Israel Faces Gas Export Challenge: Yakir Gillis, Forbes, Sept. 28, 2016— Israel has been looking to develop its huge offshore gas resources after a period of regulatory uncertainty, but the challenges surrounding the construction and security of export pipelines may put off all but the most forward-looking investors.

Israel Inks Historic Gas Deal with Jordan at Perilous Time: Ari Lieberman, Frontpage, Sept. 28, 2016 — Israel this week signed a historic agreement with Jordan to supply the energy-starved kingdom with natural gas from its Leviathan gas field.

IDF Battles to Keep its Finest From Defecting to Private Sector: Shoshanna Solomon, Times of Israel, Oct. 27, 2016 — The Israeli army is fighting a battle it knows it can only partially win: to preserve the best of its talent within its ranks, even as the likes of Google, Apple and Facebook entice them with salaries as much as five times what the army can offer.

Spies in Space: The Story of Israel's Ofek Satellite Program: Barbara Opall-Rome, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 25, 2016— If you’re looking for a story that captures Israeli innovation, cunning and can-do chutzpa, think spy satellites. Look to Ofek, the Hebrew word for horizon.


On Topic Links


World’s Largest Desalination Plant Turns Mediterranean into Drinking Water (Video): Breaking Israel News, Oct. 26, 2016

Israel Should Avoid Turkey, Include Cyprus in Gas Export Projects: Ariel Ben Solomon, BESA, Oct. 7, 2016

Israel's Plan to Supply the Arab World With Energy Is Under Threat in Jordan: Natanel Abramov, Newsweek, Oct. 11, 2016

Israel-China Ties Bloom with Free Trade Talks Imminent: Iacopo Luzi, Times of Israel, Sept. 29, 2016





Yakir Gillis                                                          

Forbes, Sept. 28, 2016        


Israel has been looking to develop its huge offshore gas resources after a period of regulatory uncertainty, but the challenges surrounding the construction and security of export pipelines may put off all but the most forward-looking investors. Israel has one of the biggest gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean basin, the Leviathan field, which could in time turn it into a major regional energy player. However, getting the gas out of the ground has been dogged with problems. Chief among them was an antitrust ruling stemming from concerns that the two main exploration companies, Texas-based Noble Energy and Israel’s Delek, stood to monopolise the country’s natural resource sector.


The subject was addressed in protracted production agreement negotiations between the government and the investors. The process was held up by persistent claims that the latter were being offered too generous a deal. Eventually approved by the Supreme Court in May, the so-called “Gas Framework” offers exploration companies a friendly regulatory and tax environment, exempting them from royalties until they achieve a 150% return on their investment.


Early this month, the Israeli Ministry of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources held an event in London aimed at encouraging international oil and gas companies to submit bids for several new exploration blocks off Israel’s coast. The Minister, Yuval Steinitz, alongside the ministry’s Director General and its Chief Scientist, gave a presentation underlining both the high likelihood of a major natural gas discovery and the attractive production terms offered by the government. It was the second leg of a roadshow that has also taken in Houston and Singapore. But while there is no doubting the commercial potential of the 24 blocks up for auction, Israeli officials may find them a tough sell.


One of the main reasons is the slump in the price of natural gas, which many believe will be long term because of excess supply. There is intense competition between exporters over a limited number of major consumer markets. Since sale to Israeli consumers alone would not be sufficient to offset the costs of production, the commercial success of companies exploring Israel’s offshore reserves will rely on their ability to export to other countries in the Middle East and beyond.


This would require close cooperation between four major actors— Israel, Turkey, Egypt and Cyprus— to create a regional export network. The centrepiece of a plan being discussed in diplomatic and business circles throughout the region is an underwater pipeline running from Israel through Cyprus to Turkey. Turkey is one of the fastest growing energy markets in the world and, more importantly, a gateway to Europe, which has been heavily reliant on gas from Russia. An existing pipeline would connect Israeli offshore sites to Egypt, which is developing substantial LNG infrastructure, and could offer a shipping gateway for LNG exports. This pipeline runs through the volatile Sinai Peninsula and previously transported gas from Egypt to Israel. At that time, its reliability was questioned because of repeated sabotage by terrorists.


The diplomatic challenges involved in getting these countries to cooperate on a gas export project of this scale are formidable. Turkey has only just restored diplomatic relations with Israel after years of heightened tension, and still does not officially recognise the Cypriot government. Relations between Turkey and Egypt have also been strained ever since the July 2013 coup, which ousted former Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi, who was supported by Ankara. While Egypt and Israel have been on relatively good terms under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s administration, open cooperation with Israel would leave him facing accusations of ‘selling out’ the Palestinians. All of which undermines the business rationale for launching a major exploration operation in the eastern Mediterranean basin.


But while geopolitical conditions might be difficult, they have never been more favourable than now. The Israeli government is keen to promote regional stability, particularly to make the point that it can be achieved without major concessions to the Palestinians. Turkey’s adoption of a more pragmatic foreign policy and a desire to diversify its energy resources could see it building bridges with regional foes, which was certainly a factor in its rapprochement with Israel. As part of the reconciliation agreement between the two countries in June, Turkey committed to entering negotiations with Israel over the purchase of Israeli gas. The US, meanwhile, would be keen on cooperation between its Middle East allies on pipeline projects, and to see Turkey and Europe shift away from buying Russian gas. Indeed, many observers regard gas exploitation in the eastern Mediterranean as a possible driver of stability and cooperation in the region.


It is hard to predict whether many potential investors will look beyond the present geopolitical obstacles to the proposed pipeline projects, which is why the Israeli government is offering such a favourable regulatory and taxation framework. That should prove to be attractive, but only to those with a significant risk appetite. For exploration companies who believe that countries in the region could in time pull together to export gas to the Middle East and beyond, it might be a gamble worth taking.          




ISRAEL INKS HISTORIC GAS DEAL WITH JORDAN AT PERILOUS TIME                                                        

Ari Lieberman                                                                                                      

Frontpage, Sept. 28, 2016


Israel this week signed a historic agreement with Jordan to supply the energy-starved kingdom with natural gas from its Leviathan gas field. The deal is worth a reported $10 billion and has instantly transformed the Jewish state into an energy exporter. In addition to the obvious pecuniary benefits to the Israeli economy, the agreement promotes regional stability by creating an energy and economic interdependence.


Israel is now looking to sign energy deals with two other regional players of import, Greece and Cyprus. Israel’s energy minister plans on traveling to Athens on Wednesday to cement agreements. The Israeli plan centers on laying a network of pipes so that natural gas can be shipped to these nations as well as other European countries. Currently, much of Europe relies on Russian gas and an alternative source would be welcome. Even Turkey, which recently exchanged ambassadors with Israel after a long hiatus, has expressed interest in cooperating with Israel in the energy sector.


Israel currently operates and lays claim to four gas fields off its coast. Two small ones are located off the shores of Ashkelon while the two larger ones – called Tamar and Leviathan – are located in the north, approximately 90 miles west of Haifa. Leviathan should be fully operational within a few years while the other fields are already supplying Israel with natural gas. Israel derives approximately 60 percent of its electricity needs through natural gas. Energy officials estimate that since the gas began flowing just over a decade ago, Israel has saved approximately 35.5 billion shekels which translates to $9.6 billion.


The welcome news however, comes with cost. Lebanon, which is controlled by Hezbollah, which in turn receives its marching orders from Iran, has laid claim to Israel’s energy finds. Lebanon’s maritime and territorial claims are wholly without merit and it is a virtual certainty that they were made at the behest of either Hezbollah or Iran or both. While Lebanon’s navy is negligible and poses no threat to Israel and its off-shore gas platforms, Hezbollah does pose a more significant threat. Hezbollah possesses a number of Chinese C-802 radar guided anti-ship missiles. A missile of this type damaged an Israeli corvette, the INS Hanit, during the 2006 Lebanon War (the ship was repaired and returned to service 3 weeks later) and sunk a civilian Egyptian ship cruising some 37 miles from shore.


