The history of nonaggression pacts in Islam

Posted February 21, 2020 by davidking1530
Categories: Uncategorized

Does it matter that Muslim Arabs cannot sign a true peace agreement with Israel? Not as long as Israel recognizes it must remain militarily strong and resolute in defending its culture and borders.

https://www.israelhayom.com/opinions/the-history-of-nonaggression-pacts-in-islam/

The news media is filled with reports that the Arab world – most notably Saudi Arabia and countries in the Persian Gulf, might be prepared to sign a nonaggression pact with Israel. What does this mean, however, from a Muslim perspective?

For countries with strong institutions, agreements are not made between leaders. Meaning that such agreements continue to be valid even if the countries’ governments change.
This is not the case in the Middle East, where with the possible exception of Turkey, agreements are made between leaders, and last as long as those leaders are still in power.

Middle Eastern states are by their very nature authoritarian, even if they appear to have the trappings of democracy – like parliaments, government ministers, etc. If a leader dies or is overthrown, all bets are off. The new leader decides which agreements he will honor.

In essence, in these authoritarian states institutions are by their nature weak, because they are loyal and respond to the leader – not to the people. Regarding Middle Eastern leaders, the late professor Bernard Lewis used to say “the state is their estate.” Meaning that they understand their countries to be their fiefdoms, where they can do pretty much what they want.

In summary, in democratic societies, a “government official” means a person who represents the people vis-à-vis the government. The people empower their governments.

In the Middle East, the Arabic/Turkish/Persian word for government official/bureaucrat is “maamur” or “mu’azif” – which mean “one who is commanded.” But commanded by whom? Answer: Middle Eastern government officials don’t work for the people, they work for and represent the rulers – i.e. a top-down structure.

In Islam, peace as we know it in the West, meaning letting bygones be bygones, cannot exist between Muslims and non-Muslims. According to both the Koran and the Shari’a, there can however be a temporary agreement – a truce or armistice. Such a truce is called a “sulha” or “hudna.” These agreements are modeled after the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, a 628 CE treaty between the Islamic prophet Mohammad and the Quraysh tribe of Mecca, who Mohammad was unable to defeat.

The agreement was to last 10 years, but after only two – when Mohammad had managed to rearm himself sufficiently – he reneged on the agreement, attacked his enemies, and defeated them.

This sulha/hudna agreement is the type of non-aggression pact the Saudis and other Arab Muslim nations seem to be willing to sign with Israel. It is now in their interest to do so because their existential enemy is Iran, an enemy which they share with Israel.

Any agreement they sign with the Israelis must be understood in these terms. These are not peace agreements; they remain in force only as long as the leaders of these Arab countries believe it in their interest.

What would happen, for example, if the Iranian regime collapsed and the new government in Iran no longer threatened the Sunni Arab regimes? Would Israel and these Arab countries still share common interests? Would these agreements still hold? Can Muslim leaders recognize Israel as a Jewish state with the right to live within borders on land once conquered by Muslims?

What does history teach us here?

1.

At the 1949 Rhodes conference after Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, the Arabs insisted on calling their treaties with Israel “armistice agreements” – not peace agreements. They further insisted that the lines drawn on the map which divided Israeli-controlled territory from territory controlled by the Arabs be defined as “armistice lines” – not borders. Borders and peace agreements imply permanence and an end to war; the Arabs could not agree to either. From a Muslim-Arab perspective, all of pre-1948 Palestine was Muslim land. Thus, they could not agree to permanent borders or peace.

PLO leader Yasser Arafat, two weeks after he signed the Oslo agreements with Israel, was in South Africa speaking to Muslims. He was recorded telling them that the agreement he signed with Israel was like the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah their prophet had signed with his enemies the Quraysh. Everyone understood the reference and the meaning – Arafat would break the agreement as soon as it became possible to do so.

2.

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, upon returning to Egypt after signing an agreement with the Israelis on the White House lawn, told his people he had done what he did for the good of Egypt. Egypt needed its resources to build itself up, and must not waste them on battles Egypt was certain to lose, he said. Sadat ended his speech by saying: what will happen in the future will happen in the future – meaning, this was a temporary agreement until Egypt could regroup – which could last as long as needed. Even so, some in Egypt saw this as treachery, which is why they assassinated him.

