Ed: 39: February/2014
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who passed away on January 11, will surely be remembered as one of Israel's greatest military and political leaders.
This is not because he was universally beloved - he was not - nor because his judgement was necessarily always superior - on the contrary, his various missteps are a matter of record.
Rather, Sharon earned his place in Israel's pantheon of leaders as a battle-tested man of action whose vigorous defence of Jewish national rights was only superseded by his desire for a lasting peace.
Here's a fascinating - and very telling - story from Turkey which has not really made it into the Australian media.
On Jan. 14, Turkish police staged a sweep in which they arrested 28 people alleged to be recruiting or otherwise working for al-Qaeda in raids across six provinces. Police also raided an office of the IHH, a Turkish Islamist NGO best known for coordinating the Mavi Marmara flotilla to Gaza in 2010.
China's pivotal role in the world economy can hardly be overstated. Yet the economic giant is increasingly looking to one of the world's smallest nations for those essential ingredients of innovation and expertise - Israel, of course. And like every other country, Israel is very keen to tap the Chinese economic behemoth.
A top-level Chinese delegation recently visited the Jewish state and, according to a UPI report, an Israeli official observed: "They don't care about the Palestinian issue. They want to talk about three things: Israeli technology, Israeli technology and Israeli technology."
In the plaza before the Knesset, a thin line of mourners slowly passed the flag-covered coffin of Ariel Sharon. An old man in a long white beard and big black kippah saluted. Another old man brought a single rose. Yet another came wrapped in a giant Israeli flag. Among them were veterans of Sharon's commando Unit 101 from the 1950s, the armoured and infantry units he commanded in Sinai in 1967, the paratrooper brigade he led across the Suez Canal in 1973 to win the Yom Kippur War. The cold, depleted Jerusalem afternoon belonged to them.
In November, immediately after the announcement that Iran had reached a deal with Western negotiators concerning its nuclear program, China's former ambassador to Teheran, Hua Liming, made the case that Beijing - not the American Secretary of State John Kerry or the European Union envoy Catherine Ashton - ultimately deserved credit for brokering the agreement. "When the two parties came across irresolvable problems, they would come to China, which would ‘lubricate' the negotiation and put things back on track," Hua told Chinese state media.
Over the past year, Israel and Egypt have used a little-known, legally permissible understanding - the Agreed Activities Mechanism - to bypass restrictions on the number and type of Egyptian forces permitted in much of the Sinai. As a result, considerable Egyptian army forces are now constantly deployed in central and eastern Sinai (Areas B and C of the peninsula, respectively), in a manner and scope never envisaged by the teams that negotiated the treaty more than three decades ago. Going forward, this new reality on the ground is unlikely to be reversed and is bound to have profound consequences for Egyptian-Israeli security cooperation, Cairo's ongoing counterterrorism campaign, and the fate of Hamas in the neighbouring Gaza Strip.
In the opening montage of "The Square", Jehane Noujaim's Oscar-shortlisted documentary film about Egypt's Tahrir Square revolutionaries, we meet Ahmed, a twenty-something activist who explains the motivations for the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak. "Egypt was living without dignity," he says, "Injustice existed everywhere." Ahmed tells us that he has worked since he was eight, and sold lemons to pay his fifth-grade tuition. "I lived my entire life under Mubarak's injustice," he says, as YouTube videos depicting police brutality, torture, and murder roll.
It is a measure of the man's impact that Ariel Sharon's passing, coming eight years after his term in office was tragically cut short, reverberated across the local media.
Jerusalem is a very special city. Of great religious importance, it is often falsely represented as simply a fulcrum of conflict rather than as an inspirational source of compassion, wisdom and understanding.
It figures in the historic memory of a number of civilisations and cultures, but the episodes of conflict can overshadow the reality of a living, sometimes vibrant, sometimes less so, community of communities.
One is left with the impression, by the close of Levitt's book, that the counter-terrorism struggle against Hezbollah is being won. He writes, "All told, more than twenty terror attacks by Hezbollah or Qods Force operatives were thwarted over the fifteen month period between May 2011 and July 2012; by another count, nine plots were uncovered over the first nine months of 2012." But the evidence in the book should lead us to two conclusions: that it has taken a concerted, large-scale and largely undercover international effort to thwart all these attacks and that Hezbollah remains as committed as ever to its violent jihadist agenda.