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Latest News in Israel – 29th July

‘If Israel leaves West Bank, PA, Jordan will collapse’

Should Israel give up its freedom to operate in Judea and Samaria, the Palestinian Authority “won’t survive, and the Jordanian kingdom will fall too,” former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon said Wednesday at Bar-Ilan University.

Ya’alon added that “there are those on the right” who would settle for an Israeli military presence, but no Israeli sovereignty on the Jordan Valley, describing the position as dangerous.

Ya’alon delivered a speech filled with stinging criticism of the government, saying that ordinary people and young people feel ashamed when they see how the country’s leaders conduct themselves, and that criminal investigations into wrongdoing occur frequently.

“If there is no confidence in the leadership, there is no leadership,” Ya’alon said.

The former defense minister, who was unceremoniously dismissed from his post by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in May and replaced with Avigdor Liberman, said that above all, “corruption” is what kept him up at nights.

“When the leadership is busy with petty politics, in quarrels and factionalism, [they target] at times the Arabs, the settlers, left-wingers, haredi people, or gays and lesbians, and now, Ashkenazi and Sephardi people,” Ya’alon stated. “Where does this come from? They delegitimize senior members of the defense establishment and the IDF, and attack them as left-wingers, because they safeguard the rule of law.”

He defined leadership as “the ability to take decisions not out of political survival – online extreme comments, the media, or one community or another should not budge you from your path.”

Ya’alon added that the Negev and the Galilee regions have “turned into the Wild West,” where there is no law enforcement. He added that plans to settle the Beduin in the South have been delayed, and that Jerusalem’s Arab neighborhoods have become “extra-territorial zones.”

He also did not spare the Palestinian leadership from criticism, saying it has refused to recognize the Jewish nation-state at any stage, and that there is no Palestinian leadership today prepared to offer that recognition in “any borders.”

Both Hamas and the PLO seek a Palestinian entity “from the river to the sea,” he said. “When the Palestinians say occupation, they mean from 1948, not 1967. He warned against “deluding ourselves, and saying that another agreement or withdrawal will improve our security-diplomatic situation.”

Ya’alon offered veiled criticism of his successor Liberman when he said that responding to terrorism through arrogant, irresponsible comments that lack a sober, rational vision was wrong. Israel’s security policy “cannot be conducted through words of arrogance or ultimatums that cannot be backed up.”

The Likud responded by mocking Ya’alon’s comments, saying that this is the same man who previously warned of a nuclear-armed Iran within a matter of months, and when he lost the defense portfolio said there is no existential worry for Israel.

Ya’alon would be willing to say anything today to remind people that he exists, the Likud said. “We would not be surprised if ‘Bogie’ tells people that Netanyahu accepted the Uganda Scheme (the early 1900s plan to partition part of British East Africa for a Jewish homeland), and that thanks to him the Jewish state did not end up in Africa,” the Likud party stated.

(Jerusalem Post)

Israel: Hamas digs 6 miles of tunnels each month  (10km)

Hamas is digging more than six miles of tunnels each month toward Israel, which has no guaranteed techniques for detecting them, Israeli officials said Wednesday.

Amid an ongoing argument among politicians and bereaved Israeli families over whether the Netanyahu government dealt with the Hamas tunnel threat appropriately and effectively before and during the 2014 war in Gaza, the unnamed Israeli defense and diplomatic officials were quoted by Channel 2 news as saying that Israel knows that Hamas is constantly extending its underground network.

“We have no perfect solution” to the threat, the officials were quoted as saying, “and neither does any other country.”

Israel located and destroyed two Hamas attack tunnels in April and May. Both were discovered in the southern Gaza Strip and ran into Israeli territory.

The tunnels were the first discovered inside Israeli territory since the end of the war in the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2014. During that operation, dubbed in Israel Operation Protective Edge, at least 34 tunnels were discovered and destroyed by Israeli forces, many of them leading into Israeli territory.

A number of tunnels were used by Hamas fighters to infiltrate Israel and carry out deadly attacks on troops during the 2014 conflict.

Following the 50-day conflict with Hamas in the Strip, Israel invested an estimated NIS 1 billion (approximately $250 million) in developing a detection system to locate such tunnels.

The anonymous statements given to Channel 2 emerged as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took flak from rival politicians for the handling of the conflict ahead of its second anniversary.

Netanyahu has claimed he was well-apprised of the threat posed by Hamas tunnels ahead of the war, dismissing claims that he was caught off guard.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett had accused Netanyahu Tuesday morning of refusing to learn from mistakes in the lead-up to the war.

