Showing posts with label Israel and Gaza. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Israel and Gaza. Show all posts

19 April 2017

*** The Mother of Invention

BY: David Isaac

In 1948, as Israel was heading into its first war, an IDF general sent a letter to David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s new prime minister, politely declining his offer to become chief of staff because he had learned the Jewish State only had six million bullets. “We will need 1 million bullets a day in a war and I am not willing to be chief of staff for just six days,” he wrote.

The Weapon Wizards, an engaging look at Israel’s weapons industry, is replete with such anecdotes. (Another that’s hard to resist is how Jewish forces in Jerusalem held off Arab rioters with one gun and 11 bullets. Afterward, the commander criticized the “gratuitous use of ammo.”) Such stories drive home how little Israel had militarily in its early years. Israel’s humble beginnings make it even more remarkable that it has become a military power. The goal of the authors, Israeli journalists Yaakov Katz and Amir Bohbot, is to explain how that transformation came about. As they write, 60 years ago Israel’s biggest exports were oranges and false teeth. Today, weapons make up 10 percent of Israel’s exports.

Like Start-Up Nation by Dan Senor and Saul Singer, Katz and Bohbot identify national characteristics that have led to a “culture of innovation.” Leading the list is a creativity born of necessity. “With barely any resources beyond the human capital that had immigrated to the new state, Israelis had to make the most of the little they had,” the authors write. Israel has even created a subunit of autistic soldiers to analyze satellite pictures.

10 April 2017

** All Signals Point Once Again to War in Gaza

Daniel Shapiro

The next war in Gaza is coming.

In over five years as U.S. Ambassador to Israel, I found no issue more impervious to solutions than Gaza. We were constantly preventing, managing or responding to crises -- trying to head off terror attacks by Hamas and others, supporting Israel’s right to defend itself, negotiating ceasefires and working to alleviate human suffering. 

I also learned that Gaza wars follow a kind of routine. Hamas upgrades its attack capabilities, and tensions build. Both sides prefer to avoid an escalation, but some incident, perhaps unintended, leads Hamas to increase the rate of rockets fired into Israel. Eventually, Israel deems the provocations intolerable, and launches a heavier response, such as when it conducted a targeted strike on Hamas military wing chief Ahmed Jabari at the start of Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012. A full-on conflict ensues, with ceasefire negotiations competing with Hamas rocket and tunnel attacks, Israeli airstrikes, and calls from the Israeli public for a ground invasion to “finish the job.”

Unhappily, there are growing signs that this cycle is about to start anew. Rockets are fired by Salafist groups (hardliners such as those affiliated with Islamic State) into Israel, actions that Hamas either permits or fails to prevent, and Israel responds with carefully placed airstrikes. Few casualties have resulted on either side so far, but the exchanges are now coming every few days. Hamas itself sends test launches of upgraded rockets out to sea. In plain sight from the Israeli side of the border, Hamas brazenly digs new tunnels. At least 15 of them, according to Israeli estimates, now extend under Israeli territory. Israeli patrols periodically encounter explosives placed along the border fence.

9 April 2017


by Lela Gilbert

During recent years, dramatic political changes have shaken the Middle East. Some have described these events metaphorically as “shifting desert sands.” They have also been defined as dramatic realignments of political seismic plates.

Some of the more terrifying changes have called to mind the proverbial “end of days.” Others look a little like minor miracles, so unlikely are the players and so unexpected their praiseworthy actions.

Who could have predicted, for example, that a young Saudi intellectual would visit Jerusalem and then courageously write an open letter to his generation, expressing both hope and desire for political transformation?

His dream? That Saudi Arabia’s vibrant young defense minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud will embrace a new vision for Saudi Arabia – including peace with Israel.

