MIDEAST MIRROR 24.04.15, SECTION A (ISRAEL)
Israeli newspapers lead their Friday editions with the rocket that was fired from the Gaza Strip yesterday evening – the fourth such incident since the end of Operation Protective Edge last summer. Israel was still celebrating the 67th anniversary of its founding when the Code Red missile alarm system sounded in the western Negev for the first time since December. According to Yedioth Ahronoth, the rocket exploded in an open area in the Sha'ar Hanegev region. No one was hurt and no damage was caused.
In response, the IDF overnight struck the northern Gaza Strip. Hamas sources said IDF tanks fired two shells at a training camp in the Beit Hanun area. An IDF statement confirmed the retaliatory attack, saying that it had targeted 'terrorist infrastructure' in the north of the Strip. A spokesman for Gaza's emergency services said nobody was wounded.
According to Haaretz, Israeli defense establishment sources believe that the rocket was fired by a rogue faction in Gaza. This is backed up by a report from Channel 10 News, which reported that Hamas has intimated to Israel that it was not responsible for Thursday evening’s rocket attack and that it is working to find and arrest the shooters. A senior security official said, however, that Israel holds Hamas responsible for the attack. 'We see Hamas as responsible, and expect it to enforce order in Gaza. Hamas is the ruling power in the region and it must maintain quiet; if not it will be held responsible. We will not accept a trickling of rocket fire,' the official said and added that Israel will not tolerate a drizzle of rockets on its territory.
In the wake of the rocket fire, it was decided that the Erez border crossing would remain closed on Friday. Hamas ordered the complete evacuation of its headquarters, training centers and public offices in the Gaza Strip, according to a report in Israel Hayom.
Housing Minister Uri Ariel called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to respond forcefully to the rocket attack, 'so that the event does not again turn into a series of drizzles that will upset the routine and security of residents of the South.' MK Miri Regev welcomed the Israeli response to the incident, saying that, 'The message is loud and clear that any shooting aimed at Israel will be answered with even a more painful response to Hamas. We will not permit Hamas to raise its head.'
According to Brig. Gen. (res.) Zvika Fogel, Hamas is definitively preparing for another war against Israel. 'Rocket production continues,' Fogel, a former head of the IDF's Southern Command, told Army Radio. He predicted another war by 'the end of 2015 or early 2016.' Part of the problem, he indicated, is that Hamas is purposely neglecting its Palestinian Arab population, goading them into painting Israel as an even bigger scapegoat for their poverty and poor governance. 'The population in the Gaza Strip since Operation Protective Edge has been neglected, and pressure on Hamas is growing,' he noted.
Meanwhile, Air Force Commander Major General Amir Eshel sent an unequivocal threat to Hizbollah making it clear that the IDF is prepared for a military strike – if the need arise. 'We do not deal in theories, we are a pragmatic organization, and we need to produce relevant, practical tools. I have been saying for years, since they have started their actions, and we have refined and updated our weapons,' Eshel said referring to the military options.
In other news, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden announced that the United States will deliver new F-35 fighter jets to Israel next year to help its ally maintain its military edge in the Middle East. Speaking at an Israel Independence Day celebration organized by the Israeli embassy in Washington, Biden described the aircraft as 'our finest, making Israel the only country in the Middle East to have this fifth-generation aircraft.' Biden vowed that the United States would make sure Israel maintains its 'qualitative edge.'
Israel's Defense Ministry announced in mid-February that it had signed a deal with the United States to purchase 14 more F-35 planes for the Israel Air Force at $110 million dollars each. The deal is considered the continuation of a purchase agreement signed in 2010, when it was decided that 19 F-35 planes would be transferred to the Israel Defense Forces. The first two planes are scheduled to land in Israel by the end of next year. The rest of the aircraft are expected to arrive by 2021. Biden also defended the Iran nuclear deal being worked out between Tehran and six world powers, saying it is based on 'hard-hitting, hard-headed compromises and assessments.'
In political news, finally, the Likud will resume its coalition-building efforts today, with 12 days left for the prime minister to present his new government to President Reuven Rivlin. According to Israel Radio, representatives of Netanyahu's party will meet with members of Shas – which is at loggerheads with Habayit Hayehudi over the religious affairs portfolio. Neither party has responded yet to a Likud proposal to appoint a religious affairs minister from Shas, and a deputy minister from the Jewish Home party. The Likud is set to renew talks with Moshe Kahlon's Kulanu on Sunday. Netanyahu is also scheduled to meet Friday with Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman and, according to one report, with Habayit Hayehudi chairman Naftali Bennett.
