Monday, August 20, 2012

Ultimatum: U.S. Threaten Iran With Military Action By September 25th Or Israel Will Strike.

Netanyahu on the balcony of war

This summer, Netanyahu has placed Israel on an even more dangerous balcony than the one on which he stood at an anti-Rabin rally a month before the premier was murdered on November 4, 1995.

By Sefi Rachlevsky Aug.21, 2012 | 2:47 AM

Nuclear Israel Pictures, Images and Photos

In the summer of 1995, the heads of the security establishment once again warned then-opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu against involvement in the campaign of incitement against Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, under the slogan "With blood and fire, we'll expel Rabin." Netanyahu was warned that he was playing with fire. That it would end in catastrophe. But he covered his ears.
This summer, Netanyahu has placed Israel on an even more dangerous balcony than the one on which he stood at an anti-Rabin rally a month before the premier was murdered on November 4. Then, the fire was aimed at, and hit, the prime minister and defense minister. Today, the incitement and the fire are aimed at the entire leadership of the army and the defense establishment, as well as against America. They are all cowards motivated by personal interests. All except our two leaders, of course, who are known the world over for their monastic abstention from personal interests and material goods. Like a pervert who imagines perverts under every rock.
Those who are up late and used to having pensive late-night telephone conversations with Defense Minister Ehud Barak know that, for a decade, he has worried more about Pakistan's existing nuclear bombs, which could fall into the hands of Islamic extremists, than about the possibility of an Iranian nuclear bomb. Such night owls also know that Barak viewed nothing as more important than an intimate alliance with the United States - an alliance that brought with it both domestic and international legitimacy.
vlag Pictures, Images and Photos

In his view, he even gave up the Prime Minister's Office - when he refused Ariel Sharon's offer to rescue him at the beginning of the second intifada - in order to secure American legitimacy as a peace-seeker. In that, he saw himself as continuing the tradition of the heroes of Israel.
The brutal general Sharon - a well-known nervous Nellie - waited and absorbed hundreds of victims of terror attacks before launching Operation Defensive Shield in 2002. The reason for this delay? To obtain American legitimacy. And brave Moshe Dayan, another famous coward, preferred to absorb hundreds of casualties in the 1973 Yom Kippur War rather than call up the reserves and attack preemptively, for the sake of that same legitimacy. Yet in all these cases, and many others, Israel didn't need even one percent of the American help that it needs to block Iran.
The magnitude of Netanyahu's failure - into which Barak has opted to let himself be dragged - is almost inconceivable. The agreement between these two men, which dates back four years, to when then-Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni tried to form a government, stemmed from the understanding that in order to build legitimacy for an attack on Iran, Netanyahu would do anything, from the deal to free kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit on the domestic front to a withdrawal from parts of the West Bank on the international front.
Yet on the American front, the exact opposite occurred. Netanyahu did everything possible to clash with the administration on which everything depends and to humiliate it in public. In the run-up to the attack, every boundary was crossed when Netanyahu, via American Jewish mogul Sheldon Adelson, became the spearhead of the drive to unseat U.S. President Barack Obama. And Barak, the boy from the kibbutz, now is standing beside him on this balcony of incitement.
All the pretexts for acting now rather than waiting - at least until spring - are embarrassing. An Islamic nuclear bomb surrounded by radical Islamic terrorists isn't a nightmare scenario; it already exists. The dozens of bombs in Pakistan's arsenal are surrounded by radicals who could take power even more quickly than it happened in Egypt. And to deter them, Israel needs America.
The zone of immunity, which has been dissolving like a dream, has actually been in place in Iran for some time . The fact that an Israeli attack would delay Iran's nuclear program by only a year means that Israel no longer has the ability to stop Iran on its own: Everything depends on American follow-through. Enough enriched uranium for a bomb isn't something that will happen this winter; Iran already has enough enriched uranium for more than four bombs.
israel-us flag Pictures, Images and Photos
By spring, the delay that Israeli action can achieve in Iran's nuclear program will be a bit shorter. But waiting for spring will either bring American action, or else the legitimacy needed for Israeli action that would undermine the status quo.
The candidates for the position of "home front defense" minister heard from the dynamic duo that if Iran acquires a nuclear bomb, war now - which won't prevent it from doing so - would create deterrence later. A state is entitled to try to foment an incident that shakes up everything. But to do so, you have to prepare in advance for the day after.
Before Egyptian President Anwar Sadat chose to go to war in 1973, he prepared for the day after, and the return of the Sinai peninsula, by agreeing in principle to a full peace in 1972 and forging ties with the Americans. The balcony from which Netanyahu is burning the Israeli-American relationship promises that the day after will come tumbling down on Israel's head.
A campaign of newspaper incitement is being waged against all senior officials who oppose an illegitimate attack. Netanyahu, alongside the skeletons of the balcony, now has Sheldon's daily Israel Hayom in his closet too. In Netanyahu's name, the thuggish cries hurled at Rabin's granddaughter were also hurled at President Shimon Peres: "Oslo had 1,000 victims."
us israel flag Pictures, Images and Photos

