Archive for February 12, 2020

US envoy explains deal’s asymmetry: We trust Israel, but PA can’t keep a bargain 

February 12, 2020

Source: US envoy explains deal’s asymmetry: We trust Israel, but PA can’t keep a bargain | The Times of Israel

Why does Trump’s plan allow the Israelis to annex soon but have a Palestinian state only arise in four years? To ‘bridge the asymmetry’ between the two sides, David Friedman says

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman addressing a briefing hosted by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, February 9, 2020 (Reouven Ben Haim/JCPA)

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman addressing a briefing hosted by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, February 9, 2020 (Reouven Ben Haim/JCPA)

The White House’s so-called “Deal of the Century” strongly favors Israel because it is a democracy that can be relied upon to uphold any agreement, whereas the Palestinians have a long way to go before they are trustworthy partners, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said Sunday.

Critics of US President Donald Trump’s peace plan often complain that it grants Israel the right to soon annex the parts of the West Bank that the proposal earmarks for Israel to retain, while the Palestinians would only get their state at the end of four years — and then, only if a long list of conditions have been meet.

If the plan is meant to eventually lead to peace between Israelis and Palestinians, why is one side allowed to take the spoils right away, while the other side has to wait four years, The Times of Israel asked Friedman during a briefing Sunday at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

In his answer, the US envoy spoke of the need to bridge the “asymmetry” between the State of Israel, which is a dependable ally, and what he described as the failed wannabe state that is the Palestinian Authority. He also argued that Jerusalem would have never have made the concessions it did upon accepting the plan’s outline — including agreeing not to build any new settlements in the areas designated for a future Palestinian state — if it had not been granted the right to quickly annex the parts envisioned to be part of Israel.

US President Donald Trump, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu take part in an announcement of Trump’s Middle East peace plan in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC on January 28, 2020. (Mandel Ngan/AFP)

“This is a completely asymmetric relationship,” Friedman said of Israel and the Palestinian Authority. “Israel is a democracy. You can hold it to its word. It has an enormous relationship with the United States on multiple levels and that relationship is very solid. It is in a position today to keep its part of the bargain.”

By contrast, the Palestinians are currently “not in a position to keep any bargain,” Friedman said. “The Palestinians are not united. Their government is not democratic. Their institutions are weak. Their respect for all types of norms that we hold dear — not just democracy but human rights, freedom of religion, freedom of the press — is nonexistent.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas holds a placard showing maps of (L to R) ‘historical Palestine,’ the 1947 United Nations partition plan on Palestine, the 1948-1967 borders between the West Bank and Gaza Strip and Israel, and a current map of the Palestinian-controlled territories without Israeli-controlled areas and settlements, during an Arab League emergency meeting discussing US President Donald Trump’s peace proposal, at the league headquarters in the Egyptian capital Cairo on February 1, 2020. (Khaled Desouki/AFP)

The White House felt the need to “bridge that asymmetry,” he went on. “If Israel is ready today, why shouldn’t they get what they’re agreeing to today? If the Palestinians are going to be ready in four years, well, then they can get what they can get in four years.”

The only way to encourage the Israelis into agreeing to adopt the Trump plan and to freeze settlement building in the area earmarked for a future Palestine was to “provide them today with what they’re entitled to in exchange for that,” Friedman posited.

“I have no doubt that Israel would never agree to a naked freeze of four years just on the possibility that the Palestinians might a) be willing to negotiate and b) achieve the milestones [required of them by the plan]. We just couldn’t have gotten it,” he said.

The administration took great care to tell the Palestinians that they don’t have to say yes or no to the plan right away, Friedman said.

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman addressing a briefing hosted by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, February 9, 2020 (Matty Stern/U.S. Embassy Jerusalem)

“We understand that you’re in a very difficult position — you’re not united, you have numerous streams of conflict that weaves around your body politic. So take your time, digest it, and you will not be penalized by the passage of time,” he said, addressing the Palestinian leadership.

“If it takes you three or four years to get there, the territory that is earmarked for you, the integrity of that territorial opportunity, will be preserved.”

Israel has never agreed to a four-year freeze of settlement construction, Friedman stressed. The only previous moratorium of settlement expansions — for 10 months — took place during the Obama administration and “was a waste of time,” he claimed, since it did not succeed in bringing the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.

For Israel to annex the part it will keep now in exchange for refraining from taking more of the territory reserved for Palestine is a formula that “seemed like a very fair trade — for us, for the Palestinians and for Israel,” Friedman said.

The Times of Israel also asked Friedman what happens after four years — will Israel get a green light to apply sovereignty over the remaining parts of the West Bank if the Palestinians have still not engaged on the proposal?

