Archive for the ‘Israel and Egypt’ category

Israel And Egypt Form Secret Alliance To Wipe Out Egyptian Jihadists

February 5, 2018

by Tyler Durden Mon, 02/05/2018 – 01:00 Zero Hedge

Source: Israel And Egypt Form Secret Alliance To Wipe Out Egyptian Jihadists

{The enemy of my enemy is my friend…or something like that. – LS}

Israel has been conducting bombing raids on jihadists within Egypt’s borders since at least late 2015 as part of a secret two-year alliance. For more than two years, unmarked Israeli drones, helicopters and jets have carried out a covert air campaign, conducting more than 100 airstrikes inside Egypt, frequently more than once a week — and all with the approval of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the NYT reported on Sunday.

Once enemies in three wars, and having struggled to reach peace agreements for decades, Egypt and Israel are now (not so) secret allies against a common foe.

In late 2015, jihadists in Egypt’s Northern Sinai moved in, killing hundreds of soldiers and police officers and briefly seizing a major town – setting up armed checkpoints as they established control over the area. On October 31, 2015, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s Sinai branch, formerly known as Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, brought down a Russian passenger flight with an explosive device – killing all 224 people aboard.

With Egypt seemingly unable to stop the jihadists, Israel – alarmed by the threat just over the border, began taking action – sending a barrage of airstrikes into the neighboring Arab country whose officials and media continued to vilify the Jewish state in public.

In order to conceal their involvement, Israel’s drones, jets and helicopters have covered up their markings. “Some fly circuitous routes to create the impression that they are based in the Egyptian mainland,” according to American officials briefed on the operations.

It is unclear whether any Israeli troops have actually set foot inside Egyptian borders.

Despite efforts by both Israel and Egypt to hide the origin of the strikes and censor public reports, Egypt and Israel’s two-year alliance has become somewhat of an open secret in intelligence circles:

Inside the American government, the strikes are widely known enough that diplomats and intelligence officials have discussed them in closed briefings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers in open committee hearings have alluded approvingly to the surprisingly close Egyptian and Israeli cooperation in the North Sinai.

In a telephone interview, Senator Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, declined to discuss specifics of Israel’s military actions in Egypt, but said Israel was not acting “out of goodness to a neighbor.”

“Israel does not want the bad stuff that is happening in the Egyptian Sinai to get into Israel,” he said, adding that the Egyptian effort to hide Israel’s role from its citizens “is not a new phenomenon.” –NYT

Moreover, despite Israeli military censors preventing reports of the strikes from becoming public, certain news outlets circumvented the censorship by citing a 2016 Bloomberg report in which a former Israeli official admitted to drone strikes inside of Egypt.

The two-year alliance between the two countries is thought to have begun after Egypt’s relatively new president Mohamed Morsi – a leader within the Muslim Brotherhood who came to power after the Arab Spring revolt, was outed in a military takeover by el-Sisi – then defense minister.

Israel welcomed the change in government, urging Washington to accept it.

And Egypt needed the help; following Mr. Sisi’s takeover, Islamist militants who had established a refuge in the North Sinai region between the Suez Canal and the Israeli border began a wave of deadly assaults against Egyptian security forces.

A few weeks after Mr. Sisi took power, in August 2013, two mysterious explosions killed five suspected militants in a district of the North Sinai not far from the Israeli border. The Associated Press reported that unnamed Egyptian officials had said Israeli drones fired missiles that killed the militants, possibly because of Egyptian warnings of a planned cross-border attack on an Israeli airport. (Israel had closed the airport the previous day.)

At the time, both Israel and Egypt vehemently denied the reports – however after the Russian charter jet was brought down in October of 2015, Israel began its wave of airstrikes, killing a long list of militant leaders according to an American official who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss classified operations.

After Israel wiped out much of the jihadist leadership in the region, less ambitious successors stepped in. No longer employing armed checkpoints, closing roads or claiming territory – the group began targeting “softer” targets like Christians in Sinai and Muslims they considered heretics. As an example, the militant group killed over 300 worshippers at a Sufi Mosque in North Sinai.

