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Latest News in Israel – 2nd February

Attempted stabbing attack in West Bank settlement, assailant shot and killed

A Palestinian attacker attempted to carry out a stabbing attack against Israeli security forces in the West Bank Israeli settlement of Sal’it on Monday morning.

The attack occurred when the assailant had attempted to cross a security fence and enter into the settlement, but was spotted by IDF soldiers stationed in the area.

The attacker then attempted to stab the soldiers, but was shot and killed on site.

There were no injuries on the Israeli side.

On Sunday, a Palestinian police officer shot and wounded three soldiers at the Focus checkpoint leading to Ramallah, near the Beit El settlement.

Two of the soldiers were moderately-to-seriously wounded, and one was lightly wounded. Soldiers responding at the scene shot and killed the shooter.

The Palestinian Authority identified the police officer as Amjad Sukkari, 29.

Later in the day, a man driving a car with Palestinian license plates approached the Beit Ur A-Tahta checkpoint near Route 443 and attempted to run over IDF soldiers carrying out security missions in the area, but failed to hurt anyone.

Soldiers opened fire and wounded the attacker who was evacuated to the hospital for treatment              (Jerusalem Post)

Terror attack prevented after dramatic high speed chase

Two Israeli Arabs from Kfar Qassam were arrested on Monday at the end of a high speed car chase which took place down the Ayalon highway in Tel Aviv.

The chase ensued after one of the two Arabs told his girlfriend that he was planning on carrying out a car ramming attack inside the city.

The two men were drinking the night before in a Herziliya pub and one of them got into a fight with his girlfriend when he saw her talking to another man. According to reports, the suspected terrorist threatened her and then added “I am going to kill some Jews. I am going to drive on the sidewalk and run them over.” The girl and her friend immediately reported this to the police who began a manhunt for the two men. They were finally arrested during Monday morning at the end of a car chase.

After being notified by the girl, Tel Aviv police began to pursue the two men. The manhunt involved helicopters, emergency roadblocks that were setup throughout the city and the emergency call up of a large amount of police officers from the Tel Aviv district and traffic enforcement.

Upon locating the suspected terrorists following a car chase police performed the procedure for arresting a suspected individual in possession of a weapon who has the intention to carry out an attack.             (Arutz Sheva)

Hamas operatives pose as medical patients to infiltrate Israel

Israel Police and Shin Bet [Israel Security Agency] arrested two Hamas operatives who had entered Israel from Gaza on forged medical documents. The pair were arrested on January 7, however,  the information was only cleared for release on Monday.

After entering Israel, Mahmoud Matok, 31, along with his father, 51, escaped from hospital and traveled to Umm al-Fahm in northern Israel, where they were arrested.

Both men hailed from the Jabalya refugee camp located in the northern Gaza Strip.

A source in the Shin Bet said, “This is a serious incident that illustrates the cynical exploitation of Israel’s willingness to meet the humanitarian needs of Gaza’s residents, which could lead to a tightening of entry regulations, and ultimately harm the residents of the Gaza Strip.”

The two confessed under interrogation to forging the medical records by using a relative’s medical condition as a pretext for their entry, with the younger Matok assuming the relative’s identity.

According to Shin Bet, the two had paid NIS 7,000 for the forged documents, which stated that the younger Matok suffered from paralysis of the legs and required emergency medical attention in Israel.

The Beersheba Magistrate’s Court charged the two with conspiracy to commit an illegal act, fraud and illegally entering Israel under false circumstances.  (Jerusalem Post)

Netanyahu to Hamas: Israel will strike with ‘greater force’ than 2014 war if attacked from tunnels

Israel will respond more forcefully than it did during 2014’s Operation protective Edge it it is attacked from the Gaza Strip’s terror tunnels, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday.

Netanyahu, speaking to the annual meeting of Israel’s ambassadors and consul-general, related to the recent Hamas threats and boasts about those tunnels.

