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

17 September 2019

Trump Must Not Give Israel a Blank Check in the Middle East

by Dalia Dassa Kaye

Israel has a right to defend itself, but not at the expense of regional stability and American interests.

Israel’s military campaign against Iranian-aligned forces in Syria, Lebanon, and reportedly Iraq might seem like an appealing way to subcontract parts of the Trump administration’s pressure campaign against Iran, but it may be time to ask whether these attacks are serving the interests of the United States—especially in Iraq.

There is little debate among external powers about Israeli attacks in Syria, where Israel is one of many actors vying to protect or promote their interests in the war-torn country. For Israel, Iran’s growing presence in Syria—which, like Russia’s presence, bolsters the Assad regime—has been the primary focus of its concern. Israel is less worried about Assad’s fate than about the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force and Hezbollah moving weaponry and producing missiles that could threaten its borders, potentially creating a second front beyond Hezbollah’s well-established position in Lebanon. 

11 September 2019

Double Trouble


On Sunday, Hezbollah fired anti-tank missiles against the Israeli military, the first incident of its kind since the 2006 war between the two sides. This followed an Israeli drone attack a week earlier on a building housing Hezbollah’s media center in Beirut’s southern suburbs. It was later suggested that Israel had targeted an industrial mixer necessary for the production of propellant for missiles.

In the aftermath of the attacks, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah announced that Hezbollah would retaliate from Lebanese territory for the drone attack. After the party did so on Sunday, both sides could claim success. The Israelis for having purportedly destroyed equipment critical for Hezbollah’s missile manufacturing capacity, Hezbollah for having reaffirmed its deterrence capabilities. Even as both sides scored points with their constituencies, neither seems to want a war. There are several reasons contributing to this.

The escalation needs to be seen in light of the broader regional standoff between Iran and the United States. It is becoming increasingly clear that while the United States has used sanctions to tighten the economic and financial noose around Iran, Israel has been tasked with upping the ante on the military front. In light of this, Hezbollah viewed retaliation for the drone attack as necessary to deter Israel’s efforts to change the rules of engagement with the party, whom the Israelis have accused of manufacturing precision missiles. Therefore, even as they fired on each other, both sides were focused mainly on defining the parameters of their future confrontation, not on mobilizing for a major conflict—at least for now.

27 August 2019

Israel eases rules on cyber weapons exports despite criticism

Tova Cohen, Ari Rabinovitch

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Israel is easing export rules on offensive cyber weapons, despite accusations by human rights and privacy groups that its technologies are used by some governments to spy on political foes and crush dissent.

A rule change by the defense ministry means companies can now obtain exemptions on marketing license for the sale of some products to specific countries, a source close to the cyber sector told Reuters.

Israel, like other big defense exporters, closely guards details of its weapons sales and its export rules are not widely known, but the defense ministry confirmed the change had gone into force about a year ago in response to Reuters’ questions.

Industry specialists say the change makes a speedier approval process possible for the sale of cyber weapons, or spyware, which are used to break into electronic devices and monitor online communications.

1 July 2019

From Iran to Israeli-Palestinian Peace, Trump’s Economic Focus Misses the Point

Ellen Laipson

President Donald Trump views foreign policy through the narrow lens of economic self-interest. He has reduced the notion of American power and influence to a question of whether the United States is getting a “good deal,” measured only in terms of who is paying for what—say, the cost of basing U.S. troops. Gone are any references to the intangible benefits of international cooperation, let alone the common good. It’s how he has approached relations with NATO and with America’s allies in Asia. In recent days, this economic-centric view of U.S. foreign policy has been on display in Trump’s clumsy and erratic Iran policy, and in the underwhelming rollout of his so-called plan for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. 

Economic incentives and economic pressures are, of course, legitimate tools of international relations and fall along a continuum from positive inducements and peaceful transactions to coercion and pressure that, if insufficient in achieving their aims, can be precursors to open hostilities and war. Think U.S. oil sanctions against Japan in the run-up to World War II, or, at the other end of the spectrum, the Marshall Plan as an American investment in Europe’s postwar economic recovery that created huge political and security benefits to the U.S. that lasted for decades. 

