Mideast Report: Isolating Israel

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JERUSALEM, Israel - If Israel needs prayer, it's now! The Jewish state is increasingly surrounded by enemies committed to its destruction. 

Israel and the Palestinian Authority are gearing up for the week of Sept. 20 when P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to petition the United Nations for recognition as a member state. Israel could be in for a rough ride.

Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Monday the Palestinians are going to the U.N. to "escalate the legal campaign against Israel."

Calling it a "dangerous move," the former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff said the statehood bid could deteriorate the situation on the ground, weaken "moderate Palestinians," and encourage terrorism.

Speaking at the annual conference of the International Institute of Counter-Terrorism, Ya'alon said the Palestinians are going to the U.N. because they don't want to make an agreement that would address Israel's security concerns, accept Israel as a Jewish state, or agree to end the conflict and future claims on Israel.

The United States announced last week it would veto any attempt in the Security Council to pass a resolution admitting "Palestine" to the United Nations.

This would be de-facto recognition of a Palestinian state on what the world calls the 1967 borders (actually the 1949 armistice lines). This means biblical Gaza, Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). It would also mean Jerusalem as its capital. 

And though the U.S. veto would stop the Palestinians from becoming a full member, it wouldn't halt their scheme.

Turn to General Assembly

They can then turn to the General Assembly and if their resolution is passed there, the Palestinian Authority's status could be upgraded to something similar to that of the Vatican, enabling them to be full members in some international organizations.

The Palestinians are most likely assured an automatic majority in the General Assembly, but according to Dr. Dore Gold, former Israeli ambassador to the U.N., what they are after is a qualitative majority - that is one that will include a majority of European states.

And according to an article in the Israeli daily Ha'aretz this week, the Palestinians may get that support. They are reportedly working on a deal that will suit the Europeans and enable most European states to vote in favor of it.

Monday afternoon, Russia's ambassador to the U.N. said it would support the Palestinian bid despite resistance from the U.S. and Israel.

He said, "We are saying [to the Palestinians] that whatever you decide to do, we will support you."

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Israel needs to seriously try to move the peace process forward to avoid isolation in the international community.

But a number of prominent Knesset members from (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu's Likud party say Israel should annex Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) if the Palestinians declare unilateral statehood.

Several U.S. congressional representatives, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, have also told CBN News they'll halt funding to the Palestinians if they declare statehood at the U.N.

One way or the other, it looks like decisions will be made in September that could be a turning point in the history of the world.

U.S. and the Palestinian Bid

Critics of President Obama's Middle East policy have long suspected that he sympathizes with the Palestinian Arabs. They surmise that if Obama knew his 2012 reelection were assured, he'd certainly be tempted to abandon Israel as the U.N. tries to forge ahead with Palestinian statehood. 

Last year, in his speech to the General Assembly, Obama said, "When we come back here [in 2011] we can have an agreement that can lead to a new member of the United Nations, an independent, sovereign State of Palestine living in peace with Israel."

But since Abbas didn't play ball and continually refuses to talk with Israel, Obama was forced to divulge in advance that the U.S. will veto the Palestinian bid for full membership in the U.N. as a state, expected next week.

Obama's speech from 2010 is being quoted in the Palestinian media this week as part of a public relations campaign to embarrass Obama and bypass the U.S. and Israel on the world stage.

Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress, led by Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, have drawn up legislation to cut off funding to the Palestinian Authority when it follows through with its statehood campaign.

Ros-Lehtinen's latest proposed bill would also block U.S. funds for any U.N. group that supports giving the Palestinians an elevated status at the U.N. It would also ban U.S. funding of the Human Rights Council.

The State Department will do everything in its power to kill Ros-Lehtinen's bill, which has 57 co-sponsors and is likely to pass the house. 

But the Senate is another matter, and the administration probably has enough clout to stop the legislation there before Obama would have to sign or veto it.

Either way, congressional Republicans are putting their fellow lawmakers on record before 2012, at a time when Washington's serious budget problems are under a public microscope.

They're hoping the administration's propensity to boost the power of the U. N. will get a closer look by the voters.

Another political warning sign for the administration was on display Sept. 13 when New Yorkers voted to replace disgraced former New York Rep. Anthony Wiener with a Republican. In a heavily democratic district, the win was a surprising development because of the massive tilt in registration.

The district also is heavily populated by Jews. A key operative working for the Republican candidate lives here in Israel. He told CBN News today the status of Israel is a very important issue in the campaign.

