The Associated Press reports: An Israeli state-owned arms company developing a laser-based missile shield that evokes “Star Wars” style technology says its deployment over the country is closer to becoming a reality.
Rafael Advanced Defense Systems said development of the system was advanced enough for the company to be comfortable with publicizing it at this week’s Singapore Airshow, which is Asia’s largest aerospace and defense exhibition.
The laser technology behind the missile shield called Iron Beam is not that far removed from fiction.
“It’s exactly like what you see in Star Wars,” said company spokesman Amit Zimmer. “You see the lasers go up so quickly like a flash and the target is finished.” [Continue reading...]
The Washington Post reports: Just a year ago, Israel and the Gaza Strip’s Hamas rulers fought a lopsided eight-day war in the skies that the United Nations said left more than 160 Palestinians and six Israelis dead.
The period since last November’s cease-fire, though, has been the calmest between the two sides in more than a decade.
Israeli military commanders, although still wary of armed factions in Gaza, offer unexpected praise for Hamas, the Islamist militant and political organization that governs the enclave. Not only have Hamas and its armed military wing shown restraint, the Israeli commanders say, but they also have demonstrated that they can rein in the more radical factions, such as Islamic Jihad, that operate alongside them.
“Hamas was able to prove to us that it can control rocket fire from Gaza,” said Brig. Gen. Mickey Edelstein, commander of the Israeli military’s Gaza division. “This is an achievement.” [Continue reading...]
The Guardian reports: Palestinian civilians are being embroiled in Israeli military training, including mock arrests, raids on private homes and incursions into villages, without being told they are involved in army exercises.
The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) defended the training exercises following complaints from an Israeli human rights group, Yesh Din, about two separate drills held earlier this year. In the first, a large number of troops in full combat gear spread out in a small Palestinian village for several hours, causing alarm and fear among its population. In the second, about 15 armed soldiers raided the house of a family while they were finishing their evening meal during Ramadan. In neither case were residents told that it was a training exercise.
The Palestinians caught up in training drills are not informed in advance that an arrest or raid is an exercise. According to the testimonies of former Israeli soldiers, civilians with no connection with militant activity are usually selected for such exercises. “We used houses, streets, people like cardboard practice targets,” said one. [Continue reading...]
Avner Cohen writes: week is the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, perhaps the most traumatic moment in Israel’s history. On Oct. 7, 1973 — the second day of the war — Israel’s borders along the Suez Canal in the south and the Golan Heights in the north collapsed under a massive assault by a coalition of Arab armies. Israel was caught unprepared.
The previous morning, Oct. 6, Moshe Dayan, Israel’s defense minister and a hero of the 1967 Six-Day War, had been so confident of Israel’s security that he’d opposed mobilizing the entirety of the reserve force, despite intelligence reports indicating that an Arab military offensive was imminent.
Just one day later, after visiting the front lines, Mr. Dayan was transformed into a prophet of doom. In a well-documented episode, he warned his generals of the demise of the “Third Temple,” a reference to the modern state of Israel. Mr. Dayan believed the country was fighting for its survival, and his mind turned to options of last resort. Israel’s nuclear arsenal, which first came into being on the eve of the 1967 war, had by 1973 grown to 10 or 20 atomic weapons. It was Israel’s ultimate insurance policy at a time of existential threat.
In the four decades since the 1973 war, rumors have blossomed that Israel stood at the nuclear brink during that war’s darkest hours. A number of journalists and scholars have asserted that during a dramatic meeting in one of the war’s early days, a panic-stricken Mr. Dayan persuaded the Israeli war cabinet, including the prime minister, Golda Meir, to arm the country’s weapons with warheads for possible use.