“Every platoon leader draws conclusions at the end of an exercise in order to prevent future mistakes and to improve,” Bennett, who heads the right-wing Jewish Home party, wrote on Twitter. “What is true for an infantry division is doubly true for the diplomatic-security leadership of the State of Israel.”

An unnamed Likud official later said Bennett’s accusations were a “total lie.”

“Bennett’s comments sound nice. It’s a shame it’s a total lie,” the Likud official said.                                               (the Times of Israel)

IDF soldiers wounded by stray bullets in separate incidents

An IDF soldier was moderately wounded on Thursday, after being hit by a bullet discharged from his own rifle.

The incident took place at an IDF base in the Jerusalem area, and the soldier was evacuated to the Shaare Zedek Medical Center, where he is undergoing treatment. The full circumstances surrounding the incident are being investigated.

It was the second day of wounding a soldier due to accidental bullet, after a soldier attached to the Golani infantry brigade was lightly wounded by a stray bullet during a training exercise in the Golan Heights. The soldier received first aid treatment on site, and was evacuated by military ambulance to the Ziv hospital in Safed.

Today’s events occur about a week and a half after two Israeli soldiers were killed, including a lone soldier from the US, and two others were seriously injured by a grenade blast near Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights.                  (the Jerusalem Post)

Gold: Palestinian Authority Balfour lawsuit ‘contradiction of peace process’

While some may have ridiculed the Palestinian Authority’s recent call to sue Britain over the 1917 Balfour Declaration, Jerusalem is taking it seriously and holding this threat up as proof that the Palestinians are not interested in peace.

“This is the statement they are making,” Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold told The Jerusalem Post, when asked whether there was real concern in Jerusalem that the Palestinians would carry out their threat. “This is a declaration of policy. If I made a declaration of policy of that nature, which seems to contradict the whole spirit of the peace process, they would be all over us.”

PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki, speaking Monday on behalf of President Mahmoud Abbas at an Arab League summit in Mauritania, called on the league to help him sue the British government for issuing the Balfour Declaration in November 1917.

The Balfour Declaration pledged British support for the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. The 100th anniversary of the declaration, made in the form of a letter from then-foreign secretary Arthur James Balfour to Lord Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community at the time, is to be marked next year.

“There is significance to what Abbas is saying, because we have been saying that the Palestinian leadership has to enter negotiations and recognize the right of the Jewish people to a nation state,” Gold said. “This statement from Abbas that the Arab League should help sue the British government is just a resounding no to Israel’s request.”

Gold issued a statement on Wednesday saying that Abbas’s move is a rejection of “Israel’s fair request for reciprocity through mutual recognition and compromise. It is this stand by the Palestinian leadership that serves as a core obstacle to achieving genuine peace.”

He noted in the statement that, apart from “the obvious lack of any legal basis for Abbas’s claim,” the initiative “demonstrates yet again the continuing refusal of the Palestinian side to recognize the legitimate and indigenous connection of the Jewish people to its ancient homeland, alongside the recognition the Palestinians seek for their own rights.”

Gold noted that the Balfour Declaration was incorporated into the 1922 League of Nations Mandate for Palestine, making the inherent right of the Jewish people to self-determination in its ancient homeland an internationally recognized legal obligation.

He stressed that neither the Balfour Declaration nor the Mandate “created the historical rights of the Jewish people to their homeland.” Rather, he said, “these documents together recognized preexisting rights that the Jewish people never conceded. Indeed, thousands of Jews poured back into their ancient homeland well before the Balfour Declaration was issued.”       (Jerusalem Post)

Ex-defense minister: To Palestinians, all of Israel is a settlement

Former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Wednesday that Palestinians view the entire State of Israel as a settlement.

Speaking at a conference at Bar-Ilan University, he said, “When the Palestinians talk about the occupation, they are referring to the entire territory of the land of Israel, not just Judea and Samaria.

“‘Hamastan’ and the Palestinian Authority refuse to recognize Israel, and we receive rockets in exchange for land.”

He added that “the division between Right and Left is meaningless — the Arab leadership does not recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

“For the Palestinians, the biggest settlement is Tel Aviv. … Fatah could have established state infrastructure a long time ago — before the state [of Israel] was established, during the period of Jordanian rule over the West Bank and during the Oslo Accords in ’94.”

Ya’alon went on to say that “the desire to separate from the Palestinians is an illusion. They are dependent on us financially and security-wise. Without the IDF, the Fatah regime would not survive. We disengaged from Gaza and we still provide them with electricity and water. They would die if we got out of the West Bank. Rockets would fall in Israel and the kingdom in Jordan would fall. Arab countries understand this. They pushed the Palestinian issue to the end of the line.”