Consider the writer’s opening paragraph:

Having read the article in Foreign Affairs about Prince Mohammad bin Salman, and in the wake of publicity following his meeting with President Trump this week, I would like to offer a candid view that speaks for many Saudis of my generation. Like King Talut of the Holy Quran (corresponding to the biblical King Saul), whom the Quran credits with saving the Jewish people from an enemy bent on their destruction, the young prince bears a similar responsibility — addressing many challenges in order to achieve the goal of transforming his people to greater strength. Prince Mohammad bin Salman may well be God’s chosen to help lead Saudi Arabia through the political, economic, and social challenges it faces. This letter offers suggestions he may consider useful in dealing with them.

4 April 2017

India-Israel Relations: An Opportunity That Can’t Be Missed


With the Middle East mired in a constant state of turmoil, reoccurring tectonic shifts across the region have encouraged new partnerships, sometimes between unlikely players. One such blossoming relationship is the India-Israel alliance.

“Israel and India have a firm alliance, between two peoples and two states with illustrious and greatly inspirational pasts,” Israeli President Reuven Rivlin affirmed during his visit to India last November.

Although both India and Israel were partitioned under the auspices of the British Empire and declared independence within a year of each other – India in 1947 and Israel in 1948 –interactions between the two nations haven’t always been smooth.

According to Dr. Shalom Solomon Wald, Senior Fellow at The Jewish People Policy Institute in Israel, throughout much of the 20th century, India’s position towards Israel was deeply affected by India’s alignment with several Arab states as well as with the Soviet Union.

“Effective lobbying by Palestinian leaders and rising nationalism in the Arab Middle East profoundly influenced India’s policies for 80 years,” explains Wald. “India’s leadership position in the Non-Aligned Movement alongside numerous Muslim countries and its quasi-alliance with the Soviet Union reinforced its decision to reject any political and diplomatic relations with Israel.”

2 April 2017

Netanyahu’s China Visit

By Roie Yellinek

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu visited Beijing on March 20-21, 2017 – his second visit to China during the term of China’s current president, Xi Jinping. The trip was the product of an invitation from Xi, a point emphasized by Netanyahu’s office to deflect criticism over the frequency of his foreign junkets. The official reason for the visit was the marking of the twenty-fifth anniversary of diplomatic relations between the countries, but it could represent an opportunity for Israel to play a more prominent role on the international scene.

The prime minister’s office has stated that beyond marking the anniversary of the Chinese-Israeli bilateral relationship, PM Netanyahu’s visit to China this month had primarily a financial objective. The main goals were to continue building up the countries’ financial relationship, enhance cooperation, draw Chinese investment to Israel, and open the door for more diverse Israeli investment in the Chinese market. In addition, the trip was intended to continue an ongoing dialogue about establishing a free trade agreement between China and Israel, as well as mutual participation in the third Innovation Conference. During his visit, the prime minister met with President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang, and the heads of the largest corporations in China.

24 March 2017

Violent protests not terror, use least harmful measures: Israeli expert

by Rahul Tripathi

A LEADING Israeli counter-terror expert has warned against confusing violent protests with terrorism, and advocated the use of “least harmful measures” to contain such agitations, including in Jammu and Kashmir. Otherwise, Prof Boaz Ganor said, there is a danger of the protesters being radicalised and turning to terrorism. Speaking to The Indian Express, Ganor, who heads counter-terror studies at the IDC college in Israel, also described surgical strikes as a “wise” option against terrorism and cautioned that the next big security challenge for India would emanate from the proponents of “global jihad”, especially Islamic State and al-Qaeda.

Without naming Pakistan, Ganor further said that Israel can learn from India on fighting terror because this country has for years experienced “organised terrorism” that is mostly “state sponsored”.

Asked about the use of pellet guns on protesters in Jammu and Kashmir, Ganor said, “As a counter-terror expert, I don’t see violent protest as terrorism. One needs to use all possible measures to prevent violent protests… hopefully, with little damage, injuries or killing. One reason is you don’t want to kill and secondly and importantly, you will end up radicalising protesters using harsh measures and some of them might turn to terrorism, which you don’t want. You need to use the least harmful measures for those violent protests.”

