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Latest News in Israel – 9th November

Palestinian terror group threatens IDF with pinpoint snipers, war

The military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), an organization classified by both the United States and the European Union as a terrorist group, released on Tuesday a threatening video against the Jewish state and the Israeli army depicting Palestinian snipers aiming their weapons at Israeli combat engineering units and IDF vehicles.  (WIN)

PM: Seeing the Balfour Declaration as a crime is the root of the Israeli-Arab conflict

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the Knesset plenum on Tuesday, to mark the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, which recognized the Jewish people’s right to a “national home” in the Land of Israel. “When the leaders of the Palestinian leadership define the Balfour Declaration as a ‘crime’, when they call on the British government to apologize for it, they are not going forward—they are going back, a hundred years back,” Netanyahu said. “And that is the root of the conflict—the 100-year refusal to recognize Zionism, to recognize the Jewish national home in the Land of Israel, to recognize the State of Israel within any borders.”

“The tragedy of the Balfour Declaration is that it took 30 years to implement it,” said Prime Minister Netanyahu. “It is now absolutely clear: the key to the future of the Jewish people is the Jewish state, and our basic obligation is to stand firm against those who seek to harm us and ensure the existence and future of the State of Israel.

“After it was granted, the Balfour Declaration was supported not just by the League of Nations but also gained the sympathy of some in the Arab world. Prince Feisal (of Syria—ed) was at the head of the Arab camp that had rebelled against the Ottoman Empire—he recognized the right of the Jews to establish their national home in Palestine, and Faisal favored cooperation between Jews and Arabs on the basis of mutual understanding and brotherhood.

“The Arab nationalistic movement, however, strongly attacked the Balfour Declaration, providing grounds for incitement and violence, not least with the encouragement of the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini.

“In 1943, he found a loyal partner—Heinrich Himmler, commander of the SS in Germany. Himmler sent the Mufti a congratulatory letter in which he wrote, “Warm Wishes for the continuation of your struggle until the great/final victory.”

Netanyahu continued by saying, “Himmler is now gone, the Mufti is now gone, and Zionism has triumphed. Those who seek the roots of the intra-Islamic struggle that we have been witnessing in recent years will find them there.”

He continued to state that Israel has been working to strengthern it ties with Arab countries recipient to its efforts. “We are tightening our relations with the moderate elements in the region and establishing peace with Egypt and Jordan. We are acting to achieve peace with other Arab countries who stand with us in the face of radical Islam, and I can only hope that the Palestinians finally adopt this approach and turn to peace. ”

Netanyahu also referred to a visit he made last week to Britain, where Malcolm met British Prime Minister Theresa May and hosted a special dinner to mark 100 years to the Balfour Declaration, which included the current Lord Balfour, who defended the declaration by saying, “Jews needed a home because of persecution, so it wasn’t something to debate.”

“I warmly thanked the British leader Teresa May, who delivered an extraordinary speech in which she made it clear that she would not think of apologizing for her country’s assistance in building our national home,” added Netanyahu before the Knesset.

Netanyahu thanked May in person last week, saying, “A hundred years after Balfour, the Palestinians should finally accept the Jewish national home and finally accept the Jewish state. And when they do, the road to peace will be infinitely closer. In my opinion, peace will be achievable.”  (Ynet News)

PM Netanyahu Acts as Tour Guide for Israel’s 3-Millionth Visitor in 2017

PM Netanyahu surprised the three-millionth tourist to Israel this year by acting as her personal guide at the Tower of David Museum in Jerusalem.

Israel on Tuesday welcomed the 3,000,000th tourist to visit the Holy Land in 2017 in a special ceremony at Ben Gurion Airport, setting a new annual record with nearly two months to go in the calendar year.

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin personally greeted the tourist, Ioana Isac of Romania, who arrived together with her partner Mihai Georgescu to celebrate his birthday. The biggest surprise for the couple, however, came when they arrived at the Tower of David Museum in the Old City of Jerusalem, where they learned that their guide was none other than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The couple is being treated to a dream holiday as guests of the Israel Tourism Ministry. The experience includes an upgrade to a pampering hotel suite, a ride in a limousine, a helicopter tour in the skies of Israel, a unique Dead Sea experience, a culinary tour in the Yemenite quarter and other activities and surprises that will be tailored to their personal preferences.

