Israel suspends cooperation with UNESCO over Jerusalem vote
Israel will suspend its cooperation with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) following its resolution erasing the Jewish connection to Jerusalem’s holy sites, Education Minister Naftali Bennett announced Friday.
Bennett, who serves as president of Israel’s National Commission for UNESCO, said the organization, in its decision, was “giving a boost to terrorism” and denying history.
All meetings with UNESCO officials, participation in international forums and professional cooperation will be suspended until further notice, the statement said.
“Yesterday’s decision is a denial of history and gives a boost to terror,” Bennett said, adding that the resolution was a prize to jihadists and to “diplomatic terror,” which was particularly egregious in a week in which two Jews were murdered in a Jerusalem terror attack.
He added that such acquiescence to radical narratives should worry all of the Western world and not just Israel. “Whoever rewards jihadists… could be next,” he said.
“The next terrorist will feel legitimized by yesterday’s miserable decision,” he added. “Cutting Jerusalem off from Israel will produce a domino effect that will eventually hurt the entire Western world.”
The minister will meet in the coming weeks with fellow Commission members to discuss further actions.
Israel has reacted furiously to the UNESCO resolution, with some accusing the UN’s cultural arm of anti-Semitism on Thursday.
Lawmakers from both the right and left of the political spectrum said the decision, which refers to the Temple Mount and Western Wall only by their Muslim names and condemns Israel as “the occupying power” for various actions taken in both places, was ill-befitting of UNESCO.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the decision “absurd,” while President Reuven Rivlin called it an “embarrassment” for UNESCO. The Executive Board of UNESCO is next week set to approve the resolution, which passed Thursday at the committee stage.
Culture Minister Miri Regev slammed the resolution as “shameful and anti-Semitic,” and Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel called for Israel to increase the Jewish presence on the Temple Mount, a flashpoint site governed by a tense status quo, in response.
“To say that Israel has no link to the Temple Mount is like saying that China has no link to the Great Wall or that Egypt has no connection to the Pyramids,” Netanyahu said, adding that “with this absurd decision UNESCO has lost what little legitimacy it still had.”
He also said UNESCO was ignorant regarding the Bible, and accused the body of taking part in a “Theater of the Absurd.”
Twenty-four countries voted in favor of the resolution Thursday afternoon, six against and 26 abstained, though Ambassador Carmel Shama-HaCohen praised the diplomatic effort that had changed several no votes in a similar resolution in April into abstentions this time around.
It was “a significant accomplishment,” that countries like France, Sweden, Argentina and India, which had earlier supported the declaration, now abstained, he told Army Radio.
“It’s not pleasant, ”he said, “but I’m pleased by the decision, relatively, because it was clear the decision would pass but we didn’t know which countries would support it. We had the goal of gaining back French support and our friends in Europe,” he said.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said he was “outraged” over the decision “which denies thousands of years of Jewish connection to Jerusalem’s Western Wall.”
“Would UNESCO vote to deny the Christian connection to the Vatican? Or the Muslim connection to Mecca,” he said in a statement.
Opposition chief Isaac Herzog accused UNESCO of betraying their mission. “Whoever wants to rewrite history, to distort fact, and to completely invent the fantasy that the Western Wall and Temple Mount have no connection to the Jewish people, is telling a terrible lie that only serves to increase hatred.”
Fellow Labor Party lawmaker Eitan Cabel called it “anti-Zionist, shameful and embarrassing.”
“You can try and throw the innumerable testimonies (of a Jewish connection) into the trash, the evidence, the prayers and the archaeological discoveries. You can try and throw into the sea the millions of Jews who have touched this place with their hands and hearts,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “It won’t help you.”
MK Merav Michaeli, also from the dovish party, said the resolution was the result of Netanyahu refusing to appoint a foreign minister and holding the position for himself for political capital.
The left-wing Emek Shaveh organization, which says it seeks for archaeology to be decoupled from politics, said the resolution would only make a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict more difficult.
“Now that an international, professional entity like UNESCO has disregarded the deep relationship of the Jewish people to the Western Wall and the Temple Mount, they’ve only made it easier for the Israeli right to convince the Israeli public that Jerusalem is in danger,” the group said in a statement.
