As we struggle with the tough stuff, it’s essential to retain a broad perspective. And so, the first item I want to present today is what we might call somber good news. Whatever we call it, it is reassuring.
Below you will find a link to an article about the IDF’s Unit 8200, which operates in the shadows, gathering first class intelligence and utilizing that intelligence in the field. The range and capabilities of this unit are stunning. It is 8200, for example, that “snuck the Stuxnet malware into the computer system of Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility, interfering with its centrifuges.” The Stuxnet operation put Israel’s enemies on notice regarding our capabilities.
The information contained in this article was provided by Col. Y, deputy commander of the unit’s digital operations in exclusive interview.
Y “reveals that the unit has made a breakthrough in its ability to identify targets automatically, which he says will constitute a dramatic blow to the enemy’s abilities in any future war….”
Twice during the interview he makes the point that “‘given the right investment of energy and resources, there is no target that cannot be cracked. Period.’
“’Most militaries in the world would die for the level and depth of knowledge the IDF has about our enemies,’ he says.
“If the average citizen knew what he knew, said Y in conclusion, ‘they’d feel boundless pride. Really, really proud. There are young people here with fantastic responsibility and endless commitment, who are doing things that are insane. This place is a national treasure.’”
This information provides an answer to the heavy question that whispers to many of us from time to time here in Israel: Why are we sitting here when Hamas, and to a considerably greater extent Hezbollah, are stockpiling weapons and planning attacks??
The answer, of course, is that we are not “sitting here,” we are on top of them, monitoring their every move, and honing our ability to attack fiercely, directly and indirectly, as the need arises. And our enemies know this.
What must be factored into the equation, of course, is the political readiness to engage.
And it is that political readiness to engage, in all its diverse parameters, that is my overriding issue.
The first commercial Egyptair flight touched down at Ben-Gurion Airport last week. Egyptair—the country’s official national airline—will operate four nonstop round trip commercial flights a week between Cairo and Tel Aviv.
This signals a warming of relations between Israel and Egypt. The two countries signed a peace treaty in 1979, but the peace has been a cold one. Over the years there have been commercial flights from Egypt to Israel, but operated with discretion by Air Sinai, a subsidiary of Egyptair that utilized unmarked planes. Now it is upfront and official.
Former Israeli ambassador to Egypt Zvi Mazel, cited here, along with other analysts, believes that the Abraham Accords may have had an influence on the Egyptians, as they saw evidence of the benefits of normalization with Israel. If this indeed is the case, it is bigger news than just the official Egyptair flight. For other Muslim/Arab states may very well be similarly inclined.
And speaking of the Abraham Accords: The groundbreaking Egyptair flight landed in Israel just days after the first Gulf Air airlines commercial flights were launched between Bahrain and Israel. This was clearly a direct result of the Abraham Accords. A ceremony was held at Ben-Gurion Airport celebrating the arrival of the first flight by Bahrain’s national carrier from Manama, Bahrain’s capital. When the plane landed, crew members waved the flags of Bahrain and Israel from the windows.
A delegation of nine Bahraini businessmen, activists, and officials came to Israel on that first flight and embarked on a 12-day tour of Israel. It was arranged by Sharaka (“partnership” in Arabic), an NGO founded by Israeli, Bahraini, and Emirati social entrepreneurs after the signing of the Abraham Accords a year ago. Its aim is to form a warm peace between people, and it sure looks as if they are succeeding.
I find the description in the article below of the warm interaction between the Bahrainis and Israelis both heart-warming and encouraging. This represents a significant shift in the paradigm of relations between Israel and moderate Arab nations.
Imagine: Mohammed Saleh, an official with the Bahrain Ministry of Education, garbed in a white robe and a red-and-white keffiyeh, pulled up a chair near the Kotel and proceeded with his prayers, as Jews around him were saying theirs. A Yemenite bar mitzvah was in progress as he sat there, and he went over to observe. The family then invited him to join in the dancing.
Nayla al Meer, a PhD student and official in the Bahrain Youth and Sports Ministry, enthused that, “These are very beautiful, lovely, friendly people. This is the trip of my life.”
We should not forget the debt of gratitude we owe Donald Trump, whose presidential inspiration changed the face of the Middle East for the better.
Earlier this week Jared Kushner, a key figure in making the Accords happen, came to Israel with his wife Ivanka to attend the inaugural meeting of the Knesset Caucus for Promoting the Abraham Accords.
Biden gives lip service to the Accords but evinces a notable lack of enthusiasm for promoting them. He’s too busy promoting the “two-state solution” and shoring up the Palestinian Authority. The State Department has just stated that the Accords are not a “substitute” for progress on the “two state solution.” According to an anonymous “senior State Department official” (emphasis added):
“(The) Biden administration has started out with a clear commitment to the two-state solution. We continue on with that commitment. We seek to advance as we can, when we can, as best we can.”
“We continue to welcome the economic cooperation between Israel and all countries in the region. We hope that normalization can be leveraged to advance progress on the Israeli-Palestinian track.”
Biden can spend the remainder of his time in the White House declaring himself to be a true friend of Israel, and Bennett can describe to us without end what a good relationship his coalition has with the US government; the bottom line is that the US is prepared to act against Israeli interests and it behooves our officials (I hesitate to refer to them as “leaders”) to stand strong as necessary.
One of the major issues of concern at the moment is the re-opening of the US Consulate on Agron Street in western Jerusalem as a separate mission for the PA. Eugene Kontorovich, professor of international law, says Israel absolutely must stand strong on this matter (emphasis added):
“The Biden administration is trying to partially undo one of Israel’s greatest diplomatic achievements of recent decades—the recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over all of Jerusalem by the United States, followed by numerous other countries.
