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MILITARY TECHNOLOGY (MILTECH) is the world's leading international tri-service defence monthly magazine in the English language. MILITARY TECHNOLOGY is "Required Reading for Defence Professionals". Follow us on Twitter: MILTECH1

14 November 2011

A Dangerous Shift in Allegiances

An angry mob in September, in Cairo attacked the Israeli Embassy and tried to occupy it, terrifying the 80 people inside. Sometime after midnight, Israel’s ambassador to Egypt, his family and most of the embassy personnel were forced to evacuate to Cairo’s airport, where they were whisked away by Israeli military jets. Six Israeli intelligence officers remained, charged with the unenviable task of protecting the embassy (the officers were later rescued, when upon US President Barack Obama's pressing, Egypt’s military rulers dispatched commandos to rescue the trapped Israelis).
Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces could easily have prevented the demonstrators from breaching the embassy. It chose not to.
Reading about these events and the 300 young protesters answering a call in Jordan for a "million man march" against the Israeli Embassy (already cleared of most of its staff), one is struck by the broader parallel: Israel’s embassy crisis is a microcosm of the dilemma now facing the entire Jewish nation.
Like its embassy in Cairo and in Amman, Israel is a tiny speck, outnumbered and outgunned, in a region seething with hatred for the Jewish state. Like the embassies, Israel’s national security depends largely on the rectitude of third parties, be it regional allies or the United States. And much like embassy officials experienced firsthand, the willingness of Israel’s traditional allies to maintain past agreements and defend Jewish sovereignty is rapidly diminishing. In some instances these allies are even creating crises, much like Egypt’s military rulers did at the embassy.
By now even the most ardent peaceniks are realising that the now-forming post-Mubarak Egypt will not be a pro-Israel state. The growing hostility from Egypt could require a radical rethinking of Israel’s defence doctrine which, for the past three decades, counted on peace on its southern border. The uptick of violence against Israel in the Sinai and the now routine outbursts of public hatred for Israel in Egypt have military strategists examining how to beef up protection of the south, including by the building of an anti-infiltration wall in the Sinai.
Sadly Israel must again prepare for the possibility of war. It must increase the size of the IDF by adding a division to the Southern Command. It must train for desert warfare. It must expand the Navy.
Now consider the situation in Turkey, which was actually the first Muslim-majority nation to recognise Israel as a Jewish state back in 1949. Together with Cairo, the moderate government in Ankara has been Israel’s most important regional ally for decades, and a key pillar of Israel’s national security. But in recent years, particularly under the leadership of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey has undergone a quiet revolution, one that has involved Ankara increasingly sabotaging its relationship with the Jewish state in an effort to bolster its reputation among Muslim states.
Lately, Turkey has become ever more combative with Israel. Just in September, Ankara has suspended military ties with Israel. In his most recent provocation, Erdoğan announced that Turkey would dispatch three frigates to the Mediterranean to escort any future aid flotilla to Gaza.
Turkey’s growing animosity toward Israel is deeply sobering. Are we actually experiencing the beginning of Turkey’s slide into the enemy camp? Is Erdoğan openly taking steps to transform Turkey into an Islamic state along the lines of Iran? Surely not...
And we haven’t even considered the Palestinians’ plan to declare statehood at the UN!
This could create a fresh crisis for Israel, one of greater magnitude and with potentially disastrous consequences. At the moment no one knows for sure what will happen when most of the world recognises a Palestinian state. But, one thing is for sure: Israel will undoubtedly find itself more isolated, under greater pressure and facing more persecution from the Palestinians, from the international community and from the United States.
It’s a grim scenario, and one that has converged on Israel with incredible speed.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Middle East is “now undergoing a political earthquake of historic proportions.” Netanyahu sees that right now vast tracts of the Middle East, territorially, politically and strategically, belong to Iran and radical Islam.
It’s true that the loss of Egypt and Turkey as regional allies is a disaster for Israel. But the real catastrophe in these recent developments is that both Cairo and Ankara are now aligning themselves with Iran. These events have not simply weakened Israel, they have empowered Israel’s greatest enemy!

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