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[*] posted on 10-8-2018 at 09:18 AM

Israel makes progress on Gaza maritime barrier

Yaakov Lappin, Tel Aviv - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly

09 August 2018

One of the first images of the new sea barrier that the Israeli MoD released on 5 August. Source: Israeli Ministry of Defence

The Israeli Ministry of Defense (MoD) released the first images of the coastal defense barrier that it is constructing in the sea on the country’s maritime border with the Gaza Strip on 5 August.

“We are working full steam to complete the work on the naval barrier, which is expected to be done by the end of the year,” an MoD statement quoted Brigadier General Eran Ofir, head of the Borders Administration, as saying.

The MoD announced on 27 May that it has begun work on an “impenetrable” costal defence barrier with the Gaza Strip near Zikim beach. It will consist of a breakwater-type structure that is 50 m wide and projects 200 m into the sea. This will have a 6 m-high fence on top and sensors to alert operators of any suspicious activity.

“This is the only barrier of its kind in the world, which will in effect block the possibility of infiltration of Israel from Gaza via the sea,” Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman stated at the end of May. “Hamas will lose another strategic ability, in which it invested large sums.”

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[*] posted on 11-8-2018 at 05:25 PM

The Counter-Drone Task Force

(Source: Israeli Air Force; issued Aug 05, 2018)

The use of drones has become widespread over the past years. Besides their advantages, there also exists the risk for malevolent use. The IAF has recently established a national task force meant to counteract the drone threat

Several months ago, the IAF established a national task force meant to counteract the rising threat of drones. The task force was established as part of the "Magen" (Shield) Directorate, and its goal is to develop assistive technological capabilities for all relevant factors.

"We established a national counter-drone task force in order to develop a proper response", said Col. A', Head of the "Magen" Directorate, at a panel discussing Israel's national preparation against the drone threat. "The task force is led by the IAF and includes the Technical and Operations Departments as well as the Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure. The crew is in communication with all relevant factors, including the Israel Police and the Israel Security Agency. The work was previously handled by IAF service members alongside their routine work, but now a designated task force exists".

Dangerous Potential

"The IAF has dealt with the drone threat since the beginning of 2016, when it was realized that this was a threat which needed to be taken care of", said Lt. Col. D', Head of the Counter-Drone Task Force. "Since then, the 'Magen' Directorate has added counter-drone activity to their objectives. Events occurring in Israel and around the world led to the realization that drones may pose a threat. In the past, drones were only operated by hobbyists. However, technological developments which occurred over the last few years made drones and their operation much more common".

Lt. Col. D' added: "Drones no longer need to be built – they are now purchasable. Certain advancements in the fields of sensors and photography led to the fact that drones can not only be easily operated, but also be used to easily perform missions. This makes them a threat – now, anyone can have a potentially harmful device in their hands".

"Not the enemy"

"Drones in general are not our enemy", emphasized Lt. Col. D'. "Drones are amazing and their use should be allowed. We see them develop throughout the world, from recreational use to commercial use in the fields of security and agriculture. Some companies predict that drones will act as their shipping carriers in the future. And yet, security forces from around the world are worried about the drones' malevolent potential".

"There are suddenly many aircraft flying in the sky. This bears an influence on civilian aviation", said Lt. Col. D'. "Certain situations are potentially harmful, such as an aircraft preparing for landing before having a drone pass it by. This is not a terrorist event, but an event where an innocent civilian operated a drone in an unsafe manner which could have damaged the aircraft. Events of this sort have worried security forces across the globe, who then begun activity in the field of drones as a result".

National Challenge

Drones are a national challenge, and the IDF's operation in this field includes prevention of their incursion into Israel's territory, protection of strategic locations and defending the IDF's field of operation. Several drones have been intercepted as part of the IDF's routine security activity over the past year.

"The task force is national and its missions aren't related solely to the IAF and the IDF", elaborated Lt. Col. D'. "The task force's counter-drone activity is also related to the Ministry of Defense, and should include protection of airports and detention centers, while also assisting the Israel Police in security. If someone from outside the IDF wants to take care of a drone which enters his airspace, he needs to be in communication with the IDF.

When establishing the operation plan against the drone threat, we factor in the needs of every relevant factor in Israel and try to provide a focused response".

