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A Raid on Iran? Uri Sadot, Weekly Standard, Jan. 6, 2014— As world powers debate what a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran should look like, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to maintain that Israel is not bound by the interim agreement that the P5+1 and Iran struck in Geneva…
Security Analysis of the IDF Intelligence Chief: IDF Blog, Jan. 30, 2014— For the first time in decades, enemy forces can attack all of Israel’s cities, Chief of the IDF Intelligence Directorate Major General Aviv Kochavi said on Wednesday.
Terror Underground: How Hamas Is Digging Tunnels and Building Rockets in Gaza: IDF Blog, Feb. 3, 2014 — Although 2013 saw fewer rocket attacks than previous years, terrorist organizations in Gaza are actively preparing to attack Israel.
India-Israel Defense Cooperation: Alvite Singh Ningthoujam, Besa Center, Jan. 27, 2014— Defense relations between India and Israel have come a long way, against all odds.
Mapping Israel's Enemies (Video): Mark Langfan, Youtube, Oct. 30, 2013
IDF Looks on With Concern as 'People's Army' Model Faces Challenges: Ya’akov Lappin, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 11, 2014
Going Green: Israeli Military Chooses Solar Energy over Diesel: IDF Blog, Feb. 5, 2014
Weekly Standard, Jan. 6, 2014
As world powers debate what a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran should look like, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to maintain that Israel is not bound by the interim agreement that the P5+1 and Iran struck in Geneva on November 24. Israel, says Netanyahu, “has the right and the obligation to defend itself.” One question then is whether Netanyahu actually intends to strike Iranian nuclear facilities. The other question, no less important, is whether Israel could really pull it off.
American analysts are divided on Israel’s ability to take effective military action. However, history shows that Israel’s military capabilities are typically underestimated. The Israel Defense Forces keep finding creative ways to deceive and cripple their targets by leveraging their qualitative advantages in manners that confound not only skeptical observers but also, and more important, Israel’s enemies.
Military triumphs like the Six-Day War of June 1967 and the 1976 raid on Entebbe that freed 101 hostages are popular Israeli lore for good reason—these “miraculous” victories were the result of assiduously planned, rehearsed, and well-executed military operations based on the elements of surprise, deception, and innovation, core tenets of Israeli military thinking. Inscribed on one of the walls of the IDF’s officer training academy is the verse from Proverbs 24:6: “For by clever deception thou shalt wage war.” And this has been the principle driving almost all of Israel’s most successful campaigns, like the 1981 bombing of Iraq’s nuclear reactor, the 1982 Beka’a Valley air battle, and the 2007 raid on Syria’s plutonium reactor, all of which were thought improbable, if not impossible, until Israel made them reality.
And yet in spite of Israel’s record, some American experts remain skeptical about Israel’s ability to do anything about Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities. Even the most optimistic assessments argue that Israel can only delay the inevitable. As a September 2012 report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies contends: “Israel does not have the capability to carry out preventive strikes that could do more than delay Iran’s efforts for a year or two.” An attack, it continued, “would be complex and high risk in the operational level and would lack any assurances of a high mission success rate.” Equally cautious is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, who argued that while “Israel has the capability to strike Iran and to delay the production or the capability of Iran to achieve a nuclear weapons status,” such a strike would only delay the program “for a couple of years.” The most pessimistic American assessments contend that Israel is all but neutered. Former director of the CIA Michael Hayden, for instance, said that airstrikes capable of seriously setting back Iran’s nuclear program are beyond Israel’s capacity.
Part of the reason that Israeli and American assessments diverge is the difference in the two countries’ recent military histories and political cultures. While the American debate often touches on the limits of military power and its ability to secure U.S. interests around the globe, the Israeli debate is narrower, befitting the role of a regional actor rather than a superpower, and focuses solely on Israel’s ability to provide for the security of its citizens at home. That is to say, even if Israel and the United States saw Iran and its nuclear arms program in exactly the same light, there would still be a cultural gap. Accordingly, an accurate understanding of how Israelis see their own recent military history provides an important insight into how Israel’s elected leaders and military officials view the IDF’s abilities regarding Iran.
Any account of surprise and deception as key elements in Israeli military history has to start with the aerial attack that earned Israel total air supremacy over its adversaries in the June 1967 war. Facing the combined Arab armies, most prominently those of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, Israel’s Air Force was outnumbered by a ratio of 3 planes to 1. Nonetheless, at the very outset of the war, the IAF dispatched its jets at a time when Egyptian pilots were known to be having breakfast. Israeli pilots targeted the enemy’s warplanes on their runways, and in two subsequent waves of sorties, destroyed the remainder of the Egyptian Air Force, as well as Jordan’s and most of Syria’s. Within six hours, over 400 Arab planes, virtually all of the enemy’s aircraft, were in flames, with Israel losing only 19 planes.
