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Latest News in Israel – 8th March

Israeli officials dismiss reported PA threat to end security coordination

The Palestinian Authority’s threats to halt security cooperation with Israel are hollow, Immigrant and Absorption Minister Ze’ev Elkin told reporters at Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting.

“Such coordination does more to protect Abu Mazen [PA President Mahmoud Abbas] than it does Israel,” Elkin said.

The PA has been issuing such statements for more than a year, he added. “I think it’s an idle threat,” Elkin said.

The prospect of breaking off security coordination so frightens the Palestinian leadership that they themselves would pull back from such a move, he explained.

Elkin spoke in response to reports in the Israeli media that the PA had informed Israel it would cease security coordination if the IDF continued its incursions into Area A of the West Bank, which under the Oslo Accords is under Palestinian civil and security control.

According to other reports, PA security officials who recently met with their Israeli counterparts notified them of the decision to suspend their security coordination.

The officials reportedly said that the PA leadership decided to halt security coordination with Israel in light of what they called the government’s refusal to honor agreements signed between the two sides.

The Prime Minister’s Office denied that it had received any communication from the PA on the matter.

Security sources told The Jerusalem Post they knew of no change regarding coordination with their Palestinian peers.

PA officials on Sunday made contradictory statements regarding security coordination between the PA and Israel.

The officials – Majed Faraj, Ziad Hab al-Reeh and Hussein al-Sheikh – are also reported to have told their Israeli counterparts that the suspension of security coordination would be phased.

Sheikh, who serves as minister for civilian affairs, told Fatah leaders last week that he and his colleagues informed Israel that the PA leadership has decided to “limit” its relations with Israel. He did not elaborate what exactly this meant.

PLO Executive Committee member Ghassan Shaka’ah said the PA leadership had decided to “reduce the level of coordination between the two sides in various fields.”

Shaka’ah said that the ultimate goal was to end the PA’s security coordination with Israel. He admitted, however, that halting all cooperation with Israel would have negative repercussions for the Palestinian people, in particular with regard to humanitarian and economic issues. He noted, for example, that it was impossible to register a newborn child with the PA’s Interior Ministry without first obtaining permission from Israel.

A senior Fatah official in Ramallah said that the PA leadership was facing a crisis regarding its repeated threat to end security cooperation with Israel. “We are facing a real crisis,” he said. “If we implement the decision [to halt security coordination], we will suffer; likewise, we will suffer if we fail to implement it.”

Amin Maqboul, secretary- general of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, said that no decision had been made to cut security ties with Israel. However, he predicted that such a decision would be taken by the end of the month.

Maqboul added the PA decision was contingent on Israel’s response to a number of Palestinian demands. These include halting IDF activities in PA-controlled territories, stopping “assassinations” and arrests, reopening closed PLO institutions in Jerusalem, and releasing tax revenues collected on behalf of the PA.

“We have decided to end security coordination if Israel does not accept our demands,” Maqboul said. “This time we are serious, and these are not just threats.”              (Jerusalem Post)

Knife found on Palestinian woman planning West Bank attack

A  Palestinian woman was arrested Monday night by Border Police guards at a checkpoint for possession of a knife and suspicion of intent to carry out a stabbing attack against officers on site.

According to Israel police, the woman approached the ‘Kiosk’ checkpoint between Bethlehem and Abu Dis in the West Bank at around 6 PM with a backpack, raising the suspicion of guards on duty.

The guards called on the woman to stop in her tracks and toss the bag, whilst maintaining a safe distance from the suspect. She did as told, and upon investigation of the bag, the guards found a knife.

Under initial investigation, the suspect admitted that she intended to carry out a terror attack against security forces. She was arrested and taken in by forces for further investigation.

(Jerusalem Post)

321 wounded in terror attacks: Long rehabilitation and nightmares that won’t end

Hundreds of Israelis have been wounded over the past five months of terror attacks, many of them still recovering from their injuries.