Rivlin, speaking at an event before the vote, said UNESCO was making a mockery of itself with the vote.
“No forum or body in the world can come and deny the connection between the Jewish people, the Land of Israel and Jerusalem – and any such body that does so simply embarrasses itself,” Rivlin said at an event in his Jerusalem residence. “We can understand criticism, but you cannot change history.” (the Times of Israel)
Border Police officer lightly wounded in stabbing attack near Jerusalem
An Israel Border Police officer was lightly wounded in a suspected terrorist knifing attack Saturday morning in the village of Har Adar in the West Bank.
The suspect in the incident reportedly fled the scene following the attack.
Israel Security Forces have opened an investigation and are combing the area for suspects.
The border guard was given aid on the scene and then evacuated to nearby Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem for further treatment.
According to a police statement, the officer was wounded while on patrol near the security fence in the northern West Bank town located approximately 12 miles away from Jerusalem.
The attacker, the report stated, ambushed the officer while laying in wait in a nearby bush.
The event comes shortly after a deadly shooting attack left two dead and six wounded in Jerusalem earlier in the week. (Jerusalem Post)
Netanyahu: Peace Now, B’Tselem are ‘deluded,’ slander Israel
Officials in Jerusalem are furious over the discussion that took place in the U.N. Security Council on Friday, both because of the claim that the settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria is illegal and comprise an obstacle to peace, and because of the left-wing Israeli groups Peace Now and B’Tselem, whose representatives parroted that claim to the council members and called upon the U.N. and the international community to take action against Israel.
“B’Tselem and my friends Peace Now have joined the chorus of slander against Israel, and are recycling the deceptive claim that ‘the occupation and the settlements’ are the reason for the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote in a Facebook post over the weekend.
“The truth is that the Palestinians attacked Israel for 50 years, before a single settlement existed. They attack from Judea and Samaria and demand not only those territories, but also the right to return to Jaffa, to Acre, and to Haifa. These facts prove that the root of the conflict is not ‘the occupation and the settlements,’ but rather the Palestinians’ refusal to recognize a Jewish state on their borders,” the prime minister wrote.
The prime minister’s post went on to say that “what these organizations don’t achieve in a democratic election, they try to achieve by international coercion. It’s an inappropriate act. The Israeli democracy gives voice to deluded, transitory groups like B’Tselem, but most of the public knows the truth.”
Netanyahu also announced that when the Knesset begins its winter session, he would work to change the National Service Law so that Israelis would no longer be able to perform national service with B’Tselem. On Saturday evening, the prime minister discussed that option with coalition chairman MK David Bitan (Likud).
The prime minister was not the only public official leveling criticism at the two groups. Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon said that “it’s a shame that Israeli groups are joining in the diplomatic terrorism that the Palestinians are trying to operate in the U.N.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) said that “hatred of Israel at home strengthens the false Palestinian propaganda.”
Likud MK Yoav Kisch added that “Peace Now and B’Tselem are detached [from reality]. It’s time we detach ourselves from them.”
B’Tselem said in response that “in contrast to the identity that the prime minister is to create between the occupation and [the State of] Israel, we insist on saying: The occupation is not Israel, and opposing the occupation is not anti-Israeli.”
The controversial U.N. session convened on Friday at the behest of Egypt, Malaysia, Venezuela, and Senegal. During the meeting, B’Tselem Executive Director Hagai El-Ad accused Israeli soldiers of mistreating the Palestinian population and called on the U.N. Security Council to take action to change the situation. Americans for Peace Now Policy Director Lara Friedman spoke in a similar vein.
The meeting was described as an “informal consultation” and yielded no resolutions, but Israeli officials expressed concern that it would constitute a push for a Security Council resolution against the Judea and Samaria settlement enterprise in the near future. (Israel Hayom)
Police arrest 10 Arab youths for throwing rocks from rooftop in Old City
The Border Police arrested 10 Arab teenagers, some of whom were masked, in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City on Monday for hurling rocks from a school rooftop at Jewish passersbys walking to and from the Western Wall during Succot.
According to police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, the suspects, all between the ages of 15-17, were quickly surrounded by officers patrolling the area and placed under arrest.
