Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.
Yemenis stand at the site of a Saudi airstrike against Houthi rebels near Sanaa Airport on March 26, 2015, which killed at least 13 people. (photo credit: AFP/Mohammed Huwais)
A few months ago, when Yemen’s Houthi uprising was still in its infancy, Israel was already worriedly watching over the progress of rebel forces making advances in the peninsula.
It’s little surprise the group got Jerusalem’s attention. In almost every demonstration held by Houthis in recent months, the slogans heard may as well have been taken straight out of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran: “Death to America, death to Israel, curse the Jews, victory to Islam.”
The Houthi Zaidiyyahs belong to a Shia school of Islamic thought which is distinct from the beliefs held by Shiites in Iran, but they act in accordance with the regime in Tehran, which supplies the Yemenite rebels with advanced equipment that allows them to wage battle on the forces of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
As the rebels have managed to sack much of the port town of Aden, pushing Hadi out of his home Wednesday and sparking Saudi-led airstrikes, the concerns on the Israeli side are clear.
Firstly, an Iranian takeover of the strategic Bab el Mandeb Strait and the possibility of a Israeli ships coming under fire with no one officially taking responsibility for such attacks would not bode well for the Jewish state.
But aside from the threat of assaults on ships, the Iranian-Houthi takeover of Yemen raises another serious concern for Israel, namely, the potential rising influence of Iran in the region, which will allow the Islamic Republic to improve its position during negotiations on the country’s nuclear program.
As Iran’s involvement in countries such as Iraq, Syria and Yemen grows, so it increases its ability to bargain with the Americans and the Europeans on the number of centrifuges it may possess and the nature of inspections by UN officials at its nuclear facilities.
Decision makers in Israel have come to an understanding that the Americans have no intention of imposing demands on Iran with regards to halting military operations and even terrorist attacks in other countries as part of the agreement over Tehran’s nuclear program.
But Israel’s concerns regarding the Houthi takeover of Yemen are nothing compared to the profound discontent of Riyadh and other Arab countries, in light of Iran’s rampage throughout the Middle East and the blatant inaction on the part of the US.
In this photo taken Tuesday, March 24, 2015, tanks seized recently by militiamen loyal to Yemen’s President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi take positions at the al-Anad air base in the southern province of Lahej, 60 kilometers (35 miles) north of Aden, Yemen. (photo credit: AP Photo/Wael Qubady)
The outcome of the Saudi military operation may not be decisive, but reflects much Saudi, Jordanian and Egyptian frustration. The anger of these regimes is not directed at Iran, which is more or less engaged in the kind of hostile activity expected of it, but mainly at Washington.
It is slightly hard to believe, but at a time when the White House is intensively negotiating with Iran in an attempt to reach an agreement on the nation’s nuclear program withing the next five days, the Shiites in Tehran have helped topple a majority Sunni regime and made significant territorial advances. Yemen is a state with a long and unmanned border with Saudi Arabia, Iran’s number one regional rival. Yet Washington remains silent.
Yes, Saudi Arabia and the US claimed the overnight operation in Yemen was carried out with intelligence assistance by the Americans, but Arab leaders and decision makers in Israel are still struggling with the White House’s insistence on demonstrating exceptional weakness in its ongoing talks with Tehran.
The expectation by Sunni Arabs and Israel is that the world’s major powers will at least try to pressure Tehran to halt its military operations in a variety of destinations in the Middle East, as part of any future agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.
Such pressure against Tehran over its involvement in Yemen or Iraq, such as leaving economic sanctions in place, could inspire the ayatollahs to reconsider their advances in the region.
But for now, under the White House’s zero action policy, Iran can continue doing whatever it wants without having to miss a beat.