3.

In 2000, President Bill Clinton hosted then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Arafat at a Camp David. The stated goal going into the summit was to come to an agreement which would end the Arab-Israeli conflict. Barak offered Arafat almost every square inch of eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank if Arafat would sign a peace agreement with Israel. Arafat instantly rejected Barak’s offer, saying “that he [Arafat] would not have tea with Sadat.” Arafat knew that if he signed such an agreement, he too would be labeled a “traitor” and likely assassinated.

There are no permanent agreements between Muslims and non-Muslims, and certainly not over land that Muslims believe is theirs.

So, what does the above tell us about any possible nonaggression pacts between Israel and Arab countries? The Arab countries in question are all ruled by Sunni Muslims. All are authoritarian. All are in the same boat as the Arab leaders in the examples mentioned above. They cannot agree to permanent peace with Israel. Almost all Muslim scholars agree that once a territory is conquered by Muslims, it must remain under Muslim rule forever. Non-Muslims – i.e., Christians, Jews and others who received a revelation from God prior to Islam can live under Islamic rule, but do not have the right to rule any territory that has ever been conquered by Muslims.

Today’s Israel was conquered by Muslims in 637-38 CE, and thus according to Islam must be ruled by Muslims forever. The Saudis, Morocco and any other Arab Muslim countries therefore cannot sign permanent peace agreements with Israel. Neither, for that matter, can Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas. Hamas’s charter explicitly calls all of pre-1948 Mandatory Palestine a Muslim waqf – which means it belongs to Allah forever.

No Muslim can recognize Israel’s permanent right to exist because it is a Jewish state, ruled by Jews, which contradicts Islam. Any Muslim that recognized Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state on Muslim land would be labeled a “traitor” and suffer the same fate as Sadat. So the best we could hope for is a temporary non-aggression pact between Israel and its Muslim neighbors.

Does it matter that the Muslim Arabs cannot sign a true peace agreement with Israel? As long as Israel recognizes that it must remain militarily strong and resolute in defending its culture and borders, it should be fine.

Nonaggression pacts or peace treaties notwithstanding, as long as the Muslims realize that Israel is here to stay and will defend itself at whatever cost, non-aggression pacts or truces will be fine. But no one should delude himself into believing that any agreement between the Arabs and Israel will ever be like the peaceful relationship between, say, the United States and Canada. That could only happen if there is a thought revolution in Islam, something that seems unlikely for the foreseeable future.

Egypt builds a wall on border with Gaza Read

Posted February 21, 2020 by davidking1530
Categories: Uncategorized

https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/02/egypt-builds-new-barrier-to-boost-border-security-gaza-strip.html

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Maj. Gen. Ahmed Abdel Khalek, the Egyptian intelligence officer in charge of Cairo’s Palestinian portfolio, arrived in the Gaza Strip Feb. 10 as head of an Egyptian security delegation that made a field trip along the Egyptian-Gazan border as part of the new Egyptian preparations to boost border security and prevent extremists from entering the Sinai Peninsula from the Gaza Strip. The delegation also met with Hamas’ leadership in the Gaza Strip.

Speaking to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, tribal sources in the northern Sinai Peninsula stated that on Jan. 27 Egyptian armed forces embarked on the first phase of building a 2-kilometer-long barrier on the border with the Gaza Strip, starting from the Kerem Shalom crossing to the Rafah border crossing. Such a step went unannounced by the Egyptian armed forces, the sources added.

They explained that the 6-meter-high barrier is made of reinforced concrete and goes 5 meters under the ground. It consists of a second barrier parallel to the old rock barrier built in early 2008 on the border with the Gaza Strip, separated by a distance not exceeding 10 meters. The barrier is designed to block the entry of gunmen from the Gaza Strip into Sinai and shut down the remaining Palestinian cross-border tunnels.