“If we are attacked from the tunnels in the Gaza Strip we will respond with great force against Hamas, with much greater force then we used during Operation Protective Edge,” he said.

“I think they understand this in the region, and in the world,” he added. “I hope we do not need to do this, but our defensive and offensive capabilities are developing rapidly, and I do not suggest that anyone test us.”

Last week, Hamas announced that seven members of its military wing, Izzadin Kassam, were killed when a tunnel collapsed.

During a funeral Friday for the Hamas operatives who were killed when the tunnel impaled them, senior official Ismail Haniyeh vowed that the Islamist organization will continue in building its network of underground passages.

Hamas officials said that they were “proud that hundreds of our men are working quietly to prepare for defending and protecting our people over and under the ground.”

“The Gaza Strip has built twice the number of resistance tunnels that were built in Vietnam, a subject which is studied in military schools,” Haniyeh said on Friday. “The military wing has built tunnels around Gaza in order to defend it and to liberate the al-Aksa mosque and the holy places.”

He added that the armed factions in Gaza are preparing for the next round of fighting with Israel.

Prior to the tunnel collapse, residents of various southern Israeli communities along the border with the Gaza Strip have renewed complaints of reverberating, underground drilling sounds possibly linked to the construction of infiltration tunnels used by Palestinian terrorists.           (Jerusalem Post)

Herzog accuses government of inaction on Gaza terror tunnels

The government must respond to the continuing construction of tunnels from Gaza into Israel, opposition leader Isaac Herzog said on Sunday, during a visit with regional council leaders.

Herzog (Zionist Union) pointed out that people living near the Gaza border are reporting hearing tunnels being dug under their homes, and that the Egyptians have bombed numerous Hamas tunnels under the Rafah crossing between the southern Strip and Sinai.

“What are the prime minister and defense minister waiting for? For terrorists with guns drawn to emerge in a kibbutz or moshav?” he asked.

Herzog called for the government to “stop hesitating” and provide a serious, public response to the citizens.

“They have to instruct the IDF to bomb the tunnels and eliminate this threat,” he suggested, “especially if there are already tunnels that crossed into Israel.”

The opposition leader added that “Hamas is bragging and we are doing nothing.

“We will wake up one morning and find that once again we did not take the threat seriously. This will cost us in blood and great sorrow,” he said.

Also on Sunday, the Knesset State Control Committee held a hearing about Gaza border security, meeting on the border itself.

Committee chairwoman Karin Elharar (Yesh Atid) slammed the government for “too many [State Control Committee] meetings without an appropriate solution from the Defense Ministry, next week at a closed door meeting we will see the results,” and called the location of her panel’s meeting a “protest by the committee to identify with the residents” living next to the Gaza Strip.

But Defense Ministry representative Shalom Ganser responded that his ministry and the National Security Council have approved the strategic approach and underpinnings of an improved border fence to protect Israelis living near the border, but that there is still work to do on the technology.

Technological issues exist both with the sophisticated border fence and with techniques for detecting the digging of tunnels by Hamas, he said.

The technology is “being developed currently and is unique in the world,” making giving an exact timeline for completion difficult, he said.

Ganser added that security forces had followed up on residents’ complaints that they heard digging and found them to be false reports.

In November, Elharar held a hearing on the issue where she blasted the National Security Council and the Finance Ministry for in her words fighting over who was delaying progress on Gaza border security.

It appeared at the time that the elephant in the room was that progress on the issue had been halted by interministerial wrangling over budgetary issues, many of which were only indirectly related to the fence. Sunday’s announcement that time estimates would be presented to the State Control Committee soon in closed session appeared to be progress.              (Jerusalem Post)

Israeli envoy Danon: ‘I live with anti-Semitism 24/7 at the United Nations’

“At the UN, I live with anti-Semitism 24/7,” Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon told attendees at a conference on combating BDS and anti-Semitism in Jerusalem on Sunday.

Addressing a World Zionist Organization-arranged conference at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, Danon said that he felt the UN building to be a “different world, where BDS is felt every minute of every hour.”