Not necessarily, Friedman replied.

“At the end of four year years, if there is no progress and no basis to extend that period of time — and that would be an extension the parties themselves would have to agree to — then it would return to what it is today,” the ambassador said.

The areas Israel will not have annexed by then would continue to be administered by COGAT, the Defense Ministry unit currently in charge of implementing Israeli government policies in the West Bank, according to Friedman.

There is no specific event that would automatically occur at the end of the four years that started on January 28, when the peace plan was unveiled at the White House, he said. “Hopefully there would be another initiative,” he added.


PM threatens Hamas with dire ‘surprise’; Gaza answers with fresh rocket attack 

February 12, 2020

Source: PM threatens Hamas with dire ‘surprise’; Gaza answers with fresh rocket attack | The Times of Israel

Israel’s response to wave of rocket, balloon attacks ‘will be different from anything that came before,’ Netanyahu warns in TV interview; no injuries in attack

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a tree planting event for the Jewish holiday of Tu Bishvat in the West Bank settlement of Mevo'ot Yericho, in the Jordan Valley, February 10, 2020. (Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a tree planting event for the Jewish holiday of Tu Bishvat in the West Bank settlement of Mevo’ot Yericho, in the Jordan Valley, February 10, 2020. (Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday threatened Hamas leaders with “the surprise of their lives” if a spate of attacks from the Gaza Strip didn’t come to an end. Minutes later, yet another rocket was fired from Gaza at Israel’s south.

“I’m telling you as prime minister, I don’t rush to war,” Netanyahu said in an interview with Channel 20 on Tuesday night. “I don’t puff out my chest, bang drums and blow trumpets. But we’re preparing for Hamas the surprise of their lives. I won’t say what it is, but it will be different from anything that came before.”

Whether Israel carries out its “surprise,” he added, “is entirely up to them. If they don’t come to their senses with the rockets and don’t stop the balloons, it’s only a matter of time before we deploy it. Remember what I’m telling you,” he said.

The last several weeks have seen a marked uptick in rocket and incendiary balloon attacks from the Strip, raising tensions and threatening fragile truce talks.

Shortly after Netanyahu finished speaking, the IDF reported a mortar shell had been fired from Gaza and landed in an open area in Israel’s south. No one was hurt in the attack.

Netanyahu’s was the latest in a series of warnings from Israeli leaders that rocket and incendiary balloon attacks from Gaza would be met with a dramatic military escalation. Thus far Israel has made do with tit-for-tat airstrikes on usually empty Hamas posts.

On Sunday, Netanyahu warned Gazan terror groups that Israel was prepared to take “crushing action.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2nd-R) attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on February 9, 2020. (Ronen Zvulun/Pool/AFP)

“I want to make this clear: We won’t accept any aggression from Gaza. Just a few weeks ago, we took out the top commander of Islamic Jihad in Gaza, and I suggest that Islamic Jihad and Hamas refresh their memories,” Netanyahu said at the opening of the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem.

“I won’t lay out in detail all our actions and plans in the media, but we’re prepared for crushing action against the terror groups in Gaza. Our actions are powerful, and they’re not finished yet, to put it mildly.”

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett similarly issued a warning to Hamas leaders in Gaza, warning on Sunday that Israel would take “lethal action against them” if their “irresponsible behavior” didn’t cease.

He warned that Israeli military action would be “unbearable” for Hamas.

Screen capture of Defense Minister Naftali Bennett from a video he produced in which he warns of an Israeli response to Gaza rocket and incendiary balloon attacks, February 9, 2020. (Channel 12 screen capture)

“We won’t announce when or where. This action will be very different from those taken in the past. No one will be immune. Hamas faces a choice: choose life and economic prosperity, or choose terror and pay an unbearable price. Their actions will determine [which it will be].”

Observers see the return of rocket fire after several months of calm as an attempt by Gazans to press their demands that Israel ease or lift its blockade of the enclave in exchange for calm. Both sides insist they are not seeking a return to war.

An Egyptian security delegation that visited the Gaza Strip on Monday conveyed a message from Netanyahu to Hamas in which he demanded “a return to calm,” the Lebanese pro-Hezbollah Al-Akhbar newspaper reported, citing unnamed Palestinian sources.

Netanyahu’s message, which the Egyptian delegation received from Israeli security officials in Tel Aviv on Sunday, included a threat that Israel would “deliver a major blow to Hamas with American and international cover” if calm does not resume, the sources told the daily.

