Archive for June 10, 2018

i24NEWS – With Iran on its doorstep, Israel kicks off surprise military drill in north

June 10, 2018

Source: i24NEWS – With Iran on its doorstep, Israel kicks off surprise military drill in nort

Un soldat israélien court pour diriger un véhicule blindé près de la frontière syrienne dans la partie du Golan occupée par Israël le 10 mai 2018 
JALAA MAREY (AFP)

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) kicked off a surprise military exercise in the northern Golan Heights region on Sunday, as Iranian and Iranian-backed forces were reportedly continuing to build along the Israel-Syria border.

“A short while ago, a large-scale surprise military exercise began in the Golan Heights area,” the army said in a statement, adding that it had activated a call-up of reservists as part of the drill.

The status of Iranian forces near the Israeli border has been the subject of numerous conflicting reports in recent weeks, with Israel urging Russia to convince its ally in Tehran to withdraw its forces from the area.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday, however, that Iranian and Hezbollah forces have again swept into the Daraa and Quneitra provinces near the Israeli-held Golan Heights, but this time wearing Syrian army uniforms and bearing Syrian government flags.

Several rebel commanders in the region who spoke to the US paper said many of the convoys contained rockets and missiles, likely to spark concern in Israel, which came under attack last month from some 32 rockets it said were fired by Iran.

JACK GUEZ (AFP)
An Israeli Air Force F-35 Lightning II fighter jet is seen at an air show at the Hatzerim air base in the Negev desert on December 27, 2017.
JACK GUEZ (AFP)

The military insisted that the drill was not connected to current developments along the northern front, but rather was “planned in advance as part of the 2018 training schedule.”

IDF units participating in the drill were not told of the exercise in advance, however, in order to test their reaction and conduct for an actual surprise breakout of violence.

The army said that residents of the Golan Heights could expect some explosions to sound as well as an increase in troop movements in the area.

Israel has repeatedly warned it will not accept an entrenched Iranian presence in Syria and is suspected to have carried out numerous raids on Syrian government positions over the years, and last month announced unprecedented strikes on what it said were Tehran-operated bases in Syria.

According to Israeli and independent assessments, there are thousands of foreign pro-government fighters in Syria at Iran’s behest, chiefly drawn from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, which all have large Shia communities.

Iranian officials have not denied their forces were pulling out of the region bordering Israel, but have insisted they are in Syria for the long haul.

Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah has also fought alongside the military of President Bashar Al-Assad ever since an uprising against his family’s decades-long rule slid into a civil war that has raged for some seven years.

What Trump’s Withdrawal From the Iran Nuclear Deal Means for Israel 

June 10, 2018

Source: What Trump’s Withdrawal From the Iran Nuclear Deal Means for Israel – The Atlantic

President Trump meets with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office on March 5, 2018.KEVIN LAMARQUE / REUTERS
President Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal has left Israel to reassess its policy toward Iran—and how to advance its key national-security objectives: preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, thwarting Iran’s aspirations for hegemony, changing the fundamentally hostile and radical orientation of the regime, and preventing future military conflict. The deal made some progress on the first two fronts—delaying Iran’s nuclear-weapons program by more than a decade, and preventing war from breaking out in the near term—but failed on the other two metrics, fortifying the regime and giving it a free hand to build and use its conventional forces.
Tehran made better use of the time bought by the agreement, expanding its conventional capabilities to the point that its advanced missiles and militias have become nearly as dangerous as its, momentarily halted, nuclear threat. In fact, they are complementary components in a unified Iranian strategy to establish two mutually reinforcing strategic forces: the build-up of formidable conventional forces to guarantee impunity in the development of nuclear weapons, and the acquisition of a nuclear umbrella to support the expansion of conventional offensive capabilities throughout the region. And the post-deal influx of funds did not moderate Iran’s regional policies as some of the agreement’s architects had hoped, but instead allowed it to better fund them.

