AS WE GO TO PRESS: BUS BOMBING IN JERUSALEM INJURES 21 (Jerusalem) — Twenty-one people were injured on Monday afternoon when a bus was bombed in Jerusalem, with the explosion starting a fire that spread quickly to a second bus. Yoram Halevy, the Jerusalem district police chief, said that a bomb had caused the blast. Halevy said the police were still investigating the circumstances surrounding the explosion. Two of the victims were in serious condition, and six were in moderate condition. Many Israelis reacted with alarm on social media, saying that they were reminded of the second Palestinian uprising, which erupted in 2000 when suicide bombers blew up buses in Jerusalem and cities around Israel, killing scores of people. (New York Times, Apr. 18, 2016)
Tunnel Exposure Means Next Hamas War is a Case of ‘When,’ Not ‘If’: David Horovitz, Times of Israel, Apr. 18, 2016— So now, finally, parts of the story can be told.
Israel’s Five Policy Options Regarding Judea and Samaria: Prof. Hillel Frisch, BESA, Mar. 29, 2016— Trying to craft a coherent Israeli policy toward a post-Abbas Palestinian Authority (PA) is like trying to build a house on quicksand.
The IDF Sees Rising National-Religious Influence: Jerusalem Post, Apr. 15, 2016— On a searing night in July 2014, Israeli troops gathered on the border with Gaza to prepare for war.
3D Printers Make 30-Year-Old Air Force Planes ‘Better Than New’: David Shamah, Times of Israel, Apr. 12, 2016— Budget-challenged and ever in need of new equipment, the IDF – and especially the Israeli Air Force – has learned to adapt, recycle, and renew equipment.
On Topic Links
Your Complete Guide to Hamas’ Network of Terror Tunnels: Dan Feferman, The Tower, Apr., 2015
Race for Latest Class of Nuclear Arms Threatens to Revive Cold War: William J. Broad & David E. Sanger, New York Times, Apr. 16, 2016
IDF Challenges: BESA, Apr. 2, 2016
Facing War: Arthur Herman, National Review, Apr. 11, 2016
Times of Israel, Apr. 18, 2016
So now, finally, parts of the story can be told. The context to the IDF’s drill late last week, which simulated an attack on a kibbutz near the Gaza border by Hamas forces, becomes clearer. The oblique references by senior Israeli officials to Hamas’s ongoing tunnel digging, made in television interviews and at public forums, resonate more seriously. The assertions that Israel will fight the next war with Hamas on its terms, issued by IDF officers who cannot be named in briefings to local military correspondents, take on a more immediate significance.
Why? Because Hamas, the IDF finally confirmed for publication on Monday, has been tunneling under the border again. The nightmare of 2014, when troops discovered and destroyed some three dozen cross-border attack tunnels in the midst of a bitter war, is far from over. As with those 100,000-plus rockets and missiles deployed by Hezbollah in southern Lebanon with only one address, the question of the next round of conflict with Hamas in Gaza — it must unavoidably be concluded — is not one of “if,” but rather, simply, of “when.” And while it would be comforting to believe that “senior IDF officer” who last week assured Israel’s military reporters that Hamas is not prepared for a new round of conflict, that Hamas will not again drag Israel into a war, and that any future conflict will be one undertaken at the initiative of the Jewish state, there are compelling reasons, unfortunately, to doubt his confidence.
For one thing, Israel has three times found itself dragged into conflict with Hamas in the less than a decade since the Islamist terror group seized control of the Strip. And in none of those wars and mini-wars has Israel been able to achieve a decisive victory or even a prolonged period of subsequent calm. To state this is not by definition a savage criticism, by the way, or a recommendation for the use of greater force. A more destructive confrontation would have cost more lives on both sides and exposed Israel to greater international criticism and damage — no matter how unjustified — without necessarily yielding any more auspicious result. But it is true, nonetheless: Despite the best efforts of Israel’s best military minds, Hamas still rules Gaza; Hamas is still sustained by international support or indifference; Hamas is constantly improving its rocket capabilities; and Hamas, the Israeli public has now finally and formally been told, is again digging sophisticated attack tunnels under the border.
