MIDEAST MIRROR 08.06.15, SECTION A (ISRAEL)
The odd couple
Yedioth Ahronoth and Israel Hayom lead their Monday editions with the result of the Turkish parliamentary election, which ended with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's losing its majority in the Grand National Assembly. Both papers describe the result as a blow to Erdogan and, by extension, good news for Israel.
Haaretz leads with a report that Israel recently carried out a series of tests in the desert, in conjunction with a four-year project at the Dimona nuclear reactor, to measure the damage and other implications of the detonation of a so-called 'dirty' radiological bomb by hostile forces. Such a bomb uses conventional explosives in addition to radioactive material. The research concluded that high-level radiation was measured at the center of the explosions, with a low level of dispersal of radiation by particles carried by the wind. Sources at the reactor said this doesn’t pose a substantial danger beyond the psychological effect.
Elsewhere, two subjects continue to dominate the Israeli press: the campaign against the BDS movement and sporadic rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.
According to Israel Radio, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has instructed staff at the Israeli embassy in Paris to refuse a meeting with the CEO of Orange, Stephane Richard, at the Israeli embassy in France. Netanyahu stressed that if Richard is interested in explaining his recent remarks regarding cutting ties with the Israeli communications company Partner, he is invited to do so in Israel. Netanyahu earlier rejected Richard's apologies and clarifications that Orange is in Israel to stay. In remarks conveyed to an anti-BDS summit in Las Vegas, Netanyahu said that Richard's subsequent words don't square with his unequivocally hostile remarks in Cairo, where he declared his intention to end the company's business dealings with Israel.
'De-legitimization of Israel must be fought,' Netanyahu said. 'It is not about this or that Israeli policy. It is about the right to exist here as a free people.' Netanyahu said the Israeli government is committed to launching assertive and innovative programs to combat the lies and slander that are levelled against Israel.
On the rocket fire from Gaza, Netanyahu used his opening remarks at the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday to reiterate that Israel holds Hamas responsible for any firing from the Gaza Strip. He slammed what he called 'international hypocrisy,' claiming that he hasn't heard any condemnation from the international community, including the United Nations, of the rocket fire. 'It is interested whether this silence will continue when Israel acts to defend itself,' Netanyahu asked rhetorically. The prime minister said that the growing tide of hypocrisy in the world would not tie the hands of the Israeli government when the time comes to defend its citizens.
Contrary to his claim, the UN did condemn the rocket attacks – and was quickly followed by the United States. 'Clearly the U.S. stands with the people of Israel as they defend their people and their nation against these kind of attacks,' White House press secretary Josh Earnest, accompanying President Barack Obama at a G7 summit in Germany, was quoted as telling reporters.
The latest rocket attack occurred on Saturday night, when a lone projectile was fired at the Ashkelon region. A radical Islamist Salafist group calling itself the Omar Hadid Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack, although, like Netanyahu, the IDF repeated its stance that Hamas is responsible for everything that happens in the Strip. In its response to the attack, the Israel Air Force struck a number of militant infrastructure sites in the northern Gaza Strip. Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon also gave an order to close the Erez and Kerem Shalom border crossings between Israel and Gaza for all but humanitarian purposes. The army said that the border crossings will be re-opened based on how the security situation develops.
In related news, settler-run news service Arutz 7 – quoting a report Egyptian newspaper Al-Youm Al-Sabe’ – says that Hamas sources claim that senior members of the group have agreed to cooperate with the security forces in Egypt in the fight against terrorism in the Sinai. The sources told the newspaper that recently there have been several meetings between Hamas officials and high-ranking security officials in Egypt to discuss ways to fight the terrorists.
Finally, in a highly charged exchange at the annual Jerusalem Post Conference in New York, columnist Caroline Glick accused former Mossad chief Meir Dagan and former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi of refusing to carry out the prime minister's order of preparing for a military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities. Dagan and Ashkenazi both denied the accusation, with the former saying that, if such an order had ever been given, it would have been illegal.
RALLYING ROUND: Writing in Israel Hayom, Omer Dostry says that leaders of the Israeli left should not criticize the government's decisions and policies, but should rally round to defend the country from external threats.