The C-802 can be defeated through electronic counter measures (ECM) and point defense systems like the Barak-8 anti-missile, anti-aircraft system and the Phalanx. In the case of the Hanit, its captain had turned off the ship’s ECM systems because he did not believe that Hezbollah had such missiles. Of greater concern is the Russian Yakhont missile which is considered more accurate and less susceptible to ECM than the C-802. Israel considers these missiles game-changers because they significantly enhance Hezbollah’s anti-ship capabilities. They also quite naturally pose a threat to Israel’s offshore gas platforms and related infrastructure. In the past few years, Israel has launched several successful attacks on Syria aimed at interdicting the flow of sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah but it is believed that notwithstanding these efforts, Hezbollah has taken possession of a limited number of Yakhont missiles.


In addition to the missile threat, Israel must also prepare for other contingencies such as suicide speed boats and remotely piloted drones packed with explosives. Israel can also not discount the possibility that Hezbollah may attempt to seize an offshore platform with shock troops. While Hezbollah is fully engaged in Syria and the threat level remains relatively low for the moment, Israel is not resting on its laurels. It is significantly enhancing the Navy’s tactical and strategic capabilities.


The Israeli Navy had once been considered the orphan child of the armed forces. Priority went to the ground and air forces with the Navy getting the leftover hand-me-downs. That perception changed during the Yom Kippur War of 1973 when the Navy was the only branch of the armed forces not taken by surprise during the initial Arab onslaught. Its fleet of Israeli and French designed missile boats decimated the entire Syrian navy and severely mauled the Egyptian navy while keeping the shipping lanes free for maritime traffic. The Navy’s role in securing Israel’s defense has come to prominence ever since.


In the next war with Hezbollah, the Navy will be tasked with neutralizing the Hezbollah menace and securing the eastern Mediterranean. Israel’s naval capabilities are indeed formidable. Its large fleet of Sa’ar 4.5 missile boats and Sa’ar 5 corvettes pack powerful punches and are equipped with Harpoon and Gabriel anti-ship missiles, torpedoes, an array of cannon, point defense missile systems and state-of-the-art ECM. The Sa’ar 5 is also equipped with a helipad and hangar to accommodate the Atalef helicopter. Complementing the corvettes and missile boats are some 45 patrol and fast attack craft, some of which are equipped with missiles and the highly regarded Typhoon stabilized cannon system. Rounding out the surface fleet will be a pair of F124 Sachsen-class frigates from Germany and the Sa’ar 72, an 800 ton vessel currently under construction by Israel Shipyards.


The Navy has also taken possession of its fifth submarine, the INS Rahav. The craft can deliver Israeli designed nuclear tipped missiles called the Popeye Turbo and can remain submerged for significantly longer periods than conventional submarines. It will be tasked with carrying out covert operations and remains a powerful deterrent against those who seek to harm Israel.  Israel’s naval commandos are continuously training for scenarios in which they’re called upon to retake gas rigs seized by terrorists. The complex operation would be made more difficult by the fact that the terrorists could conceivably seize hostages and a firefight on the rig could set off an explosion or fire due to the presence of highly flammable materials.


The challenges involved in protecting Israel’s gas rigs and related infrastructure are daunting but it appears that Israel is more than ready for the task and the Navy will serve as the nation’s tip of the spear.                                                            





DEFECTING TO PRIVATE SECTOR                                                  

Shoshanna Solomon                                                                         

Times of Israel, Oct. 27, 2016


The Israeli army is fighting a battle it knows it can only partially win: to preserve the best of its talent within its ranks, even as the likes of Google, Apple and Facebook entice them with salaries as much as five times what the army can offer. With Israel’s startup scene flourishing and multinationals setting up research and development centers, a shortage of engineers is heating up the competition for skilled personnel, with companies offering fatter and fatter salaries to recruit talent.


A reliable pool of skills — and one that has been fueling the so called “startup nation,” has traditionally come from the army. The IDF recruits 18-year-old women and men for a compulsory two-to-three-year service imposed on most citizens and allocates them to combat or other units, including intelligence and tech units. After intensive training, these soldiers are put in highly sensitive, secret and responsible jobs, developing and using cutting edge technologies. After their service, many stay on to become career soldiers while others venture out into civilian life and are either snapped up by high-tech corporations or set up their own start-up.


“The army has a very real problem” because the salaries it offers cannot compete with those offered by the private sector, said Giora Eiland, a retired major general of the IDF and a former head of the Israeli National Security Council. A son of a friend, he related, who recently graduated from the elite 8200 technology intelligence unit received a number of offers to work for private companies for around NIS 30,000 a month (around $7,800), which was four times the salary the army was offering him to stay on. “If you love your job, salary won’t make much of a difference,” Eiland said. “But if the salary they offer is 100 percent higher or, as in this case, 300 percent higher, then for sure you will leave. There is no dilemma whatsoever.”


Demand for army graduates has been fueled by the surge in startups operating in Israel and multinationals that have set up R&D centers in the country — all of which are scouting for talent. The intensity of their need has been compounded by the shortage of skilled engineers the nation is facing. The number of active high tech companies operating in Israel has jumped from 3,781 in 2006 to 7,400 in mid-2016, according to figures compiled by Tel Aviv-based IVC Research Center, which tracks the industry. In addition, companies from Google to Apple, Deutsche Telecom to Bosch have all set up research and development centers in Israel, with 278 multinational companies operating a total of 327 R&D centers around the country today, compared with about 250 such centers three years ago, IVC data shows.


Meanwhile, Israel’s high-tech industry will suffer a shortfall of more than 10,000 engineers and programmers in the coming decade if the government doesn’t take immediate action to prepare students to enter these fields, the Ministry of Economy and Industry’s chief scientist Avi Hasson warned in a report in June. So there is more demand for these skilled workers than supply, leading to a salary rise of around 10 percent in the past five years with workers changing jobs on average every 20 months, according to data compiled by Workey, which has developed a job search engine for Israeli startups. Starting monthly salaries in high-tech for soldiers who have completed their army service are around NIS 20,000, Workey data shows.


Data released by the IDF shows that a career officer with the rank of lieutenant in a technological position can earn roughly NIS 5,800-9,100 per month, pre-tax, while a captain could earn roughly NIS 8,600-11,200 per month. Salaries are determined by several factors including training, educational background, location and risk level. IDF data also shows that in the years 2011-2015, the number of outstanding officers leaving the army rose from under 17 percent in 2011 to a peak of almost 27% in 2014 before dipping to just over 25% in 2015 . The army defines outstanding officers as those who served as officers for at least two years and rank in the top third of officers in their unit, following a peer evaluation over a period of two years or who have shown outstanding abilities.


So the army decided to fight back. Not with salaries, an area it knows it cannot compete in, but by emphasizing the contribution these soldiers make to the country, by giving them more interesting jobs and greater responsibility at a younger age, and by putting in place a set of perks, scholarships and bonuses that will make them feel more valued. “We saw a trend in which it was very difficult to maintain our soldiers in service and we checked the reasons why,” said Maj. Meirav Stoler, a spokesperson of the Human Resources Branch in the IDF. Those who stay in the army, she said, based on a survey the army conducted among 21- to 29-year-olds, stay not for the salary, but for the challenge their role offered and because the soldiers found it important to contribute to the state.


“We know that the army cannot compete on matching terms with the civilian world,” said Stoler. “But we do not work based on material considerations only. The army needs to provide its soldiers with much more than material things and salaries.” The army’s new plan — which it has been implementing in the past few months — is to make sure that the soldiers who choose to remain “feel they can do more, get more and be more influential,” Stoler said. “Our push to keep the best in the service allows us to give each of them more important and senior jobs, and we see that this is indeed helping people to stay.”…                                   

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]                       




SPIES IN SPACE: THE STORY OF ISRAEL'S                                                                            

OFEK SATELLITE PROGRAM                                                                               

Barbara Opall-Rome                                                                                            

Jerusalem Post, Sept. 25, 2016


If you’re looking for a story that captures Israeli innovation, cunning and can-do chutzpa, think spy satellites. Look to Ofek, the Hebrew word for horizon. It’s all there in Israel’s military satellite program, the newest of which – Ofek 11 – is struggling to stabilize itself in space after its launch earlier last week.


