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The Israeli Security Concept: Wandering Through a Maze

November 16, 2018


November 15, 2018

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 1,007, November 15, 2018

Palestinians drag section of ripped-down border fence in Gaza, May 2018, photo by Heather Murdock, VOA public domain via Wikimedia Commons

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The recent round of fighting between Israel and Hamas was seemingly sparked by the exposure of an Israeli special forces team during a covert operation in Khan Yunis. The Hamas leadership, which apparently is not interested in war, nevertheless chose to respond by escalating to the very brink. Why has the Israeli government refrained (yet again) from instructing the IDF to settle the Hamas threat?

The discourse that tends to swirl in the wake of events like this week’s sharp Gaza escalation generally revolves around a clichéd discussion about “the loss of deterrence.” But the gauge of deterrence, like a thermometer in a patient’s mouth, only measures a symptom; it does not explain the situation. Something deeper than “loss of deterrence” drove the event.

The Hamas leadership certainly knows the strength of the IDF relative to the strength of its own forces. But it bases its decisions not on that calculation but on its assessment of the constraints that prevent the Israeli government from making the decision to go to war. During the regular riots Hamas has led along the border since the spring, the group has learned its way through the Israeli strategic labyrinth. It understands how it can exploit the possibility of Israeli distress to advance its own interests.

The two-state solution as a conceptual fixation

Israel’s commitment to the “two-state solution” as a single and necessary solution is largely responsible for its refusal to update the strategic map. In explaining Israel’s duty to separate from the Palestinians, former Justice Minister Haim Ramon said: ” Our control over the territories is a cancer, and I will not let my enemy decide whether to undergo cancer removal surgery or not.” The Palestinians are well aware of their power of blackmail: the more Israel rushes to part ways, the more the Jewish state will have to pay for it. In accordance with this thinking, Hamas will naturally reject any agreement to implement separation in the direction of peace and stability. The need to preserve the separation achieved in Gaza has trapped Israel and made an attack on Gaza futile. What is there to recapture if Israel wants out of Gaza anyway? A re-conquest would put paid once and for all to the (supposed) panacea that “they are there and we are here.”

Hence the trap of both sides of the Israeli political map. The opposition attacked PM Netanyahu for abandoning security by restraining the use of military force against Hamas. Yet even as Israel is mired in the devastating consequences of the disengagement from Gaza, the Left continues to strive for another withdrawal in the West Bank – a withdrawal that could worsen Israel’s security situation to the point of rockets flying from Qalqiliya into the metropolitan Dan region.

On the other hand, Netanyahu, who seemingly seeks refuge from the two-state solution to which he has repeatedly committed himself, has an interest in the creation of an independent Hamas state in Gaza, as PA President Mahmoud Abbas remains entrenched in his lifelong rejection of Jewish statehood. It would therefore be desirable for Netanyahu to maintain the Hamas regime. This is where the Israeli system finds itself lost in a maze. The Hamas leadership has grasped the potential of this situation and is exploiting it to the full.

Who benefits from separation?            

It is time to challenge the assumption that spatial separation benefits Israel.

Supporters of withdrawal from the West Bank, including most senior members of the former security establishment, base their thinking on the belief that the attendant risks of withdrawal and territorial separation can be mitigated by the fact that the IDF’s continuous superiority can remove, within days, any security threat emanating from the territories vacated by Israel.

But since the beginning of the Oslo process, something significant has changed in relations between Israel and the Palestinians, and in recent decades there has been a global change in the phenomenon of war. Supporters of withdrawal have not internalized the significance of these changes. Their assessment of the IDF’s relative strength is thus consistently overestimated.

Here lie the seeds of Israel’s ideological fixation: the unwillingness to examine the extent to which separation as a strategic direction mainly helps the enemy.

