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Israel bracing for ‘more tense and Islamist’ region in the coming year

IDF Military Intelligence director Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi speaks at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel, Feb. 2, 2012. Credit: Yehoshua Yosef/Flash90.
IDF Military Intelligence director Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi speaks at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel, Feb. 2, 2012. Credit: Yehoshua Yosef/Flash90.

Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Director of Military Intelligence Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, in his annual intelligence assessment to Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz and the IDF general staff, warned on Monday that Israel will face an increasingly volatile region in the coming year, one that is “more tense and Islamist in nature than before.”

According to Kochavi, the area is “experiencing a series of crises, both regional and internal, which add to the overall sensitivity of the players involved and could lead to unexpected flare-ups.”

Kochavi said the annual intelligence assessment “is the result of a long and thorough process of research and analysis.”

“The work is led by the research unit and utilizes all of the existing intelligence-gathering bodies in the intelligence branch, as well as ones created in the passing year,” he said.

In related news, foreign weapon sales by the U.S. tripled last year to $66.3 billion as Persian Gulf states sought to build up their military supplies amid growing tensions with Iran, a new report said.

U.S. arms sales reached a record high, up from $21.4 billion in 2010 and $31 billion in 2009, according to a study by the U.S. Congressional Research Service.

Weapons sales declined amid the global economic downturn but increasing tensions with Iran over its nuclear weapons program have seen Gulf countries spend billions of dollars on defense procurement.

Foreign arms sales have become increasingly important to weapons makers as the Pentagon’s budget flattens because of U.S. deficit-reduction requirements.

U.S. military deals with Saudi Arabia topped $33.4 billion last year, according to the report. Agreements included the purchase of 84 advanced F-15 fighter planes and upgrades of 70 of the F-15 fighter planes in the current fleet, said the report.

The United Arab Emirates purchased Lockheed Martin’s Theatre High Altitude Area Defence system in a deal valued at $3.49 billion last December and 16 Chinook helicopters for $939 million. Oman acquired 18 F-16 fighters for $1.4 billion.

Arab League head: Egypt should amend peace treaty with Israel

For more evidence of its increasingly precarious position in the Middle East, Israel need not lok any further south than neighboring Egypt. Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby told The Cairo Review of Global Affairs in an article published this week that Egypt should amend its 1979 peace treaty with Israel because the latter is violating the accords with respect to the Palestinians.

Elaraby, 77, was appointed secretary-general in July 2011, after a brief stint as Egyptian foreign minister in the first government of the post-Hosni Mubarak era.

“Israel is violating every day what they have committed themselves to do,” Elaraby said.

“What I’ve been asking is look at every step taken by Israel and see whether it really fits with its commitments,” Elaraby said. “I’ll tell you: no. I’ll just give you one example: Camp David, and I was there. They committed themselves that [UN Resolution] 242 would apply to every single front, or to every single country, which accepts to live in peace with Israel. Fine. Palestinians have said for 20 years now we have recognized Israel, but they don’t want to apply 242, they don’t want to withdraw, they don’t want to stop the settlement activities. They have tens of thousands of prisoners who have been there for over 20 years. They are acting in a wrong way. They claim that they have withdrawn from Gaza, but they are surrounding Gaza and any day they will go and kill people in Gaza and go out. They are the occupiers. It’s not necessary in occupying a territory to be in every single yard of territory. They are outside but they are occupying it. So, everything is wrong. You need to rectify the relations. This is not going to work at all. You need to rectify the relations to have a healthy relationship in the future.”

Elaraby said that the new situation in the Middle East would change the dynamic of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

“The way that the Israelis were using brute force and not taking into consideration the rights of the people around them, particularly the Palestinians, will have to change,” he said. “But they are reading it wrongly. They are claiming to the Americans, to the Europeans, ‘It is changing here. We don’t know what will happen. We will not talk unless they accept our conditions.’ They have to realize that if they want to live in peace with their neighbors, they have a chance to do that. But they have to live in peace, they have to act according to the rules of international law everywhere. [The Arab peace plan] has been there 10 years there now, and it’s still there. Ten years, they’ve not reacted to it.”

Elaraby said the Egypt-Israel peace treaty should be amended on the security front, as well as the commercial area.

“People in Egypt under the former regime have added things which are not in the treaty,” he said. “People say Camp David requires Egypt to sell gas to Israel. Gas was not there at that time. Camp David and the treaty speak about the right of Israel to bid for oil which Egypt does not need. But people think that it contains obligations on Egypt to sell oil to Israel, which is not true.”

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