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[*] posted on 21-8-2018 at 09:13 AM

Israel ceasefire with Hamas reduces likelihood of war, but a lasting peace settlement for Gaza is unlikely

Jack Kennedy - IHS Jane's Intelligence Weekly

20 August 2018

Key Points

- The latest ceasefire is likely to hold for at least several weeks unless a more extensive agreement can be agreed between Hamas and Israel. Acceptance by the Palestinian Authority (PA) is unlikely as President Mahmoud Abbas rejects any ceasefire that serves to treat Hamas as an independent authority in Gaza.
- Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government, despite some bellicose rhetoric by right-wingers and the IDF leadership, has sought to avoid responding to Hamas’s cross-border fire by a prolonged ground operation in Gaza. The Israeli casualties that would result from such an operation, and its likely inconclusive result, make military action a high-risk and politically damaging option for Netanyahu while he prepares for an election campaign that is likely to take place in early/mid 2019.
- The Israeli government’s security priority remains the protection of the northern front with Syria and the prevention, with Russian support, of an established Iranian military presence capable of threatening the Israeli communities around the occupied Golan.


On 15 August, the Israeli Ministry of Defence reopened the Kerem Shalom border crossing to fuel and commercial vehicles, as part of an initial agreement for a more permanent ceasefire.

The agreement also included a restoration of the fishing zone off Gaza’s coast from six kilometres to 17. The Israeli concessions are dependent on Hamas ceasing its cross-border fire, including the launch of incendiary kites and balloons from Gaza into southern Israel, and are likely to serve as the initial conditions of a proposed year-long ceasefire between Israel and Hamas to be settled at the end of the celebration of Eid al-Adha on 25 August.

Demonstrators in Gaza are confronted at the border with Israeli tear gas during Friday protest marches along the border on 17 August 2018. (Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images)

The ceasefire arrangement appears to follow the economic development track favoured by the UN’s envoy Nickolay Mladenov, rather than the political reconciliation model favoured by the Egyptians. Both proposals were initially based on a permanent halt to the launching of incendiaries and rockets from Gaza into Israel in return for an opening of the Kerem Shalom border crossing to Israel and the Rafah crossing with Egypt to allow the entry of humanitarian and reconstruction materials into Gaza.

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[*] posted on 11-9-2018 at 11:59 AM

Israel Keeps Eyes On F-35Bs; Lockheed-Boeing Battle It Out For Fighters, Choppers

By Arie Egozi

on September 10, 2018 at 3:26 PM

An Israeli F-15I takes off during the US-Israel Juniper Falcon exercises.

TEL AVIV: Until last week there was a shadow war, fought behind closed doors, mainly in the highly guarded complex of the Israeli Defense Ministry and the Israeli Air Force headquarters in Tel Aviv. And in some newspapers.

But now the war has gone public and the big guns could be heard all over Israel’s national security establishment when one of the opponents sent a high level delegation to Israel.

The war is between Lockheed Martin and Boeing. The battles are between F-35’s or advanced F-15’s, and between the CH-53K and the CH-47 Chinook.

The proposed deal to purchase additional F-15 for the Israeli airforce ( IAF) includes the upgrade of the existing F-15I. The deal may have a total price of almost $4 billion for 25 F-15Is. This version has an airframe with an extended life span and large area display cockpit.

A high-ranking Lockheed Martin delegation met in recent days with the top figures in the Israeli Defense Ministry and Air Force headquarters.

First two Israeli F-35s arrive at Nevatim Air Base

The Lockheed Martin delegation was headed by Orlando Carvalho, the outgoing head of Lockheed’s crucial aeronautics division. He was accompanied by Michele Evans, who will succeed him.

Caravalho said F-35A’s that will be ordered starting in 2020 will carry a price tag of $80 million. And he confirmed that the IAF still has “an interest” in the F-35B , the STOVL version.

About the heavy helicopters the IAF wants to acquire to replace its aging CH-53’s, he said that the CH-53K’s may be more expensive, “But the Israeli airforce always wants leading edge technology and our product, the CH-53K, is simply that. We supplied all the needed information to all the relevant parties and we expect a decision in three to six months.”

So far, Lockheed has delivered 12 F-35 Adirs and three more will be delivered this year. “The IAF is conducting its own F-35 pilot training at Nevatim Air Base – the first F-35 customer outside the U.S. to stand up its own in-country training capability.”

The Lockheed delegation’s visit and talks with the top people in the ministry of defense and IAF kept the lights on in the Boeing office here until late in the evening.

Officially, Boeing will not react to the Lockheed Martin visit, but there is no doubt that the Chicago-based company is readying counter arguments.

In recent deliberations within the IAF’s high command , the leading direction was clear: buy more F-15’s while delaying the purchase of a third F-35 squadron.