Looking at the Gaza Strip prior to the IDF withdrawal, we see that although there was a fence that delineated the Strip, most of the IDF forces operated within the area based on the deployment of the Israeli villages in the south of the Strip. This created flexible operational potential for the IDF forces, which could reach enemy areas from a variety of directions. For example, refugee camps in the central Gaza Strip could be reached from the north via the Netzarim enclave, from the east via the border of the Strip, and from the south via Kfar Darom and Gush Katif. The capacity for surprise, flexibility, mobility, control of the area, and freedom of action were fundamentally different from those along the current borderline of the perimeter of the Strip.

The deployment of the IDF prior to the shortening of the lines in the summer of 2005 required Hamas to focus on fragmented defense efforts. The redeployment of forces and their reliance on a security fence in linear arrays made the fence a focal point for friction, and created the conditions for Hamas to organize its forces according to battalions, brigades, firing lines, and command and control systems. In this respect, territorial separation helped Israel’s enemies and harmed the IDF’s freedom of action.

The standard argument among “security technicians” is that shortening the lines of engagement is beneficial for security. But this claim is not only fundamentally wrong but the inverse of the truth. Friction in a multi-dimensional inner space, as exists today in the West Bank through the deployment of Israeli neighborhoods, enables more efficient utilization and wider strategic freedom of action for all components of Israeli power. The strategic maze in which the State of Israel finds itself in the Gaza Strip offers a valuable lesson on how security interests should help formulate the IDF’s future deployment in the West Bank.

In the meantime, the extent of the recent Hamas firefight requires the defense establishment to reexamine the IDF’s readiness to fight on two or more fronts simultaneously. A serious change in the conditions of the Palestinian threat from the West Bank, which would in turn intensify the threat from Gaza, is liable to disrupt the inter-ministerial agenda to the point of undermining the necessary conditions for concentrating the effort on the northern front.

In these circumstances, the recently voiced aspiration of former senior defense establishment officials, including Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, to lead a further separation in the West Bank is worrisome.

Israel’s strategic navigation right now resembles wandering through a maze without a map. As the pace of change accelerates, it needs a fully updated map.

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Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen is a senior research fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. He served in the IDF for forty-two years. He commanded troops in battles with Egypt and Syria. He was formerly a corps commander and commander of the IDF Military Colleges.

BESA Center Perspectives Papers are published through the generosity of the Greg Rosshandler Family

New Powerful Defense Alliance Changes European Security Landscape

November 12, 2018
Alex GORKA | 11.11.2018 | WORLD / Europe

Ten European states have created a new defense coalition. It was launched on June 25 and held its first historic meeting in Paris on Nov.7 to start thrashing out details of how the force will operate and welcome Finland as the tenth participant. All founding nations are EU members, including Great Britain, which is to leave the bloc in March, 2019. Led by France, the European Initiative Intervention (EII) comprises the UK, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and Finland to cooperate in the planning, analysis of new military and humanitarian crises, and possible joint activities in response to contingencies. It is planned to have a common budget.

In a nutshell, the EII members will maintain readiness to carry out missions together independently from the United States, the EU or NATO. A streamlined decision-making process will permit a quick reaction time while the smaller number of members will give more flexibility in comparison with the North Atlantic Alliance, where the process is based on consensus among 29 nations, or the EU, which has failed to deploy the four multinational military battle groups created as far back as 2007.

French President Macron said he wanted a “real European army” because “We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States of America.” “When I see President Trump announcing that he’s quitting a major disarmament treaty which was formed after the 1980s Euromissile crisis that hit Europe, who is the main victim? Europe and its security,” he told Europe 1 in his first radio interview since becoming president. Emmanuel Macron believes that “Europe can ensure its own protection against Russia and even, under an unpredictable President Donald Trump.” That’s how the US is viewed in Europe now. Not a defender but rather a threat.

“The goal: that our armed forces learn get to know each other and act together,” French Defense Minister Florence Parly tweeted on the occasion of launching the EII. “Thanks to exchanges between staff and joint exercises, we will create a European strategic culture. We will be ready to anticipate crises and respond quickly and effectively,” he commented on the final goal.