None of the intended victims was wounded, he said.
“During the holiday in the Old City on Monday afternoon, a group of 10 Arab suspects, some wearing masks, threw stones from a school rooftop at people walking in and around the Old City, near the Western Wall,” he said.
“Police units responded immediately, and carefully and cautiously surrounded the rooftop, before arresting them.”
Rosenfeld added that other instances of rock-throwing from the roof were reported earlier in the day.
Heightened security will remain in effect throughout the capital over the next several days, with an emphasis on the Old City, where thousands are expected to participate in the traditional Birkat Hakohanim (Priestly Blessing) ceremony and annual Jerusalem March, attended by thousands of Christian pilgrims for the Feast of Tabernacles. (Jerusalem Post)
Masa program to bring 13,000 Jewish youth to Israel in coming year
Some 13,000 Jewish youth are expected to come to Israel this coming year to participate in Masa, the organization announced on Thursday.
The program provides Jewish youth the opportunity to participate in over 250 immersive Israel programs ranging in length from six months to a year, which include internships, study abroad programs, and volunteer opportunities. These experiences aim to give participants practical academic or work experience while strengthening their connection to Israel.
The Masa program is set to officially launch on October 31st during a ceremony in Jerusalem with the participation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Natan Sharansky, head of the Jewish Agency.
“The youth arrive to Israel to participate in a wide range of Masa programs, from government, to economy and culture, hi-tech, teaching English, medicine and more,” Liran Avisar-Ben Horin, CEO of Masa said.
She noted that in addition Masa provides participants with tools to engage in hasbara (public diplomacy) for Israel, turning those who take part into informal ambassadors for Israel to the world.
“Every year they show that the year they spend in Israel – working, volunteering and being exposed the multi-layered and complex Israeli society – becomes the most meaningful in their lives,” she said.
According to a recent survey conducted by Midgam Institute and released by Masa, some 87% of Masa participants said they intend to actively work towards strengthening Israel’s image in the world, while 81% of participants said their vision of Israel “changed for the positive” because of participating in the project.
Slightly more than half, 58% of respondents, said they would “certainly” act against the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. (Jerusalem Post)
Palestinians: “We Are Proud of You. You Killed Jews!”
by Bassam Tawil The Gatestone Institute
Musbah Abu Sbeih is now the latest “hero” of many Palestinians and not only his family. He is being hailed as a “brave” man and a “hero” because he woke up in the morning, grabbed an M-16 assault rifle and set out on a mission to kill as many Jews as possible.
These calls have come not only from Hamas and Islamic Jihad extremists, but also from “moderate” leaders such as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah faction.
“We bless every drop of blood that has been spilled for Jerusalem, which is clean and pure blood, blood spilled for Allah, Allah willing. Every martyr will reach Paradise and everyone wounded will be rewarded by Allah.” – Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian leader.
As holders of Israeli ID cards, they were even entitled to drive cars with Israeli plates, which is what Abu Sbeih took advantage of to carry out his attack in Jerusalem. His family owns at least two homes in the city and are considered middle-class. Still, this did not stop Abu Sbeih from setting out on his deadly mission. And it did not stop his family members from celebrating the attack.
This is the inevitable result — as in the Spanish Inquisition, the French Revolution, the Turkish Genocide of the Armenians, Rwanda, Darfur, or Nazi Germany — of the poisoning of a people.
The family of Musbah Abu Sbeih say they are “very proud” of what their 40-year-old son did. So are many Palestinians representing all walks of life in Palestinian society. Members of his family, including his parents and daughter, have appeared on too may TV stations to keep track of to commend Abu Sbeih. They have even gone out onto the streets to hand out sweets in jubilation over the terror attack that he carried out in Jerusalem this week, which resulted in the death of a 60-year-old grandmother and a 29-year-old police officer.
Abu Sbeih is now the latest “hero” of many Palestinians, and not only by his family. He is being hailed as a “brave” man and a “hero” because he woke up in the morning, grabbed an M-16 assault rifle and set out to kill as many Jews as possible. His mission was “successful”: he managed to shoot and kill two Jews before he himself was eliminated by policemen.
