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Latest News in Israel – 8th November

Israel’s Trophy System, Spike Missiles and Iron Dome heading down under

As Australia overhauls its LAND 400 armored vehicles program, Israeli defense giant Rafael Advanced Defense Systems is in the running to provide its Trophy Active Protection System and SPIKE missiles to the land Down Under in deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

In order to meet the anticipated demand, Rafael will be opening a local company in Australia to jointly produce the SPIKE missiles with Australia’s Varley and will be purchasing metal for various system from Australia’s Bisalloy Steel Group, the company announced on Monday.

The local company – which will be based in Melbourne and managed by an Israeli and a local Australian team – will expand Rafael’s role in helping arm the Australian Army, both on land and sea, in the LAND 400 Phase 2 Combat Reconnaissance Vehicles program.

According to Rafael, several of their systems have been used by the Australian Army for years, including remote-controlled weapon stations, naval systems, aerial attack guidance systems and more.

Giora Katz, executive VP of marketing and business development at Rafael, said the Australian venture is part of the company’s global strategy to create local partnerships with companies in various countries, in order to meet the growing demand to buy locally.

“Rafael has over 100 such JVs [joint ventures], including a manufacturing facility in India, and we have recently signed agreements with Australia’s Bisalloy for the supply of metals for the manufacture of military systems and with Varley [An Australian engineering firm] for the creation of cooperation and the establishment of an infrastructure for joint production of SPIKE missiles,” Katz said.

The fifth-generation Spike LR 2 design is based on lessons learned from modern warfare as well as from accumulated data from more than 5000 SPIKE missiles fired during training and combat.

The electro-optical, precision-guided missile has two advanced warhead configurations for increased lethality, according to the company. The Tandem HEAT warhead configuration ups the armor penetration capability of the missile by more than 30% and includes the new multipurpose blast warhead, which allows controlled fusing by the gunner for control of the desired effect.

Two weeks ago, Rafael was awarded a contract with the IDF to supply more than 1,000 SPIKE LR 2 missiles.

The company also anticipates the Australian military will buy its Trophy active protection system, becoming the second army after that of the United States to purchase the system to protect its tanks and armored personnel carriers.

In October, American officials said the US military will in 2020 deploy more than 80 Abrams tanks to Europe, which will be armed with the system to counter the growing threat from Russia.

The Trophy Active Protection System, developed by Rafael and Israel Aircraft Industries’ Elta Group is only fully operational and combat-proven APS in the world. The estimated cost of the Trophy system is $350,000 per tank.

Designed to detect and neutralize incoming projectiles, the Trophy system uses radar antennas and fire-control radars to track incoming threats, such as anti-tank-guided-missiles and rocket-propelled grenades. Once a projectile is detected, the system fires a shotgun-type blast to neutralize the threat.

With both Australian and American troops operating in theaters such as Afghanistan and Iraq, their militaries have understood that ground forces and armored vehicles are sitting ducks without any active protection systems. This is largely due to the proliferation of anti-tank weaponry in the hands of both state militaries and insurgent groups.

Also on the table for Rafael is the Iron Dome system, which can be used to protect troops stationed in such forward operating bases as Afghanistan or Iraq. The system carries 24 pounds of explosives and can intercept an incoming projectile from four to 70 kilometers away. Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. – which produces the radar system for the Iron Dome system through its ELTA division – has reported sales to various armies around the world.

Since its first deployment, it has intercepted roughly 85% of projectiles fired towards Israeli civilian centers, changing the face of battle between Israel and its enemies. (Jerusalem Post)

‘Despite strong economy, Israel still faces problems’

Israel’s economy is strong and successful, but it suffers from two main problems: the low rate of participation by Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) men in the labor force, and the issue of peace, said former Bank of Israel governor, Stanley Fischer.

On Sunday, Fischer called Israel’s educational system “bad” in light of the fact that it is divided into four different sectors according to sectors.

However, during a speech in New York, Fisher was full of praise for Israel’s economy and its “warm” society.

Fischer, who served as governor of the Bank of Israel for eight years, until 2013, and recently quit his position as vice chairman of the US Federal Reserve, was the key speaker at the annual Excel Summit in New York.

The Excel program is a part of Michael Steinhardt’s Birthright program which has brought over 600,000 Jewish young adults to Israel. The free trips aim to strengthen their Jewish identity, facilitating cultural understanding and fostering solidarity with Israel and its people.