"Speaking last week in the heat of the public debate about the growing threat of a global boycott against Israel, opposition leader Isaac Herzog leveled a harsh allegation against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his government: 'The grave and severe actions of the Israeli government and its leader are fuelling, nourishing and strengthening the boycott trend and hatred toward us on the international stage.' Meretz leader Zahava Gal-On made similar comments: 'The boycott serves Netanyahu and Netanyahu serves the boycott,' she said, adding that only in the fantasies of the right is it possible to claim that the BDS movement is motivated by anti-Semitism.
These are dangerous allegations and speak volumes about the moral sickness that has taken hold of the Israeli left in recent decades and especially in the past few years. It appears that opposition to this government and irrational and inexplicable hatred toward the prime minister have become mixed up with opposition to the state itself and that the left has lost the ability to differentiate between them.
At a time when the State of Israel is fighting against a number of boycotts on the international stage – and, incidentally, that number is tiny, insignificant and almost irrelevant; it has been blown up out of all proportion – there are senior Israeli officials who are acting against the state and against its almighty efforts to nip these boycotts in the bud. They do so by challenging the legitimacy of Israel's arguments about the real roots of the boycott movement.
We must stand up and say, in a clear and loud voice that boycotts against Israel – whether against the settlements in Judea and Samaria or against the State of Israel itself – are anti-Semitism, pure and simple. Since time immemorial, those who hate Jews have used boycotts and discrimination against us. In fact, boycotts have always been a key part of the tactics used by Arab inhabitants of the Land of Israel against the Jews. The first such boycott was implemented way back in 1921. In 1945 the Arab League launched a total boycott against Jews in the Land of Israel.
Therefore, this new anti-Semitism – unlike classic anti-Semitism – focuses on the State of Israel and its citizens. Hatred of Jews with hooked noses has been replaced by hatred of the State of Israel, which is accused of occupying another nation's land and of terrible cruelty. The humiliations, the repression and the massacres that the Jewish people suffered for generations have been replaced (or, more accurately, added to, since Jews in the Diaspora are still suffering violence and humiliation at the hands of anti-Semites) by a new tactic: attempts to boycott the State of Israel and to use diplomatic and economic means to try and eradicate it. All of this is done using the façade of 'enlightenment' and 'academic freedom.'
When leaders of the left-wing camp place even part of the blame on Israel, at a time when, elsewhere in the world, regimes are committing crimes against humanity, genocide and endless repression, the international community listens and uses those arguments to back their hypocritical and demagogic calls for a boycott of the Jewish state. Under these circumstances – whereby Israelis, some of them in very senior positions, toe the line set by our greatest enemies and play a role in the fallacious and ridiculous allegations, demonization and delegitimization of Israel – who even needs the BDS movement?
Unfortunately, the actions of the left leave no doubt as to the mortality of its members. I believe that they are encouraging external pressure on Israel in order to undermine the current government and, in so doing; they are damaging the whole of Israel. They fail to realize that being a 'fighting opposition' – which is what Isaac Herzog said that the Zionist Union would be – does not mean automatically objecting to the policies and decisions of the government – especially not its official policies in relation to the international community. Sometimes, politicians from all sides of the spectrum must come together to rebuff external threats to the future of the country. Without saying 'Yes, but...'"
A YELLOW CARD FOR ERDOGAN: Writing in Israel Hayom, Eyal Zisser says that the results of yesterday's election in Turkey show that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not omnipotent as he would like to believe.
"The people of Turkey made their voice heard loud and clear yesterday. Most voters said 'No' to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan three times: the first time they denied his party its majority in parliament; the second time, they gave a Kurdish party representation in parliament for the first time, where it will be a constant thorn in the president's side; and thirdly, they declined to give Erdogan the majority he needed to make the constitutional changes needed to turn Turkey into a presidential republic, in which power – both practical and formal – are in the hands of the president.
Because of the convoluted electoral system in Turkey, the split in the secular vote and especially because of the extremely high electoral threshold (10 percent), a large number of the votes cast for Erdogan's opponents were wasted. Erdogan and his party will still be able to form the next government, therefore, and will continue to run the country. But their wings have most definitely been clipped.
The election result can only be seen as a personal defeat for Erdogan, who used the full force of his influence to promote his party. In so doing, he violated his supposedly neutral position as president, which is – in theory, at least, like Israel's figurehead leader. Erdogan incited, threatened and even imprisoned some of his opponents and journalists who dared to criticize him.
