Easier access to data for building ML/AI solutions can become the turning point of cybersecurity

July 3, 2019

Col. Ret. Zohar Rozenberg, VP Cyber Investments at Elron, spoke in the 3rd International Symposium on Cyber Security Cryptology and Machine learning, about the opportunities and challenges associated with ML/AI based cyber security solutions.

Guest post by Adir Alon adir@davidmalits.com

Easier access to data for building ML/AI solutions can become the turning point of cybersecurity,” says former Head of IDF’s Cyber Department

Zohar Rozenberg

Col Zohar Rozenberg of Elron, an Israeli VC company, spoke at the International Symposium in Israel about how data for ML/AI can be a huge advantage when building a suitable defense against cyber-attacks. He said that even though this route “sounds very promising…, (and) can be the real next phase of cybersecurity; the question becomes how real it can get?”


According to Col Rozenberg, “the world needs ML/AI based solutions that are wider than just scanning files”. This is because the amount of data as well as the attack surface in organizations are “infinite”, and “deterministic and rule-based solutions” are insufficient. Additionally, there simply aren’t enough skilled cybersecurity personnel to go around. Therefore, “we need machines to replace many more tasks and to perform tasks humans are either poor at or can’t even perform”.


Moving on to what the challenges are, he said that the first problem is “getting quality data”. “Many ML applications need users data to train on. With GDPR and other privacy regulations, that is not an easy task”. The problem is that companies developing cybersecurity solutions don’t have access to the data they need; and “those who have the data can’t give it to you”.


In another point, he painted the following scenario: “assume a vendor did everything right and managed to reach a point where he has a good solution, working with good results, and even finds a customer to buy and install it”. According to him, progress like this is also fraught with challenges. “In a world with accelerated technological change and thrive for digitization, how fast does the data change in a way that can put the ML out of calibration?”.


In closing, he admitted that even though data and ML can turn the tables on the attack/defense dynamic, “there might still  be areas where the attackers’ ML will have an advantage” like in situations where “an attacker deploys an ML attack engine to learn the DDOS defense system’s logic and then learn how to bypass it.”. According to Col Rozenberg, “As an industry, together with academia, we need to work much more on how to get the right data, how to make the training process more and more efficient, cheaper, easier”.


Colonel (Ret.) Zohar Rozenberg is the VP of cyber Investments at Elron. He retired as a colonel after 20 years at IDF’s 8200 unit where he led and directed several innovative projects and organizations. He was also involved in the founding of the National Cyber Bureau and the formalization of the Israeli national cyber strategy. In 2008, he received Israel’s highest defense award. Col. Rozenberg holds a B.S in Electrical Engineering and an M.B.A from Tel Aviv University.


Israel´s Eastern Border?

June 23, 2019

Under certain circumstances, I think Israel has the right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank.” (US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman)

israel-palestine conflict

No separation = One-State solution

Ever since the Six Day War in June 1967, innumerable plans have been put forward from the Left, the Right and the Center about what to do with the historic land – and its inhabitants – that suddenly and quite unexpectedly fell under Israel’s control – plans regarding ways to divide sc West Bank up or annex it or part of it to Israel, without imperiling the country’s Jewish majority.

From my viewpoint in Israel’s political sphere there is two main lines to approach this dilemma: Right-wing plans for annexation and left-wing plans for separation. In addition there is the maximalist alternative plans from the Right – annex all of the territories Israel gained during the Six Day War – and also the maximalist plans of the Left: a complete withdrawal from all the territories. Few Israelis, nor I, advocate such a policy, so over the years there have been numerous variations on this theme.

Sure there is also a zero-alternative, to do nothing else than keep “status quo”. This alternative, however, is leading towards undemocratic “One-state” solution, which in my opinion is one of the worst scenarios.

According Fathom approximately 590,000 Jews living beyond the Green Line can be divided into three groups. The first group is the approximate 200,000 Israelis who live in the 12 Jewish neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem, which will undoubtedly remain under Israeli sovereignty in any agreement. The second group is some 300,000 settlers who live in the so called ‘settlement blocs,’ located west of the security barrier which are usually very close to the Green Line. The vast majority of these settlements are also likely to remain under Israeli sovereignty. Only the third group, comprising 90,000 settlers – less than 20 per cent of the entire population of those living beyond the Green Line – who live beyond the route of the security barrier, needs to be addressed at the present time.

Right-wing plans: Annexation

During last years especially right-wing circles have promote partial annexation schemes – in the territorial, functional, and personal realms – within Area C. These alternatives include confining the annexation to settlement blocs, extending sovereignty to the territory of Israeli settlements, or applying Israeli legislation to Israeli residents of the West Bank. At least 60 pieces of legislation were drafted by right-wing members of the Knesset during the last parliament to move Israel from a state of de facto to de jure annexation, according to a database by Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights group. eight have passed into law.

The alternative plans from the Right range from extending Israeli sovereignty over all of Judea and Samaria and encouraging the Palestinians there to leave, to annexing Area C, and giving the 80,000 Palestinians living there Israeli citizenship.

On the far Right of the spectrum there is e.g. a plan articulated by former Likud MK Moshe Feiglin , who advocates a plan for Jewish sovereignty over Judea and Samaria while the Arab population would either emigrate voluntarily with the aid of a “generous emigration grant” or receive permanent residency – similar to Green Card status in the US – but be unable to vote.

Left-wing plans: Separation

Fence is not a political border, it is not a security border, but rather another means to assist in the war on terror.”(Israeli PM Ariel Sharon)

Former Leader of the Israeli opposition – and Labor/Zionist Union – Isaac Herzog proposed to divide the land between the Israelis and Palestinians. Following a quote from interview of Isaac Herzog inFathom:

I speak in a very frank and open manner. I believe that Israel must move for peace. We must move towards the division of the land between the Palestinians and us in order to maintain the future of Israel as a Jewish democratic state. We will be here and you, Palestinians, will be there…Live your lives, improve your economy, create employment. The blocs under Israeli sovereignty will be part of the permanent solution. They will serve as recipients of settlers from outside the major blocs.”

Politically, the idea “us here, them there” harkens back to Yitzhak Rabin, who used that as a campaign slogan in 1992. Later former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert proposed a similar unilateral separation in the West Bank. Herzog’s plan seems likely to garner support among the centrist, center-left and even parts of the center-right Israeli voter base.

 

A key factor in determining the West Bank sc Separation Barrier’s (security fence)route was the location of settlements, thereby laying the groundwork for the de facto annexation of 81 settlements (including the 11 neighborhoods built in East Jerusalem). As of September 2017 some 460 kilometers (about 65% of the planned barrier) had been completed. Another 53 kilometers (about 7.5%) were under construction, and construction had yet to begin on some 200 kilometers. 

The security fence/separation barrier is the largest infrastructure project in Israel’s history. Each kilometer of fence costs approximately $2 million.

Domino Effect: The worst scenario by Commanders for Israel’s Security (CIS)

Commanders for Israel’s Security (CIS) is a non-partisan movement. Its members are retired generals and equivalents in Israel’s security services (the IDF, the Shin Bet, Mossad and Israel Police). In October 2018 the group published a study Ramifications of West Bank Annexation which describes the worst scenario following possible West Bank, or part of it, annexation:  The Domino Effect.

According study the annexation might lead to the collapse of the Palestinian Authority and the absence of an alternative government authority will force Israel to seize control of Areas A and B and to impose upon them a Military Administration regime. The annexation of the entire West Bank will constitute the irreversible abandonment of the trend toward separation and the de facto adoption of a one-state outcome.

Until a new security fence is constructed along the new borderline around the annexed territories entry from the Military Administration areas into Israel will be easy. This carries the risk of a drastic rise in security threats. Also according CIS to create a physical barrier between the annexed area and the remainder of the West Bank will require the relocation of the existing Security Fence to a new line, over twice as long (1,787 km compared to approximately 766 km planned of the Security Fence).

A new analysis

Recently, in the midst of the last election campaign (April 2019), a group of retired senior security officials in the defense establishment was telling voters that the elections would spell the difference between separation and annexation. The Commanders for Israel’s Security movement appealed to PM Netanyahu with warning that annexation of parts of the West Bank would endanger the residents of Israel. “The application of Israeli law to all or part of Judea and Samaria – not in the framework of a political settlement – will lead to a chain reaction that will seriously harm the security of the state, its economy and its regional and international standing. We want to warn in advance that what will begin with the application of sovereignty over a limited area will inevitably deteriorate to the total annexation of Judea and Samaria, to the millions of Palestinian residents. The decision of the Knesset to pass the legislation of annexation, however partial, can only be interpreted by the Palestinian Authority and the countries of the region and the world as a slamming of a door to a future political settlement,” the officials wrote.