26 June 2019

The Jerusalem Talks

George Friedman

On Monday, U.S. national security adviser John Bolton will meet with his Israeli and Russian counterparts in Jerusalem. A trilateral meeting such as this is odd to begin with, and one taking place amid the situation currently unfolding in the Middle East even more so. Also interesting is that this meeting is taking place in Jerusalem. While Russia maintains decent relations with Israel, a meeting of this sort in Jerusalem would seem to indicate a Russian indifference to Muslim sensibilities – something Israel and the U.S. display regularly. Still, they’ve agreed to meet in Jerusalem this time, optics aside. Topping the meeting agenda, purportedly, is Syria. But there’s plenty else going on in the Middle East for the three to discuss.

The officials will meet in the midst of intensifying tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Last week, the U.S. blamed Iran for attacks on two tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, and this week Iran shot down an American drone. On Friday, news broke that the U.S. had been ready to launch airstrikes in response to the downed drone, but that U.S. President Donald Trump had called off the attacks at the last minute, feeling they would have caused disproportional casualties. That may be true, or the White House may have been bluffing an attack to unnerve the Iranians; Trump has been intimating a desire for talks with Iran and may have been trying to force Tehran to the table. Whatever the intent, tensions in the Persian Gulf remain high.

16 May 2019

Why Gaza hasn’t erupted into all-out war

Daniel L. Byman

A ceasefire on Monday ended one of the worst rounds of fighting between Israel and Hamas since 2014. Four Israelis and more than 20 Palestinians died in two days of conflict, which followed a violent demonstration along the border fence that separates Israel and the Gaza Strip and the shooting of two Israeli soldiers. Palestinian militant groups fired almost 700 missiles into Israel, most of which landed harmlessly—but several struck homes or other targets in Israel.

Israel bombed hundreds of targets in Gaza, striking Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad facilities and killing a military commander it claimed had links to Iran, resuming a practice of targeted killings it had put on pause. As always, responsibility for civilian dead is hotly disputed, but the Palestinians count two pregnant women and two infants among the dead.

The latest round of fighting between Israel and Hamas illustrates not only the constant potential for conflict in Gaza but also—perhaps more counterintuitively—why the combustible situation there has not exploded into outright war. Some Israeli citizens this week called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to escalate the fight, and some militants welcome a broader clash. But both sides have reasons for restraint. Hamas leaders recognize their own military, political and diplomatic weakness; a longer war would achieve little and leave Gaza in even worse shape. And Israel, for its part, recognizes that a weak extremist regime in Gaza is better than the collapse of order in the strip or the rise of an even more radical group there. As Israeli security analyst Gabi Siboni pointed out, “If Israel collapses the Hamas regime, what comes after? Every alternative is awful.”

15 May 2019

Israel and Hamas come close to war


It should have been a celebratory weekend. Israelis were getting ready to mark their 71st independence day. In Gaza 2m Palestinians were making final preparations for the month-long Ramadan holiday, which began on May 6th. And then the rockets and bombs started falling. Residents on both sides spent the weekend cowering under rocket fire and air strikes. Four Israelis were killed, the first civilians to die in fighting with Gaza since a brief but brutal war in 2014. On the Palestinian side 27 people, a mix of militants and civilians, died. As in previous bouts of conflict, the fighting ended with a truce brokered by Egypt, Qatar and the un. And, as before, no one expects it to last.

Such has been the pattern since March 2018, when residents of Gaza began holding regular protests at the barrier separating their enclave from Israel. The protests are meant to call attention to the dire economic situation in the territory, which is blockaded by Israel and Egypt, with only essential supplies allowed in. These restrictions have been in place since 2007 when Hamas, a militant Islamist group, took power. Tensions have risen over the past year, with exchanges of fire between Israel and Hamas every few months.

