Politicalmonkey2010

The Truth Shall Set You Free…It might piss you off first, but it will set you free.

Egyptian – Israeli – Turkish Dynamics or Shifting Sands

Posted by politicalmonkey2010 on September 10, 2011

Israeli Embassy in Cairo

One of the first things that strikes you when you look at the Israeli Embassy in Cairo is that it is in a residential building.  I remember the first time the embassy was pointed out to me I was somewhat shocked.  I thought about US Embassies, and the level of security surrounding them, and wondered what the people who lived in the building thought about an Embassy being located there, virtually being used as human shields.   I didn’t think much more about it until recently…..

Before I address last night’s rampage on the Israeli Embassy, we need to review history.  I offer a brief snapshot of a very complicated part of the world.  Each of the areas plays a part in the events of the Israeli Embassy in Cairo being  attacked.

Egypt – Israel Peace Agreement

Egypt was the first Arab nation to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979.  This bold move cost then President Anwar Sadat his life,  and Egypt was ostracized from the Arab community.  The peace treaty also cost Yitzhak Rabin his life.  Both  men were assassinated by extremist from within their own countries.   The agreement paved the way for the return of Sinai to Egypt.  For over 30 years peace has been maintained, Israelis have often commented that it was a “cold” peace, but peace is peace.

The Gaza Factor

Gaza Strip

The ever evolving borders of  Israel since its inception has led to the Gaza strip being in essence sealed off – between the Mediterranean Sea,  Israeli borders on two sides and an Egyptian border on the other.  The population is about 1.6 million people in an area approximately 140 miles, most of them descendants of refugees.  In March 1979 when the peace treaty was signed between Israel and Egypt, the treaty provided for the withdrawal by Israel of its armed forces and civilians from the Sinai Peninsula, which Israel had captured during the Six-Day War, to the 1906 international border. The Egyptians agreed to keep the Sinai Peninsula demilitarized. The Gaza Strip remained under Israeli military administration until 1994  when under the Oslo Accord a phased transfer of governmental authority to the Palestinians took place.   In February 2005, the Israeli government voted to implement a unilateral disengagement plan from the Gaza Strip. The plan began to be implemented on 15 August 2005, and was completed on 12 September 2005.   You may recall George W. Bush calling for free and fair elections in the middle east, and that is exactly what happened…in a twist of irony the US kicked in the door of democracy and Hamas came to power.  The US wanted democracy, but didn’t like who showed up.   As Israel continued to choke the people of the Gaza Strip by not allowing supplies in, the now  famous Gaza tunnels were a natural outcome.  Everything from food, medicine, livestock and yes, arms runs through the tunnels.

The Gaza War or Operation Cast led was a three-week bombing and invasion of the Gaza Strip by Israel, and hundreds of rocket attacks on south of Israel which started on December 27, 2008 with a surprise air strike from Israel.  Israel’s stated aim was to stop rocket fire into Israel and arms import into the Gaza strip.  Israeli forces attacked police stations and other Hamas government buildings in the opening assault, striking in the densely populated cities of Gaza, Khan Younis and Rafah.   An Israeli ground invasion began on January 3.  Infantry commanders were given an unprecedented level of access to coordinate with air, naval, artillery, intelligence, and combat engineering units during this second phase.  Between 1,166 and 1,417 Palestinian and 13 Israeli deaths, 4 from friendly fire.  In September 2009, a UN special mission, headed by the South African Justice Richard Goldstone, produced a controversial report accusing both Palestinian militants and Israeli Defense Forces of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity, and recommended bringing those responsible to justice.  In January 2010, the Israeli government released a response criticizing the Goldstone Report and disputing its findings.   In 2011, Goldstone wrote that he no longer believed that Israel intentionally targeted civilians in Gaza. The other authors of the report, Hina Jilani, Christine Chinkin and Desmond Travers, rejected Goldstone’s reassessment.

As a side note, with all the promises including, from the US to rebuild Gaza, it hasn’t been done.  Hard to rebuild when Israel won’t allow cement in.