A new analysis The West Bank’s Area C: Israel’s Eastern Line of Defenseby Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen explores the strategic-military implications of the establishment of a Palestinian state along the pre-June 1967 lines. Its central thesis is that the creation of such a state, on the heels of the IDF’s total withdrawal from the West Bank, will not only deprive Israel of defensible borders but will almost certainly lead to the advent of a terrorist entity like the one created in the Gaza Strip – at a stone’s throw from the Israeli hinterland.”

According Gershon Hacohen, Israeli proponents of the IDF’s withdrawal from the West Bank, including most retired IDF/security establishment senior officials, base their strategic-military argumentation on four axiomatic assumptions:

IDF/CIS: Territorial separation between Israelis and Palestinians, including massive evacuation of Jewish West Bank neighborhoods, will delineate borders, reduce friction, and create stability.

In his study Hacohen rejects this strategic-military reasoning altogether claiming that withdrawal from the West Bank and the Jordan Valley and the establishment of a Palestinian state in these territories will confront Israel with an unprecedented security threat:

Massive evacuation of West Bank Jewish neighborhoods will not ameliorate the conflict, as argued by proponents of the twostate solution. Quite the reverse, in fact. The removal of the well-integrated Jewish neighborhoods from the West Bank will force all counterterrorist activities to be launched from inside Israel into the Palestinian population centers, where they will be met with tough resistance, which – as taught by the Gaza experience – necessitates the employment of massive military force.

IDF/CIS: If the security situation becomes completely untenable, the Israeli government will not hesitate to decide to embark on any necessary military operation. Should stability deteriorate to the point of an unbearable threat, the IDF will be able to remove this security threat within days.

Hacohen opposes:

The claim that the IDF will be able to remove the threat of a fullfledged West Bank terrorist entity within days, along the lines of the astounding June 1967 victory, cannot be further removed from reality, even if Israel is not forced to fight on several fronts simultaneously. Suffice it to say that the operational difficulties faced by the Western armies in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, especially in densely populated, built-up areas like Mosul and Aleppo, illustrate the callousness of ignoring the existential security-strategic threat attending total West Bank withdrawal and the establishment of a Palestinian state in this area.

IDF/CIS: Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank and the end of the “occupation” will give any such military operation broad international backing.

Hacohen opposes:

Judging by the experience of the three Hamas-Israel wars (2008-9, 2012, and 2014), not only would the West Bank’s recapture not receive international legitimacy but Israel would face heavy international pressure to immediately withdraw its forces. The recapture of the West Bank would constitute the conquest of a sovereign state.

Democratic or Jewish state?

According Hacohen proponents of the two-state solution predicate their position on two parallel sets of arguments: political-ideological and strategic-military. On the first level, they claim that Israel’s continued control of the West Bank erodes its democratic nature, while solving this problem by annexing the territory and making its Palestinian residents Israeli citizens will spell the end of Israel as a Jewish state.

In my opinion this approach is totally correct as also I think that the core problem is whether Israel is a democratic state including its Palestinian residents from disputed territories or a Jewish State separating Israeli citizens from most part of Palestinian residents in West Bank; Israel can be democratic only if all its citizens have equal human and political rights.

Security?

In his study Hacohen rejects this strategic-military reasoning altogether claiming that withdrawal from the West Bank and the Jordan Valley and the establishment of a Palestinian state in these territories will confront Israel with an unprecedented security threat; his claim is based on following arguments:

Hezbollah’s operational doctrine – embraced by Hamas with necessary adaptations to the Gaza context, which will almost certainly be adopted in the West Bank after the Israeli withdrawal – foreshadows a lethal security threat from a Palestinian state in the mountainous terrain overlooking Israel’s narrow coastal plain, with its multiple strategic assets.

This security threat will increase considerably in the event of a parallel conflagration in Gaza, Lebanon, and possibly Syria. The addition of a West Bank state to the equation is liable to place the IDF in a dire predicament – not only in terms of resource scarcity (manpower, ammunition, intelligence gathering capabilities, etc.) but also because of the operational-strategic constraints on its ability to launch a decisive offensive in the West Bank.

The demilitarization of the future Palestinian state – a precondition for its establishment in the perception of those favoring this option – is a pipedream, as evidenced by the resounding failure to demilitarize the Gaza Strip despite the PLO’s commitment to this step in a number of signed agreements.

The absence of an Israeli presence along the Jordan Valley will create a land continuum between the Palestinian state and the Arab world east of the Jordan River thus making it exceedingly difficult to prevent the arming of the (supposedly demilitarized) new state.

The main weakness, in my opinion, is that Hacohen’s study focuses exclusively on the strategic-military implications of the attempts at conflict resolution rather than their political-ideological dimensions.In the words of Maj. Gen. (res.) Amram Mitzna: “In the age of long-range missiles there is no importance for strategic depth. Agreements will provide us with greater security than strategic depth.”  I also agree with IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt. Gen. (res.) Dan Halutz, who said (in Yediot Ahronot, Jan. 16, 2015) that “The IDF will be able to defend every line defined by the political leadership. It is worth noting that the greatest military victory (after the War of Independence) was won in 1967 from within the border that the current leadership describes as indefensible.”

Israel missile defence By Ari Rusila figure

New threads and defence?

Sure also Hacohen is right saying that circumstances now are different than -67, e.g. urbanisation of the fighting space means that military planners have to incorporate the needs of the civilian population into their operational planning while being fully attentive to humanitarian, political, legal, ethical, and media considerations, among others.

In my opinion IDF is well prepared both at technical level as well in its strategy for new circumstances, threads and challenges. In the words of Chief-of-Staff Gadi Eizenkot’s August 2015 doctrinal pamphlet The IDF’s Strategy: “The IDF’s main approach to achieving a decision is the creative approach, based on focused offensive elements that target the enemy’s weak points while exploiting relative advantages, notably momentum, pace of action and initiative, whose integration achieves shock and surprise.”

Israel military doctrine

From my point of view Israel’s borders are defensible even if Israel annexes only 5-15% of West Bank and after Security Barrier has completed.  I base this claim e.g. with following aspects:

  • Israel has military and intelligence edge and I don’t have any doubts that it can keep this edge also in future,
  • IDF, Mossad, Shin Bet etc can copy fast and flexible way to any new threads and challenges be they kite balloon or cyber attacks e.g. due first class ecosystem supporting new innovations,
  • IDF is developing whole time both technic and strategic levels and probably it will have also enough financial resources to be updated based to its popular support in Israeli society;  IDF is one of the most respected organisations in Israel.

If aspects mentioned above are valid it makes possible political decisions – negotiated or unilateral –  like separation and relocating outposts. 

The fact is that separation e.g. with security barrier seems to be effective : Since construction of the fence began, the number of attacks has declined by more than 90%. The number of Israelis murdered and wounded decreased by more than 70% and 85%, respectively, following the erection of the fence. Israeli officials (including the head of the Shin Bet) have said that in the areas where the barrier was complete, the number of hostile infiltrations has decreased to almost zero as the barrier made it much harder to conduct attacks inside Israel.

Sure the security/separation barrier limits the ability of the resistance to arrive deep within Israeli territory to carry out suicide bombing attacks, but same time terrorist organizations are looking for other ways to attack. One should also note that attacks have decreased due to increased pursuing of Palestinian militants by the Israeli army and intelligence organizations.

Haaretz Poll, May 2019

In my article Constructive Unilateralism: Leftist Approach to Israel-Palestine Conflict  have referred some of new leftist initiatives which in my opinion are steps forward and also to the right direction as well including required new roadmap for better future. I don’t see constructive unilateral steps as goal but more as strategy and process which will lead towards a comprehensive agreement.  It also might be that what’s left of the West Bank will become cantons or autonomy under Jordan’s administrative rule or (confederation).

My view

Partial (right-wing) annexation schemes may be a step away from separation and toward One-State reality – to a single binational state. Partial unilateral annexations might indeed lead to the termination of security coordination by the Palestinian Authority (PA) or its collapse. Israel would be forced to respond to the security and civil affairs vacuum created and the accompanying side-effects, including a potential wave of violence. In such a scenario, Israel will need to seize control of the entire West Bank.  In my opinion this scenario will either end Israel as Jewish state or democratic state.

In my opinion the best solution for Israel-Palestine conflict is the Three-State solution where Gaza will be annexed to Egypt (Sinai option) and most part (80-90%) of West Bank will be annexed to Jordan (Jordan option). This solution however does not have wider support in Jordan nor among international community. Instead the Two-State solution has wide regional and international support but the road map to achieve this outcome has been dead for decades. From my point of view the core challenges in Israel-Palestine conflict are:

  • how some long term solution could be achieved with a minimal evacuation of Jews from the West Bank,
  • how to make, from Israeli side, constructive unilateral actions without endangering cooperation with Palestinian Authority,
  • how to keep door open for viable Palestinian state in future

Implementing Two-State based to separation is not new idea in Israel’s political (centre)left.  Indeed Prime Minister Ehud Barak agreed (at the July 2000 Camp David summit and the January 2001 Taba summit) to the establishment of a Palestinian state in the entire Gaza Strip and 95% of the West Bank, which would also control the Jordan Valley. Similarly sweeping concessions were also made by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in the November 2007 Annapolis conference.

