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December 10, 2016 / 10 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Lebanon’

UNESCO to Question Jewish Ties to Western Wall in Arab-Sponsored Draft Resolution

Sunday, July 10th, 2016

United Nations Watch, a Geneva-based watchdog organization, expressed concern today that UNESCO may fuel anti-Jewish incitement and violence, and the increasing PA Arabs’ denial of Jewish religious and cultural rights, by adopting an Arab-sponsored draft resolution that denies Jewish ties to Jerusalem’s Western Wall and Temple Mount.

The Jordanian-Palestinian draft text on the Old City of Jerusalem was submitted to the 21-member World Heritage Committee, which meets over the next 10 days in Istanbul for its 40th annual session.

“This inflammatory resolution risks encouraging the past year’s wave of Arab stabbing and shooting attacks in Jerusalem and other parts of Israel, which began with false claims that Israel was planning to damage holy Muslim shrines,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch.

Under the battle cry of “Al-Aqsa mosque is in danger,” incitement in September by Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad sparked a wave of terror attacks across Israel which began on the Temple Mount and eastern Jerusalem. At least 40 have been killed and more than  500 wounded. The Arab attacks include 155 stabbings, 96 shootings, 45 car ramming attacks, and one bus bombing.

The draft now before UNESCO includes the following problematic language:

  • The draft refers ten times to Al-Haram Al-Sharif, exclusively using the Islamic term for Temple Mount, without any mention that it is the holiest site in Judaism. This is part of a larger campaign at the UN, and particularly in UNESCO, to Islamize sites historically belonging to other faiths.
  • This year’s proposed draft is even more extreme than the resolution adopted in 2015. The new version three times uses the Islamic term Buraq Plaza while placing the parallel name “Western Wall Plaza” in scare quotes, implying skepticism or disbelief concerning what is the most hallowed site for Jewish worshippers over two millennia, due to the ancient wall’s connection to the Holy Jewish Temple destroyed in 70 CE. Last year’s resolution also sought to diminish the Jewish connection by putting the name Western Wall in parentheses after the Islamic term, yet the new use of quotation marks intensifies the denialism that was famously promoted by Yasser Arafat’s negotiator at Camp David, and which continues in Palestinian Authority statements.
  • Israel, which is referred to throughout as “the Occupying Power” in Jerusalem, is called to restore “the historic Status Quo,” with the new word “historic”—a change from last year’s text—implying a reversal of any changes since 1967.
  • Jerusalem’s light rail, which is used daily by thousands of Arab residents among others, is accused of having a “damaging effect” on the “visual integrity” and “authentic character” of the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem—even though the track passes through an existing highway and only facilitates transportation for visitors of all faiths.

The 21 members on the UNESCO world heritage committee are: Angola, Azerbaijan, Burkina Faso, Croatia, Cuba, Finland, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, South Korea, Tunisia, Turkey, Tanzania, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe. Good luck to all of us.

Jewish Press Staff

Reflections On The Second Lebanon War

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

Ten years since the Second Lebanon War. For those of us who took part in it, that war remains always just in view. Like a suitcase filled with items of vivid memory, waiting quietly in the corner of a room.

It was an entirely inglorious and partially botched and inconclusive affair. A “great and grave missed opportunity” as the second report of the Winograd Committee termed it.

It has also been rapidly forgotten. This, it seems, is the way of the small wars that Israel fights these days. None of them passes into legend, as did the great conflicts of the state’s foundation. Today’s conflicts, after a short time, become largely the private property of those who participated in them.

That’s perhaps not a bad thing. Perhaps it is akin to the rapidity with which Israeli cities clear up and move on after terror attacks. Still, the long quiet that has followed the 2006 war on the northern border has helped to further obscure some of the lessons of that summer. It is worth therefore recalling, in unforgiving focus, some of what took place.