Bibi tour guide

Levin said the growing tourism sector in Israel is a vote of confidence in the country’s investment in tourism infrastructure in recent years, and added that the record shows that Israel has become a tourist destination for people looking for an enjoyable holiday spot and not only for visitors motivated by religion or ideology.

He also said the current pace of tourism has outstripped the previous record by more than 500,000 people.

“We’re only at the beginning of November,” Levin said. “We’ll have another half a million tourists visit by the end of the year. It’s a huge addition to the Israeli economy.”

“This is a special day and an historic milestone as we break the 3-million-tourist barrier and we are set to end the year with an amazing achievement, the likes of which has never been reached since the establishment of the state,” Levin stated ahead of the occasion. “The huge investment that we are making in marketing Israel around the world and our collaborations with airlines and tour operators is bearing fruit.”

Tourism has become one of the most significant economic engines in the Israeli economy – since the beginning of the year, revenue from incoming tourism stands at about NIS 17 billion.

Since the beginning of the year, the leading source countries for incoming tourism are USA, Russia, France, Germany and Britain. The ministry placed a strategic emphasis on incoming tourism from China, with a subsequent increase of tens of percentage points over the previous year. The ministry’s new strategy and marketing activities have brought Israel to this all-time high, and 2017 is expected to close as Israel’s record year for incoming tourism. (United with Israel)

PM pledges $57 million to boost security in Judea and Samaria

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday pledged 200 million shekels ($57 million) to build safe bypass roads for the residents of Judea and Samaria. He said he planned to budget another NIS 600 million ($170 million) for further infrastructural improvements in the area

Residents of Judea and Samaria have been demanding the paving of new bypass roads and increased security infrastructure for some time, protesting outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem against what they called a cavalier approach to their safety.

Facing bereaved families of those killed in Palestinian terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria at a Likud faction meeting, Netanyahu assured them the government was committed to improving the roads, as well as the lighting and cellular coverage there to help prevent such attacks.

“We have a clear commitment to solve or help solve the problem of the bypass roads in Judea and Samaria. I just came from a meeting with the finance minister and we decided together to immediately allocate 200 million shekels to paving roads. We’re not just talking, we’re doing. Our actions are consistent, systematic and determined.”

But the move met with scathing criticism from the bereaved families.

Interrupting the prime minister, some said they have “had enough of promises.” They said they would go on a hunger strike until the funds are officially appropriated.

“I had to bury my daughter at the age of four. We’ve had enough of your promises. We demand actions. It’s time for residents [of Judea and Samaria] to also be able to return home safely,” Adva Biton, whose daughter Adele was critically wounded when Palestinians threw rocks at the car she was in on Route 5 in Samaria and died two years later, admonished.

“What do we want? Better lighting on the roads, cellular communications and proper roads. We didn’t come here to fight. We came here for one purpose – we want to prevent the next disaster.”

Hadas Mizrahi, whose husband, Police Chief Supt. Baruch Mizrahi was murdered in 2014 west of Hebron, recounted the moments after the family’s care came under terrorist fire when she could not call for help over the poor cellular reception in the area.

“I had to wait for 20 minutes because the cell service was down. There was no light. It was awful,” she said.

Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan welcomed Netanyahu’s decision, saying, “The only thing we ask for now is an official decision with clear sources of funding.”

Earlier Monday, a group of bereaved families barged into a Knesset’s Finance Committee meeting and demanded the immediate appropriation of NIS 800 million ($230 million) for the paving of bypass roads.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu’s announcement irked the Palestinian Authority, which said paving new roads would be another way for Israel to seize land in the West Bank.

“The Israeli prime minister is accelerating the settlement enterprise on all levels,” said Nabil Shaath, an adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. “All of this has only one goal, which is to destroy any possibility to revive the peace process based on the two-state solution.