Ya’alon suggested working towards regional agreements and allowing the Palestinians to work in Israel. “As defense minister, I insisted that they continue to make a living here, and we must invest in that. No outside initiative will work. We must promote regional interests and not be misled by other things.”

Ya’alon also addressed the trial of soldier Elor Azaria, who shot an incapacitated terrorist in Hebron earlier this year. “We must distinguish between a command process and a legal one — I always preferred an operational investigation. … This is not a normal situation … but I didn’t speak about the criminal process, I did not speak with the military advocate general and I did not come to court.”

He added finally that “it is inappropriate to mix the military with politics. They are attacking bodies that assist in governing, for example, the attack on the media, the IDF and its values, the justice system. That is why I have decided to run for national leadership.”    (Israel Hayom)

For first time during Syria war, Israel opens border for humanitarian aid

For the first time since the Syrian civil war began, Israel’s government authorized the delivery of humanitarian aid into Syrian territory near its border, an American-Israeli businessman and philanthropist who leads the project told The Jerusalem Post Wednesday.

“Israel finally agreed to allow in three types of aid: medical, educational and food,” said Moti Kahana, a businessman and founder of the NGO Amaliah, who sold his company in 2010 and since then has been using his own money to aid the Syrian rebels.

The aid is being brought to the Israeli border with Syria, but no Amaliah employees are going into Syria, he explained.

The aid is being transferred into what Kahana calls a “safe zone” adjacent to the border and comprised of the town of Quneitra and its surrounding area.

Kahana has been pushing the government to allow such aid and the deliveries are being coordinated with Amaliah.

One of the first goals is to provide urgently needed medical supplies in order to construct a field hospital, so that Syrians can be treated there without having to leave the country.

Asked how the aid is going to be transferred into Syria and whether the IDF is going to insure security for the delivery, Kahana responded, “the IDF knows who to trust.”

Questioned about the influence of Islamic State and al-Qaida’s Nusra Front in the Quneitra area, he responded that it is imperative to get educational supplies to the children there so that they can be in school and not be brainwashed and join radical Islamist groups.

For the last five years, no schools have been functioning in this region.

Sources in the Free Syrian Army coalition active in the area tell Kahana that the area is fairly calm and the locals are trying to uphold a safe zone.

“This is a good opportunity to help and show them that their neighbors are wonderful people,” he said.

Kahana called on the “world to join us. What we are doing by creating this safe zone is preventing the departure of more refugees.” He noted that the population in the Quneitra area is currently around 200,000 people compared to one million previously.

Deputy Regional Cooperation Minister Ayoub Kara (Likud) told the Post, “I fully support sending humanitarian aid to the Quneitra area.”

“Islamic State is today in retreat and the FSA is there as well as Nusra Front fighters. We don’t want radicals to arrive to our border,” he said, adding that Israel is closely observing events.

Israel agrees to facilitate the transfer of humanitarian aid, but does not want to accept refugees, the Druse deputy minister explained.

“Civilians are in a difficult situation and we want to help them and not wait for others,” he added.           (Jerusalem Post)

Oren, Lipman join forces to improve absorption of Anglos

MK Michael Oren and former MK Dov Lipman have announced a new Knesset-based initiative to address some of the challenges that face English speaking immigrants to Israel. These issues include the immigrant benefit package, tax problems, professional and driving licenses, struggles of lone soldier and national service volunteers, and the need for English speaking clerks and representatives in government agencies and ministries.

The new initiative will kickoff with a hearing in the Immigration and Absorption Committee on Monday August 1. This specific hearing will address specific challenges regarding national service for young people from overseas which create obstacles for their immigration and absorption process. Representatives of various absorption organizations will present these challenges to the committee and to the government representatives who will be invited to attend with a goal to work towards legislation which addresses these issues.

MK and former Ambassador to the US Oren: “I’m delighted to join with former MK Dov Lipmann in inaugurating the Knesset’s first caucus for English speaking olim. Immigrants from English speaking countries contributed immensely to building this country and continue do so today. Yet they still face formal challenges in integration and absorption. The caucus will address these difficulties and adopt concrete solutions.”

Former MK Lipman: “This committee hearing is just the beginning of the process. MK Oren and I have decided that we will not rest until we solve the many problems and challenges related to the absorption of English speaking immigrants. I am thrilled to be working with MK Oren on this effort and am confident that this ‘bipartisan’ effort will bear fruit.” (Arutz Sheva)

French citizens comprise largest number of foreign IDF volunteers in 2016

The largest number of foreign volunteers to the IDF have come, for the second year in a row, from France, the Defense Ministry announced on Wednesday.

French citizens will comprise 45 percent of the total foreign volunteers to the IDF in 2016, compared to 29% from the US and 5% from the UK.

