Tag Archives: Israel Defense Force

Intifada for beginners

Series of violent attacks since start of peace talks is simply a Palestinian operational routine

Hagai Segal

The defense establishment, the establishment’s pensioners and commentators on terror attacks are beginning to collapse under the weight of wondering whether the recent wave of hostile activities is a new intifada or just a wave. Soon we will likely see a parliamentary demand for a commission of inquiry into the matter.

Many suspect that the security and political echelons are conspiring to hide the third intifada from us and repress it. Although it’s unclear how the two echelons stand to benefit from repressing intifadas, the public wants order in its life: If there is an intifada, let it show up immediately.

Well, what can we do, there is no intifada at the moment. Just like one dove does not announce the spring of peace, one terror attack a day – and even two or three – don’t necessarily announce an intifada. The series of violent attacks we have been experiencing since the start of John Kerry’s peace offensive is simply a Palestinian operational routine. From time to time, the Palestinian fighters go on a temporary ceasefire, in order to rest or equip themselves, but their regular condition is the militant condition.


By the way, as a veteran settler I can testify that more stones are thrown at us during the winter than during the summer. The long nights provide our neighbors with an extended window of opportunities to smash the windows of Jewish vehicles. They are swallowed in the darkness and carry out their evil scheme regardless of the political situation or the construction graphs. They have this kind of sport, harassing Jews. It’s more of an Olympics than an intifada.


The height of the flames stems from ability, not from desire. There is always a desire. That is why the IDF has been making sure since Oslo, even during the so-called calm periods, to prevent Jews from entering the Palestinian Authority’s territories. Army officials know that the Jewish life expectancy becomes significantly shorter in Ramallah, in Nablus and in any other place where terrorists are less afraid of being hit by our forces. If the Shin Bet declares a general strike tomorrow, brigades of suicide terrorists will once again raid little Israel‘s cities. They will not be stopped by Abbas. He is not as violent as Arafat, but like him, he is making an effort to avoid declaring the end of the conflict. His media outlets are blowing the atmosphere of hatred in the sails of terror attacks.


When does a wave of terror attacks reach the dimensions of an intifada? When the masses join the circle of violence. At the moment, the masses prefer to go to work. They like it that way. They are enjoying economic prosperity, unprecedented freedom of movement and an independent parliament. The famous Palestinian despair exists only in Jewish imagination.

When a lone terrorist stabs a soldier at the Adam Junction or tries to blow up a bus in Bat Yam, it’s not because of the occupation, it’s because of ancient hatred of Israel which began way before 1967, and will not end if John Kerry receives a Noble Peace Prize, God forbid.


The fact is that there has been no occupation in the Gaza Strip for a long time, and yet last week an Israeli citizen was shot to death by a sniper from there. For the bereaved family it will no longer make a difference if the defense establishment gives in to the public opinion and declares it an intifada.




A Raid on Iran?


As world powers debate what a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran should look like, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to maintain that Israel is not bound by the interim agreement that the P5+1 and Iran struck in Geneva on November 24. Israel, says Netanyahu, “has the right and the obligation to defend itself.” One question then is whether Netanyahu actually intends to strike Iranian nuclear facilities. The other question, no less important, is whether Israel could really pull it off.

A destroyed Egyptian warplane, June 1967

A destroyed Egyptian warplane, June 1967


American analysts are divided on Israel’s ability to take effective military action. However, history shows that Israel’s military capabilities are typically underestimated. The Israel Defense Forces keep finding creative ways to deceive and cripple their targets by leveraging their qualitative advantages in manners that confound not only skeptical observers but also, and more important, Israel’s enemies.

