Caroline Glick, THE JERUSALEM POST Apr. 28, 2006
The nature of the war being waged against Israel changed, perhaps
irreversibly, this week. Processes that have been developing for more than
four years came together this week and brought us to a very different
military-political reality than that which we have known until now.
The face of the enemy has changed. If in the past it was possible to say
that the war being waged against Israel was unique and distinct from the
global jihad, after the events of the past week, it is no longer possible to
credibly make such a claim. Four events that occurred this week – the
attacks in the Sinai; the release of Osama bin Laden’s audiotape; the
release of Abu Musab Zarqawi’s videotape; and the arrest of Hamas terrorists
by Jordan – all proved clearly that today it is impossible to separate the
wars. The new situation has critical consequences for the character of the
campaign that the IDF must fight to defend Israel and for the nature of the
policies that the incoming government of Israel must adopt and advance.
The two attacks in the Sinai were noteworthy for several reasons. First,
they were very different from one another. The first, which targeted
tourists in Dahab, was the familiar attack against a soft target that we
have become used to seeing in the Sinai over the past year and a half. The
attack against the Multinational Force Observers was more unique since it
only has one past precedent.
In an article published last October in the journal MERIA, Reuven Paz
explained that the al-Qaida strategist Abu Musab al-Suri supported the first
type of attack. His follower, Abu Muhammad Hilali, wrote last September that
in waging the jihad against the Egyptian regime there is no point in
attacking foreign forces or Egyptian forces because such attacks will lead
nowhere. He encouraged terrorists to attack soft targets like tourists and
foreign non-governmental organizations on the one hand, and strategic
targets like the Egyptian gas pipeline to Israel on the other. In both
cases, such attacks would achieve political objectives. Opposing Hilali’s
view is Zarqawi’s strategy. As one would expect from al-Qaida’s commander in
Iraq, Zarqawi upholds attacks on foreign forces.
The foregoing analysis is not proof that two separate branches of al-Qaida
conducted the attacks. But the combination of approaches this week does lend
credence to the assessment that al-Qaida is now paying a great deal of
attention to Israel’s neighborhood. And this is a highly significant
Until recently, Israel, like Jordan and Egypt, did not particularly interest
al-Qaida. When bin Laden’s deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri and his military
commander Saif al-Adel merged their terror organization, the Egyptian
Islamic Jihad, with al-Qaida, they adopted bin Laden’s approach which
dictated suspending their previous war to overthrow the Egyptian regime and
concentrating on attacking America and its allies. In the same manner, when
the Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab Zarqawi joined al-Qaida, he was compelled
to put his wish to overthrow the Hashemite regime to the side. Israel was
not on the agenda.
But today everything has changed. Israel, like Egypt and Jordan, is under
the gun. Bin Laden himself made this clear in his tape this week. By placing
Hamas under his protection, bin Laden made three moves at once. First, he
announced that the Palestinians are no longer independent actors. Second, he
defined the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority as a part of the liberated
Islamic lands where al-Qaida can feel at home. Third, he hitched a ride on
the Palestinian issue, which is more popular in the Islamic world than the
Iraq war, where al-Qaida is apparently on the road to defeat.
For his part, Zarqawi already announced his plan to go back to his old war
and work to topple the Hashemites (and destroy Israel) last November, after
he commanded the Amman hotel suicide bombings. Back then Zarqawi announced
that Jordan was but a stop on the road to the conquest of Jerusalem.
In his video this week, Zarqawi emphasized that the destruction of Israel
through the conquest of Jerusalem is one of his major goals. Both he and bin
Laden made clear that from their perspectives, the war against the US and
the war against Israel are the same war.
On the level of strategic theory, bin Laden and Zarqawi both expressed
al-Qaida’s long-term strategy that Zawahiri laid out last year to Jordanian
journalist Fuad Hussein. Zawahiri explained then that there are seven stages
to the jihad before the establishment of the global caliphate. According to
Zawahiri, the global jihad began in 2000 and will end in 2020. Today we are
in the third stage, which includes the toppling of the regimes in Jordan,
Syria and Egypt and the targeting of Israel for destruction.
While al-Qaida today is setting its sights on Israel and its neighbors, the
arrests of Hamas terrorists this week in Jordan show that for their part,
the Palestinians are working to advance the global jihad. The Hamas attempt
to carry out attacks in Jordan points to a change in Hamas’s
self-perception. They have gone from being local terrorists to being members
of the Islamist axis, which is led by Iran and includes Syria, al-Qaida and
A week after Zarqawi carried out the attacks in Amman last November, Iranian
Foreign Minister Manochehr Mottaki met with the heads of Hizbullah, Hamas,
Islamic Jihad, PFLP, DFLP and DFLP-GC in Beirut. At the end of the summit,
Ahmed Jibril declared, “We all confirmed that what is going on in occupied
Palestine is organically connected to what is going on in Iraq, Syria, Iran,
A week later, Hizbullah launched its largest Katyusha rocket attack on
northern Israel since the IDF withdrew from south Lebanon in May 2000. Two
weeks later, Islamic Jihad carried out the suicide bombing outside the
shopping mall in Netanya. Shortly thereafter, Zarqawi’s al-Qaida operatives
launched another barrage of Katyushas on northern Israel from Lebanon.
