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Yediot: Bibi Did Shalit Deal Because He Has Something Bigger Prepared for Iran

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.

israeli attack on iranPerhaps 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.

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  • Ruth October 11, 2011, 10:24 PM

    Barak’s appology was reported yesterday by Haaretz
    http://www.haaretz.co.il/news/politics/1.1521348

    • Richard Silverstein October 11, 2011, 10:43 PM

      Thanks so much for pointing that out. It confirms my claim that the apology is tied up w the Shalit deal.

  • Igor October 11, 2011, 11:17 PM

    Looks like the number of Egyptian policemen killed (5) was removed from the official IDF statement. At least I can’t see it there.

    • Richard Silverstein October 12, 2011, 12:05 AM

      It was there this morning. And the Haaretz story I link to by Amos Harel specifcally describes how the five were killed and mentions that number explicitly.

      • Igor October 12, 2011, 12:19 AM

        It’s interesting they felt the need to remove it (following your post?).

        • Richard Silverstein October 12, 2011, 1:06 AM

          I read so much stuff on any given day, I have to grant the possibility that what I read was the number of Israeli dead (8) which IS in the statement and not the number of Egyptian dead. But I thought I saw it there.

  • eyal October 12, 2011, 12:10 AM

    Barghouti is not a Hamas man, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Hamas doesn’t want competition.

    Fishman probably knows things we don’t, and probably tries to hint to it, but I can’t really see clear connection between the two affairs (i.e. Shalit and Iran).

    Last, just tonight – Israel arrested 6 Palestinians in cities in the West Bank. On hand releases and the other jails. It’s regular everyday activity of the Israeli Army, almost every night or week (it varies). http://t.co/yOtwsbjY

    • Richard Silverstein October 12, 2011, 1:08 AM

      Fishman probably knows things we don’t, and probably tries to hint to it, but I can’t really see clear connection between the two affairs (i.e. Shalit and Iran).

      There are simply too many well placed well respected Israeli journalists talking war against Iran for me not to grant great credence to their reports. Fishman is, I think, the 3rd one I’ve discovered doing so.

      • Elie free english writer October 12, 2011, 4:26 AM

        Seoudi Arabia want that USA attack Iran. They push Hamas to abandon Syria and Iran and they want that Hamas be neutral if the war against Iran begin. Israel with help from Seoudi, Turkey, Egypt and USA is negotiating an hudna with sunni Hamas to free forces for the north against Hezbollah and Syria, the shiit states. Hamas hope that the victory of sunnism againt chiism will help them more. They have more powerful friends now, Turkey and Seoudi. Qatar has financed a failed intifada against Abbas (the Clot affair), they play the Hamas and the Muslim brotherhood against the nationalists. The corrupt France political elite has been bought by qatari money. The new mideast will be a muslim brotherhood mideast. Good news now, bad news later.

        • Richard Silverstein October 13, 2011, 3:13 PM

          If I could follow half of this it would make a bad anti-Arab diatribe/manifesto/science fantasy. As it is, it came across as disjointed nonsense.

  • Elisabeth October 12, 2011, 1:20 AM

    What kind of people are the 80 Egyptians held in Israeli prisons? It seems unlikely that they would be ordinary criminals, because in that case, why would they be released? If I were robbed for instance, I would not accept it if the state decided to release my attacker ahead of time. So I assume they are other kind of prisoners. Do you know?

    • Ruth October 12, 2011, 7:00 AM

      Good question… My guess would be that they are Gaza inhabitants who happen to have an Egyptian passport (and for some reason stay in Gaza or move between the two). Some of the operators of the smuggling tunnels might be among them. But again, it’s only a guess.

      • Ruth October 12, 2011, 7:06 AM

        (Or West Bank Palestinians with a seccond, Egyptian passport, of course).

        • Elisabeth October 12, 2011, 11:33 AM

          Thanks, that seems likely. So many victims of the current situation aren’t there?

  • pabelmont October 12, 2011, 7:41 AM

    Obama might be feeling electoral heat (as republicans try to suck up pro-Israel electoral money) and thinks of starting a war with (bad, bad, nasty, evil) Iran as a proof of “macho” sufficient to win him re-election (or win him renewed electoral money from The Lobby).

    If he is after money, he must commence belligerencies early. If he is only after votes, he can wait.

    Hope I’m wrong, but many politicians, in USA, Israel, and elsewhere, have looked to fresh war-making as a get-out-of-jail card.

    • Mary Hughes-Thompson October 13, 2011, 12:03 AM

      After many years being bogged down in Afghanistan and Iraq, and with the current dire domestic situation in the U.S., it seems doubtful being “macho” enough to attack Iran is going to win Obama any votes. I don’t think all that lovely electoral money from the Lobby will help him this time.

