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Biden looms — Israel covers its bets

Israel apparently acts against Iran while it thinks it can

The definition of “pro-Israel” under the Trump administration is something of a game of smoke and mirrors. Invoke the term, and what most quickly is offered is President Trump’s moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the US recognition of Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights, the US voting against Israel’s enemies at the UN, and the US approval of an Israeli annexation of its settlements on the West Bank and in the Jordan River Valley.

Yes, all this is pro-Israel, but while these acts generate a lot of noise and emotion, they do not change much on the ground. Of course the US and the rest of the world should recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but if not? Countries deal with Israel just the same, and Jerusalem remains Israel’s capital just the same. The Golan? Of course it must remain in Israel’s hands for essential security reasons, but, with or without US recognition, Israel’s control of the Heights is firm. The UN? Israel’s worldwide isolation, caused in part by hatred and in part by cowardice, is certainly tempered by strong American support. But again, on matters critical to Israel’s security, the UN is not #1 on the list.

As for Israeli annexation of the Jordan River or West Bank settlements, it may or may not happen; and even if it does, it would change very little on the ground. After Israel’s disastrous unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005, Israel is not going to dismantle any more settlements. Everyone from the EU to the UN to the Palestinians knows this.

Therefore, in what sense is the Trump administration profoundly pro-Israel? In the most critical sense. In the security sense. In the Iran sense. In the sense that counts the most.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is the existential threat that Israel faces, along with Iran’s proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah, and along with Iran’s military presence in Syria.

The longstanding and understandable secrecy with which Israel conducts its battle with Iran means that some of what follows must be categorized as informed speculation. With that caveat, a potentially pivotal yet little noticed event a month ago — garnering far fewer and less prominent headlines than all of the pro-Israel actions of the Trump administration listed above — was neither confirmed nor denied by Israel. But if Israel didn’t do it, then who did? The other possibility is the US. Either way, it was a major step in protecting Israel from the kind of attack — not just emotional, not just insulting, not just diplomatic — that really counts.

An attack on Israel’s existence.

On June 26, 2020, a massive explosion occurred at Parchin, a ballistic-missile production site in Iran.

Iran downplayed it, saying it was a minor matter — a gas tank exploded —an accident. But the explosion was reportedly large enough to shake buildings and break glass 25 kilometers away. The “accident” explanation is likely no more truthful than the denial of the scope of the explosion.

Over the next week or so, various fires, explosions and gas leaks rocked other critical locations throughout Iran, including Natanz, an Iranian nuclear site, and power plants and and a petrochemical plant.

Of course, one cannot be certain that it was Israel or the US that engaged in this defensive act of sabatoge — defensive, because Iran threatens Israel and the US continuously. You know, “Big Satan,” “Little Satan.” But since Iran has made it perfectly clear, by verbal threats and countless deeds in Syria and Lebanon that it seeks the destruction of Israel (“the Zionist entity”), the likely attacker in Parchin and elsewhere in Iran is Israel.

As for the explosion being a minor matter, unfortunately for Iran there is such a thing as satellite photos these days. The photos show that this was no minor matter.

Was it a cyber attack? A stealth attack? No one knows, probably including Iran.

Why would Israel act now? Israel can read the tea leaves as well as anyone. While politics can turn on a dime, right now it looks like Joe Biden will win in 2020. One of his major platforms is to reinstate the Iranian nuclear deal, albeit, perhaps, on somewhat different terms than Obama signed on to, but even then, only if Iran agrees. That’s a big if. Given Iran’s open, aggressive, persistent and military attempts to position itself in Syria as a direct threat to Israel, and given Iran’s genocidal language against Israel, Israel is doing its best to destroy or retard the Iranian nuclear program and advanced missile program while it can, while Trump is president.

Both of thee programs are housed in Parchin and elsewhere in Iran.

Israel is able to act now. This is the heart of the pro-Israel stance of the Trump administration. This means more than everything else Trump has done for Israel.

Iran made the mistake of launching a cyber attack against Israel’s water system last April 24-25. If successful, this attack would have left untold numbers of thousands of Israelis ill or without water. This attack gave Israel a perfect opportunity to send Iran a tough military message, just as it reportedly sends such messages to Iran’s attempts to establish a beachhead in the ruins of Syria, north of Israel. This, too, is huge worry for Israel, even though Iran’s reported plans to have 110,000 troops in Syria by now have been limited to 18,000 — a small consolation.

No doubt, Iran is planning a response to the attacks in Parchin, and perhaps it too is covering its bets, waiting for Biden. With signal exceptions, Biden’s record on Israel is quite good, but if he wins he will take office as the head of a very different Democratic party than the one he served as vice-president. That most Democrats remain pro-Israel also amounts to a small consolation with the winds blowing in the opposite direction.

Witness the recent, unprecedented anti-Israel resolution passed by the Colorado Democratic Party. Witness the admittedly small number but also unprecedented number of explicit and loud anti-Israel representatives now in Congress. Witness the defeat of longtime pro-Israel voice Rep. Eliot Engel in his New York primary against a potential addition to Congress’ anti-Israel caucus. Witness the retirement of longtime pro-Israel voice Nita Lowey of New York. Witness Nancy Pelosi’s appointment of one of these anti-Israel voices to the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Accurately or not, Iran foresees an America that is less sympathetic to Israel, is interested in reinstituting the Obama nuclear deal of 2015 and in decreasing or removing Trump’s punishing sanctions against Iran.

Israel is covering its bets. Netanyahu is rightly more focused on Iran than on annexation. One only hopes and prays that Israel’s military power and its opportunities to exercise them remain ample enough to protect it from enemies whom it attacks in response to irrational or religion-based anti-Semitism.

Copyright © 2020 by the Intermountain Jewish News

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