I didn’t mention Gaza as in my opinion there is already realistic plans for viable Palestinian state or autonomy for Gaza including reconstruction and investment plans, extra land (Sinai Option), border posts and international port etc. First steps to implement these plans have been long-term ceasefire (hudna) between Israel and Hamas and there is already earmarked donations reserved to implement this plan in Arabic states, US, Israel and wider international community.

As preliminary part of coming Trump’s peace deal the same idea like for Gaza – from economic peace to political peace – is possible also in West Bank. In June/July 2019 will be held sc “Peace to Prosperity” workshop in Bahrain and it is a pivotal opportunity… to share ideas, discuss strategies and galvanize support for potential economic investments and initiatives that could be made possible by a peace agreement. Jordan, Egypt and other Arab countries as well Israeli business men will attend to workshop; however, Palestinian officials have confirmed they will not be in attendance.

 

Related articles:

Peacemaking – a Holistic Approach

New Road Maps to the Two-State

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: A Revised Hybrid Model as Solution

Palestinians Put Jordanian Option on the Table

Israel-Palestine Conflict: Regional Approach

Israel’s 5 Strategy Options Regarding West Bank After Abbas

Trump Presidency Brings Realpolitik Back To Mid-East

Constructive Unilateralism (II) as Solution to Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Herzog’s Plan: Security Barrier Around the Major Settlement Blocs of West Bank

Analysis: Resolving The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Israel’s 5 Strategy Options Regarding West Bank After Abbas [Source: Prof. Hillel Frisch/BESA Center]

 


UNHRC Report Demonizes Israel – Again

March 10, 2019

“A fact-finding group created by terms of reference that seek to direct its conclusions is essentially a waste of time. Its findings, at most, will reassure those whose minds are already made up.” (Prof. Thomas M. Franck)

The United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry (COI) on the protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory presented its findings on 28th February 2019. The report focuses on the demonstrations in the Gaza Strip, referred to as the “Great March of Return and the Breaking of the Siege”. The Commission has reasonable grounds to believe that during the Great March of Return, Israeli soldiers committed violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Some of those violations may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity, and must be immediately investigated by Israel,” said the Chair of the Commission, Santiago Canton of Argentina. (Source: UN press release)

The Commission was mandated by the Human Rights Council in May 2018 to investigate all alleged violations and abuses of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, in the context of the large-scale protests that began in Gaza on 30 March 2018. Acting Foreign Minister Israel Katz said in a statement that the UN Human Rights Council had “produced another hostile, mendacious and slanted report against the State of Israel … No one can deny Israel the right of self-defense and the obligation to defend its citizens and borders from violent attacks.”

The independent human rights group UN Watch has released its initial response to the UN Commission of Inquiry’s report accusing Israel of “crimes against humanity” against so-called “peaceful protesters” at the Gaza border. UN Watch engaged in a lengthy correspondence with the inquiry, and expressed disappointment that its detailed submissions of law and fact — including a lengthy submission (summarized in official UNHRC Written Statements here and here) — were almost entirely disregarded.

Report of the independent international commission of inquiry on the protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory – A/HRC/40/74 (Release Date: 28 February 2019) English PDF | Word )

 

Background according COI

On 7 January 2018, Ahmed Abu Artema, a 34-year-old Palestinian poet and journalist, posted on Facebook the idea of a non-violent march at the separation fence, to draw attention to General Assembly resolution 194 and to the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza. In the post, ending #GreatMarchofReturn, he wrote, “what if 200,000 demonstrators marched peacefully and broke through the fence east of Gaza and entered a few kilometres into the lands that are ours, holding the flags of Palestine and the keys to return, accompanied by international media, and then set up tents inside and established a city there.” (Page 6)

In 2011, Ahmed Abu Ratima (or Rteima aka Artema), whose family originally came from Ramle, conceived the idea of Palestinians going peacefully to the separation barrier in protest for their right to return to the homes from which they had been driven, or had fled. So the the idea of a nonviolent march toward the border was thought up as early as 2011 by Ahmed Abu Arteima a spokesperson for the “Great March of Return” before and during the implemented ”March Campaign”. The idea of mass “marches of return” was tried a number of times between 2011 and 2013, and were organized by Hamas activists in Britain and other anti-Israeli activists around the globe participating in the campaign to delegitimize Israel.

For example on 30th June 2012 In the northern Gaza Strip (Beit Hanoun, near the Erez crossing) several thousand Palestinians held a demonstration. Zaher Birawi, a Hamas activist in Britain, said that the activity had been quite successful but the organizers were “realistic.” He said they were aware that had it not been for “weak spots in several Arab-Muslim countries,” many more people could have participated. He consoled himself with the fact that it had been the first step towards the next time and that the marches had caused Israel to be on high alert, which had cost a great deal of money. He called on various people to exert pressure on their regimes and said that all the organizations of the march would meet in the near future to formulate a working plan for the future (al-Aqsa TV, March 31, 2012).

One of the activists involved in media preparations is Zaher Birawi, a Palestinian activist based in Britain who is affiliated with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood; Birawi, chairman of the International Committee for Breaking the Siege on Gaza, provided on 5th September 2017 a stage for activity planned in the Gaza Strip on the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated al-Hiwar TV channel, which broadcasts from London and where he is program director.

Asked whether ships would sail to the Gaza Strip in the near future, he answered it had been decided in principle to continue to try to break the “siege” by sea. He said the Freedom flotilla coalition was examining a plan to send one or more ships during the summer of 2018. They were currently discussing details and how to ensure success. He said the flotillas’ main goal is propaganda aimed at keeping the Palestinians, the Gaza Strip and the “siege” as “live” topics in international public discourse. According to Birawi, the objectives of the flotillas are to defame Israel, and to increase the effect of the political and media campaigns accompanying the flotillas.

Context according COI

The “great march” entailed weekly demonstrations by Palestinians near the fence that since 1996 has separated Gaza and Israel (along the Green Line traced by the armistice agreements of 1949), demanding that the blockade imposed on Gaza be lifted and the return of Palestinian refugees…By 2015, the Israeli blockade and restrictions on entry and exit of goods and people had halved the GDP of Gaza and reduced it to a humanitarian case of profound aid-dependency… (Page4)

First one should mention that the takeover by Hamas in 2007 led not only Israel but Egypt as well to impose a land, air and sea blockade on the Gaza Strip. The purpose is to prevent arms, missiles and materials to build weaponry enter to Gaza. Egypt has destroyed over thousand smuggling tunnels from Gaza to Sinai during last years. (More e.g in Gaza Blockade – It’s Egypt not Israel! )

The real background might be, that Israeli-Palestinian conflict has stepped aside for other Mideast conflicts, such as Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Iranian-Saudi and Shiite-Sunni proxy wars. To bring the Palestinian case back to the agenda and media headlines the new innovations are needed, the ongoing ”knifeintifada” in Judea and Samaria and occasional quassam-fire fro Gaza are interesting issues only in Israel, the Western mainstream media has more newsworthy material elsewhere.

An sure there has been political aims, like COI claims in their report, but those aims seem to be different than COI has in mind. The idea was motivated by Hamas’ strategic hardship, at the center of which is the economic deterioration of the Gaza Strip, for which Hamas cannot provide a solution. Other motivations are the stalled internal Palestinian reconciliation; Israel’s success in striking the tunnels entering Israeli territory (Hamas’ main asset for the “next round”); Hamas’ difficulties with Egypt (the Rafah crossing is still closed most of the time) and with other Arab countries.

Besides internal propaganda in Gaza the march was directed at Hamas’s rivals as well as Israel. Hamas wanted to send a message to the Palestinian Authority, which is learned from the Palestinian Papers was prepared to compromise on the demand that five million Palestinian refugees be given the opportunity to return to “their homes.” Palestinian negotiators know that Israel will never agree to allow millions of Palestinians who claim to be refugees to flood Israel. Hamas, however, insists the refugee issue is non-negotiable.

The report places all responsibility for the current impasse in peace negotiations on Israel. In fact, the Palestinians have rejected every peace plan ever offered to them since before the founding of the State of Israel in 1948. Most recently, the Palestinians rejected former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s 2008 peace plan. Placing the blame for lack of peace exclusively on Israel rewards Palestinian rejectionism and Hamas terrorism, undermines Israel’s right to self-defense, and makes a negotiated two-state solution much more difficult to achieve.

A peaceful non-violent march?

