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Latest News in Israel – 15th August

US will not ‘foreclose’ UN options on two-state solution, Power says

The Obama administration has not yet decided whether to endorse efforts at the UN Security Council addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by the end of the president’s term, Washington’s envoy to the UN, Samantha Power, told a group of Jewish leaders on Thursday.

The Manhattan meeting, which included Power and over 40 representatives from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, featured a lengthy conversation on the prospect of UN action – of great concern to the Jewish-American establishment, to the Israeli government and apparently opposed by the president’s choice for successor, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who has characterized such moves in the past as “counterproductive.”

Attendees of the meeting who spoke afterward left with the impression that Power doubts action will be taken. But US officials say that no final decision has been made as to how the US will proceed.

“When asked about whether the Obama administration was planning an initiative related to Middle East peace, Ambassador Power stated that she could not foreclose any options, because ultimately such a decision will be made by the president,” a US official told the Post on Friday night, confirming the conversation. “When asked about a potential UN Security Council resolution, she answered that she would not speculate on a hypothetical resolution and clarified that no such resolution is on the table today.”

France has led an effort in recent months to outline international parameters for a two-state solution, and to effectively set a new standard for an end to the decades-old conflict. Israel opposes the initiative as an imposition of terms, but the US says it supports the effort in principle.

Paris would like such terms codified in a Security Council resolution. The US says that it does not oppose all resolutions on Israel in the council as a blanket rule.

Power said that the administration “will continue to assess how to most effectively support a negotiated twostate solution, and reaffirmed that the administration would oppose one-sided resolutions at the UN Security Council that delegitimize Israel or undermine its security,” the official added.

Since Obama took office, the Security Council has not passed any resolutions against Israel, with the US vetoing one such text in 2011 and working behind the scenes to halt others.

During his administration the Palestinians have persistently called for council resolutions to be passed against Israel, including just a few weeks ago in July, in response to the Jerusalem Municipality’s plans to advance the construction of 770 homes in the Jewish neighborhood of Gilo, which is located over the pre-1967 lines.

The Palestinians had hoped that the Quartet report on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which was issued in July, would lead to a resolution against Israel.

It is believed that the US worked behind the scenes to prevent such action.

Israel, however, has remained nervous that the Obama administration could change course and support a Security Council resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is particularly concerned that such an action could occur in December, in the aftermath of the US election, when the administration would no longer need to curry favor with the Jewish voters.             (Jerusalem Post)

Or Sasson wins Israel’s second judo bronze at Rio Games

Israel’s Or Sasson beat Cuba’s Alex Maxell Garcia Mendoza to win a bronze medal in the men’s over-100kg competition at the Rio Games on Friday.

Sasson’s was Israel’s second bronze of the Games, following female judoka Yarden Gerbi’s bronze on Tuesday.

Sasson and Mendoza fought a close tussle, with no decisive moves, with Sasson prevailing by dint of fewer penalties.

Sasson, who turns 26 on August 18, a two-time European silver medalist, had lost his semifinal fight to France’s Teddy Riner, the event’s outstanding performer, who went on to retain his gold medal.

Gold-medalist Riner, who defeated Japan’s Hisayoshi Harsawa for the Rio gold, has not lost a competition in six years, is unbeaten in over 110 fights and in 2012 won the top prize at the London Games. He is also the only judoka in the world to ever win eight World Championship gold medals.

The Israeli brushed off an unpleasant encounter with his defeated Egyptian opponent, Islam El-Shahaby in the first round, going on to win two more fights and claim his place in the semifinals against the legendary Riner.

El-Shahaby refused to shake hands with Sasson after his defeat, or even bow in mutual respect. The Egyptian was ordered back to the floor to bow, was booed by the crowd, and later said he was quitting judo.

Sasson beat Poland’s Maciej Sarnacki in the second round and Roy Meyer of the Netherlands in the quarterfinals. The defeated Meyer paid tribute to Sasson’s fighting skills after their match, but told Israeli TV that he was not going to beat Riner.

As it turned out, Sasson held his own against Riner for much of the fight, only being outmaneuvered in the final few seconds.

Israel’s Or Sasson kisses his bronze medal on the podium of the men’s +100kg judo contest of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro

In stark contrast to El-Shahaby’s behavior, Riner shook hands warmly with Sasson at the end of the encounter, and whispered some words of congratulation to the Israeli for his performance.