“You can’t ignore BDS; it poses a potential for psychological damage for younger generations and convinces them to not do business with Israel, that Israel is another South Africa,” he said.

“The world wants us to hang our head in shame, but we should walk with our chin up, and my message to you is, when it comes to BDS, we have an obligation to tell the truth in the face of lies.”

Before Sunday’s gathering, the WZO released a poll that it had commissioned which found that a quarter of Israelis fear that another Holocaust could occur, more than half are scared to go abroad and a significant majority hide anything that would identify them as Jewish when traveling.

The opinion poll, conducted by Midgam Consultants, also found that 34 percent of respondents were more fearful than last year while 24% believe that there is a chance that the State of Israel will cease to exist.

It was described as “intensely worrying” by Yaakov HaGoel, the organization’s vice chairman and former director for combating anti-Semitism.

Sixty-seven percent of Israelis fear for the safety of their co-religionists in the Diaspora, just over 1 percentage point more than the number who believe that European governments are failing to take effective action to combat rising hate. An additional 14% said that they do not believe that any action has been taken.

As to what European Jews should do in the face of increasing violence and an often overtly hostile atmosphere, 39% of Israelis said that they believe that immigration here was the answer, while 83% stated that it is incumbent on the government to spend money to aid olim in the job market.

It is a common belief among many who work on Diaspora- Israeli issues that there is generally a lack of concern over the wider Jewish world among Israelis, but the new data show that it may not be the case, according to HaGoel.

“I didn’t know how much the Israeli community had empathy and a connection with the Diaspora,” he told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. “I was surprised to see how strong it was.”

However, “On the other hand, it is sad to see how many Israelis worry to travel abroad now.”

This fear mirrors the fear of Jews abroad, which was recently summed up by Belgian Chief Rabbi Avraham Gigi when he said, “People understand there is no future for Jews in Europe.”

That statement was itself a continuation of a trend that has been intensifying for several years, with the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights already reporting in 2013 that a third of Jews polled said they refrain from wearing religious garb or Jewish symbols out of fear and 23% avoid attending Jewish events or going to Jewish venues.

A further 74% of Jews have declined to report anti-Semitic incidents, HaGoel recalled, stating that the poll indicates that there is a sense of “mutual responsibility” between Israelis and the Diaspora that must be cultivated.

“Until now we received solidarity from abroad – it’s the time to connect the Israeli community to the struggle against anti-Semitism. We can strengthen the partnership,” he declared, adding that among the initiatives being prepared was a new course to train Israelis to combat anti-Semitism online and that further programs were in the offing.

Just as Diaspora Jews have rallied for Israel in its times of crisis, it is now important for Israelis to return the favor and give their brethren abroad the courage to stand up, he continued, saying that the opposite of anti-Semitism is “Jewish pride.”

Anti-Semitic violence in Europe tracks events in the Middle East rather closely. It spiked in 2014 during Israel’s war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Synagogues were attacked by mobs, protesters called for Jews to be sent “to the gas” and in Brussels a gunman opened fire at a Jewish museum, killing four.

Overall, anti-Semitic violence rose by 40% worldwide in 2014, according to figures provided by the Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry at Tel Aviv University.             (Jerusalem Post)

Israeli minister grants unprecedented interview to Saudi news site

Ze’ev Elkin told the ‘Elaph’ Arab-language web site on Friday that Israel continues to maintain the status quo at the Islamic holy places in Jerusalem.

An Israeli government minister granted an unprecedented interview to a Saudi news site on Friday.

In a sign of warming, albeit unofficial, ties between the Jewish state and the House of Saud, Ze’ev Elkin, the minister of immigrant absorption, told the Elaph Arab-language web site on Friday that Israel continues to maintain the status quo at the Islamic holy places in Jerusalem.

Israel and Saudi Arabia’s shared enmity for Iran has created an opening for dialogue, although any communication between government officials is likely to remain secret as Riyadh does not formally recognize “the Zionist entity.”