In the commission’s view, the demonstrations were civilian in nature, had clearly stated political aims and, despite some acts of significant violence, did not constitute combat or a military campaign. (Page 8)

Some activities, such as the launching of incendiary kites, cutting barbed wire or tyre burning, began to be organized by self-declared “units”, some of them through their own Facebook pages. The commission found no evidence to suggest that they were directed or coordinated by armed groups. (Page 14)

  • In February 17th 2018, four IDF soldiers were injured by an explosive device concealed in a Palestinian flag placed on the Gazan border fence during a Palestinian protest.
  • On 25 March, the IDF fired some ten Iron Dome missiles to intercept what the IDF sensors interpreted to be rockets, but which later turned out to be high-trajectory machine-gun fire during Hamas military exercises conducted in Gaza, which early reports said was directed towards Zikim.
  • In the week prior to 30 March, the IDF arrested a suspect who crossed into Israeli territory from northern Gaza; 2 Palestinians were seen near the now-defunct Karni crossing container port trying to set fire to army engineering equipment close to the border fence; a group of four Palestinians infiltrated Israel near Kissufim; and 3 Gazans, armed with grenades and knives, crossed the border and were captured some 20 kilometers (12 mi) from the border, near Tze’elim. (Source: Wikipedia )

 

Näytä kuva Twitterissä

 Israel Defense Forces:  This is what Hamas claims to be a peaceful protest

There is a lot of examples about incitement to terrorism and genocide by Hamas leaders, few quotes (Source: UN Watch):
  • Hamas Gaza leader Yehya Sinwar shouts: “We will tear down the border and we will tear out their hearts from their bodies.” (Al-Jazeera, April 6, 2018)
  • Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh says: “Palestine and Jerusalem belong to us…We will break the walls of the blockade, remove the occupation entity and return to all of Palestine.” (Times of Israel, April 9, 2018)
  • Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh says: “Our people will outnumber the occupation and force it from our land.” (Chicago Tribune, April 20, 2018)
  • Hamas Gaza leader Yehya Sinwar rallies the crowd: “We would rather die as martyrs than die out of oppression and humiliation…We are ready to die, and tens of thousands will die with us.” (New York Times, May 9, 2018)
  • Hamas official Fathi Hamad calls on Muslims: “to kill ‘Zionist Jews’ wherever they find them.” (Times of Israel, July 26, 2018)

Other Hamas admissions showing border violence is part of ongoing armed conflict between Hamas and Israel, and is instigated and supported by Hamas (Source: UN Watch):

  • Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem admits that Hamas pays $200 to $3,000 to the families of Gazans killed or wounded in the rallies. Hamas website (quoted by MEMRI, April 5, 2018)
  • Hamas co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahhar admits to Al Jazeera that calling the border protests “peaceful resistance” is “deceiving the public.” (Al-Jazeera quoted by MEMRI, May 13, 2018 statement)
  • Hamas Politburo member Salah al-Bardawil admits in TV interview that 50 out of 62 people killed on May 14 were Hamas members, and more than 50% of those killed at border since March 1 were Hamas members. (Baladna TV quoted by MEMRI and Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, May 14, 2018)
  • Hamas press release admits that the marches are being conducted by “the organizations of jihad fighters,” and managed and supervised by “combat organizations,” concluding “This is jihad — victory or causing death in the way of Allah.” (Hamas press release published by Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs) 

(Source: UN Watch )

The Israel Air Force dropped leaflets over the Gaza Strip warning again Palestinians not to approach the Israeli border on May 15, 2018

Protected groups

The commission investigated also victims who are entitled to special protection under international law, such as journalists and persons with disabilities. One example happened on 6th April:

Yasser [Murataja], a journalist from Gaza City, was shot in the lower abdomen by Israeli forces at the Khan Younis site while he was filming the demonstrations for a documentary. (Page 24)

The report forgot to mention that filming was made e.g. by drone-camera and the drone was Israeli side above IDF soldiers who so came in danger as their locations were uncovered. In addition Murtaja had a double identity: in addition to being a media person, he was also an operative in Hamas’ security forces. .

Other example from 13th April:

Ahmed [Abu Hussein], a journalist from the Jabaliya refugee camp was shot by an Israeli sniper in the lower abdomen at the north Gaza site while he was taking photographs of the demonstrations… He died of his injuries 12 days later. (Page 24)

An examination of Ahmed Abu Hussein’s identity revealed that in addition to being a media person, he was also a PFLP member. That was manifested in several ways: the PFLP’s military wing issued formal death notices for him; at his funeral red PFLP flags were carried; and the Ahmed Abu Hussein’s Facebook page posted notices glorifying the PFLP, its leaders and terrorist attacks (such as the assassination of Israeli minister Rehavam Ze’evi).

Remark: Also this PFLP terrorist ( Ahmed Abu Hussein) got treatment in the Intensive Care unit in the Tel Hashomer hospital in Israel!

Also the report claims that

Israeli army leaflets dropped over Gaza to warn Palestinian demonstrators not to approach the border fence

The Israeli forces also unlawfully shot other demonstrators with disabilities, [such as] Shadi Kashef (23, hearing disability) and Tahrir Wahba (18, hearing disability) (Pages 25-26).

It is nearly impossible for sniper to know if some person – potential thread – has hearing disabilities. To prevent this kind of accidents IDF distributed leaflets to Gazans, in Arabic, to stay away from the security fence and not to jeopardize their lives.

Violations of international human rights, war crimes, crimes against humanity?

The shooting by Israeli security forces of Palestinian demonstrators with high-velocity weaponry at close range resulted in killings and long-term, life-changing injuries, including paralysis and amputations. Although this was well known as early as April 2018, Israeli forces continued this practice throughout the period under review. Using such weaponry at short range, and justifying it by the need for accuracy at long range, indicates a disproportionate use of force. (Page 30)

The COI’s statistics for injuries and deaths of Gazans resulting from Israel’s use of live ammunition come from sources inside Gaza, mostly from the Hamas run health ministry, and are difficult to independently verify. In some cases, reports claimed protesters were killed by Israeli fire when actually they were killed by their own fire or explosives (see e.g.here).

The right to life includes the right to a life with dignity. As the occupying Power, Israel has obligations under international law to ensure the health and welfare of the Palestinian population. The commission found that the ongoing blockade of Gaza and its impact on the health-care system in Gaza, and the ensuing deprivation of essential goods and services necessary for a dignified life, including basic medical supplies, safe drinking water, electricity and sanitation, constitute violations of the fundamental rights to life and health, in particular of wounded demonstrators. (Page 31)

Few comments:

  • Israel didn’t block humanitarian aid to Gaza. In opposite ”peaceful demonstrators” attacked to Kerem border-crossing to prevent israeli and international aid cross the border to Gaza.
  • Also during the riots as always before many Gazans got treatment in Israeli hospitals.
  • Some medical supplies were used for other purposes, e.g. helium supposed to use in operational rooms in hospitals was used to fill ball-bombs.
  • Infrastructure in Gaza is in bad condition despite huge international aid as Hamas has used donations for benefit of ruling elite, materials supposed to build homes and public services have been used to build attack-tunnels against Israel, so blaming Israel or blockade is unfair.

However…

The commission found that, on 14 May, at least one gunman fired a weapon at the Israeli forces from within or near the demonstrations at a temporary demonstration site in North Gaza. Firing from the vicinity of a crowd of unarmed demonstrators endangers civilian lives and risks violating the principle of distinction under international humanitarian law. (Page 31-32)

Note words ”at least”.

Hamas terrorist who reached the border fence between Gaza and Israel caught on camera explaining how Hamas forces civilians to participate in violence against Israel.

Upotettu video

 

Bottom line

In 2005, the Palestinians of Gaza had a choice. They could have used their newly acquired freedom to build a strong economy in that coastal and fertile land, or they could have used that freedom to fight Israel. The fact that they chose the latter is not Israel’s responsibility, but it is not too late for Gaza’s Palestinians to choose a different path; e.g this: Hudna – The Hamas-Israel deal – on the Way.

As before, the UNHRC  once again has proven itself to be a body made up of a built-in anti-Israel majority, guided by hypocrisy and absurdity. Israel has not cooperated with COI as its task de facto was to impair Israel’s right to self-defense, and to demonize the Jewish state.

Removing all context from the events, and erroneously characterize them as “protests,” “peaceful,” and “civilian,” the report lacks any credibility; its proper use is to collect dust in archives among other similar UNHRC reports and high-flying, biased statements.

Israel and Hamas have been engaged in an international armed conflict and also the current events – violent or non-violent – are part of that armed conflict.  Indeed while describing “The Great Return March” as a media-campaign, I would like to transform the famous quote by von Clausewitz into form: Politics is the continuation of war by other means. 

Some of my previous related articles:

Israel’s Gaza Options – War or Ceasefire?