In total, there will be close to 500 volunteers from 21 countries beginning service in the IDF this year, most of whom will formally enlist in August.

Approximately 80% of them will serve in combat infantry units for at least 18 months, although many extend their service beyond this time.

Before enlistment, volunteers and new immigrants joining the IDF will take a preparatory course run by the Defense Ministry’s Security and Society Department to prepare them physically and mentally for military enlistment.

The course is a relatively new program and includes hikes, physical training, meetings with IDF officers, excursions around the country, visits to Israel heritage sites and museum tours.

The course participants also meet with Israelis from across the societal spectrum, improve their Hebrew and are generally prepared for life as a soldier, as well as learning about their various rights as lone soldiers without family in the country.

Separately, two young immigrants have been staging a two-man protest outside the IDF headquarters at the Kiriyiah in Tel Aviv and, on Wednesday, in the Knesset, in an effort to enlist to the IDF.

Navon Kaplan, who immigrated to Israel from Texas in 2011, began IDF service more than a year and a half ago, and served in the Iron Dome. He was however required to end his service after he put on too much weight. Kaplan subsequently lost 45kg and is now fit again and wishes to complete his military service, but the the IDF enlistment department says he is now too old to serve, even though his Iron Dome unit has insisted they want to take him back.

“I want to serve in the IDF, to defend the state and lead soldiers,” said Kaplan, who added that he would prefer to join his comrades still serving in the Iron Dome, but is willing to consider other possibilities as well.

Philipe Rodriquez, immigrated to Israel a year ago from Sydney, Australia after his entire family converted to Judaism, but has also faced difficulties in enlisting due to his age.

Rodruigez, who is athletic and fit, is still campaigning to enlist, and said that he would prefer to serve in the Givati or Golani brigades, but is also willing to be flexible.

The two men met recently with Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben Dahan who said that he would help them enlist, and also visited the Knesset on Wednesday to further their lobbying efforts.

“I am full of pride to see you, your motivation, and your great dedication to the Jewish people,” Ben-Dahan told them.

“You are an example to Jews around the world and for youth in the State of Israel, and I hope I will succeed you in realizing your dreams to serve in the IDF.”

Ben-Dahan is also leading efforts to amend the law determining various rights for soldiers who have completed their IDF service, originally passed in 1994.

Kaplan (right) and Rodriguez (left) with Ben-Dahan[1]

Kaplan (right) and Rodriguez (left) with Ben-Dahan

At present, demobilized soldiers receive a financial deposit from the state of up to NIS 25,000 depending on the length and nature of their military service, to use for various different purposes, including education, paying for a wedding or a home, buying a car, and other possibilities.

This money must be used in the first seven years after finishing IDF service, otherwise it reverts to a state fund for disadvantaged soldiers.

In the Knesset’s winter session, Ben-Dahan will introduce legislation to increase the amount of time a soldier has to make use of this money, as well as to increase the range of different purposes for which it can be used.          (Jerusalem Post)

Anti-Hillary Protesters Burn Israeli, American Flags Outside DNC, Amid Chants of ‘Long Live Palestine’ (VIDEO)

A group of anti-Hillary Clinton protesters outside of the Democratic National Convention burned Israeli and American flags, while chanting “Black Lives Matter,” and “Long Live Palestine,” eyewitnesses reported.

According to these reports, documented on cell-phone cameras and uploaded to Facebook and Twitter, pro-Bernie Sanders demonstrators, unhappy with Clinton’s nomination as Democratic presidential candidate, also waved placards reading: “From the river to the sea, Palestine must be free,” a slogan employed to call for the elimination of the state of Israel.

Meanwhile, inside the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, where the DNC is being held, Palestinian flags were prominently displayed. Activists at the venue were seen holding up signs reading, “I support Palestinian human rights.”

In addition, as Conservative bloggers pointed out, DNC organizers capitulated to protesters demanding the removal of the Mississippi state flag, which depicts the Confederate standard.

Cooperation between the Black Lives Matter movement and anti-Israel groups — like Students for Justice in Palestine – which support Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions efforts has been widely touted and documented.

Among those tweeting about the flag-burning outside the DNC was Wall Street Journal reporter Byron Tau, who also wrote, “Most pro-Bernie protesters are just holding candles and singing. Only a tiny few interested in burning things.”

The DNC began on Monday and continues until Thursday.

Among the first news outlets to report on the incident was Iran’s Press TV. Watch its coverage below.                          (the Algemeiner)

Israeli tech set to shine at Rio Olympics

Israel will make its 16th appearance at the Olympic Games this August with its largest delegation of athletes ever.

