The Cairo media's highly colored accounts Monday, Aug. 30 of 1,500 Egyptian commando and tank supposedly raiding Jihad Islami and al Qaeda cells in Sinai are pure fiction, DEBKAfile's military sources confirm. Israeli forces along the Gazan and Egyptian borders down to Eilat have been forced to stand for a week at the highest level of preparedness since receiving word that a large group of terrorists had left the Gaza Strip for Sinai on Aug. 24 bent on another attack on southern Israel. The Egyptian army, for its part, is sitting on is hands as the jihadists take up assault positions on its side of the Sinai border.
The group set out from Gaza the day after the head of the Jihad Islami missile and logistics chief Ismail al-Asmar died in a targeted Israeli air strike on the car he was travelling in Rafah.
Israelwent on high terror alert on Aug. 25. Its leaders have repeatedly warned since then that Israel is fully prepared to respond swiftly if attacked.
Tuesday night, the IDF's Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz said: “Hamas and the other terrorist organizationsin Gaza had better realize that if they harm Israeli citizens we shall hit them hard. Testing our strength would be a mistake."
Tuesday, Home Front Minister Mattan Vilnai cited information that the at least 10 terrorists were in Sinai getting set to strike southern Israel.
Our sources report he was scolded by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak for letting it be known that the coming Palestinian raid was liable to be bigger than the coordinated highway attacks just north of Eilat of the Aug. 18, in which gunmen shot eight people dead. Limited Israeli reprisal then against Gazan terrorist targets brought forth a 150-missile barrage from Gaza against locations within its constantly expanding range.
For the loss of its logistics chief, the group decided it was not satisfied with heavy missile assaults and plotted a "quality operation" from Sinai.
DEBKAfile's intelligence and counter-terror sources report that the absence of Egyptian preventatives and Israel's passivity in the face of an assault known to be approaching afford the Palestinian terrorist group, which is sponsored and armed by Iran, extra leverage and strategic leeway in its contest with Israel.
Sunday, Aug. 21, after accepting an Egyptian-brokered truce for halting the missile blitz from Gaza, Netanyahu commented that Israel had gained the upper hand: The Palestinians had landed themselves with a new negative equation: Their attacks from Sinai would henceforth incur retaliation in Gaza.
Jihad Islami is now turning this equation on its head by demonstrating that Israeli attacks on Palestinian terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip bring forth Palestinian reprisals from Sinai.
They calculate correctly as it turned out this week that the Egyptian border offers them no obstacle to cross-border terror, whereas Israeli counteraction is stopped short.
Held back from its famous preemptive tactics by Israel's leaders out of fear of further strains on relations with the military rulers in Cairo, the Israeli army's deterrent strength is progressively sapped and the pro-Iranian Palestinian terrorists are getting the last laugh even before they strike.
They have wound up holding the initiative in the next round. It is up to them to decide for how much longer – days or weeks - reinforced Israeli units must stay on maximum preparedness and Israel's main routes to the south, Highways 10 and 12, stay closed to civilian traffic. They can keep Israel on tenterhooks as long as they like before deciding to press the trigger.
Contrary to what some Israeli officials and one or two otherwise bright journalists have said or written, it is unwise to permit the stationing of any Egyptian forces in the Sinaiquite apart from its violation of Israel's March 1979 treaty with Egypt.
Permitting Egyptian forces in the Sinai may seem to be a pragmatic way of dealing with the upsurge of terrorist activity in that peninsular. It is highly probable, however, that those forces are not only going to remain in the Sinai, but they will also increase in number, while Israel's inept governmentpersonified by Defense Minister Ehud Barakwill do nothing to remove them.
Mr. Barak is the genius who said one must sometimes sacrifice strategic to tactical considerations. Perhaps this is why Israel's most decorated soldier is Israel's is most notorious bungler.
Contrary to the mentality of Barak, Israel's government must assume full responsibility for keeping the Sinai free of terrorists. Allow me, therefore, to abbreviate an article I wrote at the outbreak of the Egyptian Revolution.
With a revolution brewing in Egypt, it may be of some value to reiterate certain principles of statecraft articulated in my book Sadat’s Strategy (1978). A section of the book was read in the Knesset, but it did not prevent the folly of the Begin Government's withdrawal from the Sinai. In any event, consider some principles of statecraft enunciated by Prince Metternich, the great nineteenth-century Austrian statesman on whom Henry Kissinger wrote his doctoral dissertation. I will update what I wrote in 1978.
According to Metternich, “to base one’s conduct in an important undertaking on faith in the moderation of one of the contracting parties is … to build on air, to gamble the future on one throw.” This faith animated Shimon Peres and Yossi Beilin, the myopic architects of the Oslo or Israel-PLO Agreement of September 1993, who long ago should have sought safe haven in Los Angeles, perhaps near Disney World. The same faith animates Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, evident in his mantra of “reciprocity” in dealing with the Palestinian Authority. A replay of this myopia is now being performed with the entrance of Egyptian forces in the Sinai.
To expect the leaders of a dictatorship (such as Egypt or the Palestinian Authority) to be moderate is like asking them to destroy the foundations of their existence.
Any plan conceived in moderate terms must fail when the circumstances are set in the extreme. Hence, in any situation where each of the possible lines of action involves difficulty, the strongest line is the best.
Nations with democratic forms of government are not for that reason the natural allies of each other or the implacable foes of dictatorships. [Welcome Mr. Obama to the Middle East!]
Weaker states can ill-afford merely to react to events; they must also try to initiate them. [The contrary of this principle has been taught in Israel’s Command and Staff College.]
We must rely for the execution of our plans on ourselves alone and on such means as we possess. (Israeli governments repeatedly violate this principle by relying excessively on the United States. And now Israel's government is permitting the stationing of Egypt forces in the Sinai!)
Regarding the current revolutionary situation in Egypt, it is mere drivel for the Obama Administration to call for "moderation." This will win no friends from any group in Egypt, and will only anger Egypt’s government and its opponents. It is also futile and counterproductive to call for democracy in Egypt. That’s not what typical Muslim males want, and that’s not what 1,400 years of the Quran prescribes.
For U.S. and Israeli leaders, the name of the game in the Arab-Islamic world is POWER and INTERESTS, and not morality and democracy. When dealing with Arab-Islamic autocracies, two questions should head the list: who has the power, and how can it be used to serve our country’s own interests?
In short, all the "politically correct" ideologues of democracy should shut up!