According to Stratfor, “the EI2’s membership reveals that France is willing to go beyond the European Union in its quest for partners (as the United Kingdom will leave the bloc in 2019) and also outside of NATO (as Finland is not a member of the Atlantic alliance).”

The EU defense integration moves ahead at frustratingly slow pace. The 2017 “Permanent Structured Cooperation” (PESCO) defense agreement brought together 25 of the 28 armed forces. The UK, Denmark and Malta have decided to opt out of the voluntary system. Focused mainly on industrial cooperation, PESCO is not a great thing in real terms. It only offers a relatively small special fund to finance operations. It does not provide the EU with real joint fighting forces but rather offers a gradual integration at slow pace. The agreement has no provision on defense expenditure hike. The EU budget does not allocate money for creation of “European Army.” Besides, there are deep divisions between EU members states with different groups formed inside the Union. What sounds good on paper, may have little relation to real life. New smaller alliances are gradually being formed inside NATO and the EU – the blocs facing the threat of partition.

This and US President Trump overturning the treaties and putting into question the invocation of Article 5 prompted the formation of the new European defense alliance that is supposed to have real teeth and operate outside the EII’s control. The French-led initiative uniting EU and non-EU countries is especially attractive for Great Britain, which seeks a potential vehicle for post-Brexit defense cooperation outside the EU framework.

An independent military bloc will weaken NATO and reduce the Europe’s dependence on the United States. From this point of view, it will benefit Europe because its interests often do not coincide with that of the US. For instance, America cares little about the immigration, which is a far-flung problem for Washington, but keeping new migrants waves away is a matter of make it or break it for EU. In their turn, Europeans have nothing to do in Iraq and Afghanistan and have sent forces there only to demonstrate the transatlantic solidarity.

As one can see, Finland has found the EII preferable to NATO. But having joined the officially inaugurated new military alliance, it won’t be a neutral state anymore. It has become a member of the military organization, which openly says that Russia, its neighbor, is a threat to counter. This is a very significant change in the country’s foreign policy. Actually, the launching of the EII has attracted little media attention and undeservedly so, but the Finland’s EII membership has not gone unnoticed in Russia. Last year, Finland along with Sweden joined the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF). It has allowed to use NATO forces use its territory during exercises, such as Trident Juncture-2018 – the largest NATO training event since the cold War.

The UK has always opposed the plans to create a European defense alliance, fearing it would be detrimental for NATO. Now it has done an about-face. It can continue to maintain special ties with US being a part of the new European defense alliance.

The formation of the EII shows how deep are the rifts dividing NATO and the EU into groups pursuing their own interests. These large organizations appear to have seen better days. They have become too large to be really united and strong. Like the empire of Alexander the Great, such large organizations have short lives. NATO and EU expansions were mistakes. It may never be said officially but the ten European nations have delivered a heavy blow against the US-led NATO. If the project does not gradually die away with all the ideas and initiatives swept under the rug being entangled in red tape, President Emmanuel Macron will go down in history as the architect of new large and powerful defense alliance to change the European security landscape.

The tensions and divisions between Europe and Russia are not forever and the EII and Russia don’t have to be adversaries, looking at each other through crosshairs. After all, they face common security threats. Sooner or later, cooperation in the field of security will be back on the agenda.

New waves of asylum seekers from Libya are a potential danger for Europe. Russia has influence in that country- it can help to prevent it. Joining together to restore Syria is another potential area of cooperation. The deployment of intermediate range weapons in Europe could be prevented with the INF Treaty not in force anymore if certain agreements were reached at Russia-Europe level even without US participation. The military activities can be discussed to ease the tensions. While the United States is preoccupied with the promotion of “America First” concept, the EII and Russia can talk. They could use the OSCE framework for it.