Israel’s Next Big War

Yossi Alpher

Israel’s next big war is almost certainly going to pit it against some combination of Iranian, Syrian and Hezbollah forces along its northern borders with Syria and Lebanon. To be sure, an additional confrontation with Hamas in Gaza (Israel’s opponent in the costly 2014 Gaza War. which led to the death of roughly 2,100 Palestinians and 73 Israelis) could also be in the offing. But the forthcoming war in Israel’s North — home to an estimated 1.2 million people — could be closer to the kind of all-out war that the Jewish state hasn’t fought since 1973.

The reasons have far less to do with the Arab-Israel conflict than with the ongoing civil war in Syria and the continuing confrontation between Iran and Israel. The outcome could result in considerable destruction inside Israel, but also in a strengthening of Israel’s burgeoning strategic ties with its Sunni neighbors — Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — who alongside their reservations on the Palestinian issue share Israel’s concerns regarding Iran’s aggressive regional ambitions. In this sense, a confrontation in Israel’s north would decisively reflect current far-reaching changes in the Middle East strategic balance of power.

19 March 2017

Dawn of the Jihadi Drone Wars

By Patrick Megahan and John Cappello

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reported February 23 that it had downed an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) over the Mediterranean after it was launched from the Gaza Strip. According to IDF sources, an Israeli F-16 shot down the UAV, which it said belonged to Hamas, before it was able to cross into the country’s airspace. Details of the type of drone and its mission remain sparse, but the flight demonstrates Hamas’s determined pursuit for UAV capability even after the death of its chief drone engineer last month in Tunisia. While Hamas’s nascent drone program has yet to produce any tactical or strategic advantage, the use of drones by terrorist organizations elsewhere in the region underscores the challenges they can pose.

Hamas reportedly tested its first drone in 2012, after which the IDF quickly targeted the site believed to house the program. A year later, Palestinian security forces foiled Hamas operatives in the West Bank plotting to launch UAVs packed with explosives that would strike targets in Israel. It was not until summer 2014, however, that Hamas launched a UAV that breached Israeli airspace, reaching the seaside city of Ashdod before being quickly downed by a Patriot surface-to-air missile. Hamas attempted to fly a UAV into Israeli airspace in June 2015, but it crashed just after crossing the border fence. Last September, another UAV appeared above the Gaza coast before also being quickly downed by an Israeli fighter.

18 March 2017

Israel-UK cyber-security lessons - shared concerns, shared responses

by Tony Morbin

Israel is under constant threat and conscription gives its army access to its brightest students - what can the UK learn from its approach to and understanding of cyber-terrorism? 

Israel-UK cyber-security lessons - shared concerns, shared responsesUnit 8200 is the largest unit in the Israel Defence Forces, comprising several thousand soldiers responsible for collecting signal intelligence (SIGINT) and code decryption. Conscripts with an aptitude for cyber-security, often identified while still at school, provide a constant refresh of new talent, with 25 percent annual turnover. Many of its alumni have gone on to be highly successful cyber-security entrepreneurs – including some of those who gathered at the Israel-UK Ambassadors roundtable at the Royal Society last week, held under the auspices of the Anglo-Israel Association.

Key themes included cyber-warfare, cyber-terrorism and the overlap with cyber-crime, as well as innovation and resilience. The roundtable was not about Israel-Palestine issues.

Israel's newly appointed deputy ambassador to the UK, Sharon Bar-Li, noted the shared democratic ideals of both countries before describing some of the factors that make Israel such a leader in the sector. Not least among these is that Israel is ‘a start-up nation', plus the perspective that: “The future is one where we have to keep a technological upper hand to prevent these threats... [adding] strength in cyber-security stands behind our economic, military and intelligence strength.”

16 March 2017



The role of Israel’s Prime Minister in creating an integrated national security system.

Any defense doctrine must start with one basic question: what is the objective?