In Syria, for example, Iran sought to prepare for the deal’s sunset by building up a conventional threat that could hold Tel Aviv hostage, just as North Korea has done with Seoul. That would take the military option for forestalling its nuclear program off the table for the U.S. and its allies. Tehran did so by deploying precise ballistic missiles, advanced anti-aircraft systems capable of threatening Israeli air traffic, stealth drones, and anti-ship missiles; training and deploying Shia infantry divisions recruited from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq; and building terror infrastructure for use against Israel in the Golan. And Iran acted with a sense of impunity because, it reasoned, no U.S. president would risk a nuclear arms-control agreement in order to push back on conventional activities.

President Trump’s withdrawal from the deal—the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—leaves Israel to try to advance these same strategic objectives on a very different geopolitical landscape. It now faces four potential scenarios, based on how Iran may plausibly respond to the U.S. withdrawal.

It’s possible that the JCPOA will survive, with the Iranians remaining in the agreement and trying to minimize the effects of sanctions in an effort to retain ties with Europe, China, and Russia. Assuming that the United States would take no significant action beyond withdrawal, such as resurrecting crippling financial sanctions on Iran, this scenario would not differ dramatically from the period during which America was a party to the deal.

If Washington finds itself on the sidelines of an agreement between the P4+1 and Iran, though, it will have to find a different means of achieving its goals. Israel, the U.S., and Saudi Arabia could reach a “parallel agreement” on a plan of action focusing primarily on the issues that led Washington to withdraw from the deal, including both Iran’s harmful non-nuclear activities and the danger posed by the expiration of restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program.

Alternatively, perhaps Iran will concede. Rigorously enforced U.S. sanctions during a period of economic instability in Iran, along with the credible threat of a military strike, may bring Tehran back to the negotiating table to make a “better deal.” Israel should insist that any such agreement include permanent restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activity, allow for more intrusive nuclear inspections, and cover Iran’s malign non-nuclear activity in the region as well as its ballistic missile program. In his recent declaration regarding U.S. strategy vis-à-vis Iran, newly appointed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared those objectives among the many that the U.S. intends to achieve. If Washington succeeds in striking an agreement according to the demands it has outlined, it would be a major success by all of Israel’s national-security parameters. Of course, it is also worth noting that despite the appeal of a more comprehensive deal, some White House officials appear to be holding out hope that U.S. pressure goes even further and pushes the Iranian regime to collapse.

The American withdrawal from the JCPOA, however, can also lead to far more dangerous scenarios. Iran, for example, could leave the agreement to return to pre-2013 enrichment activity; Supreme Leader Khamenei has already orderedthe Atomic Energy Organization of Iran to prepare for increased enrichment and “other” unspecified arrangements earlier this week. In this case, within a few years Iran will have reached nuclear capabilities that would have taken over a decade to achieve under the JCPOA. The Europeans and Americans may agree on the need to respond and impose harsh sanctions on Iran, but because Iran remains under the constraints of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), any further steps, including military or covert action to stop Iran’s advances, would have to be very carefully considered. Actions to restrain Iran would obtain only limited international legitimacy, because the U.S. instigated the collapse of a deal that would have achieved that restraint, albeit temporarily.

In those circumstances, to avoid an unintended war while still preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, the United States and Israel would need to demarcate a clear red line that Iran’s nuclear program would not be allowed to cross. In contrast to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s position in 2012, the red line should not focus only on enrichment levels, but also the enrichment of large quantities of uranium to a low level or spinning a large number of centrifuges, two alternative routes that could bring Iran within a short breakout period to the bomb.

And then, there’s the worst-case scenario. Iran may adopt an extreme response to the change in U.S. policy, leaving the JCPOA and NPT and then breaking out to a bomb. That would raise the chances of military confrontation.

Military action to prevent the Ayatollahs from acquiring a nuclear weapon would have much broader diplomatic support than in the previous scenario in the U.S. as well as Europe. However, Israel would be well-advised to note that Trump’s explicit promise to reduce U.S. involvement in the Middle East makes him less likely to order U.S. forces to strike. In this case, Israel would probably find itself acting alone, albeit with a “green light” and support from Washington. Israel would have to consider exercising the Begin Doctrine, which calls for preventing any regime that seeks to wipe it off the map from acquiring nuclear weapons. One of us—Amos Yadlin—participated in two strikes on nuclear reactors, as a pilot in the 1981 attack on the Osirak site in Iraq, and as chief of military intelligence during the 2007 strike on the Al Kibar site in Syria. Israel might now be forced to contemplate a third.