Inserted successfully into orbit by the country’s homemade Shavit launcher, the newest and most advanced satellite is likely to soldier on in space, but with limited lifespan and ability to perform its high-resolution spy duties. White-knuckled technicians and program managers toiling around the clock at Israel Aerospace Industries’ (IAI) ground control station near Ben-Gurion Airport are still hoping for a favorable ending to the latest chapter still unfolding. But like the chapters that have gone before, Ofek 11 represents the highs and lows of a story driven by strategic need and enhanced by its share of diplomatic intrigue. Conceived in secret, it’s a story of battling the laws of physics; and struggling on a shoestring budget to build rockets strong enough to loft satellites small enough into retrograde orbit against Earth’s eastward spin.


It’s also a story of fortitude. How the euphoria of reaching space in 1988 was followed by bitter back-to-back failures that saw two satellites swallowed by the sea. And how the heroes of our story finagled their way back from the brink with the 1995 launch of Ofek-3, Israel’s first operational imaging satellite whose progeny continue to fuel the regional power status of the Jewish state. “Small countries can be great only if they dream big,” said former president Shimon Peres. “With Ofek, we penetrated space and skepticism.”


Interviewed before the stroke that befell the pioneer of Israel’s aerospace and defense industry, Peres said Israel’s small size makes it uniquely positioned as a “center of excellence” for advanced research and development. “Our advantage is creative, out-of-the-box thinkers who push the boundaries of what was deemed impossible.” But with all due respect to Israel’s senior statesman, this is where our tale takes a cautionary turn. Because the flip side of this story is one of untapped potential and failure to leverage billions of dollars invested in military space to assure commercial competitiveness on the global market.


The US Futron Corp. consistently ranks Israel eighth in an annual competitiveness survey based on myriad criteria, including government investment, national space policy, the ability to attract financing and annual sales. In its latest Space Competitive Index (SCI), we have dropped to number nine. “Israel continues to be a leader in space technology, but has limited commercial sales,” Futron reported in its first SCI survey from 2008. The same holds true today. “Although Israeli technology is high quality and generally cost-competitive, Israeli manufacturers have less global scale than their counterparts,” Futron senior analyst Jonathan Beland told the Jerusalem Post Magazine.


But let’s go back. Our story begins in the late 1970s. US President Jimmy Carter was proving relentless in prodding Israel and Egypt toward peace. In the run-up to Camp David, the era of Israeli Air Force reconnaissance flights over Sinai was about to end. Plan Treasure was a top-secret forum where US and Israeli officials hashed out compensation to come from the 1978 accord. Among Israel’s requests: access to imagery from US spy satellites. “The Americans didn’t even answer us; they ignored the request,” recalls David Ivry, a retired major general who commanded the Israel Air Force at the time. That’s when the indigenous Israeli satellite program started to gain traction. Ivry said. “We knew after the treaty was signed, we would be obliged not to violate Egyptian sovereignty by overflying their airspace as we used to do,” he added…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]





On Topic Links



Israel Should Avoid Turkey, Include Cyprus in Gas Export Projects: Ariel Ben Solomon, BESA, Oct. 7, 2016 —As Israel begins closing deals for its natural gas, it should avoid linking itself to any expensive long-term pipeline deal with Turkey at the expense of allies Cyprus, Greece, or even Egypt. Notwithstanding the recent easing of tensions between the two countries, Israel cannot trust Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Islamist regime as a linchpin in its natural gas export strategy.

Israel's Plan to Supply the Arab World With Energy Is Under Threat in Jordan: Natanel Abramov, Newsweek, Oct. 11, 2016—Public protests and civil society campaigns have been gathering pace in Jordan in opposition to the $10 billion deal recently signed by the state-owned National Electric Power Company (NEPCO) and suppliers of Israeli gas, serving as a timely reminder of the limits of overt cooperation, economic or otherwise, between Israel and neighboring Arab states.

Israel-China Ties Bloom with Free Trade Talks Imminent: Iacopo Luzi, Times of Israel, Sept. 29, 2016—Israel and China relations are reaching new heights as investors and entrepreneurs throng conferences in China and Tel Aviv and the two countries gear up for talks on establishing a free trade zone.

India, the UN vote, the Temple Mount and Ayodhya: Souptik Mukherjee, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 25, 2016— Hindu-Jewish ties date back over 2,500 years. It is believed that Jews arrived in India after the destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians in 587 BCE. Jewish waves of migration to India took place after the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 CE.








Natural Gas Follies: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, Mar. 28, 2016— The unnecessary High Court of Justice decision on Sunday may visit upon Israel more damage than 10,000 possible BDS campaigns.

Israel's Alliance That Could Potentially Offset Enhanced Russian and Iranian Power: Leslie Susser, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 26, 2016— The past several weeks have seen a flurry of diplomatic activity reinforcing the tripartite alliance between Israel, Greece and Cyprus.

IDF Racing to Restructure for New Middle East Warfare: Yaakov Lappin, Algemeiner, Feb. 24, 2016— The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is in a race against time, and their race is also relevant to how other Western powers will deal with the rise of radical, armed, Islamic groups proliferating across the Middle East.

There’s Only One Country in the Middle East that Could Produce a Soldier Like Me: Major Alaa Waheeb, Jewish News, Mar. 3, 2016— In the last few weeks, students across the UK have been involved in Israeli Apartheid Week. 


On Topic Links


PC 2016 – Bob Cohen Remarks and Truman-Jacobson Video: AIPAC, Mar. 27, 2016

Israel’s Democratic Collapse: Caroline Glick, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 28 2016

Why Israeli Politicians are Turning Against the IDF: Ben Caspit, Al-Monitor, Feb. 24, 2016

Israeli Military Ranks 9th Most Powerful Globally on Defense Site List: David Daoud, Algemeiner, Mar. 27, 2016




               David M. Weinberg

       Israel Hayom, Mar. 28, 2016


The unnecessary High Court of Justice decision on Sunday may visit upon Israel more damage than 10,000 possible BDS campaigns. If Noble Energy and its partners walk away from the gas deal now, Israel will not only lose the direct economic benefits of having natural gas, but also forfeit what might have been an exceedingly valuable tool of Israeli foreign and defense policy.


The 1,400 billion cubic meters of natural gas that lie offshore in the Tamar, Leviathan, Tanin and Karish fields constitute one of Israel's most important geopolitical assets for the future. The gas fields are of critical strategic value. They were about to revolutionize Israel's standing in the region and transform our relations with neighboring countries. Handled wisely, these exports were supposed to be an exceedingly valuable tool of Israeli foreign and defense policy. Handled shrewdly, Israel could have solidified its centrality in the region via stable regional partnerships for gas production and supply.


But the High Court's refusal to leave good-enough alone; its decision to cancel the 10-year price stability clause in the gas deal — is mangling the gas bonanza. In one fell swoop, the court gave substance to fears that Israel is not a stable regulatory system for big business. The court may scare away, once and for all, most potential investors. And without very big investors, the gas will remain buried uselessly underwater and underground, or it will be so expensive as to be unattractive and ineffectual.


Remember how we got here. Between 2003 and 2009, Noble Energy, alone among the major offshore drilling companies of the world, responded positively to an Israeli government invitation to search for natural gas in Israel's territorial waters and exclusive economic zone. It invested $200 million in discovering Tamar (taking a 70% chance of failure), and it has invested a whopping $4 billion so far to develop the larger and much farther-offshore Leviathan field. Today, 40% of Israel's electricity production is fueled by natural gas from Tamar.


