We just watched the first pictures of Gilad Shalit being handed off to the Egyptians in the Rafah border crossing by Hamas. He was handed off literally, by the man who engineered the kidnapping, Ahmed Jabari. Gilad wears a baseball cap and looks thin, pale and a little dazed. We are all a little dazed today.
It seems like we are all watching this today. Feeling this joy and happiness that he is actually coming home. For 1,941 days he has been held with very little contact except for sparse communications, a letter, a video recorded message and the occasional verifications by mediators that he is alive.
After Ron Arad there was the feeling that Gilad will become another ghost that will fade and disappear. Gilad’s family, a quiet introverted family that lives in a quiet rural village, Mitzpe Hila.
I am watching the interview with Gilad on Egyptian TV, a disturbing aggressive and abusive interview, being aired right now. He looks like he can barely breath, he is out of breath, his eyes are deep set and he seems overwhelmed by the aggressive questions of the (the bitch Shahira Amin) reporter that is oblivious to the fact he is about to pass out in front of her. The Egyptians forced this interview for the sake of political credit and this was not part of the deal. Pathetic on every level!
He is worth 1,027 terrorists. Worth every one of them. 1000 times more then all of them.
After being evacuated amidst the recent violent protests, four Israeli diplomats and security personnel will be returning to Israel’s embassy in Cairo. The return comes amidst reports by the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram that the protesters were actually paid to attack the embassy.
The envoys will return to Cairo to a different building and work to retain the Jewish Country’s diplomatic presence in Egypt. The ambassadors left almost two weeks ago after Egyptian demonstrators stormed Israelâ€™s embassy in Cairo, necessitating the emergency rescue of its staff by Egyptian commandos.
Egyptian protesters who were recently questioned by Egyptian security reportedly said that they were offered money to cause the riots. The riot and protest participants were bused to the area, then given dinner and envelopes containing money, according to al-Ahram.
Just Journalism and JN1
In other news, Just Journalism, the organization set up three years ago to monitor media coverage of Israel, is closing its doors. A statement announcing the closure on its website this afternoon told supporters: “Despite our extremely modest budget it has become increasingly difficult to financially sustain the operation in the current economic environment”.
Along with daily online briefings, Just Journalism published more detailed reports to expose “skewed” reporting of the Jewish Country.
Its advisory board includes MP Denis MacShane, political commentator Robin Shepherd, think-tank head Douglas Murray and the editor of Standpoint magazine Daniel Johnson.
Meanwhile, Ynet reports that the first-ever Jewish news network will commence broadcasting this week:
Jewish News 1 (JN1) was born as an alternative to the world’s leading news networks â€“ CNN, Fox News and Sky News. But its main goal is to serve as the Jewish version of al-Jazeera, which has won the hearts of tens of millions of Arab viewers over the past 15 years.
According to the Makor Rishon newspaper, the channel will be broadcast via satellite to Europe, North America and the Middle East. In Israel it will be offered by the Yes satellite company.
“Jewish News 1” will broadcast news from Israel and the world 24/7. The network has already set up studios in Tel Aviv, Brussels and Kiev, and additional studios will be opened in Washington, Paris and London in the coming months.
The network has 12 correspondents, all foreigners, who are currently deployed in six countries. The casting of reporters to cover the news in Israel, Europe and Russia will be completed in the coming days.
The network will begin its broadcasts in English, but its managers seek to offer news in seven additional languages, including Hebrew, French, Italian, Russian and German.
“We’ll broadcast everything that is newsworthy,” says Alexander Zanzer, the channel’s editor-in-chief in Brussels, where the station is based. “Alongside general news, we’ll offer economic and cultural items, as well as a peek into educational projects. Everything you can see on other global news channels, you’ll be able to see on our channel as well.”
Palestinian Statehood on track…
In other news, Palestinian diplomats are planning to submit their application for statehood to the United Nations Security Council on Friday, even as world leaders are pressuring President Mahmoud Abbas to return to peace negotiations with Israel as an alternative. The quartet of powers involved in brokering peaceâ€”that is the U.N., the European Union, U.S., and Russiaâ€”hope to set up a feasible timeline for new negotiations, alongside a pledge supporting Palestinian statehood should the negotiations fail. Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said on Sunday, however,â€œUnfortunately, we didnâ€™t get any solid or even medium-sized [offer] at all. As a result, yes, we are firm in our decision to go to the Security Council.â€
“Hitler never had more than 37 percent of the popular vote in the honest elections that occurred before he became Chancellor. And the opposition among the 63 percent against him was generally quite strong. Hitler therefore would have never seen the light of day had the German Republic been truly democratic.”
