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Latest News in Israel – 1st August

How IDF Forces Killed Terrorist Who Murdered Rabbi

The IDF killed the terrorist who murdered Rabbi Miki Mark and arrested accomplices to the terror attack, during an overnight raid.

The IDF killed the terrorist who shot and murdered Rabbi Miki Mark while he was driving his family on a main highway in Israel earlier this month.

The IDF also located and arrested the other terrorists who took part in or supported the terror attack, during an overnight raid in a town just north of Hevron.

‘Last Gaza campaign achieved the longest calm in a decade’

Operation Protective Edge, waged in the Gaza Strip in 2014, has resulted in the longest calm southern Israel has known in a decade, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday during a visit to the southern city of Sderot.

Speaking at a ceremony marking the completion of a structural reinforcement project for residential homes in the communities adjacent to the Israel-Gaza Strip border, Netanyahu noted that while Israel “doesn’t have the ability to shape the strategic environment we live in, we do have the ability to generate deterrence opposite the enemy, and if need be, we can cripple terrorist infrastructure.”

The 2014 Gaza campaign “has given us the quietest two years that we have had in the past decade. … Our policy is to respond vigorously to any violation of the calm, no matter how small, and make it clear to those on the other side that the rules of the game have changed. Quiet here equals quiet in Gaza. Attacking us will lead to ruin and destruction for Hamas, Islamic Jihad and whoever tries to attack us. We will mount a forceful response to any attempt to attack our communities and our citizens,” Netanyahu said.

“Fortification is a life-saving measure, but it cannot replace offensive capabilities, which we are also developing. I keep hearing about what Hamas is doing, but I know what we’re doing, what we’re planning, how we’re organizing. I know, but I can’t share what I know,” he said.

The structural reinforcement project in the Gaza vicinity communities has been ongoing for several years. Some 10,140 homes in an area stretching 7 kilometers (4 miles) from the Israel-Gaza border, including Sderot and 43 communities in the Eshkol, Shaar Hanegev, Hof Ashkelon and Sdot Negev regional councils, have been fortified with a government investment of some 1.3 billion shekels ($340 million).

“We know our enemy well,” Construction Minister Yoav Gallant said in the ceremony. “Those who dig tunnels mean to use them. We are not sitting idly by, and we constantly strive to bolster the IDF’s ability to protect the Israeli public.”

Also on Thursday, State Comptroller Yosef Shapira, who is currently drafting his audit of Operation Protective Edge, warned Netanyahu against trying to impose an embargo on its release, saying that it would trigger a recommendation for the formation of a state commission of inquiry into the operation.

Sources in the State Comptroller’s Office told Israel Hayom the warning followed rumors suggesting the prime minister, through the coalition-controlled Knesset’s State Control Committee, would seek to keep the parts of the report from being released to the public.

Shapira’s review is expected to level harsh criticism at the Diplomatic-Security Cabinet’s conduct during the 50-day operation, especially over how ministers handled the threat posed by Hamas terror tunnels.

A statement by the Prime Minister’s Office dismissed the allegation, saying, “The opposite is true. The prime minister wants to see the truth come out in full, including details of the many cabinet meetings where the severity of the tunnel threat was discussed at length, the orders given to security forces, and the actions taken by the prime minister, the defense minister, and the chief of staff.”

Commenting on recent demands by bereaved families to name a state commission of inquiry to investigate Operation Protective Edge, Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman MK Avi Dichter (Likud), said the need for such panels “is dictated by other, more significant national considerations. You don’t set up a state commission of inquiry over the length of a conflict, only over very specific and highly unusual circumstances.”

Dichter warned against “turning commissions of inquiry into the norm. When launching an investigation, you know where it begins, but you have no way of knowing where it might end.”

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, who was strategic affairs minister during the operation and had observer status in the Diplomatic-Security Cabinet, criticized Shapira for releasing a draft report.

In an interview with Army Radio Steinitz said, “We have to wait for the final report. There’s no need to blindly trust anyone and even the state comptroller can be wrong. I suggest that instead of commenting on the draft, which is unreasonable since a draft is meant to be revised, we wait for the final report. There are no magical solutions, especially not where the cabinet is concerned.”                          (Israel Hayom)

IDF to Post Security Cameras along Jerusalem-Tel Aviv Highway

The IDF is expected to put up over 255 day and night vision cameras along route 443. The 10 mile stretch of highway between the cities of Modi’in and Jerusalem has already been the scene of dozens of terrorist attacks.

There will also be two additional surveillance balloons along the route to supplement the surveillance balloon already in use.