“Jerusalem is relatively calm in both [the east and the west],” said Elkin, whose ministerial portfolio also includes responsibility for Jerusalem-related affairs. “The wave of incitement this past year generated a wave of terrorism that is almost over in Jerusalem and has spread to Judea and Samaria.”

“Anyone who visits Jerusalem doesn’t see anything abnormal,” the minister told Elaph. “Accusations against Israel of violating the status quo on Temple Mount are false, because the directives from the prime minister are to prevent Jews from praying in Aksa mosque, and this is because it’s against the law.”

In the interview, Elkin reiterated his longstanding opposition to partitioning Jerusalem and handing the Palestinians control of the eastern portion as part of a final-status peace agreement, though he added: “I don’t believe there will be negotiations anytime soon in light of the Palestinian incitement against Israelis.”

Elkin said that he supported allocating resources to improve the infrastructure in predominantly Arab east Jerusalem.

“We’ve added budgets for over 100 more classrooms as well as funds for neighborhoods in east Jerusalem,” Elkin said.

When asked if these funds will lead to Arab acceptance of “the Israeli occupation,” the minister replied: “In recent Palestinian polls, we’ve seen that most residents of east Jerusalem have no interest in living under Palestinian rule. Indeed, most residents of the Arab neighborhoods have moved to the Israeli side of the fence.”

“There is cooperation between the Israelis and the Arab Jerusalemites, but whoever watches Palestinian television will come to the conclusion that they are living in another country,” the minister said.

Elkin also raised geopolitical issues, like the regional rivalry with Iran.

“Iran is trying to take over the Middle East after the nuclear agreement by means of its emissaries – Hezbollah, Hamas, the Houthis in Yemen, and by deepening the Sunni-Shi’ite chasm,” he said. “There’s also the Islamic extremism of ISIS, which shows that Israel is not a subject of disagreement in the Middle East.”

“Whoever says Israel is the main problem in the region is no longer convincing anybody,” Elkin said.

The minister said that the political realities in the Middle East present opportunities for cooperation among countries with shared interests, including Israel and Arab governments.

“We welcome any cooperation based on joint interests and the recognition of Israel’s right to exist as the national homeland of the Jewish people in the Holy Land,” the minister said. “It’s still premature to speak of talks or conversations with Arab countries. Whether they want to have open or secret relations with us is their business. We are seeing that these alliances are taking us in new directions that weren’’t there in the past.”                   (Jerusalem Post)

Bill would benefit Arab IDF veterans

New legislation seeks to have the government prefer minorities who served in the IDF when hiring workers.

The proposal by MK Moti Yogev (Bayit Yehudi) states that Druse, Beduin, Muslims, Christians, immigrants from Ethiopia and others, who served in the IDF or civilian service, will be beneficiaries of affirmative action, over minorities who did not serve the country.

The bill’s explanatory portion states that: “There are minorities in the State of Israel who choose to tie their fates to that of the country and dedicate their best years to serve in the IDF or civilian service, in many cases making great social and family-related sacrifices.

Some face discrimination in the area where they live and some face violence and incitement only because they choose to serve the State of Israel and integrate in it.”

In light of that, the bill is meant to help such people and their integration in greater Israeli society, and seeks to “create social justice and fairness towards those who choose to serve,” the legislation states.

The proposal has support from MKs in Likud, Kulanu, Shas and Yesh Atid, as well as right-wing NGO Im Tirzu, which sponsors the Knesset Caucus to Promote and Encourage the Enlistment of Minorities, which is led by MKs Miki Zohar (Likud) and Merav Ben-Ari (Kulanu), a cosponsor of the bill.

Im Tirzu director-general Matan Peleg said “strengthening and encouraging minorities working to integrate in Israeli society is a condition for Israel’s continuing existence as a Jewish-Zionist and democratic state.