Abbas himself was scheduled to arrive Monday in Saudi Arabia for a meeting with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman about the recent Palestinian reconciliation efforts between the Hamas terrorist group and Abbas’ Fatah movement. Also on the agenda are ideas presented to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks during a recent visit to Saudi Arabia by Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and adviser. (Israel Hayom)

Ehud Barak referred Weinstein to ex-Mossad agents he hired to quash allegations

Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak put the now-disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein in touch with an Israeli firm comprised mostly of ex-Mossad agents in order to suppress news stories detailing allegations of sexual harassment and assault against dozens of women.

The New Yorker on Monday reported that Weinstein hired private security agencies to “collect information on the women and journalists trying to expose the allegations” that he serially assaulted women, among them Black Cube, a private Israeli intelligence agency headquartered in Tel Aviv.

After Channel 2 reported on Tuesday that Weinstein was introduced to Black Cube by Barak, the former Prime Minister admitted to putting the producer in touch with agency, but said he did not know why Weinstein was interested in the their services.

“Over a year ago, Barak was asked by Harvey Weinstein if he knew an Israeli company he had heard of, that was capable of helping him with business issues he had. Barak confirmed to [Weinstein] the company he heard of was likely Black Cube,” a spokesperson for Barak said in a statement. “Barak is not personally familiar with the firm or its executives but gave Weinstein its contact information.”

“Barak was not aware until this morning of the fact the company was hired by Weinstein, or for what purposes or operations,” the statement added.

Black Cube told Channel 2 in response to the report that it has a policy of not discussing its clients, but stressed its work is always legal.

On its website, the agency bills itself as a “select group of veterans from the Israeli elite intelligence units that specializes in tailored solutions to complex business and litigation challenges.”

Ronan Farrow, who also authored the initial New Yorker report that detailed claims against Weinstein, said he obtained a copy of the contract between Weinstein and Black Cube that was signed in July.

Farrow reported the “explicit goal of the investigations,” was to “stop the publication of the abuse allegations against Weinstein.”

According to the report, during the one-year period the firm worked for Weinstein, Black Cube agents targeted dozens of individuals to collect personal information on them, including their sexual histories, in a bid to prevent them from publicly accusing Weinstein of sexual harassment or assault.

It said two Black Cube operatives met with Rose McGowan, an American actress who accuses Weinstein of raping her, using fake identities — one as a women’s rights advocate — and secretly recorded their conversations.

Weinstein was said to have closely monitored this work as it was ongoing, although his lawyers worked with investigators as well. This included David Boies, who is most famous for having represented former vice president Al Gore in the highly-consequential Supreme Court case Bush v. Gore.

Boies himself signed the contract with Black Cube stipulating that they would work to stop The New York Times from publishing its story on Weinstein. At the same time, his firm was representing The New York Times in separate cases. Boies confirmed to The New Yorker that his law firm engaged in these contracts.

Weinstein’s spokeswoman Sallie Hofmeister issued a statement to The New Yorker that accused it of trafficking in “inaccuracies and wild conspiracy theories.”  (the Times of Israel)

In world first, Israeli hospital employs MRI designed for infants

The world’s first magnetic resonance instrument (MRI) built specially for examining premature and older infants has been installed and tested on six patients at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center. The babies sleep comfortably while held in a soft brace during the scan and do not need to be anesthetized.

The device, called the Embrace system and recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration, was recently installed in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit. The Embrace device makes it possible to perform high-quality MRI tests without endangering the babies. This improves the service that babies and their families will receive – accurate information about brain structure, identification of infants at risk and early treatment of these infants.

Infant MRI

The hospital, which serves as a beta site for the Aspect Imaging company in Shoham, did not have to pay the $1.2 million cost of the device because it has been testing it for the company with permission from the Health Ministry and the hospital’s Helsinki Committee for Human Medical Experimentation. In a month or so, the hospital is expected to receive ministry permission to use it routinely to scan babies.

The MRI is adapted to the physical size of premature infants and babies. It was specifically installed in the neonatal department so the tiny patients do not have to be moved from the unit to the hospital’s regular MRI institute, and the temperature can be kept warm as needed by the delicate infants.