The ongoing escalation of violence began with the murder of Alexander Lebelovitch in a stone-throwing attack on the eve of Rosh HaShana. Since then, 33 people have been killed and 321 wounded: 31 seriously, eight moderately-to-seriously, 50 moderately, 14 lightly-to-moderately and 218 lightly. In addition, Magen David Adom paramedics treated 114 people for shock.

Four months ago, a terrorist sped into a bus stop near Kibbutz Gan Shmuel, ramming into 21-year-old IDF soldier Orel Azuri. As she was lying on the ground, the terrorist ran over her again.


Orel spent 13 days unconscious at the intensive-care unit at the Sheba Medical Center in Tel HaShomer. Doctors fought for her life for days, until they won the battle, but the road to recovery is still long.

“I want to go back to being like other girls my age – go out, dance, and have fun. It’ll take me a while, but I believe it will happen,” said Orel.

She has spent the past few months at the Tel HaShomer Rehabilitation Hospital. “My leg still hurts and I’m expected to remain in the hospital for quite some time for rehabilitation. I’ve undergone a lot of operations, I’m dealing with a serious injury, and it’s not easy,” she said. “Everyone around me went back to their normal lives, and while friends still come and visit, they don’t as much, and that’s natural.”

With her parents not leaving her side, Orel goes through intensive treatments – physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and physiological therapy. She spends the rest of her time watching TV, reading, and even writing a book. “I’m writing about a girl who was kidnapped and I believe the situation I’m in will affect the writing and the development of the characters in the book,” she said.

‘Not something you can forget’

Liam Yoteko, 13 years old from Kiryat Gat, was moderately wounded when a knife-wielding terrorist chased people on a main street in the city, stabbing four. It took her three and a half months to return to the scene of the attack.

When Liam tried to recount what had happened, she was flooded with difficult memories. “I left on a walk with a friend at around 6:30pm. We saw someone suspicious and started walking faster. The terrorist pulled out a knife and started chasing us. He stabbed me four times – in the back, the leg and the stomach. He kept chasing my friend but couldn’t catch him. I remained fully conscious, sat down on the ground, and tied a scarf around to stop the bleeding. I called the police and then my phone died because I was out of battery. Someone gave me their phone and I called my mom and told her I was stabbed. My dad and brothers showed up, and then the ambulance. I was hospitalized for five days.”

Liam said her physical situation has improved a lot since the attack, even though her back still hurts and she is still undergoing medical treatments and tests.


The mental difficulties, however, remain. “I hardly ever leave the house. Even for school, a five-minute walk, I only go by car. When I leave the house, it’s only with my brother because he carried a weapon, and I keep looking back to make sure there’s no one there. I keep thinking about what happened. It suddenly comes up in the middle of class, or while I’m with friends. I feel like I’ve become different, because I’m afraid to join them when they go out. I believe I’ll remember this for the rest of my life and that there will always be fear in me. It’s not something you can just forget.”

‘I lost my sense of security’

Bruriya Shenhav, 21, a student from Ariel, was wounded in a vehicular attack at the Tapuach Junction last November. A Palestinian terrorist sped towards the hitchhiking stop Bruriya was standing at, ramming into three teenage boys. Border Police troops stationed there opened fire at the terrorist and accidentally hit Shenhav.

“I remember how one second everything was quiet, and then there was a lot of noise of police and ambulances,” Shenhav recounted with tears. “The entire junction was filled with troops, I felt like I was in the middle of chaos and didn’t understand what was happening. It was only a few minutes later that I realized there had been a terror attack there. At first I didn’t feel my injury and thought I was fine. I took a ride with one of the guys there towards Yitzhar, where my dorms are located. I remember walking into the caravan, which was empty, and all of a sudden feeling pain in my leg. I lifted my skirt and saw a huge blood stain. I felt helpless. I just sat there and started crying.”