SIXTY-SEVEN: Writing in Yedioth Ahronoth, Yoaz Hendel explains why he would prefer Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to establish a broad unity government, rather than a right-wing coalition with the ultra-Orthodox parties.
"The most important number at the moment in Israeli politics is 67.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is on his way to form a coalition with 67 members: a right-wing government, with ultra-Orthodox parties and with Moshe Kahlon's Kulanu party. This – according to one former American official who was my guest over the Independence Day festivities – is a surefire recipe for disaster. My guest is also worried about the '67 borders. I, however, am more concerned about the diplomatic dilemma that Israel is facing.
Let's start with a conclusion: I am in favor of a national unity government. Why? Because of people like my guest. Because of the Europeans and the Obama Administration. Because of Jimmy Carter.
And now the explanation. We have made two major mistakes here over the past 20 years. The first was the recognition of the two-state solution on the basis of the 1967 borders. There is nothing holy about those pre-war lines. Zionism is Jewish sovereignty over the land – as much land as possible with as few Palestinians are possible. This was the assumption that Yigal Allon reached in 1967. He drew a map with separation lines that granted the Palestinians independence under Jordanian auspices, while Israel had other areas that were of greater strategic importance. According to Allon, Israel was supposed to annex the Jordan Valley in order to create an eastern border for the Jewish state, as well as some of the historic parts of the West Bank; Jerusalem was to be the capital. That was the last time that anyone on the Israeli side came up with a realistic plan, but Allon disappeared from the map and so did his plan.
This leads us to the second mistake: the faith in the status quo and the belief that we don't need to do anything to make things work. The first change came with Menachem Begin at Camp David, when he promised to give the Palestinians autonomy. After that, in 1991, there was the Madrid Conference. That was the first time that Shamir and Binyamin Netanyahu (who was deputy foreign minister at the time) spoke to representatives of the Palestinian people about a peace accord. Two years later, the Oslo Accords were signed and the Palestinian Authority was formed.
All those who protested the Oslo Accords – myself included – were, it seems, right to urge the government not to give the Palestinians weapons. Arafat and his people were armed and we got another intifada. 40 percent of Judea and Samaria was handed over to the Palestinian Authority. The Land of Israel was whole no more – apart from in election campaign slogans. Netanyahu completed the deal by handing over Hebron. A demilitarized Palestinian state was established in everything but name. A state with no Jewish residents. That last change came a decade ago with the disengagement and the subsequent status quo.
Jerusalem is the best example of this. For the past 18 months, there has been a de facto construction freeze in the capital, on the orders of the Netanyahu-led government that also includes Naftali Bennett and Uri Ariel. Since the government collapsed, we cannot even blame Tzipi Livni and Yair Lapid for the freeze, yet the freeze is absolute. Last week, the government secretariat issued an order to cancel a tender for 1,000 housing units in the Har Homa neighborhood. This week, for political reasons, work on apartments in the Ramot neighborhood was put on hold. Both of those neighborhoods are very much within the Israeli national consensus. Every Israeli government – left and right alike – has built there. I cannot think of any other capital city in the world where apartments cannot be expanded because of international pressure.
It's Jerusalem Day soon and our politicians will no doubt speak at length about the unity of the city. In practice, however, they are dividing it. The Palestinian Authority is already present in some eastern parts of the city. There are some neighborhoods that Israelis simply cannot enter. The status quo is no more.
My guest is an intelligent man; he's a Jew who supports the State of Israel. His nightmare vision worried me, but it does not surprise me. He believes that European pressure will increase, since there is no plan other than the two-state solution and the '67 borders. The Palestinians will continue with their political intifada and, behind the scenes, the Obama Administration will exert its pressure.
