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Missing the Target By: P. David Hornik
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, December 19, 2008

It was just a few days ago that Russia succeeded, along with its fellow Quartet member the United States, in getting the UN Security Council to pass a resolution on Middle East peace.

Yet by Thursday tensions had surfaced between Israel and Russia over a purportedly imminent Russian sale of an antiaircraft missile system to Iran. The system, the S-300, is one of the most advanced of its kind in the world and would seriously hinder an attempt to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities. Russia has already sold TOR-M1 surface-to-air missiles to the regime of the mullahs.

A report by Russia’s own RIA news agency claims Russia is now “fulfilling a contract” to deliver S-300 systems to Iran. One site, by no means to be dismissed, says Russia is already physically transferring the systems and it’s a done deal. Jerusalem, though, is interpreting the RIA report as pressure aimed at getting Israel to sell Russia 100 of Israel’s advanced Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).

What apparently got Russia interested in the UAVs was its encounter with Israeli-made drones that were in Georgia’s hands during Russia’s attack on Georgia last summer. Israel has dispatched a top Defense Ministry official, Amos Gilad, to Moscow to try and sort out the mess.

Even in the “soft” version, then, Russia—a member along with the U.S., the UN, and the EU of the Quartet created in 2002 with the declared purpose of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian problem and so enabling peace in this troubled region—is trying to blackmail Israel into an arms sale to Moscow with an indirect threat of Israel’s annihilation. Israel has long regarded the S-300 as a balance-shifter that—bad as Iranian nuclearization would already be—would make it even worse by giving it a very formidable protective shield, making the threat to Israel’s existence much more difficult to counter.

To this have to be added, of course, the various kinds of technological, military, financial, and diplomatic support Russia has already given to Iran’s race toward the bomb.

It’s a stark illustration of how the obsessive focus—adopted by the Bush administration in 2002 and shared or aped by successive Israeli governments—on the Israeli-Palestinian issue has obscured far more urgent developments and allowed Israel’s security environment to keep deteriorating.

How badly that environment has deteriorated was more palpably evident as—still under a supposed ceasefire or “lull” that formally ends on Friday—over 40 Gaza-fired rockets struck southwestern Israel in the two-day span of Wednesday and Thursday. Israel hit back with aerial strikes on rocket launchers, a rocket arsenal, and a rocket factory in what can still only be called token and tactical responses to what is a mounting strategic threat in itself.

It was last March that the dithering Olmert government at last ordered what appeared to be a major operation against Iranian-backed, Hamas-led Gaza terror—only to abort it after sharp U.S. protests that such a move threatened to derail the Annapolis process of purported Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking. Since then Israeli-Palestinian, or Israeli-Fatah, peacemaking is no closer to fruition for the same simple reason as always—Fatah’s rejection of the Jewish state—while Hamas and its auxiliary terror organizations have continued their buildup in Gaza and continued to subject nearby Israeli communities to unimpeded bombardment.

Sensing the blood in the air, Hamas and its fellow Iranian client to Israel’s north, Hezbollah, have also been engaging in stepped-up anti-Israeli incitement through their respective TV stations.

Earlier this month during the disturbances in Hebron on the West Bank, Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV broadcast a speech by Sheikh Hamam Said, head of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, in which he said: “You, residents of Hebron, today wage war against the Jews…. We saw how in one day in 1929 you slaughtered the Jews of Hebron…. Today, you have to slaughter them [again] on Hebron’s soil. Kill them in Palestine! Throw them out of Palestine!”

And also earlier this month, in Lebanon on Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV, the Shiite cleric Hassan Abdallah declared that “this lull arrangement [in Gaza] with the Zionist entity has no significance, and the solution is to renew the resistance [i.e., terrorist attacks], this time more strongly and effectively. Pure [Palestinians] must once again blow themselves up in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and all the cities of occupied Palestine….”

As the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center notes, Al-Aqsa and Al-Manar “reach a wide Arab-Muslim population not only in Israel and the Middle East, but throughout the entire world. Al-Aqsa and Al-Manar’s broadcasts are relayed by the Arab satellite companies Arabsat (most of whose stocks are owned by Saudi Arabians), Nilesat (a company owned by Egypt…), and Palapa C-2, an Indonesian satellite.”

To sum up: in 2002 the Bush administration’s emergent fixation on the Israeli-Palestinian issue led it to form the Quartet along with three other parties, the UN, the EU, and Russia, that—to put it delicately—cannot be assumed to have Israel’s best interests in mind. Six years later, the same week finds Russia joining the U.S. in getting the Security Council to pass a Quartet-generated resolution on Israeli-Palestinian peace while threatening to deliver—or actually delivering—anti-aircraft systems to Iran.

Meanwhile the Iranian-backed attacks, threats, and incitement originating on Israel’s borders are only mounting while Israel, largely out of compliance with the Palestinian-centered script of “peacemaking” dictated to it by, more than anyone else, its big friend in Washington, reacts mostly with helpless passivity.

Although few would expect it to get better under the Obama administration—the main question is whether and how much it will get worse—the likely election in February of an Israeli leader, Binyamin Netanyahu, who understands all of the above and a great deal more, and is disposed to act when survival is at stake, gives hope.

P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Beersheva. He blogs at http://pdavidhornik.typepad.com/. He can be reached at pdavidh2001@yahoo.com.

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