This is the moment to climb down from the balcony. Before another 4th of November. You don't go to war this way. Not with incitement. Not against the heads of the army. Not against the Americans. Not before the clouds come. Not from the balcony. You just don't.

Will we really know?

Op-ed: US, Israel may wake up to nuclear Iran if they continue to rely solely on intelligence
Ronen Bergman
Published: 08.21.12, 00:22 / Israel Opinion

"If and when Iran decides to advance to the next stage and produce nuclear weapons, the US and Israel will know about it and share this information," a senior American official said in an effort to allay concerns stemming from reports of differences of opinion between the sides, which may lead to an Israeli surprise attack in Iran.

But the most worrying aspect of this whole debate is the confidence both sides have in the quality of the intelligence information they have obtained. This is critical, because intelligence information indicating that the Iranians have begun to assemble the bomb would result in an immediate attack on its nuclear facilities.

israel flag Pictures, Images and PhotosJerusalem and Washington agree that Iranian scientists have apparently assured Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei that they would be able to build the first nuclear weapons production facility as soon as they are given the order to do so. Intelligence sources in Israel and the US claim they will "know when this happens," but disagree on the response to such a development and on whether a preemptive military strike is necessary.

There is no doubt that the extensive efforts by US and Israeli intelligence agencies over the past decade have significantly increased the amount of intelligence information coming in from Iran. The discovery of facilities the Iranians were trying to conceal, alongside the planting of computer viruses and the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists – all acts that were attributed to American and Israeli intelligence agencies – provide further proof of their efficiency. On the other hand, in light of past mistakes, one would expect the intelligence sources and leaders who rely on this information to be a little more modest.

For example, a senior source in Syria who worked for Israel from the 1970s through the 1990s warned on two separate occasions that Damascus was about to attack. These warnings almost resulted in a preventive Israeli strike – which was eventually avoided due to Washington's intervention. The information was found to be false.

Israel and the US also believed they had good intelligence on Iraq during the 1980s, but they completely missed Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction program, which almost reached the point where Iraq was capable of producing nuclear weapons.

On the other hand, in 2003 the US relied on intelligence information indicating that Iraq was in possession of weapons of mass destruction, although it wasn't.

What all these examples have in common is exaggerated enthusiasm and complete dependence on a limited number of sources, who are supposedly reliable. But this dependence may result in another blunder of historic proportions. What would happen, for instance, if Khamenei informs the nuclear scientists of his decision through new channels that are not exposed to the CIA or Mossad? And what would happen if the Iranians assemble a bomb at a facility that has yet to be discovered? The US and Israel, who are certain in the quality of their intelligence, may wake up too late and find out that Iran has already produced a nuclear bomb and there nothing they can do about it – at least not militarily.

Moreover, opposition elements may provide information that will lead Israel to attack Iran prematurely, before the diplomatic efforts to halt Iran's nuclear program, including harsh economic sanctions, are exhausted. Without reliable intelligence information, Israel may be under the impression that it is attacking all of Iran's nuclear plants, when in reality it would only be attacking some of them. The Middle East would pay a heavy price for such a blunder.

J'lem mum on Egypt move to send troops, weaponry to Sinai 
08/21/2012 01:24
Egypt preparing to move tanks to Sinai for first time since 1973; Israeli officials refuse to say if Cairo has received permission; Dennis Ross: Egyptians are risking US support with current behavior. 
Egyptian tanks arriving in Sinai city of Rafah

Reflecting the acute sensitivity of the issue, Israeli officials refused to comment Monday on whether Jerusalem gave Egyptian authorities a green light to introduce tanks and aircraft into Sinai to fight terrorists there, or whether Cairo was unilaterally moving forces there in contravention of the 1979 Israeli-Egypt peace treaty. One official, who said he was instructed not to discuss the matter, said Israeli and Egyptian security officials were in contact.