On Tuesday, fellow Israeli judoka Yarden Gerbi overcame an early loss to win bronze in the women’s under-63 kg in Rio, becoming the first Israeli athlete to win a medal at the 2016 games, and the first Israeli Olympic medalist since windsurfer Shahar Tzuberi took home the bronze in the 2008 games in Beijing.             (the Times of Israel)

Attacker stabs female soldier in Northern W. Bank

A female attacker stabbed a female soldier in the Northern West Bank near the Shaked settlement Sunday evening.

Initial reports from the IDF indicated that the female terrorist arrived at the scene by car, emerged from her vehicle with a knife and attempted to kill the security officer at a checkpoint, but only succeeded in lightly wounding her.

The  IDF force on the scene managed to stop the terrorist without the use of firearms.

The attacker was neutralized without injury.

It is believed that only one military police officer was lightly injured in the incident.

The attempted stabbing comes just days after a stabbing in Jerusalem in which an 18 year old yeshiva student was stabbed in the upper body multiple times in the A-Tur neighborhood, near the the Mount of Olives.

He sustained moderate injuries and was transferred to the Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem.  (Jerusalem Post)

Jewish man lightly-to-moderately hurt in stabbing in At-Tur

A 26-year-old Jewish man was lightly-to-moderately wounded in a stabbing at the East Jerusalem neighborhood of At-Tur on Thursday afternoon, while his attacker managed to get away.

Police said the young man, who was leaving the Mount of Olives cemetery and heading towards the bus stop, was attacked and pushed to the ground, apparently by an Arab, and stabbed in the back and neck, reportedly with a screwdriver. The attacker then fled the scene.

The wounded man boarded a bus that drove to the nearby police and Border Police post near Beit Hahoshen, where he got off and reported the incident to the officers. They gave him initial medical treatment and called Magen David Adom to provide him with further care, as well as additional police force to search for the attacker.

The man arrived at the Hadassah Medical Center at Jerusalem’s Mount Scopus for treatment in light and stable condition.              (Ynet News)

Bus driver rushes passenger to hospital – in his bus

A Haifa bus driver named Roi Levi exhibited outstanding resourcefulness yesterday, when he turned his bus into an ambulance.

At a certain point in one of his daily lines, Levi discovered that one of his passengers had lost consciousness and had collapsed.

Levi didn’t hesitate, and decided to quickly rush the passenger – along with all the other passengers on board – to the Rambam Hospital. As the bus arrived at the reception room of the hospital, medical staff immediately started treating the passenger, a woman in her forties.

Levi, who became an overnight hero, told Yisrael Hayom that, after he had noticed that the woman had fainted, he decided to “close the doors and fly to the hospital. When the son of the woman who had fainted came up to me later – I saw my own son in him.”                           (Arutz Sheva)

Jewish disunity: Public figures nationwide discuss its dangers

A host of public figures including academics, authors, journalists, politicians and social activists held meetings across the country on Saturday night to discuss the abiding challenge of Jewish disunity and the concept of “the center and the extremes” in Jewish society, past and present.

The Sderot Conference for Society and Sapir Academic College staged the evening of debates and discussions on the eve of the Tisha Be’av fast. Readings of the Book of Lamentations, traditionally read on the eve of the fast, were also staged.

One of the participants was Shivi Froman, a social activist, teacher, and son of the late champion of coexistence Rabbi Menachem Froman, who spoke at an event in the capital’s French Hill neighborhood.

Talking ahead of the event, Froman argued that in a country and society which is maturing, a certain amount of radicalism and departure from the mainstream is to be expected.

Just as adolescents in the process of growing up can frequently act in wild, rebellious manner, elements within a maturing society can act in a similar way, said Froman, explaining that the country needs to undertake two sets of actions to cope with this phenomenon.

“Firstly, we need to build up the central narrative of our identity around our common denominator, and that needs to include Jewish, democratic and pluralist values,” he told the Post.

“But we also need to build a dialogue with the extremes, and we need to find a way to allow space for the extremes as well.”

Froman argued that denying space for elements and forces at the extremes of society would only exacerbate their extremism, and demanding that everyone should be “mainstream and politically correct” is itself a form of extremism and doomed to failure.