  • Martin Cooper October 12, 2011, 8:21 AM

    I believe the Iranian plot was real. Remember that Tehran intended the attack to appear to emanate from a Mexican drug cartel, not Iran. That the plot’s execution was faulty and revealed Tehran’s hand is beside the point. The goal of the attack would have been to illustrate American weakness and drive a wedge between the U.S. and its Saudi ally. The collateral damage to innocent bystanders would have served the same purpose.

    That said, the coincidence of the imminent Shalit release does indeed indicate something big may be brewing. Note U.S. Defense Secretary Panetta’s much-commented meetings with senior Israeli officials two weeks apart, in New York and Jerusalem, around the time of the UNGA in September, when the plot was already known to (and disrupted by) law enforcement but before the principal Iranian plotter was arrested. Panetta would have discussed the plot with Israel and any planned joint response, including the necessity to make a quick deal for Shalit’s release before the sparks begin to fly.

    • Johnboy October 13, 2011, 3:03 AM

      “Remember that Tehran intended the attack to appear to emanate from a Mexican drug cartel, not Iran.”

      OK, I’m not sure why I have to ask this, but can *anyone* come up with a plausible reason why a Mexican drug cartel would have their own reasons to whack the Saudi ambassador?

      And if you can’t – and I suspect you can’t – then your claim is nonsense i.e. Iran couldn’t possibly expect to escape relation by claiming “Don’t look at us! It woz the Mexicans wot done it!!!”.

  • Bob Mann October 12, 2011, 8:32 AM

    It is very odd that you would think Hamas would be particularly interested in freeing Marwan Barghouti.

    He is very much a Fatah man.

    • Or Shachar October 12, 2011, 10:22 AM

      In his case they are, since he is a popular symbol of the sturggle for the palastinian cause, and freeing him will show that the Hamas is the real representetive of this cause, while the Fatah is an agent of western emperialism.

  • PersianAdvocate October 12, 2011, 9:17 AM

    I’ve studied this subject enough over the last decade to earn ten PhDs. At this juncture, I am wondering if Netanyahu is a plant meant to literally bring Israel to ruins and America’s economy down. There is neither a justification for any attack, nor a productive consequence for Israel. There is no political capital to expend in that regard either.

    Iranians are not like Israel’s neighboring Arab countries. The price Israel will pay for Iranian deaths will be a wholesale demise of the Zionist project from multiple angles, including China, Russia and Turkey.

    It is of vital interest to the US that Iran be turned into a US ally as opposed to a Russian/Chinese counterpart/proxy.

    • Therese October 12, 2011, 3:11 PM

      Great post, Persian Advocate.

  • Or Shachar October 12, 2011, 10:16 AM

    Look, I too am skeptical about the timing of the Shalit deal.
    However, I think it is much more related to the internal troubles of Netanyahu – the Doctors Strike, the upcoming re-birth of the social protest, and also his almost pathological need of “saving the day”, or appearing to be “solving the problem” after creating it himself.

    You have been going on on this Iran attack, which for me looks like one of “the end of days” theories. Netanyahu is a defected narcasist, an extreme right-winger, and will no dought sacrifice Israel’s intrests for his own benefit, Republican and tea party support or pressure from settelers.

    But he is not a complete demonic idiot who is capable of doing such a thing. This is the same reason I am not afraid of an Iranian bomb: They are all ready to play poker, but hopefully are still aware they can’t really open the cards.

    If you’re going to claim such radical claims, you need more proof than Fishman’s opinions or the timing of Shalit’s deal. I know such proofs are never easy to find, but they must be there if we want to seperate journalism from just rummors.

    In Anat Kam’s affair, here were the first true real news. As in many other stories. But in this case you are just making assumptions that have no grounds.

    How do we know, not persume, that Netanyahu is having such devious plans?

    • Richard Silverstein October 12, 2011, 2:44 PM

      I’m loathe to argue I’m right about something as heinous as an Israeli attack on Iran. I’d prefer being wrong actually. But I couldn’t forgive myself if I felt such an attack was likely but refused to the write about it because I didn’t have transcripts of Bibi & Barak plotting the attack.

      You forget that in the beginning of the Anat Kamm story I didn’t have much more or better information than I have for this story. It was very much stringing together disparate bits of info, allusions, & sources to make a coherent narrative.