Nuclear Israel Pictures, Images and Photos

The firing by new Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy of the military’s top brass earlier this month has raised some questions as to the level of coordination that will exist between Israel and Egyptian security officials. That coordination remained good throughout the Egyptian revolution that saw the deposing of Hosni Mubarak and the election of Morsy. It was based, however, on long-standing ties with Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi and his top generals, forced out this month by Morsy.
According to Egyptian security sources, Egypt is preparing to use a combination of aircraft and tanks in Sinai for the first time since the 1973 Yom Kippur War, in its offensive against terrorists there.
The plans to step up the operation were being finalized by Egypt’s newly appointed Defense Minister Gen. Abdel Fattah Sisi as he made his first visit to Sinai on Monday, following the killing of 16 border guards on August 5.
Egypt blamed the attack on Islamist gunmen and the conflict is an early test for Morsy to prove he can rein in guerrillas on the border with Israel.
“Sisi will supervise the putting together of final plans to strike terrorist elements using aircraft and mobile rocket launchers for the first time since the beginning of the operation,” an Egyptian security source said.
Another security source said the army was planning to attack and besiege al- Halal mountain in central Sinai, using weapons including tanks, where terrorists were suspected to be hiding.
Disorder has spread in north Sinai, a region with many guns that has felt neglected by the central government since the overthrow of Mubarak.
Mubarak’s government had worked closely with Israel to keep the region under control and Islamist Morsy has promised to restore stability.
The Camp David peace treaty placed strict limits on the military presence in Sinai, although in recent years Israel agreed to let Egypt deploy more forces there to stem weapons smuggling. These troop movements were allowed on an ad hoc basis, without reopening the entire treaty, something Israel does not want to do.
After the border attack this month, Egypt launched a joint army-police operation that has raided guerrilla hideouts, arrested terrorists and seized weapons.
Directly after the attack, Israel allowed the Egyptians to use helicopters in the operation.
It was not immediately clear, however, whether the more recent deployments were coordinated with Israel, or whether the Egyptians moved troops and weaponry unilaterally into Sinai.
Dennis Ross, a former special assistant to US President Barack Obama on the Middle East and a senior director on the National Security Council, wrote Monday in The Washington Post that Morsy moved forces in Sinai without first notifying Israel – a requirement of the peace treaty.
In addition, he said, there have been new efforts to intimidate the Egyptian media, and news reports suggest that more than 100,000 Coptic Christians have left the country.
Israel flag Pictures, Images and Photos
“The administration’s position needs to be clear,” wrote Ross, who is now at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “If this behavior continues, US support, which will be essential for gaining international economic aid and fostering investment, will not be forthcoming. Softening or fuzzing our response at this point might be good for the Muslim Brotherhood, but it won’t be good for Egypt.”
Ross said that Morsy and the Muslim Brotherhood should know that “we are prepared to mobilize the international community, and global financial institutions, to help Egypt – but that we will only do so if Egypt’s government is prepared to play by a set of rules grounded in reality and key principles.”
Ross listed those principles as respecting the rights of minorities and women; accepting political pluralism and open political competition; and respecting international obligations, including the terms of the peace treaty with Israel.


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Israel Has Given Ultimatum To Obama: Threaten Iran With Military Action By Sept 25th, or Israel Will Strike

On Tuesday, an article in Ma'ariv suggested that Netanyahu and Barak have set a deadline of 25 September for Obama to clearly state that the US itself will take military action. The date is the opening of the UN general assembly in New York, and also the eve of Yom Kippur, one of the most significant dates in the Jewish calendar.

The implication is that, in the absence of a public declaration, Israel will press on with its own plans to strike at the Iranian nuclear programme.

link to

Iran: Israel won't launch 'stupid' attack

Foreign Ministry spokesperson says 'even if some officials in the illegitimate regime want to carry out such a stupid action, there are those inside who won't allow it because they know they would suffer very severe consequences'
Published: 08.14.12

Iran on Tuesday said it is dismissing Israeli threats of an imminent attack against it, explaining that even some Israeli officials realized such a "stupid" act would provoke "very severe consequences."