Some analysts have even claimed that Israel used this “nuclear alert” to blackmail the Nixon administration into providing Israel with a huge airlift of military supplies. Although these stories were based on anonymous sourcing and circumstantial evidence, they have become a central part of the lore surrounding the Yom Kippur War. Even my own early scholarship was to some degree influenced by this mythology. But in a January 2008 interview I conducted, Arnan Azaryahu, a senior aide to an Israeli cabinet minister at the time of the war, negated and refuted the nearly four-decade-old mythology alleging that Israel almost reached the nuclear brink in 1973. [Continue reading...]
See more interviews at The Avner Cohen Collection.
Israel is very attached to its US-funded Qualitative Military Edge. The idea is that Israel is uniquely vulnerable in a uniquely dangerous neighborhood and the only way it can guarantee its survival is by keeping technologically ahead of its enemies. But there’s another dimension to this that gets far less attention: Israel’s need to perpetuate a climate of war in order to sustain a demand for innovation among the customers of its lucrative arms industry. If regional and global peace were to ever break out, it would be a disaster to Israel’s economy.
At Wired, Amir Mizroch writes: Nano drones that an infantryman can pull out of his pocket; helicopters piloted by robots who extract wounded soldiers from the battlefield; micro satellites on demand; large spy balloons in the upper reaches of the stratosphere; virtual training with a helmet from your office; algorithms that resolve pilots’ ethical dilemmas (so they won’t have to deal with those pesky war crimes tribunals); and farming out code to a network of high school kids.
Since mid-2009, some 300 Israel Air Force officers have been brainstorming about the next steps for one of the world’s most advanced air forces, and the main pillar of Israel’s strategic power. This “IAF 2030″ project has just come to an end. Besides a standard press release issued by the military, little has been disclosed about it. Exclusive details are reported here for the first time.
The task of preparing the project was given to Major Nimrod Segev, head of the IAF’s long-term planning department. Segev divided his 300 officers into nine teams: Advanced Information Technology, Vast Data, Space, Cyber, Environment, Intelligence, Human Factor, Organizational Behavior, and a ‘Red Team,’ to challenge the other eight’s assumptions.
The participants were asked to think ahead — far ahead — something that doesn’t come easy in the military culture here, where long-term planning is almost unheard of. What changes would it have to make in weapons systems, platforms, technology, manpower, and organizational behavior to meet potential new threats? What new planes, guidance systems, and technology would they want? Let loose, the officers were told. Don’t worry about the how and the how much; just let your imaginations go. The air force even brought in Israel’s number one dreamer — President Shimon Peres — to fire their imaginations with a pep talk.
Haaretz reports: Undercover soldiers hurled stones in the “general direction” of IDF soldiers as part of their activity to counter weekly demonstrations in the Palestinian village of Bil’in, the commander of the Israeli Prison Service’s elite “Masada” unit revealed during his recent testimony in the trial of MK Mohammed Barakeh (Hadash).
Barakeh has been charged with assaulting a border guard in Bil’in who was attempting to arrest a demonstrator.
Since 2005, the weekly protests against the separation barrier in Bil’in, which cuts the village off from much of its residents’ land, have attracted international attention as well as the participation of Israeli and international activists.
Several “Masada” fighters testified two weeks ago in Barakeh’s trial in the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s court. The fighters testified from behind a curtain and their identity is to remain secret. The central witness was “Fighter 102,” an officer in “Masada,” who told the court that “we were sent to counter the disruptions at the separation barrier in Bil’in. It was the first time I was undercover. Two men were arrested, they were Palestinians.”
When quizzed by defense attorney Orna Kohn if the undercover soldiers hurled stones, “102″ answered that they did. When asked if he hurled stones toward IDF soldiers, he answered “in the general direction.”
Haaretz reports: On March 23, in the middle of the night, an undercover force of the Duvdevan special-ops unit entered the prosperous and serene Palestinian village of Kafr Ramun, reportedly as part of a training exercise. Three brothers woke up, alarmed, thinking the men outside were thieves, and tried to chase them away with sticks and kitchen knives on the street. Without identifying themselves – the members of this unit operate in the guise of Arabs – the special-ops force fired 11 bullets at the brothers, continuing to shoot even after they were injured. One of the brothers was killed and the other two were severely wounded. The soldiers also kicked one of the brothers, and for a long time prevented all of them from receiving medical attention.