Israel’s sweeping military victory over the next six days was due to its intimate familiarity with its enemy’s operational routines—and to deception. For instance, just before the actual attack was launched, a squad of four Israeli training jets took off, with their radio signature mimicking the activity of multiple squadrons on a training run. Because all of Israel’s 190 planes were committed to the operation, those four planes were used to make the Egyptians believe that the IAF was simply training as usual. The IAF’s stunning success was the result not only of intelligence and piloting but also of initiative and creativity, ingredients that are nearly impossible to factor into standard predictive models.
The 1981 raid on Iraq’s nuclear reactor at Osirak is another example of Israel’s ability to pull off operations that others think it can’t. The success caught experts by surprise because every assessment calculated that the target was out of the flight range of Israel’s newly arrived F-16s. The former deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Israel Bill Brown recounted that on the day after the attack, “I went in with our defense attaché, Air Force Colonel Pete Hoag, to get a briefing from the chief of Israeli military intelligence. He laid out how they had accomplished this mission. . . . Hoag kept zeroing in on whether they had refueled the strike aircraft en route, because headquarters of the U.S. Air Force in Washington wanted to know, among other things, how in the world the Israelis had refueled these F-16s. The chief of Israeli military intelligence kept saying: ‘We didn’t refuel.’ For several weeks headquarters USAF refused to believe that the Israelis could accomplish this mission without refueling.”
Washington later learned that Israel’s success came from simple and creative field improvisations. First, the pilots topped off their fuel tanks on the tarmac, with burners running, only moments before takeoff. Then, en route, they jettisoned their nondetachable fuel drop tanks to reduce air friction and optimize gas usage. Both these innovations involved some degree of risk, as they contravened safety protocols. However, they gave the Israeli jets the extra mileage needed to safely reach Baghdad and return, and also to gain the element of surprise by extending their reach beyond what the tables and charts that guided thinking in Washington and elsewhere had assumed possible.
Surprise won Israel a similar advantage one year later in the opening maneuvers of the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. For students of aerial warfare, the Beka’a Valley air battle is perhaps Israel’s greatest military maneuver, even surpassing the June 1967 campaign. On June 9, Israel destroyed the entire Soviet-built Syrian aerial array in a matter of hours. Ninety Syrian MiGs were downed and 17 of 19 surface-to-air missile batteries were put out of commission, while the Israeli Air Force suffered no losses. The brutal—and for Israel, still controversial—nature of the Lebanon war of which this operation was part dimmed its shine in popular history, but the operation is still studied around the world. At the time it left analysts dumbfounded.
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IDF Blog, Jan. 30, 2014
For the first time in decades, enemy forces can attack all of Israel’s cities, Chief of the IDF Intelligence Directorate Major General Aviv Kochavi said on Wednesday. “About 170,000 rockets and missiles are pointed at Israel, and they are deadlier than ever,” the intelligence chief said. “Many of these weapons can be fired deep into Israel’s territory.” Speaking at the annual conference of The Institute for National Security Studies, Maj. Gen. Kochavi described Israel’s rising security challenges, ranging from regional instability, to organized terrorism and Global Jihad. “Every day, the enemy continues to advance,” he said. “For the first time in many years, Israel is almost completely surrounded by threats. These are not potential threats, but threats posed by an active enemy.”
Maj. Gen. Kochavi estimated that Hezbollah, the terrorist organization positioned along Israel’s northern border, now possesses 100,000 rockets and missiles. The extraordinary size of this stockpile redefines Hezbollah’s capabilities, placing it in the category of a “semi-military” organization. “Hezbollah is no longer a terrorist organization in the most basic sense of the term,” the intelligence chief stressed. “An organization that has more than 100,000 rockets resembles a military more than a terrorist organization.”
This change in definition applies to terrorist organizations throughout the Middle East, Maj. Gen. Kochavi stressed. “The line between ‘terrorist organization’ and ‘military’ is becoming increasingly blurred,” he warned. “They possess advanced anti-tank missiles and mortars. The same goes for Hamas,” the Gaza-based terrorist organization whose rockets threaten millions of Israeli civilians. “Thousands of our enemies’ missiles are armed with warheads and 700-900 kilograms of explosive material,” the intelligence chief said. “These weapons can define the course of war and our decision making [in battle]. As long as our enemies have rockets that threaten every part of Israel, they can continue to wage a war, even after we have taken [parts of enemy] territory.”
