Monday, August 13, 2007

Constant Pressure

According to recent intelligence reports, the Syrians have purchased the most advanced ground-to-air missiles from the Russians, considered the cutting edge in aircraft interception technology. This is reportedly an attempt by the Syrians to neutralize Israel’s air supremacy. Experts say that the Syrians made these purchases after studying Israel’s actions, and discovering weaknesses, during the last war in Lebanon.
A report in Yideot Achranot, a popular Israeli daily newspaper, quotes a recently issued memo from The Institute for National Security Studies on the strengthening of the Syrian army. INSS researcher Yiftah Shapir writes that the antiaircraft deals between Syria and Russia include the purchase of SA-24 missile systems that are an armored vehicles each carrying four Igla-S missiles. These systems are considered to be among of the most advanced on the market.
Syrian has also reportedly bought approximately 50 Pantsir S-1 (SA-22) combined shell and missile systems. The Pantsir S-1 is brand new. The system has a launcher of twelve 143 pound missiles with a 35 pound warhead, all mounted on an all-terrain vehicle..
The Syrians are also looking to purchase the S-300 long-range missile defense system, which can reportedly intercept aircraft as much as forty kilometers away.
These purchases come shortly after the Russians announced the planned reopening of a naval base in Syria, along the Mediterranean. Reportedly the Syrians owe the Russians over $11 Billion. The Russians are going to erase part of the debt in exchange for permission to reopen the naval base, closed since the disintegration of the Former Soviet Union.

Syria is said to be worried about an imminent Israeli attack. But some analysts believe this is simply Syria taking advantage of Russia’s bear hug to become a regional superpower.. Others say that Syria is using Russia to offset the pressure Iran is exerting to take over control of the region, with Syria as a proxy fighting against Israel. Experts have speculated that Syria may be embracing Russia to extricate itself from the Iranian grasp.

Analysts fear that the Russian rearming of Syria, the first time since the cold war ended, will increase the arms race in the Middle East and bring the region closer to a conflict. Russia is already exerting serious influence in the region, selling nuclear power plant technology and weapons to the Iranians. Some pundits believe this is due to the Russian fear of a U.S. attack in the future; others that the reemerging nationalism in Russia is a serious bid to once again become a world-wide superpower.

On another front an Israeli Arab group claimed responsibility for yesterday’s shooting in the Old City of Jerusalem. The shooter Ahmad Khatib was from the Israeli Galilee village of Manda. According to some reports in the Israeli media, Manda is a bases of radical Islam. According to a report in Yideot Achranot, Khatib was a member of the al-Aqsa organization in Manda, closely associated with the Islamic Movement in Israel.. Press reports claim that last Friday the al-Aksa group arranged transportation for Khatib to Jerusalem for the big weekly prayer service at the Temple Mount mosques.
Khatib stayed longer. On Sunday he trailed two Israeli security guards through the old city, finally snatching the gun of one of the men, who was wounded in the ensuing gun battle. Khatib was killed by the second guard.

