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July 14, 2017

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PAGE 4A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JULY 14, 2017 By Ben Cohen If you haven't encountered the term "Shi'a corridor" yet, chances are that you will in the coming weeks, particularly if the ongoing confrontation between the U.S. and Iran in Syria intensifies. What was initially a sideshow to the main battle against Islamic State in Syria is fast becoming the main focus of attention. In recent weeks, the U.S. has shot down at least two Iranian armed drones over Syria. A Syr- ian regime bomber jet supposedly attacking Islamic State positions near Raqqa was also downed, after it ventured too close to positions held by U.S.-allied forces. Armed skirmishes have been reported between U.S.-allied forces and Iranian-backed Shi'a Islamist militias. The Russians--allied with Iran in supporting the tyrant Bashar al-Assad in Damascus--are also part of this dangerous equation, going so far as to declare that Moscow's generals will treat U.S.-led coalition aircraft flying west of the Euphrates River in Syria as "potential targets." What does Iran hope to achieve here? To start with, it's important to note that the international legitimacy the mullahs have enjoyed since the Iran nuclear deal of 2015 is starting to fragment. The U.S. Senate this month voted to slap new sanctions on Iran for its violations outside the terms of the nuclear deal, such as its use of ballistic missiles and its support for terrorist groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon. Such political moves invariably have a significant economic impact, which is why Western banks continue to advise caution towards companies tempted to invest in Iran. None of this fretting is of much consequence to the overtly revolutionary wings of the Iranian regime, most obviously the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which is built to retain its enormous power with or without sanctions in place. But the eclipse of the Obama administration's engagement strategy with Iran highlights once again that it is institutions like the IRGC, much more than one or another foreign minister sound- ing reasonable and eloquent, that define the nature of power and influence in the Islamic Republic. This is where the "Shi'a corridor" comes in. Iran's goal to become the dominant power in the Islamic world involves more than religious or ideological influence. It requires the boots of Iran and its proxies on the ground--as demonstrated already in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. It requires that Iran has easy, uninterrupted access to all those parts of the region where it exercises political control. On one level, the idea of a Shi'a corridor The point, for now at least, is Iran is doing precisely that--assisted by the lack of a de- fined U.S. policy towards not just the Iranian nuclear program, but its entire regional role; the absence of any appetite among the Euro- peans for a confrontationwith Tehran; and the unprecedented support coming from Iran's traditional foe, Russia, thanks to President Vladimir Putin's benevolence. In other words, Iran will face obstacles to its contiguous territorial path only if its ad- versaries-not just America, but also Egypt, Israel and Saudi Arabia, among others--are willing to place them there. Does the advance of the corridor so far warrant such concern? At the end of May, "...Iran is presenting a 99 seems a little fantastical. Almost 2,000 miles separate Tehran from the Mediterranean coast to its far west. The road between the two points is distinguished by rough terrain and the presence of numerous militias along the route, many of them belonging to Sunni Islamist factions hostile to Iran. In addition to heavy defenses on the ground, the corridor would need effective aerial warning systems, given Israel's demonstrated willingness to bomb weapons shipments between Iran and its allies in Syria and Lebanon. Can a country with an ailing economy like Iran's, that is now facing an increasingly hostile administration in Washington, D.C., really carve out such a corridor unopposed? a few correspondents in the region, among them the Israeli journalist Seth Franztman and the American reporter Dexter Filkins, reported that Iranian-backed militias had seized a cluster of villages along the Syrian- Iraqi border, thereby securing an encumbered road link between the IRGC in Tehran and its client in Damascus. "The development is potentially momen- tous," Filkins wrote in The New Yorker, "be- cause, for the first time, it would bind together, by a single land route, a string of Iranian allies, including Hezboilah, in Lebanon; the Assad regime, in Syria; and the Iranian-dominated government in Iraq. Those allies form what is often referred to as the Shiite Crescent, an Iranian sphere of influence in an area otherwise dominated by Sunni Muslims." While those same Sunni Muslims are divided between those who see the Muslim Brotherhood or Iran as their main enemy, and