Israel’s population will reach ten million in the next year and 15 million by 2048. Currently 74 percent of the population is Jewish, 21 percent Arab and the rest various other minorities. Most Arab Israelis are descendants of Arabs who ignored Arab nations calls that they leave the new state of Israel in 1948 during the Israeli war of independence from attacks by Arab nations who did not want Israel to exist. The Arab Israelis prospered in Israel compared to Arabs in neighboring states but did not take advantage of educational opportunities to the extent that Jewish Israelis did. As a result, Arab Israeli income is now about 60 percent that of Jewish Israelis. Arab Israelis are still better off in terms of income and security compared to Arabs in Arab majority nations. Despite that, there has been a growing problem with the loyalty of Israeli Arabs since the 2006 war with Hezbollah. At least fifty Israeli Arabs are known to have joined ISIL and most appear to have died there or otherwise disappeared from view (or at least contact with their families back in Israel). A 2007 opinion survey of Arab Israelis revealed some scary attitudes. For example, 48 percent believed the Hezbollah rocket attacks on northern Israel in 2006 were justified, even though Israeli Arabs suffered a disproportionate number of the Israeli casualties because most Israeli Arabs live in the north. Moreover, half saw the Hezbollah kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers, which triggered the 2006 war, as justified, and 89 percent considered the Israeli attack on Lebanon a war crime while 44 percent believed the Hezbollah rocket attack was a war crime. A third of Arab Israeli high school and college graduates don't believe that six million Jews were killed during World War II, compared to 28 percent of all Israeli Arabs. Arab Israelis also have fears, like the possibility of mass expulsions from Israel (60 percent), or transfer of their communities to a new Palestinian state (62 percent). In fact, 68 percent would prefer to live in Israel even if there were a peace deal that led to the creation of a Palestinian state. Meanwhile, 63 percent of Israel Jews avoid entering Arab towns or neighborhoods, and 68 percent fear civil unrest among Israeli Arabs. Since 2007 these anti-Israel attitudes among Arab Israelis has gotten worse and Hamas, Hezbollah and ISIL try to take advantage of it. ISIL has been the most successful, mainly because it is the most radical Islamic terrorist group and that appeals to the young (especially teenage) Moslem males who are most attracted to Islamic terrorism.
In 2020 another Arab-Israeli was arrested and charged with working as a spy for Iran. Police have observed the suspect meeting with Iranian intel personnel and then seeking to recruit other Arab-Israelis to work for Iran and help destroy Israel. Since 2014, and the appearance of ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant), there has been a sharp increase in Arab-Israelis actively working t0 “destroy Israel”. Police estimate that over 50 Arab-Israelis have actually made it to Syria and joined ISIL and about as many were detected in Israel or in Turkey before they got to Syria. Not many Palestinians (about a hundred) have actually gone to Syria. At least seven Israeli citizens (all Arabs) have died fighting for ISIL, which considers the destruction of Israel very important and called on Arab-Israelis to join the fight. Many of those who did not want to fight in Syria were receptive to Iranian efforts, via Hezbollah, to recruit Arab-Israelis to serve as spies. In most cases Iran simply wanted a reliable source of basic information any Israeli citizen could pick up by driving around the country or consulting local media. Iran also found that recruiting Arab-Israelis to assist in carrying out attacks inside Israel often worked. These attacks are carried out by Palestinians or Israeli Arabs but organized by Iranian agents in Gaza or Iranian-trained Palestinians in the West Bank. These Arab-Israeli terrorists are the great-grandchildren of the Arabs who decided to remain in Israel in 1948. Most Palestinians live in the West Bank, Gaza or other nations. Palestinians continue to call for the destruction of Israel. This attitude developed after the Palestinians realized that their call for a separate Palestinian state (the two-state solution) was impossible as long as they insisted that the “right of return” be observed. For at least five years now many Western and some Moslem countries have called on the Palestinians to get their own state by agreeing to cancel the unique status Palestinian refugees were granted by the UN after Israel was created that enables Palestinian refugees to pass their refugee status on to all their descendants. No other refugee group has ever been granted that status. As a result, the original 700,000 Palestinian refugees have grown to over four million. The UN established the UNRWA (UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) to provide for the support the original refugees and succeeding generations. The U.S. was long the largest contributor to the UNRWA effort that provides most of these refugees with benefits on other refugees get. In 2018 the U.S. announced it will stop paying $350 million a year for this.
