Israel’s focus on the threat of the Islamic State (formerly ISIS) has increased significantly in recent days in the wake of the revelation that the latest American journalist beheaded by the jihadists was Jewish and an Israeli citizen.
“ISIS’ growing power and its proximity to Israel could pose a strategic threat to Israel,” opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) told reporters a day after the Islamic State released a video showing the beheading of American-Israeli journalist Steven Sotloff.
Herzog and many other Israeli officials are concerned not only by the fact that the Islamic State is inching closer to its borders both in Syria and by threatening Jordan, but also by burgeoning homegrown support for the Islamists in neighboring states and among the Palestinians.
Islamic State flags have been spotted in Judea, Samaria, Gaza and even Jerusalem. On Wednesday, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon signed an order officially outlawing the Islamic State, a move that would make it a crime to raise money or otherwise express support for the jihadist movement.
The grizzly murder of Sotloff just weeks after the Islamic State beheaded captured American reporter James Foley also finally spurred the Obama Administration to action.
“We will not be intimidated,” US President Barack Obama stated after experts confirmed the Sotloff beheading video as authentic. “Those who make the mistake of harming Americans will learn that we will not forget and that our reach is long and that justice will be served.”
Obama was reportedly working with British Prime Minister David Cameron to establish an international coalition with the intent to “degrade and destroy” the Islamic State.
US Vice President Joe Biden warned the hordes of Islamic State fighters that “the American people are so much stronger, so much more resolved than any enemy can fully understand. We don’t forget. …They should know we will follow them to the gates of hell until they are brought to justice, because hell is where they will reside.”
While Israelis are happy to see Western powers finally taking the threat of the Islamic State seriously, there is frustration that Palestinian groups like Hamas receive alternative treatment.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been trying to drive home the point that Hamas and the Islamic State are kindred movements. In fact, Hamas has also been behind the recent executions of American-Israeli citizens, like 16-year-old Naftali Frenkel.
But, because Hamas is tolerated by the US-backed Palestinian Authority, and because the Palestinian public voted the terror group into power, Washington has seen fit to place it on somewhat different footing than fellow jihadists in Iraq and Syria.