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Unrealistic call for Israel to join Arab anti-jihad alliance

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November 24, 2016 23:17

A bizarre warning was reported by the Times of Israel this week that the Islamic State has massed 6,600 fighters in the Golan Heights, having sneaked in there without being detected by the IDF.

The source was a member of the Al-Nusra Front, an Al-Qaeda-affliated outfit that is itself in the Golan.

The aim was obviously to advertise the group's relatively "moderate" credentials, and the source went so far as to suggest that Al-Nusra will rally to the defence of Israel.

Despite this palpable nonsense, the "immediate danger" posed by the Islamic State is dominating domestic Israeli politics.

Some are arguing that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is exploiting the hysteria to increase the defence budget, and deflect attention from economic woes at home.

The Islamic State has made clear that it ultimately intends to wipe Israel off the map, but a full-scale military assault on the Jewish state is highly unlikely in the near future.

Their first goal is the overthrow of the Assad regime, and then the Saudi and Jordanian royal families.

Israel, too, will refrain from military action - unless it is attacked - not least because it does not want to alienate Iran and the Gulf Arab states that Washington has enlisted in its odd new coalition of the willing.

Meanwhile, Israeli government officials are emphasising the need to kick-start negotiations with the Palestinian Authority as a way of taking the wind out of the jihadists' sails.

But for some Israeli commentators, that does not go far enough.

Writing for the English-language website of Yediot Ahronot, long-time settler critic Aviad Kleinberg argued that the Jewish state should instead seize the moment to join the "Arab club" by unilaterally abandoning all settlements in return for peace.

"There are risks in this agreement, but the opportunities it opens for us are ten times greater," he concluded.

But such is the antisemitic vitriol among the masses in Saudi Arabia and Egypt that any sudden move by either regime aimed at establishing full ties with Israel, whatever the concessions, would play right into the Islamic State's hands.

Any dramatic announcement now would make it seem that the Islamic State was setting the agenda, and make Israel look terrified.

There is no evidence, anyway, that the regimes are interested in making peace.

Just last week, the Sheikh of Al-Azhar in Egypt called the Islamic State a "Zionist plot", while his equivalent in Saudi Arabia - the Grand Mufti - issued a fatwa saying they could be fought militarily but, crucially, only if they begin attacking Sunni Muslim countries.

That the intelligence Israel is providing to help combat the Islamic State is being scrubbed of Hebrew for fear it will otherwise be rejected, hardly inspires confidence either.

Much better for Israel to bide its time and negotiate from a position of strength after the Islamic State threat has been contained.

November 24, 2016 23:17

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