The introduction to the thesis continues:
“Unfortunately, its otherwise sound constitution contained a few fatal flaws. The German leaders also had a weak devotion to democracy, and some were actively plotting to overthrow it. Hitler furthermore enjoyed an almost unbroken string of luck in coming to power. He benefited greatly from the Great Depression, the half-senility of the president, the incompetence of his opposition, and the appearance of an unnecessary backroom deal just as the Nazis were starting to lose popular appeal and votes.”
What will the new anti-Semitic, Koran guzzling psycho of Egypt hold in the cards for the future of the region? Will he beâ€¦â€¦Hitleresque?
Hear about this?
A bunch of “freedom seeking”, whip cracking, Pharoahites have taken the anti-Israel protests in Cairo once step further.
What began as vandalism of the Israeli embassy in Cairo last month when Hamas militants opened fire on an Egged bus close to the Sinai border with Eilat has quickly escalated. Anna Theresa Day of PolicyMic.com has a nice slideshow of last month’s situation. See it Associated Press reports:
“Outside the Nile-side Israeli embassy in Cairo’s neighborhood of Giza, thousands of protesters battled riot police and army troops into the early morning hours, hurling rocks at them. The police and army troops responded with tear and firing live ammunition into the air to try and disperse the crowd. Several cars, police vehicles and trees on the streets outside the embassy were set ablaze. The violence subsided by around 6 a.m.
The state MENA news agency said 837 people were injured in the overnight clashes, including at least 46 policemen, while 19 protesters were arrested.
Earlier on Friday, hundreds of protesters tore down the embassy’s security wall with sledgehammers and their bare hands. After nightfall about 30 protesters stormed into the embassy.
Just before midnight, the mob reached a room on one of the embassy’s lower floors at the top of the building and began dumping Hebrew-language documents from the windows, said an Egyptian security official.
In Jerusalem, an Israeli official said the protesters reached a waiting room on the lower floor. Israel’s ambassador, Yitzhak Levanon, his family and other embassy staff were rushed to Cairo airport and left on a military plane for Israel, said Egyptian airport officials.
All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information or speak to the media.
Since the February fall of Mubarak â€” who worked closely with the Israelis in his 29 years in power â€” ties have steadily worsened between the two countries.”
One Jerusalem bro, old Ethan Bronner and the New York Slimes’ Egypt bureau Chief, David Fitzpatreck reported:
Two Israeli military jets arrived around dawn to carry away the ambassador and about 85 other diplomats and family members. One Israeli diplomat, the deputy ambassador, stayed behind, taking refuge in the American embassy, diplomats familiar with the arrangements said.
For Israel, the embassy attack and evacuation represented the most ominous deterioration yet in its relationship with its neighbor in the seven months since the revolution that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak, a strongman who suppressed the Egyptian publicâ€™s hostility to Israel in order keep his countryâ€™s alliance with Israel and the United States the pole star of its foreign policy.
The Egyptian Prime Minister, Essam Sharaf, who serves under the council of military officers acting as a transitional government, called an emergency cabinet meeting on Saturday as the Egyptian interior ministry put police on alert to guard against more violence.
For Egyptâ€™s interim military rulers, allowing the invasion of a foreign embassy is an extraordinary breach of Egyptâ€™s international commitments that is raising security concerns at other embassies as wellâ€¦
… The attack on the embassy marked a new turn toward violence in the previously peaceful protest movement that has flourished in Cairoâ€™s Tahrir Square since the revolution. At a demonstration called Friday to reiterate a litany of liberal demands, thousands of hard-core football fans showed up looking for revenge on police who attacked some of them after a match earlier in the week, and they injected a new impulse toward mayhem into the dayâ€¦
… As an angry mob stormed the embassy and tore down its flag for the second time in a month, Israel appealed to the United States for help. Coming a week after Turkey expelled Israelâ€™s ambassador over its refusal to apologize for a deadly raid on a Turkish ship, the attack left Israel facing crises in relations with its two most important regional allies, and ambassadors in neither countryâ€¦
…The violence also raised concerns about whether Egyptâ€™s military-led transitional government would be able to maintain law and order and meet its international obligations, and to what extent popular rage unleashed by the Arab Spring would send a chill over the regionâ€¦”
IAF drones are reportedly patrolling the vast blue above the countryâ€™s gas fields in the Mediterranean Sea on charge of security concerns, citing Hezbollah. Lebanon has been complaining in a world forum about the Leviathan (16 trillion cubic feet) and Tamar (estimated 8.7 trillion cubic feet) oil wells, of the enormous Levant Basin Province. Together, the two Israeli sites are twice as big as the British fields in the North Sea, with an estimated value of $300 billion, enough gas for 50-70 years of domestic consumption.