Western efforts to obtain a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians keep failing because of Palestinian refusal to give up demands that Israel cannot accept (if they want to continue to exist as a Jewish state). What caused this mess was a mistake made by the Arab world over sixty years ago when the UN was persuaded to grant Palestinian refugees’ hereditary status. Initially this was because the Arab nations were certain that they would eventually be able to crush Israel and allow Palestinians back to homes and property they had fled at the urging of other Arabs. As part of this policy no Arab nation would permit Palestinians to become citizens but instead always treated them as refugees and confined them to “camps”, which were usually special towns and neighborhoods just for Palestinians. But by the 1970s it was pretty clear that the Israelis had become too powerful militarily (and now had nukes) for the Arabs to defeat. Instead, the Arab nations got behind various proposals for a peace deal. Some progress was made by the 1990s but Palestinian radicals refused to allow any peace agreement and threatened civil war if Palestinian leaders did not renounce peace proposals and work towards the destruction of Israel.
The major obstacle to any peace deal was Palestinians insisting on Israel recognizing "right of return without discrimination." That means that the Palestinians who fled the newly formed Israel in the late 1940s, and their millions of descendants, can return to Israel and get all their abandoned property back. Israel would also have to pay compensation. While most of those original refugees are now dead, many Palestinians would not return, but enough could do so and change the demographic composition of Israel, turning it into a country with an Arab majority. This, for both the Palestinians and Israel, is the equivalent of “destroying Israel." This is something all Palestinian factions want to accomplish, and Israelis want to avoid. Getting around this obstacle would be very difficult, as the Palestinian public has endured decades of Palestinian (and Arab) media messages insisting that the right of return is an essential part of any peace deal. Westerners believe that money (a bribe) might make this problem go away. That could backfire, because the real problem is the Arab decision in the late 1940s to not offer citizenship to any Palestinian refugees. The other Arab states insisted that Palestinian refugees must remain stateless, preferably living in refugee camps (and receiving food and other aid from largely Western donors). At the time, an equal number of Jews were expelled from Arab countries. All these Jewish refugees found new homes, most of them in Israel. Just giving the Palestinian refugees a few hundred billion dollars would not be sufficient. They need citizenship somewhere, either in the country where they are currently refugees, or in the West. Undoing this old Arab error, which the Arab nations insisted on and Palestinians went along with, has not been easy. The Americans were willing to act, which is meaningful since the United States has always been the largest supplier of aid for the Palestinian “refugees”. The Americans thought they could make this work because now most Arab states are hostile to Palestinians who have regularly acted in a self-destructive manner and now refuse to even form a united government that someone could negotiate with. But the American approach also puts some responsibility on other Arab nations to change their citizenship policy (which is similar for all foreigners, not just the Palestinians) and make it easier for Palestinians who have been living among them for decades to become citizens.
Of the original 700,000 Palestinian refugees, only about 50,000 are still alive. In 1967 there was another wave of Palestinian refugees as Israel took control of the West Bank and about 300,000 West Bank Arabs joined the Palestinian refugee community. Over 50,000 of these are still alive. Most of the original refugees would be willing to accept cash or property compensation and permission to settle in an area where they could be citizens, not refugees. Some 10 percent would even be willing to move to Israel, where the Arabs who did not flee became Israeli citizens and prospered. Many of the original refugees settled in the West, where they could become citizens. But that was complicated by the unrelenting Arab demands that “Israel must be destroyed.” For Arab nations that attitude has mellowed and most Arab nations see Israel as an actual or potential ally and economic partner. But the Palestinian refugee community still insists Israel be destroyed.
