Israeli Army Wants to Increase its Budget to Face Iranian Threats

Israel

Tel Aviv – Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s bureau chief Yoav Horowitz have requested that the Jewish National Fund (JNF) help raise 4 billion Israeli Shekel ($1.14 billion) for defense and military budget.

An audio recording of a secret session held two weeks ago was revealed, during which Horowitz was heard requesting the money from the organization to help the state fill gaps in its defense budget.

“The Israeli government, and especially the various security forces, reached the conclusion that the State of Israel needs an additional NIS 4 billion. I will only talk about what you all know, including the Iranian threat and the threat in the north – all of this brings the security forces to request another NIS 4 billion,” said Horowitz.

He indicated that the prime minister, the defense minister and the security forces are deliberating this dilemma and trying to stretch the budget to see where the funds can be raised.

An informed political source revealed that Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman are behind this request, adding that the Israeli Army is not concerned to reconsider the financial agreements with the Ministry of Finance. He added that the security budget is already doubled.

The Defense Ministry and the Finance Ministry have been discussing for months funding the amounts set two years ago, and that’s why Lieberman went straight to Netanyahu discussing the need for an additional 4.5 billion shekels ($1.3 billion), according to military sources.

The sources also stated that Lieberman informed the PM that the new strategic reality in the region, with a stronger Russia, a revived Assad, and a bigger Iranian threat, mandated the extra funds. He explained that the “demands in question are based on contingency plans that are nothing new and do not stem from a war or emergency military operation.”

In 2015, former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon signed a memorandum of understanding between their ministries that covers the years 2016 to 2020.

Some of the details of this deal remain classified, but based on the information to give the media, it promised a stable budget for those five years.

Both ministries and Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot agreed that the army’s portion of the defense budget would remain fixed at about 31 billion shekels ($8.8 billion). For the defense budget as a whole, the agreement set a baseline of 56.1 billion shekels a year in addition to US defense aid ($3.8 billion a year from 2019). The total budget is expected to reach about 70 billion shekels a year.

When asked about the budget issue, a Defense Ministry senior official replied: “Haven’t you heard the threats of Iran’s Chief of Staff during his visit to Syria?”

Chief of Staff of Iran’s armed forces Maj-Gen Mohammad Bagheri indicated Wednesday that Tehran would not tolerate violations of Syrian sovereignty by Israel and vowed that the two countries would jointly fight against Syria’s enemies.

“We cannot accept a situation where the Zionist entity attacks Syria from the ground and the air,” Bagheri said his visit to Damascus, Syria.

He said he was in the Syrian capital to coordinate and cooperate “in order to fight our common enemies, whether they are the Zionists or the terrorists. We discussed ways to strengthen relations in the future and outlined the basic principles of this cooperation.”

Lieberman responded to Bagheri’s statement saying that Iran was attempting to spread its control into Syria and establish a military presence in a quest to become the dominant regional power.

“We won’t allow this. We have the tools to cope with this challenge,” reiterated Lieberman.

Sources close to Lieberman stated that he is concerned over the recent developments in the region including the instability and Hezbollah’s mobilization with the support of Iran. He added that Assad regime’s field advancements could lead to the reformation of the Syrian Army.

The Defense Minister also has fears that the army might not be fully prepared, according to the sources.
On Thursday, Lieberman flew to Washington to meet Defense Secretary James Mattis for talks on Iran and other regional issues. Sources stated that Israel is keen on fully coordinating with Washington to face Iran’s threats.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visited Israel on Monday and held meetings with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israeli leadership had been trying to recruit Russia as well against Iran’s power.

Sinwar: Our Goal is to Wipe Israel not Recognize it

Ramallah- Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar has stated that the time to discuss the recognition of Israel as a state had elapsed, saying the movement is instead debating “when to wipe out Israel.”

Sinwar was responding to the US stance that rejects any Palestinian reconciliation without Hamas recognizing the state of Israel as a main condition in any future Palestinian government. This was disapproved by both Hamas and Fatah.

“Gone are the days of Hamas (discussing) the recognition of Israel. Now Hamas will discuss when we will wipe out Israel,” Sinwar said.

“Disarming us is like Satan dreaming of heaven. No one can take away our weapons,” he added.

Sinwar stated that the US-Israeli stance will make the future stage more difficult but Hamas won’t back off from the reconciliation.

His comments followed the statement of US special envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt, who said: “The United States reiterates the importance of adhering to the principles of the Quartet for the Middle East: any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognize the state of Israel, accept previous agreements and obligations between the parties – including to disarm terrorists – and commit to peaceful negotiations.”