In a video that he left behind, Abu Sbeih claimed that he carried out the terror attack in response to visits to the Temple Mount by Jews. He claimed (falsely) that these visits were part of an Israeli scheme to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount.
This is the same false claim that was originally made by Hitler’s friend, the Mufti of Jerusalem at the time, Haj Amin al-Husseini, to pretend there was a good excuse to attack the Jews; it is, as we see, still trotted out from time to time to “justify” killing Jews.
For the record, it is a lie — like Palestinian claims that Israel is poisoning wells and water, which Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas was later, for lack of evidence, forced to retract.
Like many other Palestinians who have carried out, or attempted to carry out, terror attacks over the past year, Abu Sbeih was in fact simply heeding his leaders’ call to stop Jews from “desecrating with their filthy feet” the Al-Aqsa Mosque. These calls have been coming for months not only from Hamas and Islamic jihad extremists, but also from “moderate” leaders such as Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah faction.
These are the Palestinian leaders that European leaders appear to adore. These leaders in Europe, especially the French, keep prodding Israel to negotiate with groups that openly say they want no Israel at all, and that at best are uninterested in the truth — whether about Israelis or Palestinians.
These European leaders would like Israel to keep pretending that the people with whom they are negotiating are actually acting in good faith. They seem to be trying to offer up to the Arabs, Muslims and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the destruction of Israel — physical, diplomatic, economic, whatever they can get — most likely as a bribe to stop Muslims from terrorizing them. They will soon find out, however, that nothing they offer will be seen as adequate. The Europeans will soon find out, as the Persians, Turks, Greeks, North Africans and Eastern Europeans all did, that anything short of submission will just be pocketed as a down-payment on a far bigger mark.
These European leaders are happy to make us in the region, Muslims, Christians and Jews, live under a brutal Islamic dictatorship so long as — in their woozy fantasy — they will not have to. They are in for a shock.
Anyhow, in September 2015, Abbas used the very words from 1924 of Haj Amin al-Husseini, days before the current wave of stabbing, vehicular and shooting attacks began.
Since then, incitement over Jews’ visits to the Temple Mount has been feeding what many Palestinians call the “Al-Quds Intifada.” Abbas has promised that those who die while defending the Al-Aqsa Mosque will go straight to Heaven:
“We bless every drop of blood that has been spilled for Jerusalem, which is clean and pure blood, blood spilled for Allah, Allah willing. Every martyr will reach Paradise and everyone wounded will be rewarded by Allah.”
To repeat: Abbas made this statement two weeks before the Palestinians unleashed a new wave of anti-Israel terrorism. We know, then, what spurred these attacks. They are the direct result of ongoing indoctrination and incitement against Israel that is being waged by Palestinians representing almost all Palestinian institutions and parties in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Abbas’s words have clearly not fallen on deaf ears. This week’s terror attack, which was carried out by Abu Sbeih, shows that the “Al-Quds Intifada” is anything but dying out. On the contrary, there is increased fear that the terror campaign may escalate from the use of knives, vehicles and stones to pistols and rifles.
Why is this scenario not far-fetched? Not only because of the motivation of the assailants, but also because of what appears to be widespread popular support among Palestinians for any attack on Israelis. Not a single Palestinian official has dared to come out against the Jerusalem terror attack. And no ordinary Palestinian has dared to question the damage the attacks cause to the Palestinian public, especially those who are directly affected by Israeli retaliatory measures, such as travel restrictions.
Far from crying out against such butchery, many Palestinians have been heaping praise on the assailant.
Abu Sbeih, who as a permanent resident of Jerusalem carried an Israeli ID card and thus enjoyed all rights and privileges granted to Israeli citizens (with the exception of voting in general elections), did not come from an impoverished family at all. Unlike his fellow Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, he had free access to Israel and could go anywhere and anytime he wanted to, any place in Israel.
He and his family were able to wake up in the morning and drive to the Tel Aviv beach or eat in any restaurant in Israel without having to pass through Israeli checkpoints. As holders of Israeli ID cards, they were even entitled to drive cars with Israeli plates, which is what Abu Sbeih took advantage of to carry out his attack in Jerusalem. His family owns at least two homes in the city and are considered middle-class. Still, this did not stop Abu Sbeih from setting out on his deadly mission. Nor has it stopped his family members from celebrating the attack.