The complications began with environmental groups that blocked construction of a main natural gas receiving facility near Furadis and forcing its relocation, delays that cost Noble $1.8 billion, and cost the State of Israel much more. Then the Israeli government changed the rules of the game in terms of taxation and profit-sharing on the gas sector, via a Finance Ministry committee headed by Eitan Sheshinsky. That is when the global gas giant Woodside of Australia withdrew its interest in partnering with Israel or with Noble to develop our gas deposits. Israel is an unstable regulatory environment, the company said.


Under growing public pressure to wrest an even better deal, the government then re-negotiated the terms of business again with Noble, for a 60% government, 40% company split of the profits. Noble would still have to pay the multi-billion-dollar development costs, and the heightened insurance costs (in a situation where Iranian hegemony is on the ascendancy alongside Iranian threats against Israel's gas facilities at sea). Yet even that iteration of the government-corporate partnership was unacceptable to critics on the left wing of the political spectrum. They sought to cap the amount of gas that can be exported to low levels, and cap the price of gas to Israelis at even more ridiculously low levels. That would have nearly nationalized the gas fields and made the venture far from viable.


Now the High Court has weighed in by striking down the "stability clause," a key part of the framework that commits the Israeli government not to impose any regulatory changes on the gas industry for at least 10 years. This was inserted because the gas companies contended that the cost-benefits calculations required to make the $6 billion or more needed to develop Leviathan would be too risky otherwise. A government in the future could opt to change tax policy and other regulations that would affect the return on their investment.


Seems logical, no? Well, the court says that the government can't do this without new legislation. My main concern here isn't the public-corporate-constitutional side of the dispute. Perhaps Noble and the government can yet work things out, again — although it won't be easy with an emboldened Knesset opposition nipping at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's heels. What is of even greater concern is international perceptions of Israel as a stable business environment. At stake is Israel's global reputation as a reliable place to make money. Without that, foreign direct investment in Israel will crash. Investors are scared away from places afflicted by extreme over-regulation, confused policymaking, constantly changing tax rules, splenetic politicians, and overly ambitious judges.


Furthermore, if this country continues to muck around in internal disputes over the gas sector, Israel will fritter way the diplomatic and strategic opportunities offered by the gas finds. Gas must be considered a fundamental security issue. Israel already has agreements to sell Jordan enough gas for almost all of its electricity production, a diplomatic coup that helps solidify a vital security partnership with the Hashemite Kingdom. Cyprus wants to partner with Israel in selling massive amounts of gas to the Egyptians, and that would help stabilize the Sissi regime. Greece, and even Turkey, want Israeli natural gas pipelines or liquid natural gas shipments to run through their countries. Russia's national giant, Gazprom, is also seeking partnership with Israel.


In other words, Israel's natural gas sector presents a unique opportunity for partnership between local and foreign companies, between government and the corporate sector, between Israel and its Arab and Mediterranean neighbors, between Israel and Europe, and even between Israel and Asia. Natural gas can be an Israeli strategic geopolitical tool of the highest order. But not if Israel acts with inconsistency, short-sightedness and never-ending legal wrangling.




                 Leslie Susser                           

    Jerusalem Post, Mar. 26, 2016


The past several weeks have seen a flurry of diplomatic activity reinforcing the tripartite alliance between Israel, Greece and Cyprus. On January 28, the three leaders, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a summit meeting in Nicosia; the day before Tsipras brought 10 of his cabinet colleagues to Jerusalem for a government to government session with their Israeli counterparts; and the day before that Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon held security talks in Athens and a month later in Cyprus.


The three countries share obvious economic interests in what they call the “energy triangle” in the Eastern Mediterranean, where both Israel and Cyprus have discovered huge natural gas deposits. One of the more ambitious joint projects is to build an undersea gas pipeline from Israel to Cyprus to Crete to mainland Greece to facilitate gas exports to Europe; in parallel there are plans for a 2000 megawatt undersea electricity cable, the “EuroAsia Interconnector,” which would follow much the same route, linking the Israeli electricity grid to those of Cyprus, Greece and mainland Europe, thereby providing Israel’s currently isolated power system with strategic backup.


There are common military interests too: primarily defending the “energy triangle,” but also joint military exercises and additional training space for the Israel Air Force after the loss of Turkish skies in 2010. The close ties are based on a confluence of strategic interests in a turbulent war-torn region. All three have a common interest in keeping the chaotic Syria situation from spilling over into their domain; in other words, keeping Islamic State (ISIS) and the newly dominant Russia-Iran-Hezbollah axis at bay. All three recognize the need for new local alliances given the decline of American influence in the region. Their tripartite partnership is also a counterweight to Turkey’s hegemonic regional ambitions.


But at the same time, all three declare willingness to widen the alliance to include other key players like Egypt and Italy and, in certain circumstances, perhaps even Turkey itself. The goal would be a wide moderate front made up of non-Arab Eastern Mediterranean/Middle Eastern countries and moderate Sunni states, backed by the US, despite its perceived regional pullback. The Israel, Greece, Cyprus alliance, therefore, has solid foundations and could form the basis for something bigger. But, in itself, it is hardly a substitute for relations with more powerful players.


The joint economic interests, however, are of potentially major significance. In August 2013, the three countries signed a tripartite energy memorandum providing for the laying of the EuroAsia Interconnector, set to be the longest undersea electricity cable in the world. It will run from Hadera in Israel 329 kilometers to Vasilikos in Cyprus, 879 kilometers from Cyprus to Crete and 310 kilometers from Crete to mainland Greece, a total of 1,518 kilometers or 950 miles. From Greece the cable will fork northwest to Italy and Switzerland and northeast to Serbia and Bulgaria.


The project, which will cost an estimated 1.5 billion euros, has EU backing as part of its Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) program. The work will be carried out by a Cypriot-led consortium including Cyprus’s DEH-Quantum Energy Group and Greece’s state-controlled Public Power Corporation, with the target date for the Israel-Cyprus leg, 2019, and completion of the project as a whole set for 2022. Electricity will flow in both directions, enabling significant energy savings. Importantly for war-threatened Israel: it will provide the local electricity grid with crucial backup if its own production facilities are damaged…


It was the rupture of the close ties between Israel and Turkey in the wake of the Mavi Marmara incident in May 2010 (in which Israeli commandos stormed a Turkish-operated vessel threatening to run the naval blockade of Gaza) that spurred Israel’s burgeoning military cooperation with Greece and Cyprus. In July, less than two months after the incident, then Greek prime minister George Papandreou flew to Israel to discuss alternative military cooperation. In August, Netanyahu became the first Israeli prime minister to visit Athens. And by October, the Israeli and Greek air forces were conducting joint exercises in Greece.


A year later the IAF hosted Greece’s Hellenic Air Force at the Ovda base in the Negev, carrying out simulated dogfights and ground attacks as well as mid-air refueling. Similar exercises took place the following year over the Peloponnese. In November 2013, Israel significantly upgraded the joint air force training with operation “Blue Flag,” the IAFs biggest ever air maneuver, including seven Israeli squadrons and one each from the air forces of the US, Greece, Italy and Poland. The large-scale exercises, which included simulated attacks on enemy bases while avoiding anti-aircraft missiles and detection by enemy radar systems, were repeated in late October-early November 2015.


The two countries have also conducted significant joint naval exercises. In 2011 Turkey, in a calculated snipe at Jerusalem, pulled out of the annual “Reliant Mermaid” maritime maneuvers with Israel and the US. The following year Greece was invited to replace Turkey, the name of the annual exercise was changed to “Noble Dina” and the focus switched from search-and-rescue to attack-and-defend scenarios, including anti-submarine warfare and repelling attacks on offshore natural gas rigs.


