+61 3 9272 5644

Credit: The Jerusalem Post

Latest News in Israel – 2nd February

IDF official: Hamas has replenished its missile capability since 2014 war

IDF senior military official on Wednesday told Channel 2 that Hamas has fully replenished its military capability it had lost following 2014’s Operation Protective Edge.

During an interview with the Israeli broadcaster, the official said that the terror organization had used the proceeding years since the 2014 offensive to work on its tunnels and shore-up its missile programs.

A large part of Hamas’s missile stockpile are self-made weapons from inside the Gaza Strip. The official said the material for making of the weapons came through the Egyptian controlled Rafah border crossing following peace talks between Hamas and Cairo.

The military assumption, the official noted, is that Hamas is not looking for a confrontation with Israel in the near future.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Hamas’s military wing said Tuesday that Israel’s concern with the organization’s network of clandestine terror tunnels was proof of Hamas’s success during the 2014 war.

The Hamas spokesperson sighted an anticipated report on Operation Protective Edge that is expected to contain scathing criticism of Israel’s military and political leadership.

“In the near future, there will be even larger forces that will fall,” the Hamas spokesperson said.

The Knesset State Control’s classified subcommittee announced on Sunday that it had approved publishing of the State Comptroller’s Report on the 2014 Gaza war.

According to pundits, the report is expected to be a political bombshell for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in terms of his reputation as “Mr. Security,” with consequences ranging from eventually bringing down the government to being another shot against his standing as rivals wait for a moment to strike.

Hamas military operatives were also in full force Tuesday participating in a ceremony honoring one of its members, who was allegedly killed in a Mossad operation in Tunisia late last year.

Mohhamed Zawari, known to Israel’s security echelon as “The Engineer,” was found shot to death inside his vehicle in the city of Sfax, local media reported.

Zawari, an aviation engineer and scientist, was shot three to seven times by unknown assailants in his car near his home.  (Jerusalem Post)

Liberman: Gaza border quiet is deceptive, Hamas seeks Israel’s destruction

The relative quiet enjoyed by Israelis living in communities on the border with the Gaza Strip is deceptive, and another armed conflict with Hamas could break out any minute, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman warned on Tuesday as he toured the area.

“Hamas and the rest of the groups in Gaza have not abandoned their desire to destroy Israel and to harm us,” he said during meetings with the heads of the regional councils.

Liberman, in his fourth visit to the area since becoming defense minister last year, said that the only thing keeping Hamas from instigating a war with Israel is the fact that “they know that the balance of power is not in their favor and if they act against us, they will pay a very heavy price.”

The minister said that if the balance of power shifts, Hamas will not hesitate for a moment to attack Israel.

Liberman’s comments came days after a Knesset subcommittee announced on Sunday that it had approved publishing the State Comptroller’s Report on the 2014 Gaza war.

According to pundits, the report is expected to be a political bombshell for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in terms of his reputation as “Mr.

Security,” with the increased possibility of the government toppling as another blow to his reputation fuels rivals waiting for the right moment to strike.

Netanyahu’s biggest and recent critics regarding the report have been Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, but at earlier stages Liberman and former Likud minister Gideon Sa’ar also slammed the prime minister.

No information has been provided about when the report will be released to the public, but a source indicated that the subcommittee must review two additional sub-reports before a date is set, which could take several days or even weeks.         (Jerusalem Post)

Israelis born in Arab states excluded from Trump travel ban

The US Embassy in Tel Aviv has clarified that President Donald Trump’s travel ban will largely not affect the tens of thousands of Israeli Jews born in Middle Eastern countries.

A Tuesday statement said the controversial executive order would not be enforced against Israelis from those countries unless they possess a valid passport from one of the seven Arab countries banned under the directive.

“If you have a currently valid US visa in your Israeli passport and were born in Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen, and do not have a valid passport from one of these countries, your visa was not cancelled and remains valid,” the statement said.

Regarding those Israelis born in the seven countries who do have a valid passport from one of those countries, the embassy did not have definitive information, but seemed to indicate this would be handled on a case-by-case basis. “Authorization to enter the United States is always determined at the port of entry,” it said in the statement.

The embassy also offered reassurances that visa applications by Israelis would not be affected by the travel ban.