“If Hamas is to play any role in a Palestinian government, it must accept these basic requirements,” he added.

“Hamas must recognize Israel as a Jewish state and cease terrorism as per the Quartet’s terms, dismantle its military wing, release the Israeli soldiers who have been held in Gaza and cut its ties with Iran,” announced the Israeli security cabinet.

Hamas considered Greenblatt’s statement a blatant interference in Palestinian affairs, while Fatah Revolutionary Council Secretary Majed al-Fatyani expressed rejection to the US stance.

Fatah sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the movement will not ask Hamas to recognize Israel because it hasn’t done so either.

Israeli Army Shuts Down Eight TV Production Companies, Outlets

Tel Aviv, Ramallah- The Palestinian authority and some media institutions denounced the attack of Israeli occupation forces on eight media outlets and warned against this violent step that aims to silence journalists and the press.

The Israeli army raided on Wednesday eight offices of TV channels and production companies in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Nablus and Hebron, arresting some journalists and staff.

Commander of the Judea Brigade Col. Itzik Cohen stated after the end of the operation that the closed outlets helped main Palestinian channels in incitement and encouraging terrorism.

He said the incitement was a source of annoyance but the response was quick. 

“We see incitement as an integral part of encouraging terrorism and that’s why we continue to fight it,” Cohen added.

For its part, the Palestinian Ministry of Information considered the Israeli raids the peak of terrorism and piracy. It rejected the so-called closure decision, which contradicts international law and degrades UN Resolution 2222.

Upon the ministry’s request, all national media institutions united their broadcast for one minute (12:00 noon) as a protest.
Further, the Palestinian Authority said it condemned the raids “in the strongest terms”. PA government spokesman Youssef al-Mahmoud said in a statement that “occupation forces committed a blatant aggression and gross violation of all international laws when they stormed Palestinian cities and raided media offices.”

He added that the measures were a “clear challenge to the international efforts, especially the American efforts, to seek an opportunity for compromise and lay the foundations for peace and security with the agreement of all sides.”

US Says Palestinian Unity Cabinet Must Recognize Israel, Hamas Snaps Back

US President Donald Trump’s special representative for international negotiations said Thursday that an emerging Palestinian unity government must recognize Israel and disarm Hamas movement.

Jason Greenblatt, who has repeatedly visited the region to seek ways to restart peace talks, laid out a series of conditions in Washington’s first detailed response to the landmark reconciliation deal signed between Hamas and Fatah last week. 

“Any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognize the state of Israel, accept previous agreements and obligations between the parties -– including to disarm terrorists — and commit to peaceful negotiations,” Greenblatt said in a statement.

“If Hamas is to play any role in a Palestinian government, it must accept these basic requirements,” he added.

But his statement drew an immediate retort from Hamas.

Bassem Naim, an official from the movement, rejected the comments as “blatant interference” in Palestinian affairs, but did not say directly whether the group planned to comply with any of the demands.

Naim accused the US of adopting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s positions.

“This is blatant interference in Palestinian affairs because it is the right of our people to choose its government according to their supreme strategic interests,” Naim told AFP.

“This statement comes under pressure from the extreme right-wing Netanyahu government and is in line with the Netanyahu statement from two days ago.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement signed a reconciliation deal with Hamas in Cairo a week ago aimed at ending a bitter 10-year split.

Under the deal, the Palestinian Authority – currently dominated by Fatah – is due to resume control of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip by December 1.

Talks are also expected on forming a unity government, with another meeting between the various Palestinian political factions scheduled for November 21.

A major sticking point is expected to be Hamas’ refusal to disarm its 25,000-strong armed wing.

Kuwait Representative Expels Israeli Delegation at Inter-Parliamentary Union Meeting in Russia

Kuwait’s Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem

Kuwait- The head of the Kuwait’s National Assembly, Marzouq Al-Ghanem, lashed out at the Israeli Knesset delegation at the closing session of the Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference held in the Russian city of St. Petersburg, which forced the delegation to leave the hall.

In front of delegations from more than 150 countries, Ghanem described the Israeli mission as “the occupier and the murderer of children”. He asked it to leave the conference room because of Israel’s violation of international law and the continued detention of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

“You should grab your bags and leave this hall as you have witnessed the reaction of every honorable parliament around the world,” he said, addressing the Israeli delegation.

“Leave now if you have one ounce of dignity, you occupier, you murderer of children.” The Israeli delegation left the talks following the remarks by Ghanem and several other parliaments in the midst of applause.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference kicked off its work on October 14 and ended on Wednesday.