In August, President Macron called for strategic partnership with Russia. According to him, “I think that on matters like cybersecurity, defense, strategic relationships, we could envisage the outlines of a new relationship between Russia and the EU which is coherent with the direction Europe is headed in.” No improvement in the Russia-EU, Russia-NATO relationships is looming but it could be different regarding the ties between the EII and Russia. The options are a dialog and confrontation. Which of them will prevail? You never know. President Macron has said he prefers the first.

Report: Israel, Qatar agreed on Gaza-Cyprus sea route

November 10, 2018
Lebanese paper Al Alkhbar reports a sea route will be established between Gaza and Cyprus, under international supervision and Israeli security supervision.,7340,L-5395425,00.html
Israel and Qatar have reached an agreement the establishment of a sea route between Gaza and Cyprus, Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar reported on Saturday.

According to the report, the sea route will be under international supervision in addition to Israeli security monitoring. However, it is yet unclear how and in what manner the sea route will operate.Israel has reportedly asked to have physical presence at the sea route, while Hamas has demanded the supervision to be more similar to the one at the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, where monitoring is done via security cameras.

'March of Return' protest flotilla near the Israel-Gaza naval border (file photo) (Photo: AFP)

‘March of Return’ protest flotilla near the Israel-Gaza naval border (file photo) (Photo: AFP)


A $15 million Qatari cash infusion was paid out to Palestinian civil servants in the Gaza Strip on Friday. Qatari Ambassador to Gaza Mohammed Al Emadi said his country will continue transferring $15 million a month for salaries and stipends for needy families over the next six months, while $10 million will be allocated to electricity for the strip.

“We reached an agreement with Israel on the solution of the electricity problem – line 161 (the direct power line from Israel) and the naval route,” he said without going into details about these agreements.

Hamas employees in Gaza receive salary from Qatari money (Photo: AFP)

Hamas employees in Gaza receive salary from Qatari money (Photo: AFP)


Al Emadi added that “the UN is not involved in the current Qatari grant, and it is under full supervision of the Qatari committee.”

On Friday afternoon, Al Emadi’s convoy came under attack while he was visiting one of the “March of Return” campaign protest sites on the Gaza border. A group of Palestinian rioters pelted the convoy with stones and other objects. No one was hurt in the incident.

Qatari Ambassador to Gaza Mohammed Al Emadi arriving at the March of Return protest site

Qatari Ambassador to Gaza Mohammed Al Emadi arriving at the March of Return protest site


Hamas leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, also arrived at one of the protest sites, where he declared that “there is no arrangement with the occupation, but with Qatar, Egypt and the UN.”

Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar at the March of Return protests

Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar at the March of Return protests


Also on Friday, a Palestinian infiltrated Israel from the strip and set alight a greenhouse in Moshav Netiv HaAsara in Hof Ashkelon Regional Council.


Greenhouse on fire (Photo: Dedi Poled)

Greenhouse on fire (Photo: Dedi Poled)


“This is a grave incident, the likes of which we haven’t seen in many years in our community. Hundreds of thousands worth of damages were caused here,” one of the residents told Ynet.

On Friday, Al Hayat reported that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has agreed to accept the ceasefire understandings reached between Israel and Hamas on the condition they are in line with the ceasefire agreement reached at the end of the 2014 Operation Protective Edge and do not include any political or diplomatic aspects.


Next week, delegations from Abbas’s Fatah and from Hamas are expected to travel to Cairo to once again discuss the Palestinian reconciliation efforts.



Trump Admin Permits Iran to Continue Nuclear Work at Secretive Military Sites

November 6, 2018

Concessions to Europe complicate administration’s Iran sanctions rollout


The Trump administration has allowed European countries to continue cooperating with Iran’s nuclear activities at a contested, secretive facility where Iran had wanted to make weapons-grade uranium, one of many loopholes in the recently announced sanctions reimposition that Iran hawks have criticized as being too weak.

Iran is being given a pass from the administration to continue nuclear projects at the Arak, Bushehr, and Fordow facilities, all contested sites that have been at the center of Tehran’s secretive nuclear enrichment work in the past.