Since Israel has effectively been keeping jihadists at bay in a mutually beneficial arrangement, some American supporters of Israel have been complaining that given Egypt’s reliance on the Israeli military, “Egyptian officials, diplomats and state-controlled news media should stop publicly denouncing the Jewish state.” 

“You speak with Sisi and he talks about security cooperation with Israel, and you speak with Israelis and they talk about security cooperation with Egypt, but then this duplicitous game continues,” said Representative Eliot L. Engel of New York, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Relations Committee. “It is confusing to me.”

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has also pointedly reminded American diplomats of the Israeli military role in Sinai. In February 2016, for example, Secretary of State John Kerry convened a secret summit in Aqaba, Jordan, with Mr. Sisi, King Abdullah of Jordan and Mr. Netanyahu, according to three American officials involved in the talks or briefed about them.

Mr. Kerry proposed a regional agreement in which Egypt and Jordan would guarantee Israel’s security as part of a deal for a Palestinian state. –NYT

Netanyahu scoffed at the idea – arguing that if Egypt was unable to control the ground within its own borders, it was hardly in a position to guarantee Israel’s safety.

Twilight over the “Palestinian Cause”

December 21, 2017

Twilight over the “Palestinian Cause”, Gatestone InstituteGuy Millière, December 21, 2017

(Please see also, Palestinian claims to Jerusalem lose Saudi as well as US support. — DM)

Reports from the West Bank after the Six Day War show that the Arabs interviewed defined themselves as “Arabs” or “Jordanians”, and evidently did not yet know that they were “the Palestinian people”. Since then, they were taught it. They were also taught that it is their duty is to “liberate Palestine” by killing Jews. The Palestinians are the first people invented to serve as a weapon of mass destruction of another people.

“The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality, today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese.” — PLO leader Zuheir Mohsen, interview in the Dutch newspaper Trouw, March 1977.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the European Union has become the main financier of the “Palestinian cause”, including its terrorism. They are also contributing to war.

Iran, strengthened enormously by the agreement passed in July 2015 and the massive US funding that accompanied it, has been showing its desire to become a hegemonic power in the Middle East.

The grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdulaziz ibn Abdullah Al ash-Sheikh, recently issued a fatwa saying that “fighting the Jews” is “against the will” of Allah and that Hamas is a terrorist organization.

For many years, “Palestine” has not stopped aspiring to new heights in the so called “international community”. “Palestine” has been present at the Olympic Games since 1996, and, later, became a permanent observer to UNESCO and the United Nations. The vast majority of the 95 “embassies” of “Palestine” are in the Muslim world; many others are in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe. In 2014, the Spanish Parliament voted in favor of full recognition of “Palestine.” A few weeks later, the French Parliament did the same. 

There is no other instance in the history of the world where a state that does not exist can have missions and embassies presumed to function as if that state did exist.

Now the time has probably come for the “Palestinians” to realize that they have lost and fall back to earth, as noted by the scholar Daniel Pipes.

Have “Palestinian” leaders been showing by their speeches and actions that they are ready to rule a state living in peace with their neighbors and with the rest of the world? All “Palestinian” leaders have incessantly incited terrorism, and do not hide their wish to wipe Israel off the map.

Is there a long-standing aspiration by the “Palestinian people” to have a state and to live peacefully within that state? The answer is actually no. The “Palestinian people” were invented in the late 1960s by the Arab and Soviet propaganda services. As PLO leader Zuheir Mohsen told the Dutch newspaper Trouw in March 1977:

“The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality, today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese.”

Reports from the West Bank after the Six Day War show that the Arabs defined themselves in interviews as “Arabs” or “Jordanians”; they evidently did not know that they were the “Palestinian people”. Since then, they were taught it. They were also taught that it is their duty to “liberate Palestine” by killing Jews. The Palestinians are the first people invented to serve as a weapon of mass destruction of another people.

Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the PLO, at the Arab League summit in Rabat, Morocco, 1974. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Is there at least a historic past that gives legitimacy to the aspiration to create a “Palestinian state”? The answer again is actually no. There is no Palestinian culture distinct from the cultures of the Muslim Arab world, no monument that can be defined as a “Palestinian” historic monument, except by falsifying history.

