ISRAEL MILITARY: IN THE “SPIRIT OF MAHAL”, IDF GETS STRONGER DESPITE BUDGET CUTS & U.S. DEFENSE REDUCTIONS

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Money, Politics and Israel's Defense: Shoshana Bryen,Gatestone Institute, Mar. 7, 2014— Early Wednesday, the IDF intercepted a shipment of Syrian-made M-302 rockets with a range of up to 200 kilometers (125 miles).

'IDF More Advanced and Accurate Than Ever’: Kobi Finkler & Ari Yashar, Arutz Sheva, Mar. 25, 2014— A senior IDF source discussed the encouraging advancements as well as the budget constraints of the army on Tuesday, exactly a week after an IAF airstrike hit Syrian army posts in response to an explosive placed on Israel's border.

The Spirit of Mahal Lives On: Smoky Simon, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 27, 2013— For me, at the age of almost 94, this evening presents an outstanding opportunity to express my profound gratitude for the many blessings that have been bestowed upon me along my life’s journey.

 

On Topic Links

 

The Serious Side of Dressing Up: The Art of Camouflage (Video): IDF Blog, Mar. 16, 2014

‘Most Advanced’ Gaza-Israel Tunnel Is Found: Jodi Rudoren, New York Times, Mar. 21, 2014

Meet the Steel Cats: Preventing Terror on the Gaza Border: IDF Blog, Mar. 25, 2014

Israel Open to Joint Missile Defense With Jordan, Egypt: Dan Williams, Reuters, Mar. 10, 2014

 

                                               

MONEY, POLITICS AND ISRAEL'S DEFENSE                                            Shoshana Bryen                                                                                        Gatestone Institute, Mar. 7, 2014

 

Early Wednesday, the IDF intercepted a shipment of Syrian-made M-302 rockets with a range of up to 200 kilometers (125 miles). The missiles, which apparently went through Iraqi airspace to Iran and then by ship to the Red Sea, were likely headed to Sudan. From there, they would have gone by truck through the (mostly unguarded) Sinai to Gaza, from which they would have been capable of reaching nearly all of Israel.

 

That makes this a very bad day for the annual "Obama slashes Israeli missile defense programs and Congress puts the money back" dance. For years, the Obama Administration has sent a budget to Capitol Hill that included steep reductions in prior year spending for cooperative U.S.-Israel missile defense programs. Congress complains loudly then puts in the money it believes the programs merit. With the release of the budget figures two years ago, Defense News noted: “The Obama administration's recently released budget request details a cut in funding to the "Israeli Cooperative," as the jointly developed Arrow and David's Sling programs are known, from $106.1 million in fiscal 2012 to $99.9 million in fiscal 2013. And since Congress more than doubled the administration's request last year to $235.7 million, President Obama's budget would more than halve the cooperative's funding. Moreover, this marks the third consecutive year that the administration has requested less funding and it will not be the last, according to its own budget projections. And, indeed, the 2013 request (for 2014 spending) was $96 million, to which Congress added $174 million. The 2014 request (for 2015 spending) is $96.8 million for the "Israeli Cooperative."

 

Although the bipartisan effort in Congress keeps the money at a relatively even level, this is a terrible way for the Obama Administration to do business: Israel has made excellent use of the money and accounts for it in a well-established manner – unlike, say, much larger appropriations for Pakistan or Afghanistan. The American defense establishment wants, needs and appreciates Israeli missile defense capabilities and innovation. Money spent in cooperation with Israel on missile defense greatly expands the reach of American R&D dollars. And perhaps most important: When the President is leaning hard on Israel to be forthcoming and flexible on issues of its own short and long-term security, the signal that missile defenses are expendable as cost-cutting maneuver sends the wrong signal to both friends and adversaries.

 

The President told reporter Jeffrey Goldberg in a widely disseminated interview: “The legitimate question for Israel would be making sure that their core security needs are still met as a framework for negotiations led to an actual peace deal. [American interlocutors] have come up with a plan for how you would deal with the Jordan Valley, how you would deal with potential threats to Israel that are unprecedented in detail, unprecedented in scope.”

 

It might seem ungracious to point out that the highest echelon of Israel's defense and political establishment reject the fundamental American premise: that a multinational force, rather than the IDF, in the Jordan Valley will protect Israel. Furthermore, the plan is time-defined. With the disintegration of state boundaries around Israel and the rise of ungoverned or under-governed spaces that spawn jihadist groups of varying allegiance, size, and lethality, what happens when the end point is reached but the threats remain either within the West Bank or beyond?

 

The President was not unmindful of the larger problems: “You have the chaos that's been swirling around the Middle East…Syria…Lebanon…Gaza. And understandably, a lot of people (in Israel) ask themselves, 'Can we afford to have that potential chaos on our borders, so close to our cities? …There would still be huge questions about what happens in Gaza, but I actually think Hamas would be greatly damaged by the prospect of real peace.”