My guest's conclusion is that a 67-member government will strengthen the '67 borders. 'If there's chance of a peace accord, as you argue, then you'll have to pull off some kind of political magic,' he told me. There are some on the Israeli left who want to see a right-wing government installed, in the hope that we will pay a heavy price. This is Leninist logic: the worse things get, the better. On the right, there are those who want a right-wing government because they are blind to the potential harm. I am afraid of the snowball effect. Now the cat is out of the bag: I am afraid of recognition of the '67 lines which cannot be implemented, of the BDS movement that will intensify its calls for a boycott of Israel and of international resolutions that will be impossible to overturn. I am afraid that we will lose sovereignty over our capital city while rightist parties are in power – warning us that the left is endangering the future of Jerusalem.
I prefer a unity government in order to create an Israeli initiative that allows us to forget the utopian dream of peace with the Palestinians and to move beyond a status quo that no longer exists. The numbers show that I am in a minority – but there's nothing holy about numbers."
HERE WE GO AGAIN?: Writing on the Walla! website, Amir Buhbut asks – in light of yesterday's rocket attack from the Gaza Strip – whether a war between Israel and Hamas is imminent.
"Will there be another war between Israel and Hamas this summer? There is no clear answer to this question, but there are several signs that highlight what is happening on Israel's southern front. Gadi Eisenkot sent out a clear message when he decided that his first working visit after taking over as IDF chief of staff would be to the headquarters of the Gaza Division. Darting the course of his visit, Eisenkot asked the commanders there very pertinent and intricate questions. He tried to relay to the officers stationed on the Gaza border that, while the main threat posed to the State of Israel comes from the northern border, where the IDF is in a constant state of readiness against Hizbollah, the most potentially explosive front is Gaza. If that were not enough, Eisenkot paid another visit to the Gaza Division at the start of the Passover holiday, where he spoke again with officers and inspected Hamas facilities from afar. His secondary message to commanders was also crystal clear: I will tell you what your mission is and you will tell me how to carry it out.
Residents of Israeli towns and communities adjacent to the Gaza border don't need Eisenkot to tell them about the tension in the air. In the past few months, they have been hearing the thuds coming from Hamas' new training facilities in the northern Gaza Strip – facilities that were built on the ruins of two Israeli settlements evacuated during the disengagement. Two weeks ago, a bullet accidentally fired during one of Hamas' exercises hit the window of a house in an Israeli community just over the border. By a miracle, no one was hurt. That was just a reminder of how fragile the quiet is.
Hamas armed wing is investing all its resources in rearming and training. The funding for all this comes from Iran. Hamas has made no effort to conceal the extent of the training it is carrying out on land, at sea and in the air. The organization has turned Egyptian airspace in the Sinai into a training ground for its drones, which are capable of delivering bombs, collecting intelligence or merely proving that Hamas has the capability to violate Israeli airspace.
Some of Hamas' recent activity can be seen with the naked eye; some is online, on social networks. So what, then, has Hamas changed? The answer is as simple as it is worrying: the extent of the rocket threat and the daring of its attacks. Last summer, 15 Hamas terrorists could be seen emerging from one of its tunnels. Now, Hamas is training for an operation that would include 30 terrorists carrying out cross-border raids, covered by artillery fire, antitank missiles and machinegun fire – with the whole operation being orchestrated by a dedicated war room. The goal of all this is to carry out a killing spree or to kidnap Israelis and extract a heavy price from Jerusalem. The tunnel capable of allowing motorcycles to infiltrate Israel, which was uncovered toward the end of Operation Protective Edge, was more than a declaration of intent by Hamas. It was a foretaste of a future operation and proved how far Hamas is willing to go. Unlike Hizbollah's Hassan Nasrallah, the threats made by Hamas armed wing have proved that it is capable of taking the fighting to Israel.
In the past, the relationship between Hamas' overseas leadership, its Gaza leadership and its military wing remained relatively stable. After Operation Protective Edge, however, things changed. In the aftermath of that war, the commanders of the armed wing saw their influence grow and they are now challenging the organization's political leaders for ascendancy. Irrespective of whether Mohammed Deif was killed, Marwan Issa has effectively taken over as commander of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, along with Muhammed Sinwar. They have not been able, however, to recreate the charisma and power of Ahmad Jabari, who was assassinated by Israel on the eve of Operation Pillar of Defense, yet they are already posing a threat to the political leadership of the organization.
