Independence Is Possible Only Due to the Fallen
"I am sure we will know how to carry out our missions." — Israel Defense Force Chief of Staff Benny Gantz
In today's Middle East, radical forces, which thrive on chaos, are on the rise; and those who rule the Arab states are here today and gone tomorrow.
Independence Day in Israel, which this evening starts celebrations for the 65th year of Israel's Independence, takes place deliberately right after Memorial Day, dedicated to honoring Israel's fallen soldiers, so the Israeli public remains keenly aware that independence is possible only due to the sacrifices made by the fallen.
This year, however, looks set to be decisive – when the world finds out whether the international community's policy of engaging Tehran diplomatically, while applying biting economic sanctions, will work or not. Should the policy fail, military action remains a serious possibility.
Since Israel's founding in 1948, Israelis have sought peace and seized upon opportunities to make it when they arose, such as Israel's return of the Sinai Peninsula in 1979 in exchange for peace with Egypt, as well as departure from Southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.
"Despite everything," said newly appointed Defense Minister, Moshe Ya'alon, "despite so many elements that wanted to prevent this country's founding, and who continue to invest so much every day to destroy us – they arise here in our intelligence assessments, Iran, Hezbollah -- nevertheless, there is no doubt, that what stands between independence and a lack of independence is the shield of the IDF. "
"We have the great privilege of defending Israel and protecting its independence," Israel Defense Force Chief of Staff Benny Gantz concurred this week at IDF General Headquarters in Tel Aviv. "I wish us a successful year of independence, in the face of the challenges that are emerging before us. I am sure we will know how to carry out our missions."
While Ya'alon and Gantz have been studying the intelligence on the upheavals and multiple asymmetric threats developing on Israel's borders, Iran and its nuclear program remain at the top of the security agenda.
Although a collapsing Syria no longer remains a conventional military threat to Israel -- the Syrian army is engaged in fighting the rebels, while steadily losing its power -- the crumbling Middle Eastern old order is allowing for a plethora of terrorist organizations to grow on Israel's borders
Hezbollah, for example, an Iranian-backed Shi'ite terrorist group, remains with its estimated 80,000 rockets – an unprecedented number of projectiles – pointed at Israel.
Should Hezbollah initiate a future round of hostilities, the IDF has prepared a large-scale ground operation into Lebanon, aimed at extinguishing rocket attacks on the Israeli home front.
The Israel Air Force has also been busy preparing surprises for future conflicts. New technologies allow fighter jets to strike as many as 1500 targets in 24 hours. Israel's reply to Hezbollah aggression would be devastating.
Both Iran and Hezbollah are in the process of setting up a militia in war-torn Syria. This militia, made up of 50,000 fighters, will remain active in Syria even if the Assad regime is toppled.
Also in Syria, Al-Qaeda is planning to raise the flag of radical Sunni Islam, as its Syrian and Iraqi forces announce a merger.
In Israel's south, near the Gaza strip, the IDF is also closely monitoring Hamas, which, at least for the time being, has remained deterred by Israel. Next door, however, the Sinai Peninsula is filled with Al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadi fighters, who are planning their next cross-border attack.
The IDF is closely studying this complex map of threats, and making sure it is ready for the future. Today, with Israel's military is at its strongest, the country is capable of dealing with its highly chaotic and dangerous environment.
Comment on this item
by Alan M. Dershowitz
by Soeren Kern
Austria has emerged as a major base for radical Islam and as a central hub for European jihadists to fight in Syria.
The proposed revisions would, among other changes, regulate the training and hiring of Muslim clerics, prohibit the foreign funding of mosques, and establish an official German-language version of the Koran to prevent its "misinterpretation" by Islamic extremists.
Muslims would be prohibited from citing Islamic sharia law as legal justification for ignoring or disobeying Austrian civil laws.
Leaders of Austria's Muslim community counter that the contemplated new law amounts to "institutionalized Islamophobia."
Official statistics show that nearly 60% of the inhabitants of Vienna are immigrants or foreigners. The massive demographic and religious shift underway in Austria, traditionally a Roman Catholic country, appears irreversible.
by Samuel Westrop
Over 800 Iranians were executed during President Rouhani's first year in office.
Leading politicians, British government officials and businessmen nevertheless seemed happy to attend and speak at the Europe-Iran Forum.
by Khaled Abu Toameh
The "Arab Spring" did not erupt as a result of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Rather, it was the outcome of decades of tyranny and corruption in the Arab world. The Tunisians, Egyptians, Libyans and Yemenis who removed their dictators from power did not do so because of the lack of a "two-state solution." This is the last thing they had in mind.
The thousands of Muslims who are volunteering to join the Islamic State [IS] are not doing so because they are frustrated with the lack of progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
The only solution the Islamic State believes in is a Sunni Islamic Caliphate where the surviving non-Muslims who are not massacred would be subject to sharia law.
What Kerry perhaps does not know is that the Islamic State is not interested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at all. Unlike Kerry, Sunni scholars fully understand that the Islamic State has more to do with Islam and terrorism than with any other conflict.
by Steven J. Rosen
Palestinian officials have generally been silent about security cooperation with Israel. They are loath to acknowledge how important it is for the survival of the Palestinian Authority [PA], and fear that critics, especially Hamas, will consider it "collaboration with the enemy."
"You smuggle weapons, explosives and cash to the West Bank, not for the fight with Israel, but for a coup against the Palestinian Authority. The Israeli intelligence chief visited me two weeks ago and told me about the [Hamas] group they arrested that was planning for a coup... We have a national unity government and you are thinking about a coup against me." — Mahmoud Abbas, PA President, to Khaled Mashaal, Hamas leader.
According to Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, if the IDF leaves the West Bank, Hamas will take over, and other terrorists groups such as the Islamic Jihad, Al-Qaeda and Islamic State would operate there.
In recent months, Abbas has been making a series of threats against Israel. If Abbas becomes another Arafat, it could be the Israeli side that loses interest in security cooperation.