HAMAS ORCHESTRATES VIOLENT GAZA “PROTESTS” AMID U.S. EMBASSY MOVE & ESCALATING ISRAEL-IRAN TENSION Posted on May 15, 2018 Printer Friendly The Gaza ‘Protests’: Editorial, Weekly Standard, May 15, 2018 — On Monday President Donald Trump fulfilled his campaign promise to move the United States embassy in Israel to the country’s capital, Jerusalem. Smoke & Mirrors: Six Weeks of Violence on the Gaza Border: Richard Kemp, Gatestone Institute, May 14, 2018— Since 30th March Hamas has been orchestrating large-scale violence on the border between Gaza and Israel. Israel Unleashes Powerful Strike Capabilities After Iran Hits First: Yaakov Lappin, JNS, May 10, 2018— In striking more than 50 Iranian military targets within 90 minutes early on Thursday morning, the Israel Defense Force displayed just a sample of its advanced, intelligence-fueled precision firepower, dealing a crushing blow to Iran’s assets in Syria. What Might an Israel-Iran War Look Like?: Prof. Hillel Frisch, BESA, May 10, 2018— In both word and deed, Israel is firmly committed to its red lines. On Topic Links Hamas has Taken Gaza Back to the Stone Age: Jason Greenblatt, Jerusalem Post, May 11, 2018 For Hamas, Dancing on the Brink of Chaos is a Winning Tactic: Avi Issacharoff, Times of Israel, May 15, 2018 Conflicting Claims Swirl As Israel Continues Air War Against Iranian Interests In Syria: Joseph Trevithick, The Drive, Apr. 17, 2018 Israel’s Nuclear and Conventional Deterrence: Prof. Louis René Beres, BESA, Apr. 29, 2018 THE GAZA ‘PROTESTS’ Editorial Weekly Standard, May 15, 2018 On Monday President Donald Trump fulfilled his campaign promise to move the United States embassy in Israel to the country’s capital, Jerusalem. As usual, the American and European media’s coverage interpreted the event in the worst possible light for the nation of Israel. One learns very little from our mainstream news sources about what the move may mean for the nations primarily concerned—Israel and the United States—but a great deal about the Palestinian “protests” happening along Israel’s southern border with Gaza: Headlines in the New York Times and Washington Post proclaimed (misleadingly) “Israel Kills Dozens and Wounds 1700 at Gaza Border” and “Over 50 Killed in Gaza Protests as U.S. Opens Embassy in Jerusalem.” We put the word “protests” in quotation marks advisedly. In ordinary English usage, a protest is a collective action or gesture meant to bring pressure on a government or corporate entity. The Gaza “protests” are meant to bring pressure on Israel, but they’re intended mainly to kill and maim both Israelis and the Palestinian “protesters” themselves. These demonstrations would be better described as suicide-riots. For nearly two months, Hamas and other militant factions have been encouraging young Palestinian men to storm the fence separating Gaza from Israel. The rioters cut holes in the fence, charge Israeli guards with crude weapons like axes, and lob fire bombs over the wall in attempts to set Israeli fields on fire. Hamas has pledged to massacre those on the other side of the fence, and these riots are expressions of that intention. Israeli defense forces are obliged to respond with force. An axe-clutching Palestinian insanely charging into Israeli territory isn’t a “protester” but a combatant and a terrorist. The fact that he doesn’t expect to prevail against the might of the Israel Defense Forces—he is in essence on a suicide mission—doesn’t somehow oblige Israeli soldiers not to use force to stop him. The Israelis have no choice but to fire back, and they do, often with deadly results. This is Hamas’s longstanding strategy: The more Palestinian young men die, the more hellish the conditions of Palestinian neighborhoods, the more sympathy aroused in Western media. Hence Palestinian rioters’ destruction of the only cargo passage through which cooking fuel can get to Gaza’s 2 million residents. The act of vandalism appears senseless unless you understand Hamas’s aim is to make Palestinians destitute for the benefit of Western media. And the Western media generally fill their expected role by placing at least an equal share of the blame on Israel and its American backers. So, for instance, American and European media readily accept casualty statistics from the Gaza Health Ministry, a Hamas outfit deliberately aiming to exaggerate Palestinian deaths. These same media, similarly, nearly always accept as genuine the reasons for the riots expressed by Palestinian organizations. Eighteen years ago, it was Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple mount that supposedly sparked the second intifada and the attendant bloodshed. This time, we’re told, it’s Trump’s embassy