He said however that it was necessary to fight “an uncompromising war” against those elements that seek to physically harm the state.

“For example, the Islamic Movement is a legitimate organization in Israel and we need to allow Arab society to give expression to its Muslim faith and allow Muslims to organize in this way. But at the same time we need to wage relentless war against anyone seeking to harm Israeli state and society, including extremists in the Arab sector.

“But a perspective that all Arab representatives and organizations are illegitimate is very problematic.”

Froman said that another example is the so-called “hilltop youth,” radical and intensely religious young Jews who seek to establish new settlement outposts in Judea and Samaria, some of whom have been accused of violence against Palestinians and other minorities.

“Hilltop youth have a deep faith and love for this land and its connection to the Jewish people. The language they use is outside of the mainstream, but if someone feels he can’t express his opinion it will be translated into inclination to kick out, burn down and, destroy,” Froman said.

“We need to think about how we can give an attentive ear and a place to their positions,” he continued, while again emphasizing the importance of preventing harmful actions MK Yossi Yonah of the Zionist Union, who also spoke in Jerusalem, at an event in Baka, emphasized the need for different societal groups to take responsibility for Israel as a whole, and to therefore compromise on their desires and goals.

The lawmaker said in particular that the Israeli Left has accepted to a large extent the need to include settlement blocs inside Israel’s borders in any future two-state solution, and warned that those seeking territorial maximalism would be biting off more than the country can chew.

“We’re letting the extreme rightwing lead us into the abyss. Out of concern for the future, I am afraid that due to this perspective we will be in danger of either having a binational state or on the other hand having an apartheid state, neither of which anyone wants,” said Yonah.

The MK said that it was the responsibility of the Center and Center Left to emphasize to the public the dangers of such outcomes.

“We might compromise a sovereign Jewish state if we continue on like this. I’m not saying the Palestinians aren’t also responsible for the current stalemate, but we need to take responsibility too.”

Yonah also highlighted the large socioeconomic gaps as another serious challenge facing the nation, as well as “the growing influence of capitalist and neoliberal ideologies” which he said were responsible for a growing lack of tolerance for the notion of societal responsibility.

“We have solidarity against external threats, such as terrorism, but regarding the economic plight of other citizens there is growing indifference and a lack of concern, and this lack of social solidarity worries me a lot.”

Yonah said that “creating a more homogeneous society glued together by common values and heritage and future goals” was the only way to create a greater sense of such social solidarity.

Author, lecturer and novelist Yochi Brandes spoke at an event in Ariel. Speaking to the Post, she highlighted what she believes to be the decreasing rigidity with which the majority of Jewish Israelis view their Judaism and their observance of the religion.

She noted that in the past, there was a very definitive group of secular Israelis who were uninterested in religion whatsoever, but said that in the last 20 years this had begun to change.

“Young people don’t necessarily like to learn about Judaism, but they do want to observe some of the religious practices, they are okay with integrating different aspects of religion into their lives, they take a bit from their grandmother, a bit from experiences they had in India perhaps,” said Brandes.

She described this phenomenon as “the victory of Mizrahiut,” the attitude toward religion which many Middle Eastern Jews in Israel have adopted, where religious life is observed but in a more relaxed manner than strictly observant Jews have done.

“This kind of Judaism without the requirement for group affiliation has taken hold, and I think the majority of Israeli society is more accepting and saying ‘I’m a free Jew, I do perform commandments but no one will tell me how to do so.’” Brandes acknowledged that this sentiment has not yet entered the political realm, but said that divisiveness in Israel was frequently brought about by politics itself, as well as by the media.

“But large parts of Israeli society are not there anymore. People are more relaxed, especially youth, people don’t want to fight and have an attitude that we are all Jews, we are all Israelis, and are happy for others to do as they like if they are allowed to do the same,” she opined.                        (Jerusalem Post)

Millions injected into new welfare, culture and science budgets

The government approved the 2017-2018 state budget on Friday, setting it at 454 billion shekels ($US118 billion) for 2017 and NIS 463 billion ($US120 billion) for 2018. The proposed budget will be presented to the Knesset for a vote in the coming weeks.

The government’s approval followed a marathon 24-hour budget discussion to fine-tune policies addressing major policy objectives on reducing the high cost of living, reducing socio-economic gaps, and boosting economic growth and productivity.