Delegates representing 150 countries, including 100 speakers, 70 deputy speakers and 2,300 guests, including 840 parliamentarians, attended the conference under the theme of promoting multiculturalism and peace through interfaith and interreligious dialogue.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union gathers 173 Member Parliaments and 11 Associate Members. It works closely with the United Nations and other partner organizations that share common goals.

Established in 1889 and based in Geneva, Switzerland, the Union is primarily financed by its members through public funds.

Four permanent committees operate within the framework of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, including the Permanent Committee on International Peace and Security, the Committee on Democracy and Human Rights, the Committee on United Nations Affairs and the Committee on Sustainable Development, Trade and Finance.

Israel Refuses to Negotiate with Palestinian Government ‘Dependent on Hamas’

Tel-Aviv – Following long discussions and sharp disputes over the stance towards the Palestinian reconciliation agreement, the Israeli cabinet announced on Tuesday its rejection to negotiate with a Palestinian government “dependent on Hamas”, which Israel describes as “a terrorist organization that calls for the destruction” of the country.
 
The statement followed comments by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in which he said that his government would neither try to prevent the implementation of the Palestinian agreement, nor would it cut relations with the Authority.
 
The Israeli government stressed that Hamas should recognize Israel and renounce terrorism in accordance with the Quartet’s conditions. It also demanded the disarming of Hamas, the return of the bodies of two Israeli soldiers killed in the recent war, and the release of two citizens held by the movement in the Gaza Strip.
 
The government added to these conditions, which Netanyahu had put forward following the signing of the reconciliation agreement last week, the necessity that the Palestinian Authority extend its full security control over the Gaza Strip, including the crossings, and prevent arms smuggling there.
 
It also called for thwarting the Hamas-terrorist network in the West Bank and cutting relations between the movement and Iran.
 
Israel’s security cabinet, which convened on Monday evening, conducted lengthy research on the reconciliation agreement, after which Netanyahu declared that Israel would neither recognize nor accept the agreement signed between Fatah and Hamas.
 
However, he said that he would “not try to prevent its implementation on the ground, and will not cut relations with the Authority.”
 
Netanyahu told his ministers that should the reconciliation agreement be implemented and PA officials return to the civil administration offices in Gaza and control the border crossings, “we must work with them, because this serves the Israeli interests in preventing a humanitarian crisis and improving the living conditions of the residents of the Gaza Strip.”

Israeli Intelligence Accuses Hezbollah of Recruiting Palestinians for Operations in Settlements

Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah addresses his supporters via a screen during a rally marking Al-Quds day in Beirut's southern suburbs

Tel Aviv- Israeli intelligence accused Hezbollah of recruiting Palestinians to carry out operations in Israeli settlements and other sites.

It revealed that one man was brought to court on charges of carrying out terrorist acts and that the official in charge of this file from Hezbollah is called Mohammed Ataya.

“Hezbollah recruited a Palestinian man to carry out attacks against Israel in the West Bank,” Ofir Gendelman, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Arabic-language spokesperson, said Monday.

“This is another failed attempt by Mohammad Ataya, commander of the Hezbollah unit that recruits Palestinians to carry out terror attacks,” he added in a tweet moments later.

Ataya directs Hezbollah’s 113 Unit, which aims to compile intelligence and build up operational capabilities to carry out what it describes as revenge attacks against Israel.

According to the results of the investigation, he was recruited by Hezbollah in May 2017 through a Lebanese “profile” on Facebook.

He was supposed to receive money from the Lebanese officer in charge from Hezbollah to buy a laptop to communicate with him through a secret program.

Badawi planned to carry out the operations after receiving the money, but he was arrested before he could do so.

The statement pointed out that investigations with Badawi showed he had worked in arms trade and threw stones at Israeli military forces, who were working in the area of his residence.

“The method used by Hezbollah to recruit Badawi is a well-known method for the activity of this organization, as was evident during other investigations conducted during the last year,” the statement stressed.

Israel Draws Red Lines after Attacking Anti-Aircraft Syrian Battery

Israel

Tel Aviv, Damascus, London — An Israeli Defense Forces Spokesman said that Israeli jets bombed a Syrian anti-aircraft battery east of Damascus after it fired an anti-aircraft missile at the Israeli aircraft on a spy mission overflying Lebanon.

Other Israeli sources confirmed notifying the Russian army, a major backer supporting the Assad regime in Damascus, about the airstrike “in real-time mode”.

No Israeli planes were hit by the missile fired by the Syrians, Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus said. The counter-strike took place two hours later and “incapacitated” the anti-aircraft unit located 50 km east of Damascus, he said.