"In our calculations, we aren't taking these claims very seriously because we see them as hollow and baseless," foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters in a weekly briefing.

"Even if some officials in the illegitimate regime (Israel) want to carry out such a stupid action, there are those inside (the Israeli government) who won't allow it because they know they would suffer very severe consequences from such an act," he said.
Iranian Defense Minister General Ahmad Vahidi was quoted by the ISNA news agency as saying that Israel "definitely doesn't have what it takes to endure Iran's might and will."
read more:,7340,L-4268339,00.html

Iran: If war breaks out, we'll annihilate IDF

Tehran's defense minister dismisses possibility of Israeli strike on nuclear facilities; says 'Israel's warlike talk will only see regime's war machine destroyed'
Dudi Cohen

Published: 08.14.12

Iran is taking another stab at psychological warfare against Israel: Iranian Defense Minister General Ahmad Vahidi vowed Tuesday that should Israel strike its nuclear facilities, the Islamic Republic will annihilate the IDF.

The Israeli leaders, Vahidi said "Are not very smart. They are warmongers… all this warlike talk will only see that regime's war machine destroyed."

Speaking at a conference on defensive diplomacy in the Iranian Defense Ministry, Vahidi said that the Israeli debate on whether to strike Iran is a government ploy meant to distract the public's opinion from the Palestinian issue.

"The weak, crumbling Zionist regime, which has suffered humiliations in the (recent) wars cannot deal with Iran's might," he said. "The threats are a sign of weakness by brainless leaders."

Israel, he added, is so wary of the "Islamic awakening" of the Arab Spring, "That it's scared of its own shadow. This is why they are trying to use psychological warfare."


US: Israel can't destroy Iran's nuclear program

Chairman of US Joint Chiefs of Staff says strike on Tehran's atom facilities will only slow nuclear program down. Panetta says he 'doesn't believe' Israel made a final decision on strike

Yitzhak Benhorin


WASHINGTON – A possible Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities may be able to hinder the Islamic Republic's atom ambitions but it will no destroy its nuclear program, General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Tuesday.

In a press briefing held in the pentagon, Dempsey and US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta were asked for their opinion of a recent media report suggesting Israel was closer than ever to undertaking a unilateral strike against Iran, and whether they believed such military action would be effective.


Dempsey told reporters that "Militarily, my assessment hasn't changed. And I want to make clear, I'm not privy to their planning. So what I'm telling you is based on what I know of their capabilities. And I may not know about all of their capabilities. But I think that it's a fair characterization to say that they could delay but not destroy Iran's nuclear capabilities."


Panetta, on his part, said that Israel has not informed the US of any immediate plans to that effect. "I've said this before, I'll say it now – I don't believe (Israel has) made a decision as to whether or not they will, they will go in and attack Iran at this time," he said.


Panetta and Dempsey on Tuesday (Photo: AP)
Panetta and Dempsey on Tuesday (Photo: AP)


"Obviously, they're an independent, sovereign country. They'll ultimately make decisions based on what they think is in their national security interest. But I don't believe they made that decision at this time."

Panetta added that the US believes "there is room to continue to negotiate… The additional sanctions are beginning to have an additional impact on top of the other sanctions that have been placed there.

"The international community is strongly unified in opposition to Iran developing any kind of nuclear weapon," he said.

"We are working together, both on the diplomatic side as well as on the economic side… The United States and the international community are going to continue to press because, as I said and I'll continue to repeat – the prime minister of Israel said the same thing – that any kind of military action ought to be the last alternative, not the first."

Washington, Panetta stressed, still believes that "the window is still open to try to work towards a diplomatic solution."

'No one wants war'

As the debate over a possible strike on Iran grows heated, a top political source told Ynet Tuesday that "No one really wants a war. No one wants to strike. All this talk about a military strike has gotten too loud."

A Jerusalem source ventured that the public debate vis-à-vis the United States is meant to lead to an unequivocal statement by Washington that will have a clear effect on Tehran.

"President Obama must present a new position on Iran in a very public and clear way – in a way that would convince the Iranians that he is serious about the military option," a top political source said.

"He doesn’t need to convince Israel that he's serious – he needs to convince Iran. The Iranians have to understand that they conduct will carry a price."
The international community, he added "Must also exacerbate the sanctions further. The economic situation in Iran is dire, but it has yet to convince the regime to stop enriching uranium. A clear statement by Obama could change that."