The medical staff remain close to the premature baby during the examination itself, unlike a conventional MRI device, in which the technicians have to sit in a separate room. The reason, according to Dr. Alona Bin-Nun, a senior neonatologist at the Jerusalem hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit who heads the project, is that the magnetic field created by the new technology is from iron and confined to the device itself; in conventional MRIs, it is from a much-stronger electric current, so the room has to be kept cold.

Bin-Nun added: “Neonatal imaging has been carried out on a daily basis, but using ultrasound, which is not optimal for identifying problems. Until now, premature babies had to undergo four ultrasound screenings after delivery, at three days, a week and a month. Having a regular MRI scan could be dangerous for them.”

A baby girl scanned with the special MRI was suspected of having some hemorrhages in her brain, but they were found not to be dramatic, and she is in good condition. She is the surviving infant of a pair of twins born at 26 weeks almost two-and-a-half months ago.

With the special MRI, the baby’s brain can be scanned, as most of the risk in premature babies is in the central nervous system and the heart. We use it not only for premature babies at two kilos and even less, but also for full-term babies who went through a difficult delivery,” she explained.

In this way, a short, effective, and safe test can be performed, from the preparation of the newborn, through the MRI scan to the incubator, in less than an hour, compared to the previous system where the test lasted about two hours. The entire process is carried out in a safe environment, where the newborn is constantly monitored under conditions similar to the incubator environment.

Shaare Zedek delivers 22,000 infants a year in its main building and Bikur Cholim Hospital that it also manages – more than any other hospital in the world. Thus, said the hospital, it was therefore natural for the company to choose SZMC for the first installation.

Aspect Imaging develops and provides compact MRI systems whose performance is comparable to that of large MRIs. Aspect is an Israeli company that is part of Aspect Intl LLC, a Singapore-based holding company. The holdings group develops magnetic resonance and nuclear resonance systems for the medical field, advanced industries and pre-clinical studies.

Bin-Nun said that neonatologists from Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital – affiliated with Harvard Medical School and considered one of America’s best medical centers – visited recently to see the Embrace. “They use a conventional MRI and were very impressed by ours. They want to buy one from the company.  (Jerusalem Post)

Israeli start-up says Apple copied its patented smartphone camera technology

An Israeli startup has sued Apple Inc, accusing the iPhone maker of copying its patented smartphone camera technology.

Tel Aviv-based Corephotonics Ltd filed its patent infringement case against Apple in federal court in San Jose, California, on Monday.

Corephotonics, which has raised $50 million from several high-profile venture capital firms and other investors, said its patented dual camera technology for mobile devices was incorporated by Apple in the iPhone 7 Plus and iPhone 8 Plus without its authorization.

According to the lawsuit, Corephotonics Chief Executive David Mendlovic approached Apple about a partnership. Apple praised the start-up’s technology but refused to license it, Corephotonics said, even suggesting it could infringe the latter’s patents with little consequence.

According to the complaint, “Apple’s lead negotiator expressed contempt for Corephotonics’ patents, telling Dr. Mendlovic and others that even if Apple infringed, it would take years and millions of dollars in litigation before Apple might have to pay something.”

An Apple spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment.

Many high-end smartphones include dual camera systems that can zoom in without losing image quality. Apple has its own patents on dual camera technology.

Through its latest funding round in January, Corephotonics raised $15 million from investors that included Samsung Ventures, electronics manufacturer Foxconn and chipmaker MediaTek Inc.

Foxconn is one of Apple’s contract manufacturers. Apple is considering MediaTek as a chip supplier, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Corephotonics’ other investors include Magma VC, Amiti Ventures, Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing and Solina Chau’s Horizon Ventures, as well as flash storage maker SanDisk and Chinese telephone services provider CK Telecom.