A cabinet led by individuals with minimal security experience (and a prime minister and president now serving jail terms), and an IDF led by its first chief of staff from the Air Force set out for war with the Iranian proxy Hizbullah organization in July 2006.

It is now evident that no coherent and achievable plan for the conduct of the war had been decided on at the rushed and overheated cabinet meeting that set it in motion.

This problematic, unprepared leadership was in turn commanding an army ill suited for the war it would need to fight.

There were two reasons for the IDF’s state of unreadiness.

The first was practical: The 2006 war came immediately after an intensive five-year period of counter-insurgency, in which the IDF was engaged against a large scale Palestinian uprising. The demands of the Second Intifada left little time for training for conventional war.

The challenges faced by troops at that time were considerable. But they were mainly of a police-like nature, not employing or testing the specialized skills of front line military units in battlefield conditions.

This army in 2006 found itself facing a well armed, mobile enemy, on terrain the Israeli side knew far less well than its foe.

The resulting difficulties were compounded by a second, conceptual issue. The 2006 war was not the fight the army was expecting. Chief of Staff Dan Halutz expected to spend his period at the IDF’s helm facing the key challenge of the Iranian nuclear program and focusing on ballistic missile defense. Future wars, it was assumed, would be fought using air power, with small numbers of trained specialists on the ground.

As a result, resources had in preceding years been diverted from training the large, reserve land army. It was assumed that this was a force unlikely to be used.

In 2006, some reserve armored formations, as a result, went into battle against Hizbullah having taken part in only one training exercise using tanks in the previous half decade. Full disclosure: I was a member of such a force.

These were the circumstances in which Israel went to war in 2006.

The war for the greater part of its duration consisted of limited ground operations by the IDF in an area adjoining the border, air operations up to Beirut, as well as a successfully maintained naval blockade; and on Hizbullah’s side, defense of areas under ground attack and a successful effort to maintain throughout a constant barrage of short-range rockets on northern Israel.

A cease-fire went into effect at 8 a.m. on August 14, following the passage of UN Resolution 1701. The end of the fighting found some IDF forces deployed at the Litani River, but with Israel far from control of the entire area between the river and the Israeli-Lebanese border.

* * * * *

Looking back, it is clear that hesitant Israeli political leadership and a lack of an overall plan for the war were the reasons for its inconclusive results. Had the IDF – even the poorly prepared force that entered the war of 2006 – been presented with clear orders at an early stage to move forward into Lebanon, according to one of the available plans for achieving this, a less ambiguous result could have been achieved. No such order was ever given.

Much public anger followed the war and its inconclusive results, as Hizbullah and its friends in the West sought to build a narrative of “divine victory” from the events.

From our perspective a decade later, however, much of the euphoria of Hizbullah and the despair on parts of the Israeli side seem exaggerated. The results of the war from an Israeli perspective in 2016 are mixed.

The border has indeed been quieter since 2006 than at any time since the late 1960s. This fact in itself says more about Hizbullah’s true assessment following the damage suffered in 2006 than any al-Akhbar editorial excitedly proclaiming divine victory.

And of course Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah himself told a Lebanese TV station shortly after the war that had the movement known in advance the scale of the IDF response, Hizbullah would have never have carried out the kidnappings that sparked the war.

At the same time, Resolution 1701, which was intended to keep the Shia Islamist movement north of the Litani has failed. Hizbullah has built an extensive new infrastructure south of the river since 2006, under the noses of UNIFIL and often with the collusion of the Lebanese Armed Forces. And Hizbullah has vastly increased its rocket and missile capacity.

In retrospect, 2006 was perhaps most significant in that it introduced a type of warfare and a type of force that has now proliferated across the region – namely, military entities that are neither regular armies nor guerrilla movements in the classic sense. Rather, they are potent combinations of the two.

These forces carry no state flag with them. Indeed, often they are stronger than the forces of the notional state on whose territory they operate. They possess neither air power nor much in the way of armored or artillery or naval capacities. Yet they operate not merely as guerrillas but rather as light infantry forces, holding ground and defending it, while making adept use of 21st century media to fight the propaganda battle.