The rationale behind this is that, while the F-35 performs best when its stealth characteristics are essential, the need in later phases of combat is for other aircraft with advanced avionics that can operate in conjunction with the F-35 and carry heavy weapons loads.
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[*] posted on 21-9-2018 at 09:11 PM

Aid To Israel Isn’t Foreign Aid; It’s An Investment

By Yoram Ettinger

on September 20, 2018 at 3:30 PM

First of two Israeli F-35s arrive at Nevatim Air Base

Israel faces increasingly tight restrictions on its Foreign Military Financing from the U.S., as Breaking D readers know. In the past, when the US provided Israeli with grants under the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program, Israel could convert 25 percent of the aid from dollars into shekels to buy Israeli products and support local R&D. The new 10-year FMF agreement signed in 2017 decrees that that will gradually drop to zero. In this commentary, former minister for congressional affairs at Israel’s Embassy here, Yoram Ettinger, argues that America gets a great deal in return for the aid and assistance it provides Israel. Read on! The Editor.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, US-Israel relations have outgrown their one-way-street mode (the US gave and Israel received with much appreciation), evolving into a mutually-beneficial, two-way street mode, providing the US a well-deserved high-return on its annual $3.8 billion investment in Israel, conventionally defined as “foreign aid.” However, Israel, unlike all other recipients of foreign aid, is neither foreign, nor does it receive aid.

The US-Israel strategic compatibility is underlined by their national security orientation, allocating 3.6 percent and 4.7 percent of their budgets, respectively, to defense, much more than any European country: Britain 2.1 percent, France 1.8 percent, Germany 1.1 percent and Italy 1.1 percent, etc.

The scope of US-Israel strategic cooperation has surged since the 1991 demise of the USSR, which transformed the bi-polar globe into a multi-polar arena of conflicts, replete with highly unpredictable, less controllable and more dangerous local and regional threats. Israel’s experience and capabilities in facing such threats has provided the US a unique reinforcement in the face of three critical challenges, which impact the national and homeland security of the US: the megalomaniacal vision of Iran’s Ayatollahs; the clear and present threat of Islamic terrorism; and the need to bolster the pro-US Arab regimes, which are lethally threatened by the Shi’ite Ayatollahs and Sunni terrorist regimes.

In addition, the convergence of US-Israel strategic interests has been enhanced in response to the anti-US Arab tsunami (conventionally defined as the Arab Spring); the declining European posture of deterrence; the drastic cuts in the US defense budget; an increasingly unpredictable, dangerous globe; Israel’s surge of military and commercial capabilities; and the 400-year-old US-Israel shared Judeo-Christian values.

In July, 1950, in the aftermath of Israel’s War of Independence, Gen. Omar Bradley, first chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said: “The Israeli army would be the most effective force south of Turkey, which could be utilized for delaying action [extending the strategic hand of the USA]….” General Bradley’s assessment was rejected by the State Department and the Pentagon, which opposed the 1948 establishment of the Jewish State, contending that it would be decimated by the Arabs, a burden upon the US and probably an ally of the USSR.

In 2018, General Bradley’s assessments are vindicated, as the pro-US Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Oman, as well as Jordan and Egypt, seek further strategic ties with Israel. They view Israel as a most effective ally in the face of lethal threats posed by the anti-US ayatollahs, ISIS (Daesh) and Muslim Brotherhood terrorists, irrespective of the unresolved Palestinian issue – which they never considered a crown jewel – and their fundamental reservations about the existence of an “infidel” Jewish State in “the abode of Islam.”

In 2018, Russia lends credence to General Bradley recognizing Israel’s enhanced strategic posture, accepting Israel’s military operations against the rogue ayatollahs and Hezbollah terrorists in Syria, which has been a Moscow satellite since the late 1960s.

Moscow recognizes the impact of the Israel’s posture of deterrence on the Washington-Moscow balance of power: the 1967 Six Day War stopped the lethal offensive by pro-USSR Egypt against Saudi Arabia and other pro-US oil-rich Arab countries; a 1970 Israeli military mobilization forced the rollback of the pro-Soviet Syrian invasion of pro-US Jordan; the 1967 and 1973 Israeli military victories over Soviet-armed Egypt and Syria provided the US military with a rare study of Soviet military systems and Soviet battle tactics; the June 1982 (first ever!) destruction of 29 of the most advanced Soviet surface-to-air missile batteries and the downing of 83 Soviet MIGs employed by Syria, and subsequent sharing of innovative battle tactics and technology with the US; the 1981 and 2007 Israeli destruction of the nuclear reactors in pro-Soviet Iraq and Syria, which spared the US a nuclear confrontation in 1991 and a much more traumatic Middle East. And there’s more.