“Therefore, we must create true incentives for those serving in the IDF and civilian- national service… as opposed to those calling for isolationism and war against the State of Israel,” Peleg said.            (Jerusalem Post)

Ministers approve eight-day paternity leave in Israel

Fathers of newborns will get eight days of paternity leave if legislation approved Sunday by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation becomes law.

The bill proposed by MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) and signed by legislators from all parties in the Knesset grants fathers vacation time for the eight days after their child is born, at the same time the mother has time off.

The days would be divided between three vacation days and five days of sick leave, which the employer would pay.

Currently, while a couple can split the three-month mandatory government-paid maternity leave, the mother must take the first weeks, which creates a situation in which fathers must go back to work the day after their child is born or use their vacation days.

“I’m glad the government chose to support young families,” Zandberg said. “The bill will create a new reality for tens of thousands of new parents… allowing fathers to take part in the first days after the birth, the most difficult and happy days in a family’s life.”

Zandberg added that, since she submitted the bill, hundreds of couples contacted her to ask when it would pass.

Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, who proposed a similar bill years ago as an opposition MK, said: “This is an important bill that will help thousands of couples and strengthen the family unit in Israel.”

“Fathers also deserve to be with their newborn babies and women deserve to have the father near them in sensitive and important times,” Ariel said. “This is a good bill and I am glad to have the privilege to be one of its initiators.”

Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee Chairman Eli Alalouf (Kulanu) called the bill an “important and groundbreaking step toward promoting egalitarian parenting” and said his panel will make sure to bring the bill to a final vote as soon as possible.       (Jerusalem Post)

So what if Paris recognizes a Palestinian state?

France would be neither the first European state nor the first permanent UN Security Council member to do so. Does that mean Israel can ignore Fabius’s ultimatum?

By Raphael Ahren                  The Times of Israel


There are two ways to look at the French threat to unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state if the stalemate in the peace process persists.

We’ll get to the “it’s a serious challenge for Israel” folks lower down. But those who aren’t overly perturbed by the Paris ultimatum say: So what? Paris is free to convene an international conference to try to break the deadlock and get the two sides to make the concessions necessary for a peace deal. Since this outcome seems unlikely — or more accurately, utterly unrealistic — France can go ahead and recognize a “State of Palestine.” Such a move will be condemned in Jerusalem as unhelpful on the path to peace and celebrated in Ramallah as a great victory against the occupation. But declarations and recognitions change nothing on the ground.

A sovereign Palestinian state was not born in 1988, when Yasser Arafat proclaimed independence, or in 2012, when 139 states voted to grant “Palestine” nonmember observer state status at the United Nations, or in 2015, when the Palestinian flag was raised at UN headquarters in New York.

So French recognition of Palestinian statehood would be merely that: words on a piece of paper, and perhaps a solemn declaration by President Francois Hollande and another stately but ultimately meaningless photo op for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Indeed, if no other country gets there in the interim, France would become the 137th state to recognize Palestine. In other words, more than 70 percent of the world’s countries have already done so. (The latest state to join the club was Saint Lucia, a tiny island nation in the Eastern Caribbean, which made the move last September.)

France would not even be the first Western European state to recognize Palestine. Parliaments in Britain, Spain, Belgium, Greece and elsewhere have already called on their respective governments to recognize Palestine. Sweden did just that in 2014, and the world did not tilt off its axis.

In fact, not much has moved since, either in the peace process or in European-Palestinian relations — besides the fact that, a month after the recognition, the king of Sweden congratulated the people of the “State of Palestine” on their “National Day” in a letter, marking the first time a European monarch officially hailed the Palestinians’ unilateral declaration of independence in 1988.

Now some might argue that Stockholm is not Paris — France, after all, is a nuclear power holding a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. But so are Russia and China, which have both long recognized a Palestinian state.

Much more significant than a French recognition of Palestine would be a Security Council resolution calling for an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank. While that would still not immediately change anything on the ground, it would create a new legal framework for future negotiations, and probably not in Jerusalem’s favor.