Demonstrators Outside Barak's Home: No Strike on Iran

About 200 people demonstrate against an attack on Iran outside the home of Defense Minister Ehud Barak in Tel Aviv.
By Elad Benari
About 200 people demonstrated on Sunday evening outside the home of Defense Minister Ehud Barak in Tel Aviv. The demonstrators were protesting against an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Channel 10 News reported that the protesters shouted “No to war” and “No to an attack on Iran.”

One demonstrator was detained by police after he held up a picture of Barak in a Nazi officer’s uniform. The other protesters forced him to lower the sign before his arrest.

Among the participants in the demonstration was Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon, who said, “A government that does not know how to put out fires must not be allowed to go to war. It is unconscionable folly to initiate a military operation that all the professionals and experts explain will have no chance of succeeding and will hurt underprivileged citizens who have no safe room or shelter.”

A Tel Aviv councilman predicted on Sunday that it will take 24 hours to get all the bomb shelters in the city open in the event of a missile strike.

City councilman Moshe Tiomkin, who was quoted Sunday by Army Radio, said that all of the city's 400 public shelters would be open and ready for use within a day. Tiomkin is in charge of defense and emergency management for the city.

However, the Home Front Command was not as confident and said that in the event of a missile strike on Tel Aviv, it may take up to 48 hours to get all the public shelters in the city open.
Meanwhile, a Channel 10 survey conducted by the Dialogue Institute found that 46% of Israelis believe that Israel should not attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. 32% said Israel should attack Iran and 22% say they do not know.

Also on Sunday, Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert accused the government of creating "hysteria" over Iran and said that there is no need for an immediate strike against its nuclear facilities.

"There is no reason to get uptight," he said in a panel at the Ono Academic College, "certainly not in the immediate range. Iran has still not drawn near to that threshold that would force us to reassess the situation. I think it is not right and not responsible to act in a way that blatantly ignores the interests of additional bodies, among them those of the greatest friend that Israel has."

NATO official: Soon, Israel won’t have unanimous support for Iran strike

In exclusive interview with Haaretz, Canadian general warns that military strike could serve interests of jihadis.

By Akiva Eldar|
The commander of the NATO mission in Libya that toppled Muammar Gadhafi's regime last year vehemently opposes a military strike on Iran at this time, regardless of whether it would be carried out by Israel or the United States.

Israel Tests National SMS Warning Amid Reports of Looming Strike

By Calev Ben-David and Gwen Ackerman on August 12, 2012
Israel’s Home Front Command this week will test its nationwide text-message system to alert the public of danger, the military said, amid reports that the country is considering a strike against Iran.

The test would involve sending text-message warnings to Israelis on their mobile phones, according to an e-mail sent by the army.

“The country’s home front defense is significantly improved,” Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu said ahead of the weekly Cabinet meeting in comments sent by text message from his office. “But we can’t say there are no problems because there always are.”

Iranian officials have said that any attack against the country’s nuclear program that the Israelis want to stop would prompt retaliation. Iran has an arsenal of medium-range missiles and close ties with Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia and the Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip, which have fired rockets against Israel.

Israel Ziv, a major general in the reserves and former head of the military’s operations directorate, said on Army Radio that Hezbollah and Hamas would probably participate in any Iranian retaliation and that Syria, involved in a civil conflict, may also join in.

Window Closing?

Channel Two news said Aug. 10 that Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak see the window for striking Iran in an effort to halt its nuclear program closing within months. The leaders are leaning toward a strike on Iran before U.S. elections in November despite opposition to such a move by the security establishment, the Haaretz daily reported Aug. 10.
“Iran cannot be allowed to develop nuclear weapons,”Netanyahu said today.

Forty percent Israelis surveyed think that Iran’s nuclear program won’t be stopped without a strike and 56 percent polled said they think the home front isn’t ready to deal with Iranian retaliation, according to a survey published in Ma’ariv on Aug. 10. The poll surveyed 501 Israeli adults and has a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points.

U.S. officials, concerned that a conflict could destabilize the region and send oil prices soaring, had been urging caution and pressing for increased sanctions on Iran. White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Aug. 10 that the U.S. believes“there continues to be the time and space” to pursue diplomatic and economic sanctions against Iran.

The daily Haaretz said today that Iran was making significant progress toward developing the components for assembling a nuclear weapon, citing an unidentified official.