      • Meni Zehavi October 13, 2011, 3:30 AM

        I also have suspicions about Bibi’s motives, but in my view, the Shalit deal is not necessarily connected to preparations for an Iran strike.
        I rather think the Shalit deal (and the upcoming Grappel deal) is part of something going on between Israel, US and the Egyptian military regime, where the latter seeks publicity gains before cracking down on opposition political movements (read: Moslem Brotherhood) shortly before or after the upcoming Egyptian elections. It appears that the Egyptian government has already begun to nail down on the Brotherhood and on political freedoms in general: after the attack on the Israeli embassy, the military government has re-effected some emergency provisions that were abolished with the end of Mubarak rule, and recently I have seen news that the military govt. forbade using religious rhetoric in the election campaign.
        The Egyptian military would be very interested in preserving its rule, and the Israeli establishment would be as much (if not more) interested in preventing the Moslem Brotherhood from coming into power. A major unknown variable is the stand of the US administration, but with Obama’s latest submission to The Lobby, I am not optimistic on this.

  • Chayma October 12, 2011, 12:03 PM

    The anecdotal evidence may suggest otherwise, but I really doubt Bibi is about to attack iran. It’s too late to do that. Even if he did, it would mean Israel going it alone, that would be insane.

    Fishman is off the mark here.

    There is one other scenario..maybe Bibi discovered tha Iran is about to go public. If that were so, it would make sense to release the prisoners.

    • PersianAdvocate October 12, 2011, 1:24 PM

      Chayma,

      Don’t be so sure Israel will go it alone. There are ways of making countries work on your behalf, like blackmailing/bribing (or worse) the power-brokers therein after already having removed any internal means of preventing that over several years. The US is like a zombie to Israeli interests.

  • Six Two Seven Three October 13, 2011, 1:46 AM

    Dear Richard,

    Given this will be the end of Israel, it’s a pity you can’t be more specific, I would like to know how many days me and my family still have on this earth. I wish I was cynical as it seems to me that you are right.

    Interesting to note that when you create propaganda you eventually may became a victim of it. Would be an interesting research topic ten years from now for those interesting to know why did Israel choose to commit suicide.

    Bibi is very disturbed individual, this we know, but I don’t know why Barak, being a pompous ass that he is, is going along with this mad plan. When did he loose all ties with reality?

    I guess we can guess when the missiles are going to hit us – I’m sure Lieverman would find something better to do in some remote corner of the former USSR, where the vodka is good and the girls are willing. The problem is that he travels there every other week, so we’ll have to look for a different sign.

    So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish.

  • Johnboy October 13, 2011, 3:17 AM

    You know, I’m looking at that map…… and one thing puzzles me

    If the IDF takes
    a) the northern route through Turkey and/or Syria , or
    b) the southern route through Saudi Arabia
    then I’ll be darned if I can see where it will park the tanker aircraft it’ll need to refuel those birds.

    Certainly nowhere on the northern leg, because the Syrians and/or the Turks would shoot down those Big Ol’ Boeings.

    And on the southern route it would be immensely dangerous for the Israelis to park those tankers in the Gulf: that would be akin to Ehud Barak ringing up the Revolutionary Guard to give them a warning that the fighter jets were on their way.

    Israel would have to put them in Saudi Arabia, which begs an obvious question of why the Saudi’s would let them do that.

    After all, plausible deniability is all when and good when it comes to terrain-hugging fighter jocks, but is a bit of a stretch when it comes to big four-engined tankers….

    • Six Two Seven Three October 13, 2011, 5:34 AM

      Saudi Arabia is not really a State, it’ll do whatever the US tells it, no problems sending the whole IDF over it.

      • Johnboy October 14, 2011, 5:29 AM

        Sorry, I just don’t buy that.

        I can imagine the Saudi’s turning a blind eye to the IDF fighters, and then claiming that those hot-shot jocks simply flew under the radar screens.

        But refuelling tankers?

        You can’t possibly miss them, so if the IDF sends **those** babies into Saudi airspace then there is just no way that the King will be able to claim that He Didn’t See Them.

        Or are you *really* going to claim that the House of Saud could brazen that one out by saying to its own outraged citizenry “Yeah, of course we did a deal with Netanyahu, so what do you think you plebs can do ’bout it?”

    • Popsiq October 14, 2011, 3:49 AM

      Look for the Saudis to sit this one out. Aside from ‘not knowing’ the Israelis were staging an air raid across their territory, and lodging a protest after the event, the Saudis will need all the force they have to stifle the discontent that’s going to arise internally should Iran get hit.

      There is a sizeable, and potentially disruptive, Shiite population in Saudi Arabia, that, added to the Sunni (Hashemite) dissidents, will require the pervasive supervision of the Royal police and armed forces.