For another thing, prepared or not, Hamas may now believe it has an urgent incentive to attack Israel again in the near future. It was widely and quite credibly argued, during and in the aftermath of 2014’s Operation Protective Edge, that Israel had narrowly avoided a devastating Hamas onslaught through the network of tunnels the terror group had set up at the time. It was suggested that Hamas had been planning to send hundreds of gunmen through those tunnels, to attack military and civilian targets, to massacre Israelis, to seize hostages — to radically remake the balance of power. It remains unclear to this day why Hamas chose not to attempt such an attack; some have argued that there was a dispute within the organization between its so-called political and military leaderships. Whatever the case, on July 22, 2014, while the war was in full swing, Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog spoke of the “unimaginable” mega-terror attack Hamas was believed to have been planning — sending hundreds of terrorists swarming through those tunnels to massacre Israelis in the Gaza-adjacent kibbutzim and moshavim. Days earlier, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said intended Hamas attacks on kibbutz kindergartens, homes and dining halls would have been “catastrophic.”
With the cessation of hostilities, even as Israel was grappling and continues to grapple with the international community’s failure to understand what we face from the Gaza terror state — step forward Bernie Sanders, BDS et al — Hamas went back to concerted tunneling and rocket manufacture. It has been gaining strength at a “surprising” pace, that same unnameable senior IDF officer acknowledged in last week’s briefing. And it has been utilizing some 1,000 tunnelers, working round-the-clock six days a week.
Inevitably, perhaps, it has suffered setbacks, notably including a series of tunnel collapses, and the exposure of the tunnel revealed by the IDF on Monday. Or, then again, perhaps to say “inevitably” is to miss the mark. Perhaps, Hamas may be asking itself, Israel has been making gains of its own in this relentless battle of wills. Perhaps it has found technologies to combat even Hamas’s well-constructed, deep and reinforced subterranean attack routes. (Israeli security sources were indeed quoted Monday talking about new “technologies” being utilized to find the tunnels.)
And if that is the case, one can only ask, can Israel really be confident that it will determine the timing and nature of the next round of conflict with the brutal Islamists? Hamas, which insists on continuing its efforts to destroy Israel, and which demonstrates such supreme indifference to the well-being of the people of Gaza (and doubtless much cynical amusement at the naivete of the international community), may feel that, fully ready or not, now is the time to attack. That now, heaven forbid, is the time to do what it did not do prior to the 2014 war. Because otherwise, it may be gauging, Israel could be on the point of exposing and destroying more, perhaps all, of that painstakingly constructed network of attack tunnels.
Prof. Hillel Frisch
BESA, Mar. 29, 2016
Trying to craft a coherent Israeli policy toward a post-Abbas Palestinian Authority (PA) is like trying to build a house on quicksand. The situation is constantly buffeted by tremors and underground currents. These include a wave of terrorist violence against Israelis, albeit declining; a growing rift within Fatah between Abbas and his detractors that is very much linked to the battle over his succession; and the possibility that linkage between those two developments could degenerate into civil war (another arena in the proxy war waged between Iran and Saudi Arabia and their respective allies).
Israel cannot afford to be a passive observer of events as they unfold in the PA. The Palestinian village of Budros commands a strategic position a mere 11 kilometers from the major runway at Israel’s only international airport. The edge of the Palestinian town of Tulkarem is several hundred yards from the Rabin highway, Israel’s major north-south artery. When Abbas departs the scene, Israeli decision-makers will have to consider five radically different policy approaches towards the PA.
