Last week Iran began enriching uranium in a second network of centrifuges. Just as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has dropped nearly all pretenses about his intention to achieve nuclear weapons, so too he makes it clear daily that he intends to use such weapons to annihilate Israel.
The world's reaction to Iran's behavior is depressingly instructive. Russia tells us that we are being paranoid and continues to build the Bushehr nuclear plant. The Europeans cluck disapprovingly and threaten to pass a weak, "reversible" sanctions resolution in the UN Security Council whose main target is American security hawks. For his part, US President George W. Bush continues to adhere to the call for sanctions.
And so we have Israel. With Iran speeding up its program, Israel may have as little as six months to launch a strike on its nuclear facilities before they can start churning out atomic bombs.
Unfortunately, at this critical moment in Israel's history, we are led by Ehud Olmert, Amir Peretz and Tzipi Livni. Although Olmert claims that he is taking every step to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, through his government's actions in recent months, he has steadily undercut the IDF's ability to take decisive action against Iran.
Over the past two and a half months, the Olmert government has deliberately and willingly enabled Israel's encirclement by hostile forces.
Deployed along Israel's northern and southern borders, these forces constrict Israel's ability to maneuver, and prevent the IDF from taking preventative actions against Iran's proxies in Lebanon and Gaza thus increasing the risks that Israel will face in the event that action is taken against Iran's nuclear facilities and constraining Israel's ability to stealthily launch any attack.
Nearly 10,000 French-commanded UNIFIL troops today protect Hizbullah in south Lebanon. And increasingly, they do so while provoking Israel. Last week two incidents took place between German naval forces and the IAF. Last Tuesday and Thursday IAF jets were scrambled when a German naval helicopter entered Israeli airspace after taking off from a German naval ship off Rosh Hanikra without permission or prior coordination.
What is most remarkable about the story is its repetition. Last Tuesday the German helicopter elicited a strong Israeli response. Rather than desist from provoking the IAF, the Germans repeated their action on Thursday. So what could have been viewed as a regrettable incident was transformed into a provocation.
Germany's hostile behavior is par for the course with UNIFIL. Two weeks ago French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie called the IAF's overflights of Lebanese airspace "extremely dangerous," and threatened that France's forces in Lebanon were liable to fire on the IAF flights "because they may be felt as hostile by forces of the coalition."
By word and deed, UNIFIL forces are making clear that they view the IDF, not Hizbullah as their enemy. As they increase their provocations against Israel, UNIFIL forces turn a blind eye to weapons being smuggled daily to Hizbullah from Syria. Were Israel to attempt to take action against Hizbullah or Syria to prevent them from attacking in anticipation of an Israeli strike on Iran, there can be little doubt how UNIFIL would respond.
AND THERE is little that Israel today can do about UNIFIL. Olmert and Livni have been UNIFIL's most enthusiastic cheerleaders. They expended Israel's political capital convincing these hostile forces to perch themselves at our border. They then promised the Israeli public that the French would protect us. They are not in a position today to make demands.
And then there is Egypt.
Over the weekend, Egypt announced that it was deploying 5,000 troops (or "police" forces) along its border with the Gaza Strip in northern Sinai. The deployment was necessary, Egypt announced, to prevent Israel mounting a serious operation against the massive weapons smuggling that is quickly providing Palestinian terrorists with the means to transform Gaza into south Lebanon.
The fact that Egypt wishes to prevent Israel from stemming the flow of weapons to Gaza - which Egypt itself is supposed to be cutting off - should tell us all we need to know about Egypt's intentions. But apparently the government and Southern Command weren't listening. Sunday, Defense Minister Amir Peretz denied that Egyptian forces had been deployed along the border. An IDF commander in the Southern Command strangely expressed satisfaction at Egypt's move arguing that with the larger force Egypt would finally take action to prevent the arms transfers. The Foreign Ministry assured the public that the peace treaty with Egypt allows Cairo to deploy an unlimited number of "policemen" in the Sinai.
It is hard to decide which is more frightening, Egypt's move or Israel's response to it.
As MK Yuval Steinitz, former chairman of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee explains, Egypt's sudden decision to deploy a massive force along the border is a strategic threat of the first order to Israel. "Egypt," he explains, "is taking advantage of the weakness and incompetence of the government."
Over the past decade, Egypt has been assiduously preparing its military for war against Israel. From the ideological indoctrination of its forces, to its massive armament programs, to the relocation of its military installations, units and logistical bases to both sides of the Suez Canal, to the training of its troops to fight "an unnamed country on Egypt's northern border," Steinitz warns that Egypt has done more than Iran to ready its forces for war against Israel.
Rather than protest Egypt's actions, successive Israeli governments have swallowed whole Egypt's strategic deception. Egypt protests friendship and pretends to combat terrorism and prevent weapons smuggling into the Sinai. Yet under this friendly guise, Egypt has legitimized Palestinian terrorists and stood behind the massive weapons smuggling operations. As Steinitz puts it, "Egypt is to Palestinian terrorism what Syria is to Hizbullah.
"The weapons to the Palestinians are brought in through Egyptian ports and El-Arish and are imported by land from Sudan. Those latter imports have to traverse Egypt on their way to Gaza. There is no way that the Egyptian government is not colluding with the weapons shippers."
AS STEINITZ notes, over the past eight months the weapons being shipped to Gaza have been sharply upgraded. Egypt today is overseeing the import of sophisticated anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, as well as upgraded Katyusha rockets to Palestinian terror groups.
And now Mubarak is sending 5,000 "policemen" to the border. As Steinitz notes, Israel has no way of knowing who these forces are, whether they are police or commandos or infantry or anti-aircraft units. He warns, that "If Israel does nothing to prevent their deployment today, there is no reason to doubt that in a year or two there will be tens of thousands of Egyptian troops along the border with Israel."
As Steinitz notes, not only does every single Egyptian soldier deployed along the border have a job to do in time of war, today they are perched along the border with the Negev, where, as the government turns its back on them and the IDF applauds their deployment, they are within striking distance of some of the IDF's most important military bases and strategic installations.
Since 1993, Israel's leftist governments have consistently followed a strategy of transferring responsibility for our national security to our enemies. First it was Yasser Arafat who was supposed to fight Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Now it is his deputy Mahmoud Abbas, UNIFIL and Mubarak who are all supposed to fight Israel's enemies. Far from learning from our bloody experience that our enemies have no interest in protecting us, in recent months, the Olmert government has expanded tenfold our reliance on our enemies.
As if having hostile Europeans guarding genocidal Iranian proxies in the north, and hostile Egyptians guarding and arming genocidal Palestinians in the south weren't enough, Sunday it was reported that the Olmert government is considering allowing thousands of armed PLO terrorists from the Badr Brigade in Jordan to relocate to Gaza.
It doesn't have to be this way. Although barring a major Hizbullah provocation, it isn't clear what Israel can do against the UNIFIL forces now enabling Hizbullah to rearm, Israel can still prevent the Egyptian deployment. If the government loudly protested the move and publicly requested the Bush administration order Egypt to remove its forces, Mubarak would do so. But in light of the Olmert government's mishandling of every military challenge Israel has faced since it came to power just six month ago, it is hard to imagine it will act responsibly.
But really, we don't have to worry. Olmert won't let Iran get nuclear weapons.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.