“Similarly, we continue to process visa applications for applicants born in those countries, so long as they do not have a valid passport from one of those countries and have not otherwise declared themselves to be a national of one of those countries.”

The executive order signed by Trump on Friday barred nationals of seven mainly Muslim countries for 90 days from the United States but has sparked confusion in its interpretation, with people unsure whether they can travel.

Israel is home to around 140,000 people born in the seven countries covered by the Trump order, including around 45,000 Iranians and 53,000 Iraqis, according to official statistics.

The majority are over the age of 65 and many fled persecution. Their Israeli passports say where they were born, but most do not retain citizenship in their birth country. Israel has no diplomatic relations with any of the seven countries.

On Sunday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon told AFP that Israeli authorities were seeking clarification from the US State Department whether the ban included Israeli Jews.

Trump’s order was met with with near-immediate condemnation from world leaders across the globe, with presidents, prime ministers and senior government members from the UK, France, Germany, Canada, Turkey, Iran and a host of other countries panning the initiative.  (the Times of Israel)

First Israeli-Turkish diplomatic talks in years kick off in Ankara

Foreign Ministry director-general Yuval Rotem flew to Ankara on Tuesday for the first high-level political consultations between the two countries in six years.

The discussions, made possible as the result of the reconciliation agreement that culminated in December with an exchange of ambassadors, will survey all the issues between the two countries – economic, cultural and security – with an eye at charting a course for moving forward.

The Turkish delegation to the talks will be led by Rotem’s counterpart in the Turkish Foreign Ministry, Umit Yalcin.

In addition to the consultations with the Turkish Foreign Ministry, Rotem – who will be in Turkey until Thursday – will also meet senior Turkish government officials, Israeli embassy and consular representatives, the governor of Istanbul and members of Istanbul’s Jewish community.

A Foreign Ministry statement said that this dialogue sends a positive message from both sides of a commitment to deepening the relationship between the two countries.

The discussions, coming after six years of challenges and boycotts, will enable a discussion on the deep changes that have happened in the interim in the region, with the goal of creating a basis for greater regional stability, the statement read.

Israeli-Turkish ties nosedived in May 2010, following the Mavi Marmara incident in which Israel Navy commandos killed nine Turks trying to break the blockade of Gaza. Turkey immediately recalled its ambassador, and expelled Israel’s a year later. The two countries finally reached a reconciliation agreement last summer.

This dialogue followed by two weeks a meeting in Brussels between Turkey’s Chief of Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar and IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan on the sidelines of a meeting of NATO leaders. That was the first high-level meeting between senior security officials from the two countries since the Mavi Marmara incident.  (Jerusalem Post)

Amona evacuation continues into frigid night

High Court invalidates Amona agreement as petitioned by Yesh Din; at least 30 of 40 families evacuated; at least 24 policemen injured and 13 arrests made by the afternoon as debacle escalates into a full-throttled showdown with police.

The evacuation of the Amona outpost continued after nightfall on Wednesday with the temperature hovering one or two degrees above zero. Violent clashes had broken earlier in the afternoon as hundreds of activists staged fierce resistance against thousands of policemen deployed to the outpost to implement an evacuation ordered by the High Court of Justice (HCJ). As of 8pm, 30 of 40 families in Amona had been successfuly evacuated.

The HCJ accepted the petition that day submitted by human rights group Yesh Din on Wednesday. According to the ruling, the Amona agreement reached between the settlers and the government is unlawful, since it states that the evacuated settlers will be moved to land belonging to Palestinians. The ruling was 2–1.

In mid-December, Amona residents had approved a new compromise deal offered by the government. According to the new relocation deal, a total of 24 families out of 40 will be able to move to an adjacent plot regulated as “absentee property” on the hill, not covered by the court’s ruling instead of the 12 proposed in the previous proposal.

However, since January 23, the deal has been on hold due to the court issuing an order in response to a petition filed by residents of the Palestinian village of Silwad. The plaintiffs, represented by Yesh Din, a legal rights NGO, petitioned the court to issue an injunction against the planned relocation of Amona, claiming some of the plots in question are owned by residents of Silwad.