More basically, would a hypothetical “Palestinian state” be economically viable? Again, the answer is actually no. Territories occupied by the Palestinian movements survive only thanks to international financial assistance from the West.

How then could so many countries wish for so long to create a state whose rulers would likely be regressive, corrupt “Palestinian” leaders; whose inhabitants would be used as killing machines, whose history is non-existent-to-falsified and whose economic potential seems zero?

The answer is simple.

Behind their support for the creation of a “Palestinian state”, those countries have been pursuing other goals. For decades, countries of the Muslim world obsessively wanted one thing: the destruction of Israel.

They tried to reach their goal through conventional warfare, then terrorism, then diplomacy, then propaganda. They blamed only Israel for all the evils of the Middle East.

All the while, they know who the “Palestinian” leaders are and what they do. They know that the “Palestinian people” were invented. They know why the “Palestinian” people were invented. They know that a “Palestinian state” will not have a viable economy. Yet they have been committed to a strategy of destabilizing and demonizing a non-Muslim nation, Israel.

They call the “Palestinians” “victims“; terrorism, “militancy”; and incitement to kill, “resisting occupation”. They have been trampling rightful history and replacing it with myth.

They press “Palestinian” leaders to “negotiate”, knowing perfectly well that no agreement will ever be signed and that negotiations will end in bloodshed.

They propose only “peace plans” they know Israel must reject – those which include the “’49 ‘Auschwitz‘ armistice lines” or the “right of return” for “Palestinian refugees”, who numbered half a million in 1949, but near five million today.

They recognize a “Palestinian state” while knowing that the “state” they recognize is not a state, but rather a terrorist entity without defined borders or territory, and imbued with a will to spill more blood and create more mayhem.

They have relied on turmoil, blackmail and lies to encourage the rest of the world to think the situation requires drastic international intervention.

They have been saying they want a “Palestinian state”, but never that they want this state to renounce terrorism and end the conflict.

Instead, they have been waging a vicious war they have long hoped to win.

For more than thirty years, they benefited from the support of the Soviet Union. It financed wars (19671973), terrorism, diplomacy and propaganda. The Soviet Union made the “Palestinian” enterprise an “anti-imperialist” cause — a means of strengthening Soviet positions and galvanizing the enemies of the West. The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, but the effects of its support for the “Palestinian cause” for a time remained. Many countries hostile to the West still support and recognize the “Palestinians” while pretending to ignore that they are recognizing a terrorist entity. They are contributing to war.

Countries of the Western world, subjected to the pressures of the Muslim world and the Soviet Union for many years, have gradually given way, some even before any pressure was applied.

France chose its camp in 1967, when General Charles de Gaulle launched what he called an “Arab policy” after its defeat in Algeria. French foreign policy become resolutely “pro-Palestinian” -– in an apparent effort to deflect terrorism, obtain inexpensive oil and compete with the US — and has remained so to this day. Western European countries have gradually adopted positions close to those of France. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the European Union has become the main financier of the “Palestinian cause”, including its terrorism. Western European leaders know what the real goals are, yet they repeat without respite that creating a “Palestinian state” is “essential“. They are also contributing to war.

Although a long-time ally of Israel, the United States changed its Middle East policy in the beginning of the 1990s to positions closer to those of the Muslim world. American politicians and diplomats pressured Israelis to negotiate with “Palestinian” leaders and seemed to have lost sight of what the “Palestinian cause” was secretly about. Wishful Israeli leaders agreed to negotiate. The tragic result was the Oslo Accords and the creation of the Palestinian Authority (PA). It quickly became a new base of anti-Israeli terrorism. A wave of lethal, anti-Israel attacks started immediately, with a stepped-up anti-Israel diplomatic and propaganda offensive right after. A “two-state solution” was invoked. American leaders, as if they had slept through several years, started to say that a “Palestinian state” had to exist. Three American Presidents proposed “peace plans“, also contributing to war.

An additional “peace plan” is expected soon, but the parameters will be profoundly different. President Donald Trump appears to wish to break with the past.