Some Aspects About ”The Great Return March” Campaign

“The Great Return March” Campaign Starts 30th March 2018

Western Donors Still Funding Terrorists

Hamas and Israel on Verge of the Deal

Gaza State Under Construction, West Bank Remains Bystander

Gaza Update: Hamas Downfalling – IDF Prepared

Gaza Blockade – It’s Egypt not Israel!

Hamas’ Relations With Egypt Worsened


Appendix:

NGO Monitor’s initial analysis: The major flaws of the Commission of Inquiry’s report on the Gaza border violence

Gaslighting Gaza: Initial Analysis of UN Commission of Inquiry on Gaza Riots
February 28, 2019

On February 28, 2019, the UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) on the riots along the Israel-Gaza border, which began in March 2018, alleged that “Israeli soldiers committed violations of international human rights and humanitarian law… and may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity.” The COI created a “confidential file” of “which is recommended be given to the International Criminal Court (ICC)” and to be used by governments to “consider imposing individual sanctions, such as a travel ban or an assets freeze.”

Methodological Failures

  • In contrast to professional fact-finding standards, the COI clearly established pre-determined legal and factual conclusion and merely gathered “evidence” to fit its desired outcome.
  • In preparing its report, the COI relied heavily on Palestinian sources, including Hamas and terror-linked non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Notably, the COI uncritically adopts the NGOs’ application of a domestic law enforcement paradigm – erasing the context of the armed conflict with Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups – to analyze cross-border violence.
  • The COI used anonymous and unverifiable “testimonies.” When asked during a press conference to provide details about how many of the 325 the interviews it conducted itself or how it selected the 325 individuals reportedly interviewed, the Chairperson of the COI was unable to answer the question and stated he would have to provide that information at a later date.
  • The information provided in the published summary is a near copy-paste from NGO submissions to the COI. For example, all names of Palestinian children killed were provided by Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCI-P), an NGO with ties to the Popular of Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terror group, i.e. one of the parties to the conflict in Gaza. (DCI-P’s submission was prepared in partnership with the CUNY School of Law Human Rights and Gender Justice Law Clinic.)
  • Reflecting the COI’s lack of expertise and muddled analysis, throughout the report, the COI mixes up the concepts of international human rights and humanitarian law and applicable rules and standards. For example, according to the Commission, the violence along the Israel-Gaza border was not a “military” or “combat” situation and therefore human rights law was the appropriate standard. Therefore, its conclusion that “human rights violations may also constitute “war crimes” is baseless, since war crimes can only where the laws of war are applicable.
  • The UN’s shoddy researching and reporting led them to write identical paragraphs about the same fatality, Mo’min Hams, on different pages of the “protected groups” section of the report.

Minimizing Palestinian Violence, Erasing Palestinian Terror

  • The COI largely erases the dimension of Palestinian violence along the Gaza border, as well as Hamas’ leading role in orchestrating the attacks. NGO Monitor’s two submissions to the COI provided significant detail regarding the presence of violence – including use of guns, Molotov cocktails, stones, burning tires, incendiary kites, etc. as well as the exploitation of children to perpetrate these acts – along the Gaza border. These and other evidence of violence are freely available from open sources. The COI ignored and minimized these armed attacks and reconstituted the riots as “peaceful protests.”
  • According to a statement made at a press conference, the COI deliberately focused on five main riot locations during the specific times of protests. This means that the COI ignored essential context including that the riots were used as diversions to attacks occurring elsewhere at the same time as well as military attacks, shootings and other violence that occurred at other times, particularly at night.
  • Although the COI acknowledges the involvement of terrorist organizations in planning the events along the border, it absurdly insists that “the armed wings of these parties were not represented on the [planning] committee.” In Gaza in particular, the distinction between “armed wings” of terror groups and other branches of these groups is meaningless.
  • The COI whitewashes statements made by Hamas officials that demonstrate Hamas’ role in organizing and directing the violence along the Gaza.  On May 17, 2018, Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar stated that “when we talk about ‘peaceful resistance,’ we are deceiving the public. This is a peaceful resistance bolstered by a military force and by security agencies, and enjoying tremendous popular support.”
  • On May 16, Hamas spokesman Salah Bardawil claimed “I am giving you an official figure. 50 of the martyrs in the recent battle were from Hamas,” referring to clashes that took place on May 14.
  • According to analysis conducted by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, dozens of fatalities named by the COI were members of or were tied to terrorist organizations, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP).  Among these was 16 year-old Islamic Jihad member Ahmad al-Shaer, indicating the recruitment of children into terrorist organizations.

Baseless Conclusions

  • The COI claims that Israel “intentionally shot”  children, health workers, journalists, and those with disabilities, “knowing” that these people were “recognizable as such when they were shot.”
  • It is unclear how the COI could determine intent of or the information known to IDF soldiers at the time of a given incident.
  • One such disabled individual is identified as deaf. Obviously, an Israeli soldier, at a distance of 150m away, could not possibly know of this person’s condition.
  • In its press conference, COI members admitted that “maybe some of them weren’t visibly children.”

Illegitimacy of the COI

  • None of the COI members has any expertise in international humanitarian law or military operations. Unsurprisingly, then, the report ignores the applicable legal framework and instead lazily refers solely to human rights law, making the absurd claim that “the demonstrations were civilian in nature… and despite some acts of significant violence, did not constitute combat or a military campaign.”
  • The COI was marred by a lack of transparency and accountability. It was allocated the massive sum of $1.5 million to complete this report, yet has kept secret how this money was spent. The identities of the staffers and any consultants employed are not disclosed, making it impossible to independently verify their professional qualifications.
  • The COI was established by the notorious UN Human Rights Council. A body controlled by dictatorships and authoritarian regimes and known for extreme anti-Israel bias. Therefore, it is not a true “inquiry,” but rather a rigged effort to recycle the claims of partisan NGOs and to grant them the legitimacy of the UN. This is another round to target Israel via such pseudo-investigations, including the notorious 2009 Goldstone report.

 

 


This article first appeared in Conflicts by Ari Rusila -blog


IDF vs Hezbollah Tunnel Warfare

January 1, 2019

“Iran’s annual funding of Hezbollah in Lebanon to attack Israel: 1 billion dollars.  
Hezbollah cross-border attack tunnel: A few million dollars.
Destroying this attack tunnel and protecting Israeli civilians: Priceless.”
(Israel Defense Forces)

Operation Northern Shield, which the IDF launched on 4 December 2018, aims to locate and destroy Hezbollah (terror)tunnels that cross the Blue Line from Lebanon into northern Israel. The operation is part of the ongoing Iran–Israel proxy conflict.

The Operation Northern Shield, following intelligence surveillance of a number of years. is underway via a well thought-out plan that combines intelligence exposure, engineering-based targeted action, and cognitive and diplomatic activity, all of which demonstrate clearly to Lebanon in general and Hezbollah in particular the aims and scope of the operation.

While Operation Northern Shield is still ongoing Israel’s attention is currently focused primarily on preventing Hezbollah to produce and convert rockets into guided long range precision missiles on Lebanese soil.  Probably both Israel and Hezbollah don’t have big interest to escalate the situation now – the future is different issue.

Some diplomatic activity

United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) acknowledged the existence of four tunnels near the Israel-Lebanon border, and can confirm that at least two of the tunnels cross the Blue Line” in violations of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which helped end the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

Israel and the United States are proposing a resolution to the Security Council to designate all of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization (the European states have designated only Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist organization)

The Russian embassy posted a tweet saying that there is “no doubt that Israel has the right to protect its national security, including to prevent the illegal entry of anyone into the country.”…“we hope that the actions taken for this purpose will not conflict with UNSC Resolution 1701.” Also the United States “strongly supports Israel’s efforts to defend its soverignty,” US National Security Advisor John Bolton wrote on Twitter.

The (End of) terror-tunnels

  • During the first day of the operation, on 4 December, the IDF uncovered a tunnel near the Israeli town of Metula with an estimated length of 200 metres (220 yd) that “extended more than 40 yards (37 m)” into Israel
  • On 6 December 2018, IDF discovered a second tunnel originating from the village of Ramyah near the border,
  • On 11 December 2018, the IDF located a third tunnel crossing into Israel.
  • On 16 December 2018, the IDF located a fourth tunnel crossing into Israel, and that as the tunnel had been rigged with explosives anyone entering it from the Lebanese side would be risking their life.
  • On December 26, 2018, the IDF blew up the fifth Hezbollah terrorist tunnel, which had been located a few days before in the region of the Shi’ite village of Ayta al-Shab (east of the Israeli community of Zar’it). Before the tunnel was destroyed the IDF called on the Lebanese villagers to evacuate the area

According to a senior IDF officer, most of the tunnels in the north exposed so far were “five star tunnels,” of the kind Hamas could only dream about. They had ventilation ducts and electric connections, and some of them had telephones. Some of Hezbollah’s tunnels were dug to a depth of more than 49 yards. They were ten feet wide and almost eight feet high (IDF spokesman, December 27, 2018).