But Israel’s representation in Rio de Janeiro extends beyond the sporting contests to the tech arena where startups will show their prowess in security technologies, live video transmission technology, public transportation navigation, AR systems, satellite technologies and sports tech.

Israeli company International Security and Defense Systems (ISDS), BriefCam and the EROS-B satellite will likely snag the most attention as they take on security.

ISDS, which has been providing integrated solutions for complex security projects since 1982, is the “Official Supplier” of security solutions for the Games.

“It’s an honor for ISDS to be the very first ever Israeli group to be part of the Olympic family,” Leo Gleser, ISDS president and a former Mossad agent, told JTA.

BriefCam will help Brazilian security authorities with surveillance at street level. The Israeli company’s proprietary video-synopsis technology scrunches 24 hours worth of footage into one minute making it easier for security personnel to keep track of what’s really going on among the hundreds of thousands of Olympic attendees.

In the run-up to the August 5-21 global sporting event, visitors and athletes heading to the Rio Olympics have been inundated with warnings about cybersecurity hacking, terror threats, the Zika virus and crime.

Though Brazilian Defense Minister Raul Jungmann told an international press conference in July that his country is ready to provide a safe environment as required by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), following the terror attack in Nice, France, the Brazilian government announced it would boost security for the Olympics above its already planned 85,000 police and soldiers — double the number in the 2012 London Games.

Also in July, Jungmann announced his government’s decision to use the EROS-B high-resolution imaging satellite to strengthen security by allowing detailed inspections of Rio de Janeiro during the Olympic and Paralympic events in August and September.

“This is an Israeli satellite at a low Earth orbit altitude capable of capturing high-resolution images of up to 50 centimeters [about 1½ feet] in an area of 450 kilometers [some 280 miles], thus enabling the identification of objects, people, cars and goods,” Jungmann told local media about the Israeli satellite, owned and operated by Or Yehuda-based ImageSat International).

“Brazil has no need to worry because we have been in touch with the world’s best intelligence agencies and we will bring unique innovations to the Games,” he told reporters. “We’ll have an international intelligence center to host 100 nations and their own intelligence centers, which is unprecedented.”

Tech Olympics, sports tech and live video

RideOn – maker of augmented reality (AR) technologies and products for outdoor activities – is the official Israeli representative for this year’s inaugural “Tech Olympics” in Rio.

In May, RideOn won Israel’s sports innovation contest and a ticket to Rio to compete against seven other regional winners at the Global Innovation for Sports Competition.

“The goal is to provide the first-ever international exposure for innovations that will revolutionize the world of sports as we know it,” said Amir Raveh, CEO and founder of the HYPE Foundation, which joined forces with Microsoft and Saucony to launch the first global platform in tech innovation for sports.

The winning startup will get €100,000 from the Disruptive Technologies Fund, and mentoring from companies including Google, Adidas, Ernst & Young, Nike, Accenture and Black Lab Sports.

Another Israeli sports-tech company making a debut at the Olympics is Motionize. The US rowing team has been using the Tel Aviv-based sports-tracking company’s products to improve its performance ahead of the Rio games.

Founded in 2011, Motionize uniquely uses two independent sensors to give paddlers a complete picture of their movements and instant feedback.

“Up until now a coach can only look at one side at a time. To see what you are doing from all points of view in real time has really helped me tweak,” Team USA kayaker Maggie Hogan told Sports Illustrated about why she uses Motionize to train.

Israeli company LiveU‘s IP-based, award-winning live video transmission solutions will help more than 80 international broadcasters deliver all the live action of the Olympic and Paralympic Games to their audiences. LiveU also provided this service for the FIFA World Cup 2014.

LiveU is ready to capture the action in Brazil.[1]

LiveU is ready to capture the action in Brazil.

LiveU’s award-winning technology that enables live video transmission from any location around the world will be used by over 80 international broadcasters to deliver all the live action of the Olympics to their audiences.

“Continuing our success supporting large global sporting events, we’re looking forward to playing a central role in bringing live action to viewers around the world,” said Samuel Wasserman, LiveU’s CEO, referring to the company’s success at the the FIFA World Cup 2014.

Navigation and transportation technologies

Israeli navigation and transportation technologies also will be at the Olympic Games.

Pointer Telocation of Rosh Ha’ayin, a developer, manufacturer and operator of mobile resource management, won a contract with CET RIO (the Rio de Janeiro Transit Authority) to provide technology and integration services during the 2016 Olympics, managing the vehicles and personnel responsible for transit control, emergency and contingencies.

Moovit, the Israeli public-transportation app, will provide real-time information in 35 languages on the fastest routes – buses, trains, subway, light rail, ferryboats and cable cars – in order to make transit during the Rio 2016 Olympics as smooth as possible.