After praising Israel’s economy and its hi-tech nation, Fischer pointed to two problems the country faces. First, “The role of religion,” as he defined it; when the fact is “people do not talk about it very much – that ultra-Orthodox men have extremely low participation in the labor force. Now, is that because they don’t pay taxes or because they don’t work? “Well a Rabbi that I have become relatively friendly with, told me: What do you think? That people are living by the salaries [that] they’re reporting to you? Of course not, they’re not declaring what they’re making. They are doing much better.

Well it’s nice to keep saying that but still, they’re not doing well and this is a very serious issue.”

Fischer added that “the other issue is peace” and the huge defense budget of the Israeli government. Still, he said, “we should be careful. Israel has to remain very strong,” especially in the face of the Iranian threat.

The Excel program’s goal is to build an elite group of high-performing college students and graduates from leading North-American universities and connect them with Israeli businesspeople.

It offers participants a 10 weeks internship with Israeli companies in a wide range of fields – start-ups, biotech, consulting, finance and more. The program has more than 250 alumni; many of whom participated in the summit. (Jerusalem Post)

Princeton Hillel cancels Hotovely speech after dovish Jewish groups protest

After protests from a dovish Jewish campus group, the Hillel of Princeton University canceled a scheduled talk by Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely that was to take place Monday evening at the last moment.

Fuming about a “liberal dictatorship,” and accusing Hillel of “silencing the voice of Israeli democracy,” Hotovely was set to deliver her speech at the Chabad on campus instead.

Hotovely was scheduled to speak Monday night at Princeton’s Center for Jewish Life, which is affiliated with Hillel, a network of Jewish organizations across North American campuses, as art of her current visit to the US, during which she planned to speak and hand out the Foreign Ministry’s new brochures about Israel at three top universities in the New York area.

Citing a recent article in The Times of Israel about the deputy minister’s plan to advocate her views on campus, as well as her hard-right positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a group called Alliance of Jewish Progressives (AJP) protested her scheduled appearance on campus.

The pro-Israel pamphlets she wanted to hand out “blatantly disregard any Palestinian claim to the land and amount to little more than propaganda,” the group charged in a letter sent to The Daily Princetonian campus newspaper.

“Hotovely’s work causes irreparable damage to the prospects of a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She has stated her opposition to a Palestinian state and has made it her mission to expand settlement construction in the West Bank,” the letter went on.

It was signed by several campus organizations, including Princeton’s branch of J-Street, and dozens of individual students.

As a consequence, the Center for Jewish Life at Princeton decided to “postpone” Hotovely’s speech “until we can properly vet the program through our Israel Advisory Committee,” the organization’s executive director, Rabbi Julie Roth, told The Times of Israel on Monday.

“We are fortunate that our colleagues at Chabad agreed to host the program,” she said, adding that she encouraged students who are interested to attend. “We regret the last-minute change and apologize to Ms. Hotovely for the inconvenience. We look forward to a continued robust and healthy debate around Israel in our community.”

But Hotovely would not be appeased.

“By canceling this lecture, you are infringing on the fundamental academic freedom of the students. You are denying the basic freedom of students to hear different points of views, to question, challenge and think for themselves,” she wrote in a letter to Roth.

“Your actions are counter to the core tenants of education, contradict the values that an institution of higher learning such as Princeton hold sacred and are obligated to share with its students,” the letter went on. “Furthermore, by agreeing to the demands of radical voices you are silencing the voice of Israeli democracy.”

Hotovely later said the cancellation of her talk at Princeton reveals “a deep and several crisis of values.” She added: “A liberal dictatorship is ruling here.”

Famed US-Jewish lawyer and pro-Israel advocate Alan Dershowitz backed Hotovely. “This is outrageous censorship,” he told her in an email, according to the deputy foreign minister’s office. “It suggests that the students lack the ability to assess a speaker’s ideas and need a committee to tell them who they can listen to.”

Earlier this week, Hotovely spoke at Columbia University in New York City, where her hawkish views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were received with much skepticism, according to people who attended the event. On Tuesday, she is scheduled to address New York University.  (the Times of Israel)

Israeli policy can’t be guided by fear of world criticism, deputy foreign minister says

Israeli policy should not be guided by fear of international criticism, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said at a U.S. synagogue last weekend..

