A number of very peculiar things have happened or been published today that relate directly or indirectly to the Shalit deal. First among them is an official IDF statement that the Israeli and Egyptian militaries have completed their investigation of the Israeli assault on Egyptian forces that followed the Eilat terror attack. The Israeli media, including yesterday’s Haaretz (Hebrew), says the IDF killed five Egyptian officers, so why does Ethan Bronner and his entire NY Times Israel bureau continue to say, and repeatedly, only three were killed? The report is under seal (of course) because presumably there are many things in it that would be embarrassing to the IDF and create greater tension between Israel and Egypt. But the important passage is this:
Based on the findings of the investigation, Barak decided to express an apology to Egypt for the deaths of Egyptian policemen as the result of IDF fire.
Haaretz reports the apology in its Hebrew edition. Interestingly, neither the official IDF statement or Haaretz’s report makes clear that Israel invaded Egyptian territory in hot pursuit of the terrorists. This of course would’ve been dealt with in the secret report, which is why it’s secret. H/t to reader Ruth.
News reports also indicate Israel will free some 80 Egyptians held in Israeli prisons and that Egypt will release Ilan Grapel, the Israeli-American arrested during the Tahrir Square protests several months ago. It would seem (and Amos Harel confirms this in the Hebrew report linked above) that the Israeli apology for the killings in Eilat is part of this package deal.
Perhaps the most ominous story coming out of today’s news, is this report (was originally only in Hebrew, now published in English) by a well-placed, well-regarded Israeli journalist, Alex Fishman, who says the reason that Bibi did the Shalit deal now, is that he has something really big up his sleeve. Read on:
All Because of Iran
Bibi Netanyahu is dying to clear the table ["clean house"] and redecorate in preparation for something different, something bigger, something more important.
…If you’re looking for the things that worry Netanyahu and Barak they’re always connected to Iran. This appears to be the background for the prime minister’s decision to back down from his previous position and to pressure the senior ministerial committee not to interfere and to close the Shalit deal.
Whatever’s happening regarding the Iran chapter [of this story] isn’t clear. But it’s clear that this is the next hot subject and it’s important that Israel comes to it with the image of a moderate, pragmatic state prepared to compromise. The Europeans will applaud us. This is no less important: this will strengthen the international consensus and the image of the prime minister in the face of the next challenge.
The article details all the compromises and back pedaling Bibi agreed to in sealing this deal, all the retreats he made from previous red lines he’d drawn. Fishman says there has to be a reason for Bibi capitulating to so many Hamas demands he’d been loathe to do before. The answer: something’s cooking with Iran:
From Bibi’s point of view this deal is a default setting. In his view, not completing it would’ve caused far more damage in light of the preparations for the battle with the great enemy [Iran] to come.
Bibi knew that if he attacked Iran, Hamas might never free Shalit. In light of this, Bibi’s explanation that the deal was a “now or never” thing; that if it wasn’t done now the uncertainties and dangers of the Arab Spring might prevent a deal from ever being sealed–all make sense in a perverse way. What he’s saying, if I’m right, is that the aftermath of an Israeli attack on Iran will leave the region so unstable that we might never see Shalit again. And Bibi, and what little moral conscience he has, was troubled by this considering that he’d made numerous promises to free the Israeli soldier during his term in office.
If you read today’s news of our exposure of an alleged Iranian terror plot and the clear exaggeration the Justice Department is offering to explain the conspirators, their goals, and the means they attempted to use to achieve them, I think it reads like the U.S. and Israel preparing the world for an attack on Iran. Before they do, they need to ratchet up pressure, intensify the demonization campaign. They need to make Iran look the part of the villain before they strike. Read Muhammad Sahimi’s further reporting on the alleged plot here.
Looking at the map above, isn’t it convenient that we uncovered this alleged plot against Saudi Arabia which has a possible Iran attack route outlined above. The article specially notes that Saudi Arabia may wish to take steps of its own against Iran. Gee, what might they be? I wonder.
Finally, Yoram Cohen, Israel’s Shin Bet chief, has reassured Israel (Hebrew) that none of the Palestinian prisoners with “blood on their hands” will be released, by which he specifically refers to Ahmed Sadaat and Marwan Barghouti among others. Frankly, I find it hard to believe that Hamas would wait six years to do a deal and not manage to free the most important of all the prisoners, Barghouti. I believe, despite what Cohen says, that there must be a provision involving freeing Barghouti, even if it’s not considered formally part of the overall deal.