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Latest News in Israel – 16th June

Russia Might Use Veto Power to Protect Israel at United Nations, Israeli Official Says

Russia is not ruling out using its veto power at the United Nations Security Council to thwart anti-Israel resolutions, an unnamed Israeli diplomatic official involved in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trip to Moscow last week told the Israeli news site nrg.

However, the official did qualify his statement, saying that the chances of Russia wielding its veto power in such a manner were very low.

The official noted that the high level of respect Russian President Vladmir Putin demonstrated toward Netanyahu and his traveling entourage last week was unprecedented and indicated Russia’s deep desire to bolster its relationship with Israel.

Netanyahu’s trip to Moscow came against the backdrop of the concern among Israeli officials that US President Barack Obama, before he leaves the White House in January, will seek to promote, or at least refrain from vetoing, a UN Security Council resolution that outlines the parameters of a future peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. According to the nrg report, this concern was validated by conversations leading Israeli politician Yair Lapid had with Obama advisers during a recent trip to Washington. On the other hand, just last week, US National Security Adviser Susan Rice said in speech at the American Jewish Committee conference in Washington, “Peace will not come through resolutions at the United Nations.”

The Israeli diplomatic official declined to tell nrg what Netanyahu and Putin discussed during their two meetings in Moscow last week. But the official did say that Putin went out of his way to give the Israeli prime minister a warm welcome. Both meetings lasted twice as long as planned, over four hours in total.

According to the report, Israeli officials believe Putin is seeking closer ties with Israel because Israel is the only Western country that has not taken part in the international sanctions imposed on Russia over its military intervention in Ukraine. The Jewish state has studiously avoided taking a position on the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.            (the Algemeiner)

Missing Hamas officer rumored to have defected to Israel

A senior Hamas officer in the Gaza Strip has been missing for several days, with reports in the coastal enclave suggesting he crossed the border and turned himself in to Israel.

The elite officer in Hamas’ military wing Izz a-din al-Qassam Brigades, who was not named, is the son of a Hamas judge from Khan Younis in the south of the Strip and was involved in training in the terror group’s cross-border tunnels, according to an Israeli Channel 2 report.

Some Palestinian reports indicated the officer told his family he was going for a hike and crossed the border into Israel, the TV report said. The Hamas officer is believed to have extensive information on the terror group’s underground network.

Earlier this month, Israeli security forces said Hamas operatives can travel throughout the Gaza Strip entirely underground using the terror group’s extensive tunnel network.

Information about the tunnel system has come from the testimony of at least two low-level Hamas members picked up by Israeli troops in the last months, the Shin Bet security service says.

Entrance to a Hamas terror tunnel discovered by the IDF running under the Gaza border into Israel on May 5, 2016. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

Entrance to a Hamas terror tunnel discovered by the IDF running under the Gaza border into Israel on May 5, 2016. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

The terror organization’s tunnel network has become a focus of Israel’s security forces since the end of the 2014 Gaza war, known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge, when the underground system was used to devastating effect to attack Israeli troops near the border with Gaza.

Since assuming his position in early 2015, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot has repeatedly said the threat of the tunnels was at the top of his list of priorities.

The fear among security officials is that an attack tunnel, or “terror tunnel,” as they’ve become known in Israel, will be used to bring a Hamas terror cell into an Israeli community on the border with Gaza, where they can kill civilians or take them hostage.

The testimony of one 17-year-old Hamas operative yielded “high-value information about Hamas’s operations in the northern Gaza Strip, especially its attack tunnels,” the Shin Bet said.

In April and May, the IDF uncovered two “terror tunnels” that crossed into Israeli territory, the first such discoveries since the end of Operation Protective Edge in August 2014.        (the Times of Israel)

Lebanon will become refugee state in next Hezbollah war, says IDF intel chief

Lebanon will become a “state of refugees” from which it will be difficult to recover if there is another war between Israel and Hezbollah, a senior IDF intelligence general said Wednesday.

“The situation in the next conflict will be completely different. We are stronger than we have ever been and are able to deal with any threat,” said the head of IDF Military Intelligence, Maj.-Gen. Herzi Halevi.