August 14, 2012 9:31 AM

Iran defense minister dismisses Israel threats

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran's defense minister is dismissing Israeli threats against his country as psychological warfare.

The semiofficial Mehr news agency on Tuesday quoted Gen. Ahmad Vahidi as saying Israeli leaders are resorting to "psychological war" against Iran.

Israel has not ruled out a military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities. The West suspects Iran is aiming at producing nuclear weapons. Iran denies that.

Gen. Vahidi warned that Israel is moving toward destruction of its "war machine" through its "warmongering" remarks.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday called Iran his country's most dangerous threat, as the debate in Israel over whether to attack Iran gains strength.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmhmanparast told reporters Tuesday that Iran would not relate seriously to "baseless" remarks.

The Israeli Crisis

August 14, 2012 | 0859 GMT

By George Friedman
Crises are normally short, sharp and intense affairs. Israel's predicament has developed on a different time frame, is more diffuse than most crises and has not reached a decisive and intense moment. But it is still a crisis. It is not a crisis solely about Iran, although the Israeli government focuses on that issue. Rather, it is over Israel's strategic reality since 1978, when it signed the Camp David accords with Egypt.

Perhaps the deepest aspect of the crisis is that Israel has no internal consensus on whether it is in fact a crisis, or if so, what the crisis is about. The Israeli government speaks of an existential threat from Iranian nuclear weapons. I would argue that the existential threat is broader and deeper, part of it very new, and part of it embedded in the founding of Israel.

Israel now finds itself in a long-term crisis in which it is struggling to develop a strategy and foreign policy to deal with a new reality. This is causing substantial internal stress, since the domestic consensus on Israeli policy is fragmenting at the same time that the strategic reality is shifting.

Though this happens periodically to nations, Israel sees itself in a weak position in the long run due to its size and population, despite its current military superiority. More precisely, it sees the evolution of events over time potentially undermining that military reality, and it therefore feels pressured to act to preserve it. How to preserve its superiority in the context of the emerging strategic reality is the core of the Israeli crisis.


Since 1978, Israel's strategic reality had been that it faced no threat of a full peripheral war. After Camp David, the buffer of the Sinai Peninsula separated Egypt and Israel, and Egypt had a government that did not want that arrangement to break. Israel still faced a formally hostile Syria. Syria had invaded Lebanon in 1976 to crush the Palestine Liberation Organization based there and reconsolidate its hold over Lebanon, but knew it could not attack Israel by itself. Syria remained content reaching informal understandings with Israel. Meanwhile, relatively weak and isolated Jordan depended on Israel for its national security. Lebanon alone was unstable. Israel periodically intervened there, not very successfully, but not at very high cost.

The most important of Israel's neighbors, Egypt, is now moving on an uncertain course. This weekend, new Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi removed five key leaders of the military and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and revoked constitutional amendments introduced by the military. There are two theories on what has happened. In the first, Morsi -- who until his election was a senior leader of the country's mainstream Islamist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood -- is actually much more powerful than the military and is acting decisively to transform the Egyptian political system. In the second, this is all part of an agreement between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood that gives Morsi the appearance of greater power while actually leaving power with the military.

On the whole, I tend to think that the second is the case. Still, it is not clear how this will evolve: The appearance of power can turn into the reality of power. Despite any sub rosa agreements between the military and Morsi, how these might play out in a year or two as the public increasingly perceives Morsi as being in charge -- limiting the military's options and cementing Morsi's power -- is unknown. In the same sense, Morsi has been supportive of security measures taken by the military against militant Islamists, as was seen in the past week's operations in the Sinai Peninsula.

The Sinai remains a buffer zone against major military forces, but not against the paramilitaries linked to radical Islamists who have increased their activities in the peninsula since the fall of former President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011. Last week, they attacked an Egyptian military post on the Gaza border, killing 16 Egyptian soldiers. This followed several attacks against Israeli border crossings. Morsi condemned the attack and ordered a large-scale military crackdown in the Sinai. Two problems could arise from this.

First, the Egyptians' ability to defeat the militant Islamists depends on redefining the Camp David accords, at least informally, to allow Egypt to deploy substantial forces there (though even this might not suffice). These additional military forces might not threaten Israel immediately, but setting a precedent for a greater Egyptian military presence in the Sinai Peninsula could eventually lead to a threat.