The camera feeds will be fed live to a central operations room that will enable the IDF to follow events in real time. The military will be able to have a better view of the hilly terrain upon which the road is built, and will be able to monitor the valleys that terrorists have used to get to the highway and throw rocks and Molotov cocktails at Israeli cars.

When a rock hits the windshield of a car travelling at 75 mph or above, the results can be deadly. On a tour of the highway with the commander in charge of securing the area, one can see the nearly impossible task the IDF has to protect the road.

Lt. Col. Chai Rokach of the Tavor Battalion of the IDF Homefront Command said that there are always between 50 to 70 combat soldiers patrolling the 10 mile long highway. They serve as a buffer between the many small Palestinian villages next to the highway and the thousands of Israeli cars that drive along it every single day.

The fact that there is no security fence along the majority of the highway means that the soldiers are stretched thin. One of the unit commanders of the Tavor Battalion, Sgt. Keren Paz Tirosh, stands with three of her soldiers at a guard post along the highway. Her and her soldiers are there to identify and intercept cells intending to throw rocks and Molotov cocktails in the hopes of injuring and killing Israeli motorists.

They specifically watch the village of Beit Ghur al-Tahta, which lays only a couple of yards away from the highway, from which dozens of stone throwers have come from.

According to Tirosh, any ambush on Israeli vehicles can possibly include armed terrorists. Terrorists are able to get to her area of operations from Qalandia checkpoint, Ramallah, or even Beituna – cities and villages that lie only a few minutes’ drive from her and her soldiers.

A few miles up the road lies Checkpoint Bell, which has already seen several attacks over the past year. The relative quiet and reduction in terror attacks has not lulled the Home Front Command soldiers here into a false sense of security.

When on duty, all the soldiers there are ready with a bullet in the chamber, waiting in case someone in a car driving from Ramallah decides to open fire on them.

On occasions when those monitoring the cameras in the central operations room identify suspicious activity or see someone throwing stones or Molotov cocktails at the cars driving along the highway, the IDF is able to work immediately to ensure their swift capture.

As an example of that, when a group of stone throwers were observed coming from the village of Khirbet al-Misbah – another Palestinian village situated next to route 443, where the majority of residents have Israeli work permits – ground forces were able to be directed to find and arrest the terrorists.

The difficulty, however, isn’t in finding the terrorists who commit these acts, but in stopping them before they happen. This is primarily due to the fact that the terrorists are able to hide in the hilly terrain upon which the highway is built.

With this new system of cameras, and the soldiers of the Tavor Brigade patrolling the highway, Israelis can feel safer as they commute between Jerusalem and Modi’in.     (Ynet News)

IDF commandos, US Marines train together against terror threats

Elite Israel Defense Forces naval commandos and the US Marine Corps last week conducted a joint military exercise in the Negev Desert aimed at preparing American forces for combating regional terror groups, including the Islamic State.

The “Noble Shirley” exercise involved units from Israel’s ground, air and naval forces, and focused on urban warfare and counterterrorism tactics.

The soldiers took part in simulated helicopter landings in enemy territory, tunnel warfare scenarios and extractions under fire, a Channel 2 TV report said Thursday.

Israeli commanders reportedly demonstrated IDF counterterrorism tactics to US forces to be used in the US campaign against the Islamic State and other jihadist groups in the Middle East.

Israeli commandos from the elite naval unit Shayetet 13 trained alongside the US Marines Corps Battalion Landing Team, the 6th Marine Regiment, and the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The exercise also tested the real-time response time of the joint US-Israeli missile defense systems, and the yet-to-be-completed David’s Sling missile interceptor system was deployed.

An IDF official participating in the drill said the system “performed very well.”

The US has either jointly developed or financed all three tiers in Israel’s missile defense program — Iron Dome (short-range missile interceptor), David’s Sling (medium range) and Arrow (long range).

Earlier in 2016, Israel hosted the Juniper Cobra drill, in which over 1,700 US service members, civilians and contractors took part.

Watch the video:            (the Times of Israel)

Golan Druse leader disputes UN statement on ‘hardship of occupation’

A leader of the Druse population in the Golan Heights disputed the assertion of a United Nations committee that accused Israel of imposing economic and social hardships on his community.

Dulan abu-Saleh, the mayor of Majdal Shams, the largest Druse town in the Golan, told Makor Rishon that the UN Economic and Social Council’s recent statement on the area was “a total joke,” the daily reported Friday.

Unlike other Druse populations in Israel which serve in the Israel Defense Forces, the Golan’s Druse population of some 20,000 has been careful not to align itself publicly with the Jewish state, which annexed the Golan in 1981 after capturing it from Syria during the Six-Day War of 1967.

