Israel, the U.S. and the Arab World
October 15, 2009
According to an unconfirmed report in the French Le Canard Enchaine of Wednesday, Oct. 14, Israel is preparing to bomb Iranian nuclear sites and pro-Iranian targets across the Middle East after December 2009. The prestigious satirical weekly reports that the IDF has notified special forces reservists abroad to get ready to return home in November for immediate drafting to the military operation against Iranian nuclear facilities. The weekly further reports Israel has ordered combat rations from a French firm for these reservists to stay on long-term missions far from home.
French military sources said that Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi met secretly in France with US armed forces Chief of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen and French Chief of Staff Gen. Jean-Louis Georgelin, to inform that Israel planned to attack Iran after December, when it became clear that the talks between the six powers and Tehran had failed to produce any benefit.
According to Le Canard Enchaine, Ashkenazi said Israel would not attack Iran by air but rather use ground forces in coordinated operations on several Middle East fronts.
DEBKAfile's military sources add that if the information leaked to the newspaper from French joint staffs sources is correct - and not a red herring to disguise the impending attack's real nature - the IDF may be expected to branch out from Iran's nuclear facilities to target its allies too, such as Syrian air force and missile batteries, Hizballah bases in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Le Canard Enchaine is not alone in predicting an Israeli attack on Iran after December. A former Israeli deputy defense minister, Efraim Sneh, commented to US and British media several times in the past week that if the US fails to rally fellow powers' support for toughened sanctions against Iran by Christmas, Israel will have to attack its nuclear installations. It may be assumed that Sneh was not just guessing on his own initiative.
Another sign of the growing military tensions surrounding the Iranian nuclear program was a phone conversation late Wednesday night between President Barack Obama and French President Nicola Sarkozy. The two discussed Iran. After Hillary Clinton failed to swing Russian leaders round to supporting sanctions, when she visited Moscow Tuesday, DEBKAfile's Washington sources report that Obama has decided to work with the French president for efforts to stop Iran's nuclear program.
October 16, 2009
The UN Human Right Council's endorsement Friday, Oct. 16, sent the anti-Israel Goldstone war crimes report to the UN Security Council. It was approved by a majority of 25 of the 47 HRC members with 6 voting against - the US, Holland, Italy, Ukraine, Hungary and Slovakia - with 11 abstentions; France and the UK were among the 5 nations who did not vote. Ultimately, this step could expose Israeli leaders to prosecution for war crimes.
The UN body administered one of the most damaging blows Israel diplomacy has suffered in recent years, condemning Israel for alleged war crimes in its 22-day Gaza operation last January - but also for work in East Jerusalem such as housing construction and archeological excavations.
The damage was compounded by Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu's personal involvement in spearheading the campaign to have the report buried. Its endorsement has instead buried the stalled peace process between Israel and Palestinian Authority.
In any case, Mahmoud Abbas refused to come to the negotiating table when challenged for the umpteenth time by President Barack Obama's special envoy George Mitchell in Ramallah last week, bringing the US president's entire Middle East peace venture tumbling down.
Netanyahu failed even to persuade French president Nicolas Sarkozy - described by President Shimon Peres as "a great friend of Israel," and the British prime minister George Brown, with whom he had a heated telephone conversation Thursday night - to vote against the HRC motion.
That neither was prepared to oppose Israel's condemnation for war crimes means that Jerusalem cannot count on French or British support for curbing Iran's drive for a nuclear weapon.
While Abbas and his close circle celebrated their victory, Israel spokesmen tried to soften the blow by maintaining that the Goldstone report is not home and dry yet. Its impact on the US-led NATO war on terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq must be considered. However, no NATO nation has yet been hauled before a UN commission of inquiry or faulted by the world body for killing civilians. Israel's operation to protect its population against terrorists embedded in civilian locations was.
Israel cannot be expected to sit down and talk to Abbas in this situation, even if the Palestinian leader were willing, which he is not. In any case he has lost the right to speak for his people.
DEBKAfile's Middle East sources note that the Palestinians have reached a point of no return, to which Washington and Jerusalem are turning a blind eye: Hamas has finally rejected any unity deal with Abbas' Fatah and thus blocked the formation of an agreed delegation for peace talks. The West Bank and Gaza Strip have parted for good: they are distinct Palestinian entities and Abbas' authority is recognized by less than half of his people in those territories.
The hammer-blow from Geneva came at a bad time for Israel: Turkey has turned on the Jewish state tooth and claw. Israel finds itself up against the entire Arab world, even Egypt and Jordan, with whom it has signed peace treaties. It now finds itself abandoned by presumed friends Britain and France as well.