By Daniel Chejfec
This last week I participated in a Conference call with Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren organized by the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. Ambassador Oren commented during the call that in the next couple of weeks we will know whether we are moving toward Peace or further away from it...the comment was in response to a question regarding the latest three incidents in Israeli-Arab violence, which were not widely reported in the media (after all, Arabs beating Jews is not news)
The first incident was the launching of a Katyusha type missile from Gaza into Ashkelon, a very important Israeli port on the Mediterranean. This comes after Israel eased the blockade and more than triple the daily amount of Humanitarian aid going into Gaza
The second incident was the launching of missiles into Eilat from the Sinai peninsula. Some of the missiles hit Aqaba in Jordan. Egyptian President Mubarak blamed a Gaza faction without specifying which or from where were the missiles launched. No Gaza group possesses a missiles able to reach Eilat from Gaza. The Jordanian authorities also insisted that they have proof that the missiles were launched from Sinai. This comes at a time after Egypt open its border with Gaza for free movement of people. Speculation at this point is that members of Hamas or another Gaza faction crossed into Egypt and received some local support probably from the Muslim Brotherhood.
The third incident, by far the most bizarre, happened on the Northern border. Israeli soldiers were cutting a tree in Israeli territory to improve their view of Lebanon and were attacked by the Lebanese Army killing an Israeli Colonel. What followed was a border skirmish that threatened to become a major confrontation. The IDF had coordinated the routine pruning with the UNIFIL, which had notified the Lebanese Army, yet the Lebanese insisted that the soldier thought the Israelis were cutting a tree in Lebanese territory. The most bizarre thing of all is that the Lebanese Army came with two journalist of the Hizballah TV station. The UN, in an unusual move, validated the Israeli version of events.
Let us also remember that all these attacks came in the wake of Israel reaching an agreement with the UN on an international inquiry on the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident last June, and also the announcement of possible direct talks between Netanyahu and Abbas.
It is painfully obvious that the Islamist militants are attempting to destabilize not only the Peace process between Israel and the Palestinians but also the growing support of Arab regimes for such a move. They might have succeeded in part since Abbas, when asked about his reaction to the Arab League "permission" to negotiate directly with Israel, responded that he was not interested at this time...
It is possible, even likely, that the weeks ahead will see more attacks trying to provoke Israel into retaliation, and this is problematic. If Israel retaliates, the Arabs will have achieved another Public Relations victory, and if Israel doesn't retaliate, the extremists will likely escalate the attacks until Israel does...talk about a no-win scenario!
So Ambassador Oren was very much on target when he stated that the weeks ahead will define what direction the Arab Israeli dialog is going, but this time the world appears to be more aware of the tactics employed by Hamas, Hizballah and their surrogates. While I pray for Peace, I'm grateful that Israel stands ready to defend itself against the aggressors, and I hope that the Arab regimes will step forward to stop Hamas, Hizballah and their patron Iran so that Peace can have a chance...but I also know that I will defend Israel's right to self-defense.