Israel faces new threats

In addition to Iran, Israel is watching potentially hostile elements line up along its borders with Syria and Egypt

Topics: Israel, Israel-Palestine, Iran, Syria, Egypt, Benjamin Netanyahu, ,

Israel faces new threatsBenjamin Netanyahu (Credit: AP/Ariel Schalit)
This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

JERUSALEM — In a highly unusual move, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu angrily canceled Wednesday morning’s security cabinet meeting, citing an embarrassing leak published in Israeli media after an eight-hour session the day before.

Global Post

That long meeting was the cabinet’s annual intelligence review. The leak, published in Yedioth Acharonoth, the country’s most widely-read newspaper, revealed high-level disagreements about the imminent (or not) threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program.

The security cabinet includes a dozen cabinet members in addition to Netanyahu himself.

Netanyahu’s outburst may reflect the enormous pressure his government is under as it faces what many say is one of the most dire security situations in the country’s history. In addition to Iran, Israel is watching potentially hostile elements line up along its borders with Syria and Egypt.

The man who spoke to Yedioth Acharonoth said the Iranians were “holding their own” amid international pressure but not “running wild,” apparently exposing his own position against a unilateral, pre-emptive Israeli strike and, in consequence, differences among senior level officials.

Netanyahu scolded his ministers, saying that “whoever broke the very basic trust required for discussions about Israel’s security matters” also “damaged our capacity for holding classified discussions.”

By evening, Israel’s Chanel 2 television had reported that Netanyahu ordered the Internal Security Services to investigate the leak, and was mulling the use of polygraph lie detectors.

The prime minister has performed a high-stakes, high-wire act over the past few weeks, balancing what appears to be growing American impatience with his saber-rattling at Iran, increasingly audacious criticism from senior Israeli military figures on the same subject, the unclear effects of international sanctions on the Iranian government, political pressure from his right-wing coalition partners, the continued stalemate with the Palestinians and the unsettling panorama on Israel’s northern and southern borders.



Still, as tension heightens, for now, at least, not much is going on. Syria remains in a state of war with Israel, but its border, quiet since 1967, has not seen so much as a blip. Israel Army spokesman Capt. Eytan Buchman says the matter “is political, not military.”

There has been some reinforcement on Israel’s border with Egypt and Gaza, but by far the most significant step taken has been conceptual. Breaking with agreements set out in the Camp David Agreements of 1979, Israel has permitted Egypt to bring tanks and heavy armor into the demilitarized Sinai Peninsula as an effort to quash Salafist militant groups operating there.

Itamar Rabinovich, a former ambassador to the United States and former chief negotiator with Syria, said he has never seen such a Middle Eastern predicament.

“The introduction of the Iranian threat, not just a nuclear threat but a geopolitical threat from a regional superpower with significant powers and aspirations has changed the equation,” he said.

Rabinovich traces Iran’s hegemonic ambitions to the fall of Saddam Hussein, but numerous developments, he said, have impacted Israel’s regional standing.

He lists the rise of an Islamist government in Turkey, the development of new weapons systems in Lebanon, Syria and Gaza and “the slump of American prestige in the region in recent years” among some of the challenges now facing Israel.

“Add to all this the ramifications of the Arab Spring in which we are not encircled, but almost, by Islamic regimes in which the influence of popular opinion is greater than that of the government — add all this together, and it is a difficult predicament, ” he said.

The growing spread of Islam as a political force in the region is frequently remarked upon, often with some trepidation, here.

Ephraim Asculai of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University says that due to the upheaval, “almost everything has changed.”

“The balance of internal powers in our neighboring states has changed things we previously took for granted. It may not yet have changed radically, but they could change, in both Syria and Egypt.”

“No one has any idea how this might pan out in the long term,” he said.

Then there are possible cracks in the crucial Israeli-American alliance. A statement by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, at the opening of the Paralympic Games in London, may have hinted at American annoyance with Jerusalem’s continuing talk of a strike against Iran, saying that such an attack would “clearly delay but probably not destroy Iran’s nuclear program,” and adding that he did not wish to be “complicit” if Israel did attack.

The statement rattled nerves in Israel, where the relationship with the United States is seen almost as a condition for survival. White House spokesman Jay Carney attempted to clarify matters, saying “there is no daylight” between Israel and the US on the matter of Iran. And Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral James Winnefeld, was quietly dispatched to Jerusalem to discuss ongoing military cooperation.

Efraim Inbar, a political science professor at Bar-Ilan University and the director of its Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, says “the State of Israel has to keep good ties with the United States.”

Still, when it comes to Iran, he says that if Israel finds itself “alone in the world, we will go it alone.”

Referring to Israel’s air force attacks on Iraqi and Syrian nuclear reactors, in 1981 and in 2007, he said, “the feeling is that we are alone, that the world understands the problem but is not planning to do anything about it. It is our decision. It will not be simple, but like we decided on Iraq, and also Syria, we will have to decide alone.”

For Israel, he adds, “the Iranian issue is dominant. But if Iran does not become a nuclear power, our situation is not bad. The disorder in Arab nations has brought about more unpredictability, but it basically weakens them. They are busy with internal problems. There is a risk of terror, but their ability to hit us is diminished.”

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>