Hizbullah was the prototype of such a force, and it remains among the strongest of them. But today the entire landscape between the Mediterranean Sea and the Iraq-Iran border proliferates with groups of this type. Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham and Iraq’s Shia militias and even the Assad regime’s National Defence Force represent a variety of opposed causes and perspectives. But they are all hybrid forces, light infantries of varying quality, parallel entities to Hizbullah.

This highlights perhaps the most central point regarding the 2006 war. In its aftermath, as Hizbullah and Iran celebrated their “divine victory,” it appeared the prospect was for ongoing bloodletting between Israel and a regional alliance committed to its destruction, with Hizbullah as the primary military instrument on the ground.

Today, that landscape has changed beyond recognition. Hizbullah and its Iranian patron are engaged in a region-wide war against the Sunni Arabs. In Yemen, Iraq, and above all Syria, the movement and its patron are up to their necks in unending conflict. Hizbullah’s latest woes include fights between its members and Assad’s troops in the Aleppo area, and the loss of around 1,500 men in the morass of the Syrian war.

For as long as this war continues, it seems likely that no repeat of 2006 is on the horizon. And if and when the war ends, the damage suffered in 2006 is likely to give Hizbullah and its patron continued pause for thought.

What all this ultimately means is that we should be thankful for those who came before us. Lebanon 2006 shows that even at a low point in terms of training and planning, led by an unsuitable chief of staff, with an inexperienced and as it turns out largely corrupt political leadership at the helm, Israel’s armed forces were still of sufficient quality to be capable of delivering a blow to a powerful enemy instructive enough to ensure a period of subsequent silence, which lasts to this day.

Broader regional circumstances beyond the control of either Israelis or Lebanese Shias have certainly added to this effect. The main question, though – whether Israeli society and its armed forces have sufficiently internalized and acted on the lessons taught in the burning summer of 2006 – remains a subject of daily relevance to which a final answer cannot yet be given.

Dr. Jonathan Spyer

IDF Acquires New Long-Range Rocket From IMI

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

One usually associates the acquisition of the long-range rockets with Iran, Hezbollah or terrorists in Gaza.

But it turns out the IDF has just acquired an exquisitely accurate long-range rocket produced by Israeli defense firm Israel Military Industries (IMI)– the new long-range Taas EXTRA (Extended Range Artillery Rocket) missile.

The Taas, capable of hitting a target within a 10-meter accuracy radius even as far as 150 kilometers away, is part of Israel’s new arsenal being developed in preparation for a possible future conflict with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The Taas EXTRA long-range rocket manufactured by IMI.

The missile is described by the firm as a “precise, cost-effective, tactical-range artillery rocket” that allows ground force commanders to “influence the battlefield” at a range of 20 to 150 kilometers.

Developed in the IMI factory in Givon, the new rocket is approximately four meters long, with a diameter of 30 centimeters, and capable of carrying a variety of warheads up to a weight of 120 kilograms.

It’s a highly accurate rocket with a proven effectiveness against a “wide range of high payoff targets across the tactical battlefield,” according to the company.

The Taas will enable Israel to attack and eliminate any number of targets in Lebanon, should that prove necessary. This will also reduce the cost and complications of aerial attacks against the Iranian-backed Hezbollah guerrilla group where they hide north of Israel’s borders.

Hana Levi Julian

4 Suicide Bombers in Lebanon Kill 8, a Dozen Wounded [video]

Monday, June 27th, 2016

Four suicide bombers blew themselves up in the eastern Lebanon Beqaa Valley town of Qaa on Monday morning, according to Arab news sources. The Lebanese village is alongside the Syrian border.

At least 5 people have been killed according to Aljazeera. Al Arabiya reports the number of dead has gone up to 8.