None of this helped him on Election Day. The outcome of yesterday's election is bad news for Erdogan, but excellent news for Turkey. It seems that, even after a decade of power, Erdogan has not managed to eradicate all opposition to his regime.
It's still too early to determine whether this is the beginning of the end of the Erdogan era in Turkey, but it is clear that the magic is starting to wear off and that the would-be sultan is not as omnipotent as he and his supporters would like to have believed. And it is also clear that the virulent incitement against Israel, coupled with a wanton foreign policy that has turned Turkey into an international outcast, are no guarantee of electoral success. The Turkish people are tired of Erdogan and they used yesterday's election to show him a yellow card."
ON HOPE AND FEAR: Writing in Maariv, Meir Uziel comments on U.S. President Barack Obama's interview with Channel 2 last week, saying that, on at least three issues, there are things he fails to understand.
"The interview that U.S. President Barack Obama granted to Channel 2's 'Uvda' program was such a success that he will no doubt be invited to make a sequel with journalists from Channel 1 and Channel 10 in the near future. In fact, the U.S. president may find himself having to address the people of Israel in a weekly television broadcast, because, in order to avoid allegations of discrimination and in accordance with the advice of legal advisers and the demands of the monopolies commissioner, he would have to give interviews to all three of the major television channels in Israel.
Obama is a fine orator. He answers questions well, he's got a winning personality and his enthusiasm is contagious. There's no doubt that he wants to talk to Israelis. As he himself complained: 'There are a lot of filters between me and the Israelis,' he said, adding that Israelis were 'not receiving' the president’s messages directly from him. I cannot imagine that Obama would say something similar in an interview with a French or Australian television channel, but that is obvious. Obama wants to talk to Israelis and how many Israelis will he find in Germany. Okay, quite a lot, but not as many as in Israel.
When Obama talks directly to us, his words hit home – yet it is natural that we have questions for him. Given that there is no program on Israeli television where viewers have the opportunity to put their questions directly to the president, I will use this column to touch upon three of the comments he made in his Channel 2 interview.
Hope versus fear: I hope the president will forgive me for saying this, but we Israelis are bigger experts than him on both hope and fear. For 2,000 years, we nurtured the hope of returning to our homeland and many of us hope with total faith that the messiah will come soon. What better example of hope is there? Unfortunately, we are also world leaders in fear. Ilana Dayan, who did not limit herself to asking the right questions, told Obama that we cannot accept even a tiny percent chance that we will be wiped off the map. So this is the question that I pose to every foreigner I talk to: How many times in history has the Jewish people faced extermination? Obama understands Israel's security needs, but what would he – as an American – think and do if it were clear to him that his country's enemies wanted to destroy him?
The Palestinians who want peace with Israel: According to Obama, there are Palestinians 'with good intentions.' This is what he told Channel 2: 'Let's say I'm a Palestinian student or I'm a Palestinian and I don't buy the rhetoric of Hamas, and I know there are good people inside of Israel.' True, there are many Palestinian like that; more than we can ever know. I am looking forward eagerly to the day when their voices are the loudest in Arab society. Whenever I meet with Palestinians, this is what I tell them: 'Peace is not enough for me; I want you to love us.' This is the hope: that day will arrive.
The world is a better place: Obama also said that the world is a better place. If he was referring primarily to the Western world, then he is correct. But he fails to understand that it is true because, 70 years ago, world leaders refused to engage in negotiations with evil, refused to see the arguments of both sides, did not fill peoples' heads with talk about how children on the other side of the divide were suffering; they fought against evil. There could only be one outcome: the unconditional surrender of evil."
QUESTIONS FOR OBAMA: Writing in Yedioth Ahronoth, Oz Almog asks U.S. President Barack Obama the questions that he says Ilana Dayan should have asked him in her interview last week.
"These are the questions that Ilana Dayan – who interviewed U.S. President Barack Obama last week – should have asked, in response to his comments. She didn't, so I will:
Obama: 'Israel is losing its fundamental values as a Jewish and democratic state.'
My question: There has been an increase in furious demonstrations in the United States against the racism of the police. Mr. President, is the United States losing its fundamental values as a Christian and democratic state?
Obama: 'It is possible to reach a framework agreement with a peace-seeking regime in the Palestinian Authority.'
My question: The Palestinian Authority has declared the establishment of a new unity government, which includes representatives of Hamas. Do you think that this is a peace-seeking regime?