 

Does the president really believe that Hamas, the Palestinian franchise of the Muslim Brotherhood – supported, oddly, by Iran – would throw in the revolutionary towel if Israel makes a deal with Mahmoud Abbas for the West Bank? "Oh, okay," Ismail Haniyah, Hamas's boss in Gaza might say, "Abbas got a rump state for which he had to pay with a fixed Israeli border, no right of return and recognition of Israel as a Jewish State (Kerry parameters). I guess there's nothing for us to do but give up our Charter, our arms, and plans for the elimination of the Zionist entity, not to mention Fatah, and do the same. Never mind the Brotherhood, and never mind Iran." Not likely.

 

What worries Hamas in Gaza is the elimination of its sources of weapons supply; the possibility that Egypt will enforce the closure of the smuggling tunnels from Sinai; Israel's ability to intercept weapons shipments (not all, not all the time, but a lot of them); and the fact that Israel's entire defense calculus shifted the moment Iron Dome proved its worth. Israel no longer has to respond to every hostile act by Hamas. It takes the hair-trigger off the situation when the Israeli government can tell the public, "We can defend you from rockets; we ARE defending you; and we will determine how best to do that."

 

What is true for Gaza is true for Syria, Lebanon, and even for Iran. It should be a high priority for the Administration to ensure that Israel does not feel the need to engage in hostilities with the neighbors based on the agitation of an anxious populace. Missile defense buys time through reassurance for sound strategic reasoning, and the Administration should appreciate – and fund – that.

 

Even The Washington Post has come to understand that the President's management of foreign policy is:    based more on how he thinks the world should operate than on reality. It was a world in which "the tide of war is receding" and the United States could, without much risk, radically reduce the size of its armed forces. Other leaders, in this vision, would behave rationally and in the interest of their people and the world. Invasions, brute force, great-power games and shifting alliances – these were things of the past. … [Some leaders] will not be deterred by the disapproval of their peers, the weight of world opinion or even disinvestment by Silicon Valley companies. They are concerned primarily with maintaining their holds on power.

 

As long as that is true in Iran, Syria, Russia, Gaza, the West Bank, and Lebanon, Israel will have to rely on its military and intelligence capabilities to defend its people. President Obama has a well-known bias against missile defenses – our own and everyone else's. So perhaps the President is just having and eating his cake: while he knows Congress will change it, HIS budget doesn't support missile defense. While it is a poor choice on the part of the Administration to game that money, the so-far stalwart support of a Congress that understands that both Israel's security and our own require missiles defense is welcome.

                                                                         

                                                                       

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'IDF MORE ADVANCED AND ACCURATE THAN EVER’                        

Kobi Finkler & Ari Yashar                 

Arutz Sheva, Mar. 25, 2014

 

A senior IDF source discussed the encouraging advancements as well as the budget constraints of the army on Tuesday, exactly a week after an IAF airstrike hit Syrian army posts in response to an explosive placed on Israel's border. "All of the national infrastructure is in the IDF's scopes," reported the source. "The army is preparing for the threats of the enemy, and for all scenarios demanding an immediate attack without time to prepare."

 

Speaking about the IDF's capabilities, the source noted "we are armed today with the most effective, advanced and, most importantly, precise weapons, that are much faster than in the past…If in the (2006) Second Lebanon War a time frame of half an hour was needed to conduct an air strike to take out an immediate threat, today that time frame stands at a mere two minutes," revealed the source.

 

IDF acquisitions ensure that the army will only continue to improve, according to the source. "We are about to acquire a new cannon, which not only fires at a rate four times faster than previous cannons, but also its precision and destructive power allow the army to respond immediately to threats, and also to drastically minimize the number of fighters in the cannon battery and unit," emphasized the IDF source.

 

"We're a very effective army," acknowledged the official. "You can compare the number of fighters under the Israeli air force's brigadier general as opposed to the same general in Western armies to understand how effective we are."

 

The senior captain subtly criticized IDF budget cuts, noting "the budget sword raised against the army forces us constantly to make creative technological solutions that can make operational activities cheaper while conserving human resources, such as in the new cannon. We're losing every fifth person in the standing army, and that isn't easy."

 

While efforts are being made to streamline the IDF and its chain of command, the source emphasized the importance of a strong presence on the ground. "It's true there is accurate fire, and quality information," noted the IDF official, "but still it's clear that the topic of ground maneuvers was and remains the greatest preparation need in the army." Without controlling the ground the IDF will never win a war, reports the source. "Without the exposed chest of the regiment commander standing opposite the terrorist and killing him, we won't be able to finish the fighting, and therefore the need for ground maneuvers is essential."