The eruption in 2011 of a civil war in Syria changed that, causing a sharp increase in the number of Golan Druse who applied for Israeli citizenship, which has been available to them since 1981.

Abu-Saleh objected to the inclusion of his native area in the UN panel’s statement earlier this month, which said that “economic and social repercussions of the occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan.”

“I don’t understand what they’re talking about, it’s laughable,” abu-Saleh said. Druse in the Golan “don’t serve in the IDF and so far are only receiving from the state.” Referencing the war in Syria, he said: “Why don’t they condemn the horrors in Syria, where dozens of children are killed daily? Golan residents have a good life.”

He also said: “Although we weren’t included in some major cabinet decisions on budgets, when we build and make up plans we never felt discrimination. On the contrary, we always found an attentive ear.”

Prior to the eruption in 2011 of a civil war in Syria, only 1,700 of the Golan’s Druse claimed Israeli citizenship offered to them. Hundreds have applied since then.

Very rarely engaging in hostilities, their communities have opened hundreds of restaurants and bed-and-breakfasts serving Israelis and tourists who visit the Golan’s many nature reserves. But the Druse community leaders always insisted they were Syrian citizens seeking to return to Syria from Israeli occupation.

Karim Batkhish, a resident of the town of Masa’ada, is quoted as saying: “The war in Syria is irrelevant to us. Some may say they support [Syrian President Bashar] Assad but it’s a lie to show Syria we’re with them. They’re lying, no one wants to see Syria here.”

Separately, the international nonprofit Human Rights Watch, which like the UN has faced accusations of displaying a bias against Israel, was criticized Thursday for saying in a report on child detention that Israeli “military courts do not provide for specialized juvenile justice.”

This statement is “completely false,” the watchdog group NGO Monitor said Thursday. “A special Juvenile Military Court was established in 2009, and according to the Israeli Ministry of Justice only ‘judges that have received relevant professional training, similar to the training offered to justices of the Youth Courts in Israel, are qualified to serve as juvenile judges.’“

The accusation appears in a report published by HJRW Thursday entitled “Extreme Measures: Abuses against Children Detained as National Security Threats.” It also cites a 2013 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child document which claims that, “Israel had ‘fully disregarded’ previous recommendations to comply with international law.”

But this allegation is also false, according to NGO Monitor. In February 2015, UNICEF published a report on its ongoing dialogue with the Israeli government, citing “positive developments in the administration of juvenile military justice.”

The report “clearly reflects the primacy of HRW’s political agenda over methodological rigor and due diligence,” NGO Monitor wrote.                (Jerusalem Post)

Israel to U.S.: Criticism of Settlement Construction ‘Factually Baseless’

Israel on Friday rejected criticism voiced by the U.S. and the EU over recently announced plans to expand construction in West Bank settlements and East Jerusalem. Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon described the international condemnation as “factually baseless.”

“This week, the United Nations, the European Union and the U.S. state department criticized Israel regarding plans to build housing in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo,” Nahshon said, making no mention of the fact that the international censure touched on a series of plans to build in the West Bank. “They did so knowing fully well that Gilo is a Jerusalem neighborhood that will be part of Israel under any conceivable peace agreement.

“The suggestion that building in Gilo undermines the solution based on two states for two peoples is factually baseless and distracts from the real obstacle to peace – the persistent Palestinian refusal the recognize the Jewish state in any borders,” Nahshon said.

The U.S. State Department on Thursday published an exceptionally strong condemnation of a string of decisions by the Israeli government in recent weeks to expand construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

State Department spokesman John Kirby claimed that the U.S. has identified an “acceleration” of construction in the settlements and accused Israel of “a pattern of provocative and counterproductive action … that systematically undermines the prospects for a two-state solution.”

The statement came in the wake of a number of recent Israeli announcements of plans to advance construction projects in the West Bank. On Wednesday, a tender for 320 new housing units in a Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem was published; on Monday, a plan to build 770 housing units in Gilo, also past the Green Line, was announced, as well as plans to build more than 500 new units in Ma’ale Adumim and 42 in Kiryat Arba.