On this there was rare agreement between two of Zionism’s founding fathers, David Ben-Gurion and Ze’ev Jabotinsky. Ben-Gurion based the defense strategy document that he submitted to the government in 1953 on Jabotinsky’s well-known “Iron Wall” essay from 1923. They both stated the basic principle that remains the cornerstone of Israeli strategy: Israel must be so strong that its enemies know in advance that they will lose any war against it.

Israel’s strength must be disproportionate to the challenges it faces, and its enemies need to understand this so that they are sufficiently deterred. Any other situation will encourage our enemies — whether state actors or terrorist organizations — to test Israel’s strength. If foes try to test that strength, Israel must be strong enough to win any war or military operation, within a reasonable timeframe, while demonstrating complete superiority.

And if Israel hopes for comity and cooperation with its neighbors, that too requires superior strength. Israel’s military superiority must be even more pronounced if it aspires for a lasting agreement with its neighbors. Even if someone believes that an agreement with the Palestinians is the solution to all of Israel’s security problems, it is worth remembering the sober warning of the former head of Israel’s National Security Council, Maj. Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror from July 2015 when he wrote for the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies:

14 March 2017



The role of Israel’s Prime Minister in creating an integrated national security system.

Any defense doctrine must start with one basic question: what is the objective?

On this there was rare agreement between two of Zionism’s founding fathers, David Ben-Gurion and Ze’ev Jabotinsky. Ben-Gurion based the defense strategy document that he submitted to the government in 1953 on Jabotinsky’s well-known “Iron Wall” essay from 1923. They both stated the basic principle that remains the cornerstone of Israeli strategy: Israel must be so strong that its enemies know in advance that they will lose any war against it.

Israel’s strength must be disproportionate to the challenges it faces, and its enemies need to understand this so that they are sufficiently deterred. Any other situation will encourage our enemies — whether state actors or terrorist organizations — to test Israel’s strength. If foes try to test that strength, Israel must be strong enough to win any war or military operation, within a reasonable timeframe, while demonstrating complete superiority.

10 March 2017

Israel Is India’s BFF: Modi’s Visit Will Bring This Critical Relationship Out Of Purdah

R Jagannathan

For its own reasons, Israel has been one of our most reliable friends. Isn’t it time we also demonstrated our friendship based on hard-nosed realities?

Ajit Doval, India’s National Security Advisor, has spent two days this week in Tel Aviv to prepare for Narendra Modi’s visit to the Jewish state around mid-year. When that happens, Modi will be the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel, and that sends its own political message.

That it has taken India a quarter century after the establishment of diplomatic relations to formally acknowledge Israel’s existence at the top-most political level speaks much for the pusillanimity of our strategic approach to important allies. If we can confabulate only in secret with a country that ought to be considered one of our best friends ever shows how much the Indian diplomatic establishment has been held prisoner by the morality-driven Nehruvian vision of national interest. Nehru believed that Palestinians were the wronged party in West Asia, and subsequent governments, with one anxious eye cocked at the domestic Muslim vote, have religiously mouthed this platitude. We have always talked our Palestinian ties up and our Israeli ties down.

Antecedents Of Non-Alignment: The Hope That Was USSR, The Question That Was Israel

Jaideep A Prabhu

At a time when India’s foreign relations and geopolitical strategy are undergoing a realignment, the republished edition of Bimal Prasad’s book from 1960 is a very useful read

Prasad, Bimal. The Making of India's Foreign Policy: The Indian National Congress And World Affairs, 1885-1947. Delhi: Vitasta Publishing, 2013. 301 pp.

It is easy to forget, sometimes, that the roots of a country's foreign policy are always embedded in its domestic politics and experiences. Postcolonial states are no exception to this rule, but a rupture in the continuity of self-rule - usually at a critical time in world history when the global order was undergoing major economic, technological, and political upheavals - left them inexperienced in the ways of the international community. Some states, such as India, were newly created and had no memory of ever having had to navigate international politics while holding together a state that defied every understanding of nationalism. Originally published in 1960 but reprinted in 2013 at the urging of former foreign secretary Muchkund Dubey and columnist C Raja Mohan, Bimal Prasad's The Making of Indian Foreign Policy: The Indian National Congress and World Affairs delves into the formative period of a modern Indian international outlook to suggest the antecedents that have informed Indian foreign policy in its independent era.