The first to express her “joy” and “pride” over the death of two Jews was Abu Sbeih’s 15-year-old daughter, Eman. “Thank God, we are very happy and proud of my father,” she said in an interview with a local Palestinian television station.
As in previous cases, some Palestinians, including the sister of Abu Sbeih, handed out sweets to “well-wishers” as a way of expressing their joy over the terror attack. Hours after the attack, dozens of Palestinians gathered outside the family house, chanting slogans praising the assailant as a “hero” and calling on Hamas and other Palestinian groups to step up their attacks against Israel. Such scenes are familiar in the Palestinian arena and are reminiscent of those that used to take place following the wave of suicide bombings against Israelis during the Second Intifada.
Several Palestinian factions lauded Abu Sbeih, calling for stepped up “armed operations against the Zionist enemy.” Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, who together with his family lives in the comfort of Qatar, was quick to phone the assailant’s family and “congratulate” them on the “martyrdom” of their son. “Our people and nation are proud of their heroism and courage displayed by your son, who sacrificed his life for the sake of Allah,” Mashaal told Abu Sbeih’s parents. He stressed that their son was a role model for Palestinians of his generation.
It was not clear whether the Hamas leader was making the phone call from his suite in one of Qatar’s five-star hotels, or from his private gym.
Thus, for Hamas and many other Palestinians, a man who kills two Jews is the desired role model for young Palestinians. Accordingly, Abu Sbeih’s supporters have taken to social media to praise him and urge Palestinians to follow suit. Because he managed to kill two Jews, Abu Sbeih is now being hailed on Twitter and Facebook as the “Lion of Al-Aqsa.” As they see it, his was a noble act, an effort to save the mosque from being “defiled” with the “filthy feet” of Jews.
Support for Abu Sbeih seems to cross all Palestinian political factions. Even many belonging to President Abbas’s Fatah faction came to the Abu Sbeih home in a show of solidarity with them. Fatah has also declared Abu Sbeih a “martyr.” A Palestinian who goes to meet with a Jew is strongly condemned and accused of seeking “normalization” with the enemy. But a Palestinian who carries a knife or rifle and sets out to kill Jews gains the stars of a “martyr” and wins nearly universal Palestinian praise. This is the current mindset in Palestinian society, the fruit of decades of Palestinian incitement and delegitimization of Israel. This is the inevitable result — as in the Spanish Inquisition, the French Revolution, the Turkish Genocide of the Armenians, Rwanda, Darfur, or Nazi Germany — of the poisoning of a people.
What are Israel’s strategic military threats for the coming Jewish year?
by Yaacov Katz The Jerusalem Post
First, the good news: At the onset of 5777, the new Jewish year, there is no conventional or existential military threat against the State of Israel.
That is no small feat, considering that it was just 43 years ago when Israel was getting clobbered in Sinai and on the Golan Heights in the bloody debacle known as the Yom Kippur War. In a coordinated assault, the Egyptian and Syrian armies attacked Israel and killed over 2,600 IDF soldiers, and created an unprecedented sense of vulnerability that would take decades to shake off.
Today though, there is peace with Egypt, and no Syrian military to speak of.
Five years into a bloody and costly civil war, the Syrian military – Israel’s primary threat until recently – is almost completely eroded. Practically, this means that there is no adversary currently parked along Israel’s borders with the ability to conquer Israeli’s territory, no mobilized armored divisions or infantry corps that pose a serious threat today to the IDF. (IDF seizes weapons in West Bank raid)
In addition, while the Iran nuclear deal has plenty of problems and weak points – specifically, that in just a few years the deal will enable Tehran to be just weeks away from a nuclear device – for the time being it is working, and has stopped the mullah’s race to the bomb.
Within the IDF General Staff, the deal is looked at like this: it has stopped Iran’s nuclear program, but not Iran’s nuclear desire. One day, probably sooner than later, Iran’s nuclear sites will again need to be considered as potential military targets.
So the good news, if it can even be called that, is that because of Syria’s civil war there is no conventional military threat against Israel, and because of the unreliable nuclear deal, Iran is for now not an existential threat to the Jewish state.