But even if four permanent members of the council voted in favor, such a resolution could be vetoed by the United States. It is currently hard to assess whether the US administration would support or oppose a Palestinian statehood bid at the United Nations. That might depend on the resolution’s wording, on timing, and on a whole host of other factors, but it has always been the US position that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict needs to be resolved by the two sides, rather than unilaterally via the UN.

And this is where members of the “take this French ultimatum seriously” camp chime in. They argue that French recognition of a Palestinian state could make it easier for an American president to refuse to step in with a UN veto. The more respectable members of the international community recognize Palestine, and argue that they are doing so in an effort to reinvigorate the peace process, the harder it gets for Washington to continue to stall such efforts at the UN.

Furthermore, those concerned by Paris’s proposal posit that while one more state recognizing Palestine changes nothing on the ground, a heavyweight such as France doing so helps create a critical mass that Israel will at some point be unable to withstand.

A solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can only come as the result of bilateral negotiations, officials in Jerusalem repeat tirelessly whenever confronted with the specter of unilateral steps. But when France, the Security Council and almost the entire world recognizes Palestine, Israel could find it harder to to maintain that its approval is needed for Palestinian statehood. The family of nations will have made its near-unanimous decision.

Recognitions, declarations and resolutions do not have the power to create a truly independent State of Palestine. But they can move the diplomatic goalposts.

If Paris moves ahead as promised, seeking to convene an international conference this summer, aiming to prompt substantive peace talks, subsequently drawing near-inevitable bleak conclusions, and then recognizing Palestine, we could learn fairly soon whether this weekend marked the beginning of a significant diplomatic shift.

Israeli ministers lined up on Friday and Saturday to announce that Israel would not negotiate under the threat of an ultimatum, and also to argue that the French approach — promising the Palestinians recognition if talks made no progress — only ensured continued Palestinian obduracy. Still, one Foreign Ministry official was also quoted by Reuters as saying that Israel would “examine and respond” to an invitation to France’s planned conference.

As of Saturday night, Netanyahu was silent. Perhaps he too was weighing whether he could afford to brush off the French, or whether French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius’s late January snowball might mark the start of a diplomatic avalanche.

If the US can decrypt vital Israeli transmissions, who else can?

The revelation that Israel’s allies have for years been monitoring its air force feeds in real time is shocking; worse is the concern that our enemies could too

By Judah Ari Gross                   The Times of Israel


News that the United States and the United Kingdom have for years been tapping into the encrypted communications of Israel Air Force drones and fighter jets sent shock waves through Israel on Friday, with the story dominating the front pages of the country’s newspapers

But America and Britain are Israel’s allies.

And while it’s never pleasant to learn that your friends are spying on you, the breach — considered by one official to be “the worst leak in the history of Israeli intelligence” — did not necessarily damage Israel’s security.

The deeper concern is that Israel’s numerous enemies, and not its allies, have also been able, or will be able, to hack into Israeli systems and decrypt Israeli cybernetic systems, which are of growing importance to civilians and militaries alike.

The breach revealed Friday re-emphasizes that possibility.

And the very nature of the revelations underlines another profound concern for Israeli intelligence: The Intercept’s article detailing the 18-year breach of air force encryptions is based on information leaked by Edward Snowden. If the US National Security Agency has its hands on Israeli intelligence, and the US is hacked or has information leaked, all that top secret Israeli intel gets exposed as well.

According to the bombshell revelations Friday, the Americans and British long ago intercepted and decoded in real time encrypted broadcasts between Israeli drones and F-16s, and the ground.

“This is an earthquake,” a senior security source — who spoke on condition of anonymity — told the Ynet website. “It means that they have forcibly stripped us, and, no less important, that probably none of our encrypted systems are safe from them.”

By monitoring the feeds from drones and planes, the American National Security Agency (NSA) and British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) could track Israeli actions in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, and also determine if Israel was gearing up to launch any attacks against Iran or other targets.