Now, almost three months later, her life has changed completely. “I’m part of the statistics now, I went through a terror attack and it’s a horrible and awful thing. I remember many sleepless nights, and feeling the lack of security, even to go out and walk around,” she said. “As part of the healing process, I met with a psychologist to try and understand what I went through. It’s a feeling, and a kind of fear, that is hard to describe. Every time I’m at a bus stop or stuck in traffic, I’m afraid that it could happen (again). After all, the terrorist in my attack probably decided he’s going to commit the attack only shortly before that. It all happens in a matter of seconds, so I have a really great fear,” she said.


Shenhav, originally from Tlamim in southern Israel, goes to Ariel University and lives in the settlement Yitzhar. “After the incident, my parents were really worried and we thought about leaving the place, but if you examine it you see it is happening everywhere – Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Be’er Sheva. It’s a wave of terror attacks that is raging all over the country. People stay wounded, it’s something that won’t go away and will stay with me for the rest of my life. I’m beginning to rehabilitate myself and trying to have a normal life, but it’s a process that takes a long time and the most important thing is this sense of security that many people have lost,” she concluded.

‘My soul is in torment’

Rachel Eizenkot, 80, was seriously wounded last November in a stabbing attack in Rishon Lezion. After ten days at the Assaf HaRofeh Medical Center, she was transferred to the Shmuel HaRofeh Medical Center for a long rehabilitation, returning home only a month and a half ago.

Eizenkot was getting off the bus, returning from a visit to her brother’s house in Rehovot, when a terrorist attacked her from behind, stabbing her.

“My sister went into the SuperPharm and I went to the bus stop to go home. Suddenly, I felt a stabbing in my back, with a very sharp pain above my waist, and I fell down onto the sidewalk. I knew it was a terror attack and that this time, I’m the one who was wounded,” she recounted.

“I’m not completely back to my old self yet, and I doubt I could go back to being who I was,” Eizenkot said. “I’m still suffering from pain in my leg, and have a hard time walking – I can’t even bend over. I now have a caretaker with me and I can’t do anything without her … I used to be independent, doing everything on my own. Now I’m very limited,” she said.

Rachel also said she believes the mental and emotional rehabilitation is harder than the physical rehabilitation. “I still have thoughts and nightmares and I take tranquilizer tablets. My spirit hasn’t returned to what it used to be. I keep remembering the moments the terrorist attacked me. I keep asking myself – How did I survive? Why did the terrorist stab me of all people? What did I do to have this fate? What would’ve happened had I died? These thoughts won’t relent and it’s very difficult. Physically I look almost the same, but my soul is in torment.”

Rachel Eizenkot[1]

Eizenkot said that since the attack, she hasn’t been able to watch the news. “I can’t watch this. When I was hospitalized at Shmuel HaRofeh, everyone had a TV over their beds, but I left mine turned off. At home I only watch Channel 24, listening to music, and that’s it. My heart aches for the young people who are killed and wounded and I can’t bear to watch it. I can understand what they’re dealing with.”                 (Ynet News)

 Netanyahu: Biden visit reflects strength of ties between US and Israel

US Vice President Joe Biden’s anticipated visit on Tuesday “expresses the strong relations between Israel and our ally the US,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the weekly cabinet on Sunday.

“There are those who predicted the collapse of these relations – it is not so. The relationship is strong in all areas, and also in face of the challenges that we are together standing against in our region. I will discuss this, of course, with the vice president during his visit,” Netanyahu said.

The two leaders are expected to talk about Iran, Syria and the frozen Israeli-Palestinian peace process, although no new initiative on that front is expected during the visit.

Biden will spend two days in Israel and the Palestinian territories, where he will meet with Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

He last visited Israel and the Palestinian territories in 2010.

Netanyahu told his ministers that Israel’s relationships with other countries were also strong.

“We are building additional relations with many countries in the world. Every week a president, prime minister, foreign minister or other minister visits here from countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America – from the entire world.

