It’s a new year and the beginning of a new decade. It has already started off with a bang. But, before dealing with the latest event making headlines around the world, including in Israel, just a few words to consider some of the positive events that marked the last decade for Israel. The 10 items listed are not in chronological order.
1. We celebrated our 70th year of Independence. Yay!
2. The U.S. Embassy was moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It was way over due.
3. The App “Waze” that helps drivers avoid traffic jams and provides alerts to events on the road (car stalled, police ahead or speed camera), accumulated close to 50 million users worldwide.
4. Mobileye – the leader of advanced driver assistance systems and car technologies – was sold to Intel for a record-breaking 15 Billion (yes, billion!!) Dollars. Talk about making an “exit”.
5. Israeli star Gal Gadot was Wonder Woman, the highest grossing superhero film worldwide. I still haven’t seen it.
6. The “light rail” transportation system was introduced in Jerusalem. A modern addition to an ancient city.
7. Two Israeli TV series, Fauda and Shtisel, gained a worldwide audience through Netflix. On my list of things to see at some point.
8. An Israeli won the prestigious Fields Medal award for outstanding discoveries in mathematics.
9. An Israeli was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery of quasicrystals
10. Israel opened its second international airport, just north of the southern City of Eilat.
There were, of course, other matters, including a multitude of discoveries in medicine, science and technology that make our lives a little less stressful, that were generated in Israel during the past decade. Most of these discoveries and inventions are used even by our enemies and supporters of the BDS movement (but, of course, they won’t admit it).
So, we entered the year 2020 with hope and with prayers that it will be the beginning of a decade of life, peace and prosperity.
But then, we had the events of last night, when the United States eliminated Qassem Soleimani, head of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to exaggerate the considerable influence that Soleimani had in the Iranian regime and in the entire area of the Middle East. In the same vein, it may be impossible at this time to state with clarity or certainty the full repercussions of his targeted assassination, which was accomplished by a U.S. drone near the international airport in Baghdad, Iraq.
Without doubt, Soleimani’s position, power and prestige were second only to Iranian Supreme Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He was not only the symbol of power in Iran, but very practically the guiding force of Iran’s terror machine throughout the region.
Soleimani was the one responsible for Iran’s expansion in the Middle East over the past decade. His involvements and encouragements affected armies in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. He was the one who worked to connect and turn all the Arab countries into a Shiite army. He was unquestionably the single most important political-military person in Iran and the significance of his elimination cannot, and should not, be underestimated. It raised the level of potential Middle East confrontations by several notches. He was confident of his position and did not think that his assassination was on the drawing board. So he did not take measures to protect himself.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu supported the decision of U.S. President Donald Trump to eliminate Soleimani, stating: “Trump acted swiftly, forcefully and decisively … [adding that Israel] stands by the U.S.” He further stated: “Just as Israel has the right of self-defense, the United States has exactly the same right. Qassem Soleimani is responsible for the deaths of US citizens and many other innocents. He was planning more such attacks, and President Trump deserves all the credit for acting swiftly, forcefully and decisively. Israel stands with the United States in its just struggle for peace, security and self-defense.”
The action by the U.S. followed a week of increasing tensions with Iran, which included air strikes against Hezbollah militants in Iraq, followed by Iraqi militants laying siege to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. President Trump blamed Iran for organizing the protests. Iran denied the charge. The U.S. sent armed troops to the the Middle East and Trump said that Iran would pay a “big price” for the attack on the embassy, although adding that he didn’t believe that a war with Iran was around the corner.
The Pentagon issued a statement following the take out of Soleimani, including: “At the direction of the President, the U.S. military has taken decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad by killing Qassem Soleimani. This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.”
Iran was quick to respond, blaming both the U.S. AND Israel for Soleimani’s death. Ahmed al-Assadi, a spokesman for Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, said: “The American and Israeli enemy is responsible for killing the mujahideen Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis [deputy commander of Iran-backed militias] and Qassem Soleimani.”
Following the verification of Soleimani’s elimination, Tehran vowed a “crushing revenge” against the U.S. AND Israel.
The Ayatollah Khamenei called for three days of national mourning, stating: “All enemies should know that the jihad of resistance will continue with a doubled motivation, and a definite victory awaits the fighters in the holy war.” Iranian President Hassan Rohani referred to Soleimani’s death as martyrdom, which would result in strengthening Iran’s determination to defend its Islamic values, adding: “With no doubt, Iran and other freedom-seeking countries in the region will take his revenge.”
Indeed, there can be little doubt that Iran is considering how, when and where to carry out its retaliation for the assassinations. Soleimani was considered the king pin in Iran’s Middle East agenda. Israel has repeatedly accused him of being responsible for the deaths of Israelis and of being the instigator of regional terror.
The issue of Iran’s response against the U.S., when, not if, it comes, is an open question. The U.S. is far from being a small country and, under its present leadership, it is not afraid of confrontation with Iran, even though it does not seek it. So, how things will develop will be initially in the ballpark of Iran. It’s a wait-and-see situation. But, the obvious goal will be to test the resolve and secondary response of the U.S. and to see how far it is willing to go. It would be foolhardy for the U.S. to think that Iran has learned a hard lesson and will not attempt to retaliate. That retaliation, however, may take a little time, as Iran needs to regroup and regain its strength in the light of its unexpected loss.
On the other hand, it is reasonable to anticipate that israel will be on Iran’s hit list. We are also in a wait-and-see kind of situation and we are already preparing for that event. Soleimani’s influence extended to Syria, Lebanon and, of course, Iraq, as well as Yemen and elsewhere. All are potential allies in any plan of retaliation that could be played out against Israel. Iran is presently reeling from the shock of Soleimani’s sudden departure and it will need to plan its strategy carefully. Right now, it is licking its wounds. Although its wounds were serious, Iran was not mortally wounded. It is geographically located close to Israel by its presence in Syria and, of course, it has been the prime mover of the actions of its Hezbollah proxy in Lebanon, as well as its proxies, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, in Gaza. Iran will pick and choose its opportunity. And then, Israel will pick and choose its response.
And so, we begin a new year and a new decade with increased tensions and the possibility of regional confrontation. Of course, we still have a third national election that is scheduled for March 2, 2020, which adds to the tension and the suspense.
May God be pleased to grant us wisdom upon wisdom and grace upon grace. “Behold, the Keeper of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.” (Psalm 122:4) “He is [our] defence; [we] shall not be moved.” (Psalm 62:6)
May the new civil year bring with it abundant good health for you all, with joy that overflows from deep down within you. May your going out and coming in always be in peace.
Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.