Some 70 years since the reestablishment of Israel, notwithstanding the minute size of its population and territory, the Jewish state has emerged as a uniquely stable, democratic, reliable, creative and effective ally of the US in the Middle East. That includes cooperation on commercial, military, scientific and technological issues.

The potential of Israel’s strategic contribution to US military and commercial interests has been bolstered by the Israeli experience and state of mind, which are top heavy on patriotism, attachment to roots, collective responsibility, ingenuity and defiance of the jugged cutting edge of nature, militarily and commercially.

The transformation of US-Israel relations from a one-way-street to a mutually-beneficial two-way-street, has occurred despite the tactical, short-term US-Israel disagreements over the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Palestinian issue. The significant compatibility between the strategic, long-term regional and global challenges and threats facing both nations has transcended such disagreements.

In 2018, Israel’s Air Force features the US-developed and manufactured F-35 stealth fighter, serving as a battle-tested laboratory for the US Air Force and the plane’s manufacturer (Lockheed Martin), as it has been for the manufacturers of the F-15, F-16, missiles and missile launchers, tanks, armed personnel carriers and hundreds of additional US military systems. Israel has shared with the US lessons learned by Israeli pilots, who fly under a do-or-die state of mind. This has helped stretch the performance of the US-made aircraft beyond conventional standards. Such lessons have enhanced the capabilities of the US Air Force and the quality of the next generation of the F-35, saving the manufacturer many years of research and development, enhancing US competitiveness in the global market, increasing US exports and expanding US employment. In other words, the annual transfer of $3.8 billion to Israel (which funds the acquisition of US military systems) is not “foreign aid” to – but a highly profitable investment in – Israel.

In 2018, in response to growing sophisticated online and offline threats posed by Arab/Islamic countries and beyond, Israel has become a leading developer/producer in the area of cyber-technology, second only to – and in close collaboration with – the US. Israel is the site of 15 percent to 20 percent of the global venture capital raised by cybersecurity companies, aiming to defend critical infrastructures, while preempting rogue regimes. On January 30, 2018, General David Petraeus, former CIA Director, stated: “the [US-Israel] collaboration reaches new heights, far beyond what is being published in the media…. Our cooperation has harmed significantly Iran’s nuclear program….”

In 2018, Israel is the chief source of intelligence for the US on the volatile, tectonic Middle East, which has been a highly-complex platform of global terrorism, inherent instability, unpredictability, tyranny, domestic and regional intra-Arab/Islamic violence and intolerance, tenuous and shifty regimes, and consequently tenuous and shifty policies and agreements.

In fact, the nature of the Middle East highlights Israel’s unique qualities as a systematic, democratic, effective, strategic ally of the US, whether we are led by right or left of center coalition governments. The nature of the Middle East was demonstrated by the violent toppling of a series of pro-US Arab/Islamic regimes by anti-US elements. For example, the 1952 toppling of Egypt’s King Farouk; the 1958 toppling of Iraq’s King Faisal; the 1969 toppling of Libya’s King Idris (Wheelus Air Base, in Libya, was the largest US military facility outside the US); the 1979 toppling of Iran’s Shah; the 2011 toppling of Egypt’s Mubarak; the 2014-15 toppling of Yemen’s Hadi; and it is not over yet….

The reference to Israel, as “the largest US aircraft carrier, deployed in a most critical region, with no Americans on board” – made by former Supreme Commander of NATO and Secretary of State, the late Alexander Haig – reverberates with an assessment made in 1923 by British Col. Richard Meinertzhagen, a top intelligence officer in the western region of the Middle East: “I’ve always considered the Land of Israel to be the key to the defense of the Middle East…. When a Jewish State will be established, Britain shall benefit from air force, naval and land bases… as well as Jewish fighting capabilities… which will secure its long-term regional interests…. Unlike the Arabs, Jews are reliable and do comply with agreements…. The British policy in the Middle East bets on the wrong horse, when appeasing the Arabs….”

Will President Trump adhere to – or ignore – past experience?

Will President Trump defy the State Department’s and “elite” media’s traditional quid-pro-quo (and self-defeating, artificial connection) between the enhancement of the mutually-beneficial US-Israel strategic cooperation, on the one hand, and Israeli retreats from critical terrain, which would exacerbate regional instability, intensify threats to pro-US Arab regimes and undermine US national and homeland security?

Will President Trump continue to expand US-Israel strategic cooperation, by focusing on the wider strategic context of the Middle East, or will he follow in the failed footsteps of Europe, which has largely sacrificed Middle East geo-strategic reality on the altar of oversimplification, quick-solution state-of-mind, appeasement and the misperceived role of the Palestinian issue?!