What Netanyahu and Hamas Are Really Fighting for in Gaza

By Bernard Avishai

This past weekend in Gaza saw the heaviest Palestinian rocket attacks and reciprocal Israeli bombing since the 2014 war. A ceasefire was announced on Monday, though it may prove short-lived. The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said in a statement that “the campaign is not over.” He is deep in negotiations to form a governing coalition, including with the hawkish leader Avigdor Lieberman, who is likely to return to the Defense Ministry, and who, in the past, has advocated for a full-scale invasion of Gaza to topple the Hamas regime. A spokesperson for Hamas, Sami Abu Zuhri, said that “the conflict will not end until we regain our rights.” In typical fashion, Zuhri left ambiguous whether by “rights” he meant the easing of the blockade or “return,” the banner under which youthful, and often fatal, border demonstrations for Palestinians’ “right of return” to their homelands have been mounted for the past year. Netanyahu wants Hamas to think that an invasion is possible; Zuhri wants Israelis to think that the price for such an action would be unacceptably high. Both men defaulted to vendetta banalities; the numbers presumably tell you who should be more afraid of whom.

9 February 2019

Israel Boosts Protection Of Gas Fields, Shipping

By ARIE EGOZI

TEL AVIV: With over 80 percent of Israeli’s commerce carried by sea and its offshore gas fields crucial to the economy, the country is boosting spending on protecting its shipping lanes, littorals and ports with an array of weapons including underwater capabilities, heavily armed patrol boats and new submarines.

Hezbollah sees the large natural gas reservoirs and the rigs that probe them in the Mediterranean as potential targets and this puts heavy pressure on the Israeli navy to safeguard them.

David Ben–Bassat, former commander of the Israeli navy, told Breaking Defense that after Israel declared its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), the maritime arena became very important and very complicated. “The navy’s task is to protect the Israeli interests in the EEZ. The protection is being performed now by the Israeli navy’s Sa’ar 5 missile boats, by autonomous boats carrying weapon stations and by UAS [drones] patrolling the EEZ to try and detect any developing hostility.”

5 February 2019

Iran's multi-front approach in the war against Israel

Yochanan Visser,

The threat Iran poses to Israel is well known and is taken seriously by everyone in the Jewish state, first and foremost by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

This threat is not limited to the so-called Iranian proxies, the terrorist organizations in Lebanon, Gaza and the territories under the control of the Palestinian Authority, or the Iranian activities in Syria, but also appears in other areas.

First, there is the Iranian nuclear threat which allegedly has decreased since the so-called JCPOA, the nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers, was negotiated.

Officially, Iran fulfills its obligations under the agreement which was implemented in the first months of 2016. The latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) indicates the Islamic Republic adheres to the terms of the agreement.

27 January 2019

Israeli Strikes in Syria Reveal New Battlefield for Post-Civil War Era

Seth Frantzman

Airstrikes against Iranian targets in Syria on Sunday and Monday revealed a new Syrian battlefield that is emerging as the Syrian civil war ends and the US prepares to withdraw.

For eight years, since the Syrian rebellion began in 2011, Syria has been the center of great power politics, and an attempt by various forces to control the region through proxies in the conflict. It also became a battlefield between different ideologies, and quests for autonomy amid the chaos and the rise of Islamic State. Now that era is drawing to a close and a new battlefield shift is taking place.

The Syrian conflict went through several phases over the greater part of the last decade. What began as a conflict between revolutionaries seeking to overthrow the regime, and reactionaries who sought to keep the Assad family in power, degenerated into a series of different conflicts and contests for who would control the country. Great and regional powers, such as the US, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey all sought a role in Syria. They did so often through backing local forces or proxies.

23 January 2019

Israel’s New Global Strategy – Analysis

By Modern Diplomacy

If we want to study Israel’s political and military positions, we must at first analyse Syria.

For Israel the problem in Syria is Russia, although it is apparently Iran.