He recently told Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas that “Palestinian” leaders were liars. None of the American negotiators he chose seems to have the slightest illusion about the “Palestinian” leadership or the “Palestinian cause”.

The Taylor Force Act, passed on December 5 by the US House of Representatives, plans to condition US aid to the “West Bank and Gaza” on “the actions taken by the Palestinian Authority to end violence and terrorism against Israeli citizens”; the Act could be adopted soon by the Senate. The PA rejected all the requirements in the Act.

The Muslim world is also undergoing change. Iran, strengthened enormously by the agreement passed in July 2015 and the massive US funding that accompanied it, has been showing its desire to become a hegemonic power in the Middle East. The mullahs’ regime now holds three capital cities in addition to Teheran: Baghdad, Damascus, and Beirut. Iran attacks Saudi Arabia and supports the war led by the Houthi militia in Yemen; it intends to seize Sanaa and take control of Bab El Mandeb, the gateway to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. Qatar and Turkey have established close ties with Iran.

Saudi leaders appear aware of the danger. King Salman chose his son, Mohamed bin Salman, as heir to the throne, and gave him broad powers. “MBS”, as he is known, seems intent on leading a real revolution. Militarily, he is head of the 40-member Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition, and has declared his desire to “end terrorism”. Economically, he is in charge of an ambitious reform project aimed at making his country less dependent on oil: Saudi Vision 2030. All Saudi leaders in disagreement with the new orientations of the country were placed under arrest and their assets confiscated. Mohamed bin Salman has identified Iran as the main enemy, and recently described its Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, as a “new Hitler.” Qatar and Turkey have been subjected to intense Saudi pressure to distance themselves from the Iranian regime. The grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdulaziz ibn Abdullah Al ash-Sheikh, recently issued a fatwa saying that “fighting the Jews” is “against the will” of Allah and that Hamas is a terrorist organization.

Mohamed bin Salman has the support of the Trump administration; Vladimir Putin who, while being allied to Iran, may want a balance of power in the Middle East, and Xi Jinping, who is facing the risk of a Sunni Islamic upheaval in China’s autonomous territory, Xinjiang.

“Palestinian” leader, Mahmoud Abbas was reportedly summoned to Riyadh, where King Salman and Mohammed bin Salman told him that he had to accept the plan proposed by the Trump administration or resign, and that it would “risky” for him to consider launching an uprising – which he has anyway, although being careful to keep it lukewarm.

During the month of October, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a close ally of Mohamed bin Salman, invited the leaders of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas to come to Cairo for a “reconciliation”. He apparently demanded control of the Gaza Strip to be handed to the Palestinian Authority. It also seems that the Trump administration and President Sisi told Hamas leaders that they had to approve the terms of the “reconciliation” agreement, and that if they carried out any attacks against Israel, they risked complete destruction.

The “peace plan” evidently to be presented by the Trump administration is provoking the extreme anger of “Palestinian” leaders. The goal of the “plan” seems to be to revive an open ended “peace process”, allowing Saudi Arabia and the members of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition to move closer to Israel and push the “Palestinian cause” toward the back burner.

On November 19, an Arab League emergency meeting held in Cairo strongly condemned Hezbollah and Iran. Moreover, for the first time in fifty years, a meeting of the Arab League did not even mention the “Palestinian” question.

President Trump’s recognition on December 6 of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has led to restlessness and acrimony both in the Muslim world and among Western European leaders. Sunni leaders allied to Saudi Arabia, however, as well as Saudi Arabia itself, seem too concerned about the Iranian threat to quarrel with Israel, the United States or really anyone. Western Europe has almost no weight in what is taking shape; all it has shown is cowardice, fear, and continued contempt for a fellow Western democracy: Israel.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, now in the twelfth year of his four year term — and apparently seeing that he is getting little support — appeared to seek divine intervention: he asked the Pope for help. There would be “no Palestinian state without East Jerusalem as its capital,” Abbas said. He sounded as if he had begun to understand that the “Palestinian cause” could be fading, and, with other “Palestinian” leaders, called for “three days of rage“. A few protesters burned tires and American flags – the usual.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to convene in Istanbul on December 13, and urged leaders of Muslim countries to recognize Jerusalem as the “occupied capital of the Palestinian state”. Saudi King Salman stayed well away as did almost all other Sunni leaders. He only sent a message saying that he calls for “a political solution to resolve regional crises”. He added that “Palestinians have right to East Jerusalem” – the least he could do; he did no more. Erdogan is mainly supported by Iran, today’s foremost enemy of Saudi Arabia and other Sunni countries.