Military triumphs like the Six-Day War of June 1967 and the 1976 raid on Entebbe that freed 101 hostages are popular Israeli lore for good reason—these “miraculous” victories were the result of assiduously planned, rehearsed, and well-executed military operations based on the elements of surprise, deception, and innovation, core tenets of Israeli military thinking. Inscribed on one of the walls of the IDF’s officer training academy is the verse from Proverbs 24:6: “For by clever deception thou shalt wage war.” And this has been the principle driving almost all of Israel’s most successful campaigns, like the 1981 bombing of Iraq’s nuclear reactor, the 1982 Beka’a Valley air battle, and the 2007 raid on Syria’s plutonium reactor, all of which were thought improbable, if not impossible, until Israel made them reality.

And yet in spite of Israel’s record, some American experts remain skeptical about Israel’s ability to do anything about Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities. Even the most optimistic assessments argue that Israel can only delay the inevitable. As a September 2012 report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies contends: “Israel does not have the capability to carry out preventive strikes that could do more than delay Iran’s efforts for a year or two.” An attack, it continued, “would be complex and high risk in the operational level and would lack any assurances of a high mission success rate.” Equally cautious is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, who argued that while “Israel has the capability to strike Iran and to delay the production or the capability of Iran to achieve a nuclear weapons status,” such a strike would only delay the program “for a couple of years.” The most pessimistic American assessments contend that Israel is all but neutered. Former director of the CIA Michael Hayden, for instance, said that airstrikes capable of seriously setting back Iran’s nuclear program are beyond Israel’s capacity.

Part of the reason that Israeli and American assessments diverge is the difference in the two countries’ recent military histories and political cultures. While the American debate often touches on the limits of military power and its ability to secure U.S. interests around the globe, the Israeli debate is narrower, befitting the role of a regional actor rather than a superpower, and focuses solely on Israel’s ability to provide for the security of its citizens at home. That is to say, even if Israel and the United States saw Iran and its nuclear arms program in exactly the same light, there would still be a cultural gap. Accordingly, an accurate understanding of how Israelis see their own recent military history provides an important insight into how Israel’s elected leaders and military officials view the IDF’s abilities regarding Iran.

Any account of surprise and deception as key elements in Israeli military history has to start with the aerial attack that earned Israel total air supremacy over its adversaries in the June 1967 war. Facing the combined Arab armies, most prominently those of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, Israel’s Air Force was outnumbered by a ratio of 3 planes to 1. Nonetheless, at the very outset of the war, the IAF dispatched its jets at a time when Egyptian pilots were known to be having breakfast. Israeli pilots targeted the enemy’s warplanes on their runways, and in two subsequent waves of sorties, destroyed the remainder of the Egyptian Air Force, as well as Jordan’s and most of Syria’s. Within six hours, over 400 Arab planes, virtually all of the enemy’s aircraft, were in flames, with Israel losing only 19 planes.

Israel’s sweeping military victory over the next six days was due to its intimate familiarity with its enemy’s operational routines—and to deception. For instance, just before the actual attack was launched, a squad of four Israeli training jets took off, with their radio signature mimicking the activity of multiple squadrons on a training run. Because all of Israel’s 190 planes were committed to the operation, those four planes were used to make the Egyptians believe that the IAF was simply training as usual. The IAF’s stunning success was the result not only of intelligence and piloting but also of initiative and creativity, ingredients that are nearly impossible to factor into standard predictive models.

The 1981 raid on Iraq’s nuclear reactor at Osirak is another example of Israel’s ability to pull off operations that others think it can’t. The success caught experts by surprise because every assessment calculated that the target was out of the flight range of Israel’s newly arrived F-16s. The former deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Israel Bill Brown recounted that on the day after the attack, “I went in with our defense attaché, Air Force Colonel Pete Hoag, to get a briefing from the chief of Israeli military intelligence. He laid out how they had accomplished this mission. .  .  . Hoag kept zeroing in on whether they had refueled the strike aircraft en route, because headquarters of the U.S. Air Force in Washington wanted to know, among other things, how in the world the Israelis had refueled these F-16s. The chief of Israeli military intelligence kept saying: ‘We didn’t refuel.’ For several weeks headquarters USAF refused to believe that the Israelis could accomplish this mission without refueling.”