The tunnels Hezbollah burrowed are meant to facilitate the movement and infiltration into northern Israel of hundreds of its fighters as part of its well-established military doctrine that calls for “the conquest of the Galilee.” and its aim is that during the next war, Hezbollah would invade the northern Israeli Galilee region and conquer it. Hezbollah’s operational plan also includes the construction of facilities to launch massive missile attacks on population centers and strategic sites. From Hezbollah’s perspective, the aerial attacks would attract the entire attention of Israel’s military, thereby simultaneously enabling Hezbollah to activate its plan for “the conquest of the Galilee” using its special forces.

Background

Hezbollah has long history of creating underground facilities such as tunnels, this was evident during the 2006 Lebanese war.  However then they served for defensive purposes i.e. moving troops etc but now the tunnels were intended for offensive objectives.  The idea of the tunnels is to transport Hezbollah elite units e.g. with motorcycles into Israel, to make ambushes, kidnap soldiers and terror civilian communities – the same idea which Hamas developed in Gaza before Israel-Gaza conflict in 2014.  Original idea came from lessons learned from Viet Cong activities in -60’s and -70’s.  Hamas shared their experiences with Hezbollah with Iranian financial support. 

IDF started searching for Hezbollah tunnels into Israel in 2013 after residents of northern Israel reported hearing sounds of digging, but failed to find anything. After the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict, which saw numerous tunnels dug by Hamas from the Gaza Strip into Israel being uncovered and being utilized in several attacks, the IDF renewed its search for Hezbollah tunnels in northern Israel, and this time found indications that such tunnels existed. A laboratory made up of soldiers from technology and intelligence units was formed to investigate it, based on a similar laboratory investigating Hamas tunnels in southern Israel. A variety of seismic sensors and radar systems were used to locate the tunnels. The operation was planned two and a half years in advance.

After realizing that Hezbollah’s tunnels would need to be dealt with in 2015, a team of IDF military engineers, intelligence officers, and technology experts determined that plans should be made for destroying the tunnels. Senior officers in the IDF Combat Engineering Corps realized that the hard, rocky terrain of northern Israel, as opposed to the soft, sandy terrain of the area where Hamas tunnels were dug in the south, would pose a challenge that the IDF was not accustomed to.

 

Operation Northern Shield: The outcome

The impact of of Operation Northern Shield is significant on Hezbollah’s plan to establish a credible ground threat against Israel. The operation makes clear the improved IDF’s intelligence and detection capabilities and destroying the tunnels as well building the security barrier or wall Negating this Hezbollah capability solidifies Israel’s military superiority and widens the gap between it and the organization in a manner that could affect the balance of deterrence, which has remained stable since 2006.

By refraining from punishing the organization for these violations, beyond By taking only preventive actions against the tunnels, and not punish Hezbollah or to make destroying airstrikes nor land operations, Israel is signaling its intent to maintain the stability and calm along the border. Hezbollah, for its part, is embarrassed and lack of interest in military escalation against Israel at this stage, due to its continued military involvement in the war in Syria, which thus far has taken a heavy toll in resources and casualties (about 2000 dead and approximately 8,000 wounded, and families that need to be supported).

Cement mixers en route to the border

IDF forces continue filling the tunnels with concrete

Bottom line

In  fact word operation describing ”Northern Shield” is an overstatement as the effort consists of engineering activities performed entirely within Israeli territory, with no fire and no maneuvering elements. According IsraelDefense in internal discussions within the defense establishment, quite a few speakers thought it would have been better to avoid destroying the tunnels at this time. The proponents of that view reasoned that it would be better to allow Hezbollah to invest more and more energy in the tunnels, of which the IDF was fully aware, and destroy the tunnels in the future, only in the event of a war – or turn them into a trap.

While Operation Northern Shield is still ongoing is Israel’s attention currently focused primarily on the project run by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah to produce and convert rockets into guided long range precision missiles on Lebanese soil. This is also the main explanation for the Israel Air Force campaign during last three years to bomb the supply lines from Iran via Syria to Hezbollah.  Only last year there was over 200 IAF attacks in Syria. Recently civilian airliners have carried in direct flights from Tehran to Beirut advanced weaponry such as Global Positioning System (GPS) components that could upgrade Hezbollah’s arsenal of unguided heavy rockets into precision-guided munitions (PGMs).

.

Sources e.g: Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center , Jerusalem Post, IsraelDefense The Institute for National Security Studies

More about Hamas’ tunnel warfare and Israel’s anti-tunnel campaign e.g: Gaza’s Tunnel War Continues On All Fronts  and Underground Iron Dome i.a. Against Hamas’ Terror Tunnels

 


Israel’s Gaza Options – War or Ceasefire?

December 4, 2018

War or cease-fire? Following the botched undercover IDF operation, Hamas fired  hundreds of rockets and mortar shells at Israel while Israel Air Force responded with massive airstrikes in the Strip. In few days, a cease-fire was reached and relative calm has since been maintained.  However Israel’s Defense Minister, Avigdor Liberman, resigned – political crisis was created while people from border communities demanded stronger actions against Hamas and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is struggling to save his government.

With these kind of recent events the urgent question is how is the Israel government’s Gaza policy developing in coming days/weeks/months.  From positive side Israel today has several options related to Hamas and Gaza;  negative side is that none of these options are good, ideal nor easy to implement.

From escalation…

The recent escalation in Gaza started when an undercover IDF group – dressed in civilian clothes – clashed with Hamas in Khan Yunis, a city in the south of the Gaza,on November 11. The team was installing an advanced surveillance system, listening device, according to Palestinian sources. The Israeli group killed seven members of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades including its commander, lost their own commander and escaped into Israel with the help of air support. The incident was followed by a barrage of some 460 rockets and mortars fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel and Israel Air Force responded by firing more than 160 missiles that fell throughout the Palestinian enclave. Hostilities were halted on November 13, when Hamas declared a unilateral ceasefire brokered by Egypt. After the incident Israel’s Defense Minister, Avigdor Liberman, resigned – political crisis was created and there is good change for early elections for Knesset in Spring 2019.

Captured spy gear that the Israeli troops planned to use to wiretap the Hamas’s internal communications system, according Hamas’ military wing.

Related to the botched operation, aired live on the Hamas-affiliated Al-Aqsa TV, Hamas’ Gaza City Deputy Chief Khalil al-Hayya claimed  that the Israeli undercover incursion was significant. The Israeli troops planned to use to wiretap the Hamas’ internal communications system. Had it been able to “install the surveillance equipment”, the undercover team would have given Israel the ability “to kill, hack and abduct”, and it would have “possibly made it easy for [Israel] to discover tunnels and other” activities pursued by Hamas, according to the Palestinian side. It was reported that during the most recent round of escalation Hamas’s security forces in the Khan Yunis region carried out an operation to locate Palestinians who had collaborated with Israel . According to reports, a number of suspects were detained. 

Six death sentences handed out by the Hamas  terror group on 3. Dec. 2018 to Palestinians who allegedly “collaborated” with Israel, a Hamas-controlled court also sentenced another eight defendants in Gaza to prison for various periods.The verdicts in the six most recent cases were linked to a botched undercover Israeli commando raid .

Information is mainly one-sided as Israel has imposed broad restrictions on media reporting of the incident.

( Sources: Intelnews.org , The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center and Haaretz )

 

 

…to relative calm

After the most recent round of escalation and the ceasefire ending it the “return marches” and mini-flotillas continue. Hamas, which is currently interested in calming the situation in order to advance its contacts for an arrangement, has lowered the level of violence (by preventing exceptional clashes, preventing rioters from approaching the border fence and preventing the launching of incendiary kites and balloons). 

The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC) reported  [28th Nov. 2018], that the past week Hamas continued to supervise reducing the level of violence at the weekly events (the “return march,” the mini-flotilla and the demonstration in the northern Gaza Strip). There were no exceptional clashes with the IDF and no use was made of incendiary kites and balloons. Hamas’ objective was to ensure the continuation of the talks for an arrangement and an internal Palestinian reconciliation as this past week a delegation of senior Hamas figures held talks in Cairo.

Sure Hamas has reduced violence in Gaza-Israel borderline but the West Bank is an different issue. The Israel Security Agency reported  that in September 2018 a Hamas network was exposed. The network planned to carry out attacks in Israel. To that end, Hamas’ military wing recruited operatives in Judea and Samaria and taught them to make IEDs. To transmit messages to operatives in Judea and Samaria, Hamas used residents of the Gaza Strip who had permits to enter Israel for life-saving medical treatment (a modus operandi familiar from the past).

 

Israel’s Gaza Options

From positive side Israel today has several options related to Hamas and Gaza;  negative side is that none of these options are good, ideal nor easy to implement.