It should be noted that recently Cyprus, inspired by Israel’s discovery, started looking for oil off of their shores, however, Turkey threatened Cyprus over these actions. Ahmet Davutoglu a senior Turkish official said that they would show the â€œnecessary responseâ€ if the country goes ahead with the marine oil dig. For years, Cyprus and Turkey have been in dispute over who owns the northern region of Cyprus, with the Turkish government claiming the region as theirs and threatening military action time and again.
Because Israel and Lebanon have no maritime border, Lebanon claims the Levant Basin as its own. The Hezbollah, which constitutes much of the Lebanese military, despite contrary claims has threatened to use force to protect the natural wealth it insists belong to Lebanon. Hopefully it would not result in a situation like the Israel-Lebanon War of 2006.
Hassan Nasrallah said:
â€œWe warn Israel not to touch this area or try to steal Lebanonâ€™s resourcesâ€¦Those who harm our installations will have their own installations harmed,â€ he said.
Israel says it would use force to defend its gas fields should an attack by Hezbollah happen.
Usually, countries negotiate their maritime border, as did Israel and Cyprus, several months ago.
Because the Arab League refuses to supply gas to Israel, the Jewish Country, who imports coal, mainly from South Africa, is starving for fossil fuels. Egypt is the only nation which supplies gas to the Jewish Country, but in a post-Mubarak situation this is a fragile reality. The Arab gas line supplies Egyptian gas to Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, and a separate feed for Israel
When the ousting of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt went down last spring, Israel began to sweat. On February 5th, an explosion happened near the El Arish compressor station which supplies Israel and Jordan, and as a result, the supply was temporarily halted.
On April 27 an explosion at the pipeline near Al-Sabil village in the El-Arish region once again halted natural gas supplies to Israel and Jordan. And on July 4th, an explosion near Nagah, in the Sinai Peninsula halted gas to Jordan and the Jewish Country once again. These incidents are behind a failed attempt to blow up a pipeline supplying the Jewish Country, last March.
Prime Minister of the Jewish Country, Binyamin Netanyahu, recently said he “hopes a way will be found to overcome the differences with Turkey,” he added that “we do not want a further downgrading of the relationsâ€¦ Israel has a right to defend itselfâ€¦ We do not need to apologize for [stopping] weapons smuggling by Hamas, and we do not need to apologize for working to defend our children, our citizens and our cities.”
So that’s that!
Meanwhile, reportedly, overwrought diplomatic vibrations between Israel and Turkey since the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident in May of 2010 and more specifically following the release of the Palmer Commission report, have not seem to have shaken routine business relations between the two countries.
This says a lot about money. This does not say much about Turks and Jews. But actually, according to the Israel Export and International Cooperation Institute, bilateral trade increased to $1.1b in exports to Turkey between January and July of 2011, and Turkish exports to the Jewish country have jumped to $1.25b. Israel imported $1.8b of goods from Turkey in 2010 and exported $1.3b. 70% of Israeli exports to Turkey are chemicals and refined oil products. Other exports include metals, machinery, furniture, wood and paper products.
In a loosely related scoop of desert sand, a senior Israeli official warned it would only worsen ramshackle diplomatic standings with the Jewish Country were Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to visit the Gaza Strip, where rockets have been fired and terrorists infiltrating the Israeli border and murdering Jews since August.
It is however confirmed that Erdogan will pay a two-day visit to Egypt starting September 12th and this is when he may cross over into Gaza â€“ retracing the steps taken recently by Hamas murderers who opened fire on an Egged bus on the road to Eilat a couple of weeks ago.
The senior Israeli official says Erdogan would hurt Turkey’s relations with the United States as well by visiting Gaza. The move would also weaken Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas because a trip to Hamas-controlled Gaza would challenge his position as the sole representative of the Palestinians.