Washington later learned that Israel’s success came from simple and creative field improvisations. First, the pilots topped off their fuel tanks on the tarmac, with burners running, only moments before takeoff. Then, en route, they jettisoned their nondetachable fuel drop tanks to reduce air friction and optimize gas usage. Both these innovations involved some degree of risk, as they contravened safety protocols. However, they gave the Israeli jets the extra mileage needed to safely reach Baghdad and return, and also to gain the element of surprise by extending their reach beyond what the tables and charts that guided thinking in Washington and elsewhere had assumed possible.

Surprise won Israel a similar advantage one year later in the opening maneuvers of the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. For students of aerial warfare, the Beka’a Valley air battle is perhaps Israel’s greatest military maneuver, even surpassing the June 1967 campaign. On June 9, Israel destroyed the entire Soviet-built Syrian aerial array in a matter of hours. Ninety Syrian MiGs were downed and 17 of 19 surface-to-air missile batteries were put out of commission, while the Israeli Air Force suffered no losses. The brutal—and for Israel, still controversial—nature of the Lebanon war of which this operation was part dimmed its shine in popular history, but the operation is still studied around the world. At the time it left analysts dumbfounded.

The 1982 air battle was the culmination of several years’ worth of tension on Israel’s northern border. Israel was concerned that Syria’s deployment of advanced aerial defense systems in Lebanon’s Beka’a Valley would limit its freedom to operate against PLO attacks from Lebanon. When Syria refused to pull back its defenses and U.S. mediation efforts failed, Israel planned for action. Although Israel was widely understood to enjoy a qualitative advantage, no one could have imagined the knockout blow it was about to deliver. Israel launched its aerial campaign on the fourth day of the offensive, commencing with a wave of unmanned proto-drones that served as decoys to trigger the Syrian radars. Rising to the bait, the aerial defense units launched rockets and thus exposed their locations to Israel’s artillery batteries and air-to-ground missiles. In parallel, Israel used advanced electronic jammers to further incapacitate Syrian radars, which cleared the path for the IAF’s fighter-bombers to attack the remaining missile launchers. When Syrian pilots scrambled for their planes, their communications had already been severed and their radars blinded. Israeli pilots later noted the “admirable bravery” of their Syrian counterparts, whom they downed at a ratio of 90 to 0.

A RAND report later concluded that Israel’s success was due not to its technological advantage. “The Syrians were simply outflown and outfought by vastly superior Israeli opponents. .  .  . The outcome would most likely have been heavily weighted in Israel’s favor even had the equipment available to each side been reversed. At bottom, the Syrians were .  .  . [defeated] by the IDF’s constant retention of the operational initiative and its clear advantages in leadership, organization, tactical adroitness, and adaptability.” In other words, Israel won because of its creative and skillful orchestration of a well-organized fighting force.

And then there is Israel’s most recent high-profile conflict with Syria. When Israeli intelligence discovered that Bashar al-Assad’s regime was building a plutonium reactor in the northeast Syrian Desert, Israeli and American leaders disagreed on the best course of action. Israel’s then-prime minister Ehud Olmert argued for a military solution, while the Bush administration feared the risks, demurred, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pushed to take the matter to the U.N. The Israelis, however, confident in their cyberwarfare capabilities, knew they could disable Syria’s air defenses. Moreover, as careful students of Syrian decision-making, they believed they could destroy the reactor without triggering a costly reaction from Assad. And on September 6,2007, Israel once again overturned the expert predictions and assessments of others and successfully destroyed the Syrian reactor at Al Kibar.