This would be particularly true if Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood impose their will on the Egyptian military. If we take Morsi at face value as a moderate, the question becomes who will succeed him. The Muslim Brotherhood is clearly ascendant, and the possibility that a secular democracy would emerge from the Egyptian uprising is unlikely. It is also clear that the Muslim Brotherhood is a movement with many competing factions. And it is clear from the elections that the Muslim Brotherhood represents the most popular movement in Egypt and that no one can predict how it will evolve or which factions will dominate and what new tendencies will arise. Egypt in the coming years will not resemble Egypt of the past generation, and that means that the Israeli calculus for what will happen on its southern front will need to take Hamas in Gaza into account and perhaps an Islamist Egypt prepared to ally with Hamas.

Syria and Lebanon

A similar situation exists in Syria. The secular and militarist regime of the al Assad family is in serious trouble. As mentioned, the Israelis had a working relationship with the Syrians going back to the Syrian invasion of Lebanon against the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1976. It was not a warm relationship, but it was predictable, particularly in the 1990s: Israel allowed Syria a free hand in Lebanon in exchange for Damascus limiting Hezbollah's actions.

Lebanon was not exactly stable, but its instability hewed to a predictable framework. That understanding broke down when the United States seized an opportunity to force Syria to retreat from Lebanon in 2006 following the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. The United States used the Cedar Revolution that rose up in defiance of Damascus to retaliate against Syria for allowing al Qaeda to send jihadists into Iraq from Syria.

This didn't spark the current unrest in Syria, which appears to involve a loose coalition of Sunnis including elements of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists. Though Israel far preferred Syrian President Bashar al Assad to them, al Assad himself was shifting his behavior. The more pressure he came under, the more he became dependent on Iran. Israel began facing the unpleasant prospect of a Sunni Islamist government emerging or a government heavily dependent on Iran. Neither outcome appealed to Israel, and neither outcome was in Israel's control.

Just as dangerous to Israel would be the Lebanonization of Syria. Syria and Lebanon are linked in many ways, though Lebanon's political order was completely different and Syria could serve as a stabilizing force for it. There is now a reasonable probability that Syria will become like Lebanon, namely, a highly fragmented country divided along religious and ethnic lines at war with itself.

Israel's best outcome would be for the West to succeed in preserving Syria's secular military regime without al Assad. But it is unclear how long a Western-backed regime resting on the structure of al Assad's Syria would survive. Even the best outcome has its own danger. And while Lebanon itself has been reasonably stable in recent years, when Syria catches a cold, Lebanon gets pneumonia. Israel thus faces the prospect of declining security to its north.

The U.S. Role and Israel's Strategic Lockdown

It is important to take into account the American role in this, because ultimately Israel's national security -- particularly if its strategic environment deteriorates -- rests on the United States. For the United States, the current situation is a strategic triumph. Iran had been extending its power westward, through Iraq and into Syria. This represented a new force in the region that directly challenged American interests. Where Israel originally had an interest in seeing al Assad survive, the United States did not. Washington's primary interest lay in blocking Iran and keeping it from posing a threat to the Arabian Peninsula. The United States saw Syria, particularly after the uprising, as an Iranian puppet. While the United States was delighted to see Iran face a reversal in Syria, Israel was much more ambivalent about that outcome.

The Israelis are always opposed to the rising regional force. When that was Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser, they focused on Nasser. When it was al Qaeda and its sympathizers, they focused on al Qaeda. When it was Iran, they focused on Tehran. But simple opposition to a regional tendency is no longer a sufficient basis for Israeli strategy. As in Syria, Israel must potentially oppose all tendencies, where the United States can back one. That leaves Israeli policy incoherent. Lacking the power to impose a reality on Syria, the best Israel can do is play the balance of power. When its choice is between a pro-Iranian power and a Sunni Islamist power, it can no longer play the balance of power. Since it lacks the power to impose a reality, it winds up in a strategic lockdown.

Israel's ability to influence events on its borders was never great, but events taking place in bordering countries are now completely beyond its control. While Israeli policy has historically focused on the main threat, using the balance of power to stabilize the situation and ultimately on the decisive use of military force, it is no longer possible to identify the main threat. There are threats in all of its neighbors, including Jordan (where the kingdom's branch of the Muslim Brotherhood is growing in influence while the Hashemite monarchy is reviving relations with Hamas). This means using the balance of power within these countries to create secure frontiers is no longer an option. It is not clear there is a faction for Israel to support or a balance that can be achieved. Finally, the problem is political rather than military. The ability to impose a political solution is not available.