In fact, one of the de-escalation areas is in the Golan Heights and certainly the Jewish State does not like that Iran and Hezbollah can easily and quietly operate in the Golan area, even without warlike acts but under the protection of Russia, which is also the guarantor of the whole area.

In particular, the Israeli government wants the Russian Federation to never intervene in favour of Iran.

However, if Iran and the Shiite forces leave Syria, Russia’s control to ensure Syrian stability will weaken and probably even crumble.

21 January 2019

Why Israel’s Upcoming Election Is a Show About Nothing

Avner Inbar

JERUSALEM—In three months, Israelis will head to the polls in what may become one of the most sensational yet least significant elections in their country’s recent memory. The race is already generating ample drama, with political parties forming and breaking up on what seems like an almost daily basis. But the always entertaining horse-race coverage belies a hopelessly stagnant political system, and a public discourse disinterested in policy and ideas. 

The contest will not be between different ideological approaches or policy solutions to Israel’s mounting problems, but between a few prominent figures who run political parties like private businesses and conduct themselves like media celebrities rather than public leaders. At the end of a heated and nasty campaign, one of them will carry the day. And it will almost assuredly be Benjamin Netanyahu.

20 January 2019

Israel’s Nuclear Weapons: The Worst-Kept Military Secret on the Planet

by Robert Farley

If a hostile power (let’s say Iran, for sake of discussion) appeared to be on the verge of mating nuclear devices with the systems needed to deliver them, Israel might well consider a preventive nuclear attack

Key point: There is no question that Israel could consider using its most powerful weapons if the conventional balance tipped decisively out of its favor.

Israel’s nuclear arsenal is the worst-kept secret in international relations. Since the 1970s, Israel has maintained a nuclear deterrent in order to maintain a favorable balance of power with its neighbors. Apart from some worrying moments during the Yom Kippur War, the Israeli government has never seriously considered using those weapons.

The most obvious scenario for Israel to use nuclear weapons would be in response to a foreign nuclear attack. Israel’s missile defenses, air defenses, and delivery systems are far too sophisticated to imagine a scenario in which any country other than one of the major nuclear powers could manage a disarming first strike. Consequently, any attacker is certain to endure massive retaliation, in short order. Israel’s goals would be to destroy the military capacity of the enemy (let’s say Iran, for sake of discussion) and also send a message that any nuclear attack against Israel would be met with catastrophic, unimaginable retaliation.

15 December 2018

Computer vision: how Israel’s secret soldiers drive its tech success


When Ofir Schlam, the co-founder of Taranis, an Israeli agriculture tech start-up, was growing up on a farm in Israel, he would regularly wake at 5am to search through the crop for the tiniest caterpillars, pests and rot. Years later, when he joined the military and was attached to the prime minister’s office, he adapted that skillset to analyse thousands of surveillance images, looking for the smallest anomaly. 

One of his key senior executives at Taranis, Amihay Gornik, developed his expertise working at large aerospace companies, designing imaging parts for military drones. He figured out a way to make a fast-moving camera think it was standing still by nestling it inside a proprietary pod he had fitted with a gyroscope, which helped cancel out vibrations and resulted in less blur. 

27 November 2018

Six Days, Fifty Years: The June 1967 War and its Aftermath

Editors: Anat Kurz, Kobi Michael, Gabi Siboni

The Institute for National Security Studies, November 2018

The Six Day War, which broke out on the morning of June 5, 1967, was a formative event that changed the face of the State of Israel and, to a large extent, the entire Middle East. Prior to the war, Israel had been under existential threat and in six days, the Israel Defense Forces succeeded in removing the threat by achieving a decisive military victory and positioning Israel as a significant force in the region. This victory was accompanied by new complexities, and fifty years after the war, some of its implications still remain as heavy dilemmas, which the Israeli public and the state institutions must address. Five decades later, the events directly related to the war and its loni-term implications can be examined more broadly and more rationally than was possible in the period immediately after the war. The study of the past and the drawing of insights from the war and its results enable us to analyze the complex security, political, and social challenges currently facini the State of Israel, as well as assess those inherent in future scenarios. On the fiftieth anniversary of the war, the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) chose to publish this book devoted to the war and its lessons, which was written by researchers from the institute and outside of it. Together these articles present a comprehensive and in-depth picture of the Six Day War, its results, and its implications.