Israel and Greece signed a Defense Cooperation Agreement in January 2012; Cyprus followed suit in February. The Cypriot agreement allows the IDF use of Cypriot air space and territorial waters around the island for training purposes and to protect vital energy resources. Dubbed “Onisilos-Gideon,” the ensuing joint exercises were upgraded in 2014, with dozens of IAF fighters and support aircraft participating in training over Cyprus, simulating firing at targets on land and sea from Limassol to Paphos. The two countries have also conducted a series of joint naval exercises focusing on protection of offshore gas installations. So far there has been only one known genuine incident testing the Israel-Cypriot alliance: In September 2011, IAF planes overflew Turkish Northern Cyprus as a warning to a Turkish seismic research ship that had entered Cypriot waters in what was seen as a deliberate provocation over Turkey’s offshore gas exploration dispute with Cyprus…                                                                                                         [To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]



                    IDF RACING TO RESTRUCTURE FOR NEW MIDDLE EAST WARFARE                        

                                                                Yaakov Lappin                                                                       

Arutz Sheva, Mar. 4, 2016


The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is in a race against time, and their race is also relevant to how other Western powers will deal with the rise of radical, armed, Islamic groups proliferating across the Middle East. As the IDF’s commanders look around the region, they see heavily armed, hybrid, Islamic sub-state foes that are replacing states. The traditional threat of hierarchical armies is fading quickly away, into obscurity.


The Sunni and Shiite jihadist entities on Israel’s borders — Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS-affiliated groups in Syria, Jabhat Al-Nusra, as well as elements of Iran’s IRGC forces — are all building their power and preparing for a future unknown point in time when they will clash with Israel. The IDF is preparing, too, but it is not only counting how many soldiers, tanks, fighter planes, and artillery cannons it can call up in the next round. The IDF is in a race to adapt to 21st century Middle Eastern warfare, which bears no resemblance to how wars were fought in the 20th century.


In this new type of conflict, enemies appear and vanish quickly, use their own civilians as cover, bombard Israeli cities with projectiles, seek out the weakest link in Israel’s chain, and send killing squads through tunnels to attack Israeli border villages. In this type of clash, the enemy looks for a ‘winning picture’ at the start of any escalation. This means landing a surprise blow that will knock Israeli society off balance, at least for a short while. To be clear, all of the hostile sub-state actors currently are deterred by Israel’s considerable firepower and are unlikely to initiate a direct, all-out attack. The price they would pay for such action is deemed too high, for now. Yet, opportunities and circumstances can suddenly arise that would alter these calculations, and put these terrorist organizations on a direct collision course with the IDF. Israel has fought four conflicts against Hamas and Hezbollah in the past 10 years, and emerged with the conclusion that the era of state military versus state military warfare is over.


Acknowledging this development is one thing; the organizational transformation that must follow is quite another. Israel did not want to enter any of the past four conflicts that were forced upon it, but since they occurred, they have aided in the IDF’s adaptation process, which has been as complex as it has been painful, and is far from over. “What you have to do against an enemy like this, and it is a great difficulty for militaries, including the IDF, is to operate in a combined, cross-branch [air force, ground forces, navy] manner, and to keep it [operations] focused. Focus the ground maneuver and firepower, on the basis of the intelligence you get,” a senior IDF source said earlier this month in Tel Aviv, while addressing the challenges of adaptation.

Take southern Lebanon, the home base of Hezbollah, as an example — the area has well over 100 Shiite villages that have been converted into mass rocket launching zones. With one out of every 10 Lebanese homes doubling up as a Hezbollah rocket launching site (complete with roofs that open and close to allow the rocket to launch), Hezbollah has amassed more than 120,000 projectiles — some of them GPS guided — with Iran’s help. This arsenal, pointed at Israel, forms one of the largest surface to surface rocket arsenals on Earth…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]




           Major Alaa Waheeb                                                                       

       Jewish News, Mar. 3, 2016


In the last few weeks, students across the UK have been involved in Israeli Apartheid Week.  Some have supported it. Others have opposed it. Invited by the Zionist Federation UK, last week I was able to attend campuses up and down the country specifically to address and counter some of the claims involved. These fall into roughly three categories. First, that Israel is an inherently racist, and therefore unacceptable country, comparable to Apartheid South Africa. Second, that its army defends this racist status with acts of illegal and immoral violence. And third, that the only solution to this problem is through the isolation tactics of boycotts.


Like many I met during my visit, I oppose these views. But perhaps more than most people on either side of the debate, I am better placed to argue against them. Because I am an Israeli, an Arab, and the highest ranked Muslim in the IDF. Is Israel inherently racist, an apartheid state? Well, do you think that such a country would tolerate a person like myself getting to the position I am today? Forget for a second (BDS supporters would like you to forget permanently!) that 20 percent of Israelis are non-Jewish, have full rights, and are represented throughout society. It’s one thing, after all, to have Arab politicians, Christian voters, and Muslim doctors – although we do have them, and quite a few at that.


But a non-Jewish army Major? Someone who has not only fought alongside Jewish soldiers, but now trains them too? Would a truly racist state allow me to play such an integral role in our nation’s defences? And while we’re on the subject of those defences, let me tackle accusation two: that the Israel army is a particularly immoral one. I am not particularly religious, but as the Holy Quran says, “if anyone killed a person, it would be as if he killed the whole of mankind; and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole of mankind.”


I do not serve in the army to kill people – I serve in it to save people. When Hamas fires rockets, or Fatah encourages stabbings, we are here to protect the lives of all Israeli citizens, Jewish and non-Jewish. And so on to the last point – that the best way to resolve violence and conflict is through the kind of tactics advocated by the Boycotts movement. Namely, isolation and intimidation. For me, this is the most important issue, and the one which makes me shake my head with anger and sadness the most.


Like I said, I visited the UK to combat Israeli Apartheid Week, to challenge the lies and mistruths hurled at the country I am proud to call home. But what hurts me the most is not how unbelievable they are. The opposite, in fact. They are all too believable, and I should know – because I once believed them too. The reality is that the town I grew up in did not recognise the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state. While Arabic is an official language, I did not learn Hebrew until I was 17. I was raised to believe the worst things about Jews, and, had I not eventually met and worked alongside them, I might still believe those things today.


In my role as a soldier, I have met all kinds of people both in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Jews, Arabs, Religious, Secular, Left-wing and Right-wing. I have met Israelis who were prejudiced against me. But I have also met Palestinians who appreciate the work that I do to maintain some sort of peace and stability in the most dangerous part of the world. Forget slogans and shouting. Peace – real peace – will only come when people talk to each other. Not necessarily agree – just agree to listen. But the irony of Israeli Apartheid Week is that it wants individuals to focus on differences, not similarities. Instead of building bridges between communities, it wants to build walls.


During my time in the UK, I spoke alongside a fellow soldier, a medic who has treated both Israeli soldiers and Palestinian terrorists without distinction. We were the Muslim who protects Jewish lives, and the Jew who saves Muslim lives. There’s only one country in the Middle East that could produce a couple like that – and it sure as hell isn’t an apartheid state.


On Topic


PC 2016 – Bob Cohen Remarks and Truman-Jacobson Video: AIPAC, Mar. 27, 2016—Before there was AIPAC, before there was Israel, one man’s friendship with President Truman helped change history.

Israel’s Democratic Collapse: Caroline Glick, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 28 2016—Israeli democracy is in critical condition. Sunday, the High Court of Justice ruled that the government’s natural gas policy is unlawful.

Why Israeli Politicians are Turning Against the IDF: Ben Caspit, Al-Monitor, Feb. 24, 2016—Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot is an experienced officer with a long list of achievements under his belt. Nevertheless, on Feb. 17, he found himself caught in a political crossfire.

Israeli Military Ranks 9th Most Powerful Globally on Defense Site List: David Daoud, Algemeiner, Mar. 27, 2016—Israel’s military is the 9th strongest in the world, according to the international defense site Global Firepower (GFP), which released its annual list on Friday.



















Les enjeux géopolitiques du gaz offshore

David Wurmser

Le CAPE de Jérusalem, 20 avril 2013


Le 30 mars dernier, le flux du gaz naturel en provenance du réservoir Tamar situé en Méditerranée a été inauguré en grande pompe, marquant ainsi le début d’une ère nouvelle.


Désormais, Israël est indépendant en besoins énergétiques, mais surtout il pourra devenir un exportateur mondial de gaz maritime, notamment en direction de l’Europe.