The decision is part of a package of concessions granted by the Trump administration to Iran and European allies as a bevy of new U.S. sanctions go back into effect. In addition to permitting continued nuclear projects, the administration has walked back its vow to cut Iran’s oil exports to zero and fully disconnect Tehran from the international banking system.

These concessions, first reported last week by the Washington Free Beacon and subsequently confirmed by numerous publications, have riled Iran hawks on Capitol Hill and elsewhere who have long fought to close all existing loopholes in U.S. sanctions.

The State Department on Monday confirmed the Free Beacon‘s reporting, issuing a statement admitting to granting waivers for nuclear projects in Iran.

“We are specifically permitting nonproliferation projects at Arak, Bushehr, and Fordow to continue under the strictest scrutiny to ensure transparency and maintain constraints on Iran,” the administration announced.

“Permitting these specific activities to continue is an interim measure that preserves oversight of Iran’s civil nuclear program,” according to the statement, which has sparked fierce pushback from Iran hawks. “It enables the United States and our partners to reduce the proliferation risks at Arak, maintain safe oversight of operations at Bushehr, limit Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium, and prevent the regime from reconstituting sites such as Fordow for proliferation-sensitive purposes.”

“This oversight enhances our ability to constrain Iran’s program and keep pressure on the regime while we pursue a new, stronger deal,” the administration maintained, hinting at efforts to preserve the landmark nuclear deal that Trump abandoned in frustration over what he described as glaring loopholes that have empowered Iran’s global terror operations.

While the administration will not consent to Iran undertaking new nuclear activities, it has conceded permission for European allies to continue projects already underway in the country.

“We are not issuing waivers for any new civil nuclear projects,” according to the administration. “We are only permitting the continuation for a temporary period of certain ongoing projects that impede Iran’s ability to reconstitute its weapons program and that lock in the nuclear status quo until we can secure a stronger deal that fully and firmly addresses all of our concerns.”

Advocates of a hardline approach to Iran in Congress say they are not being fooled by the administration’s rhetoric, which has historically been tough but is not being backed up with action.

“It’s not maximum pressure if Iran gets to keep selling oil, gets to keep accessing the global financial system, and—now—gets to keep working on its nuclear program with help from Europe, Russia, and China,” said one senior Republican congressional official.

“The administration is even letting Iran continue working with partners at Fordow, a bunker built into the side of a mountain which even Obama used to say needed to be closed,” the source said. “The policy announced today will lock in the nuclear deal under Trump’s watch.”

Added a second GOP congressional official working on the matter: “The pro-Obama deep state and Tillerson holdovers in Foggy Bottom strike back.”

David Albright, a veteran nuclear expert who runs the Institute for Science and International Security, told the Free Beacon the waiver issued for the contested Fordow nuclear facility is “hard to swallow.”

“It was grouped with the Arak reactor and a nuclear safety center, and hard to separate off,” Albright explained. “Those two provide concrete benefits, namely a reactor no longer able to make much plutonium and less fear that Bushehr, or for that matter the little Tehran Research Reactor, will melt down and spread dangerous radiation throughout the region.”

“Fordow employs centrifuge experts in a non-uranium enrichment process, which is good, but the whole process is quickly reversible,” Albright warned. “Those experts could be rapidly reassigned to work on advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium and Fordow could be restarted to enrich uranium.”

With Fordow continuing its operations, the issue is likely to “complicate, but not unravel future negotiations aimed at ending enrichment in Iran, which appears to be the Trump administration’s goal,” Albright said. “It is justified since Iran has no civil need to enrich uranium. Given its immense cost, and the ability to buy enriched uranium for civil purposes internationally at far less cost, any increase in domestic Iranian enriched uranium production should be viewed as military activity.”

Moreover, if “Iran violates the nuclear limits or refuses IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] inspections, then the E3 [in Europe] will have a responsibility to snap back sanctions under the JCPOA,” Albright added. “In anticipation of that possibility, the United States should continue to publicly make clear that it will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.”