Iran Betrays Women and Ukraine
Since September 17th protests started in Tehran (the capital) and have not stopped, despite at least fifty protesters being killed and over 3,000 arrested. These protests are against the government, and have included chants of “death to the dictator” (the leader of the religious dictatorship). The religious dictatorship has been in power since 1979 and one of the first things they established was the Morality Police, to enforce the new dress and appearance restrictions. These dress codes were never very popular and most Iranians today were born after 1979 and never experienced life without these rules. But they see it on TV and in movies as well as visits to the West. Eleven days ago, Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman from northern Iran, was in Tehran with her family. While with her brother, she was arrested by the Morality Police for not covering her hair properly with a hijab scarf. She was taken to a local police station. Her brother was told she would undergo a one-hour lecture on the importance of using the hijab properly and then released. Her brother waited at the police station for two hours before he was told his sister had suffered a heart attack and collapsed. She was taken to a hospital and died the next day. The cause was not a heart attack but a severe beating administered by police. The police tried to conceal this but too many people had seen her in the hospital, where her visible injuries were obviously from a beating, not from a heart attack. That was enough to trigger another round of nationwide protests against the government, the Morality Police and religious rule in general. This time the protestors were not intimidated by the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), which was organized in the 1980s to protect the religious dictatorship. That included the frequent use of lethal (gunfire) force which in the past managed to halt protests quickly. Not this time and the IRGC is more intimidated than the protestors. Increasingly the protestors include religious Iranians who are also fed up with the religious dictatorship and the IRGC.
These protests have become more frequent and outspoken over the last two decades. In the last few years more protesters have called for an end to religious government as well Islam itself. The situation is worse than anyone realized after the results of a 2020 opinion poll were released by GAMAAN (Group for Analyzing and Measuring Attitudes in Iran). This group made an effort to determine the true religious feelings of Iranians by using its experience with online anonymous surveys to determine just how religious Iranians are and how many still consider themselves Moslems. That has been something of a mystery because for years there have been larger and larger anti-government protests. One surprising feature of these protests is the growing number of Iranians hostile to Islam and willing to be public about. Iranians are reluctant to tell strangers how they feel about religion but the word on the street was that most Iranians had quietly abandoned Islam. The 2020 GAMAAN survey, supervised by expatriate Iranians, contacted a number of online groups inside Iran and convinced them to participate in an anonymous survey of religious beliefs. GAMAAN assembled 400,000 online participants, representing an accurate cross-section of Iranians in Iran, and conducted the survey. The results were a shock, at least to the government. While the government insists that 99 percent of Iranians are Moslem, the survey found that only 40 percent were. Breaking that down further 32 percent of Iranians are Shia, five percent Sunni and three percent Sufi (a more mellow Islam hated by Islamic extremists). Other religious preferences included 8.8 percent atheists, 5.8 percent agnostic 2.7 percent humanist and seven percent non-denominational “spiritualists.” Not surprisingly eight percent were Zoroastrian, a native Iranian religion older that Judaism and believed eliminated in the 7th century by invading Islamic armies. Since then, a small number of Iranians continued to practice Zoroastrianism in secret inside Iran and openly outside of Iran. Many Zoroastrianism customs are still practiced inside Iran, much to the dismay of some Islamic clerics. Efforts to suppress these ancient customs have failed for over a thousand years. Now Iranians are openly (in crowds) calling for the revival of this ancient monotheistic (one-God) religion as more Iranians seek a more humane alternative to Islam.
Another 1.5 percent said they were Christian, 0.1 percent Jewish, 0.5 percent Bahai, 3.3 percent “other” and 22.2 percent declared they had no religious beliefs at all. Overall 78 percent of Iranians believed in God while 90 percent of Iranians admitted to growing up in or still practicing some religion. A third of Iranians admitted they regularly consume alcoholic beverages, something forbidden to Moslems. Less than 40 percent observed the daily schedule of Moslem prayers and about the same percentage observed the fast during the holy month of Ramadan. The rest would claim an illness and this was widely tolerated. Trying to enforce the fast on that many Iranians was seen as an impossible task. Even so 68 percent believed that religious practices should not have the rule of law and 72 percent opposed the law or custom mandating that women wear hijab (hair covering) outdoors. Despite all these changing attitudes, a recent international survey found that Saudi Arabia, Israel and Iran were three most religious nations in the world. The United States ranks 66th while most of the least religious nations are in Europe.