Tout a débuté le 17 janvier 2009 lorsqu’une équipe dirigée par une société texane, Noble Energy, a découvert du gaz dans le champ Tamar à l’est de la Méditerranée. Elle estime sa découverte à 9,7 trillions de cubes (TCF) de gaz naturel de pure qualité. Deux ans plus tard, la même équipe, forant à quelques dizaines de kilomètres à l’ouest, a découvert un gigantesque gisement de gaz nommé à juste titre “Léviathan”. Ce nouveau forage est estimé contenir plus de 18 TCF et pourrait commencer à fournir du gaz à partir de 2016.


Le site Tamar n’est que le début de l’exploration en Méditerranée car l’ensemble de la quantité de gaz découvert suffit pour une consommation pouvant durer plus d’un demi-siècle. Pour comparer avec l’Europe, le gisement représente plus de la moitié de ce que les 27 pays de l’Union européenne consomment chaque année. 


A court terme, la Jordanie semblerait être un pays pour l’exportation du gaz car il s’agit d’une entreprise relativement simple et peu coûteuse. Toutefois, en raison de sa proximité géographique, l’Europe pourrait devenir un marché attractif. En effet, elle traverse une crise majeure d’approvisionnement de gaz en raison de l’instabilité en Afrique du Nord et particulièrement en Algérie. Mais l’Asie, et en premier lieu la Chine, pourra devenir une destination préférentielle. La compagnie australienne Woodside, qui a déjà acquis un tiers des droits du site “Léviathan”, souhaite orienter la commercialisation du gaz vers l’Asie et envisage la construction d’une usine de liquéfaction.


Suite à l’amère expérience d’Israël avec l’Egypte, dont la moitié de son approvisionnement en gaz naturel a été définitivement rompu juste après la chute du régime Moubarak, Israël devrait prévoir de nouvelles infrastructures au sein de son propre territoire mais aussi au-delà des frontières, avec la Jordanie, Chypre, ou la Turquie.        


Les responsables israéliens perçoivent le nouveau gazoduc traversant Israël et reliant la mer Rouge et la Méditerranée comme une alternative au canal de Suez. Cependant, une nouvelle structure fonctionnant directement d’Eilat vers les marchés asiatiques pourrait être confrontée à un grave problème stratégique, à savoir : le renforcement de la présence navale iranienne en mer Rouge.   


Le “printemps arabe” et ses retombées ont prouvé que les gazoducs internationaux étaient particulièrement vulnérables et les armées arabes sont désormais incapables de les protéger ou peut être ne sont pas disposées à le faire.


Ces turbulences ont également menacé la sécurité énergétique de l’Europe. Il existe cinq gazoducs fournissant du gaz en provenance d’Afrique du Nord, principalement d’Algérie.


L’Union européenne a cherché à diversifier son approvisionnement en gaz en construisant le gazoduc Transsaharien. Mais ce dernier, qui transporte du gaz en provenance du Niger, passe par Hassi al-Rim, en Algérie, où il se raccorde aux autres gazoducs concurrentiels. Environ 18% de la fourniture du gaz d’Europe est acheminée à partir de ce site, qui se trouve donc être extrêmement vulnérable.


Tandis que la France est intervenue au Mali, la montée des islamistes en Afrique du Nord, dans le Sahara et au Sahel a menacé considérablement la stabilité des pays de la région. L’effondrement des institutions centrales a renforcé le rôle ancestral des tribus, des grandes familles et des bédouins. La présence de puits de pétrole ou de gaz à la portée des tribus prête un énorme pouvoir aux négociations. Par exemple en mars 2013, la production du champ de pétrole de Jalu, en Libye, a été suspendue durant plus d’une semaine jusqu’à ce que la compagnie Waha Oil cède en embauchant des chauffeurs et des gardiens d’une tribu locale. Dans le delta du Nil, la production de gaz naturel a été perturbée et certains champs de pétrole fermés en raison des pressions exercées par la population locale. En outre, des bédouins armés installés dans la péninsule du Sinaï ont kidnappé le patron américain d’Exxon Mobile et son épouse, puis les ont relâchés quelques heures plus tard. En Algérie, comme au Maroc ou en Mauritanie, des intérêts locaux et tribaux prévalent souvent sur les considérations diplomatiques. 


Ainsi, le climat de tensions en Afrique du Nord demeure si explosif que des troubles peuvent facilement éclater et dégénérer à partir d’un problème local, insignifiant dans le contexte international et face aux besoins énergétiques extérieurs.


Devant cette nouvelle donne et le souhait de réduire la dépendance à l’égard de la Russie, l’Europe pourrait représenter pour Israël une opportunité pour signer des accords à long terme et renforcer ses relations avec son premier partenaire économique.


Bien entendu, ce projet ambitieux et grandiose n’est pas sans complications ni risques.


Sur le plan politique, les nouvelles ressources énergétiques sont un atout considérable pour le bien des populations mais aussi pour pouvoir favoriser la paix entre Israël et ses voisins. Hélas, l’expérience du passé démontre le contraire. Les efforts dans le développement économique et commercial ont plutôt augmenté la ferveur islamique contre Israël et ont renouvelé les attaques antisémites et populistes concernant le soi-disant “contrôle des Juifs sur les économies arabes”.


Alors que certains en Israël espèrent que l’exportation du gaz vers la Turquie aidera à renforcer des relations bilatérales tendues, l’expérience avec l’Egypte et les Palestiniens diminue les espoirs dans ce sens.


Enfin, les nouveaux défis stratégiques, le changement de l’ordre régional et les nouvelles ressources énergétiques devront augmenter les dépenses militaires. Ils renforceront certes la position israélienne, mais dépendront aussi de la politique américaine dans cette région du monde qui s’est bien affaiblie ces dernières années.



Les raisons des raids en Syrie

Stéphane Juffa

menapress.org, 5 mai 2013


A la fin de mon article de jeudi après-midi dernier, "Evolutions", je rapportais que j’entendais à la fois des vols de chasseurs-bombardiers et de fortes explosions. Après vérification, il ne s’agissait pas de combats d’artillerie entre sunnites et alaouites, mais bien de frappes aériennes.


Depuis la rédaction de Métula, on en compta six ou sept. Elles étaient particulièrement violentes.


Ce matin, des sources proches des renseignements occidentaux, des agences de presse, des porte-paroles de la rébellion syrienne, ainsi que des fuites en provenance d’officiels israéliens et américains font état d’un raid aérien d’envergure sur Damas, aux petites heures de ce dimanche.


Ces informations évoquent deux attaques – ou séries d’attaques -, dont l’une se serait déroulée vendredi matin, et l’autre, comme nous venons de le mentionner, aujourd’hui.


A la Ména nous possédons suffisamment de rapports précis pour nous permettre d’affirmer que si ces deux assauts ont bien eu lieu, il y en eut d’autres, très récemment, qui sont passés inaperçus aux yeux de la plupart des commentateurs, à l’exception de quelques officiers de l’ASL [Armée Syrienne Libre] sur le terrain.


On n’en est peut-être pas au stade d’actions militaires ininterrompues de la part de Tsahal mais, assurément, de frappes ciblées à répétition. Les objectifs militaires que poursuivent les pilotes hébreux sont des entrepôts et des cargaisons de missiles sol-sol iraniens de type Fatah-110 (le victorieux), de quatrième génération, à destination du Hezbollah au Liban ; des missiles sol-air de fabrication russe, également destinés à la même milice, des radars antiaériens, russes aussi, déployés en Syrie ; des centres de stockage d’armes de destruction massive, et aussi des brigades syriennes spécialisées dans la mise en œuvre des moyens sol-air, et, finalement, des brigades de Pasdaran, les Gardiens de la Révolution iraniens.


Ce qu’il est indispensable de noter, d’un strict point de vue stratégique, est que ces raids n’ont pas grand-chose à voir avec la Guerre Civile syrienne. Ces opérations sont exclusivement liées à la situation prévalant entre l’Iran et Israël.