“This also expresses, of course, Israel’s status as an asset today in the fight against radical Islam and captures opportunities for the future, especially in technology,” Netanyahu said.

He noted that among the visiting leaders is Romanian President Klaus Werner Iohannis, who arrived in Israel on Sunday for a six-day visit with his wife, Carmen. Iohannis will meet with Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, Abbas, Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theofilos, opposition leader Isaac Herzog and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein.

The Romanian president will visit the Knesset, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Yad Vashem, Herzl’s Tomb, the Western Wall, the Dead Sea and Masada.

An Israeli official said that historically a very strong friendship has existed between the two countries.

Romania is among the countries that recognized Israel upon its creation in 1948.

“It is the only eastern European country that consistently maintained good relations with Israel since our independence,” the official said.

“We are looking forward to the visit.”                 (Jerusalem Post)

APCs with Trophy system rolling off production lines


A NAMER APC with the Trophy HV active protection system is poised for action..

A number of Namer armored personnel carriers made over the past two months have been equipped with the Trophy HV active protection system, which destroys antitank missiles and rocket-propelled grenades in mid-air, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

At the end of January, the Defense Ministry revealed that the first Namer armored personnel carrier equipped with the system, made by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, had come off the production line.

Since then, more of the heavy APCs have been made with the protection systems, which already exist on Merkava Mark IV tanks, and successfully worked in the 2014 Gaza conflict (Operation Protective Edge) to defend tanks.

Every new Namer will now receive Trophy, according to the Defense Ministry’s Merkava Tank Administration.

The Defense Ministry has doubled orders of Namer and Merkava Mark IV tanks earlier this year. Both platforms are key to the ability of ground forces to carry out offensives in Gaza and southern Lebanon, where Hamas and Hezbollah are heavily armed with anti-tank missiles and RPGs.

In January, the IDF completed its first series of drills to test the Namer’s Trophy system, at the Armored Corps School in southern Israel. The trial was held by Defense Ministry engineers and IDF ground forces, and came following a series of live-fire tests in which missiles were fired at the Namer and destroyed by Trophy.

The Trophy-equipped Namers will be able to enter battlegrounds rife with antitank and RPG threats, and safely transport infantry. The Trophy system uses radar panels to detect and follow threats before destroying them in mid-air with interceptors.

“The Namer with the Trophy system will form the highest level of protection for IDF soldiers and provide them with defense and a significant advantage on the battlefield,” Brig.-Gen. Baruch Matzliah, the head of the Merkava Tank Administration, said in January.

In mid-Feburary, the Defense Ministry said it had placed NIS 340 million worth of orders for parts and systems for Namers and Merkava Mark IV tanks, with Israeli Defense Industries. In 2015, the Defense Ministry doubled its orders for parts for both vehicles.

The military is keen on modernizing its fleet of APCs and gradually replacing its aging M113 APCs, which are significantly more vulnerable on the battlefield.  (Jerusalem Post)

YouTube removes Palestinian Media Watch account

Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) had its YouTube account removed on Sunday, March 6, after the video site said it had violated terms of service.

PMW, which monitors and exposes incitement in Palestinian media, last posted a video to YouTube on Thursday. The video showed a Palestinian girl reading a poem on official Palestinian Authority television calling for a “war that will smash the oppressor and destroy the Zionist soul.”

According to PMW, YouTube entirely shut down the group’s primary account. A check of the portal on Sunday night, March 6, showed that it was gone, with text announcing: “This account has been terminated due to repeated or severe violations of our Community Guidelines and/or claims of copyright infringement.”

According to Itamar Marcus, PMW’s founder and director, YouTube has removed PMW material in the past on the grounds that it constituted hateful content.

“In the past, they’ve given us warnings about particular videos because they misinterpret them to be hate speech. Then they would take those videos down, and we would have to explain to them that, in fact, they are designed to expose hate speech. And then they would always repost them,” Marcus told Tazpit Press Service.