Fifty Years since the Six Day War: A Retrospective

25 November 2018

Hezbollah Took a Gamble in Syria, Raising the Stakes for Israel

Hezbollah has taken risks in fighting for Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, but those risks are paying off. Israel, however, is on the losing end of this gamble. F 

With the Syrian civil war entering its final phase, the conditions are in place for a conflict between Hezbollah and Israel that neither side wants. As Hezbollah fighters begin making their way home after a costly but apparently successful effort to help save the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, there are growing signs that the status quo is about to change. 

The Israelis, whose attention is sharply focused on Hezbollah and Iranian installations along Israel’s border with Syria, are becoming increasingly concerned with Lebanon. The most recent war between Hezbollah and Israel ended in a stalemate in 2006. Israel officials believe that since then Hezbollah has stockpiled about 150,000 rockets, enough to hit every house in Israel. There is little doubt on either side of the border that another war will erupt.

War between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon may not be imminent, but it is extremely likely sometime down the line. Now that Assad’s survival is essentially assured, with Hezbollah and Iran regrouping, the outlines are emerging for a new conflict between Hezbollah, battle-hardened by its experience in Syria, and Iran, bolstered by the survival of its crucial Syrian ally, against Israel, determined to prevent them from further fortifying their positions along its border. 

24 November 2018

What Drives Israel’s Startup Success?


In October the business press reported that Israeli cybertech startup Sygnia was acquired by Singapore’s billion-dollar Temasek Holdings for an estimated $250 million. The return for the owners is over 50 times the initial investment, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz. And last year, the Israeli company Mobileye, a pioneer in autonomous car technology, was purchased by Intel for a whopping $15.3 billion.

Tech startups may not be the first thing that comes to mind when many people think of Israel — the country’s political strife is what makes headlines. But Israel’s achievements in innovation and entrepreneurship are remarkable by any measure for a tiny, embattled nation of 8.8 million people that has only existed for 70 years.

At the recent Wharton Israel Conference, speakers and participants highlighted Israel’s contributions to technology, science, medicine and agriculture, as well as its entrepreneurial spirit which they said helps transform discoveries into real-world solutions.

22 November 2018

Why Israel Doesn’t Want A War With Gaza

By Mudar Zahran

The Israeli people are rarely as angry with their political leadership as they are today – and the reason for their anger is clear: they believe that their leadership has failed to take decisive military action against the terrorist group Hamas in Gaza.

As witnessed by the world a few days ago, Hamas began shooting rockets at southern Israeli towns and villages. In total, more than 500 rockets were launched, and in response, Israel undertook very precise, decisive and surgical military air strikes, hitting some of Hamas’s most significant facilities and military installations.

This brought about a very quick cease-fire, a cease-fire that has come as a disappointment for many Israelis – especially those who bore the brunt of the attacks. Apparently, the Israeli public wanted military actions that would either annihilate Hamas, or, at least, serve as a deterrent that would force it to stop shooting rockets into Israel.

20 November 2018

How Hamas Brought Israel to the Brink of Election Chaos

by Seth J. Frantzman

Israel’s defense minister Avigdor Lieberman resigned on November 14 in the wake of a ceasefire agreement with Hamas in Gaza. His resignation has now plunged Israeli politics into chaos as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must juggle what’s left of his fragile coalition government and is being pressured to appoint Naftali Bennett, head of the Jewish Home party, as the new defense minister. Hamas, which has been challenging Israel with six months of protests and rocket fire from Gaza, has now achieved what it sees as a victory. Despite its inability to penetrate Israel’s defenses around Gaza, it may bring down the government.