Speaking at the beginning of the meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said the biennial budget includes substantial increases in funds for the Welfare, Health, Education, Transportation, and Immigrant Absorption ministries.

The budget “includes a series of growth incentives to increase competition and reduce the cost of living,” Netanyahu said. “I cannot stress this enough: Growth is the most important element in managing Israel’s economic and social policies. There is no social policy without the kind of economic policy that ensures growth and produces resources.”

The prime minister detailed four main steps he seeks to lead in economic policy: cutting tax rates, reducing regulation, encouraging international technology companies to invest in Israel, and promoting a major investment in public transport infrastructure.

Kahlon said the policy “seeks to continue with reducing taxes, fighting centralization, and opening the economy to competition. We will also continue with our efforts to solve the housing crisis.”

Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev were absent from the meeting, as both are overseas. Health Minister Yakov Litzman said he would oppose the biennial budget proposal as it fails to meet his ministry’s demand to increase the number of public hospital beds, although the new budget does include a 200 million shekel ($US52.5 million) increase to the basket of subsidized medicines.

The new proposal increases the Culture and Sport Ministry’s budget to NIS 455 million ($119 million) overall, and the Science, Technology and Space Ministry’s budget to NIS 480 million ($US125 million) in 2017 and NIS 530 million ($US138 million) in 2018. It also increases the Social Equality Ministry’s budget to NIS 750 million ($US196 million) in 2017 and NIS 800 million ($US209 million) in 2018, and the Welfare and Social Services Ministry’s budget to NIS 1.32 billion ($US346 million) overall. The Tourism Ministry’s budget was set at NIS 1.24 billion (US$325 million).

The Finance and Energy ministries have agreed on an overall budget of NIS 280 million ($US73 million) for the Energy Ministry, with an additional NIS 360 million ($US94 million) earmarked for the development of natural gas infrastructure.

An Environmental Protection Ministry Clean Air Initiative was budgeted at NIS 260 million ($US68 million). The plan includes incentives to boost the scrapping of old diesel-fueled vehicles, and government subsidies to encourage diesel-fueled vehicles to install special particulate filters.

While ministers welcomed their budget increases, Bank of Israel Governor Dr. Karnit Flug was apprehensive Thursday, saying the Finance Ministry’s new deficit goal “exposes the economy to the risk of a substantial deficit and [national] debt increase.”

On Monday, the Finance Ministry announced it would be setting deficit projections at 2.9% of gross domestic product for 2017 and a similar percentage for 2018. The Finance Ministry expects the deficit to decrease to 1.5% of GDP by 2023.

While the original deficit goal was 2.7%, raising it to 2.9% will increase government resources by NIS 5 billion ($US1.3 billion) in 2017 and NIS 8 billion ($US2 billion) in 2018. (Israel Hayom)

Archeological finds, City of David bolster Jewish claim to Jerusalem

Tisha Be’av is a day deeply rooted in Jewish history and memory, with its primary association being with the destruction of the Second Temple at the hands of the Roman Empire in 70 CE.

In the midst of controversy with international bodies such as UNESCO, remembering the religious and cultural heritage that the temple represents can take form in looking back at the biblical archeological record, something that City of David International Affairs Director Ze’ev Orenstein believes strongly bolsters the connection between Judaism and Jerusalem.

“If all that stuff is built on the notion that none of this ever happened, and then you pull a seal out of the ground with the names of the ministers straight out of the Bible one after the next in the same verse… that causes problems.”

Seals in reference to King Hezekiah, lower-level royal officials and even of a woman named Elihana bat Gael serve as proof of a 3,000-year connection between ancient Israel and the country we know today, adds Orenstein.

According to him, these discoveries present problems, however, for people who are committed to an opposing agenda.

“Unfortunately today, much of what you can call ‘Palestinian nationalism’ or ‘Palestinian identity’ is based on the narrative that the Jewish people have no legitimate ties to this land… that we’re a bunch of white Europeans,” says Orenstein. “That would then make excavations in the City of David particular problematic.”

Petitions to recognize the Temple Mount as an exclusively Islamic site have so far been met with disapproval.

The World Heritage Committee postponed its decision last month to vote on a recently proposed resolution that would refer to the contested site only by al-Haram al-Sharif, its Muslim name.