The dead are Lebanese soldiers, apparently intelligence officers, and more than a dozen people have been wounded.

Hezbollah TV claims 6 people were killed and 13 were wounded.

One suicide bomber blew himself next to the soldiers, and then the other 3 bomber followed suit.

It is unclear who was behind the attack.

Jewish Press News Briefs

IDF Intelligence Chief: If our Enemies Knew What We Can Do They’d Give Up

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

At a session headlined “Israel in a Turbulent Middle East: Strategic Review & Intelligence Assessment” held Wednesday at the 2016 Herzliya Conference, Maj. Gen. Herzl (Herzi) Halevi, Chief of the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate warned Israel’s opponents against initiating a conflict, saying, “I am sure that had Nasrallah or any of our enemies known our military capabilities they wouldn’t risk additional conflict.”

Halevi discussed Israel’s challenges and opportunities in today’s middle east, saying “there are a lot of people who live in the Middle East with no electricity. Looking at the GDP per capita or unemployment rates it is noticeable that very big gaps have formed between us and our neighbors. It should not make us happy – A poor Middle East is a hotbed for terrorist organizations.”

“The Game board in the Middle East has changed,” he added. “Instead of few states, there are now many players. The transition from nation states to organizations is very significant. There are no good and bad guys, and players on the field change their identities.”

Halevi continued to discuss the new ways in which conflicts and wars are formed in the Middle East, in what he calls Dynamics of Escalation’. “We live in an era in which it is most likely for wars to begin even though neither side is interested in it,” he explained.

Regarding Iran, Halevi said: “The nuclear agreement was a great achievement for Iran, allowing them to be accepted among the world’s nations and we believe they will honor [the nuclear deal] for the first few years. At the same time, Iran is investing great efforts against Israel. Iran is supporting the three main threats Israel faces: Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad – in fact, they support 60% of [the threat]. It is [a case of] a Shiite nation giving money to Sunni organizations – they would do that to hurt Israel.”

Regarding Lebanon & Hezbollah, Halevi said, “We have no offensive intentions in Lebanon. We do not want a war but we’re ready for one more than ever. No army has had more intelligence on their enemies as we do about Hezbollah today.”

“The next conflict will not be easy. Hezbollah is suffering heavy casualties in Syria but also experiences significant achievements, and in this process they learn a lot and gain access to new means of combat.”, said Halevi. “Iran is sending weaponry to Hezbollah – some of it gets so Syria, but some of it stays in Lebanon. Syrian industries have resumed the production of weaponry for Hezbollah, and neither the world or Israel should accept it – it could escalate the next conflict.”

JNi.Media

In Netanyahu Meeting with Putin Tuesday Syria on the Table, But Not Iran

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to hold talks on Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, on a state visit to Moscow marking the 25th anniversary of the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries. This is the second meeting between the two leaders in Moscow in the past month and a half, and the fourth over the past year. Netanyahu only met once with President Obama over the same period of time.

Speaking on Monday at a ceremony commemorating the Six-Day War, Netanyahu noted that the hostile Arab armies that circled Israel back in 1967 were “armed, trained, supplied and supported by the Soviet Union.” He added quickly: “Look what a tremendous difference there is nowadays. Russia is a world superpower and the relations between us are getting ever tighter. I’m laboring over tightening this connection and it serves our national security these days, and it has prevented needless, dangerous confrontations on our northern border.”

It could be said that Israel is experiencing its best relationship with Russia on record, with the volume of trade, tourism, security and political coordination at a peak—much of it credited to Avigdor Liberman’s stint as foreign minister. But there are obvious areas where Russia is not coming across as a friend of the Jewish State, if anything, it appears to be leading and supporting Israel’s most vehement enemies — Iran with its proxies, and the Palestinians.

The Russians are supplying Iran with advanced S-300 long-range surface-to-air missile systems, and are in the process of selling the Iranians many more weapons, because the Iranians can now afford it, their multi-billion dollar accounts having been restored by the Obama-Kerry team.