Most popular option in Israeli border communities might be destroying Hamas.  This can be made with two methods:

  • By carpet bombing, which will reduce Gaza to rubble – to uninhabitable ruins, or
  • By re-occupying Gaza with massive land operation.

The first option is cheap and effective but cause huge human casualties in Gaza even when Israel gives warnings before bombing as usual.  Probably great part of Gazans would flee to Sinai but great part would stay if Hamas coerces them to act as human shields.  Using this option would lead huge international opprobrium, maybe even to isolation. However main obstacle of this option is IDF ethical code – Tzahal, which has widely accepted values – such as respecting human’s life (also enemies), purity of arms etc – not only in army but in society in general.

The second option is very expensive and both sides would suffer heavy casualties, human and material,  during operation/war and what even worse these huge costs would continue perhaps decades.  Sure in Gaza would be more like Israeli military government than even facades of democracy and Israel would suffer international opprobrium decade or more. 

Both Hamas and know Israelis that despite the fact that Israeli border communities and Gazans suffer, Gaza isn’t causing most Israelis enough troubles to make them willing to destroy Hamas or reoccupy the territory. Hamas understands the “red lines” very well. That’s why it deliberately confined itself to bombarding the south, despite having missiles capable of reaching most of Israel. It wanted to cause as much pain as possible without crossing the threshold that would provoke Israel into war — and it succeeded.

The third and forth options are both short-term fixes:

  • Implementing restricted land operation or 
  • Negotiate a long-term ceasefire – “Hudna”.

Restricted land operation is like small-scale war like in 2014 (Operation Protective Edge  aka Gaza War 2014) or in 2012 (Operations “Returning Echo” and “Pillar of Defense”) or in 2008-09 ( Operation “Cast Lead”  aka Gaza War). All these operations created few years peace,  there were moderated casualties and moderate international opprobrium.  Any of these operations did not seriously harm Hamas and its ability to build stronger army for next round. 

Long-term ceasefire – “Hudna” might bring a similar period, than before clashes of quiet, and it has several obvious advantages: no deaths, no international opprobrium, and greater support within Israel.  At best this option gives some positive vision for future: Hudna can lead to Gaza reconstruction with international Aid and it can be the first step of implementation of regional peace process (or maybe first part of coming “Trump’s Plan” aka “Deal of Century”).  The core idea is to develop welfare in Gaza and so reduce motivation to violence.

The fifth option keeps the status quo, it is the Zero Option and has no progress nor vision for better future.  It implements “tit for tat” strategy and both Gazans and Israeli border communities suffer even more than today as attacks and response might be more effective.

  

The Deal?

According  The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center  since the most recent round of escalation Hamas-Israel deal – or arrangement or hudna – is currently being formulated between Hamas and Israel. The deal is based on understandings achieved before the most recent round. According to the understandings, there will be quiet in return for easing the “siege,” in two stages. In the first stage, which will last for about two weeks, Israel will allow fuel for the power plant and financial aid to enter the Gaza Strip, and extend fishing waters to 12 miles. In the second stage, which ill take about half a year, fishing waters will be extended to 20 miles, a new electric line will be laid from Israel to the Gaza Strip, and gas pipes will be laid for the power plant. In addition, Gazans will be allowed to export merchandise, especially to Judea and Samaria, and restrictions on movement will be eased. According to reports, as part of the understandings Israel will agree to advance the establishment of a sea lane to the Gaza Strip.

Hamas replacing Fatah?

Hamas was established as a social-religious movement, has transformed from a terror organization into a semi-state actor – or de facto a governing entity – in control of the Gaza Strip and its population. There is big probability that Hamas in post-Abbas era will replace Fatah as leader of the Palestinian national movement and gain inter-Arab and international legitimacy. Hamas has real support on the grassroots and they are leading Palestinian power in struggle against Israel.

A new type of rocket which, according to PIJ claims, was fired at the southern Israeli city of Ashqelon. Its nickname is “The hell of Ashqelon” (Jerusalem Brigades website, 13th Nov. 2018).

General Tamir Yadai, head of Israel’s Home Front Command, issued a frightening warning [28th Nov. 2018] to Israel’s citizens: ”The days are past, when we’ll be fighting in the North or in Gaza, and folks will be drinking coffee in Tel Aviv.” Although Tel Aviv and Israel’s central region have been relatively untouched by Hamas rocket fire and incendiary bombs over the last eight months of hostilities, Hamas rocket capabilities have clearly improved since Israel’s last incursion into the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge in July-August 2014. Though only guesstimates, Israeli citizens in the south living under the rocket fire say the rockets are at least five times more powerful than what they remembered from four years ago. From the north, Israel faces a still greater threat. Hezbollah is considered the world’s strongest non-state actor, fielding a medium-sized army and a large arsenal of rockets estimated at around 130,000. (Source WIN  )

In ongoing political crisis PM Netanyahu got support from former chief of staff and current political hopeful Benny Gantz, who spoke against “Exploiting our just defensive war for personal or political gain.”

According Debkafile  shortly after Avigdor Lieberman resigned as defense minister, the IDF (or ”anonymous “military sources”)  rated as “low” the level of the Hamas threat, and maintained that Hamas does not want a confrontation. And their conclusion: “This was no time for a [major military] operation.” They advised capitalizing on Hamas’ “weakness” to press forward with the diplomatic process.

Bottom line

The relations between Egypt and Hamas have been one of the core questions in (partial) Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Besides ongoing process of Hamas-Israel ceasefire deal Egypt has a decisive role if sc ‘Sinai option’ (more in Sinai Option again) will go further as partial solution to conflict.

From my point of view now is the right moment to explore the regional alternative based on maybe soon coming American plan. In my opinion “regional peace process” can be implemented by Egypt, Jordan and Israel and instead of Arab Peace Initiative be based on Sinai and Jordan options. A major emphasis will be placed on economic investments for the Palestinians, as well as regional cooperation, anti-terror measures and normalization of relations between the Arab states and Israel, on the basis of the 2002 Saudi peace initiative. First step could be long term truce – hudna – according Hamas-Israel deal. During this it is possible to develop civil society in Gaza and so reduce motivation to terror. If there is no progress in short term so then the best way forwards from my perspective is Israeli unilateral actions hopefully based on “Constructive Unilateralism” approach.

 


Bosnia Moving from Failed State Towards Dissolution

October 9, 2018

 

Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) is an artificial administrative creature made by foreign powers in Dayton agreement on 1995. It has two political semi-independent entities (federal units) – Serb dominated Republika Srpska (RS) and Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) inhabited mainly by Croats and Bosniacs.  The outcome has been some kind of confederal arrangement set up in Dayton, which provides for an extremely limited central government and broad and virtually unfettered self-government for the RS as well for the FBiH.

General elections were held in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) on 7 October 2018.  The general election was seen as an indicator of Bosnia’s future direction: moving toward integration in the European Union and NATO or driven by entrenched rivalries and friction. Pro-Russia Serb leader Milorad Dodik won a race to fill the Serb seat in Bosnia’s three-member presidency, deepening ethnic divisions in the country that faced a brutal war some 25 years ago. Earlier Dodik has prevented Bosnia-Herzegovina from recognizing Kosovo, and opposes joining NATO.  After elections Dodik said, that“The will of the people leaves no doubt what they want,”  adding that voters “punished” his opponent for his “servile policies toward the West.” Ivanic conceded defeat.

The country – Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) – consists of a Serb-run Republika Srpska (RS) entity and a Muslim-Croat entity Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) with joint institutions in a central government. Voters cast ballots for the three-person Bosnian presidency, the Serb president, and the two entities’ parliaments and cantonal authorities.

Voters elected the national Presidency and House of Representatives, as well as the Presidents and legislatures of the two entities – Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina(FBiH) and Republika Srpska (RS) – and the legislatures of the ten cantons of the federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The 10 cantons of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina serve as the second-level units of local autonomy and federal units of the of FBiH while the other political entity of BiH, the Republika Srpska (RS), has a centralized government and is divided directly into 63 municipalities. In addition the ethnically diverse Brčko District is a division of its own under the direct jurisdiction of BiH.

A total of 3,352,933 voters were eligible to vote at 5,794 polling stations at home and abroad for some 53 parties, 36 coalitions, and 34 independent candidates that have been confirmed as eligible to run by Bosnia’s Central Election Commission. A total of 3,352,933 citizens were registered to vote: 2,092,336 in the FBiH and 1,260,597 in the RS . Turn out at the level of BiH was 53.36%; FBiH 51.25%; RS 57.30%.