 

In closing, the source noted "we need to reach a situation where the amount of time fighting is reduced to minimize the damage to the home front as much as possible. That's our mission and we are preparing for it intensively, even in these days of resource cuts and reserve duty day cuts."                                                                                       

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THE SPIRIT OF MAHAL LIVES ON              

Smoky Simon                                                                                Jerusalem Post, Feb. 27, 2014

 

On Tuesday night, the South African Zionist Federation (Israel) hosted the 2014 TELFED Gala Dinner and Lifetime Achievement Award Celebration. The evening brought attention to South Africans’ contributions to the State of Israel and honored two exceptional South African olim: Smoky Simon and Morris Kahn. Approximately 300 members of the community attended, as did South African Ambassador to Israel Sisa Ngombane. Simon and Kahn presented moving and informative speeches, sharing remarkable histories that fascinated the audience. Below is an adapted version of Simon’s speech.

For me, at the age of almost 94, this evening presents an outstanding opportunity to express my profound gratitude for the many blessings that have been bestowed upon me along my life’s journey. First and foremost, I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude to the Almighty, which behooves me to recite the Shehehiyanu prayer. Secondly, to my family. To my wife Myra, who has been at my side for 66 years, and to our four children – Philippa, Saul, Dan and Aliza, who have given us great pleasure. We now have 15 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, of whom we are exceedingly proud. By the way, Myra is a veteran of two wars – she was trained and flew as a meteorologist in the South African Air Force in World War II, and she served as the first instructor in meteorology in the Israel Air Force in the War of Independence. My two sons Saul and Dan were fighter pilots in the IAF.

Three events have had a life-changing impact on my existence. Firstly, in January 1941, I volunteered to serve in the war against Nazi Germany. I was trained as a navigator-bombardier and served in the South African Air Force and Royal Air Force for five years in many theaters of that cruel war, from which I thankfully emerged alive and unhurt.

Secondly, in May 1948, I volunteered together with Myra to fight in the impending war against the Arabs, and I can state without hesitation that this was my finest hour and the most thrilling experience of my life.

There can be no doubt that the Holocaust, the Declaration of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948, and the War of Independence were the absolute pinnacles of 2,000 years of Jewish history – a history of exile, oppression and injustice. On May 15, 1948, six Arab Armies attacked Israel – Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Kaukji’s Army of Liberation. Britain had supplied Egypt, Iraq and Jordan with aircraft, tanks and artillery.

France had supplied tanks and artillery to Syria and Lebanon. The Egyptian Air Force had a fleet of 62 frontline British Spitfire aircraft plus a squadron or two of Italian Macchi fighter aircraft. Israel did not have a single combat aircraft nor a single anti-aircraft gun. There was a total and overwhelming imbalance of troops and military equipment in favor of the Arabs. Britain, the US and the Arabs were convinced that the war would be over within a few weeks.

On May 14, the Jordanian Army, led by British officers, overran the Etzion Block – 240 military and civilians were killed, 420 were taken prisoners- of-war, and the kibbutz was burnt down. Jerusalem was under siege, and there was a tremendous shortage of water, food and military equipment. The road between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem had been cut off by the Arabs. Tel Aviv was under constant attack from the Egyptian Air Force and suffered tremendous casualties. In its attempt to capture the British Fortress at Latrun, which had been handed over by the British to the Jordanian Army, the Israeli forces sustained tremendously heavy losses. The Egyptian Army had overrun the kibbutzim in the Negev, which had fought courageously with hand grenades and rifles against tanks and armored vehicles, and by May 29 the Egyptian Army had penetrated into Israel right up to Ashdod, 30 km. from Tel Aviv, and if Tel Aviv had fallen, the war would have been over.

Against this very somber background, the Israel Air Force was born in the heat of battle. We started flying in small civil aircraft – which had been smuggled out of South Africa. The crew consisted of a pilot and a “bomb-chucker,” who held a 20-kilo or a 25-kilo bomb plus incendiary bomblets on his lap, which he would drop manually on the Arab targets. Massive efforts were being conducted to recruit World War II air force veterans to join the nascent IAF, and at the same time, an incredible and heroic operation of smuggling aircraft into Israel was taking place. This was perhaps the biggest and most noble and ethical smuggling operation in history.

On Friday afternoon of May 14, at the very time that Ben-Gurion was declaring the establishment of the State of Israel, the late South African Boris Senior as pilot and myself as navigator with an Israeli aerial photographer flew in one of the Bonanzas smuggled out of South Africa on the IAF’s very first operational mission for the purpose of reporting to army headquarters on the strength of the invading Jordanian forces. The Jordanian Army was the first Arab army to attack Israel, and on that flight we saw the devastation which had been wrought on the Etzion Bloc.