Orenstein’s hope is that enough committee members would strike down such a proposal, using City of David finds as his main piece of evidence.

“This isn’t a Jewish issue, it’s not a Christian issue, even though it’s denying these events when they’re so clearly proven from an archeological perspective,” says Orenstein. “But really, it’s an attack on truth, because if you can deny objective truth… tomorrow it’ll be about something else.”

Although October’s decision is yet to be made, backing from UNESCO director- general Irina Bokova could tip the scale in Israel’s favor.

“To deny or conceal any of the Jewish, Christian or Muslim traditions undermines the integrity of the site, and runs counter to the reasons that justified its inscription in 1981,” Bokova wrote on UNESCO’s website.

As for Tisha Be’av, the enormous yet elegant Herodian stones found at the foot of the ancient temple’s primary entrance do not only evoke a sense of loss and mourning, but of a compelling case for Judaism’s relationship with the site.

“On one hand, we’re standing in an area where the destruction of Jerusalem happened, and yet at the same time, we’re standing in a place where we see the rebirth, and the return, and the redemption of Israel,” says Orenstein.

“So yes, we have a lot to remember and there are many lessons that we still need to learn… but at the same time we’re growing, and thriving, and we’re home.”        (Jerusalem Post)

The Palestinian Charity Trap

A willful ignorance of the facts on the ground makes aid groups ripe for corruption and the misdirection of funds to terrorist groups.

by Gerald M. Steinberg                           The Wall Street Journal


World Vision officials have professed to be “shocked” by the arrest in Israel last week of Mohammed El-Halabi, the head of the megacharity’s Gaza operations. Mr. Halabi is accused of repurposing over the course of 10 years up to $7.2 million a year, in cash and materials, to Hamas. That’s approximately 60% of World Vision’s total aid to Gaza. In addition to money allegedly used for deadly weapons and the construction of terror tunnels, the charge sheet includes diverting unemployment payments, “2,500 food packages worth $100 each” and “3,300 packages of cleaning supplies and personal hygiene products worth $80 each . . . to Hamas units.”

According to the Israeli security agency that conducted the investigation into World Vision, Mr. Halabi admitted his role as a Hamas agent during interrogation, though his lawyer has since rejected this account and denied the allegations. World Vision has also denied the charges, claiming that the budget for its Gaza operations was smaller than the amount of the funds allegedly diverted. However, the annual reports of the Jerusalem-West Bank-Gaza (JWG) branch of World Vision fail to specify a separate budget for operations in Gaza alone, making it impossible to independently verify these assertions.

But it is impossible not to see in Gaza the massive construction of terrorist infrastructure everywhere, with humanitarian aid as the primary source of funds and materials. Terror is the territory’s only major industry, and if Hamas wasn’t stealing the aid, where were the sacks of cement, beams, pipes and other materials, as well as the cash to pay for the work, coming from?

Instead, World Vision leaders such as Tim Costello of the charity’s Australian branch, which provided a significant portion of World Vision JWG’s 2014 budget of more than $20 million, took refuge in distant accounting firms. “We have PricewaterhouseCoopers that audit us each year,” Mr. Costello said.

But Mr. Costello and his peers at other aid groups should be aware that no international auditing firm can independently track funds in terror enclaves. In Gaza, there are no receipts for the numerous cash transactions that were conducted via World Vision. Even if there were, how would the auditors verify their authenticity? Indeed, the audit claim wasn’t enough to convince the Australian government, which immediately froze the $5.7 million annual budget granted to World Vision. Germany soon followed suit.

The broader problem is that due diligence for humanitarian aid in war and terror zones requires the allocation of significant resources and a professional staff capable of detaching itself from the pressures and sympathies of the local environment. World Vision, like most aid groups operating in Gaza, clearly failed in this respect.

For years, World Vision promoted the Palestinian cause, developed alliances and provided funds to some of the nongovernmental organizations active in demonizing Israel and promoting boycotts. In publications designed to bring in donations, the brutality of Palestinian terrorism is erased while images of victimization are highlighted. Children are depicted as harassed by “soldiers and settlers,” and “suffer from lack of adequate education facilities” due to “demolitions,” as World Vision’s website puts it. Palestinian corruption is whitewashed, as is the fact that Israel has been out of Gaza for more than a decade.