Turkish Deputy Premier Bulent Arinc said that Erdogan was scheduled to meet with the head of Egypt’s ruling military council, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi as well as other leading Egyptian politicians and intellectuals during the visit. The visit is expected to produce important decisions reflecting the strength of relations between Egypt and Turkey. Apparently Turkey hopes for reforms and elections in Egypt to proceed in accordance with the hopes and wishes of the people. The Turkish deputy prime minister says Erdogan may possibly cross into Gaza at the Rafah crossing after making arrangements with Egyptian authorities.
On Friday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced at a press conference that Ankara is to expel Israelâ€™s ambassador, and freeze all military agreements. This is in response to Netanyahu’s refusal to apologize for the flotilla incident. Davutoglu also says Turkey will be taking measures for freedom of maritime movement in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, will no longer recognize the blockade on the Gaza Strip (along with Egypt).
The Turkish political columnist Asli Aydintasbas says it is unlikely fences will be mended between Israel and Turkey unless Jerusalem meets Ankara’s demands. “Knowing the prime minister’s personality and knowing the importance of this issue for Turkey, I do not see how Turkey can accept anything short of an apologyâ€¦” says Aydintasbas.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon is pushing for a solution to the diplomatic crisis or at least says he is in favor of one:
“Both sides are very important countries in the regionâ€¦ Their improving relationship, normal relationship will be very important in addressing all the situations Middle East.”
Israeli experts have nearly completed the restoration of the five-century-old, 2.5 mile wide walls of Jerusalem. The $5 million undertaking â€“ the first restoration in a century â€“ which commenced in 2007 is set to be completed by the end of 2011. But this is not the only wall being built in Israel.
Israel is also increasing its presence along the Egyptian border and building a brand new fence after terror attacks last week injured dozens of Israelis and killed eight. The government is building a new, NIS 1.4 billion fence along the border, but construction is expected to take some two years. Consequently, the NSC recommended increasing the IDFâ€™s deployment along the border in the meantime.
Many in Egypt are worried that the increased Israeli military presence along the border could be permanent and will keep tensions between the two countries high. This is among the reasons for protests in Cairo outside the Israeli embassy, where Israeli flags are being burnt.
Reportedly, both the Egyptian and Israeli militaries are in constant discussion over how to tackle the militant issue in the Sinai Peninsula. One anonymous official said, â€œRight now, we are looking at ways of reducing the tension and working together, logistically, on how to battle violent militants in Egyptâ€¦”
Meanwhile, Ynet reported that an “Army inquiry shows at least three of the terrorists that perpetrated attack were Egyptians; clips, radio communication show IDF did everything in its power to prevent Egyptian troops from getting hurt.”
And in other news, Iranian dictator, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, released a statement saying:
“Iran believes that whoever is for humanity should also be for eradicating the Zionist regime (Israel) as symbol of suppression and discrimination…Iran follows this issue (the eradication of Israel) with determination and decisiveness and will never ever withdraw from this standpoint and policyâ€¦”
The remarks came only one day before the annual anti-Israeli rallies named Qods (Jerusalem) Day, which are held nationwide in Iran on the last Friday of the fasting month of Ramadan. On Monday, Ahmadinejad said that Iranians and Muslim nations worldwide should hold Qods rallies and show their willingness to dispose of this “infectious tumor and this regime full of rascality.”
Al-Youm al-Saba, the Egyptian daily, reported Wednesday that Egyptian citizens have created groups on Facebook calling for “a million-man protest” outside the Israeli embassy in Cairo on Friday.
The focus of the demonstration will be the demand to have the Israeli ambassador expelled from Egypt and Israel’s embassy in the capital closed.
The protests come after 5 Egyptian policemen were killed on the border by IDF soldiers in friendly fire, after eight Israeli citizens were killed by Palestinian terrorists. Israel apologized to Egypt for the incident.
For the fifth day in a row, protesters continue to demonstrate outside the embassy holding signs and chanting slogans saying, “Expel the ambassador immediately” and “force the ambassador to leave Egypt”.
Protesters burnt Israeli flags, and threw fire crackers at the embassy building attempting to burn an Israeli flag on a flagpole at the embassy.
In other news, Israel will allow Google Street View cameras to snap 360 degree photographs of its street. They are the first Middle Eastern country to do so. However, there are conditions.
Using the electronic tool to plot terrorist attacks and other privacy issues are concerns which prompted the Law, Information and Technology Authority to develop guidelines with Google for Google Street View. Here are some of the stipulations:
Google must provide citizens with an account of what Google Street View does and means, the rights of citizens and routes the camera crews will follow.
Users will be offered an efficient and reliable way online to blur residences and other objects.