Hamas officials told the Egyptian delegation in response to Netanyahu’s message that it “does not seek an escalation,” but “the economic pressure that Gazans are experiencing and the failure to implement calming understandings will create greater pressure on the border region,” the sources said.

A spokesman for the armed wing of Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group talks to the press in the town of Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, November 11, 2019. (AP Photo/ Hatem Moussa)

“There will be no free calm as long as there is procrastination, delay and tightening [of restrictions],” the sources also quoted the Hamas officials as saying.

Since the second half of 2018, Egypt, alongside the United Nations and Qatar, has played a key role in brokering informal ceasefire understandings between Hamas, which controls Gaza, and Israel.

The understandings have largely entailed Israel lifting restrictions on the movement of goods and people into and out of Gaza, in exchange for Hamas maintaining relative quiet in the border region between the Strip and the Jewish state.

The Hamas officials also told the Egyptians that “the occupation doing anything stupid or assassinating resistance leaders would unleash a major war that would significantly impact the occupation’s state and leaders,” the sources added.

Illustrative: An Israeli missile launched from the Iron Dome missile defense system, designed to intercept and destroy incoming short-range rockets and artillery shells, is seen above Gaza City on November 13, 2019. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip began flying explosive and incendiary devices into Israel using clusters of balloons and kites beginning in 2018. The practice has waxed and waned over time, but has picked up considerably in recent weeks, with dozens of these balloon-borne bombs landing in towns and farming communities adjacent to the Palestinian enclave.

The Israel Defense Forces’ Home Front Command on Friday released a poem for children warning them against the dangers of the balloon-borne bombs flown from Gaza.

חדשות 13


מתיחות בדרום | ראש נפץ של RPG מחובר לבלונים נחת בשדות של קיבוץ רוחמה שבמועצה אזורית שער הנגב. מדובר בצרור בלוני הנפץ השישי שנחת היום בעוטף @bokeralmog

(צילום: יובל קניגספלד)

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In addition to being attached to colorful balloons, some of the explosive devices have been disguised as other child-friendly objects such as books and soccer balls.

Few injuries have been caused by these airborne attacks, but they have caused extensive damage to Israeli agricultural fields, parks and forests, especially during the country’s dry summer months.


Israeli laser defense system successfully intercepts multiple drone targets

February 12, 2020

Source: Israeli laser defense system successfully intercepts multiple drone targets | The Times of Israel

Rafael says its Drone Dome C-UAS had 100% success in all scenarios, including stopping maneuvering quarries; can address threats at military and civilian sites

An Israeli-developed drone defense system successfully intercepted multiple targets and shot them down with a laser beam, aerospace company Rafael said Wednesday.

Rafael’s Drone Dome C-UAS was also able to track and hit small drones that were maneuvering in flight, a more challenging target.

“The system achieved 100% success in all test scenarios,” Rafael said in a statement.

Drome Dome provides “effective detection, full identification and neutralization of multiple Micro and Mini UAV threats,”it said.

In a video of the tests, a vehicle-mounted system was shown engaging the targets, including drones that were sharply changing direction. In one test, three drones flying in formation were shot down in succession.

“Drone Dome is designed to address threats posed by hostile drones both in military and civilian sites, offering advanced solutions for maneuvering forces and military facilities, critical border protection, as well as civilian targets such as airports, public facilities, or any other sites that might be vulnerable to the increasing threat of both terror and criminal drones,” the company said.

The Drone Dome air defense system mounted on a vehicle. (Rafael – Advanced Defense Systems)

Previous reports have said that in addition to melting drones with its laser for a “hard kill,” Drone Dome has sophisticated electronic systems that enable operators to interfere with the signals of a hostile drone and even take control of the device, bringing it to ground in a “soft kill” interception.

In 2018 the British Daily Mail newspaper reported that the British military used Drone Dome to ground an intruding unmanned aerial vehicle that shuttered the airfield at London’s Gatwick Airport for over 36 hours, stranding tens of thousands of passengers.

Six of the Refael systems were sold to the UK Ministry of Defense in an estimated $20 million deal, according to Israel’s Globes financial daily.

Later reports said Drone Dome was not used at Gatwick, as the system had not yet been delivered to the UK military.

In December 2019 Israeli security forces revealed details about another new laser system they hope will help quash the scourge of airborne incendiary devices launched from the Gaza Strip — carried by balloons, kites and drones — which have started countless fires and burned large swaths of Israeli land since they began being widely used nearly two years ago.

The system, dubbed Light Blade, is intended to shoot the threats out of the sky before they can enter Israeli territory. It was developed for police and the Israel Defense Forces by three engineers from the private sector who worked with Ben Gurion University researchers and technological departments of the Israel Police and IDF.