      Israel/USA had better be up for a real ‘shock and awe’, or the entire region will turn very hostile, very fast.

  • Martin Cooper October 13, 2011, 6:17 AM

    Johnboy, the Iranian premise would have been that it’s not up to them to explain why the Mexican cartel would have done it as long as the finger didn’t point to them. In the absence of a logical explanation, we, the Commentariat, would have come up with a plausible explanation of our own, e.g., the Saudi Ambassador was himself involved in narcotics trafficking…the advantage to Iran–pitting the U.S. against its Saudi ally–would have been the same. Beyond that, I don’t know why it’s necessary to assume that Iranian Intelligence is 10 feet tall and isn’t capable of making stupid mistakes, especially when operating far out of their area in a culture they don’t really understand. They might well have been tempted to rely on an Iranian compatriot on the scene whom they didn’t understand, as we do, to have been a failed Corpus Christi used car dealer and petty criminal.

    As for Saudi landing rights for Israeli tanker aircraft, given the Saudi-Iranian enmity, I can well imagine a joint U.S.-Israeli-Saudi attack on Iran on the well-known principle that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

    • Johnboy October 14, 2011, 5:39 AM

      “As for Saudi landing rights for Israeli tanker aircraft, given the Saudi-Iranian enmity, I can well imagine a joint U.S.-Israeli-Saudi attack on Iran on the well-known principle that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” ”

      Yeah, but the House of Saud doesn’t have to sell that principle to *you*.

      It has to sell that principle to its own people, precisely because *those* are the people who are going to string the King up on the nearest lamp-post if his sales-pitch hits the wrong note.

      And, so sorry, I would argue that he would have no hope of finding any buyers in his local bazarre for those shoddy goods, and that would be true no matter how loudly he spruiked them.

    • Johnboy October 14, 2011, 5:42 AM

      “Johnboy, the Iranian premise would have been that it’s not up to them to explain why the Mexican cartel would have done it as long as the finger didn’t point to them.”

      OK, I think I can see the flaw in this argument….

      The finger WOULD be pointed at them, no matter how many Mexican drug dealers were found loitering around the rubble of the building.

      After all, Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, but that didn’t stop the US government from pointing the finger at Saadam Hussein, nor did it stop the American public from believing that finger-pointing.

  • MS October 14, 2011, 1:48 AM

    Still,attacking Iran will turn the region to ” a ball of fire” for a long time,as the Iranians promised. It will be the beginning of the end of the third world war. Millions of us – Israelis, Iranians,Palestinians,Syrians,Lebanese simple people who want to raise our children in peace -will be killed. The only reason America can join such a crazy step is the recover the bad economical situation in the world. Another peace Nobel prize given to the wrong person (Obama…Kissinger…)

  • HM October 14, 2011, 8:39 AM

    please! What happened to you people?! you are talking about war like it’s nothing serious but it would make a great difference if you and all your family and friends have lived in middle east…

    • Richard Silverstein October 14, 2011, 11:23 PM

      War nothing serious? My readers here take the prospect of Israeli war against Hamas or Iran very seriously indeed.

  • Holocaust Survivor October 21, 2011, 1:08 PM

    It is a puzzle to me why Israel is always accused as being the evil warmonger while at the same time it is Iran and Hamas who are constantly promising to annihilate Israel. I fail to see any logical reason why Israel, who never threatened Iran and never occupied a single inch of Iranian land should not take this menace seriously and prepare its defense accordingly. Moreover I fail to understand Richard Silverstein’s concept of Tikkun Olam turning constanly a blind eye to Ahmeddinajads antisemitic rant of Holocaust denial.

    • Richard Silverstein October 22, 2011, 12:03 AM

      it is Iran and Hamas who are constantly promising to annihilate Israel.

      The claim regarding Hamas is false. And regarding Iran it is dubious as well. As much as anyone from Hamas or Iran may want to do what you claim, there are as many Israelis who’d love to do the same to each of them. It’s a zero sum game.

      As for Israel never threatening Iran–this is flat out false. Israeli generals & politicians do it regularly.

      I’ve never turned a blind eye to Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial. I don’t care what harebrained ideas he has about ancient history. It has no impact on anything. What matters is what Iran and Israel are willing to do to each other now. The Holocaust is peripheral to this at best. And Israelis have said & done things to Iran that have equally offensive to Iranians as anything Ahmadinejad has said regarding Jewish history, the Holocaust, etc. Both sides in many ways have behaved as lunatics toward the other. In some ways they are made for ea. other. But the problem is that the can go to war and bring the entire region into it with them. That’s something worth stopping if possible.