Despite its problems at home, Iran continues to seek cooperation from the Turks, Syrians and Russians in getting Iranian forces close enough to the Israeli border to make attacks possible. So far no one is interested. Iranian efforts in Syria and Lebanon are very low-budget and Iranian officers in charge of this have to make do with very little. This has changed recently as Iran has been supplying Russia with weapons, including dozens of Shahed 136 cruise missile UAVs, to be used in the Ukraine fighting. In return Iran is getting some modern (Su-35) jets and spare parts for some of their older Russian made warplanes. Some of the Shahed 136 UAVs were recently used against Ukrainian forces and despite Russian efforts to eliminate any Iranian identification markings on these UAVs, the Ukrainians analyzed all the remaining components of these UAVs that had been shot down or simply crashed. These UAVs were definitely Iranian Shahed 136 and could be effective, but not spectacularly so. The explosive warhead only weighs 36 kg (80 pounds), compared to 10 kg for a 155mm shell or 23 kg (51 pounds) of explosives for a 114 kg (250 pound) aircraft bomb. The Iranian UAV is expensive for a weapon that can only be used once and has reliability problems. A growing number of Shahed 136s are being used in Ukraine and most are detected by Ukrainian troops and shot down. This does not discourage the Russians, who have never been able to develop useful and effective UAVs themselves.
Iran expects Russia to be more helpful in Syria, where Russia already has an understanding with Israel that involves Russia not interfering with Israeli airstrikes on Iranian targets. In return Israel does not supply Ukraine with weapons. Most Israelis support the Ukrainians but they also recognize the threat from Iranians in Syria, Lebanon and Gaza. Russia and Iran are still negotiating on this issue because Russia does not want to lose all its economic, military and diplomatic links with Israel.
In August Russia and Iran signed a new agreement that expanded economic and political cooperation between the two nations. This agreement ignores sanctions currently imposed on Russia and Iran and formalizes the cooperation between the two oil producers to evade Western efforts to prevent Iran and Russia from exporting its oil. The new agreement also confirms joint efforts to support each other militarily. Iran has supported the Russian invasion of Ukraine while Russia backs Iranian threats to other Middle Eastern oil producers. This does not include unofficial Russian agreements in Syria that keep Israel and Russia from going to war because of continued Israeli attacks on Iranian forces in Syria. Russia continues to support Iranian efforts to expand its influence over the Iraqi government.
This new arrangement means problems with Israel-Russia understandings in Syria. Israel sometimes fires on Iranian forces operating near the Israeli border. Israel also shares intel with Russia and Syria about Syrian officers who are secretly working for Iran. The Iranians pay well, and in dollars. Israel occasionally releases evidence of this to the media so Iranians back home have another reason to oppose Iranian foreign wars. Negotiations have been underway between Iran and Russia/Syria since 2020 but have not made much progress. Continuing Iranian sponsored violence is just another incentive for Syria to get the Iranian agents away from the Israeli border area.
Israel has not been providing any weapons to Ukraine because of Iranian activity near the Israeli border in Syria. Israel needs to maintain good relations with Russia to deal with the Iranian threat. Russia told Israel that sending weapons to Ukraine could reduce Russian cooperation in Syria against Iran. Most Israelis support Ukraine, but the Iranian threat is very real and next door, so Israeli politicians cannot ignore it unless they want to lose their next election. Russia does not want to lose its relationships with Israel but now Iran is in a position to force the matter. Russia appears to be seeking a compromise with Israel that will not offend Iran. That is proving difficult because Israel’s Arab allies in the Persian Gulf are angry at Russia for supplying Iran with Su-35 jet fighters. Russia and Saudi Arabia were once economic allies because before Russia got hit with stronger sanctions for invading Ukraine earlier this year, Russia and Saudi Arabia were both large petroleum producers and could control the price of oil to their mutual advantage. That ended when Russia lost its ability to export its oil legally and now Saudi Arabia sees Russia as an unreliable ally that turned on the Saudis by selling Iran the Su-35s.