move that gives Palestinians license to plunder their own resources in acts of irrational rage. Most ordinary Palestinians, however, appear to be smarter than the smart people whose job it is to give us news about Israel and the Palestinian territories. Despite all the violence in Gaza, the place where most Palestinians live—the West Bank—has remained largely quiet. The Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, too, have been devoid of riots. All contrary to the dire predictions of Western experts who foresaw destruction and bloodshed across the Arab world in response to the U.S. decision to move its embassy. Contents SMOKE & MIRRORS: SIX WEEKS OF VIOLENCE ON THE GAZA BORDER Richard Kemp Gatestone Institute, May 14, 2018 Since 30th March Hamas has been orchestrating large-scale violence on the border between Gaza and Israel. The major flare-ups have generally occurred on Fridays, following mosque prayers, when we have repeatedly seen concerted action involving crowds of up to 40,000 people in five separate areas along the border. Violence and aggressive actions, including specific acts of terrorism involving explosives and firearms, have also occurred at other times during this period. Hamas intend to continue this violence until the 14th or 15th of May 2018. The 15th is the date they will commemorate as the 70th anniversary of ‘Nakba’ Day – ‘Castastrophe’ Day, the day after Israel’s declaration of statehood. There is however speculation that an upsurge in violence is now planned for the 14th, coinciding with the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem. It is expected that the violence will reach a culminating point of intensity on one or both of those days, which, as well as coinciding with Nakba Day and the embassy opening, are also at the start of the Islamic month of Ramadan, when violence usually increases in the Middle East and elsewhere. Hamas is currently planning to mobilise up to 200,000 people to the Gaza border, which — if it materialises — will be well over twice the maximum number seen previously. Hamas will also be determined to incite greater violence than ever before, and to make significant penetrations of the border fence. In the face of such efforts it is likely that there will be very high casualty figures among Palestinians. In addition to the border area, there are Palestinian plans for significant violence elsewhere around this time including in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Although 15th May was originally intended as the culmination of six weeks’ violence on the Gaza border, Palestinians have recently declared an intent to maintain their aggression at the border throughout the month of Ramadan. The Gaza violence has been orchestrated under the pretext of the ‘Great March of Return’, a demonstration to draw attention to what Palestinian leadership consider to be a right of return of their people to homes in Israel. The stated intention is not just to demonstrate, but to actually break through the border fence en masse and physically march in their thousands through the State of Israel. The intention of the ‘right of return’ of course is not actually the exercise of such a ‘right’, which is strongly contested, and is in any case the subject of final status negotiations. It is well understood as a long-standing Arab policy intended to eliminate the State of Israel and has of course been consistently rejected by the Israeli government. The real goal of Hamas’s violence is to continue their long-standing strategy of creating and intensifying international outrage, vilification, isolation and criminalisation of the State of Israel and its officials. This strategy includes creating situations which compel the IDF to respond with lethal force so that they are seen to kill and wound ‘innocent’ Palestinian civilians. Within this strategy, Hamas have used a range of tactics which include firing rockets from Gaza into Israeli population centres and constructing sophisticated attack tunnels under the Gaza border into nearby Israeli communities. Critical elements of these tactics are the use of Palestinian human shields — civilians, often including women and children, who are either forced or volunteer to be present in locations from where attacks are launched or commanded; or where fighters, combat supplies and munitions are located; so that Israeli military response will include potential harm to these civilians. In some cases, including during the current wave of violence, we have seen Hamas present their fighters as innocent civilians; numerous fake incidents staged and filmed which purport to show civilians being killed and wounded by Israeli forces; and films of