As concerns the BiH Presidency, the preliminary results from 43.42% polling stations indicate that Šefik Džaferović (SDA) won 37.97%, Željko Komšić (DF) won 49.47% and Milorad Dodik (SNSD) won 55.15 % for the Bosniak, Croat and Serb seats in the BiH Presidency respectively. (Source: Wikipedia)

Old Bridge, Mostar, BiH

The outcome

Despite international community’s state building efforts in Bosnia the country is splitting parts; the aim for this artificial creature designed in Dayton agreement was a multi-ethnic state with EU perspective.  Bosnia is now even more divided, with less national identity, 20 percent of population living under the poverty line, with a nightmare triple administration plus international supervising making the country one of the worst place in Europe to do business, even as it seeks to join the European Union. The EU has demanded that if Bosnia wishes to join to EU, it must create a stronger central government. Negotiations – led by EU and U.S over constitutional changes to strengthen the central government have been long and unsuccessful.  

According Stephen Karganovic during the electoral process some Western political manipulation took place to influence its outcome as credible claims have been made that Republic of Srpska’s main opposition coalition alliance is being funded by the US and UK.. USAID and other outfits tied to the US and British governments were injecting funds into the Republic of Srpska, particularly the media and political groups friendly to their agenda, in order to detach the Republic of Srpska from “malign Russian influence.” As a result, the Republic of Srpska is in the throes of the second round of the color revolution which was originally attempted and failed four years ago at the time of the previous general elections in 2014.

Western minions are being funded and covertly supported because they have agreed to revise the 1995 Dayton agreement and to accept the concept of a unitary Bosnian state that would eliminate or eviscerate the Republic of Srpska. They have also agreed to drop Srpska’s veto to NATO membership for Bosnia. Dodik’s rule has been undermined significantly by the corruption and incompetence of his government. These shortcomings have given the pro-NATO and anti-Russian opposition legitimate issues on which to focus and draw votes that they would otherwise not get based on the flawed fundamental policies that they are hired to advocate. (Source and more about this in article Targeted in the Balkans: Russia’s Tiny Ally Republic of Srpska By Stephen Karganovic)

Bottom line

Dodik’s win in elections 2018 will probably mean the restoration of the loose confederal arrangement originally envisaged and agreed upon in Dayton would be regarded by Serbs as satisfactory. Such a system would leave them with an ample degree of self-government in their own virtually independent state. As they could largely ignore the unpalatable government in Sarajevo, and that government would have little effective control over them. For Western powers, NATO and EU the outcome of elections 2018 probably will be there will be a delay of color revolution in the RS. For Bosnia the outcome might be moving from failed state towards dissolution of BiH.

Some earlier articles:

The ‘Bosnian Spring’ Between Chances

Rethinking needed after Bosnian elections

Bosnia on the road to the EU, sorry to Dissolution

Bosnia collapsing?

Srebrenica again – Hoax or Massacre?


Appendix: Some background

Bosnian flag with explanation

The three points of the triangle represent the nation’s three ethnic groups: Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs. The triangle itself represents the geographic shape of the nation itself. The colors represent neutrality and peace, whereas the stars represent Europe.


From Petro$ to Petro¥

August 29, 2018

Few years ago I published an article ¥uan and Waterloo of Petro$  where I predicted following:

As the Americans and their allies are trying to squeeze Russia and Iran with a combination of economic sanctions and political isolation, alternative poles of power are emerging that soon may present a serious challenge to the U.S.-dominated world that emerged from the end of the Cold War.

 

the end of dollar

Now it seems that the development is even faster than I expected. Here an excellent view from Gal Luft, Published by Yahoo Finance on August 27, 2018

 

Thwarting the anti-dollar coalition should be Washington’s top national priority

 

By Gal Luft

August 30, 2018

 

The United States is currently waging economic warfare against one tenth of the world’s countries with cumulative population of nearly 2 billion people and combined gross domestic product (GDP) of more than $15 trillion.

These include Russia, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of Congo, North Korea and others on which Washington has imposed sanctions over the years, but also countries like China, Pakistan and Turkey which are not under full sanctions but rather targets of other punitive economic measures.

In addition, thousands of individuals from scores of countries are included in the Treasury Department’s list of Specially Designated Nationals who are effectively blocked from the U.S.-dominated global financial system. Many of those designated are either part of or closely linked to their countries’ leadership.

From a U.S. perspective, each one of the economic entities is targeted for a good reason be it human rights violations, terrorism, crime, nuclear trade, corruption or in the case of China, unfair trade practices and intellectual property theft.

But in recent months it seems that America’s unwavering commitment to fight all of the world’s scourges has brought all those governments and the wealthy individuals who support them to a critical mass, joining forces to create a parallel financial system which would be out of reach of America’s long arm. Should they succeed, the impact on America’s global posture would be transformational.

America’s global supremacy has been made possible not only thanks to its military power and its alliance system but also due to its control over the plumbing of global finance and particularly the broad acceptance of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. The unique status of the U.S. currency has anchored the global financial system since World War II.

Any transaction done in U.S. dollars or using a U.S. bank automatically brings the trading parties under American legal jurisdiction. When the U.S. decides to impose unilateral sanctions, as in the case of Iran, it essentially tells the world’s governments, corporations and individuals they must choose between halting business with the sanctioned country or be shut off from the world’s number one economy. This is a powerful stick.

Not many companies or banks can afford to give up on the U.S. market or be denied access to U.S. financial institutions.

Revisionist countries that wish to challenge the U.S.-led system see this as an affront to their economic sovereignty. Which is why both Russia and China have developed their own versions of the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), the global network that allows cross-border financial transactions among thousands of banks. Both countries are also urging their trading partners to ditch the dollar in their bilateral trade in favor of indigenous currencies.

This month Russia was quick to recruit Turkey into the anti-dollar bloc, announcing it would back non-dollar trade with it, after a financial feud between Ankara and Washington broke out. China for its part is using its trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative as a tool to compel countries to transact in yuan terms instead of dollars. Pakistan, the number one recipient of Belt and Road money, and Iran have already announced their intention to do just that.

Last month’s BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) summit in Johannesburg was a call to arms against the dollar hegemony with countries like Turkey, Jamaica, Indonesia, Argentina and Egypt invited to join in what is known as “BRICS plus” with the goal of creating a de-dollarized economy.

The main front where the future of the dollar will be decided is the global commodity market, especially the $1.7 trillion oil market. Ever since 1973, when President Richard Nixon unilaterally severed the U.S. dollar from the gold standard and convinced the Saudis and the rest of the OPEC countries to sell their oil only in dollars, the global oil trade has been linked to the American currency.

This paved the way for the rest of the commodities to be traded in dollars as well. The arrangement served America well. It created an ever growing demand for the greenback, which in turn enabled consecutive U.S. governments to freely run their growing deficits.

Not anymore. Because so many of the members of the anti-dollar alliance are exporters of commodities they no longer feel that their products should be either priced by a dollar-denominated benchmark like WTI and Brent or be traded in a currency they no longer crave.

For example, when China buys oil from Angola, gas from Russia, coal from Mongolia or soybeans from Brazil it prefers to do so in its own currency and thereby avoid unwanted exchange rate fees on both sides of the transaction. This is already beginning to happen.

Russia and China have agreed to transact some of their traded energy in yuan. China is pushing its main oil suppliers Saudi Arabia, Angola and Iran to receive yuans for their oil. And last year China introduced gold-backed futures contracts, dubbed “petro-yuan” in the Shanghai International Energy Exchange – the first non-dollar crude benchmark in Asia.

The gradual acceptance of digital currencies, backed by blockchain technology offers another way for the revisionists to ditch the dollar in their trading. The Russian central bank indicated that it was considering launching a national cryptocurrency called “cryptoruble” and in the interim it helped Venezuela’s launch of its own cryptocurrency, the “petro,” which is backed by the country’s vast oil reserves. Now BRICS members are discussing a BRICS-backed cryptocurrency.

All of those actions and others point to one direction: In the coming years the dollar will be facing a barrage of attacks with the goal of eroding its hegemony and the energy trading market will be one of the main battlefields where the future of America’s economic dominance will be decided. Any successful attempt to delink commodity trading from the dollar will have a cascading impact not only on the global economic system as we know it but also on America’s posture abroad.

With the overall positive state of the U.S. economy and the remarkable strength of the dollar compared to the currencies of the dollar-busters including the Russian ruble, the yuan, the Turkish lira and the Iranian rial it may be easy to sink into complacency and dismiss the actions of the revisionists as mere pinpricks.

But ignoring the growing anti-dollar coalition would be to America’s detriment. Bull markets eventually come to an end and with a national debt of $21 trillion and growing at a rate of a trillion dollars a year, the awakening could be ruder and sooner than most economists predict.

In the midst of America’s economic euphoria it is worth remembering that one of every four people on the planet lives today in a country whose government is committed to end the dollar hegemony.

Thwarting their effort should be Washington’s top national priority.

The anti-dollar awakening could be ruder and sooner than most economists predict

The United States is currently waging economic warfare against one tenth of the world’s countries.

Published by Yahoo Finance on August 27, 2018

Gal Luft 
– is co-director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security and senior advisor to the United States Energy Security Council.


%d bloggers like this: