Costumes decisions, candy deliberations in US mask wild week in Middle East

By Gil Elan

Over the past week, here in Texas we were focused on storms, flooding, a terribly managed TV presidential debate … and Halloween.
At the same time in the always-turbulent Middle East, breaking news stories were coming in so fast that it was hard to keep up. Here is a rundown of some of the major ones:

US-Israel relations

In preparation for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit to the Oval Office next week, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe (Bogie) Ya’alon spent the past week in Washington in extended meetings with Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. They discussed Israel’s requests for additional new and upgraded equipment needed to maintain Israel’s military superiority and capabilities in the wake of the very problematic Iran nuclear deal.
These requests are in addition to the annual $3.1 billion in military aid Israel already receives as part of a $30 billion contract that ends in 2017. The requests include:

  • New, redesigned and upgraded F-15 fighters
  • Osprey V22 troop carriers
  • Precision “stand-off” air-to-surface missiles
  • Additional “Arrow” anti-missile missiles
  • A guarantee that Israel will be the only country in the region with F-35 fighters

According to Israeli sources all these additional requests were authorized, and will be on the president’s desk for signature during Bibi’s visit. While it is doubtful if this gesture will change the personal animosity between the two leaders, the photo-op could, at least, help improve the optics of U.S.-Israel relations.

Violence in Israel

The ongoing “knife intifada” continued almost unabated last week despite heavy thunderstorms. One noticeable change was a move of the locations of these “lone wolf” attacks from Jerusalem to cities within the “green line”: Beersheva, Beit Shemesh, Rishon Le-Zion … even Tel-Aviv. According to Israeli security sources, this is probably the result of Palestinian President Abu Mazen’s call to continue the attacks, but move the violence away from Jerusalem after the recent American-Israeli-Jordanian agreement to put cameras on the Temple Mount (the Palestinian Authority has not yet agreed).
In addition, both Hamas and ISIS have ramped up their social media incitement. In one video ISIS calls for Palestinians “everywhere” to stab Jews “anywhere.”
In another they call on Palestinians to: “frighten them with car-bombs … turn them into rotten corpses and scattered body parts. Know that the soldiers of Islam are fighting here in Iraq, Syria, in Khorasan, the Caucasus, and in West Africa, but their eyes are pointed at Jerusalem, and they will enter it with Allah’s help.”
The narrator then continues: “The battle for Jerusalem is one of the end goals of Islamic State and will take place after two major battles between a Muslim army and 70 nations in Syria, according to Islamic State’s end-time vision.”
Another ISIS video last week said that Palestinian Arabs should not trust Hamas or Fatah because they only serve their own interests and “are collaborators of the Crusaders (the West) and others are collaborators of the Iranians.”
In yet another new video, an ISIS member implores the Palestinian Arabs not to wait any longer and to go out and kill Jews: “What are you waiting for? For organizations like Hamas to open their weapons caches to you? Be lone wolves who attack Allah’s enemies. Carry what you can as far as weapons go and murder them where you find them.”
It’s unfortunate that the U.S. administration still seems to have a cavalier attitude about murderous, Islamist-inspired, anti-Jewish violence in Israel: On Oct. 19, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said, after meeting Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo in Madrid, that the fatal knife attacks against Jews in Israel are “random acts of violence.”

Downed Russian airliner

As of Tuesday’s deadline, it is still not clear what exactly caused the Russian airliner to disintegrate over Sinai last week.
ISIS has claimed responsibility, despite the fact that most military experts agree that they probably could not have shot it down with the weapons they are known to have.
However, with recent reports from analysis of the wreckage, preliminary autopsies of the bodies recovered, data from the flight recorders and analysis of data from a U.S. military satellite that detected a large “flare” from the Airbus just before it disappeared from the radar, most experts now agree that there was some sort of catastrophic explosion on board, at 30,000 feet.
While a mechanical glitch could have brought down the civilian Airbus A321-200, my gut feeling is that despite formidable Egyptian security at the airport in Sinai, someone managed to get an explosive device onto the airplane, probably in the cabin. Remember, the bomb that brought down the Pan AM plane over Lockerbie was hidden in a small transistor radio.
Agree or disagree, that’s my opinion.
Lt. Col. (IDF res) Gil Elan is president and CEO of the Southwest Jewish Congress, and a Middle East analyst. Email:
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DISCLAIMER: Opinions are the writer’s, and do not represent SWJC directors, officers or members.

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