Google must instruct Google Israel to heed legal proceedings in the country, meaning that any civil litigation brought by citizens against the company will be carried out in this country, despite the fact that Googleâ€™s main center is in the U.S.
Google has promised not to dispute criminal claims that might be raised against Street View by arguing that the Law, Information and Technology Authority lacks standing to prosecute criminal claims against the company in Israel.
If there is anything bizarre about the Middle East, besides permitting genocide in Syria, it is Israel’s strange relationship with an Egypt that still exists in a state of formless static â€“ still no elections, alas no formal government. After a coordinated terror attack on the road to Eilat that left eight Israeli nationals dead (The Popular Resistance Committee claimed responsibility) IDF soldiers accidently killed four Egyptian police officers, victims of friendly fire.
The IDF also was successful in their retaliation by killing the top commanders of the Popular Resistance Committee and setting off cross-border exchanges of gunfire.
Needlessly, Israel released a public apology for the incident. But on Friday as evening prayers were winding down, the people of Cairo rioted, vandalizing the Israeli embassy, burning Israeli flags and calling on Hamas to attack Israel. Dually noted, as the Associated Foreign Press reported, Egyptian Presidential hopeful, Hamdin Sabahi, praised the actions of the demonstrators.
Despite the fact that Ilan Grapel, the alleged Mossad agent arrested back in June in Egypt, (an American citizen who served in the IDF Paratrooperâ€™s Brigade during the Second Lebanon War and interned at the Israeli Supreme Court) is still being held in custody, Israeli President Shimon Peres held a Ramadan dinner for senior Arab sector officials at his home in Jerusalem. Peres told Egyptian diplomat Mustafa al-Kuni that “he has great respect for the Egyptian people.”
Meanwhile, Israel remains under a rain of rocket fire, while Hamas claims to be in fire of an immediate ceasefire.
In other news, over the weekend, Israel Aerospace Industries unveiled its latest development in the secret unmanned aerial vehicles sector – a tiny aircraft weighing four kilograms, known as GHOST. According to Haaretz, “GHOST has a low acoustic signature, and can stay airborne for half-an-hour including a payload for both daytime and nighttime observations.” The unmanned aerial vehicle can be used by both the military company as well as fighters in the field. The system can be carried in two backpacks by fighters, and it includes two aircrafts, several batteries and a portable computer that is used to oversee and control the device, including communication.
You probably thought that you would not live long enough to hear of a nation in the Middle East complain of not having enough oil to supply its population. Well, this is exactly what the Kingdom of Jordan in the Middle East is facing today.
Unlike many other Arab states and Kingdoms in the Middle East, Jordan does not have its own natural source of oil. It therefore imports natural gas and heavy oil from Egypt. However, supplies from Egypt were recently disrupted following an attack on the Arab Gas Pipeline that occurred last month. This attack marked the second Sinai explosion in a period of one month. According to officials in Cairo, the repairs will take between 7 and 10 days to complete.
This however, is unacceptable for Jordan, which relies on Egyptâ€™s natural gas and heavy oil supplies for 80% of its energy production. The Kingdom reports having experienced a loss of up to JD637 million in the first half of this year as a result of the continuous disruptions in the supply of oil from Egypt. The Kingdom is currently purchasing oil from the international market at a cost of more than $3 million per day.
The current high cost of fuel in the international market and the continuous disruptions in oil supplies has led officials from Amman to seek alternative sources of energy. Although the Kingdom is set to receive oil from neighboring Iraq at an $88 per tonne discount, the Kingdom officials still continue to seek alternative sources of energy that are more reliable and pocket friendly.
This is good news for various energy firms around the globe. Plans are underway for the construction of an offshore terminal for liquefied gas at the Port of Aqaba. Construction is set to begin in 2013 and various international firms have expressed interest in the project including Royal Dutch Shell, Al Fijr, Lemont/General Electric and British Petroleum. If all goes according to plan, the Kingdom would greatly reduce its current 30 000 tonnes a day consumption of heavy oil.
The countryâ€™s switch to alternative power will also see a reduction in government spending. Jordan currently spends one-fifth of its gross domestic product on the importation of energy to meet the nationâ€™s needs. The country currently imports 97% of its energy. Amman officials are also exploring energy sources such as nuclear power, wind, solar and oil shale.