Army Radio initially reported that “terrorists” had tried to stab an Israel Defense Forces soldier; subsequently the IDF announced that the military Criminal Investigation Division would not be looking into the incident.
A few days ago the two surviving brothers were released from a hospital in Israel. They say they are planning to sue the IDF.
The incident would not have occurred if the undercover soldiers had identified themselves to the three men. It also would not have occurred had the IDF refrained from entering a quiet village like Ramun in the middle of the night, ostensibly in order to train among its houses. [Continue reading...]
When video footage showing Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner slamming his rifle into Andreas Ias’ face first went viral, Eisner’s defenders were quick to dispute the evidence. A common refrain was that the clip lacked context, the assumption presumably being that if viewers saw more extended video then Eisner would be exonerated. Well, the context is now available and it turns out Eisner’s unprovoked attack on Ias was one of several caught on video. No wonder the IDF and Israeli government were swift to dismiss the officer rather than dig themselves into a deeper hole trying to defend the indefensible.
Haaretz reports: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday condemned the beating of a pro-Palestinian activist by a senior IDF officer, which was seen in a film posted on YouTube earlier Sunday.
“Such behavior does not characterize IDF soldiers and officers and has no place in the Israel Defense Forces and in the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said.
IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz also commented on the incident in which a senior officer was filmed hitting a leftist activist in the face with an M-16 rifle, saying he sees the incident as very grave.
“The incident does not reflect IDF principles and will be thoroughly investigated,” Gantz said.
On Saturday, a group of some 250 activists, mostly Palestinian youths from the West Bank, went on a bike ride in the Jordan Valley in a silent protest. At a certain point, several dozens of IDF soldiers stopped the activists, and events quickly escalated into a confrontation. IDF soldiers hit the activists and threw their bikes over a tunnel across the road.
In the video, which was posted by the International Solidarity Movement on YouTube on Sunday, Lt.-Col. Shalom Eisner is seen beating youths who took part in a pro-Palestinian bike ride in the Jordan Valley.
One of the volunteers who organized the bike ride said that the soldiers were waiting for the activists and began clashing with them.
Lt.-Col. Eisner was filmed hitting one of the activists in the face with his M-16.
“We did not expect any harassment on the part of the Israeli soldiers, we just came for fun,” one of activists told Haaretz. “I tried to talk to them, to say that we only want to enjoy the beautiful road and the Jordan Valley in the springtime, but we were unsuccessful. The activists were beaten badly, and the officers just told us we couldn’t be in that area.”
Four activists who sustained wounds on their faces and backs were evacuated to a hospital in Jericho, while three more youths who were beaten refused to receive medical care.
Eisner recounted his version of events, and said that the youth that he beat had hit him beforehand, and even broke two of his fingers. He said that the incident lasted two hours, and that the activists were trying to block a road in the Jordan Valley.
Eisner claimed that he carried out his job after two hours of trying to stop lawbreakers.
Palestinian media reported on Saturday on the events that took place during the bike ride. After the video was posted Sunday and showed testimony of what transpired, GOC Central Command Nitzan Alon ordered the IDF to investigate the matter.
As Israel’s top officials try to portray Eisner’s assault as an aberration, it’s worth noting how the incident was treated on Nablus TV which first aired the footage on Saturday.
The attack was only shown midway through their report. For the Palestinian reporters this was just one more example of Israeli brutality that is far from exceptional.
As painful as it must have been for the young Danish activist to have an M-16 slammed in his face, this particular incident is unfortunately relatively minor in the history of the institutionalized violence which provides the foundation for Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land.