The sources said the second and last phase involves building the barrier along unspecified segments of the border that Egyptian armed forces appraise as vulnerable or where underground tunnels are suspected. The sources anticipate completion of the barrier would drag out until mid-2020.

Egyptian armed forces announced Feb. 3 “having found south of the Rafah security camps’ yard a nearly 3-kilometer-long [underground] tunnel coming from the Gaza Strip to the heart of the [Egyptian border city of] Rafah,” Palestine’s Maan News Agency reported the same day.

Maan News quoted Egyptian security sources as saying that “the tunnel serves as [an underground means] for the infiltration of terrorists from the Gaza Strip, planting [roadside bombs] in the Egyptian side, pushing terrorist [Islamic State] supporters to Sinai, and for the transfer of arms and explosives. Ammunition and explosives were seized in the tunnel.”

Egyptian armed forces announced having discovered the tunnel a few hours after five Egyptian soldiers were killed and others were wounded Feb. 3 in a roadside bomb south of the town of Sheikh Zuweid, which borders the Gaza Strip.

Previously, there were multiple Egyptian measures to close the Palestinian tunnels, including a buffer zone along the 14-kilometer-long Egyptian-Gazan border in October 2014. The 500-meter-deep buffer zone set up on the Egyptian side was expanded to 1,500 meters deep into the Egyptian side in October 2017.

Such an Egyptian policy managed to close and destroy hundreds of border underground tunnels and caused Hamas a stifling financial crisis that has been ongoing to date.

The recent developments on the border coincided with US President Donald Trump announcing Jan. 28 his Mideast peace plan, which assigns to the Palestinians new lands adjacent to Sinai in Israel.

Mohammed Abu Harbeed, an expert on security affairs at the Interior Ministry in the Gaza Strip, told Al-Monitor, “The construction of this barrier was highly coordinated with Hamas and the Gaza Interior Ministry. It is designed to bring about better security on [both] sides of the border.”

He explained that all of the security measures Egyptian authorities made, including building the barrier, serve the interests of both sides. Ending contraband, including the smuggling of drugs from Sinai to the Gaza Strip, and preventing the infiltration of extremists from and into the Gaza Strip are what Hamas seeks as well, Abu Harbeed added.

He did not find it strange that Egyptian armed forces discovered a Palestinian tunnel on the border with the Gaza Strip. “Prior to the Egyptian army’s crackdown on the tunnels in October 2014, there were hundreds of tunnels underneath the Egyptian-Palestinian border — some of which were wide enough for the smuggling of cars. Yet the number of tunnels has become small following the Egyptian crackdown. The [remaining] tunnels are unknown and are run by individuals who are smuggling goods from Egypt to the Gaza Strip with the intent to evade customs duties or contraband such as drugs,” said Abu Harbeed.

He affirmed that the Gaza Interior Ministry does not see a need for these tunnels as long as Egypt opens the Rafah border crossing to Gazans, adding that the ministry is preventing any attempt to dig any new tunnels.

On the Palestinian side, Hamas took multiple measures to promote border security and prevent any infiltration attempt into Egypt. On June 28, 2017, it set up a 100-meter-wide buffer zone into the Palestinian side.

Iyad al-Qara, a political analyst and journalist for the Hamas-affiliated Felesteen newspaper in Gaza, told Al-Monitor that “in the past years, Hamas worked on boosting security on the border with Egypt, deploying dozens of its members and a series of observation towers and surveillance cameras mounted on the towers along the border to prevent infiltration attempts from the Gaza Strip into Egypt.”

The Gaza Interior Ministry announced Nov. 14 thwarting an infiltration attempt by three Islamic State supporters from Gaza to Egypt.

Qara perceived that the Egyptian and Palestinian sides agreed on the construction of the barrier at their meetings in early 2018, noting that the arrival of an Egyptian security delegation in the Gaza Strip to inspect the border at this time points to this agreement.

He indicated that Hamas in the Gaza Strip has great interest in securing the border with Egypt “because bringing about security in Sinai will be positively reflected on the Gazan security.”