Corephotonics is represented by Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, the law firm that advised Samsung Electronics Co on its patent litigation with Apple.  (Jerusalem Post)

Israeli Arabs, too, benefited from the Balfour Declaration

Let’s hope that in Israel’s next election, more Arabs will be on the slates of mainstream parties, like Zouheir Bahloul of the Zionist Union and Esaw Freige of Meretz

By Moshe Arens             Ha’aretz

https://www.haaretz.com/misc/article-print-page/.premium-1.821250

One hundred years ago, the Balfour Declaration set the foundation for international recognition of the Zionist aspiration to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine. International recognition came five years later, in 1922, with the League of Nations’ British Mandate for Palestine. The mandate’s preamble states that “recognition has thereby been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine, and to the grounds for reconstituting their National Home in that country.”

Arab objections to the Balfour Declaration and the mandate were not limited to the international commitment to establish a Jewish national home in Palestine, but emphasized the Arab denial of the historical connection between the Jewish people and Palestine. Recurrent efforts are being made in United Nations forums by Palestinian delegations to promote resolutions that deny the historical connection of the Jewish people to Palestine, and specifically to Jerusalem. They are generally supported by Arab delegations to the UN.

Special Coverage: The 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration    Banksy throws Balfour ‘apologetic’ party for Palestinians   The Jews in pre-State Israel who called for a binational state   How Britain can redress its broken promises to the Palestinians | Opinion >>

The refusal to recognize the historical connection between the Jewish people and Palestine is at the root of the unwillingness, or possibly inability, of the Palestinian leadership to make peace with Israel. It is part and parcel of the “Palestinian narrative” that sees the Jews in Palestine as colonizers who should return to their countries of origin, like the Crusaders in the Middle Ages. Those Israelis who grant the “Palestinian narrative” equal validity to that of the “Jewish narrative” have their historical facts mixed up. While presumably promoting the peace process they are actually putting obstacles in its path by granting validity to a falsified version of history, which denies historic legitimacy to the Jewish presence in Palestine.

Acceptance of the historic connection between Jewish people and Palestine is unlikely to come from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas or from the leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, nor from Ra’ad Salah, the head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel and his Islamist extremist followers among Israel’s Arab citizens. It may take another generation. Peace with the Palestinians is not around the corner.

But many of Israel’s Arab citizens do acknowledge that connection between the Jews and Palestine and we can assume that Zionist Union MK Zouheir Bahloul is one of them. He is not a follower of the mainly-Arab Joint List that ran in the last Knesset election – a coalition of Communists, Nasserists and Islamists whose only common denominator is enmity to Israel and support for Israel’s enemies. Patched together as a result of Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Liberman’s initiative to raise the electoral threshold for entry into the Knesset, the Joint List limited Israeli Arabs’ voting options. Bahloul and MK Esawi Frej (Meretz) preferred to represent other parties. I hope that in the next election there will be more Arab candidates on party slates.

Actually the Balfour Declaration led not only to the establishment of the State of Israel, but also to the establishment of a Palestinian state. The British White Paper of 1922 on Palestine, also known as the Churchill White Paper, separated the mandated territory east of the Jordan River (78 percent of the territory of the Palestine Mandate), closed it to Jewish immigration and bestowed it on Sharif Hussein’s son Abdullah, who eventually became the king of Jordan, a Palestinian state in all but name.

Israel’s establishment brought many benefits to the Arab population in the region. An Arab victory in the 1948 war against Israel would not only have led to the destruction of the Jewish community here, but would most likely have caused havoc and suffering to the local Palestinian population, possibly greater than that which resulted from Israel’s victory in that war. Not only Jews benefited from the Balfour Declaration. Bahloul could have attended the Balfour gathering without any pangs of conscience.

I was disappointed to learn that people close to the new Labor Party leader, Avi Gabbay, have let it be known that Bahloul, who decided not to attend the Balfour gathering, is not likely to be in the next Knesset. That would be a mistake for the Labor Party and for Israel.

Operation. Harpoon: How the Mossad and an Israeli NGO destroyed terrorist money networks

By Yonah Jeremy Bob    The Jerusalem Post

http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Operation-Harpoon-How-the-Mossad-and-an-Israeli-NGO-destroyed-terrorist-money-networks-513622

Former government sources have told The Jerusalem Post that Israel’s Operation Harpoon, carried out by a range of Mossad, Shin Bet and other operatives, was revolutionary in that it was “not just about following the money, but about destroying terrorists’ money networks.”