The Russians are fighting in Syria alongside Hezbollah, and are facilitating—actively or tacitly—the leakage of weapons, advanced and otherwise, from Syria into south Lebanon, where they will some day be used against Israel.

In 2015-16 the Russians have spearheaded several critical anti-Israel UN votes: they supported the Egyptian proposal to impose UN supervision on Israel’s nuclear facilities; they’ve been voting regularly with the anti-Israel majority at the UN Human Rights Council; they supported the Palestinian proposal to create a blacklist of companies that trade with the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria; and they’ve supported the shameful UNESCO resolution that removed all trace of recognizing a Jewish presence in Jerusalem.

So perhaps the friendship between the two countries could get a little friendlier.

According to the Kremlin press service, Putin and Netanyahu are going to have a detailed exchange of opinion on the Middle East regional issues, with special emphasis on the struggle with international terrorism. The agenda will be expansive, says the Kremlin, “since relations between Russia and Israel are at an advanced stage and have the character of partnership.”

Russian Ambassador to Israel Alexander Shein told TASS that the two sides plan to sign an agreement on pensions to Russian-born Israelis who did not keep their Russian citizenship after emigrating from the former USSR. A Russian good will gesture in this case would go a long way to boost Netanyahu’s promise to his new coalition partner Liberman, who conditioned the move into government on an increase in those pensions.

There is certainly a renaissance in Russian-Israeli ties: since the year 2000 Israeli Prime Ministers have made thirteen visits to Russia, Netanyahu accounting for seven of those visits. Putin visited Israel once during the same period.

JNi.Media

Russia to Return Israeli Tank Captured 34 Years Ago in the Battle of Sultan Yacoub

Sunday, May 29th, 2016

By Jonathan Benedek/TPS

Jerusalem (TPS) – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his gratitude to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday for signing a presidential decree ordering the return to Israel of an IDF tank that was captured 34 years ago during a ferocious battle in the First Lebanon War.

“I thank the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, that he responded to my request to return the tank from the Battle of Sultan Yacoub to Israel,” Netanyahu said.

The tank, used by the IDF during the Battle of Sultan Yacoub during the First Lebanon War on June 10, 1982, was captured by the Syrian army and eventually transported to the Soviet Union, then a Cold-War ally with Syria. The tank has since remained in Moscow, stored in a museum of armored tanks.

MK Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, the former deputy defense minister, was an officer in artillery unit 7054 that helped rescue a battalion of Israeli tanks trapped by a Syrian ambush in Sultan Yacoub, Lebanon.

“We fired the whole night, and in the morning the battalion was rescued – except for that one tank and the three missing soldiers, whose fate is still unknown today,” Ben-Dahan recalled to Tazpit Press Service (TPS), referring to the continued mystery behind three IDF soldiers, Zachary Baumel, Zvi Feldman, and Yehuda Katz, who went missing in action during the Battle of Sultan Yacoub. During the entire battle, 30 Israeli soldiers were killed and eight tanks were lost.

“Hearing about the return of the tank sends me back 34 years,” Ben-Dahan told TPS. “It gave me chills.”

Ben-Dahan also expressed hope that the tank’s return might bring news about the fate of the missing soldiers, though he said he cannot comment on any discussions or progress toward that goal.

Netanyahu raised the issue of returning the tank with Putin last month, after having received a request from IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot.

“For the families of the soldiers missing in action, Zachary Baumel, Zvi Feldman, and Yehuda Katz, there is no trace of the boys nor a burial plot to go to for 34 years now,” noted Netanyahu. “The tank is the only evidence of the battle, and now it will be returned to Israel thanks to President Putin’s response to my request.”

A delegation from the IDF’s Ordnance Corps is in Moscow working with representatives from the Russian army to transport the tank back to Israel as soon as possible.

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

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