Yoram Ettinger, former minister for congressional Affairs at Israel’s Embassy in Washington, is now a consultant to Israeli and US legislators.
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[*] posted on 4-10-2018 at 04:11 PM
When will the next war erupt in the Middle East?

4 Oct 2018|Mohammed Ayoob

The signs are ominous—especially in Israel and its neighbours, Syria, Lebanon and Gaza. Violence, both actual and rhetorical, has been escalating on all three fronts. Gaza could become the immediate flash point as the Palestinians’ ‘March of Return’, which began on 30 March, intensifies and Israeli retaliation becomes increasingly lethal.

On 28 September, 20,000 Palestinians marched to the Gaza–Israel border and seven of them were killed by Israeli bullets. Such confrontations are now becoming an almost daily occurrence. The march began as a civil-society movement born of the mounting economic and political frustrations over the Israeli blockade of the territory that has made life in Gaza ‘poor, nasty, brutish and short’.

Initially, it also had anti-Hamas overtones because of the organisation’s misgovernance of Gaza and its inability to reach an agreement with the Palestinian Authority that is in nominal control of parts of the West Bank. However, over time it has become a movement organised and orchestrated by Hamas itself. That has made the situation highly combustible, with senior Israeli officials threatening a full-scale invasion of Gaza as happened in 2014. It may lead to a Palestinian eruption in the West Bank as well.

Gaza isn’t the only front on which Israel could be engaged in a war. Another major military confrontation is looming between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu disclosed in his address to the UN General Assembly on 27 September that Israeli intelligence had unearthed evidence that Hezbollah is building a missile site near the Hariri International Airport in Beirut and a storage facility underneath a soccer stadium nearby.

According to Israeli sources, those projects are part of a joint effort with Iran to upgrade Hezbollah’s missile capacity so that it becomes an increasing threat to targets deep within Israel. In his speech at the UN, Netanyahu threated Hezbollah explicitly: ‘I have a message for Hezbollah today: Israel knows what you’re doing. Israel knows where you’re doing it. And Israel will not let you get away with it.’ It sounded almost like a clarion call to combat, for any Israeli attack on these sites is bound to bring about severe retaliation by Hezbollah that could lead to an all-out war like the one witnessed in 2006.

The Israeli threat implicates not only Hezbollah but also Iran and Syria since the missiles are of Iranian origin and are being shipped through Syria. In fact, over the past year Israel has been engaged in repeatedly attacking Iranian troop concentrations in Syria and likely sites for missile trans-shipment to Lebanon with a high degree of impunity. That has introduced increasing recklessness into Israeli actions and led to a major diplomatic spat with Moscow after a Russian plane was accidentally downed by Syrian air defences attempting to intercept Israeli military aircraft attacking targets in Syria.

While a direct military confrontation between Israel and Russia isn’t yet on the cards, Moscow has strongly warned Israel that its irresponsible military adventurism could inadvertently lead to such a clash. It also warned that such actions could put the Israeli–Russian military coordination in Syria in danger. Russia cautioned Israel that its attacks on Syria, even if limited to Iranian targets, are weakening the Syrian regime and harming its attempt to end the war in the country, which is an important Russian objective as well.

In an immediate response to the downing of the Russian plane, Russia began supplying Syria with S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to beef up the latter’s air defences against Israeli air attacks. Israel considers that ‘a worrisome upgrade’ but one unlikely to prevent the Israeli Air Force from operating in Syrian airspace.

Nonetheless, continuing air attacks by Israel on Syrian territory in the context of Russian warnings has the potential to further damage Russian–Israeli relations. One of the consequences of the escalation in tensions could be Russia’s withdrawal of the guarantee it has given Israel that it will persuade Iran to keep its forces at least 100 kilometres away (except in and around Damascus) from the Israeli border to prevent inadvertent clashes. The deployment of Iranian troops and allied Shia militias, including Hezbollah, close to the Syria–Israel border could be the prelude to ground clashes that would add to the combustible situation in the Middle East.

President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal has assured Netanyahu that Israel and the United States are on the same page on Iran. He is therefore once again vigorously pursuing his favourite goal of totally eliminating Iran’s nuclear capacity in order to maintain Israel’s nuclear monopoly in the Middle East. That agenda—in combination with the likelihood of an Israeli–Iranian confrontation in Syria, even if unintentional—is highly dangerous and may land the region in a major conflagration that drags in Washington as well.

The Middle East is sitting on a powder keg. No one knows when it will blow up. What is certain is that it’s likely to do so sooner rather than later.


Mohammed Ayoob is a senior fellow at the Center for Global Policy in Washington DC and University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of International Relations at Michigan State University.
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