The string of announcements has sparked American anger, especially due to the fact the first were made only two days after the Quartet report on the stalemate in the peace process. The report severally criticized Israeli settlement construction, however the Americans  however the Americans exerted pressure on the Quartet to balance the report and make sure it also condemns the Palestinians for incitement and violence against Israelis. The U.S. joins a number of other nations and organizations who denounced Israel’s construction, like the EU, the UN, the U.K., Germany, France, Turkey and Japan

“We are deeply concerned,” Kirby said in a statement. “We strongly oppose settlement activity, which is corrosive to the cause of peace. These steps by Israeli authorities are the latest examples of what appears to be a steady acceleration of settlement activity that is systematically undermining the prospects for a two- state solution.        (Ha’aretz)

Netanyahu: France mulls ban on foreign mosque funds but backs groups hostile to Israel

Even as France is considering banning foreign financing of mosques, it – along with other European countries – is financing organizations intent on harming Israeli, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the start of Sunday’s cabinet meeting.

“We intend to enter into a discussion with them [France] about this issue, because terror is terror everywhere, and incitement is incitement that encompasses the world, and the treatment needs to be unified — as much as possible — among the governments,” he said.

Netanyahu began his comments by saying that Israel was shocked by the cruel murder of a priest in Normandy last week.

“I heard about a discussion that took place last week in the French government about preventing foreign money from organizations that harm French citizens,” he said. “That sounds familiar to us. We are also concerned about these types of contribution to organizations that reject Israel’s existence.”

Netanyahu said that he ordered a preliminary check into this matter, and found support from European countries, including France, to a number of organizations that incite against and call for a boycott of Israel, and who do not recognize the Jewish state’s right to exist.

The premier said that a full investigation into this matter will be completed soon, at which time the findings will be presented to the French government.

The international media reported last week that the French government was considering the banning of foreign funds to mosques as part of a new policy to battle terrorism hitting the country.

Le Monde quoted French Prime Minister Manuel Valls as saying there was a need for a “thorough review to form a new relationship with French Islam.”

The French premier was quoted as saying: “We live in a changed era and we must change our behaviour. This is a revolution in our security culture.”               (Jerusalem Post)

Dennis Ross urges end to Pollard curfew ‘If he’s still a risk, there is a problem with US intelligence’

Restrictions on Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard’s movement should be rescinded in order to allow him to reintegrate into American society, Washington Institute for Near East Policy counselor Dennis Ross wrote in a letter to President Barack Obama last week.

Ross, who was an adviser to Obama, came out against Pollard’s parole conditions, which require him to remain in his New York home from 7 p.m. to

7 a.m., be monitored by a heavy GPS wrist-device on Shabbat and holidays, and submit his computers to monitoring, which has prevented him from being employed.

Among the reasons cited by the US parole commission for the restrictions are that Pollard still poses a security risk, 31 years after his November 1985 arrest, because he could still remember documents he saw back then. Ross mocked that possibility.

“If after 31 years, he is still considered an intelligence risk, then there is something profoundly wrong with the way we conduct and operationalize our intelligence,” Ross wrote.

Ross stressed that Pollard committed a crime and he had no sympathy for what he did. He noted that in the four administrations in which he served, Pollard’s case was reviewed and the intelligence community opposed his release.

But he said the argument that he would compromise sensitive intelligence if his curfew was rescinded is no longer relevant so many years later.

“There is no justification at this point to prevent him from being integrated back into society,” Ross wrote.

“I urge you to review how he is being treated, and at a minimum, to end the curfew that limits his ability to function and live a more normal life.”

Judge Katherine Forrest of the US District Court in Manhattan is expected to rule on Pollard’s request to remove the parole conditions by the end of August.      (Jerusalem Post)

From Ron Weiser…….To the French, terror is not terror when directed against Israelis

As in any complex and multi layered situation one cannot expect to become an expert on anything in a few short days.

So what follows are merely impressions formed after our time in France, of a community struggling with its future.

French Jewry is clearly a large, proud and dynamic community – and without doubt, one under considerable stress. Many levels of stress.

At its most basic, under direct physical threat.

So serious is the level of physical threat that over 10,000 soldiers are spread over France protecting Jewish schools, synagogues and institutions. The question repeatedly raised, with justifiable concern, was just how long this level of belated protection from the French government could continue?

And on the personal level, fears were continually expressed about the level of physical threats and incidents to people on their way to and from these places of Jewish gathering.

But more than that, the lack of personal safety for those identifiable by name or dress as Jews just going about their everyday life. Incidents for which there is no organised protection.

So the fear was palpable and many examples, sadly, were given to show why the fear is rationally based.

One should also note a number of voices raised in defiance of these conditions by people determined to keep on going about their lives in a normal fashion.

We had a chance to meet and speak with a range of people including: French Jewish leaders; Rabbis; teachers; high school students; numbers of Jewish university students; and mothers making decisions about the future of their children. On the macro level the main question continually raised was whether there was a future for French Jewry in France.