There is initial news of an attack on an Eged Bus near Eilat on HWY 12 running close to the Egyptian border. The shooting was by three gunmen who stormed the bus as it was making its way 28 KM north of Eilat. There are apparently 4 injured on the bus that continued without stopping. Emergency crews are on the scene.
The bus, line 392, was fired upon by a long-barreled hand gun from a vehicle.
The terrorists escaped in the direction of the Egyptian border.
Eilat sub-district police set up road blocks throughout the entire area, including at the entrance to Eilat, as part of police efforts to assist the IDF in capturing the gunmen.
It remains unclear whether the shots were fired from Egypt or whether gunmen had infiltrated the border.
The terrorists either came from Egypt or Gaza, firing across the border, or the gunmen had crossed into Israel.
While the government has been working on completing a border barrier along the Sinai peninsula, it has yet to be finished.
Soon after the shooting, multiple roadside bombs were used against IDF forces patrolling the Israel Egypt border fence.
Then at around 1pm rockets were fired at IDF vehicles near the border.
Casualties were reported in all incidents.
Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy who heads the Senate Appropriations Committeeâ€™s sub-committee on foreign operations is promoting a bill which intends to suspend U.S. assistance to three units in the Israeli Defense Forces on grounds they are guilty of human rights abuses in Judea, Samaria.
Leahyâ€™s legislation will seek to withhold assistance from the Israeli Navyâ€™s Shayetet 13 unit, the undercover Duvdevan unit and the Israeli Air Forceâ€™s Shaldag unit.
Leahy began pushing the bill recently after allegedly being approached by pro-Palestinian constituents in his home state of Vermont. Yet more recently, another pro-Palestinian activist group protested in front of Leahyâ€™s office demanding that he condemnd Shayetet 13 for killing nine Turkish activists aboard the Mavi Marmara.
Glenn Beck will be in Jerusalem for the “Restoring Courage” rally starting on August 24th.
The roughly 600 tickets for the event at Jerusalem’s Davidson Center are sold out, but the event will be broadcasted in Israel and internationally.
Despite being a self-proclaimed, ardent Zionist, Beck dismissed the recent youth protests in Israel about high taxes come “from the far left” and evidence the protesters “hate the rich.” He added, “That worked out well for the Sovietsâ€¦”
He also said, “I wonder if thereâ€™s any financing behind [the protests] … look to see if thereâ€™s any leftist global financing in Tel Avivâ€¦And donâ€™t look to see if thereâ€™s any Islamist group thatâ€™s joining themâ€¦Well, the National Socialists [Nazis] got together with [Islamists] but that’s completely … OK, the communists and the Islamists got together, but that’s completely isolated … well, it’s happening in Egypt and in Libya, but there’s nothing to look into there.” He continued, “Why even look if there is any leftist global financing involved?…Do not look to see if there is any Islamist movement that is joining them.”
My first impression of the Sinai Peninsula in the north of Egypt was a pleasant surprise. I travelled there with two of my comrades in the spring of 2006. We took a bus from our kibbutz in the north overnight through Israel and crossed the border at Eilat. After crossing the Egyptian border check (the Sinai Peninsula was ceded to Egypt by Israel in 1982 with an Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty) we entered a Jeep accompanied by European tourists (presumably non-Jews) who drove us through the desert in blistering dry desert heat â€“ the temperature must have exceeded 45 degrees Celsius.
Staying for five nights in the resorts of Dahab and Sharm el-Sheik was great. The tourist complexes were filled mostly with scuba diving enthusiasts from England who opted to spend their holiday exploring the exotic marine life in the Gulf of Aquaba from Egypt rather than Eilat.
Just two days upon our return to the kibbutz in the North, however, CNN reported of a series of deadly explosion in Dahab. The incident happened right at the beginning of Sham Al-Nasseim, the Islamic spring celebration. 80 people were wounded and at least 23 were dead. The al-Qaeda had claimed responsibility for the attack.
Last week, the Egyptian army detained al-Qaeda militants in the Sinai region. According to the Maan news agency, al-Qaeda cells infiltrated the peninsula in the aftermath of the Egyptian revolution.
The Sinai also connects Egypt to the Gaza Strip. A crucial natural gas pipeline that runs through the Sinai was bombed five times this year, and post-Mubarak Egyptian authorities hold the al Qaeda responsible for the attack.