With Iran, American and Israeli leaders once again disagree on what might be gained by a military strike. While the American debate is riddled with doubts about the efficacy of force, Israeli experts harbor far fewer doubts. As former chief of military intelligence Amos Yadlin asserts unequivocally: “It can be done.” There are some Israeli strategists less optimistic, but the nature of their dissent is fundamentally different from that of American skeptics. U.S. policymakers and analysts question Israel’s ability to strike, or how far even the most successful strike might set back Iran’s nuclear program, but Israelis largely believe they can take effective military action. The question for Israeli strategists is at what cost? A 2012 IAF impact evaluation report predicted 300 civilian casualties in the event of an Iranian retaliatory missile attack. Former defense minister Ehud Barak offered a higher number, contending that open conflict with Iran would claim less than 500 Israeli casualties. Responding to Barak’s relatively optimistic assessment, onetime Mossad director Meir Dagan argued instead that an attack on Iran would take a heavy toll in terms of loss of life and would paralyze life in Israel.

Regardless of the number of potential casualties, the frank discussion of what an attack on Iran might cost Israel in human lives is an essential part of preparing the country, and steeling it, for the possibility of war. Israel has also devoted material resources to the eventuality of a military campaign against the regime in Tehran. According to Ehud Olmert, Israel has spent over $10 billion on preparations for a potential showdown with Iran. “We’ve worked long and hard to prepare ourselves,” former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi said recently. Israel, he added, “will be able to deal with the consequences of a military attack on Iran.”

The question of how exactly Israel might act to stop the Iranian nuclear program is an open one. In part, that’s because it’s hard to know how Israeli strategists see the problem or might reconfigure the working paradigm. The basic operational assumption is that Israel would attack from the air, but who knows? If the goal is to slow down Iran’s nuclear program, there are other ways to do it, perhaps by targeting Iran’s economy, its powergrid, its oil fields, or the regime itself. Or military action might not take the form of an aerial attack at all, but rather a commando heist of Iran’s uranium. Recall the raid on Entebbe: With commandos operating 2,000 miles from Israel’s borders disguised as a convoy carrying the Ugandan leader Idi Amin, that 1976 operation, like many of Israel’s air triumphs, combined strategic surprise with tactical deception.

What is certain, however—what many historical precedents make clear—is that it would be an error of the first order to dismiss Israel’s ability to take meaningful military action against Iran. Israel has left its enemies, as well as American policymakers and military experts, surprised in the past, and it may very well do so again.

Uri Sadot is a research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations and holds a master’s degree in international affairs from Princeton University.

Palestinian Corruption — Again

by Shoshana Bryen

If the Palestinian movement believes it lives outside the laws of politics, nature and economics, it may be right.

The PA and Hamas occupy a split territory with two feuding governments — both dictatorships with all the arbitrariness and lack of accountability implied by that; multiple armed services that fight each other and, occasionally, kill Israelis; a school system that teaches children that the IDF ate Mickey Mouse and Jews have no history in the land of the Bible; a civic culture that venerates suicide bombers and the mothers who seem to revel in their children’s bloody demise; and an economy that produces nothing of export value. Yet it operates on the principle that it will be bailed out by European and American political support and international largesse. And that Israel will be blamed for the Palestinian failure to thrive.

Two stories this week, however, may challenge endlessly naïve European and American fealty to the Palestinian narrative.

Israel uncovered a huge new tunnel from Gaza into Israel, built with the concrete slabs Israel permitted to be imported for the construction of houses. And the European Union, the largest provider of economic assistance to the Palestinians, discovered in an audit that the PA has stolen, lost or misappropriated $2.7 billion in EU development money.

Israel and Egypt maintain an embargo on a variety of goods entering Gaza as a result of the Hamas rocket war and the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit (since released). The UN Palmer Commission deemed the blockade legal under international law, but Israel has been castigated by “humanitarian” organizations for its embargo on building supplies, which Israel maintains can be diverted for military use. Last month, however, with Gaza feeling the effects of a much more stringent embargo by Egypt and the destruction of perhaps 90% of its smuggling tunnels, Israel permitted cement and other building supplies to enter. It was a humanitarian gesture that resulted in Hamas building a mile-long concrete-lined tunnel 60 feet underground, running about 1,500 feet into Israel. According to the IDF, it had lights and a rail for a small trolley, “probably intended to transfer terrorists or soldiers from side to side rapidly.” It was, in short, a tunnel with no economic value, designed to kidnap Israeli soldiers and transport them into Gaza for ransom or mayhem.