September 25, 2022: The fighting in Ukraine has led to an increase in the number of Jews moving from Russia and Ukraine to Israel. In the last year it was 40,000 people, 60 percent of them from Russia. The Russian and Ukrainian Jews accounted for two-thirds of the foreign Jews moving to Israel in the past year. Currently about 15 percent of the 9.6 million Israeli population are either those who migrated from Russia or their descendants. Many of these Russian Jews came from Ukraine, where the current leader is Jewish and since he was elected president in 2019, he backed more economic and security connections with NATO and the West. Israel has long been considered an unofficial NATO member and increasingly participates in joint training and other cooperation with NATO members.
September 24, 2022: In the West Bank a Palestinian was shot and killed as he tried to use ram his car into a group of Israeli soldiers. Israel had sent a battalion of soldiers to the area and more battalions to other parts of the West Bank. Yesterday, for the second day in a row Palestinians had fired at an Israeli settlement. Israel is expecting an increase in Palestinian violence because the Jewish High Holy Days begin on the 25th.
In Ukraine, the government expelled the Iranian ambassador and reduced the size of the Iranian embassy staff because Ukraine had recently shot down several Iranian Shahed-136 attack UAVs that were headed for Ukrainian targets. Examining the wreckage of the downed UAVs revealed that they had been modified to appear Russian. This consisted of replacing any Iranian language markings with one in Russian. Internally, the UAVs were identifiable as Iranian made Shahed-136’s. There were media reports earlier in the year that Iran had sold many Shahed-136s to Russia in a barter deal that had Russia sending Iran Su-35 jet fighters. The Iranian embassy in Ukraine denied these reports but now Ukraine has evidence that the Iranians were lying. Saudi Arabia and the other Arab Gulf oil states were also angry about this because Su-35 jet fighters are superior to any other combat aircraft Iran has and could be used against the Arab nations, just as Iran has used Shahed-136s and similar UAVs against targets in the Gulf States and denied that they came from Iran. These UAVs fly low and use internal (GPS) navigation make these UAVs difficult to detect with radar, especially if they are used at night when even visual detection is difficult. Iran has used these UAVs against Israel, which has developed optical and radar sensors that can detect them quickly so they can be shot down at the border (usually of Lebanon). While Israel is criticized by Ukraine, and many Israelis, for not supplying Ukraine with weapons to fight the Russians, the two countries maintain diplomatic relations and Israel has quietly shared information with Ukraine about Russian weapons and cooperation with Iran in Syria. Ukraine apparently does the same for Israel about what Iran is up to in Ukraine.
September 19, 2022: In the north (Golan Heights) four Syrian men approached the border and threw several objects towards a road along the border used by Israeli patrol. The objects turned out to be explosives, including a landmine. Israeli troops entered Syria and went after the four men. One was shot and captured. A helicopter evacuated him to an Israeli hospital. The other three Syrians got away.
September 15, 2022: Hamas announced that it had resumed diplomatic relations with Syria. These diplomatic links had been severed in 2012, as the Syrian civil war got underway. Syria had long provided sanctuary for Hamas leaders but that ended when many of the Palestinian refugees living in Syria sided with the rebels trying to overthrow the Assad government. The rebels lost, in part because of massive aid from Iran. Hamas has also become a recipient of Iranian aid.