violence from elsewhere, eg Syria, portrayed as violence against Palestinians. Following the use of rockets and attack tunnels, in three major Gaza conflicts (2008-2009, 2012 and 2014), as well as in other more isolated incidents, we now observe the use of a new tactic with the same fundamental purpose. This is the creation of large-scale ‘demonstrations’ combined with aggressive actions again intended to lure Israeli defensive action that leads to killing and wounding of Gaza civilians, despite strenuous IDF efforts to avoid such civilian casualties. In some respects this new tactic is more effective than the use of rockets and attack tunnels, because the primary targets for these activities — political leaders, international organisations (eg UN, EU), human rights groups and media — find it harder to understand the use of lethal force against what are falsely portrayed as peaceful demonstrations which they can equate to similar activities in their own cities. As always, many elements of these primary targets have been ready and willing to be taken in by this ploy. Since the start of this spate of violence we have seen vehement condemnations from the UN, EU and ICC; from several governments and human rights organisations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch; and from many newspapers and broadcast media stations. These have included demands for international inquiries into allegations of unlawful killing and accusations of breaches of international humanitarian law and human rights law by the IDF… [To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.] Contents ISRAEL UNLEASHES POWERFUL STRIKE CAPABILITIES AFTER IRAN HITS FIRST Yaakov Lappin JNS, May 10, 2018 In striking more than 50 Iranian military targets within 90 minutes early on Thursday morning, the Israel Defense Force displayed just a sample of its advanced, intelligence-fueled precision firepower, dealing a crushing blow to Iran’s assets in Syria. This exchange of fire represents a new, stepped-up phase in the escalating Israeli-Iranian standoff in Syria. Much of Iran’s military infrastructure in Syria was destroyed in this wave of strikes, likely leaving the Quds Force—the overseas elite Iranian unit trying to consolidate its presence in Syria—reeling. The Quds Force has been busy in Iran, building missile and rocket bases, drone bases, importing Shi’ite militia forces and trafficking heavy weapons into the region. It had begun launching direct attacks on Israel in contrast to Iran’s older pattern of aggression, which was based on activating proxy attacks. Most disturbingly, the Quds Force had begun initiating the next stage of Iran’s takeover of Syria. All of these efforts had one goal: to be able to use Syria as a springboard for attacking Israel. The Iranian axis in Syria, with the help of Russian airpower, has nearly completed its victory over the Sunni rebel organizations and could now turn its attention to stage two of its Syrian project: Israel. The Iranian leadership has made no secret of its intention to establish a grand, radical Shi’ite empire across the Middle East, stretching across Iraq, Syria and Lebanon—and beyond. These imperial ambitions threaten not only Israel, but the region’s Sunni powers, which is why these states are in full support of Israel’s self-defense measures. Iran’s mistake was to underestimate Israel’s ability to put a stop to this plan. On Tuesday night the Quds Force, led by the charismatic and notorious Gen. Qasem Soleimani, dispatched a truck rocket-launcher towards Israel. As it drove south of Damascus, preparing to fire on Israel, it was destroyed in a missile attack. The ability to detect such a developing threat in real time—and take action—is exactly the kind of unparalleled intelligence and strike capabilities that enable Israel to be a step ahead in its conflict with Iran. But the Iranians did not take the hint. They tried again on Wednesday night, firing 20 rockets at IDF positions on the Golan Heights. The IDF was prepared, intercepting the rockets with Iron Dome missile-defense system, and then going on the offensive in a massive wave of firepower. Israel’s operation on Thursday, which was the largest conducted by the Israel Air Force in years, required extraordinary intelligence-gathering abilities, and in particular, the know-how to map out the various locations in which the Quds Force had taken root. This intelligence was then converted into the capability to fire guided munitions at the targets in large quantities in little time. Several of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s air-defense batteries made the mistake of getting involved in the fight, firing surface-to-air missiles at