PMW’s work on exposing media incitement has been recognized by European governments, and the organization has briefed parliamentarians from around the world. Indeed, on Friday a 25-minute debate took place in the Swedish parliament in which the Palestinian Authority’s support for the current terror wave was discussed, with evidence based entirely on PMW documentation.

“There was no warning at all,” Marcus said of the videos’ removal. “They didn’t give any more information than about the violation of terms. We know what the violation was because they have done this before, but they don’t get that it is Palestinian incitement that we are exposing rather than promoting.”

The organization’s YouTube account was shut down in 2010 for similar reasons. After a barrage of complaints, the account was reinstated.

“There is very little you can do. You can try to contact them, but they don’t make it easy to do so. We can send feedback and hope that other people will do the same. Send feedback and all we can do is hope they will respond.”                    (Ynet News)            (Under pressure from concerned supporters of PMW, YouTube has reinstated PMW’s account       RW)

 ‘Women in Israel live longer, better educated, but still earn less than men’

Women in Israel live longer and are better educated, but earn much less than their male counterparts, according to a report released Sunday by the Central Bureau of Statistics.

The report was released ahead of International Women’s Day – which is marked annually on March 8 – and presented a socioeconomic picture of Israeli women.

According to the findings, at the end of 2014 there were 3,042,900 women aged 15 and above living in Israel.

The average life expectancy of women in 2014 in Israel stood at 84.1 years, compared to 80.3 for men.

With regard to marriage and family life, the report found that women in Israel are getting married at a later age and having children at a later age.

According to the data, in 2013, 52,705 women got married.

The average age for a newly married woman stood at 25.1 – an increase compared to an average age of 24.5 in 2004.

In breaking this statistic down by sector, the findings indicated that the average age for marriage among Jewish and Christian brides stood at 26 and 25.3, respectively. The average age of Muslim and Druse brides was significantly lower, standing at 21.9 and 23.8, respectively.

In 2014, some 171,400 women gave birth, and the average age of the mother was 27.5 – an increase from 26.5 a decade ago.

The findings also indicated that in 2015 there were some 1,082,000 women aged 15 and older who were mothers of children up to the age of 17. Of these women, 90 percent were living with a significant other while some 106,000 were single mothers – 10% of women among the Jewish population and 7% of Arab women.

The average number of children per woman in Israel stood at 3.08 – the highest in the OECD, which has an average of 1.7 children per woman, the report cited.

With regard to the labor market, the CBS report found that there were major salary gaps between men and women.

In 2014, the average monthly salary of a woman stood at NIS 7,439, while it was significantly higher – NIS 11,114 – for a man.

The average monthly income for self-employed women stood at NIS 6,847, compared to NIS 12,454 for men.

The report explained that one of the main reasons behind the salary gap was the number of hours men and women worked – 45.2 hours per week for men and 36.7 hours for women. As such, the report stated that when taking this into account, the salary gap between men and women stood at 16.3%.

The findings also indicated that the percentage of women aged 15 and older who entered the workforce stood at 59.1%, compared to 69.3% of men.

Of the women who are employed, 67.6% worked fulltime, while 32.4% worked part time, compared to 86.6% of men with full-time jobs and 13.4% of men working part-time.

The report also found that 75% of married mothers were in the workforce – 77.5% of mothers with one child, 78.9% of mothers with two children and 62.5% of mothers with four or more children.

In hi-tech, there were some 104,600 women employed in 2015 (compared to 184,100 men), comprising 36.2% of workers in the field. Additionally, the report noted that of all executives, only 32.2% were women.

Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel presented her own data to the cabinet on Sunday, showing that the wage gap was even higher in the public sector than private sector.

“The data shows high wage gaps between women and men in the public sector,” Gamliel said. “The Social Equality Ministry, in collaboration with the Civil Service Commission and the Supervisor of Wages at the Finance Ministry, is promoting a strategic plan to minimize to the point of eradicating wage gaps entirely.”