As far as Hamas is concerned, the next war against the IDF is just around the corner. And like any other professional organization, Hamas' armed wing has taken measures to become more efficient: it has conducted in-depth probes, poor commanders have been ousted and its offensive strategy has been improved. It is currently busy building long and wide tunnels and no one should be surprised if, during the next war, Hamas terrorists emerge from these tunnels riding on sand buggies. Hamas is also not resting on its laurels when it comes to developing new missiles. In addition to increasing its production of rockets, the organization has recently carried out several test firings of missiles into the sea. Hamas doesn't care that these activities come at the expense of the people of Gaza. After all, military considerations come first. That is why Hamas allows itself to openly build new outposts and headquarters, while countless Gazans remain homeless.
It's worth pointing out that many of Hamas' attacks during Operation Protective Edge failed, but it did record two significant achievements. Its leaders read the situation and, toward the end of the operation, recognized that the Israeli communities closest to the border were Israel's Achilles heel. In addition, and in contrast to the IDF assessment at the time, which opined that Hamas was not interested in war, the organization managed to continue fighting for all 50 days of the operation.
Today, the IDF is speaking very differently. There is less analysis of what Hamas intends to do and more focus on obtaining intelligence about its capabilities. At the same time, Israel is trying to prepare itself for surprises. The defense establishment now believes that, at the current time, Hamas armed wing has absolutely no interest in renewed violence. But there are complex relationships at play within Hamas and between Hamas and the other organizations in the Gaza Strip, as well as with several states in the region. Therefore, it remains impossible to accurately predict how it will act.
Israel's defense establishment is leaving itself plenty of room for maneuver. Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon has ordered the military to expand on the successes of Operation Protective Edge, to continue deterring Hamas from attack and to do everything it can to forestall the next round of fighting, in order to stabilize the region. One example of this is the increased number of trucks carrying produce that Israel allows into Gaza, despite Hamas' efforts to smuggle banned goods. Nonetheless, the process of rebuilding Gaza is progressing at a snail's pace and the huge sum of money pledged has simply not been delivered. On the ground, officers admit that if there is another war in the summer, then Operation Protective Edge will have been a failure.
Preparation and improved strategy are the name of the game. The IDF's Gaza Division has been busy doing just that and the results are already visible. The border fence has been fortified, a secondary barbed-wire fence has been erected to delay any incursion, new technology has been introduced and patrols have been boosted around Israeli farms and communities. The terrifying possibility that, at any moment, dozens of Hamas terrorists could emerge from a tunnel is the main concern of the Gaza Division. That scenario obligates the IDF to alter its thought processes and to improve defensive preparations – as well as more attacking options."
A MESSAGE FROM HAMAS: Writing on the NRG website, Amir Rapaport comments on last night's rocket attack from the Gaza Strip and says that it should be seen as a message from Hamas to the government of Israel.
"The firing of a rocket at Israel from the Gaza Strip yesterday evening – at the end of Israel's Independence Day celebrations – is a clear message from Hamas: the quiet that residents of southern Israel have enjoyed since the end of Operation Protective Edge is very fragile. In the past few months, the Code Red alarm has sounded several times in the south, but those alarms were caused by Hamas test firing a missile, often into the sea. Last night, however, was the real thing. A rocket was, indeed, fired at Israel. At the time of writing these lines, security forces are still looking for the remnants of the missile that fell.
The rocket was fired a few minutes before 9:00 P.M., exactly at the time that Israel's security chiefs were convening in Tel Aviv for the defense minister's traditional ceremony marking the end of Independence Day festivities. Naturally, they immediately started to discuss the best way to respond. Since Operation Protective Edge, Israel's policy has been to respond to every attack from Gaza. When, for example, a lone rocket was fired on October 20 last year, Israel attacked Hamas structures in Khan Yunis. Despite the risk of escalation, Israel also responded to last night's attack.
In any case, last night's incident will not lead to the start of a fresh round of violence, so it should be seen as a reminder of several basic facts. The first fact is that it is not in Hamas’ interest to spark another confrontation with Israel. Hamas is actively trying to prevent members of other organizations in the Gaza Strip from attacking Israel and has been doing so for the past several months. In one case, a few weeks ago, the IDF inadvertently opened fire and injured one Hamas member who was engaged in such activity.
Despite the fact that, in the short term, Hamas prefers quiet, the fundamental conditions that led to Operation Protective Edge last summer have not changed: Like last summer, Hamas is isolated politically and is facing a severe economic crisis, because of Egypt's energetic efforts to thwart smuggling via the network of underground tunnels between Gaza and the Sinai. In addition, the land crossings are closed most of the time. The Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria is stingy in its transfer of funds to the Gaza Strip and even Hamas oil-rich patrons in Qatar have taken a step back because of intense international pressure to stop bankrolling Hamas.