The key for Israel, in such a scenario, would be finding ways to avoid further escalation. Fear that a strike could spiral into a wider war is what prompted the Obama administration to warn Israel not to strike. But a surgical strike could actually provide a middle ground between inaction and escalation to full-scale war. And if Israel can obtain full-fledged and public support from Washington and endorsements in private from the Sunni Arab leadership, it may be able to deter Iran from retaliating and escalating the conflict.

These four scenarios are unlikely to emerge immediately and all together, but rather they will take shape in two successive stages. For the remainder of 2018, all parties will seek to determine the actual effects of U.S. reimposition of sanctions, and so the first two scenarios will be on the table. In the year that follows, if the deal collapses and Iran proves unwilling to sign a new agreement, Tehran will likely adopt more defiant and dangerous policies, bringing the latter two scenarios into play.

With or without an agreement, the U.S. and Israel will need to prepare to take on Iran on both fronts without losing sight of Israel’s primary objectives: keeping nuclear weapons out of the regime’s hands, halting Tehran’s aggressive actions in the region, preventing war, and changing the hostile orientation of the regime toward the West, the Arabs, and Israel. Achieving that last goal could have the added benefit of presenting Israelis and Iranians with the historic opportunity to renew the long-standing ties that existed between the Jewish and Persian peoples until 1979.

AMOS YADLIN is the director of Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies. He is a retired major general in the Israeli Defense Force and the former chief of Israeli defense intelligence.

Poll shows deep divisions between Israeli and U.S. Jews 

June 10, 2018

Source: Poll shows deep divisions between Israeli and U.S. Jews – Israel Hayom

( Blinded by leftist ideology spread by Democrats and the MSM – JW )

Israel can never be allowed to feel safe, Iranian ‎president says 

June 10, 2018

Source: Israel can never be allowed to feel safe, Iranian ‎president says ‎ – Israel Hayom

PM says he secured ‘broad agreement’ Iran must quit Syria

June 10, 2018

Source: PM says he secured ‘broad agreement’ Iran must quit Syria – Israel Hayom

Iran’s fighting force in Gaza is the one calling and firing the shots 

June 10, 2018

Source: Iran’s fighting force in Gaza is the one calling and firing the shots – Iran – Haaretz.com

Hamas may rule the Strip, but it’s Islamic Jihad that will determine whether rockets are directed at Israel

Palestinian gunmen attend the the funeral of Islamic Jihad militants who were killed in an explosion, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on April 15.
Palestinian gunmen attend the the funeral of Islamic Jihad militants who were killed in an explosion, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on April 15.Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

Hamas did in fact take control of the recent demonstration on the Gaza border with Israel but it is not the only party responsible for the subsequent escalation in Gaza – or for putting a stop to it. Hamas may finance, direct and decide the level of intensity of the border protests, but to a large extent it is Islamic Jihad that will determine whether the confrontation with Israel remains along the border — or escalates into the firing of mortar shells and rockets over the border.

In recent years, members of Islamic Jihad have managed to create clear rules of the game vis-à-vis the Israeli army. Unlike Hamas, which is also responsible for the civilian population in Gaza and has political ambitions, Islamic Jihad is committed to nothing other than armed confrontation with Israel. It therefore dictates how the Israel Defense Forces conducts itself: Any incident in which Islamic Jihad inflicts casualties or property damage – for the most part involving the firing of rockets or a significant attack along the border fence, is immediately countered with an Israeli military response.

And yet, Islamic Jihad is not exactly the master of its own house. By providing economic and military assistance over the years, Iran has turned the organization into its own military wing in Gaza and the West Bank. “The more we continue to see harm to Iran in Syria and to the extent that its situation is difficult, the more Tehran’s motivation to deploy Islamic Jihad in Gaza against us will increase,” a senior officer in the IDF’s Southern Command said recently. “The Jihad’s command headquarters is outside Gaza, but the Iranians have an interest in escalating the situation here. Tomorrow Iran, from its standpoint, can take a decision to deploy the Jihad against Israel.”