Sources who had close personal contact with Meir Dagan (1945-2016) indicate that the idea of elevating the thwarting of terrorism financing to a primary mission of intelligence agencies was an uphill battle for the legendary Mossad chief and Harpoon founder.

“When Dagan started Harpoon as part of his role at the National Security Council, no one was interested. Not the Mossad, Shin Bet, IDF intelligence…, and there was almost nothing in place to combat terrorism financing,” the sources told the Post.

With his close relationship with then-prime minister Ariel Sharon, his ingenuity and singular will power, Dagan, who later became Mossad chief, turned Harpoon into an operation that dealt Hezbollah, Hamas, Fatah’s Yasser Arafat and other terrorist groups major blows.

The development and achievements of Harpoon against terrorism financing, including by groups of lawyers such as the Shurat Hadin NGO, is capturing the headlines now as a new book about the operations and the lawsuits has been released.

Though Harpoon has been previously revealed in its general outlines, Harpoon: Inside the Covert War Against Terrorism’s Money Masters, by Shurat Hadin director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner and Samuel Katz, breaks new ground on several fronts.

Ex-government sources said that Shurat Hadin was one of several law firms/NGOs that Harpoon operatives approached (and ultimately the most successful) to get at terrorists’ financing, where targeted-killing operations were illegal, not feasible or considered too aggressive.

Darshan-Leitner’s group, initially housed in a tiny apartment in Petah Tikva, and others proved decisive, said the sources, in taking down Hezbollah-connected banks such as the Lebanese Canadian Bank, which once had over $5 billion in assets.

Before 9/11, only Israel, Dagan and a smaller group of lawyers were in the terrorism-financing busting business for the longhaul.

But the former government sources explained that after 9/11 they helped get the US intelligence community, the Treasury and Justice departments quicker than the CIA and FBI, turned on to going after terrorism financing as a long-term strategic problem and not a mere short-term tactical issue.

Sources said that the CIA and FBI were quickly onboard with “following the money” of a particular terrorist cell to seize it. However, only the Treasury and Justice departments understood Dagan’s strategic concept of taking out terrorists’ ability to bank and of driving up their cost of moving money globally.

Former government sources said that both their intelligence operations as well as lawsuits by Shurat Hadin and others “dramatically impacted Hezbollah’s budget and ability.”

The book discloses intelligence assets in the Lebanese banking system, such as LCB fraud auditor Munir Z. The breakthroughs did not come without loss, with Munir Z. eventually caught and killed by Hezbollah in 2009. Intelligence operations rarely come without risk and complex calculations about balancing agents’ safety with pushing them to obtain information breakthroughs.

For Darshan-Leitner, her being chosen by Harpoon to get privileged information, though never paid, to help her file terrorism finance lawsuits, was life-changing.

In a comical part of the book, her secretary calls out to her, “Pick up on line two… I think it’s the U2s.”

It was September 2009.

The U2s the secretary was referring to had nothing to do with the famous Irish band.

They were part of Dagan’s elite intelligence unit and were called the U2s, as they were referred to in the book as Uri L. and Shai U.

For Darshan-Leitner, such a call from the “U2s” always meant an interesting meeting was around the corner.

An astounding revelation made in the book is the contention that Israel’s final blow to bring an end to its most recent war, the 2014 Gaza war (Operation Protective Edge) with Hamas, came about not because of attacks on Hamas’s fighters, but “by incinerating the Hamas finance minister’s millions of dollars in cash for salaries he was delivering to suicide terrorists.” Targeting money with missiles was an extension of Dagan’s strategy to disrupt terrorists’ fund-raising networks.

The book recounts that Israeli intelligence “had learned that the elite of the Hamas force… were rumbling to their wives and families over not being paid… their salaries in weeks. Their anger was close to undermining the entire military campaign… The lack of money meant that the families of the fighters couldn’t buy food and clothing… Hamas leaders warned of insurrection. Calls were made for an emergency delivery of dollars.”