Hamas and the other organization in Gaza are using all means at their disposal to manufacture more long-range missiles, to replace those that were either used or destroyed during Operation Protective Edge. Moreover, there is a ceaseless effort underway to rebuild the tunnels; indeed, some offensive tunnels are already capable of being used to carry out attacks inside Israel, despite the IDF's efforts to locate and destroy them.
If Hamas again reaches the point that it feels it has nothing to lose, one rocket launch could lead to a major campaign. And it could happen quicker than anyone imagines."
OBAMA OFFENDED: Writing in Maariv, Shlomo Shamir says that U.S. President Barack Obama has been deeply offended by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's behavior toward him – and that he told Jewish leaders who visited the White House last week that he won't be inviting the Israeli leader to Washington any time soon.
"For more than a week, the New York Times tried to persuade Jewish leaders who met with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House to speak about the contents of their meeting. But the Grey Lady found it hard to break through the wall of silence that these leaders had erected. In the end – on the eve of Israel's Independence Day – the newspaper reported that, in response to one of the participant's questions, the president replied that he would not be inviting Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to the White House any time soon. Instead, he said, any invitation would have to wait until after the June 30 deadline for the Iranian nuclear talks.
One does not have to be an investigative journalist to report that Obama and Netanyahu would not be meeting in the near future. Every commentator in Washington who knows the mood inside the White House and among the president's closest advisers knows that such a meeting is not even close to being on the president's agenda at the moment. The Jewish leaders who were invited to meet with Obama asked him a lot of far more significant and piercing questions than the one about when and if he would extend an invitation to the Israeli prime minister.
What the New York Times published about Obama's meeting was just a tiny fraction of what was said and discussed there. The self-imposed silence that the Jewish leaders have undertaken – which, it must be said, is totally out of character – is, to a large extent, the result of their surprise and astonishment at the depth of the sense of insult that Obama feels over Netanyahu's behavior toward him. During their meeting, Obama listed for the Jewish leaders everything that he and his administration have done for Israel. 'And this is how I get repaid?' he asked. There was no room to question whom Obama's anger was directed at.
In contrast, the Jewish leaders were genuinely moved by the warmth with which Obama spoke about his commitment to Israel and how he genuinely appears to have Israel's best interests at heart. 'I was moved by the effort that the president made to make it clear how deep his friendship with Israel is and how much he supports the Jewish state,' one of the Jewish leaders said.
According to some of the participants in that meeting, the president is unlikely to make any special effort in the foreseeable future to broker a détente between the White House and the Israeli prime minister. But they do not predict any problems regarding the United States' support for Israel in the United Nations Security Council.
In terms of a presidential invite for Netanyahu, much depends on what kind of government he forms and how that government acts in its first few weeks. Only then will the White House and the State Department even start thinking about a summit in Washington."
HIKE THE DEFENSE BUDGET: Writing in The Jerusalem Post, David Weinberg argues in favor of a massive increase in Israel's defense spending, arguing that the IDF must be ready for unrelenting combat over the coming decade.
"Israel’s military urgently needs an infusion of cash. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the apparently incoming finance minister Moshe Kahlon must significantly boost the defense budget, despite other priorities. Israel will likely fight several wars over the coming decade. The IDF will need to knock-back the Iranian-proxy armies and jihadist militias camped on our borders. It may need to 'decommission' Iran’s nuclear facilities in Fordow and Arak. And only God knows what kind of instability Israel may yet have to overcome on its eastern border.
Given America’s stampeding retreat from overseas commitments, and President Barack Obama’s creeping repeal of the protective diplomatic umbrella America has extended to Israel for many decades, Israel may be fighting truly alone.
Consider the situation in Lebanon. To rout Hizbollah and destroy its missile stockpiles, in the next war Israel will have to reconquer southern Lebanon on the ground. Even with the Israel Air Force working intensively from above (including massive leveling of Lebanese infrastructure), Israel could be facing eight weeks of real and unrelenting combat.