By 8:30pm, at least thirteen protestors were arrested for various offenses, and at least 24 police officers were lightly wounded as they went from building to building to remove the activists and residents, and physically drag out the most obstinate among them. Eleven of the policemen, one in moderate condition, were evacuated to the hospital by 4pm while dozens of activists were distanced from the area for public disorder offences.

Despite a number of families who opted to evacuate peacefully, enraged activists used any tools, objects and substances at their disposal to sling at the officers in their effort to frustrate the eviction, including glass bottles, furniture, paint cans, oil, potatoes and even bleach.

Police issued a statement shortly after the violence erupted describing the events that had unfolded.

“Police were attacked by anarchists with substances that were thrown on them and caused burning the eyes of a number of policemen who also required medical treatment at the scene. The Israel Police will not allow this and will act accordingly,” the statement read.

The statement went on to say: “The Israeli police are acting with restraint in order to allow those families of settlers who wish to evacuate to do so. However, those who abuse this restraint and act violently toward police we be dealt with accordingly.”

One of the policemen was said to have refused to take part in enforcing the evacuation, and was consequently praised by the residents as a hero, who called on others to follow suit.

However, the Police Spokesperson’s Unit insisted that the officer did not disobey orders.

“A border policeman had difficult time, felt uncomfortable and unwell. The emotional strain is overwhelming here. He felt a little uncomfortable and moved aside,” the explanation read.

Around 330 Israeli settlers live in Amona, the largest of scores of outposts built in the West Bank without official authorization. The Supreme Court ruled in November, after a lengthy legal battle, that settlers had to leave Amona because their homes were built on privately owned Palestinian land.

Crowds of police officers began entering Amona earlier in the morning while hundreds more fanned out on its perimeters as the evacuation got underway.

The officers, who immediately faced hostile activity upon entering the outpost as a few activists began hurling stones at them despite previous commitments to non-violence, did so unarmed and unprotected, equipped with neither guns nor batons. Moreover, the officers were clad not in their usual uniform but simply blue T-shirts.

On Tuesday morning, security forces began blocking roads leading to the outpost with bulldozers, which hundreds of activists managed to penetrate as they prepared for a showdown with the police.

In response to the police presence, teenage activists began blocking the main access road to Amona and burning tires as they began what may be a last-ditch resistance against their extrication from their homes, which the HCJ ruled were built on privately-owned Palestinian land.

Police roadblocks and checkpoints were erected along all of Route 60 at all intersections between Jerusalem and Ofra while all thru-traffic was blocked, except for area residents and those with official authorization.

Activists protesting the evacuation advised one another “to find a spot to be during the evacuation. Whether it is in a home or in a synagogue, no one can be outside. Whoever is outside will be caught and put on a bus. That is game over.”

“During the evacuation nobody get up and go, even if the police tell you to. We are not evacuating by choice. Make the police remove you with as much force as possible, without violence,” the messages said.

“The best thing would be for four police officers to have to take one of us out. Police won’t act violently if you don’t act violently. The prime minister has an interest in seeing the evacuation go ahead with as little gore as possible. We will all try to make the evacuation take as much time as possible. We will not get up and leave, we will tie ourselves to each other and to furniture and do what we can to stop a Jewish community from being destroyed.”

In an interview with Ynet, Amona resident Tamar Benizri said, “The houses are full of people, dozens of people and young people are in the streets. These roadblocks have done us a favor and seem to have encouraged more people to come. The challenge is something that motivates action. People came, climbed up the hills in the rain and mud; arrived exhausted, but happy, and more and more will keep coming. It is amazing.”

Hundreds of teenagers managed to infiltrate the Amona outpost Tuesday night in a last-ditch effort to hinder the evacuation. Additionally, Amona rabbi Yair Frank wrote, “We will not raise a hand against a police officer or a soldier, but we will not leave our homes willingly on our feet. They’ll need to carry us.”

Dozens of youth activists, some residents and some not, assembled in buildings and sang religious songs as tears fell from their eyes in what are likely their final moments on the hilltop

Others wrote messages on the walls of the buildings and began conducting prayer services.

“We won’t leave our homes on our own. Pull us out, and we’ll go,” one settler told reporters. “It is a black day for Zionism.”

