Press Releases EIPA Update, 16 February 2018

EIPA Update, 16 February 2018

EIPA Update

Conflicts around the world are usually pretty easy to explain. Northern Ireland, Israel and the Palestinians, North and South Korea are just a few examples. You could – if you were feeling particularly miserable – get a small child’s head round the concepts and reasons for most of them pretty easily.

But there are some that are so mired and complex, so messy that it’s like trying to explain the colour blue to a blind person. These conflicts are virtually impossible to signpost. Like looking for landmarks in an open desert, you think you know where you are only to wake up in the morning to a very different landscape. Add a blinding sandstorm. Welcome to the Syrian conflict.

Too melodramatic, you think? As the Washington Post pointed out, “In the space of a single week last week, Russia, Turkey, Iran and Israel lost aircraft to hostile fire” in Syria.

And where else in the World, to quote the experts, can you find Syrian, Russian, American, Iranian and Turkish troops or advisers squaring off on the ground and in the air — along with pro-Iranian Shiite mercenaries from Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan and Afghanistan; pro-U.S. Kurdish fighters from northern Syria; ISIS remnants; various pro-Saudi and pro-Jordanian anti-Syrian regime Sunni rebels and pro-Syrian regime Russian Orthodox Cossack “contractors” who went to Syria to defend Mother Russia from “crazy barbarians” — all rubbing against one another?

Head hurts trying to arrange all those permutations? Now imagine that conflict was on your border, in a country hostile to you, involving some countries and groups of fighters that are sworn to your destruction. And that misreading or getting any of the permutations wrong could, in theory, set off a disastrous chain of events? This is the daily reality for Israel of living besides Syria and Southern Lebanon. You may have noticed we didn’t even touch upon Gaza or the West Bank either…

Last Saturday, an Iranian drone entered Israeli airspace and the Israeli air force shot down the drone. The drone was launched from the Tiyas military airbase—also known as the T-4 airbase, near Palmyra, Syria—journeyed through Jordanian airspace, and was shot down by the Israeli air force over Israeli territory, in order to be able to study it. The incident prompted the Israeli air force to immediately attack Iran’s command and control unit housed at T-4. This was the first time Israel has attacked a manned Iranian base in Syria. During the attack, Syrian air defense managed to shoot down an Israeli aircraft, also for the first time.

Shortly afterward, the Israeli air force retaliated by attacking a significant portion of Syrian air defences—reportedly as high as 40 to 50 percent of them—as well as a few Iranian facilities in Syria, for the first time since the outset of the Israel-Lebanon war in 1982. Russia apparently intervened to prevent additional escalation in an hour long phone call to Prime Minister Netanyahu, who incidentally this week was fighting for his political life amid accusations of corruption and bribery.

And breathe. That’s where we are at right now. All sides involved seem to have understood the message that each was trying to convey and stepped back from the brink. For now.

We will as usual try and make sense of this all and keep you fully briefed if things develop further (we hope they won’t), in the meantime, thank you as always for your support.

Netanyahu under pressure on two fronts: Syria and domestically

You would think that a potential war and Netanyahu’s domestic political woes are in no way linked. But it’s not that simple. “Imagine if, in the next few weeks, there is a justified case for Israel to go to war,” said Shlomo Avineri, a professor emeritus of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “Half of this country would think Netanyahu’s position was impacted by his legal situation. That is unacceptable. Political decisions are sometimes existential in Israel. If we had to go to war, the decision would be contaminated for a lot of people.”

In a trio of new polls, Israelis have declared what they think of the bribery case against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the answer is roughly the same as what they think of Mr. Netanyahu himself: About half think he should step aside. Half overwhelmingly think he should stay.


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Egypt freezes diesel shipments to Gaza strip

Egypt stopped allowing diesel shipments to enter the Gaza Strip Wednesday, causing the strip’s power station to cease operations. As a result, residents have been limited to three hours of electricity a day. A meeting was thus called by Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in light of the dire situation, attended by the United Nations (UN) Envoy to the Mideast Nickolay Mladenov and Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Major General Yoav Mordechai.

Mladenov asked the PA representatives to ease the situation by removing the sanctions they imposed on Gaza due to the ongoing feud between the two Palestinian factions. Lastly, security officials have been warning that the worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza can lead to a military conflict with Hamas, or a situation in which Israel will be forced to take responsibility for civil infrastructures in Gaza in order to prevent a total collapse.


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