Zvi Bar’el writes: Advocates of a strike on Iran couldn’t have hoped for a more convincing performance than the current exchange of fire between Israel and Gaza. “A million Israelis under fire” is only a taste of what is expected when Iran’s nuclear project is completed. When that happens, seven million Israelis will be under the threat of fire and nuclear fallout.
This is what happens when “only” the Islamic Jihad fires Grad rockets, when Hamas stays out of the fight, and when the “miraculous system” that prevents missiles from falling on kindergartens still works. Under the threat of a nuclear Iran, miracles won’t help, and people in Tel Aviv will also be forced to hide in bomb shelters or escape to Eilat.
Here’s the proof: There is no alternative to striking Iran and there is no better time than the present, when the weather permits and world diplomacy is preoccupied with Syria. For Israelis, there is no better proof that no harm will come to them as a result of an attack on Iran than the performance of the Iron Dome anti-rocket system, which has demonstrated a 95% rate of effectiveness. The escalation in Gaza is good for Israel – that is, for that part of Israel that wants to strike Iran.
It is hard to understand what basis there is for the assertion that Israel is not striving to escalate the situation. One could assume that an armed response by the Popular Resistance Committees or Islamic Jihad to Israel’s targeted assassination was taken into account. But did anyone weigh the possibility that the violent reaction could lead to a greater number of Israeli casualties than any terrorist attack that Zuhair al-Qaisi, the secretary-general of the Popular Resistance Committees, could have carried out?
In the absence of a clear answer to that question, one may assume that those who decided to assassinate al-Qaisi once again relied on the “measured response” strategy, in which an Israeli strike draws a reaction, which draws an Israeli counter-reaction. Everything is proportionate, and Israel controls the height of the flames, while proclaiming that “Israel does not seek to escalate the situation.”
Is that so?
And what IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz’s statement a few weeks ago that there will be no alternative to a large-scale operation in Gaza? And what if the Islamic Jihad does not adopt the Israeli strategy and stop firing? Will Gantz’s threat finally materialize, catapulting Israel into a “Cast Lead Two” scenario?
Unlike Israel, Hamas has an understandable interest in putting an end to the escalation, which caught it off guard. The organization is mired in an internal political struggle. After fleeing Syria, its leadership is looking for a new home. The dialogue with Fatah has yet to produce an agreement on a unity government, and its ideological side must deal with the willingness of the Muslim Brotherhood, its ideological umbrella organization, to carry on a dialogue with the U.S. and respect the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel.
Hamas, while it does not fully control the activities of all of the organizations in Gaza, has managed to secure important agreements with most of them, including the Islamic Jihad, which has joined the effort to reconcile with Fatah. Hamas is also dependant on Egypt regarding the passage of civilians through the Rafah Crossing and merchandise through the network of tunnels between the two territories, as well as for the fuel that enables it to provide Gazans with electricity. Even if its leadership was still located in Damascus, Hamas cannot disconnect itself from Egypt and remains shackled to its foreign policy toward Israel.
This dependence on Egypt has managed in the past to produce extended ceasefires which have proven themselves in recent months, especially after the signing of the reconciliation agreement with Fatah, which produced Khaled Meshal’s declarations that Hamas would restrict itself to nonviolent forms of struggle against Israel.
However, it seems that the change in Hamas not only hasn’t convinced Israel, but even stands in the way of its “no partner” policy and could sabotage its efforts to head off the creation of a Palestinian unity government, which would lead to renewed efforts at the UN to secure an independent Palestinian state.
Thus, Hamas must be dragged toward military activity against Israel, and nothing is easier, at least in Israel’s estimation, than to launch a “unilateral” attack against a wanted non-Hamas man, to wait for the response to come, and hope that Hamas joins in.
So far, it hasn’t happened. Hamas still prefers the diplomatic channel and has carried on intensive diplomatic contacts over the past two days with Egypt’s Supreme Military Council. Israel apparently needs to wait for another opportunity. Meanwhile, however, it has already managed to turn the attention of Arab diplomacy away from Syria and toward the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
Assad must be pleased.