Yediot Achronot’s veteran military correspondent, Alex Fishman, reveals for the first time the substance of the secret IDF report about the Eilat terror attack. He also reveals secret Israeli-Egyptian meetings designed to unblock the Shalit prisoner exchange and counter the alleged Iranian regional threat. I should add that I don’t agree with or accept many of the premises offered by Fishman below. But it’s instructive to hear what he has to say because it reveals the thinking of the Israeli military-intelligence apparatus.
Fishman says that in the wake of the siege against the Israeli embassy in Cairo, a senior Israeli military official made a secret trip to Egypt where he met with Field Marshall Tantawi, Egypt’s de facto military junta leader. According to the Yediot reporter, the primary goal of the meeting was how to stop the “Islamic wave” sweeping the region, in other words, how to sweep Iran from the field. The implicit overarching goal of all future initiatives by Israel, Egypt and the U.S. would be to frustrate Iran’s Islamist agenda.
In the meeting, the Israeli official and Egyptian leader tried to resolve the disagreements resulting from the Eilat terror attack during which five Egyptian security officers were killed by Israeli fire on Egyptian territory. The general subject of Islamist terror originating in the Sinai was also discussed. Implicit in all these discussions was the notion that Egypt needed to be built up as a regional power in order to combat the influence of Iran.
One element in this process would be negotiating the release of Shalit, whom Iran wished to see continue in captivity. As long as he was held, it was a fire burning in relations between Israel and the Palestinians, which helped Iranian interests.
The visits of U.S. defense secretary to both Israel and Egypt in recent weeks was also intended to advance this goal of turning Egypt into a buffer against Iran in the region. Similarly, Egypt is meant to act as a stabilizing force among those Arab regimes that remain pro-western. Fishman uses the term “etrog” to describe Egypt alluding to the Sukkot fruit used by observant Jews in their holiday ritual. The fruit must be perfect, not injured in any way. An etrog with a blemish, bruise or any damage is not permissible for the ritual. In this sense, Egypt becomes a delicate fruit which must be coddled so that it can perform its proper function as a bulwark against Islamist militancy.
Israel too has a role to play in this grand strategy and it is expected to pay a price for bringing such stability. Part of the price was agreeing to the Shalit deal. Another part was Ehud Barak’s public apology to Egypt for Israel’s assault on Egyptian territory and its police forces. Egypt needed the apology in order to establish its street cred and could not act as an honest mediator without it. The apology, according to Fishman’s Israeli military sources, reinforced Egypt’s status in the region, thereby diminishing Iran’s.
Fishman notes that the most important consequence of the IDF secret report on the Eilat terror attack is the fundamental error that it made in anticipating that the attack would come from Gaza instead of from Sinai. He offers a shocking, but unsubstantiated claim that the Sinai terrorists were affiliated with Iran.
This confirms the judgment of independent analysts like myself and Israeli bloggers like Idan Landau, that the Israeli government lied when it claimed the Popular Resistance Committees were behind the attack and when it launched a targeted killing campaign against the PRC. Israel’s post-Eilat Gaza assault was a bluff, an attempt to mollify Israeli public opinion because Israel couldn’t or wouldn’t attack the real originators of the attack whether they were in Sinai or Teheran.
The Yediot reporter notes that even the IDF concedes that despite the report’s minute analysis of what happened in Eilat, gigantic holes remain in its fundamental understanding of the event. The most fundamental of the collapsing theories formerly held by the IDF, was its expectation that it was trying to trap a Gaza terror cell. In doing so, the IDF itself fell into a trap set for it by the actual Sinai-based terrorists.
Israel expected the attack was planned in Gaza and executed by Gazans and that it would follow a route from Gaza through Sinai to Israel. The military capabilities of the Gazans were known, which caused Israel to led down its guard. Though Israel knew the Sinai terror option was present, until the genie popped out the bottle, the IDF simply hadn’t expected it. The possibility was right in front of them, Fishman says, but they never saw it because they didn’t think it was possible. From now on, the demon of global jihad will hover over Israel-Egypt relations.
The actual attackers brought far more firepower and far more sophisticated tactics and numbers than Israel had anticipated. There were, in fact, three groups which attacked and coordinated their complex assault. This is likely why Israel believes that a force like Iran must be involved, though again no proof of the charge is offered. Therefore, it must be taken with a grain of salt.
I’m expecting Ami Issacharoff, Eli Lake and all the other analysts who swallowed the IDF line that the terrorists were from Gaza to apologize for failing in their journalistic duty to ferret out the truth. But I may be waiting quite a while to hear it from them.
This article appeared at Tikun Olam