In parallel to the arrival of the smuggled aircraft, combat air crews which had been recruited from abroad were coming into Israel. These volunteers were known as “Mahal,” which is a Hebrew acronym for “Mitnadvei Hutz La’aretz,” meaning “volunteers from abroad.” During the war, a total of 426 combat flying crews (including 81 from South Africa) served in the IAF – pilots, navigators, bombardiers, flight engineers, air gunners, radio operators, aerial photographers. These World War II veterans contributed their invaluable experience and skills in support of Israel’s war effort. In June 1948, I was appointed chief of air operations of the IAF. By the grace of God, on May 29, on the very day that the Egyptian Army had reached Ashdod, the IAF’s first four Messershmitts, which were smuggled out of Czechoslovakia, became operational.

The Egyptian Army was of course not aware that Israel had just acquired combat aircraft, and suddenly four Israeli fighter aircraft attacked the Egyptian Army with bombs, cannons and guns. The Egyptians were stunned and destabilized, and for several days and nights, the Israel Air Force maintained continuous attacks and the Egyptians never advanced beyond Ashdod. By July 1948, 70 percent of Israel’s territory was occupied by the Arab armies, but the tide of war was starting to change in Israel’s favor.

The final drive against the Egyptians took place in December 1948 to January 1949. By all accounts, it was a brilliant campaign under the command of Gen. Yigal Alon with Yitzhak Rabin as chief of operations. The Egyptians were driven out of the Negev and into the Sinai Peninsula. And then came a United Nations Security Council directive that a final cease-fire in the war would take effect on January 7 at 16:00 hours.

Israel’s victory in the War of Independence has no parallel in military history. Up to this point, I have focused on the Mahal component in the IAF, in which I served, but let me add that this was only a part of the Mahal story. There were in all 4,800 Mahalniks (including 832 from South Africa) who came from 59 countries to fight for Israel – men and women, Jews and non-Jews. The Mahalniks included men like Mickey Marcus, who had been a colonel in the US Army in World War II. He was appointed to command the Jerusalem Front, and also commanded the building of the Burma Road, which relieved the siege of Jerusalem. Paul Shulman (an American) was the first commander of the Israel Navy. Ben Dunkelman, a highly decorated Canadian officer in World War II, was the commander of the 7th Brigade, which liberated the Lower and Upper Galilee. Mahalniks held positions of command and leadership in most branches of the armed forces.

What a rare privilege it had been for me to have served as chief of air operations during this critical and dramatic period in Israel’s history. In 1968, I was elected chairman of World Mahal. We had a number of very successful Mahal reunions in Israel, and we kept in close touch with Mahal Associations abroad, which regretfully have now mostly faded away. Most of the Mahalniks who are still alive are indeed a highly endangered species. I recently launched Mahal’s final assignment by undertaking to expand and to increase the facilities of the Michael Levin Center for Lone Soldiers in Tel Aviv, where Mahalniks from abroad, together with Israeli lone soldiers, can relax and mingle with each other. Happily the tradition of Mahal lives on. There is a new intake of Mahalniks into the IDF each year, who serve for a period of 18 months. I have the gratifying experience of giving talks to these new volunteers prior to their induction into the Army. It is truly heart-warming to know that to this very day, Jews from the Diaspora are willing to risk their lives in defense of the State of Israel.

After my two-and-a-half years of service in the Israel Air Force, Myra and I returned to South Africa, and in 1962 we came on aliya with our four children. I had the same trepidations and uncertainties as most olim as to whether I would be able to earn a living in Israel for my family. Having worked in South Africa as an agent for the Sun Life of Canada for 10 years, I entered the life insurance field in Israel. In 1965, I made the best business decision of my life. I invited a guy by the name of Moshe Wiesel to join me as a partner in my insurance agency, and our partnership has endured for 49 years…                                                             

[To Read the Full Article Click the Link –Ed.]    

                            

On Topic

 

The Serious Side of Dressing Up: The Art of Camouflage (Video): IDF Blog, Mar. 16, 2014—In brush, sand or snow, IDF soldiers definitely know how to dress up. As people throughout Israel find costumes for Purim, IDF soldiers put even the most elaborate ensembles to shame.

‘Most Advanced’ Gaza-Israel Tunnel Is Found: Jodi Rudoren, New York Times, Mar. 21, 2014 —The Israeli military announced on Friday that it had uncovered a sophisticated tunnel that stretched hundreds of yards into its territory from the Gaza Strip and could have been used to attack or kidnap Israelis.

Meet the Steel Cats: Preventing Terror on the Gaza Border: IDF Blog, Mar. 25, 2014—The IDF Mechanical Engineering Company of the Northern Division in Gaza faces many challenges.

Israel Open to Joint Missile Defense With Jordan, Egypt: Dan Williams, Reuters, Mar. 10, 2014— A U.S. general proposed on Monday that Israel upgrade its anti-missile systems to include neighboring Jordan and possibly Egypt, and an Israeli official cautiously welcomed the idea.

                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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