Readying the IDF for this requires a rollback of the misguided 'Teuzah' multi-year plan for the IDF promulgated in 2013 by then chief of staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz. That plan accepted a significant decrease in overall funding to the IDF and shifted priorities away from the ground forces in favor of air force and cyber capabilities, intelligence, special operations forces, and stand-off precision fire. Indeed, the ground forces budget was cut by 25 percent between 2002 and 2006. This trend was suspended pursuant to the 2006 Second Lebanon War, but was resumed soon afterwards in the Gantz era.
According to Amir Rapaport, publisher and editor of Israel Defense Magazine and a research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, Gantz accepted the relative weakness of the maneuvering capabilities of the ground forces as a given. He did not think that the IDF would need to fight a conventional force in the foreseeable future, nor have to conduct large-scale ground maneuvers in enemy territory.
As far back as December 2013, Dr. Eitan Shamir and Dr. Eado Hecht of the same think-tank have been warning that this is a mistaken prism. 'Neglect of the IDF’s ground forces poses a risk to Israel’s security. There are real battles ahead against well-entrenched Hamas and Hizbollah armies,' they wrote. Operation Protective Edge in Gaza proved them right.
Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, the new IDF chief-of-staff, along with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, with the support of Kahlon, must now fix this. Here is how:
-Training: A gargantuan increase in training of front-line troops is necessary. It is a well-known secret that many of the infantry and armored forces that went into Gaza last summer were insufficiently trained for combat in built-up areas. Alas, training is expensive, especially for combined arms high intensity conflict, which involves multiple branches of the military working together. Training of the reserve forces is even more expensive. And unfortunately, budget lines for training are usually the first thing to be cut when the overall military budget is slashed, as it has been in recent years.
-Platforms: The army needs to reverse the demobilization of armored formations and buy and deploy many more Namer armored personnel carriers, equipped with the leading-edge Iron Fist active defense system; and Merkava main battle tanks, with the Trophy system. This will cost hundreds of millions of shekels, and it is necessary. We can’t have a repeat of the tragedy in Shujai'iya, Gaza City, where an anti-tank missile was fired into an old, lightly armored personnel carrier, killing seven Golani soldiers.
-Stocks: The IDF used up a lot of its ammunition reserves during the 50-day conflict with Hamas last summer, especially its stocks of precision-guided shells and missiles. And for a brief period, Washington held up resupply of Hellfire missiles. The takeaway is that the IDF needs to stockpile much larger reserves of weaponry for the likely lengthy wars of the future with Hizbollah and Hamas. Again, this requires more money with guaranteed funding over a multi-year plan.
-Navy: Elements of radical Islam are gaining control across the eastern Mediterranean basin, from Libya to Syria and Turkey. Israel and Greece are the only Western-oriented countries in the region. Professor Efraim Inbar and Admiral (res.) Eliezer Marom argue that Israel needs a much more powerful navy, with a long reach, to counter the strategic realignments under way, and to protect from terrorist attack the substantial natural gas fields we have discovered at sea. The Israel Navy wants more than $5 billion in new ships, subs, weapons systems and personnel over the next decade for this, and its request is both justified and essential.
-West Bank: Should security cooperation with the Palestinian Authority collapse – a remote but real possibility – Israel will need to pour more troops and treasure into policing Judea and Samaria. This will be an enormous drain on the military system. There is talk of establishing an additional division for tightening control of the territories, and we should do this before a security crisis erupts. Again, this is a big budget item.
-Jordan Valley: Many voices in the defense establishment are calling for the building of a well-fortified security fence along Israel’s long border with Jordan, as has been done along the Sinai, Lebanese and Golan borders. The fluidity of the political and security situation to our east requires this, and it needs to be budgeted for expeditiously.
-Satellites and missiles: Because of budget cuts, some satellite projects (such as the development of 'mini satellites') are in real danger. This is a mistake, since outer space is expected to evolve into an actual battlefield. The development of Israel’s Jericho-4 surface-to-surface missile must not be delayed either. The same goes for the state-of-the-art, long-range intelligence-gathering networks required to identify targets and connect them in a matter of seconds to the various types of fire delivery elements.
-Iran: If worse comes to worse (and every day it indeed seems that worse news comes from Washington about its strategic capitulation to Iran), the IDF and IAF may have to act against Iran’s nuclear and missile facilities. Then Israel will have to deal with the fallout from Iran’s potential military retaliation – and we had better be ready both militarily and on the home front. We probably need two squadrons, not one, of the F-35 futuristic jet fighter to overcome the S-300 air defense system that Russia is now selling to Iran. And we need quite a few more Iron Dome and David’s Sling missile defense batteries. A small fortune.