Against the backdrop, any serious negotiations with the Palestinians are impossible. First, the Palestinians are divided. Second, they are watching carefully what happens in Egypt and Syria since this might provide new political opportunities. Finally, depending on what happens in neighboring countries, any agreement Israel might reach with the Palestinians could turn into a nightmare.
The occupation therefore continues, with the Palestinians holding the initiative. Unrest begins when they want it to begin and takes the form they want it to have within the limits of their resources. The Israelis are in a responsive mode. They can't eradicate the Palestinian threat. Extensive combat in Gaza, for example, has both political consequences and military limits. Occupying Gaza is easy; pacifying Gaza is not.

Israel's Military and Domestic Political Challenges

The crisis the Israelis face is that their levers of power, the open and covert relationships they had, and their military force are not up to the task of effectively shaping their immediate environment. They have lost the strategic initiative, and the type of power they possess will not prove decisive in dealing with their strategic issues. They no longer are operating at the extremes of power, but in a complex sphere not amenable to military solutions.

Israel's strong suit is conventional military force. It can't fully understand or control the forces at work on its borders, but it can understand the Iranian nuclear threat. This leads it to focus on the sort of conventional conflict they excel at, or at least used to excel at. The 2006 war with Hezbollah was quite conventional, but Israel was not prepared for an infantry war. The Israelis instead chose to deal with Lebanon via an air campaign, but that failed to achieve their political ends.

The Israelis want to redefine the game to something they can win, which is why their attention is drawn to the Iranian nuclear program. Of all their options in the region, a strike against Iran's nuclear facilities apparently plays to their strengths. Two things make such a move attractive. The first is that eliminating Iran's nuclear capability is desirable for Israel. The nuclear threat is so devastating that no matter how realistic the threat is, removing it is desirable.

Second, it would allow Israel to demonstrate the relevance of its power in the region. It has been a while since Israel has had a significant, large-scale military victory. The 1980s invasion of Lebanon didn't end well; the 2006 war was a stalemate; and while Israel may have achieved its military goals in the 2008 invasion of Gaza, that conflict was a political setback. Israel is still taken seriously in the regional psychology, but the sense of inevitability Israel enjoyed after 1967 is tattered. A victory on the order of destroying Iranian weapons would reinforce Israel's relevance.

It is, of course, not clear that the Israelis intend to launch such an attack. And it is not clear that such an attack would succeed. It is also not clear that the Iranian counter at the Strait of Hormuz wouldn't leave Israel in a difficult political situation, and above all it is not clear that Egyptian and Syrian factions would even be impressed by the attacks enough to change their behavior.

Israel also has a domestic problem, a crisis of confidence. Many military and intelligence leaders oppose an attack on Iran. Part of their opposition is rooted in calculation. Part of it is rooted in a series of less-than-successful military operations that have shaken their confidence in the military option. They are afraid both of failure and of the irrelevance of the attack on the strategic issues confronting Israel.

Political inertia can be seen among Israeli policymakers. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to form a coalition with the centrist Kadima Party, but that fell apart over the parochial Israeli issue of whether Orthodox Jews should be drafted. Rather than rising to the level of a strategic dialogue, the secularist constituency of Kadima confronted the religious constituencies of the Likud coalition and failed to create a government able to devise a platform for decisive action.

This is Israel's crisis. It is not a sudden, life-threatening problem but instead is the product of unraveling regional strategies, a lack of confidence earned through failure and a political system incapable of unity on any particular course. Israel, a small country that always has used military force as its ultimate weapon, now faces a situation where the only possible use of military force -- against Iran -- is not only risky, it is not clearly linked to any of the main issues Israel faces other than the nuclear issue.

The French Third Republic was marked by a similar sense of self-regard overlaying a deep anxiety. This led to political paralysis and Paris' inability to understand the precise nature of the threat and to shape their response to it. Rather than deal with the issues at hand in the 1930s, they relied on past glories to guide them. That didn't turn out very well.

The Israeli Crisis is republished with permission of Stratfor.

Read more: The Israeli Crisis | Stratfor
Read more: The Israeli Crisis | Stratfor

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