those who accord that distinction to Israel and the U.S., Iran is presenting a uni- fied Shi'a revolutionary stance toward the outside world. Iran has allies all the way from Lebanon to Bahrain, and Iran is their unmistakable leader. When looked at on the map, this status conveys the possibility of an Iranian empire that Tehran's actions in the field seek only to reinforce. The consequences for Israel of a Shi'a cor- ridor are, needless to say, acute. Since the war in Lebanon in the mid-1980s, Israel has been acutely aware of Iran's ability to wage direct war on its territory, through the missile bar- rages of its Hezbollah proxy in Lebanon. The existence of a land corridor will transform Iran's capacity in this regard, perhaps to the pointwhere a land-basedwar launched against Israel from Syria and Lebanon could be as perilous as a nuclear attack. For some time now, it has been an estab- lished fact that Hezbollah has increased its number of missiles pointed at Israel by a factor of 10, with newer and deadlier models now in operation--despite the existence of U.N. Secu- rity Council Resolution 1701, passed in 2006, which demands that Hezbollah disarm entirely. A land corridor would make any attempt to enforce this resolution a much harder task. As always, Israel is prepared for the worst. But how it responds will depend, more than anything else, on how the Trump administra- tion copeswith the reality thatAmerica is once again locked in combat with its adversaries. Ben Cohen writes a weekly column for on Jewish affairs and Middle Eastern politics. His writings have been published in Commentary, the New York Post, Haaretz, The Wall Street Journal and many other publications. I Letter from Israel By Ira Sharkansky tolerate, or as positive signs that Arabs and Jews work alongside one another and depend Before we were disturbed by a dust-up on one another? among Jews about the Western Wall and Fridays during Ramadan, and especially conversion, we were befuddled by another the last Friday of the month, were occasions delegation of ranking Americans prodding for Jews to avoid the Old City. More than a Israelis and Palestinians to sit around a table hundred thousand Muslims came each Friday and make peace. What these worthies do not fromthroughoutEastJerusalem, andonbuses grasp is that there already is peace. It ain't from the West Bank, and Gaza to pray on what perfect, but it's close to the best that's pos- Jews callthe Temple Mount. In order to accom- sible. Alongside the well-known constraints modate those prostrating themselves, much in both Palestinian and Israeli politics in the of its extent becomes part of al-Aqsa Mosque. way of agreement on all the issues that would Is this another inconvenience for Jews that allow a celebration of formal peace, there are should be viewed as intolerable, or as the price ample signs that both populations get along ofsharinga citywith more than two millennia reasonably well. of being sensitive to many? In recent days, with Ramadan coming to a To be sure, there remains a lack of harmony close and reaching a peak celebration of Eid and a surplus of bitterness, memories of in- al Fitr, there were several indications of the suits and offense, as well as daily attacks by integration in what is described by the su- Arabs against Jews and a few attacks of Jews perficial as the divided city of Jerusalem. Our against Arabs We can compare the feelings, neighborhood supermarket and grocery store the violence, and fears with those of other weren't working up to snuff, because a sub- contentious locales, includingEuropean cities stantial number of workers were on halftime with growing Muslim populations as well as or less, due to fasting and family gatherings, multi-racial American cities. Jerusalembusesweren't runningonschedule, The first objection we'll hear is that it isn't on account of a large number of Arab drivers the same. Of course not. There are always not working full time. Should we view those differences in detail between settings with inconveniences as problems we should not unique histories. The comparison of Israeli- ]THE VIEWS EXPRESSED ON THIS PAGE ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE VIEWS OF HERITAGE MANAGEMENT. I ISSN 0199-0721 CENTRAL FLORIDA'S INDEPENDENT JEWISH VOICE * Winner of 45 Press Awards Editor/Publisher Jeffrey Gaeser Editor Emeritus Associate Editor News Editor Gene StareKim Fischer Christine DeSouza HERITAGE Florida Jewish News (ISN 0199-0721) is published weekly for $37.95 per year to Florida ad- dresses ($46.95 for the rest of the U.S.) by HERITAGE Central Florida Jewish News, Inc., 207 O'Brien Road, Suite 101, Fern Park, FL 32730. Periodicals postage paid at Fern Park and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes and other correspondence to: HERITAGE, P.O. Box 300742,Contributing Columnists Fern Park, FL 32730. Jim Shipley * Ira Sharkansky David Bornstein Ed Ziegler MAILING ADDRESS PHONE NUMBER P.O. Box 300742 (407) 834-8787 Production Department Fern Park, FL 32730 FAX (407) 831-0507 David Lehman * Gil