Analyzing world events is a
daunting task. Particularly if your focus is the Middle East. Conflict and
violence bred by centuries of hatred and fear continue to metastasize,
afflicting more and more bodies, poisoning more young minds.
The region is descending further
into sectarianism, pitting Sunnis against Shias, jihadists against moderates,
reformists against the old guard. The regime in Tehran splashes fuel on the
flames, assisting Syria’s Assad in his murderous rampage against his own people.
Not content with destroying just one country, the tyrants of Tehran fund and
train Hezbollah, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and jihadists from Algeria to
This instability poses security challenges
for the State of Israel and the West. In Egypt, Al Qaeda-inspired Ansar Beit
al-Maqdis, or Champions of Jerusalem, admitted to firing rockets on Eilat last
week. They also claimed credit for downing an Egyptian military helicopter in
Sinai on Saturday, apparently using, for the first time, a surface-to-air missile.
If terrorist groups have obtained shoulder-held missiles, they could threaten civilian
planes flying into Eilat. Already, planes have changed their flight patterns,
avoiding landing from the south.
Jihadi groups also are present in
Gaza. During the past few weeks, Israel has suffered more than 40 missile
attacks from Gaza, including an attack on Ashkelon and another during the
funeral of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at his Negev ranch. Israeli defense
analysts attribute the latest flare-up to rival groups, like Islamic Jihad and
Al Qaeda affiliate Jaysh al-Islam, vying for power. Whatever the cause,
Israel's Iron Dome has saved lives, likely preventing a major military
response. That calculation probably will change if missile attacks continue.
In Syria, according to Israeli
intelligence estimates, as many as 30,000 Al Qaeda-linked fighters may be waging
war against the Assad regime and its proxies. For now, their efforts are
directed at overthrowing Assad, but if they succeed, some will stay and decide
to turn their guns on Israel. Others will return to Europe and the United
States, bringing with them their military experience and radical ideologies. In
addition, the hundreds of thousands of refugees flooding into Jordan, Lebanon and
Turkey are placing enormous strain on limited resources and complicating an
already delicate sectarian balance.
This brings me to the debate between
Israel and the Palestinian Authority over Israel maintaining a military
presence in the Jordan Valley. As a reserve officer and a combat soldier in the
1980s and ‘90s, I spent many long hours patrolling Israel’s borders. Numerous
times we raced to a point along the border in response to the possibility that
an infiltration had occurred. The combination of physical barriers, effective
intelligence, and an active IDF presence helped prevent the influx of terrorist
cells and potential attacks on innocent civilians.
Today, the geo-political and
security challenges are even greater. Israel cannot turn a blind eye to the
instability surrounding it. The West Bank must not become another launching pad
for missile attacks against Israel. Maintaining an Israeli military presence
along the Jordan Valley corridor will help prevent the West Bank from being
flooded with weapons that would threaten Israel’s major population centers. An
effective military presence also will deter more radical groups from taking
hold in the West Bank, threatening the survival of the Fatah-led Palestinian
Authority. Finally, it is in the best interests of Jordan, with which Israel
maintains strong cooperation.
With Iran inching closer to
achieving nuclear weapons capability, the implosion of Syria, turmoil in Iraq,
and uncertainty about what will happen in Lebanon and Jordan, Israel must ensure
for itself concrete security parameters. If the Palestinian leadership
continues to refuse Israel’s requirements for self-defense, they should be held
responsible for the failure to reach a comprehensive understanding.