Rio’s official tourism site says 50 kilometers of new lines have been mapped with traffic information to ensure efficient travel for the 1.5 million local Moovit users and the expected 500,000 visitors.

“Rio is advancing in the use of technology and the partnership with Moovit will allow not only people attending the Olympics, but the local community as a whole to have access to a multimodal trip planner with real-time information. This will let people plan journeys and have more security and regularity when riding on public transport, which is a great achievement for the Games period and an important legacy for people in Rio,” said Rio Transportation Secretary Rafael Picciani.          (ISRAEL21c)

Israel has had success against ‘lone wolf’ terrorists — here’s how

A combination of tech-savvy data-crunching, targeted pressure and a large measure of restraint has helped dampen Palestinian support for escalation

By Andrew Tobin                            The Times of Israel


“Lone wolf” terrorism in Europe is making headlines around the world. But in Israel, the phenomenon of angry or troubled individuals taking up arms is old news.

Since October, Israelis have endured a wave of violence that has been carried out largely by individual Palestinians without backing from terrorist groups — so much so that some have called this the “lone wolf intifada.”

As of the end of June, 38 people had been killed and 298 injured by attackers, according to the Shin Bet security service.

Yet the violence appears to be winding down, at least for now. In October, when the wave of violence is said to have started, the number of attacks against Israelis spiked to 620. In June, there were 103 attacks, lower than in September, before the wave of violence began.

A large majority of the attacks — some 1,500 out of 2,000 — were in the West Bank, where the Israel Defense Forces is responsible for protecting Israelis. Here are five key methods the army used to turn the tide of violence.

Keep the terrorist groups out of it

The wave of violence may be considered a lone wolf intifada, but that’s because the army has put a lid on the terrorist groups, a senior IDF officer told reporters during a briefing this week. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the nature of his job.

Since the second intifada, the last major Palestinian uprising in the early 2000s, the Israeli army has managed to largely dismantle the networks run by Hamas and other terrorist groups in the West Bank, according to Shlomo Brom, a retired brigadier general and an analyst at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies think tank.

“Basically the terror networks are dismantled, and basically the security forces are dealing with maintenance,” he said.

But that doesn’t mean terrorist groups have stopped trying to launch attacks against Israelis. In the past three months, the army has thwarted dozens of attempted attacks by Hamas alone in what the senior official called the “old war” against organized terror.

“We’re still having day-to-day indications of them trying to find people in the West Bank, fund them, give them weapons, give them explosives and tell them to shoot Jews,” he said. “This hasn’t changed.”

Predict the unpredictable

A new war is being waged against the lone wolves. Their attacks started last fall in Jerusalem, sparked by Palestinian accusations of Jewish encroachment on the Temple Mount. But the center of the lone wolf intifada quickly shifted to the West Bank city of Hebron, with attacks on soldiers and settlers in the area, as well as across Israel.

Around that time, at the end of last year, the army began building a system to deal with the new threat that was emerging, the senior officer said. The goal was to predict the unpredictable: when, for example, a particular Palestinian youth might grab a knife from his mom’s kitchen and take to the streets to spill Israeli blood. Motives can range from nationalism to family problems, he said.

“Unlike terrorists who belong to Hamas or the Islamic Jihad, if you get to their house the week before the attack, the kid doesn’t know that he’s a terrorist yet,” the senior officer said. “So that’s the main challenge.”

Based on what was known about previous attackers, the army created an alert system that is constantly being tweaked. These days, army analysts feed huge amounts of intelligence information into that system — a combination of “social media, human intelligence, signal intelligence,” according to the senior officer, who declined to provide further details about intelligence gathering. In return, he said, the system produces a small number of alerts about potential future attacks.

“One of the ways you produce an alert is, what are the last actions that a specific individual did,” the senior officer said. “For example, if he’s exposed to incitement and right afterwards he rents a car, maybe an unregistered car, this raises questions.”

In response to an alert, options include arresting a suspect, monitoring his or her actions, intervening through the family or deploying troops to a potential target area. When attackers are arrested or killed without managing to cause carnage, future attackers are thought to be deterred.

“The attacks are decreasing because of their ineffectiveness, because most of them fail,” said Brom, the Institute for National Security Studies analyst. “There is a limit to the number of even frustrated young people who are willing to give their life and to achieve nothing. So it makes sense that over time, the numbers of attacks are fewer and fewer.”

Go after the inciters

Incitement to violence can occur in person, through traditional media or over social media. Hamas is responsible for a large portion of the incitement of Palestinians against Israel, the senior officer said.