Dombrosky email: Joyce Gore Society Editor Office Manager Gloria Yousha Paulette Alfonso Account Executives Kim Fischer * Marci Gaeser Arab relations today (both locally and region- wide) with those that prevailed in years past will show improvements along with assertions that the improvements are superficial, and expectations that there is another uptick in violence waiting to occur. With all the cyni- cism that it is appropriate to direct against a peace process comes a sentiment that it's a good idea. As Winston said, "Jaw Jaw is better than War War." And there are a lot of diplomats who have to be kept busy, and away from more serious problems they may make worse. Ideally, they'll focus on adjusting the pragmatic arrange- ments, well below anything approaching a formal peace accord, but useful in keeping tensions at a manageable level. It's appropriate to list some of the promi- nent minuses and pluses of where we are in these detailed accommodations. Perhaps most prominent are the fears and tensions faced by Israelis concerned about the possibilities of violence, and the tensions felt by Palestinians and Arabs at the checkpoints, the documents required for Palestinians to enter Israel for work, medical treatment, family visits, or religious observances, the wall that mean- ders through the West Bank, the presence of numerous police and security personnel at points of contact between Arabs and Jews, the occasional closures of Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem in response to violence, and the ethnic profiling that subjects Arabs to greater scrutiny than Jews. As in other countries, not all Israeli security personnel handle their tasks with the delicacy and courtesy that would be ideal. Arabs feel constrained, and occasionally murder those among themselves who are said to be infor- mants of Israeli security services, while Israelis endanger themselves by working with the Ar- abs of Israel, Palestinians, and in other Muslim societies formally closed to Israelis. Pressures brought on potential informants might not be pleasant, but are among the details of national security we do not have to discuss. Both Jews and Arabs suffer from memories of historical injustices associated with wars that caused losses in both communities. Jews complain about budget and tax distortions, compared to other western countries, justified by expenditures on security. Arabs complain about limitations on their localities' budgets and services within Israel, and occasional destruction of buildings said to be illegal in Arab towns and neighborhoods, which they say are brought about by the government's failure to provide organized planning and building permits for Arab areas. Israeli Arabs admit to higher levelsof vi(~: lence among themselves than among Jews, but blame Israel for not providing police protec- tion to their communities, while the Israeli police complain about a lack of cooperation from Arabs in identifying perpetrators. Jews complain about the lack of cooperation from Arabs with respect to the payment of taxes and compliance with a host of laws and regulations, ranging from those against polygamy to build- ing standards and highway safety. Jews question the wisdom of Arabs select- ing uncompromising nationalists as their representatives in Knesset, and the refusal of Jerusalem Arabs to vote, and thereby use their political potential to select a third of the municipal council and to choose a mayor in the chronic competition between secular and ultra-Orthodox Jews. High on the Jews' list of complaints is the incitement coming from Arab and Palestinian politicians, distortions of history in Palestinian school books, and routine assertions of innocence and reverence paid to those who attack Jews. The symbols of accommodation are less prominent than the tangible indications. Israeli and Palestinian flags seldom appear alongside one another. Gazans andWest Bank- ers have their complaints against Israel, but the living standards and political opportunities in both sectors do not fall below those available in other Muslim or Third World countries. Social indicators show that Israeli Arabs live as well, and according to some indicators better than minorities in the U.S. and Europe. Sure, the glass is only half-full, but half-full ain't all that bad. We can hope that Trump et al will focus on detailed adjustments that improve things for both Israelis and Palestinians. In all probability, we'll have to do without the full glasses of champagne to mark the culmination of a peace process along with a ceremony of public signing and celebration. Jews will continue quarreling among our- selves, as we've done from the get go. Yet un- like extremist Muslims or Christians obsessed with abortion or some other abomination, we haven't killed one another in significant numbers on account of religious or politi- cal disputes since those wars that Josephus wrote about. Yitzhak Rabin was a significant exception. That's something to remember, while we're quarreling about whatever is in the headlines. Commentswelcome.