The Alternative Report on Operation Protective Edge

Amir Rapaport

Operation Protective Edge was the first significant military operation since The Six-Day War (1967) that was not investigated by a state commission of inquiry. This could indicate that after all, the public does not conceive this operation as a total failure.

1. Processes rather than Decisions

Wars being what they are, Operation Protective Edge uncovered profound failures and tactical faults from which lessons should be derived at all levels. The main problem is the fact that the State Comptroller's office cannot be the organ that would draw the significant lessons from any operation, military or diplomatic. This may be explained by many reasons, the primary one being the fact that the State Comptroller's office is authorized and accustomed to investigating processes – not the quality of decisions. This is a significant difference, which led the State Comptroller to investigate in depth a number of serious failures like the tunnel omission (which, to a considerable extent, was known in advance), while completely missing the truly important lessons.

Report Finds Botched Israeli Leadership and Intelligence Failings During 2014 Gaza Strip War

TEL AVIV – Two and a half years after Israel’s summer 2014 Gaza war, Israel’s comptroller general on Tuesday released his report on the 50-day conflict, with findings ranging from ill-preparedness vis a vis the tunnel threat and inappropriate reliance on military brass for strategic decisions that should have been made by civilian government authorities.

In his voluminous report on what is known here as Operation Protective Edge, State Comptroller Yosef Shapira admonished Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his security cabinet for insufficient attention to strategic objectives regarding the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. Cabinet meetings on the issue, he wrote, were “limited,” particularly regarding alternative options to use of military force.

War objectives that were authorized by the government, he wrote, were determined by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), and not by the security Cabinet.

“The Cabinet is the long arm of the government, and according to basic law, the military is subordinate to it,” he wrote. He took Netanyahu and former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon to task for not involving other relevant ministers in decisions taken between the two of them at the recommendation of the IDF.

9 March 2017

The New Arab–Israeli Alliance

Michael J. Totten

During the early years of the Obama administration, conventional wisdom in Washington held that the Israeli–Palestinian conflict trumped everything else in the Middle East, that no problem could be resolved until that one was out of the way. “Without doubt,” former president Jimmy Carter said, “the path to peace in the Middle East goes through Jerusalem.” The reason, said his former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, now a professor of foreign policy at Johns Hopkins University, is because, “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the single most combustible and galvanizing issue in the Arab world”.

Similar views were expressed across the political spectrum, from President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Defense Secretary Chuck Hegel and General David Petraeus.

“If we can solve the Israeli-Palestinian process,” Obama said in 2008, then that will make it easier for Arab states and the Gulf states to support us when it comes to issues like Iraq and Afghanistan. It will also weaken Iran, which has been using Hamas and Hezbollah as a way to stir up mischief in the region. If we’ve gotten an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, maybe at the same time peeling Syria out of the Iranian orbit, that makes it easier to isolate Iran so that they have a tougher time developing a nuclear weapon.

2 March 2017

** State-sponsored hackers turn to Android malware to spy on Israeli soldiers

A cyber-spying campaign targeting Android devices used by personnel within the Israeli Defence Force has been discovered by security researchers.

According to a blog post by Lookout and another by Kaspersky, more than 100 soldiers of the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) became victims when the Android devices were infected by malware, called ViperRat. This malware extracted audio and images from the devices as well as hijacking the device camera to take pictures.

Researchers at Kaspersky said that the spying campaign has been operational since July 2016 with attacks reported as recently as February this year. They said that this campaign is not only active but likely to increase.

The campaign relies heavily on social engineering techniques, using social networks to lure targeted soldiers into both sharing confidential information and downloading the malicious applications. So far the hackers have only targeted members of the IDF, most of them serving around the Gaza strip.