“They create some of the memes of the high-level incitement, or the incitement which is very powerful that you see on the web,” he said. “So when you handle most of the Hamas incitement, or when you stop some of the incitement from getting to social media, you also have less incitement by private people that are just sharing a specific post or adding incitement.”

Get guns off the streets

Despite Israel’s control of the West Bank’s borders, weapons manufacturing in the territory has “increased drastically” in the past couple years, according to the senior officer. He estimated there are hundreds of production centers there.

In recent months, he said, the army has launched an organized crackdown, including closing some 20 locations producing homemade Carl Gustav submachine guns, or “Carlos,” like those used last month by two Hebron-area cousins in a deadly shooting at the upscale Sarona market in Tel Aviv.

“They paid for their suits more than they paid for the weapons,” the officer said of the Sarona shooters, who wore dress suits during the attack. “And our logic is very simple … If not everyone can get a weapon with 2,000 shekels [about $500], the price will go up and they’ll have to make all sorts of arrangements and meet more and more people in order to get the weapon they want, we will see fewer attacks with weapons because people will make more mistakes.”

Limit blowback

At the same time, the army tries to minimize its footprint on Palestinian society. That starts with trying to arrest rather than kill attackers and would-be attackers, the senior officer said.

According to Brom, the army also pushes to limit collective punishment, like the withholding of taxes that Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, which governs parts of the West Bank, or revoking permits to work in or visit Israel.

“The more you can separate the public from the perpetrators, the better,” he said.

When the army does implement measures with punitive effects, like refusing to return the bodies of Palestinians killed during attacks or destroying attackers’ homes, it aims only to target the attackers’ supporters, according to Brom.

Col. Ido Mizrachi, the head of engineering in the IDF’s Central Command, which is responsible for the West Bank, acknowledged in another briefing with reporters that demolishing Palestinian homes causes resentment, but said he thinks the deterrent effect is stronger. To maintain that balance, he said, his engineers work quickly and use techniques to ensure that surrounding homes, or even adjoining apartments, are not damaged.

While the senior officer downplayed the Palestinian Authority’s security cooperation with Israel, Brom said the partnership is one of the main factors that enables the army to limit wider tensions.

“If the Palestinian Authority stopped cooperating, the Israeli security services would be in a situation in which they would have to do themselves what the Palestinian Authority is doing,” he said. “The problem is, that would create much more friction with the population at large. And more friction with the population at large means more motivation for more youngsters to join terrorist groups.”

Overall, the army believes this combination of tactics has helped to change the mentality of Palestinians in the West Bank, reducing the number of people willing to risk their lives to attack Israelis.

“We saw more and more people not becoming pro-Israeli or pro-Zionist, but understanding that they don’t achieve anything from this escalation, that it hurts them economically, that it doesn’t help the condition of their lives, that it doesn’t achieve anything on the national level,” the senior officer said.

How Israel undermined the tunnel threat

by Yossi Melman      The Jerusalem Post


Yossi Langotsky feels that poetic justice has been achieved. After many years of being treated as a “public enemy” by the security establishment because of his repeated warnings about the tunnel threat, he is suddenly appreciated and welcome.

Three weeks ago, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot invited him to hear his views on the danger of Hamas tunnels in Gaza and Hezbollah tunnels in Lebanon and how to combat them.

Langotsky volunteered in 2005 to serve as a special adviser to then-chief of staff Lt.-Gen. (res) Moshe Ya’alon, and met since then with all IDF chiefs of staff with the exception of Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, who refused to see him.

“After years of ignoring my advice it was refreshing to be invited by Eisenkot,” Langotsky told The Jerusalem Post. “I salute him.”

Langotsky is quite a character and has no fear of public battles about his beliefs and principles. He is a geologist by profession and a fighter in his soul.

In the Six Day War he led a reconnaissance unit in the battles against the Jordanian army in Jerusalem. For his bravery he was decorated with one of IDF’s highest medals. Later he created the special operations department in Military Intelligence and commanded its technological branch. Twice he was given the Israel Defense Prize for his and his department’s innovations.

Together with two other senior intelligence officers, he fiercely campaigned to prosecute Maj.-Gen. (res.) Eli Zeira for exposing Israel’s best agent before the Yom Kippur War. Zeira was then the head of Military Intelligence and later revealed that Egyptian Dr. Ashraf Marwan was a Mossad agent.

Zeira cynically claimed that Marwan was a double agent in order to exonerate himself of his responsibility for the intelligence failure before that war.

In 2007 Marwan was found dead in London. It was most probably the work of Egyptian intelligence, trying to stage his death as suicide.