‘We’re seeing a tight relationship between the kinetic and the cybernetic’

Needless to say, such information would also be of interest to Iran itself, Hamas and Hezbollah, all of which the IDF knows are working tirelessly to break into Israeli systems and decrypt Israeli operational communications.

“We know that the nations around us are putting a lot of effort into obtaining cyber capabilities,” Oron Mincha, spokesperson’s for the IDF’s C4I Telecommunications Corps, told journalists last month in a conversation at the corps’ base in Tzrifin, outside of Tel Aviv.

“When a country deals with the proliferation of rockets, we’re not surprised to see that they are also using the cyber tools to help our enemies,” the officer said, not saying the name of a country, but clearly implying Iran.

“We’re seeing a tight relationship between the kinetic and the cybernetic,” he said.

This breach was not the first time that foreign bodies intercepted Israeli drone feeds; indeed, Hezbollah is known to have done so, with fatal consequences. In 1997, Hezbollah managed to capture the (non-encrypted) feed from an Israeli drone and used the information to plan an ambush against members of the IDF’s elite Shayetet 13 naval unit, killing 12 of them.

Such vulnerability is an inherent problem with wireless communication, one that advanced militaries have been facing for decades, as they seek to communicate across vast distances without having their messages plucked out of the air.

After the 1997 incident, known in Hebrew as the “Shayetet catastrophe,” Israel began encrypting its communications — plainly, however, not to the extent necessary, as evident by the 18-year period over which the United States and England have been able to decrypt those transmissions.

“The challenge with using drones is how you manage your spectrum security,” Mincha said.

Speaking in December, Mincha boasted that Israel was “pretty good” about cyber security, though he admitted that there are things that “keep my boss up at night.”

“The IDF” — he knocked on the wooden lectern — “so far is maintaining the high level of defense capabilities, due to the manufacturing of home-made tools to defend our system,” Mincha said.

Friday’s revelations clearly undermine that confident assessment.

To try to ensure the secrecy of its drone feeds, the IDF has manufactured its own systems to protect the UAV’s communication channels in-house; these measures are evidently vulnerable.

Though drones and their wireless communications capabilities are complex and expensive, the technology needed to break into them is surprisingly cheap and accessible.

In 2009, the United States experienced this first hand, when US Forces discovered that they were the victims of a similar kind of cyber attack to the ones the NSA has been committing against Israel.

Iraqi insurgents, using store-bought equipment and a commercial computer program, were able to tap into the video feeds of Predator drones, which were not encrypted at the time, and monitor them.

“Anybody can go to a store and buy equipment for $10,000 that can mimic our capability,” Robert Elder, a retired US Air Force lieutenant general, told Wired magazine in 2014.

Because Israel uses encrypted transmissions, the NSA and GCHQ had to invest significantly more computing power than the Iraqi insurgents, according to The Intercept.

It was not immediately clear from Friday’s reports if the United States and England are still capable of monitoring Israeli drone feeds, and the IDF would not officially comment whether news of this breach will prompt a response or change in policy for the air force.

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz claimed Israel was “disappointed” but not “surprised” by the intel breach. Which begs the question: If, as Steinitz said, Israel assumes that the US spies on it, why does it not take more sophisticated measures to protect its communications?

Breaking the Silence is no human rights organization – and I should know

While Breaking the Silence is not an illegitimate organization, it uses unproven allegations peddled as truths to credulous foreigners in order to override the decisions of a democratic government.

By Natan Sharansky                Ha’aretz


Members and supporters of Breaking the Silence­ the group of former Israeli soldiers who accuse the IDF of committing immoral and illegal acts in the West Bank­have on several occasions likened their campaign to that of the dissidents who fought for human rights in the Soviet Union.  In 2010, for example, Breaking the Silence was on a short-list of three finalists for the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize, which recognizes leading human-rights activists around the world, and defenders of the controversial nomination hailed the group as an heir to Andrei Sakharov’s legacy.

