Today, the IDF continued its serial violations of the territorial sovereignty of frontline Arab states as it has for decades. An IAF drone attacked a group of alleged militants preparing to launch missiles into Israel. Four were killed. The site was several miles inside the Egyptian border near Rafah. Israel has carried out a series of such attacks and a recent kidnapping with the blessing and full coordination of the Egyptian military and intelligence apparatus. Sheera Frenkel tweeted that this was Israel’s first drone strike in Sinai.
It probably used a drone because it was safer to use an unmanned vehicle while executing an operation on foreign soil. Israel has used drones in attacks before in such circumstances–at least once in Sudan and in Gaza as well.
Egypt seems to have farmed out security matters in Sinai to Israel. Presumably, the Israelis have told the Egyptians that they have far superior surveillance and operational capabilities than they do. Since it’s in Israel’s interests to suppress militant activity in Sinai, the IDF has generously offered to become the local sheriff.
Though most countries in the world would strenuously object to a foreign power engaging in military activity on its soil, Egypt these days seems not to be a normal country. In fact, the generals there have more and more in common with Israel and the IDF than they do with Egyptian nationalists. Since when has any red-blooded Egyptian believed its security interests coincided with Israel’s?
That’s why the Egyptians released this mendacious statement about the incident. They must think that their own citizens are more credulous even than Israelis who hear the lies from the mouths of IDF spokespersons:
…An Egyptian army spokesman denied in a subsequent statement any Israeli role in the incident.
“It is not true, either in form nor substance, that there were any attacks from the Israeli side inside Egyptian territory,” he said.
“Likewise, the claim that there exists coordination between the Egyptian and the Israeli side in this matter is a matter completely void of truth.”
The Egyptian border was a red line that could not be violated, he said.
A confirmation that the army is lying can be found in Sheera Frenkel’s tweet from an unnamed Israeli official which confirms Israel’s responsibility for the attack. The militant group itself also confirmed that its members were victims of the attack.
The Israeli government is delighted with the recent coup. The Muslim Brotherhood was an independent entity Israel couldn’t control. The generals on the other hand are typical strongmen. Israel understands such dictators whether they be named Mubarak, Assad or el-Sisi. Democracy in the Arab world threatens Israel. Democracy inside Israel threatens its extremist political leaders as well.
Today’s attack is not the first Israeli assault on Egyptian soil. It assassinated a militant there a year ago. Last month, it even mounted a covert operation with the help of Egyptian intelligence by which it lured a Gazan, Wael abu Rida, from Cairo, where he was tending to his wife who was receiving medical treatment. Abu Rida traveled to Rafah, where his taxi driver took him for refreshments to his home. There a group of undercover Mossad agents met him and plied him with a drugged drink (a trademark Mossad trick). He woke up in an Israeli prison.
The Shabak, which interrogated him, leaked to willing Israeli security reporters all of Abu Rida’s ‘transgressions,’ none of which amounted to any successful attacks against Israeli forces. The worst thing he did was organize rock throwing which so frightened an Israeli soldier that he fell down and injured himself (not from the rocks themselves, mind you). To this day, no Israeli reporting about this man acknowledges he was kidnapped by the Mossad inside Egypt. Presumably, few Israelis would care. The Mossad keeps them safe is all they know or care about. Even if it doesn’t.
That’s what it did a few years ago when Sinai militants attacked the road to Eilat, killing eight Israelis. The IDF’s first claim was that the attack originated in Gaza. As a result, the army launched a massive series of attacks there which killed 30 people, none of whom were engaged in any militant activity. It even assassinated a Gaza militant leader claiming he masterminded the attack inside Israel. Only later did Alex Fishman prove, with inside IDF and intelligence sources that the attack had nothing to do with Gaza. Rather, it was orchestrated by Sinai Islamist elements.
It was during this attack that Israeli military forces went in hot pursuit of the attackers and crossed into Egyptian territory, where they killed five Egyptian police officers who themselves were seeking to engage the terrorists. Though this could (and perhaps should) have elicited a far more vigorous protest from the Egyptians than it did, the incident seems to have marked a watershed of sorts. It was around this time that Egypt appeared to cede more control and operational flexibility to Israeli forces in Sinai.
There is a cost to what Egypt is doing. While it may be convenient to allow Israel to oversee security in Sinai, it may not always be this way. At some point in the future, Egypt may not want Israeli interference. But once you establish a precedent by allowing Israel access, you can’t put that horse back in the barn. Now, Israel may cross the border virtually at will for any purpose it deems necessary. In future, how will Egypt ever be able to turn around and tell Israel and the world it objects to such incursions? Israel will respond by saying: sorry fella, we only did for you what you wanted and asked us to do. You gave us permission, you can’t rescind it. Israel is like that: give it an inch and it takes a mile. And it never gives back anything you’ve given it.
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.