Even if IDF officials don’t admit it, the significance of hitting Islamic Jihad targets is well understood in the army, as demonstrated by two recent incidents in which the organization was dealt a blow. The first occurred on October 30 when Islamic Jihad members were killed in an Israeli attack on terror tunnels near Kissufim. Army officials knew that this would prompt a response, despite Hamas’ attempts to head one off. A month later Islamic Jihad fired mortar shells at Israeli communities and army forces near the Gaza border.

The second incident occurred last month, when massive weapons fire was directed at communities near the Gaza border and a mortar shell hit a kindergarten at Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha. That was in response to the IDF’s killing of three Islamic Jihad members two days earlier. The army then had a day of combat that ended after Hamas demanded a cease-fire.

Hamas isn’t interested in escalation, but it can’t prevent an Islamic Jihad response every time. Hamas is also aware of the following that Islamic Jihad has on social media after it clashes with the IDF and the power that it has on the Gaza street when it fires mortar shells at Israeli border communities. Hamas has chosen to cooperate with Islamic Jihad, albeit in a limited way.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad was founded in Gaza in the late 1970s and early 1980s based on the radical ideology of Egypt’s Islamic Jihad, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood that preached the establishment of an Islamic caliphate through armed struggle. The focus of Palestinian Islamic Jihad has been armed struggle with Israel.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad currently has several thousand fighters whose military training is directed by Iran. Initially the group received assistance from Hamas in obtaining weapons but in recent years, it has already amassed a substantial arsenal including Qassams and Grad rockets with ranges capable of targeting the center of Israel. It also has its own weapons production facilities.

A Palestinian militant stands guard near the destroyed Islamic Jihad military base after it was targeted by an Israeli warplane, the southern Gaza Strip May 30, 2018. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
A Palestinian militant stands guard near the destroyed Islamic Jihad military base after it was targeted by an Israeli warplane, the southern Gaza Strip May 30, 2018\ IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/ REUTERS

The relationship between Islamic Jihad and Hamas has been exceedingly complicated recently. Usually Islamic Jihad toes the Hamas line on policy and sometimes cooperates with Hamas during periods of military escalation. The two claimed joint responsibility for the recent rocket fire across the Israel border.

And yet, the difference in the goals of the two groups has meant that Islamic Jihad members often pose a challenge to Hamas, mainly by carrying out attacks in violation of restraints Hamas tries to impose. Despite Hamas’ desire to assert its authority in Gaza, it sometimes yields to Islamic Jihad’s actions out of a desire to draw closer to Iran, in light of the difficult situation in the Gaza Strip.

As the senior source in the IDF’s Southern Command put it: “There is currently coordination between the organizations, and Hamas has control but at every step, the Islamic Jihad can also be independent and act as it sees fit to realize the Iranians’ interests.”

Liberman says Iranian regime ‘living on borrowed time’ 

June 10, 2018

Source: Liberman says Iranian regime ‘living on borrowed time’ | The Times of Israel

Defense minister wants Trump’s Korean denuclearization model implemented with Tehran; on Gaza, he slams ‘hallucinations’ that improving Strip’s economy will halt terror

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman leads a Yisrael Beytenu faction meeting in the Knesset, June 4, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman leads a Yisrael Beytenu faction meeting in the Knesset, June 4, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman claimed Sunday morning that the Ayatollah regime in Tehran was “living on borrowed time,” expressing his hope that US President Donald Trump’s Korean model of complete denuclearization could be implemented in Iran as wel.

In an interview with Army Radio, Liberman repeated Israel’s position that it is “determined to prevent an Iranian presence in Syria, and we will do everything so that doesn’t happen. The danger on the northern border is serious and real.”

Liberman praised Trump’s demand from North Korea that its nuclear program be completely dismantled, saying “I hope that the model of Korea completely giving up its nuclear program can be implemented in Iran’s case as well.”

However, he continued, “We have seen the opposite — an announcement by Ayatollah [Ali] Khamenei that he has ordered to accelerate the nuclear programs in his country.”