Obama: 'Let’s say, I’m a Palestinian student or I’m a Palestinian businessman in the West Bank, and I believe in peace, and I don’t buy the rhetoric of Hamas, and I know there are good people inside of Israel and I recognize Israel’s right to exist, but every day I’m traveling through checkpoints that may take me hours, and if I have a business trip or a student exchange trip, I may not be able to go because I don’t have a state, and I’m restricted.'
My question: Do you really believe that the security barrier and the checkpoints were built solely in order to make life miserable for the residents of the West Bank? And what exactly is the opinion of the Palestinian majority – including students and businessmen – who elected Abu Mazin and who, according to recent polls, support Hamas' agenda, about Israel's right to exist? Every single day, thousands of passengers are delayed at American airports for strict security checks, which include taking off their shoes for inspection. What about those restrictions?
Obama (in response to a proposal to segregate Jewish and Arab passengers on certain bus lines in the West Bank): 'We have, I hope, a special empathy and a special regard for those who are being mistreated because of the color of their skin or the nature of their faith.'
My questions: Do you really believe that the proposal – which was admittedly stupid and has therefore been dropped – was motivated by a racist ideology and was designed to humiliate Palestinians? Is that further proof for you that Israel is an apartheid state?
Obama: 'I think it’s fair to say that if I showed up at the Knesset without checking with the Prime Minister first, that there would be a sense that some protocols had been breached.'
My question: If Netanyahu and his advisers are genuinely afraid that a nuclear deal with Iran will endanger the State of Israel – and you have gone on record as saying that you believe their concerns are authentic – then why do you think that it's wrong for him to do everything in his power to thwart the deal? Would you not breach protocol to stave off an existential threat to your country?
At the end of the interview, Dayan allowed herself a lighter question (even though some would argue that the whole interview was conducted in a semi-jocular mood) and asked about basketball. 'You tweeted that Lebron James is the heart of the Cleveland Cavaliers, but do you know who his coach is?' Obama, with his typical politeness, replies: 'He’s an outstanding former Israeli coach, David Blatt.'
And this raised another question: Have American sports commentators not been guilty of condescending to Blatt? Does their superficial coverage of him not stem from exactly the same arrogance and American ethnocentricity? Maybe this is the key flaw to Obama's foreign policy and defense strategy, which could cost us all very dearly."
A DECADE SINCE THE DISENGAGEMENT: Writing in Yedioth Ahronoth, Yifat Erlich says that the disengagement from the Gaza Strip is proving to be the nightmare that many warned it would be.
"Was Israel's disengagement from the Gaza Strip a failure? How can anyone even ask that question? For the past 10 years, ever since Israel withdrew every single one of its soldiers and settlers from the coastal territory, we all witnessed the realization of the dream on a daily basis. Israel is not the same country it was before the disengagement. The bloody conflicts of the past have been replaced by peace and prosperity. Our children, on the northern border and in the south, leave their homes every day safe in the knowledge that no harm will come to them. Every day, the people of Gaza send over missiles of love and brotherhood, which fall one our heads like gentle drops from heaven. Israel's education budget has been doubled thanks to our government being able to slash defense spending and Israeli students have climbed to the very top of the OECD's education rankings.
In addition to a marked improvement in our economy and our society as a whole, Israel is once again the darling of the international community. There are no boycotts against us, because we proved that we have the courage and the willingness to make sacrifices for peace. Mobile phone companies from across the world are waiting in line to be part of this new regional superpower. Even the most ardent anti-Semite has been forced to rethink his views in light of the situation in the Middle East, which has changed beyond recognition.
The Arab world, too, has fundamentally changed. Following in Hamas' footsteps, other countries in the region recognized that violence no longer pays off. Within a decade, Israel managed to forge alliances with Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Saudi Arabia. As soon as the Gaza Strip became a modern-day Garden of Eden, residents of Judea and Samaria also rejected the path of terror and returned to the negotiating table. An historic peace accord allowed them to establish an independent Palestinian state, which now provides a peaceful home to millions of Arabs and hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers.
Even the settlers from the Gaza Strip, having been handled with efficiency and love by the Israeli government, overcame their emotional trauma and now thank God for saving them from the threat of terrorism. The flowers of peace and love are blossoming in cities like Ashkelon and Be'er Sheva and the dark days of rocket attacks are long forgotten.