Tout le monde, dans la région, est conscient qu’une attaque contre les infrastructures nucléaires perses est prévue par l’état-major de Tsahal entre la fin juin et le début juillet. La plupart des analystes sont d’avis que si ce conflit devait se déclencher, la "République" Islamique ne riposterait pas directement contre l’Etat hébreu, par crainte de voir la confrontation gagner en intensité sans avoir les moyens de se mesurer efficacement aux ressources militaires de Jérusalem.


Dans cette situation, Téhéran mise principalement sur l’ouverture d’un second front à partir du Liban, entre la milice chiite du Hezbollah et Israël.


Mais les hommes de Hassan Nasrallah ne disposent actuellement, en grande majorité, que de roquettes de courte et de moyenne portée, pas à même d’opposer un défi crédible à la puissance de feu israélienne.


Certes, le Hezb possède des dizaines de milliers de ces engins rustiques, mais, comme on l’a remarqué en 2006, même en en tirant un très grand nombre – on pense que 8000 roquettes avaient été lancées du Liban durant ledit conflit -, l’étendue des dégâts et le nombre des victimes côté hébreu demeura négligeable en termes tactiques.


Pour commencer à poser un problème militaire à Tsahal, et justifier ainsi l’ouverture d’un second front, Nasrallah doit impérativement disposer de deux choses : des missiles sol-air dotés d’une technologie avancée, capables à tout le moins de déranger un peu la suprématie absolue de l’aviation adverse, ainsi que de missiles sol-sol précis et porteurs d’une charge explosive conséquente.


Ces considérations expliquent les efforts soutenus consentis par l’Iran dans le but d’acheminer des armes de ces types dans le pays des cèdres. En pleine guerre civile syrienne, Téhéran utilise l’aéroport de Damas, même soumis aux bombardements des forces insurgées, non pas pour renforcer l’armée de Béchar al Assad, mais pour préparer sa propre guerre éventuelle contre les Israéliens.


En termes stratégiques plus globaux, cela donne une explication satisfaisante aux propos tenus mardi dernier par Gaby Ashkenazi [l’ancien chef d’état-major de Tsahal] à New York : il est dans l’intérêt de Jérusalem de favoriser la victoire des forces sunnites sur celles du régime actuel.


Plus les al Assad perdront du terrain, plus la capacité des Iraniens à utiliser la Syrie en qualité de plateforme logistique pour armer le Hezbollah sera réduite.


L’objectif des Israéliens, en favorisant le transfert du pouvoir à l’opposition syrienne, consiste, en première finalité, à priver les ayatollahs de l’opportunité d’ouvrir un second front à partir du Liban.


S’ils en sont empêchés, par des raids aériens et/ou par une perte de l’aéroport international de Damas, par exemple, le problème tactique de l’Iran face à une éventuelle attaque israélienne de son industrie nucléaire sera pratiquement insurmontable.


Une évolution de la situation dans ce sens pourrait, si les dirigeants de la théocratie chiite agissent dans la logique, les pousser à la transaction lors de leurs discussions officielles avec les 5+1, et secrètes, en Suisse, avec les émissaires de Washington.


A propos du Fatah-110, nos lecteurs doivent savoir que, contrairement aux roquettes actuellement à la disposition du Hezb, privées de moyens de guidage, il s’agit, dans ce cas, d’une arme efficace et redoutable.


Le Fatah-110-D1, soit la quatrième génération du Fatah 100, datant des premières années du XXIème siècle, possède l’avantage d’emporter, à plus de 3 500 km/h, une charge explosive de l’ordre de 250 kilos, sur une distance maximale de 300 km.


De quoi atteindre pratiquement n’importe quelle cible stratégique en Israël à partir du Liban et de l’endommager sérieusement. A noter que les Perses affirment que le Fatah-110 peut emporter jusqu’à 650 kilos de charge utile, mais les experts occidentaux ne les croient pas. Reste qu’un quart de tonne d’explosif représente un potentiel destructeur considérable, apte à raser un bloc d’immeubles dans son entièreté, une base militaire ou une usine.


Cela explique les risques pris par l’armée de l’air à l’étoile bleue dans le but d’empêcher que ces missiles ne parviennent dans les mains des miliciens chiites libanais.


Tôt ce matin, c’est une quantité conséquente de ces missiles et de leurs ogives qui ont été touchés de plein fouet par les salves des F-16 du He’l Avir. La déflagration impliquant des milliers de kilos de charges hautement explosives a transformé le ciel de Damas en décor d’apocalypse.


"On aurait dit", confient des témoins oculaires, "l’explosion d’une bombe atomique. Les flammes s’élevaient à une centaine de mètres au-dessus du quartier de Jamraya, dans le nord de la capitale syrienne, et les détonations assourdissantes se succédaient". Sur les images filmées depuis les avant-postes rebelles, on entendait les combattants sunnites admirer la scène, en lançant des Allah hou akbar !, Dieu est grand. [Voir la vidéo de la principale explosion tournée par les rebelles].


L’Observatoire Syrien des Droits de l’Homme, l’officine médiatique principale des rebelles située en Grande-Bretagne, de même que des sources combattantes et d’autres s’exprimant depuis Beyrouth, ont annoncé que les frappes des chasseurs-bombardiers ont également visé d’autres dépôts de munitions, des systèmes antiaériens syriens ainsi que deux bataillons de Pasdaran perses.


En effectuant des recoupements à partir de nos bureaux de Beyrouth et de Metula, nous sommes d’avis que ces informations sont plausibles.


Sorti du domaine strictement militaire, il est loisible d’observer que ces frappes aériennes revêtent plusieurs conséquences largement positives pour Jérusalem. En décidant de se départir de leur neutralité stérile, le gouvernement et l’establishment de la Défense israéliens sont en train de briser l’une de leurs plus mauvaises habitudes : jusqu’à présent, ils remportaient des succès militaires indiscutables mais ne parvenaient pas à les transformer en résultats positifs sur le plan politique.


A l’occasion de leurs dernières actions, ils se sont mis à inverser la tendance ; d’abord en renforçant leur capacité de dissuasion démontrée. Car autant les partisans d’Assad, que les combattants de la rébellion, les miliciens chiites libanais, les responsables de la "République" Islamique d’Iran, que les dirigeants et les observateurs avisés du monde arabo-musulmans, vont garder longtemps en mémoire les images vidéo des explosions gigantesques de ce matin.


Avec un impact sans doute particulier sur les officiers de l’armée iranienne et sur les mollahs, qui saisissent sans peine que ce que les appareils israéliens viennent de réaliser à Damas, ils pourront le répéter tout aussi efficacement dans deux mois sur leur territoire.


Ils savent, entre autres, que les moyens de défense antiaériens dont ils disposent sont identiques à ceux qui sont déployés en Syrie. Lors, la supériorité des Hébreux dans le domaine de la guerre électronique est telle, que la DCA [Défense Contre les Avions] alaouite ignorait jusqu’à la présence des avions dans son ciel et n’a pas eu la possibilité ne serait-ce que de tenter de les intercepter.


De ce point de vue, l’on peut conclure que le He’l Avir est techniquement prêt pour une intervention en Perse, et que ses pilotes, du fait de leur avancement technologique, ne courent qu’un risque très mesuré en participant à ces opérations.


L’on peut aussi déduire, comme vient de le faire le major-général à la retraite Amos Yadlin, ex-chef du renseignement militaire, que "ce que l’on voit en Syrie démontre un niveau très élevé de renseignement et de performance militaire". Il est vrai que des pilotes entraînés à atteindre un chef terroriste à Gaza au milieu d’une foule, avec une précision de l’ordre de quelques centimètres, n’expérimentent naturellement pas de problèmes lorsqu’il s’agit de détruire un grand entrepôt.


Tout cela est prédominant du point de vue du moral et de la dissuasion, mais il y a plus encore. La télévision syrienne a bien fait état du raid de cette nuit, de même que les porte-paroles du régime, mais ils l’ont fait en s’épargnant les menaces de représailles qu’ils profèrent ordinairement.