First, Israel can engage in conflict resolution in a manner that maintains the possibility of creating a Palestinian state. Second, Israel can promote friction with the Palestinians by seizing opportunities for increased settlement and other forms of Israeli state-building. Third, Israel can desist from taking action to stabilize the PA should chaos break out over succession. The fourth and fifth options, proposed by opposite sides of the political spectrum, sanction unilateral moves. The Zionist Union seeks unilateral withdrawal, while Bayit Yehudi calls for selective annexation and settlement. (A sixth option, to engage in immediate negotiations with the Palestinians toward rapid establishment of a Palestinian state, is considered feasible and advisable by only two marginal political actors—the Meretz and Unified Arab List political parties—and thus will not be considered in this article.)
The conflict management option holds that peace is not possible in the foreseeable future, but that Israel stands to gain from refraining from moves such as settlement-building that compromise the chances of an eventual two-state solution (2SS). The advantage of this option is that it conforms to the mores and expectations of the international community, including Israel’s staunchest ally, the United States, and friendly states in Europe such as Germany, Great Britain and Italy. These parties consider a two-state construct as the only solution on the table, though they acknowledge that it is not achievable in the immediate future. They view Israeli rule beyond the Green Line as occupation, and worry that the failure to resolve the problem on the basis of two states will lead to a dysfunctional binational state marred by considerable internal violence.
To maintain the viability of a 2SS for the future, it would be necessary to curtail settlement beyond the Gush Etzion bloc and all settlement that is not contiguous to the Green Line—in short, to maintain the status quo. The drawbacks of this approach are clear: the Palestinians have no incentive to come to the negotiating table, and settlers and Israeli citizens over the Green Line are turned into victims of political passivity. Yet proponents of this option argue that these drawbacks are minor relative to the international isolation Israel would suffer if it abandoned the 2SS. The price for such a deviation from commitment to the 2SS would include alienation of a majority of the Jewish Diaspora, especially in the US.
The conflict management approach believes in maintaining full military control over Judea and Samaria while at the same time promoting economic ties with the Palestinians across the Green Line. Those ties serve two purposes. To some degree, they pacify the Arab population of Judea and Samaria; and they guarantee access to Israel’s second-largest market. Increasing the number of Palestinian workers in Israel also increases the wherewithal to buy Israeli goods. This strategy has worked so far, in terms of both lowering terrorism and increasing Palestinian buying power. Should the government maintain this policy, it would likely meet with little opposition, either domestically or among Israel’s international allies.
Detractors of the conflict management option argue that Israel has lost the initiative in its conflict with the Palestinians. They contend that Israel should not absorb the costs of Palestinian initiatives to change the status quo, such as terrorist attacks or intensive illegal building in Area C (which is under exclusive Israeli control). Rather, Israel should match Palestinian initiatives with even bolder initiatives, as it did so successfully during the Mandate and in the early years of statehood. Israel should promote Israeli state-building in Judea and Samaria, at least until the Palestinians sue for peace. In the recent wave of Palestinian attacks, for example, the encouragement by the PA and Hamas of violence in the Hebron and Jerusalem areas should be matched by Israeli offensive moves, including settlement. Settlements, so it is argued, promote security.
At the very least, Israel should curtail or demolish large-scale Palestinian construction designed to change strategic realities on the ground. This construction is most in evidence in area E-1, extending from French Hill through Issawiyeh, al-Zaim, and the eastern section of A-Tur along the Jerusalem-Jericho highway. In this area, the Palestinians are making a concerted effort to create a continuous Palestinian urban expanse from the south of Jerusalem to the north, despite the security wall. The drawbacks to this policy option are clear. There would be domestic opposition from the Left, but the government could overcome it. The greater danger is the considerable hostility that would be generated toward Israel among both the US and the European Community if Israel built settlements in reaction to terrorism and engaged in massive dismantling of illegal building, some of which was fostered by the EU.
Several contenders within the PA have already begun to compete over who is to inherit the leadership after the departure or demise of Muhammad Abbas, who is 83 years old. This competition has prompted a debate over whether Israel should support a suitable candidate for the sake of stability, or sit on the sidelines even though the conflict might degenerate into chaos. Proponents of the latter view believe that chaos and the possible dissolution of the PA, and the subsequent focus by international actors on pacifying the area, could alleviate pressure on Israel to enter unrealistic peace processes.