On a nearby hilltop, Issa Zayed, a Palestinian who said he was one of the owners of the land on which Amona was built, watched the scene through binoculars. “With God’s help, it will be evacuated and our land will return to us,” he said.

Earlier on Tuesday, the IDF posted notice at the entrance to Amona, stating that within 48 hours, all persons must exit the area and leave no property behind.

Security forces also requested to propel an observation balloon to the sky above Amona from Tuesday night until February 2.

Meanwhile, the Regulation Bill, which seeks to retroactively legalize outposts, passed its second and third reading in a special Knesset committee ahead of a Knesset plenum vote scheduled to take place next Monday.

The outpost, built in the 1990s, stretches out over a rugged, grassy hilltop and looks out across the valley onto Palestinian villages. In 2006, Israeli police demolished nine homes at Amona, setting off clashes pitting settlers and their supporters against police and soldiers. Several dozen trailers have remained and the outpost has become a symbol for the settlement movement.

Its fate has threatened to rupture Netanyahu’s narrow coalition, which is dominated by ultranationalists who support settlements.

In 2006 Amona saw a violent partial eviction, with nine shacks torn down by authorities. Police were confronted by thousands of settlers and more than 200 people were injured.

The Amona issue had caused tension within Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government. But it eased after he got behind a law proposed by the Bayit Yehudi party, a far-right political ally, to retroactively legalize dozens of outposts. This would not apply to Amona because of the existing court decision.

“We have lost the battle over Amona but we are winning the campaign for the Land of Israel,” Education Minister and Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett tweeted after the evacuation began.

The legislation is expected to be passed in parliament next week. It is opposed, however, by Israel’s attorney general and legal experts predict it eventually would be overturned in court.  (Ynet News)

Israel okays another 3,000 new settlement homes

With the evacuation of the Amona outpost looming, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Tuesday approved the construction of around 3,000 new homes in the West Bank, some of them outside settlement blocs Israel hopes to keep in a future peace deal with the Palestinians.

The decision came a week after Israel approved the construction of 566 housing units in East Jerusalem and 2,500 homes in the West Bank.

In a statement, the Defense Ministry said the new construction “comes as part of a return to normal life in Judea and Samaria, as well as conduct which provides real solutions to housing and living needs.”

The new homes will include 700 homes in Alfei Menashe, 650 in Beitar Illit, 650 in Beit Arye, 200 in Nofim, 150 in Nokdim (Liberman’s home settlement), 100 in Shilo, 100 in Karnei Shomron and 100 in Metsudot Yehuda.

The announcement appeared to be an attempt by the government to calm settler anger over the court-ordered removal of Amona.

Last week Liberman announced the approved expansion of West Bank settlements, with 2,500 new homes to be built, mostly inside what Israel considers the principle blocs it expects to retain under an accord in exchange for land swaps.

The precise location, size and scope of those blocs, however, have never been agreed upon by Israelis and Palestinians.

The international community considers settlements illegal. But new US President Donald Trump has signaled that he will abandon the policies of his predecessors and be far friendlier toward settlements. He has appointed a prominent US supporter of the settlements to be his ambassador to Israel, and a delegation of settler leaders was invited to his inauguration.

This has emboldened Netanyahu, who repeatedly clashed with President Barack Obama over settlements, to announce a series of construction plans over the past week and a half. The Trump White House has remained silent, a dramatic departure from the vocal condemnations issued by Obama.

Last week’s announcement came just days after Trump and Netanyahu had their first phone call since the president assumed power.

It also came after a Jerusalem planning committee approved 566 housing units in East Jerusalem, a move that was delayed while former president Barack Obama voiced strong objections, but came shortly before the Sunday phone conversation.

The administration has remained quiet since then. Asked at a press briefing last Tuesday for a response to the building plans, White House press secretary Sean Spicer neither approved nor condemned the decision, saying that the two countries’ leaders would discuss the matter when Netanyahu visits Washington next month.

Netanyahu, for his part, has signaled to his governing coalition that he intends to accelerate construction with the new US president far less hostile to the settlement enterprise than his predecessor. The latest building announcements were just “a taste,” he told Knesset members last week. “We are going to be doing many things differently from now on.”

