamas-Israel war last November–in an event that featured an “Israeli-less” press conference in Cairo with then-American Secretary of State Clinton designed to prop up Morsi.
General Sisi, on the other hand, at least initially looked favorably upon Israel as a partner in fighting against Al-Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood terrorism in the Sinai. There seems to have been a great deal of cooperation between the two countries as the Egyptians have sought to root out Islamist strongholds.
Nevertheless, it must have been disconcerting to Sisi that in recent months, as Egypt has tightened the screws on Hamas in Gaza by destroying hundreds of smuggling tunnels and even closing the Rafah Crossing for long periods, to see Israel open its crossings into Gaza so that all kinds of supplies into Gaza from construction materials to diesel fuel can pour in.
The real danger of the Russian arming of Egypt is that Israel-Egypt peace treaty will become colder than ever, and that Egypt will focus ever greater attention on Israel as a distraction from the dramatically desperate condition of the Egyptian economy.
Finally, if we think back to the astonishing sequence of events that led us to this situation–a situation which is bound to make Israel much less secure along the Egyptian border–one cannot help but primarily point the finger at American president Barack Obama.
It was Obama who threw Mubarak under the bus with hardly a second thought, Obama who rushed in to support the Muslim Brotherhood in its drive to assume power in Egypt, Obama who fought arduously for Morsi once he had been deposed, and Obama who then cut off (suspended) military and financial aid to Egypt.
All in all, Obama’s actions have been one of a reckless foreign policy naif–and his recklessness has already begun to haunt Israel.