In this view, the struggle to end Israel’s military presence in the territories by bringing international pressure to bear on the Jewish state is analogous to the struggle to bring down the Iron Curtain by calling the world’s attention to Soviet repression.

Unfortunately, the comparison is deeply flawed.  For one thing, it completely ignores the distinction­so clear and so important to Soviet dissidents­between dictatorship and democracy, and with it the fundamental differences between the Soviet Union and Israel.  Soviet dissidents set out to democratize a dictatorial regime, to create the kind of representative institution with which Israel is already blessed.  Because such institutions were entirely absent in the USSR, we had no choice but to rely on external forces to induce the regime to respond to our claims.

Breaking the Silence, by contrast, sets out to bypass an existing democratic government and resolve a controversial political issue by means of international pressure.  It is of course legitimate to believe that Israel’s military presence in the West Bank should be ended immediately.  But it is equally legitimate to believe that such a withdrawal would be dangerous and even catastrophic for the state.  This is a political question that should be decided by Israel’s citizens through their elected representatives, not by a small group of self-appointed prophets and their chorus of foreign supporters.

Breaking the Silence also employs entirely different tactics from those of the Soviet human-rights movement.  In reporting violations to the Soviet regime, we provided details about every case so that the public record would be crystal clear and the regime itself could (at least in theory) respond.  Yet Breaking the Silence operates in such a way that the Israeli government has no chance of ever properly investigating or responding to its claims.  This is all the more striking when one considers that Israel, as a functioning democracy, has established channels to prosecute such infractions that we in the USSR could only dream about.

I have learned that since 2004, Breaking the Silence has not once appealed to Israel’s state prosecutor or military judiciary to request that the government or army investigate an alleged violation of human rights, despite the fact that Israel probed and punished many such infractions during the same period.  What is more, although the IDF chose of its own accord to investigate the group’s allegations, it had no way of verifying or disproving them because Breaking the Silence refused to release any identifying details about the soldiers involved.

The group claims that such anonymity is necessary to protect its soldier-informants.  How hollow this excuse sounds, however, when one considers that Soviet citizens faced repercussions far worse for criticizing their regime and yet still publicly joined our campaign.  Documents that other dissidents and I personally signed and submitted to Soviet authorities contained details about hundreds if not thousands of persecuted citizens, of various faiths and ethnicities, all of whom understood that in identifying themselves they were becoming easy targets for interrogation and reprisal.  Nevertheless, when members of our group were arrested and the KGB contacted many of these same people, not one was ready to testify against the information he had provided.

In other words, our campaign relied on the readiness of regular citizens to stand against official pressure in order to reveal the truth about the regime’s cruelty.  Breaking the Silence is not prepared to rely on even one Israeli soldier to make his name public and face whatever the consequences may be.

I do not wish to suggest that Breaking the Silence is an illegitimate organization, and I find accusations that it works as an agent of some foreign government to be ridiculous and unfair.  The group’s critics ought to challenge it through public discourse rather than through legislation.

But let us be clear:  This is not a human-rights organization in any meaningful sense of the term.  It is one thing to focus international attention on the plight of those persecuted by corrupt regimes by publicly bringing their cases to authorities in a position to investigate and respond.  It is quite another to use unproven allegations peddled as truths to credulous foreigners in order to override the decisions of a democratic government.

Those wishing to take up the mantle of the Soviet struggle would do well to ponder the real risks taken by dissidents who speak the truth about repressive rulers.  They would also do well to pause and take stock of how very fortunate they are not to have to take such risks themselves.

Natan Sharansky is the Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel and a former refusenik and prisoner of conscience in the ex-USSR.

Israeli Expert on Islam Teaches Al-Jazeera Why Temple Mount Belongs to the Jews!

An Israeli expert on Islamic Studies tells the host of Al-Jazeera that the Temple Mount “belongs to the Jews,” showing evidence of Palestinian propaganda.

The host looks shaken as Dr. Mordechai Kedar quotes verses from the Koran affirming the Jewish people’s connection to Israel, Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.