But here is the bad news.
Israel today is challenged on five different but simultaneous fronts, each of which draws different resources, focuses and responses. The common denominator among all five is that while none presents Israel with an existential or conventional threat, they are all extremely unpredictable. On all five fronts, small tactical-level incidents have the potential to quickly escalate into full-blown conflicts.
Here is the breakdown:
The stabbing intifada, as it has become known, started last October with the murder of the Henkin couple in northern Samaria. Since then, the IDF has recorded nearly 300 attacks, over 100 directed against civilians. As recent events show – the violence in Silwan over Yom Kippur, and the murder earlier this week of two Israelis in Jerusalem – these sporadic attacks by lone attackers are likely to continue.
This, by the way, is the IDF’s working assumption. Terrorism, senior officers explain, has unfortunately always been part of the Israel story, since before the state was established. Despite everything the IDF and other security forces do, they don’t really expect it to ever fully go away.
Nevertheless, there is plenty they can and are already doing to try to keep it at a minimum. Today, an unprecedented number of IDF battalions and soldiers are deployed in the West Bank, and Israel Police officers are stationed in larger and greater numbers in known flash points like Jerusalem. Over 3,700 Palestinians have been arrested in the past year, alongside dozens of weapons workshops that have been demolished and hundreds of guns and rifles that have been seized.
The increased IDF presence – alongside impressive intelligence work that includes hunting for potential attackers on social media – has brought the number of attacks down in recent months. In September 2015, the IDF recorded 69 attacks, and in October, 43. This past September there were 14, after six straight months when the number was under 10.
The policy of staying away from collective punishment and differentiating between Palestinians who participate in attacks and those who don’t – put into place by former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon and continued by his successor, Avigdor Liberman – is believed to be the main reason why this past year has not spiraled into a full-fledged intifada with the participation of PA security forces.
Despite the violence, some 60,000 Palestinians still cross daily into Israel, and freedom of movement is allowed throughout the West Bank. The PA security services for the most part still cooperate with the IDF – the military says their effectiveness is at about 40% – and carry out arrests against Hamas terrorists.
Since 1968, the IDF has not recorded such a quiet period in the Gaza Strip as it has since the war in Gaza ended two summers ago. This does not mean the situation is quiet, or the potential for war does not exist. It definitely does, and when considering Israel’s various fronts, the most explosive is Gaza.
Since 2014, Gazan terrorists have fired 47 rockets and mortar shells into Israel.
This is almost nothing compared to 2014, when 4,891 rockets and mortar shells hit Israel, mostly during the war.
Of the rockets and mortar shells that have been fired this past year, 95% were launched by organizations other than Hamas, such as Islamic Jihad, which continues to receive tens of millions of dollars annually in support from Iran.
Even so, the IDF has struck nearly 100 targets throughout the Strip – many of them in recent weeks – and all of them belonged to Hamas, which Israel holds responsible for anything that happens in Gaza. None of these targets were just sand dunes. They were all real Hamas assets.
At the same time, the IDF is investing heavily in tunnel detection technology, and has set aside NIS 600 million from its own budget to match the same amount from the Treasury to continue the development and enable the eventual procurement.
There have been some successes, but the system is not fool-proof and will need more time for development.
What this means practically is that when it comes to Gaza, the IDF is currently focused mostly on intelligence collection and the creation of target banks for when another war breaks out. Soldiers are also constantly training for the guerrilla and tunnel warfare they will face.
But even as it prepares for war, the defense establishment is also supportive of initiatives – like the construction of a port off the Gaza coast – which it believes could improve the economic situation in the Strip and help stave off another conflict.
While economic prosperity is not directly tied to terrorism, there is a correlation.
Within the defense establishment there is no question that the worse off Gaza is, the less hope there is for change, and the more motivation there will be to engage in terrorist activity against Israel.
Sinai remains a point of concern for Israel and a focus for IDF intelligence. On the one hand, Egypt seems to be doing a better job at cracking down on Islamic terrorist elements in Sinai, but ISIS cells still operate freely throughout the peninsula.