Wake up, you dreamers. It's been 10 years since the disengagement and we are witnessing the nightmare come true."
THE ODD COUPLE: Writing in Haaretz, Amos Harel says that, Israel officially regards Hamas as an enemy, holds it entirely responsible for every attack from Gaza and responds harshly to every instance of fire – but practically speaking, its policy is the opposite.
"The firing of rockets at the Negev from the Gaza Strip, which happened twice in three days last week, is still a localized problem. The rockets were launched by an extremist Salafi faction in the context of a local conflict with the Hamas government in the Strip, after Hamas arrested some of its activists and killed one of them. Hamas is working to stop the firing on Israel and Israel is giving it time to deal with it.
In the meantime, there is still hope in Israel that the regime in Gaza can overcome the internal threat and ensure that it does not escalate to the point of renewed conflict with the Israel Defense Forces, as the Salafis are threatening to do.
In the coverage of the escalation in the Israeli media, the organization that fired the rockets was prominently branded as Islamic State. That is a somewhat dubious claim. ISIS’ successes in Syria and Iraq in recent months have prompted various jihadist groups throughout the Arab world to position themselves as branches of the worldwide brand. In some places, like Sinai, a connection has been created between a local faction (Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, which has now changed its name to Sinai Province) and ISIS, and apparently money was also sent. In other places, such as Gaza, the connection seems to be symbolic.
But the description of the Gaza group as ISIS by the Israeli security establishment serves two goals. It strengthens Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s line, which depicts extremist Islamist terror at the fences on all of Israel’s borders, and it provides an excuse for Israeli conduct. If the choice is between Hamas and ISIS (contrary to Netanyahu’s claim at the end of last summer’s war that 'Hamas is ISIS') then there is a reason that Israel is in no hurry to topple the Hamas government.
Meanwhile, neither Hamas nor Israel is dealing robustly with the Salafi groups. Hamas is having a hard time challenging the Salafis, although they are far fewer in number than Islamic Jihad, on which the regime in Gaza has forced its will with relative ease. It seems that the Salafis play by their own rules and are more insistent on having their way. Israel, for its part, has so far avoided direct attacks on leaders of the Salafi groups.
The worry over the recent nighttime sirens in Negev communities is completely understandable, given the events of last summer. What is not being discussed is the large gap between public declarations by Israel’s government and its actions. Officially, Israel regards Hamas as an enemy, holds it entirely responsible for every attack from Gaza, responds harshly against Hamas installations in response to every instance of fire and threatens to escalate its actions. But practically speaking, its policy is the opposite. It takes great care that its punitive attacks on Hamas do not harm anyone, seeks to strengthen Hamas control in the Strip (as long as it maintains the cease-fire) and operates new channels of mediation, much to Egypt’s displeasure.
Egypt today is Israel’s closest regional partner. The two countries are joining forces in dealing with the local ISIS faction in Sinai and other Salafi organizations operating in the area, and they coordinate their positions on many activities. But on the question of Gaza, they do not agree. Egypt has a complete lack of faith regarding Hamas’ intentions and continues to enforce a tight siege on the Gaza Strip by keeping the Rafah border shut. It is also trying to push for greater involvement of the Palestinian Authority in the crossings.
Israel suspects that the PA does not really want to accept any responsibility for Gaza. What is more, ties between Jerusalem and Ramallah are tense in any case in light of the dependence of the new Netanyahu government on a narrow right-wing coalition.
For these reasons, it might be more convenient for Israel to reach indirect, general understandings with Hamas, which will not bind Netanyahu to political concessions (as long as he does not publicly concede that he has, de facto, recognized Hamas as a partner.) This is the background for the increased activity in the area by Qatari representatives, who are not dealing only with the economic rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip.
The Egyptians also suspect that Turkey, an opponent of the generals’ regime in Cairo and partner of the Muslim Brotherhood axis in the Middle East, is increasing its involvement in the Gaza Strip. Only last summer, at the height of the war, Israel adamantly refused to involve Qatar and the Turks in mediation with Hamas and faced off against the United States because of the latter’s willingness to consider a compromise proposal by those two countries. Now, it seems that Israel’s approach has changed.
