Is­rael fires warn­ing to ji­hadis

Ne­tanyahu pledges to help Jordan as Is­lamist fighters take key bor­der towns ANAL­Y­SIS

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY AN­SHEL PF­EF­FER

AS THE ji­hadis in Iraq gain ground and con­trol of the coun­try’s borders, Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu ac­knowl­edged this week that Is­rael plans to sup­port Jordan if the Hashemite King­dom is threat­ened.

“We have to sup­port the in­ter­na­tional ef­forts to strengthen Jordan,” said Mr Ne­tanyahu on Sun­day, con­firm­ing re­ports that the two coun­tries were co-op­er­at­ing closely as the Is­lamic State (the ji­hadi or­gan­i­sa­tion known un­til this week as the Is­lamic State in Iraq and the Le­vant — Isis) has threat­ened to en­croach on the ter­ri­tory of Is­rael’s east­ern neigh­bour.

While Jordan has weath­ered the Arab rev­o­lu­tions rel­a­tively well, the Is­lamic State threat­ens it both ex­ter­nally and from within.

Last week, the Is­lamic State cap­tured the main bor­der cross­ing be­tween Jordan and Iraq, cut­ting off an im­por­tant commercial route. While Jor­da­nian army units are not al­low­ing ji­hadis to cross over, the long and por­ous desert bor­der will be no ob­sta­cle should the or­gan­i­sa­tion choose to en­ter Jordan.

Mean­while, the ji­hadi group has been gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity in­side Jordan, mainly in the poorer towns of the south where dis­af­fec­tion at ris­ing un­em­ploy­ment and govern­ment cor­rup­tion has been trans­lated into a grow­ing sup­port for Is­lamism.

Po­lice have been kicked out of the south­ern town of Maan and, while it is un­clear how many Jor­da­ni­ans sup­port the Is­lamic State, thou­sands have trav­elled to Syria to join var­i­ous rebel groups and could link up with forces hos­tile to King Ab­dul­lah on their re­turn.

Since the early 1970s, long be­fore the two coun­tries signed a peace treaty in 1994, Is­rael has acted as a silent guar­an­tor of the King­dom’s se­cu­rity, along with its tra­di­tional al­lies Bri­tain and the United States. Back in the days of the Black Septem­ber Pales­tinian ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion, the IDF mo­bilised forces to pre­vent a pos­si­ble takeover of the coun­try by the PLO and Syria. Nowa­days, se­cu­rity co-oper­a­tion comes mainly in the shape of in­tel­li­gence-shar­ing. Ac­cord­ing to re­ports in the Western me­dia, Is­raeli drones per­form sur­veil­lance flights over the Syria-Jordan bor­der to pro­vide both the IDF and Jordan with up-to-date in­for­ma­tion.

The Is­lamic State’s an­nounce­ment this week that it was chang­ing its name in­cluded a dec­la­ra­tion that its fighters would “lib­er­ate Pales­tine”.

For Is­rael, how­ever, the or­gan­isa- tion does not cur­rently pose a di­rect threat. De­spite re­cent ef­forts of Salafists to es­tab­lish a toe­hold in the West Bank, the Is­raeli and Pales­tinian se­cu­rity forces there have not al­lowed them to es­tab­lish them­selves.

In the Gaza Strip, a num­ber of small ji­hadi (not to be con­fused with Pales­tinian Is­lamic Ji­had) fac­tions are com­pet­ing with Ha­mas and the more es­tab­lished Pales­tinian or­gan­i­sa­tions. They have tried to carry out op­er­a­tions against Is­raeli and Egyp­tian tar­gets.

Egyp­tian sources claim that Is­lamic State fighters are now also op­er­at­ing in Si­nai. But they do not yet seem to be present in suf­fi­cient num­bers to change the bal­ance in that par­tic­u­lar re­gion. Mean­while, all other play­ers — Is­rael, Egypt and Ha­mas — have a joint in­ter­est in not al­low­ing them to do so.

For Is­rael, the main im­pli­ca­tion of the rise of the Is­lamic State could be the re­turn of a “mod­er­ate” al­liance reach­ing from north­ern Iraq, where the Kurds are now ex­er­cis­ing more in­de­pen­dence, through Jordan to Egypt. It may even in­clude Turkey which, for the first time, seems to be warm­ing to the idea of Kur­dish sovereignty.

On Sun­day, Mr Ne­tanyahu ef­fec­tively be­came the first world leader to en­dorse Kur­dish state­hood. He said that Is­rael had to “sup­port the as­pi­ra­tions of the Kurds for in­de­pen­dence” since they were “a fight­ing na­tion which has proved po­lit­i­cal com­mit­ment and mod­er­a­tion and de­serves in­de­pen­dence”.

PHOTO: AP

Is­lamic State fighters aboard a cap­tured Iraqi mil­i­tary ve­hi­cle

A still from an Isis video. The text reads: “Wher­ever we travel, the Jewish rabbi is hu­mil­i­ated”

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