Langotsky’s accusations proved to be true, but former attorney-general Yehuda Weinstein had mercy on Zeira, because of his advanced age and “contribution to Israel’s security.”

Most recently Langotsky won another battle – this time a very personal one – when a court forced Israeli mega billionaire Benny Steinmetz to compensate him with NIS 50 million.

Langotsky, who teamed up with Steinmetz, discovered the first Israeli gas field in the Mediterranean and named it “Tamar” after his granddaughter. But weeks before the final results proving his finding, Steinmetz unilaterally left the partnership.

But more than anything else Langotsky is identified with his public campaign to find a technological solution to the tunnels threat.

IDF generals and defense ministers politely listened to his opinions and advice, but quickly ignored him. He was considered to be a stubborn pain in the neck for his criticism of the defense establishment, its incompetence, hidden agendas and interests and the inflated ego of the bureaucrats.

He was especially critical of the department inside the Ministry of Defense in charge of the research and development of technological gadgets and weapon systems. “For years they thought that they know better,” says Langotsky, “and ignored my advice that the solution is in the field of geophysics. They wanted to reinvent the wheel.”

Langotsky suggested time and again that the best way to expose the digging of tunnels is by installing underground geophysics sensors, exactly as they are used to discover oil and gas deep underground and undersea.

Such sensors are commercially produced and available in many countries, especially in the US and Western Europe. They track underground sounds and movements of soil.

“All the MoD had to do was to purchase these sensors from the shelves,” he adds, “but they prefer to try to develop the equipment by themselves.”

The ministry R&D personnel failed time and again. Precious time was lost and tens of millions of shekels paid by Israel’s taxpayers were wasted in their futile efforts.

At a certain point the ministry bureaucrats went to the state comptroller and falsely accused Langotsky of serving commercial interests. But then came the 2014 summer war with Hamas (Operation Protective Edge), which showed that Israel had no technological answer to the tunnel threat, although its intelligence was good and helped the IDF to destroy them militarily.

From then on the IDF and Defense Ministry started to take the issue seriously. Most of Langotsky recommendations that had been ignored are now adopted.

Nowadays the IDF is running a three-layer defense shield to detect and find tunnels.

The first one is the simplest one. Heavy equipment was brought to dig along the Gaza border and unveiled tunnels based on accurate intelligence or at random.

The second method employed is to dig holes every dozen or so meters and insert rods with geophysics sensors that detect digging noise and indicate the estimated direction and distance. In ministry parlance, this measure is called a “seismic underground fence.”

Elbit Systems, one of Israel’s leading defense contractors, won the tender worth hundreds of millions of shekels to build it. However, according to Langotsky, “10 years ago I suggested that the state-owned Geophysics Institute would be assigned to the task, to be completed within two years for only NIS 20m.

The third line of defense against the tunnels is the idea to build a deep underground fortified wall. The government has yet to find the budget for the project, estimated at probably more then NIS 2 billion and to take three years.

But the indefatigable Langotsky warns: “The wall is an ambitious idea which still has to be tested for a long period before being proved operational, otherwise it will turn into a ‘white elephant.’”

Furthermore, he believes that the defense establishment has to appoint a project manager to coordinate all the involved parties – and there are too many. His ideal example to be adopted is the Manhattan Project – the creation in the Second World War of the US atomic bomb.

That project, led and managed by Prof. Robert Oppenheimer, who was appointed the project “czar” with overall authority and responsibility.

“This is what we need,” he concludes, “to effectively battle the tunnel threat.”

The Truth about “Settlement Growth” – Ahron Shapiro (Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council)

Once again major global political figures – who are presumably well briefed on the issue of Israeli housing construction in the West Bank and should know better – have been blowing the issue out of proportion and misrepresenting the reality on the ground. Israel has been exercising great restraint in regard to such construction for years.

The fact is, since Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu took office in 2009, on average, demand for housing in settlements for natural growth – i.e., births and marriages – has exceeded supply of new housing. Far from “massively expanding,” settlements are barely treading water.

If the children of settler parents want to start a family close to their parents, they may not be able to do so because there simply aren’t enough new houses being built.

These statistics are available to anyone. According to Israeli-Palestinian political process expert Col. (ret.) Shaul Arieli, “In 2015, as in the preceding five years, almost 90% of the 15,523 individuals who joined the population of Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] were a result of natural population growth,” almost entirely due to births and not migration.

Netanyahu has built fewer homes in Israeli settlements in the West Bank than previous prime ministers going back to the 1990s, including Ehud Olmert, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Barak.

Moreover, the vast majority of homes that have been built are in settlement blocs that take up a tiny fraction of the West Bank and are expected to remain part of Israel in any future peace deal.