Similarly, on January 19, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hosted a
terror summit in Damascus attended by the same cast of characters. The same
day, Islamic Jihad carried out a suicide bombing in the old bus station in
Tel Aviv. And on April 18, the day before last week’s suicide bombing in the
old bus station in Tel Aviv, Ahmadinejad presided over yet another terror
summit in Teheran with the same participants. And, again, shortly after the
summit, al-Qaida struck in the Sinai.
Zawahiri’s seven stages of jihad go hand in hand with a 60-page text written
by Saif al-Adel sometime after the US invasion of Iraq. Adel deposited his
manuscript with the same Jordanian journalist last year. Adel, who has been
operating from Iran since the battle of Tora Bora in November 2001, is
reportedly Zarqawi’s commander in Iraq and al-Qaida’s senior liaison with
the Iranian regime.
In his manuscript he laid out al-Qaida’s intentions for the third stage of
the jihad. He explained that the organization needed new bases and was
looking for a failed state or states to settle in. Darfur, Somalia, Lebanon
and Gaza were all identified as possible options.
As the American author and al-Qaida investigator Richard Miniter puts it,
“US forces together with the Kenyans and the Ethiopians have pretty much
prevented al-Qaida from basing in Somalia or Darfur. That left only Lebanon
with all its problems with its various political factions, overlords and the
UN. But then suddenly, like manna from Heaven, Israel simply gave them the
greatest gift al-Qaida ever received when Ariel Sharon decided to give them
Israel, he explains, provided al-Qaida with the best base it has ever had.
Not only is Gaza located in a strategically vital area – between the sea,
Egypt and Israel. It is also fairly immune from attack since the Kadima
government will be unwilling to reconquer the area.
Moreover, as was the case with Egyptian Islamic Jihad and Gamaa Islamiyya
terrorists who merged with al-Qaida in the 1990s, the Palestinians today
constitute an ideal population for al-Qaida. They already support jihad.
They have vast experience in fighting. And if it only took Hamas two weeks
in office to get all the other terror groups – from Fatah to the Popular
Resistance Committees to the Popular Front – to pledge allegiance to it last
week, Hamas’s co-optation by al-Qaida shouldn’t be very difficult.
Al-Qaida today is building its presence in Gaza, Judea and Samaria
gradually. It drafts Palestinian terrorists to its ranks and provides them
with ideological indoctrination and military training. In November, for
instance, a terror recruiter in Jordan who had drafted two terrorists from
the Nablus area to al-Qaida’s ranks and instructed them to recruit others,
informed them that he intended to send a military trainer from Gaza to train
them. The two, who were arrested in December, had planned to carry out a
double suicide bombing in Jerusalem.
Last May, the first terror cell in Gaza announced its association with
al-Qaida. When Ra’anan Gissin, then prime minister Ariel Sharon’s spokesman,
was asked to comment on the development by a foreign reporter, he presented
the government’s position on the issue as follows: “There is some evidence
of links between militants in Gaza and al-Qaida. but for us, local terrorist
groups are just as dangerous.”
On the face of it, Gissin’s arrogance seems appropriate. After all, what do
we care who sends the bombers into our cafes and buses? But things don’t
work that way.
As the attacks in Egypt, the arrests in Jordan and the bin Laden and Zarqawi
messages this week all indicated, we find ourselves today in a world war.
The Palestinians are no longer the ones waging the war against us. The
Islamist axis now wages the war against us through the Palestinians. The
center of gravity, like the campaign rationale of the enemy, has moved away.
Today, the decision-makers who determine the character and timing of the
terror offensives are not sitting in Gaza and or Judea and Samaria. They are
sitting in Teheran, Waziristan, Damascus, Beirut, Amman and Fallujah. The
considerations that guide those that order the trigger pulled are not local
considerations, but regional considerations at best and considerations
wholly cut off from local events at worst.
This new state of affairs demands a change in the way all of Israel’s
security arms understand and fight this war. The entire process of
intelligence gathering for the purpose of uncovering and preventing planned
terror attacks needs to be reconsidered.
A reconfiguration of political and diplomatic strategies is also required.
Talk of a separation barrier and final borders, not to mention the
abandonment of Judea and Samaria to Hamas sound hallucinatory when standing
against us are Zarqawi who specializes in chemical and biological warfare;
bin Laden who specializes in blowing up airplanes; and Iran that threatens a
Who can cause Ehud Olmert, Amir Peretz, Tzipi Livni and Yuli Tamir to take
the steps required to protect Israel from the reality exposed by the events
of this past week?