The report also cited gaps between men and women in the field of education.

In 2014, 68% of 12th-grade girls and only 55% of boys were eligible for a matriculation certificate.

In higher education, the findings indicated that in the 2014/15 academic year there were some 311,800 students in Israel, of them 181,000 women, accounting for 58.1% of all students.

This is a significant increase from the 1969/70 academic year, when the report stated that women comprised only 43.3% of the total student body.

The report also found that the two fields with the highest percentage of women students were paramedical studies (82.7%) and teaching and education (80.6%). In contrast, the fields with the fewest women included the physical sciences (37.3%), mathematics, statistics and computer science (29.1%) and architecture and engineering (27.4%).                    (Jerusalem Post)

Israel to launch one of the most advanced missile defense systems in the world, with U.S. help

By Ruth Eglash and William Booth                  The Washington Post


A joint exercise now being conducted between thousands of Israeli troops and the U.S. European Command represents a final test before Israel begins to deploy one of the most sophisticated missile defense systems in the world.

When it is complete, Israel’s multibillion-dollar rocket and missile air defense system will be far superior to anything in the Middle East and will likely rival, and in some ways surpass, in speed and targeting, air defenses deployed by Europe and the United States, its developers say.

The United States has provided more than $3.3 billion over the past 10 years to support the defensive system, which will be able to knock down not only ballistic missiles but also orbiting satellites.

Although Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Obama have had a strained relationship, rubbed raw by their deep disagreement over the Iran nuclear deal, U.S. ­spending on Israel’s air defenses has soared in the past decade, from $133 million in 2006 to $619 million in 2015.

The Israeli defense establishment and its American partners have designed a layered system that will allow the Jewish state to respond to simultaneous attacks from multiple fronts — the relatively crude homemade rockets lobbed by Hamas from the Gaza Strip, the midrange rockets and missiles fired by the Shiite militants of Hezbollah from Lebanon, and the long-range ballistic missiles being developed by Iran that could carry conventional or chemical warheads.

In addition, Israel’s new X-Band radar will allow its forces to detect incoming missiles 500 or 600 miles out, vs. 100 miles, the current limit of their radar tracking systems, according to summaries of the systems provided to Congress.

“I define the system as pioneering,” said Uzi Rubin, former head director of Israel’s missile defense program. “Even the United States doesn’t have anything as complex, as sophisticated.”

The system will also be able to prioritize incoming rockets and missiles by calculating their trajectories. Some missiles may not be intercepted, if their targets are fields and farms, but projectiles that would hit populated areas or important infrastructure — such as military bases, oil refineries and nuclear facilities — would be stopped.

The Israeli missile defense system is being built in partnership with U.S. defense contractors, including Raytheon, Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

The Israelis are planning to start deploying their coordinated system of radars, launchers and interceptors over the coming months, though there have been delays in the past, they warn.

In December, Israel and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency celebrated successful tests of two new ballistic missile defense systems — David’s Sling, which is designed to intercept short- and medium-range threats, and ­Arrow-3, which is intended to stop long-range attacks and knock out enemy targets in space by deploying “kamikaze satellites,” or “kill vehicles,” that track their targets.

David’s Sling and Arrow-3 will join Iron Dome and the existing Arrow-2 in coming months.

The Iron Dome batteries were responsible for intercepting 90 percent of their targets during Israel’s war with Hamas in the summer of 2014, according to the Israel Defense Forces, when Hamas fired 4,000 rockets and mortar rounds at Israel from the adjacent Gaza Strip.

On Tuesday, the Defense Ministry announced that major components of the David’s Sling defense system will be delivered to the Israeli air force “over the course of several weeks.”

Israel called David’s Sling “the world’s most revolutionary innovation in the family of interceptor systems.” The system is designed primarily to handle the kinds of rockets and missiles, built by Iran and Russia, that are now in the possession of the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon and the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad.