'We must be willing to defend Israel at all cost,' was said repeatedly on Remembrance Day earlier this week. Well, cost it will! Israel dare not skimp in this regard. Our independence depends on robust defense readiness."
HOW TO AVOID ANOTHER YARMOUK: Writing on the website of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), Kenneth Jacobson comments on the plight of Palestinian refugees in the Yarmouk refugee camp, saying that the only way to avoid a repetition is to close the refugee camps and integrate Palestinians into their host countries.
"It’s happening again — Palestinian refugees are caught between warring factions in the Middle East and the world is reacting too slowly to their plight.
In earlier times, Palestinian refugees found themselves in the crosshairs at the Sabra and Shatila camps, when Lebanese Phalangists massacred them while Israeli forces stood by. Now it’s the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria, where militants from the Islamic State have targeted Palestinian civilians in a reign of terror that Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary-general, has called the 'deepest circle of hell.'
Some have used the Yarmouk tragedy to point out, appropriately so, that the world is relatively silent about the suffering of Palestinians at the hands of ISIS. The point is made that it is only when the Jews can be blamed for what is happening that the international community rises up. Otherwise it couldn’t care less. I reach a similar conclusion but from a different perspective. If the world truly cared about the situation of Palestinian refugees throughout the Middle East, it would not wait for a humanitarian crisis to erupt before acting to fundamentally improve their quality of life and end the circumstances that set the stage for these disasters.
Yes, we know the arguments for maintaining the status quo regarding Palestinian refugees. Many of those Palestinians in the camps await the time they can return to their homes in what is now Israel. This, of course, is a non-starter since it has always been clear that this would lead to the demographic demise of the Jewish state. Without denigrating the motives of many Palestinians who long for their old homes, for the Palestinian leadership, the refugee issue has been a primary vehicle for sustaining the war against Israel.
Then there’s the argument that the refugee camps need to be sustained until the Palestinians achieve a state of their own — and indeed, a Palestinian state should be the first option for the resettlement of Palestinian refugees. But it hasn’t happened yet, mostly because the Palestinian leadership turned down multiple opportunities to create such a state. Yet even without a state, there is no reason why the condition of Palestinian refugees cannot be improved.
All of which points to one inevitable conclusion that the tragedy at Yarmouk should reinforce: The world needs finally to treat the Palestinian refugee issue like the many other refugee situations that have plagued the world over many decades. The goal must be to end their refugee status as soon as possible. There needs to be international pressure on Lebanon, Syria and other Arab states to dismantle these refugee camps and institute an orderly procedure to integrate Palestinian refugees into their societies.
Integration of refugees is always a challenge and one should never underestimate them — particularly in Syria, which is going through its own hell because of President Bashar Assad’s aggression and the brutality of ISIS. But the idea of dismantling the camps and integrating their residents has never been on the agenda. Now it should be introduced, with the understanding that once there is an independent Palestinian state, some of the former refugees, if not most, might consider moving there.
But the most egregious example of this state of affairs is not in Lebanon or Syria, but in the Palestinian territories themselves. Every time I read about an incident in a refugee camp in the West Bank or Gaza, I can’t help but ask myself: Why are there still camps in territories where Palestinians are in control? At least in Syria and Lebanon, one must acknowledge the resistance by ruling governments to integrating these outsiders. But in the territories under Palestinian rule, there are no outsiders and nothing to stand in the way of the immediate dismantling of the camps.
Here, more than anywhere, the cynical motives of Palestinian leadership are apparent. Here, where the ability to transform the lives of people living in camps is in their hands, they do nothing. But that is no excuse for the failure of the international community to act.
Let me be clear: None of this is an effort to sidestep the need for renewal of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians to achieve a two-state solution. That remains an imperative and the best long-term solution for the Palestinians. But for now, to avoid future Yarmouks, to finally take Palestinian refugees out of this nebulous position they’ve been in for decades, a qualitative change in the international approach must take place.
It is not a simple solution, but it is a beginning for a people who have suffered far too long, with the unfortunate acquiescence of the international community."
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