According to the IDF, many of the ISIS fighters in Sinai train with Hamas in Gaza, and receive funding, weapons and assistance from the Palestinian terrorist organization.
One of the last known attacks against Israel was in July 2015, when a rocket was fired from Sinai into Israel.
That October, a Russian airliner blew up over Sinai, killing all 224 people on board.
The attack is believed to have been carried out by ISIS.
To counter this growing threat, the IDF in recent years has beefed up its presence along the 400-kilometer border, with additional troops alongside electronic warning systems like phased-radar systems.
According to various reports, it seems that Israel and Egypt are cooperating in combating ISIS. In July, Bloomberg reported that Israel was carrying out drone attacks in Sinai “with Egypt’s blessing.” Israel has also allowed Egypt to deploy additional troops and combat vehicles in Sinai by slightly modifying the Camp David Accords.
Israel’s concern is that the Sinai front will escalate beyond an occasional rocket attack. It hopes that Egypt’s military campaign will keep ISIS preoccupied and away from the Jewish state.
For Israel, the situation in Syria presents an opportunity and a challenge. On the one hand, Israel benefits from the erosion of the Syrian military. On the other hand, today Israel is vulnerable – as recent skirmishes have shown – to attacks from terrorist elements based in Syria like ISIS or Jabhat al-Nusra, a known al-Qaida affiliate.
Israel has laid down three redlines when it comes to Syria that if crossed, will necessitate action: the transfer of sophisticated weaponry from Syria to Lebanon; the establishment of an Iranian presence on the Golan Heights; and any violation of Israeli sovereignty.
In recent months, Israel has noticed terrorist elements fleeing northern Syria and moving to the South, where they could shift their focus to Israel.
Russia’s expanding presence in Syria and investment in Bashar Assad’s survival – alongside its standoff with the US – means that there is very little chance a sustainable cease-fire can be reached that would end the war and return some semblance of quiet to the region.
What it also means is that Israel will need to watch over its three redlines to ensure they are not violated.
With its 130,000 rockets and missiles – some of which are capable of striking almost anywhere in Israel – Hezbollah is Israel’s primary threat for the year ahead.
The potential devastation that would be caused to Israel in a war with Hezbollah is incomparable to anything Israel has seen in past conflicts, with some estimates that up to 1,000 rockets could be fired in a single day.
However, according to Israeli intelligence, Hezbollah remains deterred from engaging in a full-fledged conflict with Israel due to two primary factors: the deterrence Israel created during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, and the organization’s continued involvement in the Syrian war.
There are approximately 7,000 Hezbollah operatives currently working inside Syria, fighting alongside the Syrian army.
Over the last few years, some 2,000 have been killed and more than 6,000 have been injured. Out of a force of around 20,000, that is a significant number.
Hezbollah also recently lost its top military commander, Mustafa Badreddine, who was killed in May in a blast at a base near Damascus airport. Badreddine was the most senior Hezbollah operative killed since his brother-in-law, longtime military commander Imad Mughniyah, was blown up on February 12, 2008, by a bomb planted in his car in the Kafr Sousa neighborhood of Damascus that Hezbollah blamed on Israel.
Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah has not forgotten the devastation Israel wreaked on Lebanon during the 2006 war, and the long-term negative impact it had on the country’s two key sources of income: tourism and banking.
Nevertheless, the political deadlock in Lebanon – illustrated by the inability to appoint a president – alongside growing tension in the region could lead to a change in Hezbollah’s calculus.
Forty three years after the Yom Kippur War, the enemy has changed.
While Israel no longer needs to worry about tank divisions trying to plow their way into the Golan or the Negev, the unpredictability of its enemies and their changing modes of warfare mean that the IDF needs to constantly be at a state of readiness.
War can come from any of these fronts at a moment’s notice, and for that, the IDF is always preparing. On the other hand, victory with enemies like these is not absolute.
Conflicts are like cycles these days. They come and then disappear for some time until the enemies rebuild their capabilities and reignite the passion and ideology of their followers.
The IDF’s real challenge is how to remain versatile in the face of multiple threats and adversaries that it faces in the region. Hopefully, 5777 will go down as a quiet year for Israel. It has the potential to be something completely different.