Talal Okal, a political writer for the West Bank-based newspaper Al-Ayyam, told Al-Monitor that Hamas hears the Egyptian concerns about the infiltration of extremists from the Gaza Strip into Sinai. He said this is particularly true since such extremists do not find the Gaza Strip to be a favorable environment, given that Hamas opposes the presence of extremist organizations that have religious motives behind espousing conflicts.

Okal ruled out the possibility of a correlation between the construction of the barrier and the deal of the century. He said, “I do not think that the construction of this barrier has anything to do with the deal of the century in any way. It is a security, not a political, measure.”

Iran’s Khamenei says ‘Zionist-controlled’ US government will sink like Titanic 

Posted February 20, 2020 by Joseph Wouk
Categories: Uncategorized

Source: Iran’s Khamenei says ‘Zionist-controlled’ US government will sink like Titanic | The Times of Israel

Supreme leader appears to quote progressive Democratic talking points, says most of US riches going to a few billionaires while ordinary Americans suffer

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani walks past a portrait of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as he arrives for a news conference in the capital Tehran, on February 16, 2020.(Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP)

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday said the United States will sink like the “Titanic,” blaming it on “wealthy Zionist individuals and corporate owners” who he said controlled the US economy.

In a long series of tweets, Khamenei said the strength of the US economy was a “facade” and appeared to quote  progressive Democrats saying that US President Donald Trump was overseeing the transfer of US wealth to a few billionaires.

“Today, the epitome of rebellion, arrogance and tyranny is the US government, which is controlled by the wealthy Zionist individuals and corporate owners,” Khamenei tweeted.

“In the same way that the glory and splendor of the famous #Titanic ship did not prevent her from sinking, the apparent glory & splendor of the US won’t prevent it from sinking. And, the US will sink,” he said.

Khamenei took aim at Trump’s economic policies, which the president often touts as one of his greatest accomplishments, noting that markets are at record highs and and the unemployment rate is at its lowest  in decades.

“The current US President claims he has improved the economic situation there. Others say yes, it’s become better, but only for the billionaires, not for the people of the US,” Khamenei said.

Without mentioning names, Khamenei appeared to cite Democratic candidates like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren.

“These aren’t my words, but the words of a member of the U.S. ruling body. He says over $100B has been added to the wealth of the 5 richest people in the US in the 3 years of Trump’s presidency. 3 of them own wealth equal to half the US population. Look at this social gap!

Khamenei.ir@khamenei_ir

Khamenei’s comments come as Iran gears up for a crucial parliamentary election in two days, with many people in the country feeling that their lives have been crippled by an economic slump exacerbated by harsh US sanctions since Trump pulled the United States out of a landmark nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic in 2018.

Conservatives are expected to make an overwhelming resurgence in Friday’s vote, which comes after months of steeply escalating tensions between Iran and its decades-old arch foe the United States.

Their gains would be made at the expense of those who back President Hassan Rouhani, a relatively moderate conservative who was re-elected in 2017 promising people more freedoms and the benefits of engagement with the West.

Rouhani urged people to go and vote, saying that taking part would give Iran the “strength and unity” needed in its stand against the United States.

“We are going to the polls to choose the best people for parliament, which is a very important institution,” he said in televised remarks after a meeting of his cabinet.

“We are under severe sanctions and pressure by the global arrogance, and we have to break these sanctions and improve people’s lives,” he added, referring to the United States.

People withraw money from an automated teller machine in the Iranian capital Tehran’s grand bazaar on November 3, 2018. (ATTA KENARE / AFP)

“Sanctions are a terrorist and tyrannical act against Iran.

“One cannot say sanctions have no effect and the government should be doing more… It’s lies, it’s supporting America.”

Iran’s electoral watchdog on Wednesday defended its decision to disqualify thousands of candidates from the vote.

The Interior Ministry said around half of the 16,033 hopefuls would contest the election after the Guardian Council barred thousands, most of them relative moderates and reformists.

But the Council said it was “neutral” in its dealings with all political camps and acted in accordance with the law when it blocked their candidacy.

“The Guardian Council follows the laws and regulations parliament has passed at different times,” said its spokesman Abbas Ali Kadkhodaee.

