A week ago or so I wrote here that given Barack Obama’s expansive interpretation of U.S. interests, which involves massive drone attacks against targets in multiple Middle Eastern and African countries, that it was only a matter of time before Israel did the same. And now it has.
Alon Ben David, Channel 10’s military correspondent reports (at 13:30 of the above video) a drone strike against an Egyptian target 18 miles inside that country’s borders. It assassinated Ibrahim Owida Nasser Madan, a local Bedouin militant, as he was riding a motorcycle. Ben David characterized him vaguely as a follower of “global jihad.” The victim’s sin? He was supposedly involved in a missile attack against Eilat last year in which no one was hurt or injured. Ben David did not explicitly credit the IDF for the attack though he did say no one in Israel “will shed a tear” for his death.
My long-time Israeli source reports that Israel is indeed responsible, saying: “Israel decided that what has worked successfully in Sudan will work in Sinai also.” This refers to Israel’s repeated attacks on alleged Iranian weapons convoys smuggling weapons to Gaza. These attacks have been reported widely in Israel and elsewhere, but Israel has always refused to confirm this.
UPDATE: one of my lamer hasbara critics, David Abitbol, erroneously claims in his cesspool of a blog, that I wrote above that Israel used drones in the Sudan strikes mentioned here. I didn’t actually make that claim as anyone who can read English can tell. But now I will since Haaretz reported precisely this (drone attacks in Sudan) in 2009.
Among the more probing elements of Abitbol’s critique is to call me a “deusional moron.” The Times of Israel has republished Abitbol’s garbage, which goes a long way to telling us about it’s journalistic credibility.
CNN also reports the story though it doesn’t explicitly state that Israel was responsible.
The IDF has denied the Sinai drone attack publicly, though of course the fact that Ben David reported the story indicates the IDF may be speaking from both sides of its mouth with one side contradicting the other. Since it denies it killed him of course it doesn’t have to offer any evidence he was involved in what it claims he was. In one report, the Egyptian military too has denied the attack since to do so would mean losing lots of face. But CNN reported above that an Egyptian source affirmed the attack.
As I’ve written here before, if any Arab nation or militant group invaded Israel’s sovereignty, it would react swiftly and with fury. It seems to believe that its own territory is sacred and sovereign, while the territory of neighbors is Israel-adjacent and subject to the whims of whatever the hell Israel decides to do to it. I don’t know whether Israel had Egypt’s approval in launching such an attack, but I can’t imagine it did, even tacitly.
Israel is playing a very dangerous game. It’s more than happy to take the battle to its neighbors, but what will happen when those neighbors respond in kind? Does Israel think that Egypt will be quiescent for ever? That it will bend over and willingly take the paddling Israel offers?
Is Israel prepared for the level of hatred Pakistanis now feel toward Americans? Not to mention that these killings will only inflame hatred of Israel both in Sinai and Egypt itself. Rather than stopping acts of terror, invading Egyptian sovereignty will spur even more such attacks. And while previous attacks were failures, terrorists will learn from their failures and ensure that future ones will not fail. When that happens Israel will then have to decide whether it bombs Egyptian Sinai, invades, etc. in order to stop these provocations. Shades of Gaza.
If Israel doesn’t want this to happen it better figure out a way to cooperate with Egyptian intelligence and convey to it information so the Egyptians can act and police their own territory. Unless Israel wants its neighbors to treat their borders with Israel as merely suggestive when their interests trump those of Israel. Two, three and even four nations can play at this game (and will). When it happens, Israel will scream bloody murder but will have only itself to blame.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.