“It will not be the end of the war against Israel,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “but it could be the beginning of the end of the “Palestinian cause”.

It now seems a good time for Western European leaders who still blindly support the “Palestinian cause” to cut their losses, both politically and economically. Taking the side of Erdogan and the mullahs in order to support a terrorist entity that will never be a “state” will do nothing to help them fight either terrorism or the increasing Islamization of Europe.

Dr. Guy Millière, a professor at the University of Paris, is the author of 27 books on France and Europe.

Palestinian unity deal signed – but partial

October 12, 2017

Palestinian unity deal signed – but partial, DEBKAfile, October 12, 2017

Hamas, which calls for Israel’s destruction, has fought three wars with the Jewish state and its armed wing is designated a terrorist group by Israel, the US, the European Union and other powers.

Israel has said it will not deal with a Palestinian government that contains Hamas ministers.

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Gaza’s Rafah crossing passes from Hamas to the Palestinian Authority on Nov. 1;  the enclave’s central administration – on Dec. 1

The Egyptian-brokered deal hailed by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas as “the end of the rift,” is cautiously seen in Cairo as a partial resolution of the dispute between the Fatah and Hamas rival factions.

The reconciliation accord was announced at dawn Thursday, Oct 10, by Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh after night-long negotiations at the Egyptian intelligence ministry in Cairo. The promised news conference at which details of the agreement were to be revealed by Egyptian mediators and Palestinian officials did not take place.

Egyptian sources reveal that seven points of agreement were hammered out:

  1. The two Palestinian parties will meet in one month to set out the date and modalities for elections to the presidency and parliament.
  2. Before then, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas will spend a few days in the Gaza Strip, his first visit there in a decade since Hamas ousted his Fatah party in a military coup..
  3. A joint Palestinian Authority-Hamas commission will determine procedures for the merger of the PA and Gaza governing administrations. The future of the 60,000 people employed by the Gaza administration must also be decided.
  4. In the next two weeks, Hamas will transfer into Egyptian hands control of the Rafah border crossing from the Gaza Strip to Egyptian Sinai.
  5. The Palestinian Authority will take charge of the Rafah crossing from Egyptian officials – not directly from Hamas.
  6. Up until the parties come to terms on Gaza Strip’s electricity bill – which the Palestinian Authority has refused to cover for months – Egypt and Israel will provide the enclave with fuel for running the grid.
  7. The main sticking point in the reconciliation process – control of Hamas’ armed wing and arsenal – appears to have been left out of the deal signed Thursday. Hamas has consistently objected to foregoing or sharing control of its militia. Non-Egyptian sources report that the Palestinian Authority is to deploy 30,000 members of its security battalions to the Gaza Strip, but make no mention of coordination between the two forces. Cairo does not refer to this question.

Hamas, which calls for Israel’s destruction, has fought three wars with the Jewish state and its armed wing is designated a terrorist group by Israel, the US, the European Union and other powers.

Israel has said it will not deal with a Palestinian government that contains Hamas ministers.

Egypt caught off guard

August 29, 2017

Egypt caught off guard, Israel Hayom, Dr. Shaul Shay, August 29, 2017

(The decision and its timing raise “questions as to whether everyone in the U.S. administration is in fact on the same page.” Are they even reading the same book? — DM)

The timing of the decision, on the eve of a meeting between a delegation of senior U.S. officials and el-Sissi in Cairo aimed at promoting a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, and just weeks ahead of a large-scale joint military exercise between U.S. and Egyptian forces, raises questions as to whether everyone in the U.S. administration is in fact on the same page. Trump even called el-Sissi shortly after the cuts to financial aid were reported in the media to assure him that he would work to bolster U.S. relations with Egypt.