 

Israel’s Merkava Tank: The Toughest Tank on the Planet?

Posted February 20, 2020 by Joseph Wouk
Categories: Uncategorized

 

Israel’s Merkava Tank: The Toughest Tank on the Planet?

The Merkava tank is sometimes called the most survivable tank in the world. The reasons given usually include its active protection system, forward engine design, urban warfare specific modifications, and thick armor. But do these claims hold up to scrutiny?

The Merkava was designed in the 1970s following the failure to purchase Chieftain tanks from the United Kingdom. Originally designed to duke it out with Soviet tanks in the deserts surrounding Israel, the tank was laid out in a rather unorthodox manner compared to contemporary Western and Soviet tanks, featuring a design more akin to some infantry fighting vehicles. Instead of having the engine at the rear, the engine was moved in front of the crew compartment, with the turret placed further back on the chassis.

The result was that the front armor could be more gradually sloped, and the crew could enter and exit the tank quickly from the rear.

However, this comes with the drawback of having the engine more easily disabled, as any penetrating front hit will disable it. Israeli doctrine prioritizes the survivability of the crew in an engagement, so in the event of a disabling hit the crew will bail out rapidly through the rear hatch if the situation allows. On the other hand, a penetrating frontal hit on a western tank will likely leave the tank still mobile.

While the question of whether a tank crew would stay in a tank or not after a penetrating hit is up for a lot of debate, there are instances where mobility will increase the survivability of the crew, primarily in a fighting disengagement where the tank might be surrounded. In an engagement where an attack is succeeding (which to be fair to the Israeli Defense Forces, is likely in most of their post-1970s conflicts), the Merkava’s design makes sense, but for a European army expecting to hold against a Soviet or later a Russian advance, a mobility kill might be a far bigger deal.

Syria: latest developments – Jerusalem Studio 489 

Posted February 19, 2020 by Joseph Wouk
Categories: Uncategorized

 

 

Netanyahu Says Work on Annexation Map Has Begun: ‘We Are Turning Parts of the Homeland in Judea and Samaria Into Part of the State of Israel Forever’

Posted February 19, 2020 by davidking1530
Categories: Uncategorized

I’ll believe it when it happens.

Sorry, if it happens…

Netanyahu Says Work on Annexation Map Has Begun: ‘We Are Turning Parts of the Homeland in Judea and Samaria Into Part of the State of Israel Forever’

Israel’s government has established a team to map out areas of the West Bank that it will annex in accordance with President Donald Trump’s recently released peace plan, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday.

Speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said, “In recent weeks, we brought enormous news for the State of Israel and the Land of Israel. My friend President Trump clearly stated that he would recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, the northern Dead Sea, and all Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, as well as a broad area encompassing them.”

“We have formed an Israeli team to work with the American team on the work of mapping, which has already begun — it is underway,” Netanyahu announced.

The team, he said, includes Minister of Tourism and Aliyah and Integration Yariv Levin, National Security Council chief Meir Ben-Shabbat, and the Prime Minister’s Office Director-General Ronen Peretz, with assistance from the Israeli Ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer.

“This team will work closely with settlement and, of course, security officials in order to complete the work quickly,” Netanyahu said.

“For their part, the Americans will work with us,” he added. “We will complete the work as quickly as possible.”

“We are turning parts of the homeland in Judea and Samaria into part of the State of Israel forever,” the prime minister declared.

The Trump peace plan, which has already been rejected by the Palestinians, provides for Israeli annexation of almost all current Jewish settlements in the West Bank, or Judea and Samaria as the area is referred to in Hebrew.

This includes annexation of Israeli enclaves deep in West Bank territory, which is fiercely opposed by the Palestinians. In previous negotiations, the Palestinians have been offered over 90% of the West Bank, but turned it down. Under Trump’s plan, they would receive 70% of the territory, with Israel annexing the rest.

While most observers, whether supportive or not, view the Trump plan as the most generous toward Israel ever offered, settler leaders have been disappointed that Netanyahu did not immediately annex the territories guaranteed under the plan.