The Democratic candidate is an Orthodox Jew, but since he came out publicly for Obama, it's had an impact on his poll numbers. The Republican winner, Bob Turner, has pushed the Israel issue front and center in the campaign. He was endorsed by several leading Jewish Democrats, including former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, who is alarmed by the administration's hostility toward Israel.

Turkey, Egypt and Israel

Prime Minister Netanyahu says he wants to reopen Israel's embassy in Cairo as soon as possible. The embassy was closed over the weekend after an Egyptian mob stormed the building and tore down and burned the Israeli flag.

The violence is the latest in a series of major diplomatic crises facing Israel following the Palestinian issue. 

On Friday, thousands of Egyptians surrounded the building housing Israel's embassy, broke down the security wall, and nearly overran the security personnel. Israel evacuated its ambassador and staff except for the deputy ambassador and six security guards. 

The mob ransacked the embassy two weeks ago, following a border incident. Terrorists from Gaza used Egypt's Sinai desert as a base to attack Israelis, killing eight.

Three Egyptian soldiers were killed when Israeli soldiers pursued the terrorists into northern Sinai. The embassy attack represents another serious deterioration in relations with Egypt after the fall of the Mubarak government earlier this year. 

Ely Karmon, an expert on Israeli Egyptian relations, told CBN News that "the way Egypt will change and develop in the near future is the main strategic issue for Israel." 

He implied it was a strategic threat even greater than Iran. 

The Egyptian crisis follows the diplomatic crisis just days ago when Turkey expelled Israel's ambassador. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan expelled the ambassador after the U.N. released a report on last year's Turkish-led flotilla. 

The report faulted Turkey and in large part exonerated Israel for stopping the ships trying to break its naval blockade on the Gaza Strip last year.

Erdogan also threatened to increase its presence in the Mediterranean Sea and talk of war surfaced between the two former allies.

In an unprecedented step, Erdogan left for Egypt on Monday - the first visit of a Turkish leader to Egypt in 15 years. 

CBN News spoke with Islamic expert Moshe Sharon last week. He said he believes Erdogan fancies himself the next caliphate in a reconstituted Ottoman Empire.

Now Israel has two former allies, Turkey and Egypt, both openly hostile to the Jewish state, isolating it more than it has been for years.

Israel's latest diplomatic crises with Turkey and Egypt - coupled with the upcoming bid for unilateral Palestinian statehood at the U.N. - have stoked Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's anti-Israel diatribe.

On Monday, the Iranian parliament voiced its full support of Friday's "ransacking" of the Israeli embassy in Cairo.

State-run Iranian television called the incident a "major new development" in the Middle East.

Speaking at a pro-Palestinian rally in Tehran two weeks ago marking al Quds Day - the Islamic version of Israel's Jerusalem Day - the diminutive Iranian leader said recognition of a Palestinian state by the United Nations would be the "first step in the liberation of the entire Palestine."

There would no longer be room for Israel in the region, he said.

In the same speech, Ahmadinejad warned Western nations to stop supporting Israel, predicting that the day is coming when neither the West nor the "Zionist regime" will have a place in the Middle East.

He called the "two-state solution" nothing more than a scheme to save Israel.

A few days later, Iran announced the deployment of a warship and a submarine to the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

Iran's state-sponsored news agency quoted Rear Adm. Habibollah Sayyari saying the deployment would "tighten security for all countries" and convey a "message of peace and friendship to all countries."

Iran's deployment followed Israel's announcement that it was sending two warships to the Red Sea in light of concrete intelligence warnings of another attack on southern Israel from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.

On Monday, Israeli Home Front Command Minister Matan Vilnai said there were "credible intelligence warnings" that members of the Gaza-based Islamic Jihad terror group were planning more attacks on Israel, like the multi-front assault in mid-August that killed eight Israelis.

In his Herzliya speech, Ya'alon also told participants at this year's counter-terrorism conference that Iran is continuing its "attempt to become a hegemonic power in the region."

He said Iran is progressing toward its goal of nuclear armament, while "heavily" arming its "proxies in Lebanon and the Palestinian arena."

Ya'alon said Iran is developing alternative "channels to deliver arms to their allies" in the region should the government of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad fall.

Prophetic Puzzle

The developments happening in the Middle East are moving at an amazing pace. Turkey's turn against Israel and Egypt's slide from a friendly nation to an unstable, unpredictable one is alarming.

With the tectonic political plates of the Middle East shifting so rapidly, those who read the Bible carefully are increasingly asking if the prophetic pieces of the puzzle are now falling into place.


Published monthly by the CBN News Jerusalem Bureau.

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CBN News Jerusalem Bureau

CBN News Jerusalem Bureau

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