Terrorist groups near Israel have changed the nature of war, moving from open spaces into urban areas. “The enemy is hiding in cities and villages, wearing civilian clothing while equipped with advanced weaponry. Tens of kilometers of underground tunnels exist in Gaza and Southern Lebanon.” IDF forces must quickly adapt to this evolving reality of asymmetric warfare, Maj. Gen. Kochavi said. “Today we must provide them with precise details about every rocket launching site. Otherwise, the enemy will continue to fire on the Israeli population.”
In the wake of the Arab Spring, governments throughout the Middle East have lost control of their populations. This widespread phenomenon of fragmentation has confronted Israel with an evolving and uncertain reality. “The Syrian side of the Golan region has fallen under the control of several different powers,” Maj. Gen. Kochavi said. “Every village is controlled by different authorities, including the Syrian Free Army, Jihadist groups and the Syrian military.” The intelligence chief pointed to Global Jihad as “the most troubling phenomenon of all,” explaining that about 30,000 Global Jihad operatives are active in Syria. “Syria has turned into a magnet for these operatives – from Europe, Asia, Australia and even the Americas,” he said. “They may not take over Haifa, but for the first time in history, they are injecting a radical religious ideology against the west into the Middle East.” Maj. Gen. Kochavi focused on similar challenges in the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip, where a changing landscape is creating uncertainty for Israel. “All of the small groups in these areas can become larger. This creates a tremendous challenge for the Intelligence Corps.”
The IDF is quickly enhancing its readiness for threats, improving its intelligence capabilities to maintain its edge over the enemy. Advancements in cyber defense constitute a major part of these efforts. “Today, the intelligence we used to gather with 40 people is now obtained with four,” Maj. Gen. Kochavi said. “Cyber defense, in my modest opinion, will soon be revealed to be the biggest [military] revolution in the past century, more than gunpowder and the use of air power.” As he discussed upgraded capabilities in the air force and the navy, he focused on Israel’s tremendous strides in intelligence. “We are upgrading our units in order to obtain intelligence through greater means,” he said. “We are obtaining better-processed and more diverse intelligence from more sources, and we are providing it to our fighters.”
Alvite Singh Ningthoujam
BESA Center, Jan. 27, 2014
Defense relations between India and Israel have come a long way, against all odds. Israel has emerged as India’s second-largest arms supplier, behind only Russia, with bilateral arms trade over the last decade estimated at $10 billion. 2013 witnessed major developments in India-Israel defense cooperation, most of which involved enhancing arms trade and furthering joint projects. There were certain constraints as well, none of which curbed ties.
Israel has carved its niche in India by supplying some of the most sought-after weapons systems, with the exception of bigger platforms, such as aircraft. The January 2013 visit to Israel by India’s former air force commander, Air Marshal N. A. K. Browne, further bolstered ties. Military officials from both countries discussed upgrading cooperation, specifically in the area of drones. Browne also expressed India’s desire to acquire Israeli-made air-to-air missiles, along with other precision-guided munitions. India also pushed for additional joint missile projects, despite Israel’s delay in the development of its own joint medium-range surface-to-air missile project.
In mid-2013, India considered buying Israel’s Iron Dome and David’s Sling missile defense systems. While at first Indian officials were hesitant to commit to Iron Dome, on the grounds that it would be ineffective for India’s long borders and congested air space, it has since been believed that Israel’s willingness to share the sophisticated technology behind the system may alter India’s decision. If these deals go through, they will not only benefit Israel, whose military industries and defense R&D largely depend upon arms sales, but will also enhance India’s air defense capabilities against her adversaries.
The US as a competitor in India-Israel arms trade surfaced in 2013. The US has long tried tapping into the Indian defense market, but its reservations over technology transfers remain a roadblock. However, efforts for such agreements are underway. The latest example is the US proposal to forge a joint venture partnership with India for the development of next-generation Javelin anti-tank missiles. This deal almost caused India to reverse its decision to purchase Israeli-made Spike anti-tank guided missiles. However, no major breakthrough has yet been reported, and the Spike was back on the Indian Army’s acquisition agenda in November 2013.
Another concern was the November 2013 interim nuclear deal between the US and Iran. With the thawing of US-Iran ties, certain doubts were raised about the impact of the deal on India-Israel defense cooperation, specifically because of past defense cooperation between India and Iran. Israel watched these ties cautiously, concerned that India might transfer Israeli-based military technology or training to Iran. However, with an agreement for a nuclear deal between India and the US in 2005, Israel’s worries over Indo-Iranian defense ties gradually dissipated. The initiative would see India place its nuclear facilities under the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The US agreed, recognizing India’s non-proliferation record despite its refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. With certain preconditions from the US, India scaled down its defense ties with Iran, which have since remained almost non-existent.