While US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman intimated that Israel was free to annex the territory following the release of the plan, Netanyahu backed off the idea, reportedly under pressure from the White House.

With ‘suicide drones’ and rocket attacks, Navy simulates war with Hezbollah 

Posted February 17, 2020 by Joseph Wouk
Categories: Uncategorized

Source: With ‘suicide drones’ and rocket attacks, Navy simulates war with Hezbollah | The Times of Israel

Times of Israel joins the 3rd Flotilla of missile ships as it holds an exercise preparing for possible conflict off the northern coast

Israeli sailors prepare to fire a machine gun during a naval exercise off the coast of the northern Israeli city of Haifa on February 3, 2020. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)

Israeli sailors prepare to fire a machine gun during a naval exercise off the coast of the northern Israeli city of Haifa on February 3, 2020. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)

ABOARD THE I.N.S. KESHET — In the next conflict with the Hezbollah terror group, Israel’s Navy knows that one of its main goals will be to protect Israel’s burgeoning natural gas infrastructure and shipping in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.

Hezbollah has long identified the maritime platforms as a potential target for attack, with verbal threats by the terror group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah and his deputies over the years, as well as ominous videos and graphics putting the structures in cross-hairs.

Moreover, the military assumes that the terror group possesses the capabilities necessary to carry out those threats and stage potentially successful attacks not only on the gas platforms but on the commercial shipping lanes that bring in nearly all of Israel’s imported goods.

Last week, the navy’s 3rd Flotilla of missile ships — known in Hebrew by the acronym satilim — simulated such a war with a week-long exercise at sea, including deadly missile strikes on Israeli vessels, attempted suicide boat bombings and drone attacks.

Lt. Col. Guy Barak, commander of the 34th Anti-Submarine Squadron, onboard the INS Keshet during a naval exercise off Israel’s northern coast in February 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

“We assume [Hezbollah] will try to attack on the maritime front. They see it as a very important arena,” Lt. Col. Guy Barak, commander of the 34th Anti-Submarine Squadron, told The Times of Israel, on board the INS Keshet, a 67-meter (220-foot) Sa’ar 4.5-model “submarine hunter” missile ship, during the second day of the five-day drill.

“With an enemy like Hezbollah, a surprise can come on the tenth day of a war or within the first hour,” he said. “So we have to know how to go from zero to 60 fast.”

Barak declined to comment on the specific types of weapons that the IDF believes the Tehran-backed Hezbollah has in its arsenals, but said generally that this included shore-to-sea missiles, suicide drones, submarine capabilities and others.

“We have to think that whatever Iran has, Hezbollah — and Hamas — can also have,” he said.

An image from a video by the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah threatening to attack Israeli offshore gas platforms. (Screen capture)

Barak said the military is both directly tracking Hezbollah’s weapons development closely and also making assessments based on the “vectors” that the terror group was already on.

In the 2006 Second Lebanon War, Hezbollah forces fired an anti-ship missile at the INS Hanit that killed four Israeli soldiers — one of the most significant, and in Israel, infamous, events of the 34-day conflict.

The strike on the Hanit on July 14 crippled the ship but did not destroy it. It was the first direct strike on an Israeli warship in decades and Hezbollah celebrated it as among its biggest victories of the war.

Though much of the exercise was conducted virtually, one aspect that was simulated with live fire was an attack by a “suicide drone” packed with explosives, a weapon that Hezbollah and other Iran-backed militias are known to have.

A civilian company was brought in to fly a Styrofoam glider around the participating ships, as machine gunners tried to shoot them down.

On board the INS Keshet, it took 94 bullets from one of the ship’s .50-caliber machine gun to send the drone crashing into the sea.

An Israeli sailor prepares to fire a machine gun during a naval exercise off Israel’s northern coast in February 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

Asked why only one drone was used in the operation, when it’s possible a swarm of them could actually be used in a future war, Barak recognized that this was true not only of drones but of all aspects of the exercise, and that the decision to only use one was something of an arbitrary one.

“It can be one suicide boat or several, one drone or several, one rocket or several,” he said.

