So what *if* Israel defends the Panama Canal?

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Costa Rica's newspaper El País wrote last Friday that Panama's pseudo-AG Guiseppe Bonissi confirmed that a criminal complaint has been filed against the paper, for "damaging the prestige of the neutrality of the Canal". This obviously will lead to nothing but great embarrassment for Martinelli, Bonissi, Papadimitriu and whomever else has been beating the drum on how they would crush these nasty Costa Rican journslists, or anarchists, or Panamanian communists (their story changed every day).  After all, it is a bit hard to wrap one's head around the concept of "neutrality" having "prestige". Besides, Martinelli, in his trademark gross and vulgar way, has already managed to lower the temperature of Panama's relations with Costa Rica's attorney general by making wild, bizarre and false accusations about the man's visits to Panama.

Meanwhile, Carlos Salazar of El País repeated his statement that the Israeli secret service is managing the security of the Canal. The initial response by Martinelli et al was that this was false, and endangered the Canal's security as the statement would attract or even invite acts of jihadi terrorism. However, it now seems that this is not the legal complaint Martinelli has made (it's now held that the prestige of the neutrality is somehow defamed, after all), which could of course be because the theory is so far-flung that no serious person believed it. Al Qaeda attacking, based on a rumor from Costa Rica? Seriously?

The other reason this theory is no longer at the heart of the complaint could of course be that it is actually true, i.e. that Israel is indeed carrying some sort of responsibility for the security of the Panama Canal.

Which begs the question: Would that be a bad thing?

If recent history has proven us anything, it would be that Israel knows how to stop a cruise ship with jihadi Hamas sympathizers going places it shouldn't be going. In terms of securing the Canal - which most military experts agree is indefensible - against attacks, this would be an asset. Israel has this capability without ever having participated in the wacky PANAMAX naval exercises, a yearly multinational event led by SOUTHCOM that is really just a glorified weapons trade show. Out of necessity, Israel knows how to secure things, be it the planes of its airline (try organizing and executing a 9/11 style attack in Tel Aviv...), its coastline, a building - or, maybe, a canal. So why would it be such an issue to actually say that? Why do Martinelli and his gang blow all their fuses when someone says something about Israel and the Canal, after the Panamanians themselves showed off their Israeli instructors teaching the police how to hold a gun?

Could it be, maybe, that there is something rotten with the security of the Canal?

6 thoughts on “So what *if* Israel defends the Panama Canal?

  1. It would be a bad thing. We would cease to be neutral because the Israelis at this point in history are not respetcted by most civilized and uncivilized countries.

    They could defend us? They would bring a war to Panamá which we don’t need.

    No one has ever wanted to attack the Panama Canal, but with them “helping” there would be a good reason to do so.

  2. How would they bring war?

    I mean, most terrorist attacks over the last decade have been against the United States. And they are formally responsible for the military defense of the Canal. So following this line of reasoning, the US managing the security of the Canal would be a bigger threat.

    But I don’t believe at all in terror against the Canal. First because it’s very difficult to close the Canal down. Second because terrorists in general don’t attack where they do their banking.

    There are just no facts to support the hypothesis that Israel being involved would attract terror attacks. Which is why Martinelli apparently dropped that part of the complaint. But the whole thing does raise the question what exactly is going on with the Canal if this is such a raw nerve.

  3. Terrorists attack symbols of American prestige. Unless they really are behind the times they probably are well aware that the canal is Panamanian.

    If they were to want to attack symbols of Panamanian prestige they would commandeer an aeroplane and crash it into the culeco on Via Espana during Carnival. Now that would really hurt Panamanian pride. Much more than bombing the canal.

  4. I think that the Israeli trainers would probably be excellent in the non- political aspects of security training. They have a ruthless and efficient security apparatus at home.

    What is worrying is the history of the Panamanians and the Israelis. They were heavily involved in maintaining the Noriega dictatorship and seem to lend their support to any unsavory regime that requires systems to apply oppression to their populations. (Not unlike you know who…).

    The recent revelations that they tried to sell the atom bomb to South Africa in the apartheid era further indicates a propensity to support odious authoritarian regimes(or perhaps it was just about the money).

    I think if I wanted to train security forces that were tough, ruthless, efficient and
    not overly concerned with such minor impediments such as the law or human rights, then the Israelis would fit the bill. Would they be necessary to protect the canal? It doesn’t seem to be high on the terrorist hit list.

    My worry is that Martinelli’s respect for the Israelis ( it is undisputed that they are training Panamanian police) stems from his own philosophy of strong arming dissent and social unrest. The Israelis outlook stems from their fear of outside threats that justify often cruel and harsh actions. One may ask , who is the bogeyman that Martinelli fears? Could it just be anyone who opposes him?

    • @Faustino:

      One may ask , who is the bogeyman that Martinelli fears? Could it just be anyone who opposes him?

      That question becomes even more interesting taking into account the drug trafficking and money laundering angle, with RM’s cousin in jail in Mexico and the DEA, I heard, investigating Martinelli himself. And there’s still that weird story about a supposed plot to kidnap Martinelli. Even if just half of all the allegations are true, Martinelli would have plenty to fear.

  5. When politicians make such wild speculations public, it is generally to take the focus away from something else. I would bet any money there’s a lot more to the Israelis-in-Panama story. Ridiculous assertions about terrorists attacking Panama make the reigning junta sound either extremely naive (which they are not) or incredibly amateurish (which they have proved to be). However, it is a worrying trend that the Israeli government has created an entire industry in overseas security out of Mossad. If they don’t care about human rights in their own region, what do they care about their employers? The worst part is that the United States government is shit-scared of the Israelis so they’ll never act as a stop-gap if and when things turn ugly.

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