No word from the “humanitarians” on the diversion of civilian aid to more nefarious ends.

Palestinian theft of European and American aid money simply is not new (for samples, look here in 2007, here in 2009, here in 2010, here in 2012, and here earlier this year.). Not for nothing do 78% of Palestinians think the PA is corrupt and 64% think Hamas is corrupt. The Palestinians create for themselves a perpetual financial crisis, which they — with help from international institutions — blame on Israel. In its most recent report, the World Bank blamed the Palestinian economic crisis on Israeli checkpoints. That is to say, the Palestinian right to practice terrorism against its neighbor (and most practical trading partner) trumps Israeli security concerns.

But if the findings of the EU audit are not a surprise, European taxpayers might consider taking a hard look at the sheer magnitude of the fraud, both in economic and political terms.

In 2004, the PA was among the first members of the European Neighborhood Policy. Since 1995, it has been a member of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership and since 1997 the EU and the PLO have an interim Association Agreement on Trade and Cooperation. The EU participates in the training of the Palestinian security services and provides technical assistance for the establishment of courts that meet international legal standards. These agreements imply responsibility on the part of the Palestinians in international institutions.

And then there is money. In 2013, direct financial support for the PA was scheduled to be $124 million, up from $115 million in 2012, plus another $97 million in additional “projects,” and an average of $136.5 million annually for UNRWA. On top of which, there are the “programs.” The PA is eligible to receive EU money through the Partnership for Peace — $6.8 million for 2013; the Cross Border Cooperation Program; Investing in People; and the Erasmus Mundus External Co-operation Window; and Tempus (higher education) programs. In 2012, the EU put extra money into UNRWA through its Food Facility, Social Safety Net ($54.3 million), and Instrument for Stability ($10.2 million) programs, sums that are expected to be provided again in 2013. Plus and plus, the total comes to nearly $500 million annually.

On the other side of the equation is Palestinian budget math. The PA in 2013 expects to take in revenues of $2.88 billion and run a deficit of $1.4 billion, which it plans to cover with foreign aid – including some $400 million from the U.S. (not including more than $70 million to the Palestinian security services and $200+ million to UNRWA). It should be noted that the Hamas budget is separate from that of Fatah on the West Bank, but the math is similar. Hamas’s expected revenue in 2013 is $243 million, against planned expenses of $897 million, the deficit of $654 million to be covered by donations (from Iran?). The destruction of smuggling tunnels by the Egyptian army may force a revision of the figures, but by way of comparison, for 2012, Hamas planned on revenues of $60 million and a deficit of $480 million.

The story of Israel’s departure from Gaza in 2005 is well known. There was no Gaza embargo, no impediment to independent Palestinian economic activity. In fact, the Palestinian new agency Ma’an was ecstatic about economic opportunities in Gaza, particularly with the acquisition of the greenhouses and agricultural equipment the Israelis were leaving behind in a $14-million deal. It is also well known that Palestinian looters attacked the greenhouses, and by early 2006, they and the $100 million in annual exports to Europe they had produced were destroyed.

What appears less well understood is that Palestinian choices, both in Gaza and in the West Bank, have economic consequences. Violence against Israelis from terrorism and rockets makes it all but certain that Israel will take a “security first,” not “economic development first,” attitude toward its Palestinian neighbors. The willingness of the EU and other international donors to believe that Israel’s security accounts for Palestinian poverty is a manifestation of their attitudes toward Israel — not a result of poverty. Perhaps $2.7 billion in aid money stolen from European taxpayers will get their attention and their ire.

It would be a first step toward a rational view of the violent destructiveness of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas not only toward Israel, but toward their own people as well.