A Palestinian side weakened by prolonged instability might well be amenable to a peace settlement more favorable to Israeli interests and concerns. It is more probable, however, that the Palestinians would remain fragmented, with the PA becoming two or more authorities in Judea and Samaria. In either case, it is less likely that the international community would think it can resolve the Palestinian problem at Israel’s expense. Should the PA fragment, Israel’s allies might be more inclined to think of the Palestinian problem the way Israelis do—as a conflict management problem rather than a problem that is soluble through the creation of a state whose construction stands in stark contrast to realities on the ground…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Jerusalem Post, Apr. 15, 2016
On a searing night in July 2014, Israeli troops gathered on the border with Gaza to prepare for war. Hamas militants had been firing rockets into Israel for days, and Israeli warplanes had begun bombing the Palestinian territory. The orders for the Givati brigade, an elite infantry unit, came in a typed, single-page letter. “History has chosen us to spearhead the fight against the terrorist Gazan enemy who curses, vilifies and abominates Israel’s God,” Colonel Ofer Winter, the unit’s commanding officer, wrote in the letter to his troops. He ended with a biblical quote promising divine protection for Israel’s warriors on the battlefield.
The letter quickly circulated on social media and from there to the press. Secular Israelis condemned it, saying it broke a decades-old convention that kept religion out of military missions. Two years on, the letter remains a symbol of a profound shift within Israeli society: the rising power and reach of religious nationalists. The change has set up a battle for the type of country Israel should be, a battle between the country’s liberals and its more religious nationalist camp.
In its early years, Israel’s two main centers of power – the military and the government – were dominated by the secular and mostly left-wing elite who had founded the state in 1948. But over the past decade or so a new generation of leaders that combines religion and nationalism has emerged. Religious-Zionism differs from secular Zionism in its historical perspective and messianic undertones. For Religious-Zionists, caring for places like Jewish settlements in the West Bank – the biblical bedrock of Judaism, but also claimed by Palestinians as their home – is a way of fulfilling a religious obligation and building the Jewish state.
The community, sometimes referred to as the ‘national religious’, has increased its presence in both government and the civil service. This year, for the first time ever, the heads of the national police, the Mossad spy agency and the Shin Bet domestic security service are all Religious-Zionists. Nowhere, though, has the shift been more pronounced than in the military. Most soldiers in the Israeli army are secular or observant Jews, though Druse and Bedouin Arab citizens serve as well. But over the past two decades, academic studies show, the number of Religious-Zionist officers in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) has seen a huge increase. The military has also felt the growing influence of rabbis who have introduced matters of faith and politics to the battlefield.
Some politicians and military leaders have begun to push back. In January, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot announced he would remove a 15-year-old unit dedicated to “Jewish Awareness” from the military rabbinate – the department in charge of providing religious services within the ranks. The Jewish Awareness Branch has periodically drawn criticism from both inside and outside the military for pushing an ideological, right-wing and religious agenda. Some secular Israelis worry that too much religion in the military may lead to soldiers questioning who they should obey: their officer or God.
In a letter sent to IDF officers and published by the army, Eisenkot staked out the Israeli Defense Force’s position: A military divided over politics and religion can hardly fulfill its mission. “The IDF is the people’s army and includes a wide spectrum of Israeli society,” he wrote. “A change is needed with the aim of keeping the IDF a stately army in a democratic country, nurturing that which unites its soldiers.” Religious-Zionist politicians and rabbis vowed to block the change and have appealed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose governing coalition depends partly on support from such voters. Netanyahu himself is secular, though many of his inner circle of advisers and government appointments are Religious-Zionists…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Times of Israel, Apr. 12, 2016
Budget-challenged and ever in need of new equipment, the IDF – and especially the Israeli Air Force – has learned to adapt, recycle, and renew equipment. “In many ways, we have become the world center of technology to refurbish equipment,” according to a senior officer associated with the IAF’s Aerial Maintenance Unit (AMU). “The original manufacturers of the equipment come here to see our upgrades and learn from us,” the officer said. “They are especially impressed to see what we are doing with 3D printers, and how we use them to produce parts that would be impossible to produce using regular manufacturing techniques.”