On August 23, 2014, Israel’s intelligence services picked up the trail of a main in his 20s traveling across Sinai with $13 million in cash packed inside four large leather suitcases.

He eventually arrived at “a tunnel, well illuminated and ventilated [that] had been dug underneath the safe house… At just before dawn, the envoy sent a brief SMS message to his patrons… waiting for the money on the Gaza side of the tunnel… The text consisted of a code word indicating that the courier was coming across; the phone… was destroyed immediately after the message was sent,” the authors recount.

After an hour, when the man was almost across the tunnel and “a smile came over his face. The cash had been delivered. His mission was over… A black Mercedes… was waiting for the luggage. Inside the car was Mohammed el-Ghoul, Hamas’s head of payroll.” He connected Hamas with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Qatar and the various Gulf Arab states – and sources of money generally

The celebration was interrupted by an Israel Air Force AH-64D Longbow attack helicopter that, with the push of a button, sent a single AGM-114 Hellfire antitank missile slamming into Ghoul’s Chinese-made car.

“The sedan evaporated into a fireball and a cloud of black smoke… the skies turned green as a storm of singed $100 bills cascaded onto the dusty streets of Gaza City…. The payroll’s incineration was a major blow to Hamas. Without the cash they could not maintain the struggle. Hamas asked for a cease-fire,” says the book.

The Gaza war ended 48 hours later.

In some areas it is hard to concretely estimate the effect of Harpoon, shepherded by Dagan, the Mossad and Shurat Hadin, on Hezbollah and Hamas over the last 20 years.

But former government sources, including those with operational backgrounds, indicated that the program was of massive strategic importance, in some ways far exceeding what even the most successful tactical operational successes could achieve.

What the political turmoil in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon means for Israel

By Ron Kampeas                 JTA

What the political turmoil in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon means for Israel

What is MBS? Why did Lebanon’s prime minister resign — and why in Saudi Arabia? What’s Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas doing in Saudi Arabia? Where is Jared Kushner in all this?

And what does it all mean for Israel?

It’s been a busy week in the Middle East and, for a change, the two ground-shifting stories — they may be the same story, but we’ll get to that — don’t directly involve Israel.

Mohammed bin Salman (the MBS contraction is so cool, it’s already uncool), the recently minted Saudi crown prince, has placed a stack of his rivals under luxuriant house arrest, and Saad Hariri, the prime minister of Lebanon, has resigned, saying the country was ungovernable as long as Iran interfered in its affairs.

But of course Israel is involved: When does something happen in the Middle East that does not eventually involve Israel?

What happened, Part 1

Mohammed, 32, was named crown prince by his father, King Salman, in June. That in itself was an upheaval, as succession had been an opaque, delicate process aimed at preserving balance among the welter of descendants of the kingdom’s founder, Abdulaziz. Salman’s declaration that his son would succeed him rattled the extended family.

Already the defense minister since 2015, Crown Prince Mohammed moved quickly to make clear he was in charge (his father is ailing). He placed his predecessor as crown prince under house arrest, talked repeatedly about modernizing the kingdom and made good on a promise when his father decreed that women may drive.

This weekend he rounded up another 11 princes and dozens of other high-ranking officials and placed them under house arrest, many in Riyadh’s Ritz Carlton. Officially, father and son were cracking down on corruption.

What happened, Part 2

Guess who else was in Riyadh? Hariri, the Saudi-backed prime minister of Lebanon. Former prime minister, that is. He said he was quitting because Iran is controlling the country through its proxy, Hezbollah, and that he feared for his life.

Hezbollah controls a militia that dwarfs the Lebanese army in firepower, and effectively has had a veto on all things Lebanon for decades. And it is widely believed to be behind the 2005 killing of Hariri’s father, Rafik, who also was a prime minister.

So why quit now?

This may be the same story.

Crown Prince Mohammed has, since becoming defense minister in 2015, been behind an aggressive Saudi bid to reassert dominance in the region in the face of an increasingly assertive Iran. He is driving Saudi Arabia’s war with Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. Pulling Hariri out of Lebanon is a piece with a broader strategy of keeping Iran teetering.