Beyond the threat posed by the splintering of Syria, Israel is worried that Syrian missiles could be transferred to Hezbollah or acquired by the Islamic State or al-Qaeda.

In a recent speech, Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah threatened that his militia’s missiles could strike ammonia storage tanks in Israel’s Haifa port in a future showdown with Israel, warning that the damage would be equivalent to an atomic bomb and could kill 800,000 people.

Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon, the ­Israel Defense Forces head of operations, said Hezbollah could have upward of 100,000 rockets and missiles stored in Lebanon.

In 2006, before the deployment of Iron Dome, Hezbollah fired about 4,000 projectiles at Israel’s northern cities, causing some 40 civilian deaths and significant damage.

Israel’s military leaders warn civilians that no air defense ­system is perfect — or even close to it.

“There is no hermetic defense or total security that will intercept everything fired at Israel. In the next real war, rockets will fall on the State of Israel,” said Brig. Gen. Zvika Haimovich, commander of the Israeli air force’s Aerial Defense Division.

Haimovich briefed reporters last week in the middle of “Juniper Cobra,” a biennial U.S.-Israel air defense drill, which is scheduled to end Thursday.

More than 1,700 U.S. soldiers and sailors, alongside American civilians and contractors, are taking part in the exercise, which ­is focused on computer simulations of coordinated and sustained air attacks on Israel from multiple fronts.

In such a scenario, U.S. air defense probably would come into play, and the drill is designed not only to test Israel’s soon-to-be-deployed systems but also to improve how well U.S. and Israeli assets can communicate and coordinate their response.

“The purpose of this exercise is to improve interoperability of our air defense forces and our combined ability to defend against air and missile attack,” said Lt. Gen. Timothy Ray, U.S 3rd Air Force commander.

“And just as important,” Ray said, “it signals our resolve to support Israel and strive for peace in the Middle East.”

Israel’s next war with Hezbollah will be swifter and decisive

Hezbollah has the capability to rain thousands of rockets and missiles on Israel in one day.

by Alon Ben David                The Jerusalem Post


Recently, the entire 188th Brigade of the Armored Corps came together to participate in a week-long exercise in northern Israel. (photo credit:IDF SPOKESPERSON’S UNIT)

Last week, locals gathered in the northern town of Shlomi for a special event paying tribute to the 300th Brigade, the military unit that for the past 42 years has kept the western part of the northern border with Lebanon secure.

One by one, retired commanders took to the microphone and regaled the young soldiers with tales, running down the history of the area and the events that no one will ever forget – the Avivim school bus massacre, the Ma’alot school massacre, the Coastal Highway attack, the murder of members of the Haran family in Nahariya, and other scars that have been etched into the landscape of the scenic western Galilee.

The sense was that Israeli inhabitants of the North were being forced to pay a price for their decision to settle there. It wasn’t always like this. Since the War of Independence all the way until the 1970s, Lebanon was the least threatening neighbor, the tranquil country to our north. The joke during that time was that if war broke out, the IDF would conquer Syria, while the IDF Philharmonic would conquer Lebanon.

Last week, locals gathered in the northern town of Shlomi for a special event paying tribute to the 300th Brigade, the military unit that for the past 42 years has kept the western part of the northern border with Lebanon secure.

One by one, retired commanders took to the microphone and regaled the young soldiers with tales, running down the history of the area and the events that no one will ever forget – the Avivim school bus massacre, the Ma’alot school massacre, the Coastal Highway attack, the murder of members of the Haran family in Nahariya, and other scars that have been etched into the landscape of the scenic western Galilee.

The sense was that Israeli inhabitants of the North were being forced to pay a price for their decision to settle there. It wasn’t always like this. Since the War of Independence all the way until the 1970s, Lebanon was the least threatening neighbor, the tranquil country to our north. The joke during that time was that if war broke out, the IDF would conquer Syria, while the IDF Philharmonic would conquer Lebanon.