An Egyptian intelligence general told CNN: “Al Qaeda is present in Sinai mainly in the area of Sakaska close to Rafah,..They have been training there for month, but we have not identified their nationalities yetâ€¦Units from the 2nd infantry division, with support from general security and the border guardsâ€¦We plan to clean out those criminal pockets around the area of Rafah and Sheikh Zuweidâ€¦”
General El-Sayed Abdel-Wahab Mabrouk, the governor of North Sinai confirmed that a flier entitled “Al Qaeda Sinai Branch” circulated outside a mosque in el-Arish last Wednesday. The document called for an Islamic state in Sinai and declared that the group is planning attacks on police stations and security forces.
“A security cordon has been placed around the entrances of el-Arish and reinforcements arrived outside the police stations and the el-Arish central prison in anticipation of an attack on Fridayâ€¦” said Wahab.
On Tuesday, Israeli soldiers opened a thoroughfare in Nablus for the first time in nine years. On Monday, Palestinian liaisons of the Israeli army presided over the opening of the road that stretches from Nablus to the Palestinian village of An-Naqura. The governor of Nablus has made re-paving the road a priority in hopes that it will be fully functional as soon as possible.
The road being shut down in 2002 forced villagers to take long detours, and even prevented many villagers from accessing their fields so that they can go to work. With the road open, villagers in the north should have direct access to Nablus and to their livelihoods in the fields.
During the Second Intifada, the IDF closed many roads and built many checkpoints, a number of which, despite a lull in violence, are still in place. However, with terrorism such as what happened to the Fogel family a few months ago, it is no wonder the IDF opts to closely patrol roads throughout the area.
In other news, the Palestinian general consul in Alexandria Jamaal Al-Jamal said Tuesday upwards of 2,000 Palestinians have returned to live in the Gaza Strip from Libya, yes, Libya. More than 34,000 Palestinian families live in Libya, numbering in the ball park of 160,000 persons. Some who are trying to flee the war zone have visas which permit them to return to their jobs in Libya.
President Mahmoud Abbas has ordered PA authorities to facilitate the return of more Palestinians in Libya. Palestinian embassies in Tripoli, Alexandria and Cairo are coordinating with each other assisting their return.
In Alexandria, the Palestinian consulate has appointed a team to coordinate the arrival of passengers at the Rafah and Kerem Shalom crossings and the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is even offering health care and meals to assist Palestinians in Libya fleeing from the war there.
Al-Jamal says that he is grateful for the assistance of the United Nations and other humanitarian organizations before thanking the Egyptian authorities for helping to facilitate the return of Gazan Palestinians.
Last Wednesday, United States Republicans moved to cut aid to “several of Israel’s neighbors” and to stiffen control of assistance to Pakistan, swearing to go medieval on militant Islamism and curtail US spending in the region, even if for security interests.
The Republican-led House Foreign Affairs Committee pushed a slew of concerns in a spending bill for the fiscal year commencing in October, including cutting US contributions to the United Nations and putting a restriction on funding for abortion.
The new House spending bill will end decades of security aid to Egypt â€“ that is unless the new leaders implement a peace treaty with Israel to replace the treaty destroyed along with the ousting of Mubarak and of course forbid the Muslim Brotherhood any influence over cultural infrastructure. While Mr. Mubarak, who is now on his death bed was held by his people as a loathed dictator, his relationship with the Jewish State benefited Israel in maintaining some control over Hamas terrorism, weapons smuggling from Iran and al Qaeda and the oil trade.
The Republicans would also like to jettison security assistance to Lebanon where the Hezbollah rules, as well as the Palestinian Authority (partly ruled by the wicked Hamas) and yes, even Yemen.
The bill would also see the United States move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. The United States government still does not see Jerusalem as the official capitol of the Jewish State. In 1995, Congress pushed to move the embassy to Jerusalem, from its beach front location in Tel Aviv, but three presidents deferred the shift. Under the new House bill, the president would lose that waiver right come 2014.
The Republican bill on foreign affairs would cut $6.4b from Obama’s requests. The bill would also impose tighter restrictions on assistance to Pakistan; after Obama suspended one-third of its $2.7b annual defense aid to the country that probably aided and abetted one Osama bin Laden, terrorist mastermind (his body now being held in a cryogenic freezer in a top secret CIA cell).
Obama assures Pakistan that the United States is committed to a five-year, $7.5b civilian package that was originally approved in 2009 aiming at infrastructure, building schools and other “democratic” institutions. The new Republican bill would make the civilian aid “contingent on measurable progress by Pakistan in fighting Islamic militants.” writes Shaun Tandon from the Associated Press, however, a strong argument can be made to the contrary of Pakistani progress in helping the war on terror cause, as I just mentioned.