“We know according to our intelligence it was a battery controlled by the Syrian regime and we hold the Syrian regime responsible for the fire,” Conricus said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later issued a statement saying Israel would not hesitate to defend itself.
“Today there was an attempt to harm our aircraft — this is unacceptable to us.

The air force acted quickly and accurately to destroy what needed to be destroyed,” Reuters cited Netanyahu as saying.

“Our policy is clear. Whoever tries to harm us, we will strike at him. We will continue to act in the region as is required in order to defend Israel.”

But the Syrian army said it struck an Israeli warplane that had breached its air space at the Syria-Lebanon border.

“The Israeli enemy this morning violated our air space… Our air defense mediums confronted it, hit one of its planes directly and forced it to flee,” the Syrian military statement said.

According to military sources, the Syrian anti-aircraft missile was fired at the Israeli warplane at about 10:00 am on Monday.

Later on, Israeli officials reported that the Israeli aircraft responded with four air-to-surface missiles demolishing the Syrian missile battery.

Russian Defense Minister in Tel Aviv, Dodges Commenting on Israeli Airstrike in Syria

Shoigu

Moscow – Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu arrived in Tel Aviv on Monday for talks with his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman.

During the meeting, Shoigu was said to have overlooked commenting on the recent Israeli airstrike against missile defense bases east of Damascus, Syria.

Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov did not elaborate on Moscow’s view on the attack.

Israeli jets bombed a Syrian anti-aircraft battery east of Damascus after it fired an anti-aircraft missile at an Israeli spy aircraft overflying Lebanon, the Israeli military said earlier on Monday.

Russia’s news agency TASS reported that the Israeli forces notified Russia “in real time” about a strike on a target near Damascus.

Russia has been backing the Damascus-centered regime led by Bashar al-Assad against Syrian rebels and other groups since 2015.

“I would like to talk about the things related to Syria. The operation there is close to the end. There are several problems which require urgent solution and the prospects of further development of the situation in Syria require discussion,” Shoigu said.

More so, he dodged questions concerning the airstrikes before the press and reporters, focusing instead on the war against terror.

Addressing Lieberman, he stressed the need to “mobilize all forces” against terrorism in the region.

In an official statement, Konashenkov said that Shoigu arrived in Tel Aviv on a two-day visit, during which he will also meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss issues of technical – military cooperation between the two sides.

Konashenkov added that regional security and issues related to the Syrian settlement will be discussed.

Israel Expects UNESCO to Change its Policy following Selection of Azoulay

Tel Aviv – Israel will not follow Washington’s steps in leaving the UNESCO, saying it expects positive change towards Tel Aviv following the selection of Audrey Azoulay as chief of the organization, according to political sources in Tel Aviv.

The sources indicated that Israel was surprised by the US decision on Thursday to quit United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Four senior Israeli and American officials said there was no coordination with Israel in the days leading to the decision, adding that the Trump administration did not inform Israel.

Over the past few months, Israeli and US diplomats in New York and Paris discussed the possibility of US leaving the UNESCO during bilateral talks, according to senior Israeli officials.

Officials added that the issue was discussed during US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley’s visit to Israel in June, but at no point did US officials tell Israel a decision had been made to withdraw.

In spite of close relations between Israel and Trump’s administration, the incident exposed lack of coordination between the two countries.

Senior Israeli officials confirmed that Israel learned of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s decision from the website of Foreign Policy very late Wednesday night.

Following the announcement, Israeli diplomats at the embassy in Washington and UN’s delegation asked US counterparts for clarification.

Thursday morning Israel was told that in a few hours the State Department would announce the US departure from UNESCO.

Senior US officials confirmed that Washington did not inform Israel of its decision.

The process that led to the decision to withdraw was an internal US issue and was not discussed with any non-US governmental entity prior to the secretary’s decision, according to a senior official.

Actually, even after the decision was made, Tillerson did not inform Israel. He only reported the decision to UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova. Only after the announcement was published in the media, the US informed its allies including Israel.

The surprise in Jerusalem and the fact that the decision was made during the Simhat Torah holiday, were the main reason behind Israel’s rather strange announcement on Thursday night that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had directed the Foreign Ministry “to prepare” for the possibility of Israel leaving UNESCO.

Israel had no information about the timing of the US decision, and that is why there had been no real discussions with the prime minister on the subject. Netanyahu’s instructions were the result of a conference call held with a few of his advisers and senior Foreign Ministry officials.

However, with the selection of France’s former Culture Minister Audrey Azoulay as director of UNESCO, Israeli officials are leaning towards cooperating with her.

Azoulay is the daughter of Jewish adviser of King of Morocco Andre Azoulay who is also close friends of Israel’s Envoy to the UNESCO Carmel Shama.