“…The U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem already provides consular services to the Palestinian Arabs. It is unheard of for a country to have an independent consulate in the same city where it already has an embassy. The point of creating a separate consulate is to undermine former U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem. But under international law, the United States would need Israel’s permission for this move.
“…Since the creation of the state, no Israeli government, of any political inclination, has allowed the opening of a diplomatic mission not to Israel. To do so would be unprecedented…
“Fortunately, the current government understands how fundamental an issue this is and has strongly rejected the U.S. proposals….
“Lapid has made it clear that he understands this is not about a diplomatic office; it is about the status of Jerusalem.
“But the story is far from over, as the United States has recently doubled down on its insistence. The real test of Israel’s government lies in action—in ensuring that no consulate opens even as Washington turns the diplomatic screws.
“The U.S. administration is attempting to intimidate Israel by describing the consulate as a ‘campaign promise’ of Biden’s…Israel’s government must make it clear that sole Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem is not a ‘campaign promise’—it is a fundamental, obvious axiom.
“The Americans are indicating they may just try to brute-force the issue, declaring that they are opening the consulate and counting on Israel to go along.
“Israel needs to spell out now that it will not accept a fait accompli. A diplomatic mission needs many things from the host government, from diplomatic visas and license plates to security coordination. If Bennett and Lapid want to deter the United States from attempting hard ball tactics, they should declare now that the government will in no way recognize a new diplomatic mission opened without its consent.”
Another issue that requires close monitoring is Israeli government action to legitimize the community of Evyatar.
Evyatar was originally established in 2013 very close to the Tapuah Junction in Samaria as an outpost in memory of Evyatar Borovsky, father of five, who had been stabbed to death by a terrorist at that junction. It was subsequently dismantled, but was reestablished this May as a response to the drive-by shooting at that very same junction by an Arab terrorist that ultimately claimed the life of Yehuda Guetta, a yeshiva student.
In June, the IDF took the position that the newly established structures in Evyatar were “illegal” and causing a “disruption of public order.” A Demarcation Order was signed by Defense Minister Benny Gantz, prohibiting further building; this signaled his intention of evacuating the community consisting of more than 30 families.
The community then sent master-plan documents as a step towards full legalization of the community to the Shomron (Samaria) Regional Council in order to prevent their forced evacuation and the destruction of the buildings. However, the Civil Administration rejected these documents.
The stance of the Civil Administration was exceedingly disturbing to the members of the community.
There was, first, the position of Binyamin Netanyahu, when he was still prime minister last January: He had submitted a list of communities in which housing was to be constructed. Evyatar was on that list.
Netanyahu believed that Evyatar was not on Palestinian Arab-owned land, and thus construction of housing in this outpost could proceed. The charge is raised with great frequency by those opposed to further construction of Jewish housing in Judaea & Samaria: It’s on Arab-owned land. But there was no proof of Arab ownership, and the land had not been worked agriculturally for more than a decade. (Farming of the land is utilized as one indication, legally, of ownership, or claim to ownership.)
At most, the land might be classified as admot seker, which means that ownership of the land cannot be determined. But this doubtful status is not sufficient reason to destroy the community post haste.
Then there was, and is, the very serious issue of selective enforcement. Chagai Vinizky, one of the attorneys representing the residents of Evyatar, specializes in property laws in Judea & Samaria. He charges that the Civil Administration discriminates against Israeli communities:
“There are 800 illegal Palestinian outposts…in ‘Area C’ and only 74 Israeli ones, but the only issue the authorities have is against the Israeli ones.”
Activist Yisrael Medad, in speaking of this issue, addressed the painful fact that massive illegal construction by Arabs of thousands of structures and roads has been overlooked by the Civil Administration over the course of years with no legal actions taken.
The evacuation of Evyatar and the razing of the buildings was not a happy prospect for the new Israeli government, which had just come into being at the end of May: it was recognized that a great deal of divisive and unpleasant publicity would be generated.
At the very end of June, Prime Minister Bennett, Defense Minister Gantz, and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked reached a deal with residents of Evyatar and Samaria Regional Council chief Yossi Dagan that secured a pledge by the residents to depart voluntarily. In exchange, a pledge was given to them that no buildings would be destroyed and there would be a continuous IDF presence there to protect those houses. Additionally, a Hesder yeshiva (a yeshiva that combines religious study with military service) would be established on that land, and if a survey showed it to be private land, the residents would be permitted to resettle the area with government recognition.
The survey has now been completed and 60 dunams (approximately 15 acres) was found to be state land, which means that the former residents should be able to return.
The information I have secured indicates that the commitment not to raze the buildings in Evyatar was honored, and the area is under IDF guard.
A yeshiva has not yet been established there, as I understand it, because Gantz insisted that the survey be completed first. Presumably that should happen now.
And what of the return of the residents? When the deal was made, MK Bezalel Smotrich (Religious Zionists) warned the residents not to trust the promises. He is still saying this now.
I enormously respect Smotrich, but in this case would rather he be wrong: I want to see the residents permitted to return to their homes legally. But, in truth, I suspect Smotrich may well be right. A report surfaced just over a week ago of a “quiet message” Biden sent to Bennett requesting “restraint” in the construction of new construction in the settlements.
This is gross interference. Now the question remains as to whether Bennett, who professes to be right-wing, has the backbone to stand against this request, especially in light of the makeup of his coalition.
© Arlene from Israel website. https://www.arlenefromisrael.info/