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat on Thursday accused the Trump administration of encouraging Israeli settlement construction, and hurting the chances of a two-state outcome, with its lack of response to new building projects beyond the Green Line.

“We’re waiting to hear an official response from the American administration, President Trump’s administration, on the Israeli settlement activities,” Erekat said in a video posted on Twitter by the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Last month, Obama withheld the US veto from UNSC Resolution 2334, which was highly critical of the settlements, designating them as having “no legal validity” and constituting “a flagrant violation under international law.”

The motion also called for a complete end to all construction in areas Israel captured in the 1967 Six Day War, including East Jerusalem.

Obama, who routinely criticized Israel when it approved new settlement projects, maintained that those responses were acts of friendship, as he saw expanding settlement in the West Bank as self-destructive to Israel’s long-term sustainability.

“I don’t see how this issue gets resolved in a way that maintains Israel as both Jewish and a democracy,” Obama said in his final press conference. “Because if you do not have two states, then in some form or fashion you are extending an occupation.”  (the Times of Israel)

Stop shipments of live animals to Israel from Europe and Australia for slaughter, protesters urge court

An estimated 2,500 Israelis braved unusually cold weather in Tel Aviv Saturday night to send a message to the agriculture minister, the country’s two biggest meat companies and the Supreme Court: Stop shipping live animals to Israel for slaughter.

On Wednesday, Supreme Court justices will discuss a petition against live shipments lodged in November 2015 by the animal rights groups Anonymous and Let the Animals Live. It is not known whether they will reach an immediate decision.

In 2016, 571,972 heads of sheep and cattle arrived at Israeli ports from Europe and Australia – nearly double the number for 2015 (292,274), according to Agriculture Ministry figures.

More than 30 percent came from Australia – the biggest live animal exporter in the world ­ on journeys that take up to three weeks, with the remainder arriving from Eastern Europe and Portugal.

Ships resembling multi-story parking lots carry from 1,000 to 20,000 cattle, or 100,000 sheep, or a combination.

Once in Israel, the animals are loaded onto trucks for journeys that can take hours to slaughterhouses or to pre-slaughter fattening facilities.

At the rally, actress and animal activist Yarden Segal read excerpts from the testimony of Australian vet Lynn Simpson, who served as the official on-board vet for 57 live export journeys, including to Israel.

Simpson submitted a harsh, confidential report on live shipments to an Australian government steering committee in late 2012. The department accidentally uploaded the report to its website, and weeks later, Simpson was fired, on the grounds ­ according to the Australian Broadcasting Company ­ that the livestock industry did not want to work with her anymore.

Simpson had reported that the space given to each animal was so small that the animals could not lie down and rest. Those that could were often smothered or trampled. Many cattle suffered serious leg problems as the result of standing for long periods on bare metal or bitumen decks. Photographs she took showed animals covered in excrement.

“In stormy seas, waves would break into the ship and sweep animals out to sea,” Segal read, “while others sustained injuries such as broken necks and legs after being thrust against the bars of their enclosures.”

During one passage, freezing waves threw sheep around like “rag dolls.” Thousands were suffocated under others and hundreds died of hypothermia within hours.

When the ships reach the Red Sea area, the biggest threat is the high humidity and heat, Segal went on. The animals start competing to get close to the fans, Simpson’s testimony reads. “The stronger ones climb over the weaker ones and when they are exhausted, they collapse, lose consciousness and die.”

“One day, we had a full shipment like this. We lost them one after another. They fell around us as if someone had shot them in the head. But there wasn’t a single bullet. As soon as they fell on the deck, we would drag them out and I would slit their throats out of mercy. Those that would have survived such heat stress would have died a slow death within a week from kidney failure. Lambs literally started cooking from the inside, the temperature of their bodies reaching 47 degrees Celsius (116.6 degrees Fahrenheit). The team was forced to throw carcasses into the sea. Legs pull off as you try to drag out a body and it just falls apart.”

In a Times of Israel blog posted in September, Simpson said, “When I’ve been in Israel after delivering live cattle, I have seen meat in butcher shops with injection marks that run deep into the flesh. The bruising is indicative of the types of injection guns we use on the ships; the spread of the bruise is indicative of how deep the main concentration of medication has spread. The color of the bruise indicative of recent injection, hence such meat poses a high drug residue risk. Consumption of such residue has serious ramifications.”