As he guides Saudi Arabia into bolder confrontations with Iran in the region, the crown prince may feel he needs to consolidate his power at home.

“MBS has taken a very assertive approach to Saudi foreign policy,” said Tamara Cofman Wittes, a senior fellow at the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. “It’s happening simultaneously with his efforts to consolidate internal control.”

So, Saudi Arabia confronting Iran — good for Israel, right?

The Israeli government seems to think so. Ron Dermer, its ambassador to Washington, told the Israeli American Council on Monday that he was “more optimistic now because I see a change in the region.”

Dermer was not referring directly to the events of the weekend but to broader changes. Still, it was significant that he delivered what has now become a familiar message from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after Hariri’s resignation and the Riyadh crackdown.

“The Arab governments are in a different place than they were five years ago, certainly 10 years or 15 years ago, because they see our interests as being aligned with theirs,” Jewish Insider quoted Dermer as saying. “Many things are happening underneath the surface, many remarkable things.”

Israel’s Channel 10 news quoted an Israeli Foreign Ministry cable to diplomats that listed pro-Saudi talking points on Hariri’s resignation and on the kingdom’s intervention in Yemen.

Jonathan Schanzer, the vice president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the Netanyahu government was seizing an obvious opportunity.

Hariri’s resignation “is just one more indicator of a possible regional architecture that could be built between the Sunni states and Israel,” he said. “If MBS succeeds in creating a modern Saudi Arabia, one can imagine a Saudi Arabia somewhere down the line where Israel and Saudi Arabia could have open ties.”

Schanzer cautioned, however, “But we are in very early days.”

Nimrod Novik, a former Israeli peace negotiator, said Saudi Arabia’s sudden summoning of Abbas was another positive sign signaling Crown Prince Mohammed’s moderating tilt.

Novik, who is now the Israel Fellow of the Israel Policy Forum, said it was significant that the summons came a week or so after a quiet visit to Saudi Arabia by Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser. The Trump administration wants Abbas to reassert control of the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Hamas.

Saudi Arabia, working with other Sunni moderates in Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, is pressing Abbas to take the necessary risks by offering him a “bulletproof vest,” as Novik put it — a change from previous years when the Saudi tendency was to offer only qualified backing for Israeli-Palestinian peace moves.

“I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall” in Riyadh, he said.

Let’s not get carried away.

There are lots of risks for Israel in the recent upheaval.

Daniel Shapiro, a former U.S. ambassador there who is now a fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Israel, said Israel should be wary of being drawn into a war with Hezbollah — one that would damage Hezbollah, a key goal of Crown Prince Mohammed, but one that would cost Saudi Arabia little and Israel plenty.

“Israel and Saudi Arabia may be strategically aligned” in seeking to contain Iran, Shapiro said, “but they are not tactically aligned.”

He said Hezbollah may take the bait, as it suffers from a blow to its ambitions to be a Lebanese unifier.

“It may accelerate the confrontation Hezbollah already wants with Israel because [war with Israel] would be a unifying event” for the Lebanese, Shapiro said.

And whatever Netanyahu says, a temporary tactical alliance does not mean long-term peace benefits, said two Persian Gulf scholars with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Simon Henderson and Lori Plotkin Boghardt.

Boghardt said the Saudis may be coordinating with Israel behind the scenes, but there are not yet incentives to make the relationship open. Henderson, joining her in a conference call for reporters, said there remained plenty of disincentives, preeminently popular opinion, noting the hostile reception for Israeli athletes at a judo competition in Abu Dhabi.

“That’s an indication of the difficulty of selling a pro-Israeli policy to these people,” Henderson said.

What about Jared?

Kushner said his visit to Saudi Arabia was simply to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace. Accompanying him to Riyadh was Jason Greenblatt, whose mission is brokering the peace. Greenblatt continued on to Israel and the Palestinian areas.

Iran prefers to see a conspiracy. Javad Zarif, its foreign minister, said on Twitter that Kushner’s visit “led to Hariri’s bizarre resignation while abroad.”