Même les commentaires officiels iraniens sont prudents, soulignant que l’armée de la théocratie chiite, si elle compte entraîner celle des al Assad, ne projette pas de se battre à ses côtés contre "l’entité sioniste".


Pour Assad, les termes de l’équation sont simples : toute tentative, ne serait-ce que symbolique, de riposter militairement contre Israël, se solderait par un appui accru des Hébreux à son opposition. Jérusalem se trouve dans une situation confortable, dans laquelle elle peut décider, sans pour cela employer des moyens démesurés, qui des alaouites ou des sunnites remportera la guerre civile. Pour Bechar al Assad, défier Tsahal aurait pour conséquence certaine de se voir renverser de son trône déjà chancelant.


Même incapacité de riposter pour le Hezbollah : en ce dimanche, à Métula et à Kiryat Shmona, aussi bien qu’à Nahariyya, Haïfa et Afula, l’état d’alerte n’a pas été décrété et les gens vaquent normalement à leurs occupations professionnelles.


Ce matin, par mesure de précaution, deux batteries de Dôme de fer ont été déployées, l’une dans la périphérie de Haïfa, l’autre, dans celle de Safed. Au sein de l’état-major hébreu, l’on est persuadé que les Iraniens et leurs substituts chiites libanais ne prendront pas le risque insensé de tirer quelques-unes de leurs roquettes en direction de la Galilée.


La raison à la clé de leur réflexion consiste en cela que la milice libanaise se trouve terriblement exposée à d’éventuels raids supplémentaires de l’aviation bleue et blanche. Le Hezb est traditionnellement une milice agissant selon les règles de la guérilla ; c’est-à-dire qu’elle se fond parmi la population et que c’est ainsi qu’elle se préserve des attaques d’un ennemi qui lui est supérieur dans tous les paramètres de la confrontation.


Mais ces jours, le Hezbollah a été amené à modifier sa tactique, intégrant ses combattants à l’armée régulière syrienne et aux brigades de Gardiens de la Révolution. Ses forces n’agissent plus selon les lois de la guérilla mais à l’instar d’une armée régulière, avec des bases exposées et des voies de communication connues, ce qui en fait des proies de prédilection pour les pilotes expérimentés du He’l Avir.


Dans les conditions qui prévalent, le prix à payer par le Hezb pour le tir de quelques Katiouchas se paierait, pour les supplétifs libanais d’Ahmadinejad, par des centaines voire des milliers de morts en quelques sorties de l’aviation israélienne.


Quant à l’Iran, il ne dispose pas des moyens nécessaires afin de se livrer à une attaque préventive de l’Etat hébreu. Toute offensive de sa part se solderait par une défaite cuisante, additionnée du transfert à Jérusalem de la légitimité internationale de s’en prendre à ses infrastructures nucléaires. Ceci explique la retenue des ayatollahs.


Côté occidental, finalement, dans le camp des démocraties qui aimeraient bien en faire plus pour aider la rébellion, mais qui craignent de se mouiller comme en Irak et en Afghanistan, on n’a aucune intention de critiquer les opérations israéliennes. Au contraire, le Président Barack Obama a déclaré, en apprenant l’attaque sur Damas, qu’Israël avait "le droit de se protéger contre le transfert d’armes avancées à destination du Hezbollah".


Dans le même cadre, nous devons relever que ces tentatives iraniennes de transférer des missiles au Liban violent de manière flagrante la résolution 1701 du Conseil de Sécurité de l’ONU ayant mis un terme à la Deuxième Guerre du Liban en 2006. Celle-ci interdit formellement à tout pays de livrer des armes à toute organisation armée autre que celle dépendant des autorités légitimes de Beyrouth.




Les arcanes de la position conciliatrice

d’Obama face au nucléaire iranien

Richard Darmon

upjf.org, 17 mai 2013


A l’occasion du Nouvel An perse célébré voilà quelques semaines, le président américain a élucidé les trois lignes forces de la stratégie de Washington censée empêcher les mollahs de Téhéran de détenir « l’arme suprême » : persuasion, menaces d’isolement et sanctions économiques aggravées. Mais apparemment, cela ne marche pas du tout avec les leaders iraniens actuels ! Pour la 5ième année consécutive, Barack Obama a tenu à présenter ses meilleurs vœux de réussite et de prospérité au peuple iranien à l’occasion du Nowruz, le Jour de l’An perse célébré chaque année en Iran et dans une dizaine d’autres pays à la fin mars au moment de l’équinoxe du printemps.


Comme l’ont relevé les spécialistes des relations américano-iraniennes, le plus intéressant dans ce 5e « discours de Nowruz » d’Obama fut le changement assez perceptible de ton et de vocabulaire dans sa rhétorique appelant les leaders iraniens à ouvrir un « dialogue constructif » avec son pays. Alors qu’en 2010, Obama déclarait que « les USA reconnaissent votre droit à utiliser pacifiquement l’énergie nucléaire », il précisait en 2012 que « l’Iran doit prouver par des mesures concrètes qu’il assume ses responsabilités eu égard à son programme nucléaire ».


Or, le grand changement de ton et de « focus » relevé fin mars dernier a tenu à cette phrase d’Obama : « Les leaders iraniens disent que leur programme nucléaire poursuit des buts seulement médicaux et énergétiques. Mais jusqu’ici, ils ont été incapables de convaincre la communauté internationale que leurs activités nucléaires n’avaient que des objectifs pacifiques ». Et de conclure avec des menaces de sanctions économiques aggravées : « Le choix d’un avenir meilleur, avais-je déclaré l’an dernier, est dans les mains des leaders iraniens. Mais ces mots ne sont plus valables aujourd’hui, car ce sont ces mêmes leaders qui ont directement contribué à l’isolement de leur propre pays. Voilà pourquoi le monde est désormais uni pour résoudre cette question et pourquoi l’Iran se retrouve si seul – ce qui n’est d’ailleurs pas bon pour le monde lui-même ! (…) Et s’il poursuit sur sa même voie, le gouvernement de Téhéran doit savoir que l’isolement de l’Iran sera encore accru ».


Conclusion : même si le président américain a utilisé de nombreuses fois le mot « sanctions » dans ce discours plus que dans les quatre précédents, et même si une partie de l’opposition iranienne a sympathisé avec ce ton à la fois conciliant et menaçant qui prenait parti pour le « peuple iranien » contre « l’aveuglement » de ses dirigeants actuels – une modération qui lui permet aussi de recueillir le soutien des Américains et de la communauté internationale -, il reste bien clair que Washington est fermement opposé à toute confrontation militaire avec l’Iran : tout simplement parce qu’Obama a fait le choix de la diplomatie et des sanctions, en rejetant toute menace ou rhétorique sur un conflit armé !


Ce n’est pas seulement le triple échec patent, en six mois, des trois rounds de négociations entre l’Iran et le G 5 + 1 (il y aura eu en tout cinq essais et échecs de ce genre lors de la dernière année !) qui montre que les mollahs de Téhéran sont prêts à endurer les pires « sanctions aggravées » et un isolement maximum pourvu qu’ils puissent enfin concrétiser leurs « rêves nucléaires » et asseoir, ce faisant, leur volonté tous azimuts d’hégémonie régionale… Même avec une certaine ambigüité, les stratèges américains reconnaissent en effet que la politique d’Obama n’est pas adéquate face au leadership iranien actuel.


Ainsi, lit-on dans les conclusions d’une étude de fond qui vient de paraître aux USA, rédigée par les experts officiels de l’« Iran Project », les deux phrases contradictoires suivantes : « Un renforcement du processus diplomatique doublé de menaces de sanctions en échange d’une véritable coopération avec l’Iran pourrait nous faire sortir de l’impasse actuelle et mener à un accord nucléaire. (…) Mais après presque trois décennies de sanctions et de tentatives d’isoler l’Iran, il semble assez douteux que seules des ‘pressions’ de ce genre puissent infléchir les décisions de ses leaders »…