September 6, 2022: In northern Syria (Aleppo) an Israeli airstrike hit the main airport outside the city. This is the second such Israeli attack in the last week. Israel has been intensifying its airstrikes on airports that Iran uses to fly in weapons. Israel has already disrupted road and sea movement of these weapons. Israel is deliberately damaging the runways of major airports and preventing repairs from being made. The airstrikes also target airport navigation equipment. Israel told Syria that these attacks are not directed at Syrian forces but just Iranian efforts to move modern weapons into Syria for use against Israel.
September 4, 2022: In the West Bank, Israeli security forces arrested seven Palestinians who had been recruited by Hamas to carry out attacks in Israel. The seven men received weapons and training from Hamas and the operation was managed by a Hamas agent in Gaza. Israel detected the communications between Hamas in Gaza with the seven Palestinians.
September 3, 2022: Iran announced that the Su-35 barter deal with Russia was agreed to and that Iran would receive at least 65 Su-35s. When Su-35s will be delivered to Iran was unclear. The Russians only have about a hundred Su-35s in their air force and production has been halted by the sanctions. Too many key Su-35 components come from Western suppliers. Russia is unlikely to ship most of its own Su-35s to Iran, especially now that it knows that the Iranian UAVs supplied were not as effective as expected. Russia is also still building Su-35s for Egypt. Apparently less than a third of the 26 Su-35s Egypt ordered in 2018 have been delivered by 2022. Then there is the problem that Egypt and Iran are enemies. Egypt belongs to an anti-Iran coalition that includes Israel and Saudi Arabia. This is a problem in other ways. Israel and Iran are at war with each other in Syria and Iran is losing. Israeli F-35I fighters have encountered Russian Su-35s in Syria and have a good idea of what the Su-35 can and cannot do. One thing the Su-35 cannot do is defeat the F-35I. The F-35I can detect the Su-35 first and shoot it down with missiles. This is not a major concern for Iran, which wants the Su-35 so that it can more effectively threaten its Arab neighbors.
There is yet another complication. Egypt is buying Su-35s only because Saudi Arabia is providing the cash. China ordered 24 of them in 2015 and received all of them by 2018. Indonesia bought eleven in 2017 and began receiving them in 2019. The sale of Su-35s to China was special. Because of frequent illegal copying of Russian technology this was expected to be the last Russian warplane exported to China.
Currently Russia has 103 Su-35s in service and 30 on order. Russia received its first Su-35s in 2013 and four were sent to Syria in early 2016 for some combat experience. These were apparently successful, especially when delivering Russian built smart bombs. Russia then increased its own orders from 50 to over a hundred.
The Egyptian sale is more about diplomacy than air power. This purchase, financed by Saudi Arabia, increases diplomatic relations between Russia and the Middle Eastern Arab states. The two most important ones are Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The Egyptian air force has nearly 400 combat aircraft in service (and a lot of older Russian stuff “in storage’). Most of the current combat aircraft are Western, including 210 F-16s, 40 Alpha Jets, 90 Mirages and 17 Rafales. There are 15 MiG-29s in service and another 32 on the way. When all the MiG-29s and Su-35s are delivered (by 2022) Egypt will have 66 modern Russian fighters, which will come to about 17 percent of the fighter force. Because of the Iran deal, the number of Russian aircraft in the Egyptian Air Force will be a lot less.
August 27, 2022: In northwestern Syria (Hama province) an Israeli air-strike destroyed a group of warehouses where over a thousand Iranian rockets were stored. Some of these rockets had been assembled there while others were flown in. It had taken Iran over a year to amass this stockpile. The Israeli airstrike set off a series of explosions that lasted for over six hours.
August 20, 2022: Israel completed testing of its Gabriel 5 anti-ship missile, which is used on many Israeli warships. Gabriel 5 to appear. It uses three guidance systems; fire and forget, or fire and update, via an encrypted data link, midway to the target. Finally, there was fire and onboard radar update as the target area was approached. The guidance system could detect the desired target and head for it. Gabriel 5 had more countermeasures for enemy electronic defenses. Max range is 400 kilometers. The first version of Gabriel entered service in 1973 and had a range of 20 kilometers and a much less capable guidance system.