Gaza Humanitarian Aid, Flotillas and Turkey

There have been many humanitarian groups inside Gaza the past 10 years, one of which is the International Solidarity Movement.  A young American woman named Rachel Corrie had taken a year off to travel to Gaza and join the ISM.   She was killed in the Gaza Strip by an Israel Defence Forces (IDF) bulldozer when she was standing or kneeling in front of a local Palestinian’s home,  acting as a human shield, attempting to prevent the IDF from demolishing the home. The IDF stated that the death was due to the restricted angle of view of the IDF Caterpillar bulldozer driver, while ISM eyewitnesses said “there was nothing to obscure the driver’s view.”  Her family has had a wrongful death suit in the Israeli courts, where they have accused the IDF of withholding information.  (Read more about Rachel Corrie and her family at http://rachelcorriefoundation.org )

Part of the humanitarian efforts have also been Freedom Flotillas to Gaza.  Ships including one named after Rachel Corrie have attempted to land in Gaza and offer aid.   The the Mavi Marmara aid ship was bound for Gaza on May 31, 2010, was intercepted in international waters by IDF, 9 people were killed, including a Turkish  American Furkan Dogan, who was shot with four bullets in his head and one in his chest at close range.   The UN has released its findings, which in short say both parties were wrong, Israel had used excessive force, and they had a right to stop the flotilla.  The report of course is being challenged. ( http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/09/2011978161147706.html)  Turkey has dismissed the Palmer-Uribe Report because its conclusion about the siege contradicts previous statements and reports by the United Nations, including the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council and statements by the U.N. secretary-general. Furthermore, the Palmer Report, contrary to some claims, is not a legally binding document to be voted on at the U.N. nor is the panel a court that can issue a juridical view on Gaza. But by giving a carte blanche to Israel’s piracy in international waters, it has disregarded international law and undermined the fundamental principles of justice and freedom for all including the Palestinians.   Turkey has asked for an apology from Israel.  Israel has refused.

The Netenyahu government’s refusal to issue a formal apology to Turkey has led to a swift reaction from Turkey. Prime Minister Erdoğan ordered the implementation of five measures against Israel including the lowering of diplomatic relations and freezing of military agreements. “No country is above the law,” said Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, referring to  the Israeli exceptionalism in regional and global politics.  PM Erdoğan described Israel as acting “like a spoiled child in the face of all U.N. decisions.” The prime minister also said Turkey has no quarrel with the people of Israel and Jews around the world. Refusing to apologize and then claiming to want to repair relations with Turkey, as Mr. Netenyahu said recently, is not only an oxymoron but also self-delusional. As PM Erdoğan has declared on various occasions, Turkish-Israeli relations will not be normalized until and unless Turkey’s three conditions are met. Turkey keeps the door of diplomacy open, but it is up to Israel to pass through it or close it.  Turkey has also announced it will beef up its naval presence in the Mediterranean  – Egypt and Turkey will hold a joint naval maneuver in Turkish territorial waters by the end of the year. Erdogan is scheduled to go to Egypt on Monday.. Erdogan, meanwhile, continued to up the ante, saying in an Al Jazeera interview that Turkish warships were directed to protect Turkish ships bringing humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, and that from now on “we will not allow our ships to be exposed to Israeli attacks, as was the case with the Mavi Marmara, because if this happens Israel will meet the appropriate response.”

Now let’s go back  to the Rafah Border

On Aug. 18, in violation of the peace treaty, Israeli forces crossed into Egypt in pursuit of  “militants” – ultimately this claimed the lives of five Egyptians.   This is not the first time Egyptians have been killed by Israel.  It happened quite often, and was always given minimal press coverage under Mubarak – as if Egyptian blood was cheap and plentiful.  Things have changed.  Egypt wanted an apology, seems like a reasonable request.   The response?  Israeli Def. Min. Ehud Barak  said in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 News, Israel’s most widely-watched TV news network … “I didn’t apologize to Egypt, I expressed regret.”    Barak’s exactly statement was:  “Israel deeply regrets the deaths of the Egyptian officers.”  This was not enough for Cairo.  Egypt threatened to pull its ambassador.   Barak noted the importance of the Israel-Egypt peace agreement and expressed appreciation for the “discretion and responsibility” shown by Egypt.  “The peace agreement between Israel and Egypt is of great importance and strategic value to stability in the Middle East,” Barak said.  Barak’s statement came after he held a special situation assessment with IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and other security and intelligence officials.   Barak ordered the IDF to investigate the incident after which a joint investigation will be conducted with the Egyptian military to determine the circumstances of the incident.