Israeli jets. They paid a price for that decision; a good number of units were destroyed in Israeli counter-strikes. These events ultimately mean that Iran tried to force the Jewish state to accept its presence in Syria, and the effort completely failed. Iran ended up losing more than 50 military targets, and Israel’s message to Tehran—to exit Syria immediately—received a powerful boost. It’s too soon to know if this round of fighting has ended. But Iran is unlikely to give up on Syria so quickly. Despite the blow absorbed, the Iranians will likely make a new attempt to move into Syria, smuggling new kinds of weapons, and preparing the ground for future attacks on Israel. The events of recent days have marked the start of a new phase in a long-term Iranian-Israeli long-term conflagration. This is a conflict, however, that began when Iran came to Israel’s borders to threaten and attack it, and not the other way around. So far, Hezbollah has kept out of this conflict, and this is welcome news. Iran is unlikely to want to risk its proxy ensconced in Lebanon, preferring to continue pointing Hezbollah’s 120,000 rockets and missiles at the Jewish state. Despite a remarkable display of Israeli military capabilities, this is no time to be complacent. The Iranians will be back, and the IDF must be prepared for its return. Contents WHAT MIGHT AN ISRAEL-IRAN WAR LOOK LIKE? Prof. Hillel Frisch BESA, May 10, 2018 In both word and deed, Israel is firmly committed to its red lines. The reddest of all is that Israel will not permit Syria to be turned into a forward base for direct Iranian operations and a manufacturing center for precision-guided missiles. The Islamic Republic of Iran is equally committed to making both of those things happen. Given their mutual resolve in meeting diametrically opposed objectives, the prospects of a conflagration between Iran and its proxies against Israel are high enough to consider how such a war might play out and what the ramifications might be of such a deadly conflict. If war does break out, it will signal the end of an era ushered in by the October 1973 War and formalized in the peace treaty with Egypt, which was the most powerful Arab enemy at the time. That treaty marked an end to inter-state wars between Muslim states and Israel. Most of the conflicts in the four and a half decades since have taken place between Israel and non-state actors, including the long low-intensity conflict between Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah, and Israel in southern Lebanon and the larger conflagration in 2006. Would Iran attack Israel directly or make do with activating Hezbollah? (The Syrian army has its hands full completing the defeat of the Sunni opposition forces in northeastern Syria in the Idlib area and preventing their resurgence.) Tehran might decide to attack directly for several reasons. One is its perception that a Hezbollah-directed missile war might not be sufficiently costly to Israel to deter it from continuing to attack the Iranian infrastructure in Syria. It would also bring in its wake the danger that Israel might choose to retaliate directly against Iran. Hezbollah’s war-weariness could be another factor in Iran’s decision to either attack alone or share the pain of war-making with its proxy. Hezbollah draws its ranks from a small community of fewer than two million souls. It is responsible for the continuous bloodletting of that community’s youth from 1982 to 2000, primarily against Israel but also against the Sunnis of Tripoli and the Palestinians in the “war of the camps” in 1985. The bloodletting came to a temporary halt with the Israeli withdrawal/hurried retreat from southern Lebanon in 2000 and the disintegration of its Maronite-supported militia, only to reemerge six years later as Hezbollah suffered hundreds of deaths in the 2006 confrontation with Israel. Six years after that, Hezbollah was again bleeding its community’s youth in the bloody civil war in Syria, which continues to this day. The lack of popularity of what is probably the deadliest of Hezbollah’s wars to date can be seen in the major media sites linked to the organization. These sites scarcely report on Hezbollah’s participation on the Syrian battlefield, and the sophisticated videos the organization produces to immortalize the fighters (“martyrs”, as they call them) are buried on the sites in a way that makes them difficult to find. They are clearly intended for the families alone and not for the general Shiite public, which seems opposed to such participation – not least because the Shiites do not want to antagonize their Sunni neighbors in Lebanon and once again risk a deadly civil war. Demographic data