Speaking at the 16th Annual Herzliya Conference, Halevi stated that while Israel is not interested in another armed conflict with the Lebanese Shi’ite terror group, the Jewish state is “more prepared than ever” for such an event.

“Never in history have we had an enemy that we know more about,” he added.

When addressing the question of how the next northern border conflict would look, Halevi replied: “The next conflict in the North will be different from Operation Protective Edge and also from past wars such as the Yom Kippur War.”

Turning to the topic of Iran, Halevi stated, “In the next wars, the majority of weapons that will attack Israel will be Iranian products.”

The military intelligence chief also said that “Iran is leading the way in cyber warfare and aiding Hezbollah on that front.”

He also addressed changes in strategic alliances in the Middle East between Israel and other moderate countries.

“Part of the strategies of the pragmatic Sunni nations are becoming closer to our own,” he said. “Saudi Arabia is not the same country we once saw just a year and a half ago, they have a new king and are leading the Sunni camp in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia is implementing vast reforms in order to move the country away from their oil dependent economy.”

Halevi, describing the purpose of intelligence, stated: “It is to describe the enemy, to tell the story and a slightly newer second purpose – to influence reality. The struggle between wars to restrain the building of power of the enemy is a type of influence that we greatly invest in and to a large degree we are very successful.”

Israeli and international policy-makers and analysts gathered for the 16th Annual Herzliya Conference, convened by the Interdisciplinary Center’s Institute for Policy and Strategy in Herzliya. The three-day conference kicked off on Tuesday, the conference is focused on raising central issues and promoting public discourse on issues that affect Israel on both domestic and international fronts.               (Jerusalem Post)

‘Next war with Hamas will be its last,’ senior defense source says

The next war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza will be the last for the Islamist regime, a senior source in the Defense Ministry said on Wednesday, though he stressed that Israel is not seeking conflict and will not be the side to initiate hostilities.

Israel has no desire to control Gaza, the source said, but it also will not tolerate an endless “war of attrition” from Hamas, he added.

“The next clash must be the last from the point of view of the Hamas regime. We [Israel] must not initiate war,” he added. Yet, a future outbreak of hostilities is unavoidable, the source assessed.

His comments come after senior military officials made changes to the IDF’s end goals in any potential future Gaza conflict. Should hostilities erupt again, military planners would seek the destruction of Hamas’s military wing, not establishing deterrence like they did in past wars.

However, within the IDF’s plans an option exists of leaving Hamas’s political wing in place alongside a domestic police force.

Speaking on Wednesday, the defense source described Hamas as an ongoing and growing threat to Israel. Any attempt to present it as a pragmatic entity that can be guided into recognizing Israel is “nonsense,” the source said.

“We see how they are educating the next generation. We see the brainwashing in the Gaza Strip, and how the budget is allocated. Hamas receives funds from the international community, and collects taxes. None of this goes to Gazan residents. All of their money goes to building up force and arming themselves. Their media makes clear that there is only one aim for Hamas, and that is destroying the State of Israel,” he said.

The idea that Hamas can be made into a pragmatic force is comparable to asking whether a “cannibal can turn vegetarian,” said the source. “We see their efforts at building up force. The next conflict is inevitable,” he stated.

He described the ongoing diplomatic attack on Israel by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as forming “the number one problem for Israel” at this time. “We are strong in the military arena, and weak in the diplomatic arena,” he added.

Abbas is exploiting this weakness to attack Israel, the source argued, adding that the PA president is himself  too weak to be able to reach any peace arrangement with Israel.

Abbas also faces significant internal legitimacy issues, and a majority of Palestinians have, in a recent poll, expressed their desire for him to resign, the source added.        (Jerusalem Post)

Israel pitches missiles in Paris

C Dome[1]

Rafael Advanced Defense Systems’ C-Dome system, a sea-based version of the Iron Dome anti-rocket battery, fires from an Israeli Navy missile ship.

Within the ranks of the IDF ground forces, and in armies around the world, Rafael’s Spike family of guided missiles are playing a central role in surface-to-surface strike capabilities.

This week, the missiles arrived in France, as the defense company placed them and other flagship products on display at the Eurosatory arms show now under way at the Paris Nord Villepinte Exhibition Center.

The company’s Spike missiles can be fired from a shoulder-held launcher, a remote controlled towed launcher, or a range of other platforms. Guided by an electro-optical navigational system, the missiles are in IDF service, and can strike targets from between 1.5 to 30 kilometers, giving the IDF an accurate and instant firepower capability.

More than 25 countries have purchased Spike-type missiles thus far. Collectively, they have acquiring some 24,000 missiles. One member of the Spike family, Spike SR (shortrange), is specifically designed for urban warfare, and can penetrate buildings and armored vehicles, according to Rafael.

It said on Monday that the missile’s flight range has recently been increased to 1,500 meters.

Rafael also placed Iron Dome, as well as its sea-based variant, C-Dome, on display. The Iron Dome air defense system has intercepted more than 1,500 projectiles fired from Gaza in recent years. Rafael set up its Drone Dome system for visitors to see. That system prevents hostile mini drones from approaching sensitive facilities.

Rafael’s Trophy active protection system, which has been installed on board Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers, is also present at the Paris arms show.

Trophy intercepts armor-piercing anti-tank missiles and RPGs. It was used extensively during the 2014 Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, saving the lives of tank crews.

In Israel, it is currently installed on board Merkava MK 4 tanks, and Namer-type APCs that ferry IDF infantry units across battle zones.  (Jerusalem Post)

Gantz leaves open possibility of challenging Netanyahu, but says ‘I am no messiah’

Former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz is leaving the door open that he could enter politics and challenge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Gantz has been recruited to run in the next Labor leadership race, whose deadline must be set by Thursday, and also has been mentioned as a possible candidate in Yesh Atid or a party that may be formed ahead of the next election by former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon.

Gantz spoke Monday night at an anti-Netanyahu event at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba organized by Darkenu, which during the 2015 election was called V15 and worked to organize the grassroots effort to defeat Netanyahu, along with rebel Yisrael Beytenu MK Orly Levy-Abecassis, who refused to enter Netanyahu’s coalition when her party joined.

When a student asked why he has not yet entered politics, Gantz first joked by saying he was suffering from the flu, and that it could take him “at least two years to recover.”

But he then responded to the expectations placed on him by those who want Netanyahu replaced.

“I don’t see myself as a messiah of Israel, and I don’t think there aren’t good people in Israeli society,” Gantz said. “The political battlefield is very important. Key decisions about the country’s future are made there. There is no doubt that it has the most impact on Israeli society.

I have not made a decision to enter politics. I have not made a decision to not enter politics.

I know they are trying to color me in various colors, but I am sorry, no painter has hit the target.”

Gantz said Israel’s security does not belong to one end of the political map and is not more dear to one side or the other.

He warned about the “dangers” from extremists on the Right and accused them of trying to politicize the IDF in recent incidents, including the case of a soldier in Hebron who shot to death a neutralized Palestinian terrorist.

Turning to Levy-Abecassis, he told her: “You have more political courage than me.”

Levy-Abecassis told the crowd she did not like the stigma of Right and Left on diplomatic issues, and said her future plans would be guided by her conscience and her socioeconomic agenda.                                       (Jerusalem Post)

Israel drills civilians in north for future bout with Hezbollah

A decade after the outbreak of the Second Lebanon War, Israel on Tuesday held a civilian drill in the northern communities pounded by Hezbollah rockets during the 2006 conflict, as an officer warned the next war could see a six-fold increase in missile attacks.

The exercise practiced the evacuation of towns and agricultural communities in the Upper Galilee Regional Council, in preparation for a possible resurgence of hostilities between Israel and the Lebanon-based terrorist group.

While the war drums may not be beating, the fresh outbreak of war has remained a constant threat since the cessation of hostilities following the 2006 war, which saw southern Lebanon and northern Israel battered by 33 days of fighting.

There have been several cross-border exchanges over the years, but have been quieted quickly and analysts believe Hezbollah is too bogged down in Syrian fighting to launch a war against Israel, despite recent sword-clanging rhetoric from leader Hassan Nasrallah.

Army Radio on Tuesday cited Israeli officials who said the defense establishment does not expect Hezbollah to initiate a new round of fighting; however, they assessed that an individual incident could escalate into open war.

Tuesday’s drill was the largest exercise to be held along the Lebanon border since the end of the 2006 war.

According to a report on Channel 2, the drill was planned in advance, and is not connected to the anniversary of the war.

Earlier on Tuesday, a former chief of the Israel Defense Forces’ Home Front Command warned that in a future war with Hezbollah in Lebanon, Israel could be pounded with over 1,000 rockets a day, far more than the country has endured previous conflicts.

“If in the Second Lebanon War the record was 160 rockets in a day [fired] at the northern region, we need to expect up to 1,200 rockets in a day — it will be a completely different scenario from anything we’ve known,” Major-General (res) Yitzhak Gershon, told Army Radio.

Israelis have also become concerned over the possibility of Hezbollah tunneling under the border to infiltrate Israeli communities, though no tunnels have been found.

In 2015, a senior IDF official warned that while Hezbollah has no immediate plan to attack Israel, a minor security incident could erupt into a full-fledged war on Israel’s northern front during which the terror organization would likely try to capture swaths of the Galilee by using tunnels to invade the country.

Gershon’s remarks came as Israel marked 10 years since the outbreak of fighting with Hezbollah in Lebanon on July 12, 2006.

Sparked by a coordinated attack that left three Israeli soldiers dead and saw two others taken captive, the war, during which Hezbollah lobbed thousands of rockets into northern Israel, continued until a United Nations-brokered ceasefire on August 14.

Israeli losses included 121 IDF soldiers and 44 civilians. Some 1,200 IDF soldiers and 1,300 Israeli civilians were injured. In 2008, the bodies of captured IDF soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were returned to Israel in exchange for five Hezbollah terrorists and the bodies of 200 others killed in Lebanon and held by Israel.      (the Times of Israel)

Rivlin calls for a new Israeli agenda

Israel has undergone a cultural and demographic earthquake, President Reuven Rivlin told participants in the 16th annual Herzliya Conference on Tuesday, reiterating what he said a year ago when he called for a new Israeli agenda.

Contrary to previous practice, the conference started not in Herzliya, but in Jerusalem at the President’s Residence.

World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder said in his speech that education is a bedrock value for the resilient, diverse and pluralistic country.

“Israel is a light onto the nations, the only place with the values needed to develop and implement a plan of such soaring ambitions,” he said.

Rivlin said that when he presented his partnership vision of a shared national identity last year, it caused a lot of controversy, and he was even accused of being a post-Zionist. To those who ascribe to such a view Rivlin said: “I want to say today I am a Zionist because I believe in the need and the moral right for a home and a nation state for the Jewish people. I am a Zionist because I believe that the establishment of the State of Israel is the purest expression of the return home of the Jewish people to its history, to its responsibility and to its destiny.”

For all that, he recognized and accepted that not everyone who lives in Israel is or should be a Zionist.

What he wanted for all Israelis was a shared hope for equal opportunities and equal rights to education, to social services, to academia and to employment.

Only when such equality exists, believes Rivlin, will Israel be able to forge a new inclusive national identity, in which the four tribes – secular, Modern Orthodox, Ultra Orthodox and Arab – can maintain their lifestyles and traditions, but can come together under a national umbrella.

Rivlin commended Education Minister Naftali Bennett for understanding this and making significant changes in the education system.

Bennett said that he had already introduced the study of Hebrew for Arab children at the kindergarten level instead of grade three as had been the case till recently. He also regretted that when he had been a yeshiva high school student that he had not been exposed to the rich Sephardi heritage and that the few Sephardi youngsters who had been accepted at his school had been forced to adopt Ashkenazi customs.

Interior Minister and Minister for the Development of the Negev and the Galilee Arye Deri stressed that unity rather than isolation must be the Israeli watchword. Congratulating Rivlin, he told him: “you did a great thing in diagnosing the ills of Israeli society. Too many people are afraid or unwilling to face reality.” Deri also advocated the importance of finding something new to unify the different segments of Israeli society.

Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint Arab List drew the most applause when he argued for adopting a different attitude toward the Arab sector. Building citizenship through partnership would be beneficial to the whole country he said, and stressed the significance of focusing on mutual interests rather than trying to overcome points of contention.

He cited as an example the fact that Arabic is one of Israel’s official languages.

But if it wasn’t he said, and he came to the Knesset with the proposal that Arabic should be accepted as an official language, 60 MKs would turn on him and say: ‘This is a Jewish state. Why do we need Arabic as an official language?’ Odeh suggested that it would be easier to start a dialogue about economics because economics affect everyone.

“When the quality of life of the Arab sector is improved, it will affect not only Arabs but the whole national economy,” he said. While agreeing with Rivlin on most points, Odeh, said that there had been a serious omission in that no mention had made of the Palestinian Arabs living in the West Bank and Gaza Meretz chairman Zehava Gal-On concurred saying: “the Palestinians influence our lives, just as we influence theirs.”

Gal-On also introduced a sour political note with a virulent attack on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who she charged does not really care about the Ultra-Orthodox or Arab populations.

Supreme Court President Miriam Naor said that the partnership that Rivlin envisages can work only in a true democracy in which the judiciary is independent and the rule of law prevails.                                     (Jerusalem Post)

Rabbi Riskin urges Israelis: End the ‘war’ on Reform Jews

As the controversy over the so-called “Mikveh Law” rages on, prominent Modern-Orthodox Rabbi Shlomo Riskin has weighed in, urging Israelis not to view non-Orthodox Jews – such as the Reform and Conservative movements – as their enemies.

Instead of attempting to legislate against them, the Orthodox establishment needs to find a way to work with them, despite their seemingly unbridgeable theological differences.

Whereas in the United States the vast majority of Jews do not align with Orthodox Judaism, and the single largest denomination is Reform, in Israel the situation is the reverse: Israeli Jews are largely traditional, and the vast majority – even those who aren’t strictly religious – define themselves as Orthodox. The Reform and Conservative movements, in contrast, have only a tiny presence in the Jewish state, and are often eyed with suspicion for reinterpreting or even doing away completely with many Jewish laws and traditions – in many cases denying the very divinity of the Torah.

But Rabbi Riskin – the popular Chief Rabbi of the town of Efrat in Judea – is calling on Israeli Jews to rethink their “war against the Reform and Conservative movements.”

“I think is tragic,” Rabbi Riskin told Arutz Sheva.

“I think you win over Jews, and people in general, through love – not throiugh legal means forbidding this way of praying or that way of praying.”

Most Israelis, he noted, have probably never even come into contact with a Reform or Conservative rabbi, and so have an inaccurate perception of what drives them.

Preempting his critics, Rabbi Riskin, emphasized that he is a “proud Orthodox rabbi” and believes “with all my heart and soul in halakhic, Orthodox Judaism.”

He even recounted how, prior to his aliyah to Israel, he succeeded in turning a Conservative synagogue into an Orthodox one.

“However, I teach my students… look, you can’t pray in a Conservative or Reform synagogue because it’s mixed seating – but they’re not our enemies, they’re our partners!”

“I know that sounds strange to many in Israel, but anyone who’s trying to bring Jews closer to Judaism is my partner and not my enemy.”

While early Reform leaders actively encouraged Jews to abandon traditional Jewish practices, today’s picture is very different, he noted.

“They’re not tearing Jews away but bringing them closer,” Rabbi Riskin insisted.

“That may have been true at the beginning of the Reform Movement, but it’s very different now – they’re trying to bring Jews closer. Not to the wholeness, the fullness of Orthodox Judaism that I love and that I know, but nevertheless they’re trying to bring Jews closer.

“What’s the downside if they use the mikvaot? They’ll have a little tahara (purity)?”                               (Arutz Sheva)

Massive fire in Jerusalem contained

Strong winds and hot, dry weather helped a wildfire rage across more than 100 acres of the Jerusalem forest near Givat Shaul on Wednesday, as a massive deployment of firefighters tried to get the fire under control.

By late afternoon, the National Fire and Rescue Services said that over 60 fire teams and 130 firefighters from across the country – as well as more than 10 planes – were deployed the fight the blaze.

Udi Gal, the spokesperson for the Jerusalem District of the National Fire and Rescue Service, said mid-afternoon that firefighters “had been working heroically to put out the blaze” which started in the morning next to Har HaMenuchot.

He said that no order had been given to evacuate residents of Givat Shaul, but that they had been instructed to stay indoors and close their windows in order to avoid smoke inhalation injuries.

Around 4pm the fire service put out a statement saying that firefighters had managed to put out the blaze, only to have to clarify an hour later that strong winds had helped whip the fire back up, though they managed to reestablish control soon after.

A spokeswoman for the Israel Electric Corporation told The Jerusalem Post that the fire was coming close to their Jerusalem district offices but had not reached the building. All workers were evacuated as a precaution.

She added that the fire is not expected to cause service disruptions. Since the early morning the fire has caused a number of road closures in the area, including on the westbound section of highway 1.

Fire[1]

No one was injured in the fire, though it did cause damage to a number of buildings. Investigators are currently trying to determine what started the fire, including the possibilities that it was the result of carelessness or arson.             (Jerusalem Post)

New hotline established for people in distress

From the moment the Friendship Fund opened its hotline in the Talpiot neighborhood in Jerusalem, the phones have not stopped ringing.

The calls flow in one after another, from people living under the most difficult socioeconomic conditions possible.

Others are suffering from severe trauma, like the woman from northern Israel whose twins died at birth 40 years ago.

She still walks around daily with the feeling that the staff at the hospital didn’t tell her everything.

“We established the Friendship Hotline in an effort to help anyone in Israel who is in distress,” says Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, president of the Friendship Fund.

“It’s important that all Israeli citizens know that they never have to be alone, that there will always be someone to listen to them and try to help them. They shouldn’t feel despair. The Friendship Hotline can connect people with hundreds and even thousands of Israeli charity organizations, many of which the public have never even heard of.”

There are currently 22 social service providers who speak Hebrew, English, Russian, Arabic or Amharic. There are men and women, religious and secular, Jews and Arabs, ranging in age from 23 to 60.

All of them have undergone extensive training, and come from a variety of professional backgrounds.

Roni Lior, manager of the Friendship Hotline, compared it to Waze.

“We help people navigate their way through the maze of Israeli non-profits, including of course all the services offered by the Friendship Fund.”

The hotline offers two levels of service: The first deals with the lion’s share of calls coming into the center, in which service providers will write down the details of each situation and then refer the callers to the relevant organization that can help them.

The second level of service will offer more hands-on and extended help to callers who need a little more attention or direction.

“In the first scenario, a caller will simply be referred to another nonprofit and given the contact information, hours, name of contact person,” said Lior. “Together they will review the criteria required to receive benefits so that a caller will know if he’s eligible before even he makes the first call.”

The second scenario takes place when a caller is not capable of carrying on with the second step without assistance.

These individuals are usually elderly, Holocaust survivors, immigrants who lack fluency in Hebrew, or people with social hardships.

“In these cases, we act as a conduit of information – at the caller’s request only, of course – so that the organization can open a case file and begin taking care of the individual directly,” Lior said.

Yael Amar, in charge of the hotline’s professional translation department, has firsthand knowledge of the huge number of non-governmental charity organizations that exist in Israel.

“More than 10,000 social organizations offer support to needy people in Israel,” says Amar.

“And yet nevertheless many people are not always aware that these organizations even exist. Of course, most of these non-profits lack advertising budgets; and how is an elderly person supposed to look up information about them on the Internet if he doesn’t even own a computer?” The Friendship Hotline is currently constructing a database that will include hundreds of non-governmental charities. By September, it aims to be capable of fielding 10,000 calls a month.          (Jerusalem Post)

The virtual reality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

By   Jonathon Rubens              The  Jerusalem Post

http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/The-virtual-reality-of-the-Israeli-Palestinian-conflict-456758

Back in the mid-’90s, virtual reality technology seemed to be “the next big thing.” So did the idea of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Back then, the main problem with VR technology was the undeniable difference between what could be seen through VR goggles and what actually happened in the very physical reality.