There are many players in the Gaza arena and many more that are active behind the scenes. At the moment, it seems that the Salafi rebellion against Hamas is putting at risk the relative stability attained between Gaza and Israel, though at some later stage the risk could come from the Hamas military wing, which is conducting an independent policy separate from that of the organization’s political leadership. Above all, there is the economic distress in the Strip, with unemployment at 50 percent, scarce potable water and inhabitants living with a sense of continual siege. It is hard to expect long-term stability, even if Israel has so far done more than Egypt to make possible the rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip after last summer’s war."
A KINDER AL-QA’IDA: Writing on the Times of Israel website, Yoram Schweitzer comments on al-Qa’ida’s efforts to distance itself from ISIS and how this impacts on regional alliances and rivalries.
"In recent months there have been salient and extensive organizational efforts by al-Qa’ida and its affiliates to distinguish themselves from Islamic State. Against the backdrop of the blatant brutality inflicted by Islamic State on all its adversaries — Muslims, minorities and foreigners — al-Qa’ida and its partners are seeking to portray a moderate and pragmatic image. For instance, while Islamic State proudly took responsibility for a cluster of extremely lethal terror attacks executed in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia, where most of the casualties were Muslims, spokesmen for al-Qa’ida and its affiliates expressed reservations regarding them.
This trend of separation and differentiation between the two camps was also apparent in the recent, rare television interview given to Al Jazeera by Abu Mohammad Al-Julani, the leader of the Nusra Front, which is part of the al-Qa’ida alliance. One can learn from this interview about the prime strategic aims of the Nusra Front and about its principal rivalries, but mainly it tells us of Julani’s interest in quelling the fear, harbored by many, that the Nusra Front aims to turn Syria into an al-Qa’ida base of operation in the region.
As is the case with other al-Qa’ida spokesmen, Julani presented the operation of his organization as mainly defensive against the brutal aggression of Assad’s Alawite regime, which attacked, killed and exiled millions of Sunni Muslims. Julani clarified that his organization does not attack anyone who is not attacking him. He further added that his organization will not set the score with its attackers, if they repent and adhere to the Muslim faith.
Julani also declared that his organization will not forcefully impose religion on its rivals or the minorities living in Syria. He promised not to attack his enemies, should they follow the ‘right path’, despite being supporters of Assad’s regime, which has been responsible for forty years of Sunni suffering, creating many refugees and the atrocities taking place in Syria in recent years.
Julani explicitly pointed at Hizbollah, which supports the Assad regime, as a primary enemy of his organization because the Shiite organization shared responsibility in the regime’s crimes and vowed to collect the debt from Hizbollah and determined that when Assad’s regime falls, so will Hizbollah. Simultaneously, when Nasrallah tried to convince the Lebanese populace that Nusra was a threat to their country, he took pains to reassure civilians, saying that his organization makes a clear distinction between Hizbollah and the innocent citizens of Lebanon, whom Nasrallah presumes to represent.
Julani also sent reassuring messages towards the Western world distinguishing them from the United States. He warned that if U.S. aggression against his organization does not stop there will be retaliation but did not specify in what way. He clarified that his primary goal at this point is to topple Assad’s regime, not wage international terrorism. However, Julani did not state that al-Qa’ida shares this policy, but emphasized that his organization’s policy is subject to the orders of Al-Zawahiri, his supreme leader. He also denied U.S. claims that an al-Qa’ida faction called 'Khorasan group' operates within his organization, recruiting activists in Syria to carry out future international terror attacks.
Analyzing Julani’s rhetoric in the interview clarifies that he is interested in continuing the same line his organization has took in all its years in Syria: to present a pragmatic and moderate image based on alliances and cooperation with local elements in order to implement the shared goal of toppling Assad’s regime. For this purpose he obscures his true intentions and plans to establish an Islamic State, which will operate under strict Sharia Law, which will surely be implemented by force.
Also notable is his attempt to disguise the line his organization will take towards minorities that will strive to maintain their unique character and how he will impose Sharia Law. By comparison, his policy towards Arab and western countries is relatively clear, despite the fact that his organization currently doesn’t mirror the brutal acts of the Islamic State.
Though Julani didn’t specifically address Israel in this interview, Julani’s plans for the Jewish state are clear. A recent declaration by Al-Zawahiri, Julani’s supreme leader and head of al-Qa’ida, stated that once Assad, the traitor from Damascus, is removed, the liberation of Jerusalem will follow."
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