The committee voted along party lines to curtail the $44m in US funding for the Organization of American States, a regional bloc of some 35 nations.
Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) wants more than this though. He said that the bill didn’t go far enough to halt cost overruns on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and contains â€œunrequested pork-barrel projectsâ€¦”
â€œThis nation is at a critical juncture of decisions concerning our conduct of three wars, our record deficit spending, and the dynamic state of world affairsâ€¦I cannot, as it is currently drafted, give it my full support, but I will continue my efforts to improve the bill as it moves through the process of consideration by the Senate and conference negotiations with the House.â€
â€œThis bill uses a similar ruse â€” putting hundreds of millions of dollars into what amounts to slush funds of undesignated spending to be steered by powerful members to their pet projects and special interests as a means to back door earmarksâ€¦To avoid this predictable result, I offered a series of amendments to strike all unrequested funding increases that ignored and contradicted the Presidentâ€™s budget request. I regret I was not more successful.â€
On Friday, more than 500 Jordanians demonstrated outside the prime minister’s office in Amman, pleading for a government free of corruption and other particular. At the same time, some 600 Hashmoneans held pro-reform protests in the southern cities of Tafileh, Karak and Thieban as well as the Northern city of Irbid.
“The people want to reform the regime. Speed up democratic reforms now. We want our stolen money backâ€¦We demand an incorruptible national salvation governmentâ€¦”
One banner read:
“Democracy means an independent judiciary, honest MP’s and an elected governmentâ€¦”
In Karak, protestors hailed former information minister Taher Adwan who was forced to resign on Tuesday after accusing the government of introducing “restrictive” legislation, he described as a “blow to the reform drive” and “martial laws.”
Heavy protesting in Jordan actually began in January, as Arab citizens throughout the Middle East have demanded political and economic reforms and an end to corruption.
In Jordan, unlike other Arab countries, the protests have usually passed without serious violence.
Meanwhile, the Jordanian Transport Ministry said it was following up with Egyptian authorities on re-opening the maritime line between Aqab and Taba for tourism. These hot resort towns were closed by Egypt.
Meanwhile, in an unrelated story, Jerusalem and Washington held meetings with Cairo on June 13, to release 27-year-old Ilan Grapel, the dual US/Israeli citizen arrested on charges of Mossad affiliated espionage. Israel announced on Monday, Grapel had no connection to Israeli intelligence, whatsoever. Furthermore, the Israeli foreign ministry insisted Cairo had not informed Jerusalem of the arrest.
Meanwhile, Egyptian officials renewed his detention. Grapel will spend 15 more days in an Egyptian jail pending further investigation.
With the ousting of Hosni Mubarak in February, Israel’s relations with Egypt have been turned on their head. It is a game of waiting. Will a treaty between Egypt and Israel hold? Will Muslim Brotherhood take more than 50 percent of Parliament seats? If yes, does it mean direct threat? Imminent danger for the Jewish State? Is everything going to be alright after all?
Ahead of legislative elections, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has reportedly joined forces with 17 Egyptian political parties â€“ both liberal, secular and religious alike â€“ to concretize a mutual platform. Involved in the joint platform are such political parties as Brotherood’s Freedom and Justice Party, the more liberal Wafd party, the leftist Tagammu and the brand new Salafi (Muslim Fundamentalist) Noor party.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces â€“ which took the governmental reins after Hosni Mubarak was ousted â€“ has set the parliamentary elections for a date in September.
Despite these signs of modernity and democracy from the Brotherhood, Chairman Mohammed Badie held an interview on Egyptian television, indicating as Caroline Glick paraphrased:
“That the Brotherhood will end any thought of democracy in Egypt by taking control over the media. Badie said that the Brotherhood is about to launch a public news channel,” committed to the “ethics of the society and the rules of the Islamic faith.”
Mr. Badie recently said in an interview:
“Mubarak tries to black mail Obama by using Muslim Brotherhood name to remain in charge of on going chaos. All 1.57 billion Muslims are part of Muslim Brotherhood excluding Mubarak, he is member of Israel Brotherhood, he can go Israel and live there.”
Jerusalem Post in February reported Badie saying:
“Asked on CNN if his organization would support the maintenance of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, Mohamed Morsy, a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, dodged a direct answer but said Israel had failed to honor the treaty. He said it would be up to the Egyptian parliament to decide on the fate of the treaty, and that the parliament would reflect the will of the people.”