“We've seen a lot of the group's activity on Facebook Messenger. Most of the avatars (virtual participants in the social engineering stage) lure the victims using sexual innuendo, eg asking the victim to send explicit photos, and in return sending fake photos of teenage girls. The avatars pretend to be from different countries such as Canada, Germany, Switzerland and more,” said Ido Naor, researcher at Kaspersky Lab.

Once hackers have built up a relationship with the victim, they suggest installing other applications to communicate. These apps are installed from a malicious URL, the attacker expects the victim to install the package manually. 

How IDF soldiers’ phones got turned into spying devices

For many months now, an unknown threat actor has been tricking servicemen in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) into installing Android spyware. Israeli media says that the threat actor is likely Hamas, but Lookout researchers aren’t so sure.

“ViperRAT [as the researchers dubbed the malware] has been operational for quite some time, with what appears to be a test application that surfaced in late 2015. Many of the default strings in this application are in Arabic, including the name. It is unclear whether this means early samples were targeting Arabic speakers or if the developers behind it are fluent in Arabic,” they researchers noted, but pointed out that “Hamas is not widely known for having a sophisticated mobile capability.”

The malware

The malware comes in two forms: 

A first-stage app that functions as a low-level device profiler and a downloader for the 
Second-stage app – spyware that is able to extract contact information, images, SMSes, call logs, audio files, device network and device handset metadata, geolocation information, browser search history and bookmars, record video and audio, and take screenshots. 

ViperRAT samples can communicate with command and control servers through an exposed API as well as websockets.

24 February 2017

Israel’s SIGINT Organization, Unit 8200, Has Helped Make Israel a Leader in Cybersecurity and Surveillance Technology

Israel, with a population of just eight million people, has become a powerhouse in cybersecurity. Only the United States has greater strength in the field.

“In Israel, there are 420 companies in the field of cybersecurity that get funded by venture capital,” said Lior Div, chief executive and co-founder of Cybereason, a company with offices in Boston and Tel Aviv.

A good number of the Israeli companies have one thing in common: Their founders emerged from an elite division of the Israel Defense Forces known as Unit 8200, a legendary high-tech spy branch that also has become a prolific technology incubator.

Unit 8200, which comprises several thousand cyber warriors, is the Israeli equivalent of the U.S. National Security Agency and is under the Israeli Ministry of Defense. Among the unit’s missions are offensive strategy, cybersecurity, encryption and signals intelligence.

Most of its members are still teenagers, selected for their math and science skills but still untrained at formal universities. Nearly all Israelis must serve a stint in the IDF but only a select few are recruited into 8200.

“This is a unit that has first pick to take the one percent of one percent of people who have a specific capability,” said Div, who won a medal of honor for his work in the unit.

22 February 2017



The meeting between President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu was full of promising signs for Israel and the Middle East. 

Israel PM Netanyahu: 'There Is No Greater Supporter Of The Jewish People Than Donald Trump'

When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met President Donald Trump at the White House they looked to melt the ice that had formed under the previous administration. They set out to put the trust and intimacy back into the relationship between Israel and the U.S., without surprises or betrayals.

Netanyahu was the fourth foreign leader to visit the new president, after only the U.K.’s Theresa May, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Canadian neighbour Justin Trudeau. The president had warm words for Netanyahu personally and for the “unbreakable bond with our cherished ally, Israel.” Obama’s overtures to the Middle East started with his Cairo Speech, reaching out to the Muslim world, and ended with a U.N. Security Council Resolution opposed to settlement building, with a bad deal with Iran in the middle. In contrast, Trump seems to be hugging America’s traditional allies close.

On three key issues Trump and Netanyahu see eye to eye: the fight against radical Islamist terror, the threat of Iran, and Israel’s importance as a strategic asset for the U.S. in the Middle East. These provide building blocks to recalibrate and reaffirm the U.S.-Israel alliance and, with renewed warmth, they present historic opportunities.