World Vision’s troubles in Gaza reflect the broader moral failures of the humanitarian-aid industry. The narrow vision of aid workers contribute to a willful blindness to terrorism. The competition for publicity and donations results in alliances with brutal regimes and corrupt warlords. But thanks to the NGO “halo effect,” many donors also neglect due diligence, instead relying on the pure reputation of the recipient organization.

World Vision is no exception. It was founded in 1950 by an American missionary and has grown into an international aid powerhouse, operating in more than 100 countries and with annual revenues of $2.8 billion. While hundreds of millions come from individuals and private philanthropies, more than half of the NGO’s world-wide grants are funded by governments via the U.N., including Australia, Canada, Germany, the U.S. and the U.K. As revenues skyrocket and with thin-to-nonexistent transparency and accountability, due diligence is neglected and corruption festers.

Mr. Halabi’s arrest should be cautionary moment for other international aid organizations with operations in Gaza such as Care, Christian Aid, Oxfam and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. The need to deal realistically with operations in a terror-controlled zone like Gaza, and the costs of failing to perform due diligence, should be apparent. World Vision’s auditing claims notwithstanding, cash payments in Gaza are a direct path to corruption and diversion to terror. They should be ended immediately.

Aid groups also need to obtain and use intelligence information, particularly regarding employees and their activities. Some of this can be developed internally, and some can be purchased from consulting firms. And instead of adopting the Palestinian culture of noncooperation with Israeli security, it is in the interests of these organizations to quietly open channels of communication and information sharing.

World Vision’s failures in Gaza highlight the problems of a multibillion dollar NGO industry that remains largely unregulated and unexamined. With so much money involved, including private and public funds, and given the stakes in environments of terrorism and guerrilla warfare, the need for transparency, accountability and detailed guidelines is clear. If the officials who run organizations such as World Vision aren’t willing to take the lead, then the governments that contract out their aid budgets must act.

Mr. Steinberg is professor of politics at Bar Ilan University in Israel and president of the NGO Monitor research institute.

IDF in race against time to modernize armored vehicles

by Yaacov Lappin               The Jerusalem Post


A quiet revolution is taking place in the world of IDF armored vehicles, which could have a decisive impact on the next outbreak of hostilities in the region.

Armored platforms, once dismissed as relics of 20th century warfare, are today once again treasured assets, and are back in their familiar role, at the forefront of ground operations planning, despite the complete transformation of the modern battlefield. That is because they are turning into intelligence-gathering platforms that can reveal the exact location of hostile combatants all around them.

Israeli army Merkava tanks churn up dust as they race towards targets during a live-fire exercise.

Technological innovations are allowing tanks and armored personnel carriers (APCs) to remain lethal and relevant to 21st century Middle Eastern warfare. Instead of Syrian tank formations charging at the border, today, guerrilla anti-tank missile cells hide in buildings, tunnels, and forests; their plan is to fire on the IDF and move, again and again.

Rafael’s Trophy active protection system, which has amassed half a million hours of operational activities since going into service, provides the clearest example of how armored vehicles can now deal with this threat.

Installed on board the Merkava MK 4 battle tank (and used heavily during the 2014 conflict with Hamas in Gaza), as well as on the Namer APC, and the soon-to-arrive Eitan APC, Trophy is well known for intercepting missiles and RPGs in mid-air. Yet these defensive abilities, it turns out, only form half the story.

The other half involves using the same system to go on the offensive, and using the enemy’s missile attacks against it.

Trophy’s radars, when installed on board vehicles, instantly detect the position of the cell that fired the missile, and the IDF’s command and control network can broadcast those coordinates to all friendly forces in the area.

That means that an enemy cell that fired on a tank or APC with Trophy will itself become a target in seconds, and is unlikely to fire again.

The return fire will appear in seconds, and can come from anyone logged in to the IDF’s ‘network,’ be it another tank, an artillery gun further back, or a combat helicopter with precision-guided missiles that received the data. Alternatively, the tank that was fired on can return fire instantly.

Either way, the IDF’s new armored vehicles now map out the position of the threats around them, meaning that their role as intelligence gatherers is becoming as important as their ability to fire, and push through hostile terrain.

Israeli army Merkava tanks churn up dust as they race towards targets during a live-fire exercise.