Basically they were struggling with the question of – should they “stay or go”?

Remarkably there was some research to show that the general population of France, some said even around 40% of all French citizens, were contemplating whether they had a future in France or not.

France has a particularly poor track record when it comes to anti-Semitism having a pattern of expelling the Jews many times over its history.

And of course with the role of the Vichy French during WW2 in transporting almost 1/3rd of the Jewish population to extermination.

We visited a site in Drancy just outside of Paris, where the French government had organised a transit centre for Jews to be gathered and put on cattle cars on the way to their deaths in NAZI concentration camps.

There was no apologising or seeking of forgiveness or anything similar – merely an acknowledgement that this had occurred.

Fast forwarding to today, numerous people spoke about the recent French vote in favour of the UNESCO resolution denying all Jewish connection to the Temple site in Jerusalem. It was clear that this was very worrying to young and old alike as it provided just another example of the current government not understanding or being sympathetic to Jews and Jewish history.

Yes Prime Minister Manuel Valls did say afterwards that a “mistake” had occurred. But there was no change to the record.

In France the key figure is actually the President (Francois Hollande) and not the Prime Minister. Hollande could not bring himself to say France’s vote in favour of the UNESCO resolution was a mistake – but merely a “misunderstanding” as he put it.

It should be remembered that it was also Valls and not the President who said that “France without her Jews is not France”.

Nice statement, but coming from the Prime Minister who has some vested interest in all of this of course as his wife it should be noted, is Jewish, so………….

We visited Sarcelles, a town just 40 minutes’ drive from the centre of Paris.

Sarcelles saw one of the most violent demonstrations of recent times. On Sunday the 20th of July 2014 a pro-Palestinian demonstration quickly became an anti-Semitic riot. Jewish shops and businesses were attacked by gangs with iron bars and wooden clubs. Some of the French referred to it as their Kristallnacht.

We spoke with Jewish leaders and residents of Sarcelles and the stories were all the same – shock that such a thing could have occurred; a belief that this was a key turning point in the Jewish future in Sarcelles; and a question of whether to make aliyah or stay.

The Dreyfus Affair (1894-1906). It was quite surreal to stand in the centre of Paris at the actual site of the degradation of Captain Alfred Dreyfus where he was publically humiliated and drummed out of the army.

He was of course falsely accused as a traitor and imprisoned for almost 5 years on Devil’s Island.

To hear how France became divided over the question not only of whether Dreyfus was a traitor or not, but the escalation to whether French Jews were traitors or not.

And then after years of trials and tribulations and after he was finally exonerated, to find that Dreyfus’ only desire, somewhat amazingly, was to return to the French army.

So in 1906 he returned to the army he loved and the country he wanted to serve, as a major.

In fact, he went on to serve in the French army during WW1 ending his service as a lieutenant colonel and dying in 1935.

We also visited the lodgings where Herzl stayed as a journalist witnessing these events. The rest as they say, is history.

Just as the Dreyfus affair split France into those who were pro Jewish and those who were not, the affair typified the internal struggles of French Jewry then and now.

Repeatedly the question raised with us was whether French Jews felt more Jewish or more French. This it seems to me is the critical struggle French Jews are going through with obvious consequences.

The contrasting pulls of whether to stay or go came to stark clarity on the night we attended a function at the Great Synagogue of Paris in Rue de la Victoire. A more magnificent and imposing synagogue I have yet to see anywhere in the world.

And the function we attended?

Ironically, the farewelling of 500 French olim to Israel inside this sanctuary built in large part as a symbol of Jewish permanency in France.

Stay or go?

Views ranged from gross pessimism about the future of French Jewry, to lesser pessimism. I could not really find anyone who was confidently optimistic.

Questions about the future were based broadly on two points: French history and the large and growing number of Moslems.

The majority of the Jewish population of France is now made up of Jews from North Africa and their descendants. As was pointed out, the big difference between them and their fellow Moslem migrants from the same areas are that the Jews left their old countries behind and have integrated into France and have become “French”. Whereas the Moslems in large numbers have maintained their ties with their countries of origin and bring their children up with divided loyalties, wanting to bring North Africa to France.

Whether the French will recognise Jewish community attitudes and their desires and love of France for what it is, is still open question.

Stay or go?

France continues to maintain its double standards and moral ambivalence when it comes to terror.

According to the French, when terrorists stab and run over Israelis, there must be something the Israelis have done wrong to warrant such a reaction.

On the other hand, when terrorists attack the people of France, France is blameless and the fault lies with the attackers.