Organizations that have supported the Trump administration’s moves on Iran also have expressed caution with the new concessions, another sign of mounting frustration among those who expected the White House to get tough with Tehran.

“The implementation of a maximum pressure, full economic blockade on Iran is the only way to force the regime to change its malignant behavior,” United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) Chairman Sen. Joe Lieberman and CEO Amb. Mark Wallace said in a statement. “This campaign should include action by SWIFT to disconnect Iranian banks and no repeat of these oil waivers after 180 days. Anything else will continue allowing the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism to fund its global terror campaign.”

A mental health Break .

September 30, 2018

My Art, My Life

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IDF attacks Hamas posts in Gaza

September 16, 2018

IDF aircraft and tank attack posts belonging to Hamas as violent riots continue.

Elad Benari, Canada, 14/09/18 20:06 | updated: 20:24

IDF aircraft and a tank on Friday attacked two positions belonging to the Hamas terrorist organization along the Gaza border, in response to a number of grenades and explosive devices that were hurled at IDF forces during violent disturbances along the security fence.

In addition, an IDF officer was slightly injured by shrapnel from a pipe bomb that was thrown at the soldiers. The officer was given medical treatment at the scene.

In a statement, the IDF said, “The Hamas terror organization is responsible for all events which take place in Gaza and from it.”

“The IDF will continue to thwart attempts to harm Israeli civilians and IDF troops in order to protect Israel’s borders and civilians.”

The weekly violent “March of the Return” riots continued on Friday, as they have every week since March 30.

On Friday morning, IDF troops neutralized an explosive device located near the Gaza border.

The device was discovered near the border fence separating southern Gaza from Israel. No injuries or damages were reported.

Overnight Thursday, a pipe bomb was thrown at IDF soldiers in the Rafah area in the southern Gaza Strip.

There were no injuries among the soldiers. Fire was opened towards three Palestinian Arab suspects who were identified as they crawled towards the security fence. It is unknown if they were injured by the gunfire.

The incident took place less than a day after IDF troops uncovered an explosive device placed by Gazan terrorists adjacent to the security fence in southern Gaza.

IDF troops disposed of the explosive device and thwarted the attempted attack against IDF soldiers.

No injuries were reported and no damage was caused.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)

Report: Israel Attacks Damascus International Airport [video]

September 16, 2018

Missile intercepted by Syrian aerial defense at Damascus International Airport-Photo Credit: SANA / screen capture

Israeli warplanes attacked Damascus International Airport late Saturday night, according to the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA). Syrian government anti-aircraft defense systems were activated, with a number of anti-aircraft missiles launched in response to the attack, according to SANA.

A spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces said Israel does not comment on foreign reports.

“Our air defenses responded to an Israeli missile attack on Damascus International Airport and shot down a number of hostile missiles,” said a Syrian Arab Army source quoted by SANA. A statement by the Syrian Arab Army posted to Facebook stated, “We have reports of a large flaming mass being seen after it was shot down, but we cannot yet confirm whether a jet was shot down or not. The above video was taken of a live interception to one of the incoming targets and was provided by a visitor to the Damascus International Fair which is currently [being] held.”

According to international military analyst Eva J. Koulouriotis, there were two separate raids by the Israel Air Force on two Iranian sites near the airport.

“Preliminary information indicates that one of the sites targeted by Israeli warplanes is a warehouse of Iranian weapons that were transferred to Syria a few days ago…,” Koulouriotis wrote at the start of a series of tweets. “Information confirms that the second target is a military cargo plane belonging to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards inside Damascus International Airport which landed hours ago… A source confirmed that the shipment of sophisticated weapons targeted was intended to be transferred and handed over to the Hezbollah Lebanese terrorist militia inside Lebanon,” she tweeted.

Local sources reported the strike was aimed at Iranian military targets near the airport, and said at least four explosions were heard, adding there appeared to be an attack on an underground compound near the airport.