“There have been no changes in the guidelines since Simpson was fired,” lawyer Yossi Wolfson, representing the animal rights groups before the Supreme Court, told The Times of Israel.

“The calves that arrive are covered in dried excrement and the bodies floating off the coast tell the story. There is also no disagreement, and every expert will agree, that these shipments inherently cause suffering.”

If in the past, high Israeli import taxes and stringent limits on the quantity of imported chilled meat made live exports – which started in the 1990’s ­ more economically competitive, import tax cuts and the opening of the meat market to Poland and Latin America last year changed the rules of the game, he said.

And if chilled meat slaughtered in Israel stayed on supermarket shelves for six weeks, sometimes even longer, it could be shipped the three weeks to Israel from Australia, Wolfson added.

The Australian agriculture ministry determines that livestock mortality has to be reported if it is higher than 2 per cent for sheep and goats or over 1 per cent for cattle on a trip of more than 10 days. That means that the deaths of up to 100 cattle or 200 sheep out of every 10,000 of their kind on a shipment to Israel are not deemed “reportable mortality events.”

A statement from Israel’s Ministry of Agriculture said a ministry supervisor or a government vet had to be present at the arrival of every shipment to check the consignment, the state of the animals, the conditions of the ship (most shipments are by sea) or the airplane and the unloading conditions. If defects are discovered in the consignment, the ministry turns for clarification to the authorities in the exporting countries.

“For example, recently, the ministry stopped live shipments by air after a consignment from Hungary was discovered to have an irregular mortality rate as well as deviation from ministry regulations on animal cruelty. The ban will remain until there has been a full investigation of the conditions that lead to the unusual mortality of the animals.”

In addition, the ministry was working to increase the import of meat to Israel, which would certainly lead to a reduction in shipments of live calves, the statement went on. Officials were looking into the possibility of extending the shelf life of imported chilled meat so that imports from South American and other countries could be increased and chilled meat prices bought down.

Furthermore, the statement said, the ministry had pushed for approval of regulations for the transport of animals within Israel, which include reducing transport time as well as providing shelter from rain, ventilation, cooling and relief from overcrowding.

“The regulations prohibit transporting animals who are injured, tied up, hoisted, or otherwise gripped in cruel ways during loading (such as being hoisted by the head or the horns) and also forbid the use of force or electric shocks (with the exception of reasonable force).”

“The ministry calls on the public to report any suspicion of animal cruelty,” the statement concluded.

A spokeswoman for the Tnuva company said, “The subject is being discussed in court and therefore we are prevented from responding.”

Two years ago, lawmakers Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) and Miki Zohar (Likud) proposed legislation to halt the shipments and submitted it for a vote in July, when Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) asked them to wait and to let him try to bring the numbers of live shipment animals down.

“In the meantime, the opposite has happened,” Zandberg told The Times of Israel. “The numbers have just increased.”

“I think we have to expand the public, parliamentary and legal struggle to stop these shocking shipments altogether. We’re talking about tens of thousands of animals crammed into ships, sick and wounded, in insufferable veterinary conditions, just to be taken off the ships in a cruel way and taken to their deaths. I don’t think you have to be a vegetarian to be shocked by the images. This has to stop.”

MK Sharren Haskel (Likud) said, “The struggle for animals is the struggle for humanity and compassion that is within all of us. The purpose of the live shipments was to bring down the prices of meat in Israel, but the absurd thing is that in practice, the prices haven’t gone down and in the meantime, horrific abuse is being carried out on tens of thousands of animals every month.”  (the Times of Israel)

The real lesson from Operation Protective Edge

Analysis: A country which perceives itself as a military power cannot afford to be dragged into, and worn out in, repeated rounds of conflict by some 40,000 Hezbollah fighters and some 30,000 Hamas fighters, however much of a ‘hybrid-style’ the conflicts may be.

by Alex Fishman   Ynet News

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4915540,00.html

War is a serious matter, but in the Security Cabinet—as the leaks reveal—there were not enough people during Operation Protective Edge who took it seriously. It was a group of politicians, some of whom didn’t bother to do their homework but who claim that the truth was concealed from them, and some of whom were busy childishly looking for headlines in order to tease the “landlord,” who kept ignoring them. Even he, the prime minister, didn’t think he was dealing with a strategic-nation cabinet which could come up with a policy for managing the war.