This French hypocrisy too, and let us understand it for what it is, a version of anti-Semitism, has a big effect on the Jewish community.

To the French, terror is not terror when directed against Israelis.

When Israelis defend themselves by neutralising terrorists, the French ask why Israelis needed to kill the terrorist. Why not just injury him or her, why not just shoot the attacker in the leg?

Not for a moment did the French ask themselves whether they were correct in shooting dead Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel who murdered and injured all of those people on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, or whether they should have merely shot out his tyres and arrested him?

No, they had no questions when it came to protecting French lives. Just Israeli lives.

Stay or go?

It seems to me that that will largely be decided by the attitudes and actions of France towards French Jews and whether France can break a long and unfortunate pattern of anti-Semitism punctuated only briefly and intermittently by moments in history of the French coming to their senses.

At the moment the community lives in hope for the future, rather than confidence in it.

Hamas exploiting current calm to prepare for next war

by Yaacov Lappin    The Jerusalem Post

http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Security-and-defense-A-constant-wave-of-short-range-fire-462692

Two years ago this month, Israel and Hamas were locked in the middle of a 50-day conflict, which saw southern and central Israel attacked several times a day with Hamas rockets, and the Iron Dome air defense batteries intercept the projectiles in midair. Despite the disruption and fear caused by sirens, civilians soon became accustomed to the idea that Iron Dome can defend them, and the Israeli home front found a way to resume normal routine despite being under daily fire.

Some 4,500 Hamas and Islamic Jihad rockets were hurled into Israeli airspace, but the big majority of those heading into built up areas – some 750 – were destroyed by Iron Dome before they could sow death and destruction.

During that conflict, Hamas apparently learned that Israel’s vulnerability could be exposed not by making sirens ring out in Tel Aviv but by pounding southern Israeli communities near the Strip with projectiles, forcing the eventual evacuation of thousands of Gaza-border residents to the North a month-and-a-half into the war.

Short-range rockets caused those areas to become ghost villages, inhabited only by military personnel, and Hamas also seemingly learned that by pounding IDF staging areas near the border, it was able to inflict casualties among soldiers who could not seek cover in time.

Therefore it appears Hamas is currently trying to find ways of overwhelming Israeli air defenses in the next war, and one way it believes it can do this is by dramatically increasing the short-range rocket and mortar fire, and striking southern areas in a more targeted, precise manner.

Hamas is extremely deterred by Israel at this time, and the Gaza border is at its quietest since 1968. Gaza border communities, once pounded heavily by Gazan attacks, are now thriving and growing as they attract new members from other parts of the country.

But Hamas continues to exploit the current calm to prepare for war. Nor does Hamas seem to have abandoned its mid- and long-range rocket production program, which it continues to develop and mass produce in its weapons factories in Gaza, as well as trying to smuggle in projectiles from Sinai with the help of Islamic State.

Hezbollah in Lebanon and Islamic State in Sinai could, in solidarity with Hamas, fire rockets to set alight new arenas in a future escalation.

Hamas’s cross-border tunnel network continues to dominate the headlines; 32 such tunnels were destroyed during the 2014 conflict, and in recent months the IDF used innovative new technology to detect and destroy additional tunnels.

In the near future, when Hamas diggers try to enter Israel underground, they may find themselves facing a new Israeli subterranean wall, being built at this time around Gaza. The wall will have control rooms that detect suspicious activity and can mobilize the IDF to respond. The project is expensive though, costing roughly NIS 150 million per kilometer.

The Gaza-Israel border is 65 kilometers long, meaning the cost would run into the billions.

But one topic that receives less media attention is Hamas’s vast tunnel system inside the Gaza Strip, which it used in 2014 to move weapons and fighters around, out of sight of the air force, and to launch hitand- run guerrilla warfare strikes on ID F units operating in Gaza.

The IDF did not adequately prepare itself for Gaza’s internal tunnel network, and this is an area the military has spent the past two years improving upon, though how remains classified.

The IDF’s use of heavy armor that now comes protected with the Trophy active protection system, produced by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, will pose a very serious challenge to Hamas’s armed wing.

In 2014, IDF officers who fought in Gaza testified that there was not a single Hamas armed-wing member who was without an armor-busting RPG-29-type shoulder-fired weapon.

Such weapons resulted in deadly attacks on the IDF’s 1970s-era M113 armored personnel carriers, but they will not be able to destroy Trophy-protected Namer APCs, or the Merkava Mark IV tanks.

This month, the Armored Corps Battalion 82, which was the last conscripted unit to use the Merkava II, left its old platform behind and began using the Merkava IV.