On the internal situation in Iran, he commented that “I am following the turmoil in Iran, and there hasn’t been such turmoil since the Khomeini revolution,” referring to the 1979 Islamic revolution orchestrated by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

“If the economic sanctions continue, the Ayatollah regime is living on borrowed time,” he concluded.

Israel has repeatedly vowed it will not tolerate Iran’s military presence in Syria and has carried out airstrikes on targets in the country, including last month in response to Iran’s firing of rockets from Syria at the Golan Heights.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran (L), US President Donald Trump at the White House (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP, AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON)

Israel fears that as the Syrian civil war winds down, Iran, whose forces and Shiite proxies have backed President Bashar Assad, will entrench militarily in the neighboring country and turn its focus on Israel.

‘Improving Gaza’s economy won’t end terror’

Liberman also spoke about the Gaza Strip, claiming that the protests and tensions in the enclave don’t originate from its collapsing economy — as many, including in Israel, have said. He called for an end to the “illusions and hallucinations that improving the economy will end terror.

He spoke with with Army Radio ahead of a security cabinet meeting to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which has been cited as a major factor fueling violent clashes on Israel’s border with the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave.

Gaza’s woes have been exacerbated by an ongoing dispute between Hamas and the PA, which has cut the salaries it pays to workers in Gaza and imposed various sanctions, including cutting of payments for electricity supplies to the enclave.

“There are three reasons for the dire humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip,” Liberman said.

The first, he said, was Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, “who one day decided to stop transferring funds to Gaza. Just last week he transferred half of the April salaries.” He was echoing similar criticism made Saturday by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The second reason he cited was Hamas, the terror group ruling Gaza, “which invests millions of dollars on tunnels, and isn’t willing to funnel a single shekel to the education or healthcare systems in the Strip.”

But the primary obstacle to a solution according to Liberman, was Hamas’s objection to returning the Israeli captives in Gaza — civilians Avera Mengistu and Hisham a-Sayed, who both crossed into Gaza of their own accord in 2014 and 2015, and the bodies of IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul which were abducted in the 2014 war known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge.

A Palestinian youth uses a slingshot to hurl stones at Israeli forces during clashes near the border with Israel, east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on June 8, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)

Hamas “can get a generous humanitarian package if it returns the missing Israelis,” Liberman suggested.

Gaza faces a lack of electricity, drinkable water and food. Israel and Egypt maintain a blockade on the Strip which they say is designed to prevent Hamas from importing weapons and other goods that could be used to build fortifications or tunnels.

Four Gazans were killed in clashes at the border Friday, the latest in a series of protests dubbed the “Great March of Return.” The IDF said people used helium-filled balloons to carry explosives, detonated by remote control, in attempts to attack troops.

The defense minister said Hamas doesn’t recognize Israel’s right to exist and therefore will continue with hostilities no matter the situation in Gaza. He claimed that the thousands who protested and clashed with IDF troops on Friday were connected “directly or indirectly” with Hamas and had been left no choice but to attend the demonstration.

“Whoever thinks improving the civilian and economic situation in Gaza will halt the terror kites and the violence, is simply wrong,” he charged. “Enough with all sorts of hallucinations and illusions that improving the economy will end terror.

“The opposite is true — they’ll understand that with use of force and violence they can achieve political goals. To improve the reality in the Gaza Strip, the Hamas regime must be toppled. Whoever wants more than four hours of electricity every day must topple the Hamas regime.”

Two Palestinians help fly a ‘fire kite’ from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory during mass demonstrations along the security fence on June 8, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

Liberman said Israel was successfully dealing with the wave of violence, claiming that two thirds of the incendiary kites sent over the border have been intercepted, but vowed to find a better way to eliminate that threat.

“Hamas is trying to drag us to a confrontation and is willing to pay heavy prices,” he said.

“We need to understand that the Israeli people’s morale is crucial — there are kites and fires, and that’s unpleasant, but in the end people continue with their daily lives. We have managed to intercept two thirds of the kites, but no kite should pass and cause a fire,” the defense minister added.

Ministers at Sunday’s cabinet meeting are likely to authorize the use of live fire against Palestinians flying the attack kites and balloons into Israel, Israel Radio reported on Saturday, quoting Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.