The idea that Egyptian blood is cheap, is a seminal point.  Under Mubarak no protest would have ever been tolerated at the Israeli Embassy…but on Aug. 23 there came a new folk hero, dubbed the Egyptian Spiderman or Flagman.  He climbed  13 stories… with nothing  to assist him to remove the Israeli flag and replace with the Egyptian flag.  “This is for Palestine. This is for Egypt. This is for every Arab. This is for every free person,” one Twitter user posted.

About Last Night…

Now let’s look at what happened last night.  Another Friday, another protest.  This time under the heading of  “Correcting the Path of the Revolution” .. frustrated at the slow pace of change, and for some let’s be honest protesting has become a career and lifestyle.   Some have found fame in Tahrir and simply cannot move forward.  The military has been in my opinion,  been wrongly accused by protesters.  It was the military who saved this revolution.  All you have to do is look at Libya and Syria to see what happens when the military doesn’t side with the people from the beginning.  The military deserves much more respect than it is getting from the protestors.  They have done exactly what they said they would do.

The revolutionaries deserve so much credit for having the guts to stand up to tyranny, but they do not have the ability to speak with one voice, the demands change day to day, and there is no readily identifiable leader.  This is a problem.  The continual sit ins and tent city erected in Tahrir was a problem, it would be like putting a tent city on Wall Street.  It would not be tolerated in the US.  It was an obstruction to business and movement forward.  Finally, the military said enough and cleared out Tahrir.  The military never denied the protesters the right to protest peacefully, let’s be very clear about that.  The military not wanting to be accused of using excessive force on civilians pulled out of Tahrir Square completely for Friday’s protest.

Enter the mob mentality….as the day progressed marches began to the Interior Ministry and to the Israeli Embassy.  Things quickly got out of control as the mob mentality ensued.  The beautiful thing about the revolution is it was about Egypt, about Egyptians.  There was no hating America, no hating Israel.  Last night was about wanting the world to know that Egyptian blood is not cheap…and then something went terribly wrong.  The embassy had recently been barricaded by huge cement slabs after the “Flagman” incident.  The barricade was destroyed.  The embassy was entered.

JERUSALEM, Sept 10 (Reuters) – Israel appealed for American help in guarding its Cairo embassy after Egyptian protestors stormed the building housing it on Friday.

A statement from Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said that in conversations with U.S. counterpart Leon Panetta and Obama administration envoy Dennis Ross he had “asked them to protect the embassy from the demonstrators”. (Reporting by Dan Williams; Editing by Jon Boyle)

This absolutely inflamed me.  Why is it the United State’s responsibility to protect an Israeli embassy in Cairo?

In essence, there are two  diplomatic ties under severe strain with Israel and both critical to Israel.  Why?  Because Israel has refused to apologize.  That spoiled child, digging their heels in and refusing to acknowledge they were wrong.  This is a self inflicted wound on Israel.  From the beginning of the Arab Spring they have refused to acknowledge the neighborhood is changing.  Let me be very clear, this is not about being anti Semitic, or not believing Israel has a right to exist in peace, this is about the facts.  This is about Israel growing up, moving from the victim archetype to the empowered survivor archetype.  The world is changing, there is a new paradigm in place.  You can either embrace change and be part of a positive outcome, or you can stand against it and watch your own downfall.

Israeli ambassador Yitzhak Levanon, staff and family members arrived home on Saturday but one diplomat stayed in Egypt to maintain the embassy, an Israeli official said.  Four officers and 42 soldiers were injured in the Israeli Embassy clashes between protesters and security forces on Friday evening. There are three dead and 1049 injured, the Ministry of Health announced on Saturday.  Egypt is on high alert.  Rumors are flying the Egypt’s Prime Minister may resign.

There is no such thing as democracy in a box.  Egypt will get there, there are going to be some serious bumps in the road.  We saw one last night.

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