What the manufacturers, among them Boeing and Lockheed, come to see is the technology that the air force is using to keep planes that have been in the air for more than two decades operating as good as new – actually better, in most cases, he said. “A new plane can cost tens of millions of dollars, and the delivery time can take years. We don’t have the money or the time to spend on such projects. Here in this unit we can turn an old plane into something that is quite capable of competing on the battlefield with new planes, and in fact we can ensure that these planes will remain competitive and mission-worthy for another decade.”
Located on the Tel Nof Air Base in central Israel, the AMU is the place where planes and helicopters go when they are damaged, outmoded, or otherwise unusable in their present state. The unit specializes in repairing the equipment, as well as upgrading it; in fact, all IAF planes undergo a regular upgrade every decade or so, said the officer. “We check the soundness of the physical body to ensure that a plane can continue flying, and we also install advanced equipment, including engines, communication equipment, upgrades of radar, etc.,” said the officer. “Some of the planes we have worked with, like older models of the F-15 fighter jet, have in fact gone through two upgrades, and more than thirty years later they are still flying.”
And they are flying in combat missions. F-15s were part of the IAF’s fleet during 2014’s Operation Protective Edge, and all performed superbly, said the officer. “Our objective is to keep a plane operating – and ahead of the technology curve – for as long as 50 years.” An F-15 that goes through the AMU may look like it did when it was acquired in 1980, but when it leaves R’s shop it is a different plane altogether. “We have dozens of engineers here whose job it is to make sure that the planes we work with have top of the line equipment, whether in navigation, communication, or other systems,” said the officer. “We convert the entire command system of the plane to digital technology, install new information screens, change the wiring – you name it. The 300 plus people we have on staff – which include everyone from new recruits in their mandatory service to civilian engineers – put in a million and half man-hours of work a year, and we produce planes that are 80% cheaper than the equivalent planes from manufacturers.”
3D printing technology, which the IAF discovered several years ago, has made the AMU’s job much easier, said the officer. “With all the technological upgrades we give planes, the first thing we have to do is ensure that they are air-worthy and structurally sound, and that usually means replacing parts on the body of the plane. But obviously parts for a 30-year old plane are going to be very hard to come by.” Before 3D printing, the unit relied on engineers to produce specifications for a replacement unit, which were then brought to a designer and to a manufacturer, who modified their equipment to produce a replacement part. “Can you imagine what that was like? We are talking about a process that could go on for months to replace a single part. Basically you had to dedicate a whole factory to the production of that part,” said the officer…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Your Complete Guide to Hamas’ Network of Terror Tunnels: Dan Feferman, The Tower, Apr., 2015—Is another Gaza war inevitable? Judging by the latest reports in the Israeli media, it might seem that way.
Race for Latest Class of Nuclear Arms Threatens to Revive Cold War: William J. Broad & David E. Sanger, New York Times, Apr. 16, 2016—The United States, Russia and China are now aggressively pursuing a new generation of smaller, less destructive nuclear weapons. The buildups threaten to revive a Cold War-era arms race and unsettle the balance of destructive force among nations that has kept the nuclear peace for more than a half-century.
IDF Challenges: BESA, Apr. 2, 2016—How can and should the IDF adapt to meet new threats, and respond to changes in Israeli society? This was the focus of a day-long BESA Center conference in March 2016.
Facing War: Arthur Herman, National Review, Apr. 11, 2016—Since Thucydides, historians have looked for a moral pattern in the dynamics of war in their own time, with decidedly uneven results (see, for example, Barbara Tuchman’s March of Folly).