India’s increasing focus on Iran has brought the possibility of a resumption of military ties. In July 2013, the Iranian Ambassador to India expressed interest in enhancing defense ties with India, a sentiment that was reciprocated by Indian Defense Minister A. K. Antony. Discussions were held to initiate more bilateral defense exchanges between the two countries. In December, two Iranian warships and a submarine paid a “goodwill” visit to Mumbai, and naval officials from both countries called for close naval cooperation. In addition, the need for a “framework for joint cooperation and security for vessels in India’s western waters to the Persian Gulf” was suggested. If New Delhi and Tehran succeed in furthering their now-dormant defense ties, the latter would lure Indian defense planners with its military equipment such as ground surveillance radar systems, personnel carriers, drones, destroyers, submarines, and missile-launching frigates. Only time will tell how the military-security relations between India and Iran unfold.
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IDF Blog, Feb. 3, 2014
Although 2013 saw fewer rocket attacks than previous years, terrorist organizations in Gaza are actively preparing to attack Israel. Under the guidance of engineering experts, Hamas continues to dig underground, building dozens of tunnels used to attack and kidnap Israelis. The terrorist organization is also manufacturing powerful weapons, producing rockets that can reach major Israeli cities such as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
During the past several years, civilians living in the Gaza Strip have become experts in building underground tunnels. Such smuggling tunnels have been used by terrorists to carry out attacks against Israeli civilians and military personnel. In 2006, armed terrorists infiltrated Israel through a smuggling tunnel, killing two soldiers and taking hostage a third – Gilad Shalit. This growing trend is directly linked to the policies of Hamas, the terrorist organization that rules the Gaza Strip. Hamas’ military wing devotes about twenty percent of its budget to building these tunnels inside Gaza, many of which lead under the border into Israel.
In October 2013, IDF soldiers discovered the opening of a tunnel built by Gazan terrorists near the Israeli community of Ein Hashlosha. The tunnel, which stretched into Israel from the Gazan city of Khan Yunis, was approximately 1.7 kilometers long and 18 meters deep. According to experts, digging tunnels in the region’s terrain requires advanced knowledge of how they are built. This suggests that the terror tunnel was designed and constructed by professionals. “Today, there’s one Gaza Strip above ground, and another one underground,” says a senior officer in the IDF Intelligence Corps. “Tunneling has existed [in Gaza] since the mid 1990s, but it has really grown into an industry. More funds are invested in it – we’re talking about millions of dollars every year – and the need for engineers are growing.”
Today, the tunnels in Gaza pose as much of a threat as Hamas’ weapons. “Our estimate is that there are tens of tunnels from Gaza into Israel, only half of which we know about,” the officer says. “Hamas pays professionals to train special military units that have one simple purpose: to dig and tunnel underground.”
Since the end of Operation Pillar of Defense, in November 2012, Hamas has been busy rebuilding its arsenal. Because importing weapons has become more difficult for Hamas, the terrorist organization has begun manufacturing rockets inside of the Gaza Strip. Today Hamas is producing its own rockets, namely the M-75, which can reach as far as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Hamas routinely parades the streets of Gaza with the rocket to show off its strength. These public displays allow Hamas to establish its dominance in Gaza while inspiring members of the younger generation to join its ranks.
“They focus on rockets of higher quality,” explains the officer. “During Operation Pillar of Defense, only five M-75 rockets were fired, but we expect more in a future conflict.” The rocket is only one part of Hamas’ expanding arsenal. Today there are more than 10,000 rockets, mortar shells and ammunition in the hands of the Gaza terrorists.
'Above and Beyond: The Birth of the Israeli Air Force' (Video): Vimeo, 2013 — Sample Reel for forthcoming documentary feature "Above and Beyond: The Birth of the Israeli Air Force" currently in production.
Mapping Israel's Enemies (Video): Mark Langfan, Youtube, Oct. 30, 2013— Mark Langfan of Americans for a Safe Israel examines Israel's borders with a set of interactive maps and what a Palestinian State in Judea and Samaria means for the entire State of Israel.
IDF Looks on With Concern as 'People's Army' Model Faces Challenges: Ya’akov Lappin, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 11, 2014 — The IDF was not surprised on Monday when a Knesset committee voted in favor of shortening mandatory military service for men from 36 months to 32, but it is viewing the development with concern.
Going Green: Israeli Military Chooses Solar Energy over Diesel: IDF Blog, Feb. 5, 2014 — The IDF is the largest organization in Israel, with bases across the country. That means we have a responsibility to protect not just the people of Israel, but its environment too.
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