Since 1970, however, the year in which Palestinian terrorist organizations were evicted from Jordan and relocated to Lebanon, the Land of the Cedars has turned from harmless neighbor to terror haven. Today, it is home to the most significant military threat facing Israel.

There are those who say that Hezbollah is analogous to a small kitten that would often scratch you a bit – no more – but slowly, gradually grew to become a predator tiger. The organization today boasts 41,000 fighters in both conscripts and the reserves. Many of them have gained combat experience in Syria. Hezbollah also has more firepower at its disposal than 95% of regular militaries in the world.

Many of us err when we refer to it as “a terrorist organization.” From a moral standpoint, it is, but from a professional point of view, this is an inaccurate characterization. Indeed, Hezbollah has the capability to rain thousands of rockets and missiles on Israel in one day. It can also dispatch enough ground forces to capture towns adjacent to the border fence, making it an army in every sense of the word.

These words are not intended to sow fear. The odds of Hezbollah actualizing this capability and embarking on war against Israel are low. The organization is stretched thin from a strategic standpoint, so thin that it simply cannot afford to even play with fire, let alone initiate hostilities against us.

This past decade was the quietest ever in the Galilee, certainly in the last 40 years. It is becoming more apparent that the Syrian civil war will not end soon, which means that Hezbollah can ill afford the luxury of starting trouble in the North.

In hindsight, the Second Lebanon War looks different. Time has not dulled the seriousness of the failures that were exposed at the time, including the rudderless political and military leadership. Nonetheless, the war did bring unprecedented quiet to the North. Never has deterrence against Hezbollah been more effective.

A decade later, Hezbollah is indeed much stronger than it ever was, but it also has very little appetite – at least for the time being – for another war with Israel, especially one that will bring destruction upon Lebanon.

Hezbollah continues to arm itself and grow stronger, and many wonder if attack tunnels are being built underneath us in the North just as they are in Gaza. The answer apparently is no, but this is not so comforting. The meandering border that separates Israel and Lebanon makes a tunnel superfluous and unnecessary.

It would not be unreasonable to assume that Hezbollah has the capability to move a battalion of fighters into Israel through the thick shrubbery along the frontier – without anyone noticing. That is what the IDF is referring to when it talks about “2,500 above-ground tunnels” made possible by the tortuous, winding, flora-covered boundary that offers cover for Hezbollah.

While retired commanders told of how the military dealt with border infiltrations during the years in which there was no border fence, today the IDF is not making do with a fence and deterrent measures. Instead, it is making physical and geological changes to the landscape, undertaking a massive engineering project aimed at carving new cliffs near border towns that will make it harder for Hezbollah to spring a surprise.

The IDF has also calibrated its war plans, ripping up its previous blueprint of trying to suppress rocket fire by fruitlessly chasing after rocket-launchers. Instead, the IDF has prepared plans that are aimed at bringing a war in the North to a quick, decisive end. In the spirit of Ofer Shelah’s spot-on book, Ha’ometz l’natzeach (“the courage to win”), the IDF is no longer satisfied with merely relying on the binary model – one which holds the option of either conquering all of the territory or waging a long, protracted war of attrition along the border.

In the spectrum which separates these two options, the army says it has found methods and actions that are supposed to bring a quick end to the fighting – this time with a result much more in our favor.

Gabi Ashkenazi, the former chief of staff, often told his charges that in the next war it is forbidden to ask who won. This is the same spirit behind the plans drawn up by the current IDF chief, Gadi Eisenkot. The word “victory” doesn’t appear there, but they do prescribe the need to register “a ringing achievement,” one that reverberates long after the fact, so much so that it would not begin the countdown to the next round of fighting.

The IDF high command is preparing a number of surprises for Hezbollah. The next war will be a tough, painful one, and the hope is it won’t come to pass. But if it does, it is supposed to end differently than the most recent ones.

New Israeli technology will eviscerate the enemy before they know what hit them!