Israel is an island

Though surrounded on three sides by land, the State of Israel effectively functions as an island economy, importing and exporting nearly all of its goods through the sea — rather than by land — making the maritime arena one of critical value to the normal functioning of the country. The recent discovery of natural gas reserves in Israel’s territorial waters and the construction of one extraction platform in easy view of northern Israeli coastal communities has only added to the importance to the sea.

To assist in defending these new resources, the Israeli military has purchased four Sa’ar 6-model missile ships to be delivered beginning next year that will come equipped with two Iron Dome air defense batteries to defend the natural gas platforms from missile and rocket attacks.

An Israeli Navy Sa’ar 5 corvette defends a natural gas extraction platform off Israel’s coast, in an undated photograph. (Israel Defense Forces)

In the meantime, the Israeli Navy is protecting the extraction platforms with slightly smaller Sa’ar 5-model missile ships, also equipped with Iron Dome batteries.

In addition to their strategic importance to the State of Israel, these platforms also represent a highly visible targets for Hezbollah, which could provide it with what military officials refer to as a “victory picture,” like the Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima from World War II or the Israeli paratroopers at the Western Wall from the 1967 Six Day War. A massive fireball erupting out of the extraction rig less than 10 kilometers from the Israeli shore could serve a similar function for Hezbollah.

“But that’s less my concern,” Barak said. “My concern is defending national infrastructure installations — regardless of how things look.”

Israeli sailors take part in a naval exercise off Israel’s northern coast in February 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

To accomplish this task, Israel’s missile ships are equipped with a dizzying array of sensors and detection systems — radar, sonar, electro-optical and more — active defense systems that can intercept incoming attacks, as well as ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore missiles.

While other navies around the world maintain fleets of different varieties of ships capable of performing specific tasks and mission, Barak said, “we need our missile ships to do everything.”

All of these systems are controlled from the warships’ combat information center — known in Hebrew by the acronym MIK, or Merkaz Yediyat Krav — a pitch black, cramped room in the belly of the vessel whose walls are covered in a myriad of screens and information panels.

Barak said these detection systems and weapons make the missile ships critical for defensive and offensive operations “not just on the sea, but above it and below it.”

However, he stressed, the navy cannot use these tools solely for the maritime front and must serve an integral part of the overall war effort.

Naval officials often point to the case of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, in which the military’s air and ground forces suffered heavy losses while the navy performed far better. Despite the navy’s significant successes on its front, the war in general is seen as having been far less than a decisive victory for Israel.

An ultra-Orthodox Israeli sailor holds a rifle during a naval exercise off Israel’s northern coast in February 2020. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)

“It’s no longer the military telling the navy, ‘Just keep the sea clean,’” he said.

Barak said the navy, especially the 3rd Flotilla and the 7th Flotilla of submarines, does have a slightly different mindset than the rest of the military, as the vessels they use are not only war machines, but also their homes, on which they can remain for extended periods of time.

“The sailors see this as their house and the other crew members as their family, so when they fight, they’re fighting for their home,” he said. “We go out to war and we come back when we’ve won. We don’t know for how long.”

Despite this singular quality, the navy works closely with the other branches of the IDF, especially the Israeli Air Force, Barak said, giving the specific example of the air force-operated Iron Dome batteries on board navy ships.

But in order to maintain the ability to fight more traditional naval warfare, last week’s exercise also included fleet-on-fleet combat.

The drill also simulated the death of the captain of the INS Romach from the direct strike of a Hezbollah rocket, fires and flooding onboard ships, emergency helicopter evacuations and other emergencies.

“The exercise took the commanders to extremes and tested their functioning under pressure,” the military said.

The 3rd Flotilla’s ship-to-shore missiles and other weaponry ensures that it will also play an active role in any future war against Hezbollah in Lebanon, as it did in the 2006 Second Lebanon War and against Hamas in Gaza in the 2014 conflict there.

“Hezbollah knows that if an all-out war breaks out, the IDF will display force like never before, and that will include a ‘punch’ from the sea from the 3rd Flotilla,” Barak said.