Despite its pledge to unending jihad against Israel, Hamas today is regionally isolated, with no new allies or partners, and is facing financial crisis in the Strip. It also remains highly disturbed by Israel’s intelligence reach, of which it is aware.

Under the surface of the current calm, Hamas continues to prepare for war, and the IDF is watching these preparations like a hawk, while setting up crushing responses of its own.

The mere fact that both sides are readying themselves for the next round does not indicate that one is imminent. It does, however, mean, that any regional developments, such as an uptick in West Bank violence, could destabilize the delicate cease-fire, and Hamas and Israel could find themselves at war again in a week or five years or a decade from now.

The hope among most civilians in the South is for the current quiet to last as long as possible. After a decade of becoming adjusted to conflict, southerners have begun to get used to the quiet.

Israel emerges as a player on the world stage

by Jonathon Adelman     The Jerusalem Post

http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Israel-emerges-as-a-player-on-the-world-stage-462251

The emergence of Israel as a small but significant player on the world stage is one of the remarkable developments at the end of the post-Cold War era. The slow economic growth of the United States (2.5 percent/ capita) and Europe (1.5% GDP/capita) has shown the weakness of the status quo powers. The American semi-withdrawal from the Middle East and the British withdrawal from the European Union have opened the door to new powers.

The chaos in the Middle East and the rise of revisionist authoritarian states such as Russia, China and Iran and democratic states like India raise the possibility of a new world order. This would be partly dominated by hardline conservative nationalism, charismatic leadership, slow economic growth and hostility to the old globalist order.

With eight million people Israel can only play on the fringes of a new global order, but it has a flourishing economy of $300 billion and nearly $40,000 GDP/ capita. Its democratic, liberal politics and growing economy make it able to play both sides of the street.

Its military was rated by the Institute for the Study of War as “pilot to pilot and airframe to airframe” having “the best air force in the world” and the best army in the Middle East. Israel’s extensive work on air defenses (Iron Dome, David’s Sling, Arrow 2 and soon Arrow 3), carried out with the United States, makes it a serious military power. Its alleged nuclear arsenal puts it in a rarified club of nine states in the world. Its intelligence capabilities are formidable.

With over 250 foreign companies creating research facilities in Israel, its strong high-tech capability has been rated by the University of Lausanne as one of the top five world powers in this key area.

While foreigners in 2015 invested $4 billion in Israel, Apple alone has invested over a billion dollars in creating a hardware development center with 800 Israeli employees. The Israelis, who created drip agriculture, are exporting $2b. a year in water technology and recently hosted the leading international water conference.

Three of the world’s most powerful countries have invited Israeli companies to work with them in high-tech. The Americans have paired the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology with Cornell University in the new hightech university in Roosevelt Island in Manhattan. The Russians have asked Israeli high-tech to help develop their new Silicon Valley in Skolkovo in the suburbs of Moscow. The Chinese have asked the Technion to work with them to create a Shantou-Technion School of Technology in Guangdong Province.

Israel has, despite its poor past relationship with the country, developed excellent relations with Russia. There are over a million Russian immigrants in Israel and all seven of Israel’s early long-serving prime ministers before 2005 were either from Russia or spoke Russian. Israel’s kibbutzim, moshavim and Histadrut owe their creation to Russian socialist ideas. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has visited Moscow four times in the past year; Putin has visited Israel twice. While the two countries differ over Moscow’s support for Iran, including selling it the S-300 anti-missile defense system, Israel has sold $1b. of drones to Russia over the years. It has $3b. in trade and shares a desire for peace in the region.

The Israelis, who also did not have diplomatic relations with China until 1992, have seen their relationship expand strongly. Today their trade is expanding to $10b. a year. Chinese investors have been looking to invest billions of dollars in Israel. Israel is looking to export water technology to a country with 400 million people living in arid regions.

Israel is also developing a strong relationship with India. It has $5b. in trade with India which could multiply to $15b. if the two sides decide to create a free trade zone. Israel is the second greatest exporter of arms to India, preceded only by Russia. India’s Foreign Minister visited Israel in January and proclaimed that there was a “very high importance” to their new relationship.

Prime Minister Narenda Modi is also scheduled to visit Israel.

For the tiny and poor 1948 Israel to be able less than 70 years later to play a role among the great powers of the world seems amazing. And, yet, in the 21st century, everything is possible.