All this will be included in the state comptroller’s report, and that’s good. We will read it, click our tongues, and the politicians will still be unable to see beyond the end of their nose.

I also doubt whether the current cabinet has held a thorough discussion, with the finest security minds, on the question of how we reached a situation in which Israel launches such long and expensive military battle and reaches such mediocre results, both from the military aspect and from the diplomatic aspect.

Why, at the end of every battle, is there a need for a PR campaign aimed at convincing the public that we did succeed after all? The enemy doesn’t raise a white flag, so they explain that it’s a “hybrid” war, that it’s a nonconventional enemy operating underground, and other fairytales.

What the cabinet should see every time it convenes is a large chart on the wall stating the following: The Second Lebanon War lasted 34 days, 166 soldiers and civilians were killed, the direct and indirect cost—direct military expenses, damage to the economy and the cost of property damages and casualties—was more than NIS 20 billion, which is 45 percent of the annual defense budget and 2.4 percent of the growth in the annual product; Operation Protective Edge lasted 50 days, the death toll was 73, the direct and indirect cost to the economy was about NIS 15 billion, which is 25 percent of the defense budget and 1.3 percent of the annual product.

These numbers point to an ongoing mishap, a failure we are being dragged into from operation to operation. The Israeli economy and home front may be strong enough to endure these figures, but the question is whether this is necessary and whether there is no other way.

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, who is the IDF’s main “hybrid” enemy (half military-half terrorist), said in the past that victory over Israel would not be achieved through occupation but through social, economic, political and moral erosion. If the political-security system fails to find a formula for breaking this cycle of attrition which the enemy is dragging us into, the next military conflict will be much more expensive and painful, mainly on the home front. Because it’s no longer just about inaccurate short and medium-range rockets, it’s about a mass of long-range rockets and missiles, some highly accurate. In addition, Hezbollah and Hamas have the ability today to carry out disruptive ground activities in the Israeli home front.

Behind the scenes, both the army and the political echelons understand that these rounds of military conflicts cannot last for long. So the political echelon quietly complains about the generals who fail to think outside of the box, and the military echelon says the politicians are not brave enough and are not letting the army use its full force. One thing is clear: A country which perceives itself—and rightfully so—as a military power cannot afford to be dragged into, and worn out in. rounds of conflict by some 40,000 Hezbollah fighters and some 30,000 Hamas fighters, however “hybrid” as they may be.

The army, therefore, can no longer present plans for rounds of war lasting several weeks. The intensity of the fire that Israel knows how to produce and should produce is capable of ending any conflict within several days. It’s much more expensive, from all aspects, to hang out by the tunnels for a month than to use full force against the most critical targets in the first 24 hours. Just not to “start out small” and “roll out” as the war progresses. This is the real lesson from Operation Protective Edge, not what Bennett said to Netanyahu and what Netanyahu said to Ya’alon, and so on and so forth.

A How-to Guide for Moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem – Einat Wilf (Fikra Forum-Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

Here are four steps for moving the American Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, Israel’s political capital.

Choose a location in Jerusalem that is clearly west of the 1949 armistice line. This part of Jerusalem has been under undisputed Israeli sovereignty since there was a modern State of Israel.

Make it clear that the move merely acknowledges that these parts of Jerusalem undisputedly belong to Israel, and Israel has the sovereign right of every nation to place its capital in its undisputed territory.

Clarify that after 70 years, the U.S. is finally ending an illogical policy that holds the undisputed status of Jerusalem west of the 1949 armistice line hostage to the ongoing dispute over Jerusalem east of that line.

Call out those Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims who are threatening violence over the U.S. move. Are they laying claim to Jerusalem west of the 1949 line and demanding it for themselves as well?

If they react with violence, it is violence that is based on opposition to the very existence of the State of Israel.

Call upon all other countries that have diplomatic relations with Israel to follow suit.

Dr. Einat Wilf is an Adjunct Fellow at The Washington Institute and a former member of the Israeli Knesset.