Israeli army Merkava tanks churn up dust as they race towards targets during a live-fire exercise.

Defense industries and military brass are currently in a race against time to phase out old APCs and tanks that do not have these abilities, while developing a myriad of sensors, radars and other kinds, to boost this ability further.

In any potential ground offensive against Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, or the myriad of jihadist factions in Syria, these technological changes mean that armored vehicles will, as they did in the last century, lead the way.

IDF Presents: A Technological Revolution

The trauma of the Second Lebanon War prompted the IDF to intensify its training efforts and upgrade its technological layout. In the coming days, a massive technological tender is expected to be issued.

by  Amir Rapaport               Israel Defense


It  happened exactly ten years ago: after 32 days of fighting Hezbollah during the Second Lebanon War, the IDF was in the middle of Operation Shinuy Kivun 11 (= Change of Direction 11), intended to capture certain territories in Southern Lebanon (beyond the Saluki river). The objective was to change the impression that the IDF was trudging through that war, as the decision regarding the ceasefire had already been finalized at the UN and was going into effect after 24 hours.

So, on the one before last evening of the War, the men of the IDF Paratrooper Brigade were located at a northern IDF base, where they were ordered to mount CH-53 helicopters that would take them to a ridge at the heart of the enemy territory, where reservist paratroopers had already landed one day previously. The airlifting process took much longer than anticipated. After years without relevant training, only a few of the paratroopers were familiar with the helicopter mounting drill. Many of them did not have ID tags and new tags had to be issued for them on the spot. When the preparations were finally completed, the IAF helicopter squadron warned that it was too late to depart for the landing zone. The obvious concern was that owing to the delay, the helicopters would arrive at the landing zone under full moonlight which would leave them exposed to enemy fire. The circumstances notwithstanding, the order to take off was issued and the force departed.

Four helicopters landed under the moonlight on the ridge in Southern Lebanon and unloaded 40 troopers and commanders each (including brigade commander Hagai Mordechai) as well as a TV military commentator – Ron Ben-Yishai. When the fifth helicopter departed from the landing zone, it was hit by a missile. In retrospect, it was realized that the disaster could have been much worse. The men of Hezbollah had apparently refused to believe that IDF would send helicopters loaded with troopers to the same location day after day. Apparently, they thought the helicopters had arrived to pick up the troopers that had landed there on the previous night, so they waited for the helicopter to take off before engaging it. If they hit the loaded helicopters on their arrival, the number of casualties would have been much higher.

However, the disaster was sufficiently catastrophic to cause the IDF to abort Operation Change of Direction 11 earlier than planned: the five crewmen were killed instantly. The task of recovering the body parts of the female flight mechanic necessitated a daring rescue operation. The time was close to ten at night. The IDF Chief of Staff during that war, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, had just returned to the Quirya after granting an interview to Channel 10 news, where he sustained a crossfire attack. The present Chief of Staff and then head of the IDF Operations Division, Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, watched the burning helicopter on the display screens in the ‘Pit’. At that time, on the 14th floor of the Ministry of Defense and IDF GHQ building, Chief of Staff Halutz told Minister of Defense Amir Peretz: “I suggest we stop everything,” to which Peretz agreed immediately.

Technological Revolution

Ten years after that night, the Second Lebanon War is still the formative traumatic experience of the present IDF (much more than the Yom-Kippur War of 1973, which has evolved into ancient history). Despite ten years of tranquility along the Lebanon border, the War had exposed so many deficiencies that the process of mending those deficiencies continues to this day.

During the first five years following the Second Lebanon War (primarily during the tenure of Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi), the various units of IDF trained constantly in order to regain the basic competence they had lost, and several technological projects were initiated that are still maturing (some of which may not be reported at least until the next war).

The second five-year period, under Benny Gantz and Gadi Eizenkot, has been characterized by a substantial technological effort. One of the technologies IDF have been introducing into widespread use involves robots for the land battlefield – just like 20 years ago, the employment of UAVs for aerial missions intensified dramatically. Another substantial effort is underway in the field of communication: very soon, IDF and the defense industries will complete the development of a new communication network using the LTE technology – just like the one used in the smartphones.

At the IDF-wide level, the “Network IDF” plan has shifted into high gear. In the context of this plan, all of the IDF arms – sea, air and ground – will share a single combat communication network. In this way, a fighter aircraft may engage a target spotted by a ground-based or naval surveillance asset and vice versa. Elements of the new fire employment concept, which increased the strike capacity of IDF several times over relative to 2006, have already been reflected in Operation Protective Edge two years ago (although the new concept was not effective against the new threat that emerged during that war – the underground tunnels).

One of the lessons of the Winograd Commission pursuant to the Second Lebanon War called for all of the intelligence information to be made readily available to the entire IDF and for the establishment of a massive computer center. The project conceived pursuant to that lesson and designated “Five Nines” (owing to the reliability level required at any given moment – 99.999%), is currently being implemented.

That is only the beginning of a technological revolution the full scale of which is difficult to comprehend: in the coming week, a massive technological tender is expected to be issued. This tender will concentrate the construction of the computer and communication infrastructure of IDF for the coming decades, in the context of the relocation of the units of the IDF Intelligence Directorate and C4I Directorate to the Negev.

The tender, estimated at billions of dollars, attracted to Israel such international giants as IBM, EMC and Lockheed Martin, who are currently establishing coalitions among themselves or with leading Israeli industries such as Rafael, Elbit Systems and IAI.

Pursuant to the issuance of the tender, a process expected to last months will begin very soon, until the winning bidders have been selected. The establishment of the new infrastructures will be suitable for the new era in which IDF are expected to include a cyber warfare command, owing to the fact that cyberspace has evolved into one of the dimensions of warfare, just like the present dimensions – sea, land and air.

Personnel Crisis

The technological revolution notwithstanding, the situation is by no means rosy.

Another war in Lebanon or a simultaneous war opposite Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip will be a much more difficult challenge than the Second Lebanon War or Operation Protective Edge.

Additionally, despite the massive investment in technology, IDF are having a hard time coping with the command crisis and the crisis within the regular

(permanent force) personnel, which started following the Second Lebanon War. After the War, many of the star commanders of IDF, destined for greatness, like division commanders Gal Hirsch and Erez Zuckerman, were forced to retire and go home. The only division commander who managed to survive the war with his career intact was Guy Tzur, who was subsequently appointed as Commander of the IDF Ground Arm (he handed over his command, last Wednesday, to Armored Corps man Maj. Gen. Kobi Barak).

It that was not enough, senior commanders dropped from the race to the military top owing to various “reliability issues”, as was the case with Shmuel Zakai, Imad Fares and Moshe Tamir, or sex scandals (the most recent senior commander who has just retired to civilian life prematurely is, naturally, Brig. Gen. Ofek Buchris).

The problem also concerns the junior and intermediate command levels. IDF are finding it harder and harder to keep the best officers in regular service, and these officers retire to civilian life after having completed just a short service term. Low morale among the regular personnel, the option of retiring to civilian life at any age while enjoying the benefits of a “funded” pension (as opposed to the “unfunded” pension that was the norm in the past, whose benefits were only awarded to those who had remained in service until retirement age), layoff plans, and especially the widespread public criticism against the wages of the regular IDF personnel – have led many to retire (a high percentage of the officers at the lower ranks are considering retirement, according to internal information IDF are not interested in publicizing, for obvious reasons).

The on-going personnel crisis will have long-term implications on the quality of the IDF command in the coming years.

The Civilian Cyber Revolution: Another Stage Completed

Another thing that happened recently and was never publicized: ISA and the National Cyber Authority reached an agreement according to which the responsibility for providing cyber security to the critical infrastructures of the state will be reassigned from ISA to the new civilian authority.

The agreement was made possible owing to the consent of the new chief of ISA, Nadav Argaman, as his predecessors had strongly opposed this change. After the agreement had been reached, a new statute regulating the responsibilities for cyber security passed the third reading at the Knesset last week. According to the new statute, ISA will remain responsible for cyber security for communication systems only.

The cyber authority had developed out of the National Cyber Bureau at the Prime Minister’s office, headed for the past four years by Dr. Eviatar Matania, and includes the new Cyber Authority (headed by Buki Carmeli) and the Cyber Bureau itself, as a limited-size body in charge of consolidating the national strategy. The cyber revolution will probably continue quietly, under the global leadership of Israel. Within a year, a comprehensive cyber statute will be passed by the Knesset and cyber-related standards will be issued for regulating the employment market and the field of software products.

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