How a Muslim also became a Zionist

by Nadiya Al-Noor                     The Times of Israel Blogs

http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/how-a-muslim-also-became-a-zionist/

Since I wrote my first blog for The Times of Israel, many have wondered how a Muslim like me came to be a Zionist. Like many Muslims, I started out being very anti-Israel. A few years ago, I would have fully supported BDS, Students for Justice in Palestine, and even the Intifada. I saw Israel as evil. All I heard about Israel was bad – Israel was an apartheid state, Israel was slaughtering children left and right, Israel had no right to exist. Zionism was racism. My undergraduate university taught us that Hamas was an “interest group,” not a terrorist group. Everyone that I knew hated Israel. That is, until last year, when I learned the truth.

In 2015, I became more devout and dedicated to my Muslim faith. I started praying every day and strived to live by the principles of Islam. So imagine my surprise when one day I woke up with an urgent yearning in my chest to learn about Judaism. In what I can only describe as the Will of God, I was drawn to the Jewish faith. My relatives are Jewish, and I grew up with many Jewish friends, but it was not until then that I finally opened my heart to Judaism.

I began to research Judaism and talk to my Jewish friends and family. I learned that my aunt and uncle met in Israel, after my aunt’s family fled Russia due to anti-Semitism. I learned that many of my friends had been shaped by their Jewish identity. A rabbi gave me a book of Hasidic prayers, and I was shocked to see the similarities with my own Muslim prayers. I began to realize that so much of the person I had grown up to be was because of Jewish role models. But I was still anti-Israel, because I avoided honest research about Israel. I thought that I already understood the situation. I could not have been more wrong.

It is by accident that I started to learn about Israel. It occurred in my senior year of university. I decided to gain access to the Kosher Kitchen at the university’s Hillel because most Kosher food is Halal. Instead, I accidentally signed up to join the Hillel Israel Committee. I did not have the heart to tell the Israel Fellow “no,” so I went to meetings, begrudgingly at first. As time went on, I realized that most of what I had learned about Israel was anti-Semitic propaganda. Israel was a country just struggling to keep her people safe. It was not an Evil Oppressor like I had been told all my life. The Hillel became a place where I could be happy and safe, and an environment in which I could grow in my understanding of Israel and Judaism. I attended Shabbat dinners each Friday before my evening mosque services. I started planning events and programming with the Israel Committee.

In November 2015, we brought a gay Israeli filmmaker to campus to speak about homophobia in Israel. There was a huge protest against the event, which escalated until the event had to be cancelled early. Anti-Israel protestors had hijacked the stage and chanted awful lies. At a university known to be very Jewish-friendly, this was unbelievable. Afterward, my Jewish friends felt defeated. Some were crying. Some were fearful to go to classes the next day. People had shouted horrible things at them. I wanted to help, but I was scared. The filmmaker said something to me that left a lasting impression. He said, “You’re scared? Too bad. If you want to make a difference, you have to be willing to speak out.”

So I spoke out. I became a pro-Israel advocate. I signed up for the Makom program to learn about Israel. I learned that Israel had tried many times to make peace agreements. I learned how the Arab states banded together to try and destroy Israel in 1948. I learned how accommodating and welcoming Israel is to all peoples, including Muslims. I became friends with people who had served in the IDF, and they told me about what it was like and what they had seen. I learned about the 800,000 Jewish refugees that Israel took in from Arab states. I learned that Jews really do need the state of Israel, and that it has been their land for over 3000 years. It is the only place on Earth where Jews are completely free to be Jewish. Zionism affirms the right for Jews to live safely in their indigenous homeland. Even the Quran speaks about how the Children of Israel would return to their eternal homeland from all corners of the world. All this knowledge shaped my identity. Today, I am proud to be both a Muslim and a Zionist.

It is my goal in life to build bridges between Jewish and Muslim communities. I have met many other Muslim Zionists with the same goal, a lot of them former anti-Israel extremists. Anti-Semitism in the Muslim community comes from anti-Israel lies and false religious teachings against Jews. The Muslim community must be educated about the realities of Israel and Israel’s true history. Only then can there be peace.

To everyone reading this, Jewish, Muslim, atheist, Arab, Israeli, or anything else, I invite you to build your own bridges. Meet someone new. Invite your Arab neighbors over for tea. Have a conversation with the nice Jewish girl waiting in line at the coffee shop. Seek out friends of different faiths and different ethnicities at your university. Talk to a rabbi or imam. If possible and safe, go to a synagogue or mosque and ask honest questions. Join an interfaith group in your area. If you cannot find one, start a group, like I did. Work on community service projects together. Hold an interfaith Shabbat dinner. Learn about each other. Affirm each other’s humanity. We are not so different. We are all God’s children, we are all one humanity, and we must act like it.

Watch the overnight raid as it developed.                (United with Israel)