Then there is the case of Professor Hillel Weiss, a history professor at Bar Ilan University, who was videotaped cursing Israeli soldiers when they were in the process of evacuating Jewish settlers from Hebron’s old city Arab vegetable market. Professor Weiss express regrets today for his actions. In an interview on Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet, professor Weiss was apologetic, but even the radio interviewer Yigal Ravid wasn’t convinced of the professor’s sincerity. Later the professor told reporters he had been coerced into apologizing.
Weiss explained in a radio interview that he apologized due to "terrorist Mapainic pressure exerted on the university." Mapai was a left-wing party long controlled by David Ben-Gurion before the establishment of the Labor party.
According to reports, Weiss claimed that Bar-Ilan University President Prof Moshe Kaveh was pressured to ask Weiss to apologize. Bar Ilan University was where Yigal Amir, the assassin of the murdered Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin studied. Reportedly Bar Ilan has been sensitive to it’s public image ever since.
Some of the staff at Bar Ilan write off Professor Weiss’ actions as incidental. “He’s nuts,” one staff member told Jerusalem-Magazine. Still, nuts or not, he does have influence over students, and as Israel has seen, sometimes a student picks up a gun and shoots the Prime Minister.
Lastly there is the run up to the Likud primaries. Party leader Benjamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu is being bothered by the right-wing of his party represented by Moshe Feiglin. Feiglin is hoping to beat Bibi in the primary, or at least show that the right- wing of the party has to be considered when a platform is drawn up for the next general election.
Syria on the borders, Khatib and Islamic fundamentalists within the country, the likes of Weiss and Feiglin inside the borders, makes one wonder if Israel is united enough to fight an existential battle. Prime Minister Olmert and his Kadima party seem to be imploding, although Olmert claims he will still win an election. He also thought he’d win a war against Hezbollah, so his powers of prophecy are under a thick cloud of doubt.
Then there is a new study that asserts that over thirty-percent of the country is now ultra-orthodox, and twenty percent more orthodox. The latter serve in the army and pay taxes, but the former do not. By 2050 the experts estimate that the country will be eighty percent ultra-orthodox. Who then will pay the tax bill, provide for the budget, buy shells for the tanks? The ultra-orthodox do not espouse a Jewish state, but a Torah state, run by the Messiah.. The Likud’s Moshe Feiglin agrees Israel should be a Torah state, and wants to rebuild the destroyed Temple, making it the Third Temple.
One is tempted to ask the black-hats, the men in long black coats and black suits, white shirts and black skull-caps, who they think will defend Israel against the enemies outside and inside the borders? Who they think will pay taxes, provide for the budgets that run schools and hospitals and armies?
One wonders what the future holds when on top of the constant threats from Israel’s neighbors, there are the niggling struggles within the country to control the Jewish radicals, and the Islamic fundamentalists.
The pressure is always on, no matter who sits in the Prime Minister’s office because there are always people who want to run the country their way. The papers are filled with analysts who say that democracy is a nice idea once a society has developed far enough to understand how it works. Israel, they write, is surrounded by countries who don’t. Countries that harbor a fundamental objection to Israel’s existence, not from a territorial perspective, but from an ideological one.
The ultra-orthodox and the settlers in Hebron are living in a bubble of their own construction, as if the army doesn’t keep them alive by providing 24/7 protection against the hostile Arab population. It’s as if the Cavalry would have abandoned the fort leaving the settlers in the Wild West to shift for themselves against the hostile Indian tribes. But in the Wild West the settlers were appreciative of the Cavalry’s presence. In Hebron the settlers resent the army. They see their struggle as the vanguard of a fight that will result from Olmert’s talk of pulling back from the West Bank. Pundits surmise that is what Professor Weiss is cursing. Not what happened last week, but what might happen next month. The pressure from U.S. Sec of State Rice is to impose democracy on the West Bank, is folly, say many, including former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk. He and others say that to accept PA Chairman Abbas as a legitimate leader, when in fact anarchy not democracy rules in the West Bank and Gaza,is self-deception. Further these experts say that Chairman Abbas is incapable of establishing, defending or leading an independent state called Palestine.
There are those who dream of peace, find partners where there are none simply because that’s all that’s available. But bringing a tired, old, battered quarterback onto the field, giving him a line of lazy, overweight, self-indulgent guys to protect him, and calling it a team that can win a championship is foolishness. Some analysts say it is no more than just finding some ringer to play just so the coaches can stay in the game.
From Professor Weiss and his commitment to settlement and settlers, to Secretary Rice and her commitment to Democracy and a Palestinian State, to Achmed Khatib and his commitment to driving the Jews out of the Middle East, and perhaps the world, to Syria looking to become a regional strongman, and Russia looking to become a world superpower, Israel is caught in a multi-sided vice with the pressure constantly applied.
In the roadrunner cartoons, Wiley Coyote would watch as his evil plans against the Roadrunner exploded in his face. We can only hope that somehow Israel pulls together to face Wiley Coyote, or the next time the dynamite goes off, it might just take out both sides.