They used to call this phenomenon “lagging,” when instead of the display moving at the same pace as the head in real-time, the image was slow to follow, felt unreal and occasionally stomach- churning.

The same thing happened with the so-called peace process. While leaders were signing agreements and shaking hands in the past, suicide bombers were blowing themselves up in the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. For the Israeli public, the contrast between lofty speeches on reconciliation and the deaths of innocent citizens was a “lag” too disturbing to ignore. The celebrations in Palestinian cities after every terrorist attack made Israelis question the intentions of their neighbors and the chances of the anticipated “peace”.

It took several years, thousands of terrorist acts and the murder of more than a thousand Israeli men, women and children for the Israeli public to perceive the process as a runway to anything but peace.

Recently, VR is making a comeback.

Most problems were fixed, including the infamous lags, images are more accurate and realistic. At the same time, the efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are also making a comeback, but in this case without solving any of the glitches that failed the process so many times before.

Just a few days ago, an Israeli-Palestinian peace summit was held in Paris. The closing statement sounded like a broken record repeating the same over-used clichés about ending the occupation and creating a Palestinian state – as if nothing had changed in the past 20 years.

Through the VR goggles of international diplomacy, establishing a Palestinian state will work like hi-tech magic and end the conflict. It is the same naïve thinking that makes Western diplomats believe that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s promise to stop using chemical weapons on his own people is worth the paper it was written on.

Media coverage and analyses constantly try to evaluate leaders and their decision-making processes. Dozens of pieces were written on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, trying to assess how committed he is to a two-state solution and how far he is willing to go to reach it. What is mostly overlooked is the importance of Israeli public opinion.

Israel is a democracy, therefore if you want to make Israel believe peace is within reach, it is the Israelis that need convincing, not their leaders.

It is a common belief that Israel is just one leap of faith away from reaching long and sustainable peace with the Palestinians.

It is easy to forget that Israel already took this “leap of faith” 11 years ago. Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip unconditionally, including the deportation of every last Jewish citizen. Israel fulfilled the Palestinian wish of a “Jewfree” land behind the 1967 lines, only to see the Palestinians dig tunnels under it and use their autonomous land to launch missile attacks on Israeli cities.

It was a pilot, and it failed miserably.

Reality on the ground proved that territorial disputes were never the real issue, but virtual reality perceptions of the conflict still seem to be lagging behind.

Last week, in the middle of a restaurant in Tel Aviv, two Palestinian terrorists took the lives of four Israelis and wounded many others. The horrible images from the scene resembled those we saw just a few months ago in Paris but are unlikely to initiate the same worldwide condemnation. Apparently, “terror is terror” is true everywhere except for in Israel. From a liberal Western perspective, Israelis suffering from endless terrorist attacks is a natural product of the regional context. Leaders will show sympathy, condolences will be offered, but nothing will ever dim the deceivingly bright picture in the dysfunctional VR goggles.

Elbit’s IronVision Helmet for Tanks Sees Through Armor

IronVision’s 360-degree, high-resolution imagery is projected in full color and zero latency to the wearer’s visor, offering a bright and vivid display of the surroundings in both day and night and all types of weather. (Photo: Elbit Systems/JNi Media)

Next week, at the international defense and security industry trade show Eurosatory, Elbit will unveil IronVision, the first Helmet Mounted Display (HMS) designed for the crews of armored vehicles. IronVision is a 360-degree panoramic situational awareness system, part of Elbit’s See-Through Armor (STA) architecture, that enables tank and infantry crewmen to “see-through” their vehicle’s armor in real-time, creating a clear and complete visualization of the battlefield, even when the hatches are down.

IronVision’s 360-degree, high-resolution imagery is projected in full color and zero latency to the wearer’s visor, offering a bright and vivid display of the surroundings in both day and night and all types of weather.

Song of the Birds

With incredible views of the Judean mountains, Shlomo Katz takes you on the most stunning of musical journeys. “After not being able to fall asleep, I began walking at dawn. This is what I heard from the birds chirping away”