also show that the birthrate of Shiites in Lebanon (as indeed in Iran itself) has plummeted. In 2004, it reached a “European” fertility rate that is below replacement rate. This means new recruits will increasingly come from four member families that have already experienced painful loss of life. For these reasons, Tehran is more likely to attack Israel directly. However, as it has no air force and very little capacity to dispatch troops from Iran (they would be prey to Israel’s air force en route), Iran will probably opt for a missile war in which Hezbollah will likely take part. A missile war and the subsequent massive use of Israeli air power would reveal both countries’ vulnerabilities. Iran is vulnerable despite its massive population size compared to that of Israel (80 million for Iran as opposed to 8.5 million for Israel) and the even more substantial difference in territorial size (1.65 million sq. km for Iran compared to only 21,000 for Israel). Why is Iran as vulnerable as Israel despite these differences? Because it has existential liabilities. One is that Iran exports 90% of its oil and gas from a single port (essentially an island), Kharg, one hundred miles southeast of the tip of the Iraqi-Iranian border on the Persian/Arab Gulf. The revenues Iran derives from that oil and gas amount to at least 40% of government expenditures and around half its foreign reserves. Also, the port of Bandar Abbas (“bandar” is “port” in Farsi) on Iran’s southern tip is responsible for 90% of its container trade. The goods brought in by container represent only 15-20% of total trade, but they are the goods that keep the Iranian quality of life in the 21st century. One can safely assume that the Israeli air force has given much consideration to addressing these two major points of Iranian vulnerability. The war will be very destructive and disruptive – not only for Israel and Iran but for neighboring states as well. Israel might feel compelled to attack airports in Lebanon, Syria, and even Iraq to prevent the movement of Iranian troops and equipment. Israel is vulnerable due to its small size and dense population, especially in its coastal area. But it has one advantage: Israel’s citizens will be firmly behind its democratically elected government in the event of hostilities with Iran. This might not be the case for the fundamentalist regime of Iran, whose population has been paying dearly for the regime’s imperialist ambitions and will pay a hundred times more if such a war breaks out. Who knows? To stave off its own downfall, the Iranian regime might decide to avert a war with Israel – which never wanted a conflict with Iran in the first place. Contents On Topic Links Hamas has Taken Gaza Back to the Stone Age: Jason Greenblatt, Jerusalem Post, May 11, 2018—As Hamas continues to exploit protests to foment violence against Israel, finding a way to help the people of Gaza in any meaningful way becomes more and more challenging. All parties interested in bringing change to Gaza need to face the reality that Hamas has failed its own people. For Hamas, Dancing on the Brink of Chaos is a Winning Tactic: Avi Issacharoff, Times of Israel, May 15, 2018—Monday was undoubtedly among the most bewilderingly dissonant days in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: As the Israeli leadership, joined by US officials, feted the US embassy’s move to Jerusalem, and as tens of thousands of Israelis welcomed back Eurovision winner Netta Barzilai in celebrations in Tel Aviv, the Gaza Strip suffered one of its most doleful days in memory. Conflicting Claims Swirl As Israel Continues Air War Against Iranian Interests In Syria: Joseph Trevithick, The Drive, Apr. 17, 2018—he Syrian government and its partners have issued a string of contradictory reports regarding yet another reported Israeli strike against Iranian interests in the country. Though the exact details of the event remain unclear, Syria’s dictator Bashar Al Assad and his Russian benefactors seem eager to dismiss the incident, in part or in full, while still declaring some sort of victory in the aftermath a massive U.S.-led missile barrage against various chemical weapons sites in the country. Israel’s Nuclear and Conventional Deterrence: Prof. Louis René Beres, BESA, Apr. 29, 2018—Left to their own likely preferences, whether expressly stated or prudently obscured, certain of Israel’s potentially nuclear adversaries could someday bring the Jewish State “into the eternal darkness, into fire, and into ice.” It is indispensable, therefore, that Israel’s senior leadership take all conceivable steps to ensure that any preventable failures of deterrence never spark a nuclear attack or exchange.