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Egypt was caught off guard by the United States’ decision this week to freeze $300 million in financial and military aid to the country. The U.S. administration took these steps following reports that Egypt was not doing enough to improve human rights in the state.

Ever since signing the peace treaty with Israel in 1978, Egypt has benefited from $1.3 billion in U.S. military aid and $250 million in annual civilian financial support. Former U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration expressed its disapproval of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s removal from office in 2013 by freezing weapons deliveries to Egypt. Although they have improved following Abdel- Fattah el-Sissi’s election in 2014, bilateral ties between the countries remain chilly. The freeze on weapons deliveries has convinced el-Sissi that Egypt must consolidate a strategy for diversifying its weapons resources and increase security ties with Russia and France.

The regime in Egypt faces a difficult struggle against an array of radical Islamic organizations that threaten that country’s security and stability, including the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic State proxies that operate in the Sinai Peninsula and neighboring Libya as well as smaller Islamic terrorist groups. To contend with Islamic radicalization and terrorism, the Egyptian regime has been forced to take a series of operational, administrative and legal steps, some of which are perceived in the U.S. and Europe as infringing on human rights. Since the Arab Spring in 2011, Egypt has been subject to a financial crisis and ongoing terror attacks that make it difficult for that country to rehabilitate its economy. This is especially true for its tourism industry and foreign investments in the country.

The U.S. administration’s decision was a double surprise for Egypt: For one thing, Egypt had believed that with the election of Donald Trump, someone who is less sensitive to issues of human rights and prioritizes the war on Islamic terror, ties between the countries would improve and the U.S. would be more empathetic to the Egyptian regime’s troubles at home. For another thing, news of the decision was relayed to the Egyptians mere hours before it was reported in the American media.

The timing of the decision, on the eve of a meeting between a delegation of senior U.S. officials and el-Sissi in Cairo aimed at promoting a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, and just weeks ahead of a large-scale joint military exercise between U.S. and Egyptian forces, raises questions as to whether everyone in the U.S. administration is in fact on the same page. Trump even called el-Sissi shortly after the cuts to financial aid were reported in the media to assure him that he would work to bolster U.S. relations with Egypt.

In a chaotic Middle East, Egypt is a vital ally to the U.S. and its moderate Sunni allies. Maintaining the 1979 peace deal with Egypt and the security ties forged with it in recent years are a vital strategic interest for Israel. Israel must therefore work to find a solution to the issues under dispute between the U.S. and Egypt so that they do not harm the stability of the regime in Cairo and ensure Egypt remains a fundamental component in the moderate Sunni coalition in the Middle East in light of all the threats the region faces, which in large part stem from Iran and the Shiite axis following Islamic State’s defeat in Iraq and Syria.

Dr. Shaul Shay is a lecturer at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.

Sisi as key to Arab anti-ISIS pact with Israel

April 3, 2017

Sisi as key to Arab anti-ISIS pact with Israel, DEBKAfile, April 3, 2017

(Please see also, Restore the U.S.-Egyptian Strategic Alliance, Designate the Muslim Brothers as Terrorists. — DM)

Our Washington sources report that President Trump aims to complete his plan for bringing together Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel on a new footing by September.

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US President Donald Trump’s first face to face with Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi at the White House Monday, April 3, focuses on four main topics, DEBKAfile reports: The fight against Islamist State terror rampant in Egyptian Sinai and neighboring Libya; topping up US military assistance to Cairo, aid for easing Egypt’s dire economic straits and, finally, the effort to bolster normal relations between the Arab world (including the Palestinians) and Israel.

From the moment he assumed the Egyptian presidency in June 2014, El-Sisi has waged a never-ending war on Islamist terror against Ansar Beit-al Maqdis, which later pledged alliance to the Islamic State’s leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. The Egyptian army has so far been worsted.  The Egyptian president is not deaf to the criticism of the Second and Third Armies’ failure to overcome a few thousand armed men, even though they can at a moment’s notice raise several thousand more fighters from the Bedouin tribes of Sinai. US intelligence has rated the Egyptian forces as slow-moving and unwieldy; but for limited forays, its contingents preferring to sit safely in their barracks rather than risk going out and pursuing the enemy across the Peninsula.

Shortly before President El-Sisi’s trip to Washington, the Egyptian air force conducted intense bombardments of ISIS concentrations around the northern town of El Arish, killing at least 14 terrorists, nabbing 22 and seizing large caches of roadside bombs. But they too long delayed bearding the Islamists in their main stronghold atop Mount Jabal Hala in central Sinai. ISIS is therefore free to move around the territory and strike at will, the while expanding its operations into Egypt proper.

The weekend air strikes came after months in which ISIS overran sections of El Arish, Sinai’s biggest town (pop: 100,000). Their grip is such that Egyptian forces no longer dared venture into those lawless neighborhoods, especially at night. Earlier this year, terrible persecution including executions forced the few thousand indigenous Christians, most of them Copts, to flee their homes in El Arish. Egyptian forces proved unequal to safeguarding the US-led international observer force (MFO) monitoring the 1972 Egyptian-Israel peace treaty at a nearby station.

American military aid to Egypt stands today at $1.3bn a year. Even though the US president means to slash foreign aid programs, he may make an exception in this case and expand military assistance -, possibly in the coin of advanced military hardware, given the country’s unending frontline battle against Islamist terror.

Its presence in El Arish, 130km from the Egyptian-Israeli border, plants the peril on the doorsteps of Egypt’s neighbors as well: Northern Sinai borders on Israel, its northwestern district shares a border with the Gaza Strip, abutting in the east on Jordan and in the southwest on Libya. The cities of western Sinai sit on the banks of the Suez Canal.

The Islamic State’s Sinai affiliate is closely allied with Salafi organizations in the Gaza Strip and works hand in glove with its Palestinian Hamas rulers, especially in the lucrative arms-smuggling business.

Al-Baghdadi last year posted a group of Iraqi officers in his service to the Sinai contingent. They travelled through southern Jordan to reach the peninsula. The Islamist cells in Libya have moreover made ISIS-held turf in Sinai their safe highway for traveling undetected to their other strongholds across the Middle East.

To stamp out this sprawling, multi-branched menace, the Trump administration needs to bring Egypt, Jordan and Israel into a coalition for a sustained, common campaign.

The Obama administration, which boycotted President El-Sisi for persecuting Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, tried unsuccessfully to build Turkey, Egypt and Israel into a counterterrorism pact. The Trump administration, for which the Brotherhood is anathema, has a better chance. But first, relations between the Arab world and Israel need to be placed on a regular footing. Some groundwork already exists in the informal bilateral military ties Egypt and Jordan maintain with Israel. DEBKAfile’s military sources have revealed in past reports the limited give-and-take relations for fighting terror Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi maintain with Israel.

The US President’s advisers recognize that before a broad, effective front against ISIS and Al Qaeda can be put together from these partial, often covert ties, progress is necessary towards normalizing relations between the Arab governments and the Jewish state, including the Israeli-Palestinian track.

Trump will certainly want to hear what role his Egyptian guest is willing to take for bringing this process forward. He will ask his next Middle East visitor, Jordan’s Abdullah II, the same question, when he arrives in Washington Tuesday. As for the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, he was promised an invitation to the White House this month, but not yet been given a date. He is clearly being left to wait until the senior players in the region have had their say. Our Washington sources report that President Trump aims to complete his plan for bringing together Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel on a new footing by September.

Trump and Sisi discuss Middle East peace

December 23, 2016

Trump and Sisi discuss Middle East peace, Israel National News, Elad Benari, December 23, 2016

trumpandsisiTrump and Sisi meet in New YorkReuters

“The presidents agreed on the importance of affording the new U.S. administration the full chance to deal with all dimensions of the Palestinian case with a view of achieving a full and final settlement,” he added.

Sisi recently praised Trump and said he expected greater engagement in the Middle East from his administration.

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Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Thursday night spoke with U.S. President-Elect Donald Trump, Sisi’s office said, according to Reuters.

The call came hours after the UN Security Council postponed indefinitely a vote on Egypt’s draft resolution denouncing Israeli “settlements”.

“During the call they discussed regional affairs and developments in the Middle East and in that context the draft resolution in front of the Security Council on Israeli settlement,” said Sisi’s spokesman, Alaa Yousef.

“The presidents agreed on the importance of affording the new U.S. administration the full chance to deal with all dimensions of the Palestinian case with a view of achieving a full and final settlement,” he added.

Thursday’s vote on the UN Security Council resolution was reportedly postponed after Sisi instructed his nation’s delegation to push for a delay in the vote.

Trump had earlier called for the United States to veto the resolution, as it has traditionally done with similar proposals. American officials indicated that the Obama administration was planning to abstain from voting or even to vote yes.

Sisi recently praised Trump and said he expected greater engagement in the Middle East from his administration.

The Egyptian President has also been at the forefront of the effort to resume talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, having several months ago urged Israelis and Palestinian Arabs to seize what he said was a “real opportunity” for peace and hailed his own country’s peace deal with Israel.

The comments were welcomed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who stressed that “Israel is ready to participate with Egypt and other Arab states in advancing both the diplomatic process and stability in the region.”

Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman welcomed Sisi’s call as well, saying he welcomed the Egyptian president’s efforts to achieve peace and establish a Palestinian state.

Stunning: Egyptian Foreign Minister says Israel’s treatment of Palestinians not ‘terrorism’

August 24, 2016

Stunning: Egyptian Foreign Minister says Israel’s treatment of Palestinians not ‘terrorism’, American ThinkerThomas Lifson,, August 24, 2016

It is an article of faith in the Arab world that Israel is guilty, guilty, guilty of terrorizing the poor Palestinians, which is why Jews deserve to be terrorized worldwide.  The origins of violence lie exclusively on the Jews, too.  So Arabs and all Muslims have a duty to defend their brothers and sisters by acts of extreme cruelty against Israelis in particular, and Jews in general.

This dogma is extremely important because it avoids any scrutiny of Koranic and other scriptural incitements of violence – even genocide – against Jews. I thus serves a dual purpose. And as a result, it must remain unquestioned.  And for decades, there has been rhetorical solidarity on this point.

Until now.

The fall of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and its replacement by the anti-MB regime of General Sisi, along with the spread of chaos in the Arab world has changed matters. Meanwhile, Israel is quietly building itself into a tiny superpower, its high tech economy and rapid development of offshore gas and onshore fracking making it a global economic power, able to finance a high tech military.

As a result, a stunning break with the past happened, beyond the notice of our mainstream media. The Jerusalem Post reports:

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said on Sunday that Israel’s actions against Palestinians does not constitute terrorism, eliciting an angry response from a Hamas spokesman who said Egypt’s top diplomat is blind.

Shoukry’s comments came during a Q&A session with students held at the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, where he was asked why Palestinians children killed in the conflict with Israel were not considered victims of terrorism.

“When looking at this issue, it can be defined as a ‘regime of force,’” the Egyptian media quoted Shoukry as saying. He said there was no evidence to link Israel to terrorist organizations.

“There is nothing that leads to this conclusion,” he said.

Shoukry added that Israel’s history has made it very sensitive to security issues, and as a result tightens control over its territory and border crossings to ensure its security.

The reaction has not been favorable among other Arab regimes. In public, at least. Speaking from Qatar, a major Clinton Foundation donor (and recipient of questionable favors):

Husam Badran, a Hamas spokesperson in Qatar, slammed the Egyptian foreign minister in a Twitter post, saying, “He who does not see the crimes of the Zionist occupation as terrorism is blind.”

The Egyptian cozying up with Israel is far ahead of public opinion there. It is inconceivable to me that Shoukry made these comments without first discussing them with Saudi Arabia, Egypt’s primary financial backer.

Tectonic plates are shifting in the Arab world, with some pragmatic leaders realizing that the primary problems of Arabs are created by themselves, and Israel has much more to offer as a friend than as a mortal enemy.

Hat tip: Clarice Feldman