Hotovely said the notion that Israel is isolated and must change its policies in order to gain international acceptance is “a myth.” She pointed out that while just 33 countries voted in favor of Jewish statehood at the United Nations in 1947, Israel today enjoys diplomatic and trade relations with 160 countries—“pretty much every country in the world except the ones that want to destroy us,” as she put it.

The deputy foreign minister suggested that many countries’ criticism of Israel is little more than lip service.

“They go through the motions of criticizing Israel, but then they do a tremendous amount of trade with us,” she told JNS.org.

Hotovely recalled that during her first year in her current post, she met with more than 200 representatives of foreign governments, including some “that are not always thought of as being so friendly to Israel.”

At the same time, Hotovely noted, Israel throughout its history has sometimes “had no choice but to take actions that the world didn’t like.” She recalled that in 1949, when the U.N. was demanding that Jerusalem be internationalized, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion responded by moving Israel’s government buildings from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

“The world didn’t like it then, and they still don’t like it, but Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish state and the Jewish people, and it will be forever,” Hotovely said.

She also pointed to a number of actions that were crucial to Israel’s national security, even though most of the international community opposed them—including the pre-emptive strike that enabled Israel to win the 1967 Six-Day War, the rescue of the Entebbe hostages in 1976 and the bombing of Iraq’s nuclear reactor in 1981.

In each of those instances, Israel’s action was met with strong criticism from around the world.

“In fact, the United States not only condemned the bombing of the Iraqi nuclear facility, but even strongly considered imposing sanctions on Israel for violating Iraqi airspace,” Hotovely said. “But during the Gulf War of 1990, the U.S. was very glad that Saddam Hussein did not have nuclear weapons.”

“Israel’s policies cannot be guided by fear of international criticism,” she said. “At the end of the day, our survival is more important than world opinion.”

Sarah Stern, president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, which hosted Hotovely’s visit, said the deputy foreign minister presented “a thoughtful and reasoned explanation of Israel’s position in the world, a message that has been resonating with her audiences throughout her trip to the United States.”

Hotovely, 38, speaks fluent English, thanks in part to a year she spent in Atlanta as an emissary of the Bnei Akiva religious Zionist youth movement. She is widely regarded as one of Israel’s rising political stars and is frequently mentioned as a possible successor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

When she was named deputy foreign minister in 2015, Hotovely became the de facto foreign minister, because Netanyahu declined to appoint a foreign minister. The prime minister has held that portfolio himself, and has offered it to the opposition’s Zionist Union alliance if it were to join his governing coalition. But to date, the Zionist Union has preferred to remain in the opposition. (JNS/JWire)

First female IAF pilot appointed deputy commander in combat squadron

In a first for the Israel Air Force, a female pilot has been appointed deputy commander of a combat squadron by the head of the IAF, Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin.

The officer, “Capt. Y,” an F-15 navigator, will serve in the Spearhead Squadron, which flies F-15 fighter jets out of Tel Nof Airbase in central Israel.

Currently serving in an operational capacity at IAF Headquarters, she will be promoted to the rank of Major in the summer and return to the skies.

Capt. Y (her full name cannot be disclosed for security reasons), is 27 years old and is from Tel Aviv. She is married to another IAF pilot and her grandfather, Maj. Shimon Ash, served as a reserve pilot in a Skyhawk Squadron at Tel Nof Airbase during the Yom Kippur War. His plane crashed some 10 kilometers east of the Suez Canal, north of the Ismailia-Tasa road. While the remains of the plane were later found, his body has never been recovered.

Two other female officers were appointed by Norkin last night to serve as deputy commanders of a squadron of drones out of Palmachim Airbase.

With more women enlisting in combat positions in the IDF, women have also been reaching senior positions in the IAF as well.

A senior IAF officer recently told The Jerusalem Post that he believed a female IAF squadron commander was not far off.

In 2014, a woman was named deputy commander of an operational squadron, serving as second-in-command of the Nachshon Squadron at the Nevatim Airbase in the southern part of the country. While women have served as deputy commanders of support squadrons, the promotion of “Maj. Gal” (name not disclosed) made her the highest ranking woman in the IAF until now.  (Jerusalem Post)