Israel: Gas to the Rescue


August 15, 2023: Israel continues to discover more offshore natural gas deposits and is pumping more of it into pipelines to Israel and then to export customers like Egypt and Jordan. European countries are looking for more natural gas suppliers because the war in Ukraine has cut off Russian oil and gas exports to Europe. Building a pipeline to Europe would be time-consuming and expensive but the European nations need the energy and are willing to invest in pipeline bringing Israeli natural gas to Europe. More natural gas deposits are found off the Israeli coast each year means more revenue for the Israeli economy. Israel expects these natural gas deposits to continue making Israel independent of any other oil or natural gas suppliers. This is expected to last several decades and that is a major plus for the Israeli economy.

In the West Bank, two Palestinian gunmen who opened fire on Israelis troops, were shot dead by Israeli forces who were there to arrest a Palestinian suspect and search his home for weapons.

August 14, 2023: In Germany, the first of three Israeli Drakon-class submarines was launched. This is a new class of submarine with a larger sail that can hold two or more ballistic missiles. Drakon is a slightly larger version of Israel’s current Dolphin-class submarines. The first Drakon won’t be ready for service until 2027.

August 13, 2023: In southern Syria (near Damascus) an Israeli airstrike was carried out against Iranian (Hezbollah) targets. No casualties were reported. Large fires could be seen and explosions heard for several hours. These attacks are a regular occurrence because Iran continues to try and get enough missiles into Syria so they can launch regular missile attacks on Israel. Such attacks must involve lots of missiles to get past the Israeli missile defenses and so far these Israeli air strikes on Iranian missile shipments have delayed the Iranian attacks. Today's Israeli airstrike was the 22nd so far this year.

August 12, 2023: The United States provides Israel with $3.3 billion dollars a year in military aid. Most of this is spent on purchasing American military equipment and services. In return Israel shares military technology and intelligence with the United States as well as details on Israeli upgrades to American weapons. Because of this American and Israeli cooperation both nations benefit from improved military systems. Israeli improvements are often based on combat experience, which Israel has plenty of because it has many enemies in the region and few allies. Israel has the most powerful military in the region even though it has only 165,000 troops on active duty, with 465,000 trained reserves who can be called up on short notice. Some reservists are called on regularly for short periods. Israeli troops have better training, weapons and equipment than their adversaries and that includes superior information. Israeli intelligence operations use modern equipment, some of it developed in Israel as well as a large number of reliable informants who simply report on what is going on in their area. Israeli espionage is a separate operation that relies more on technical means to monitor what hostile nations are up to. Israel also has a unique problem with some of its neighbors. For example, Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza want Israel destroyed and all Jews out of the Middle East. That is what is reported in Arab-language media. In their English language media Arabs are more accommodating. Many Israelis understand Arabic and need only tune into Arabic-language radio or television to monitor the current state of Arab attitudes towards Israel. Arabs have been hostile towards Christians, Jews and other non-Moslems in the region for centuries. Arab leaders often encourage this, often as cover for the widespread corruption found in Arab ruled states. Arab leaders in the West Bank and Gaza are currently dealing with another outbreak of popular anger at this corruption. Whenever there is a corruption scandal in Israel, some observe that Israel is turning into a Middle Eastern country. Israelis attribute their larger and more successful economy and better educated population to Israel being more Western and less Middle Eastern.

August 11, 2023: In the West Bank an army search in a refugee camp was met by Palestinian gunfire. The soldiers fired back and that left one Palestinian dead and four wounded. This sort of violence has increased in the last year, mainly because Hamas and some other radical groups have established themselves in the West bank. That has meant more violence and 160 West Bank Palestinians have died so far in 2023, most of them while attacking Israeli security forces. The Palestinians insist the number of dead is 2014, but that includes casualties from Palestinian groups fighting each other.

At Ben Gurion airport an Iranian Jew was sent back to Iran after he admitted that Iranian intelligence only allowed him out of Iran to visit family in Israel if he agreed to collect some information and make a report when he returned to Iran. Israeli airport screening is unique in that it is more thorough but less time consuming than in other nations. Israel keeps track of known or suspected hostile foreigners who might try to enter the country.

August 10, 2023: In the West Bank a Palestinian gunman was shot dead during a brief gunbattle before dawn. Israeli troops were seeking to arrest him. Meanwhile, Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the West Bank government, fired most of the local Palestinian leaders because the Palestinian government is increasingly unpopular because of the growing corruption.

Elsewhere in the West Bank a Palestinian man stabbed two Israelis at a bus stop then dropped his knife and fled in his car.

August 9, 2023: At an Israeli crossing into Gaza, border guards found ten quadcopters a Palestinian worker in Israel was trying to smuggle into Gaza for terror groups to use for scouting locations before attacks. This discovery could lead to another cancellation of Palestinian work permits. In early 2022 Israel blocked the 12,000 Gaza Palestinians with Israeli work permits from entering Israel. This was an extreme measure but given the recent resumption of attacks on Israel from Gaza, and Hamas denying responsibility, Israel was using economic and political pressure as well as retaliatory attacks on Hamas military facilities after each new attack from Gaza. Hamas insists these attacks are the work of rogue Islamic terror groups. That’s a lie for foreign journalists because Gazans and Israelis know that Hamas runs a police state where rouge actions by armed groups are not allowed and Hamas will respond quickly, violently and aggressively against those who dare to ignore Hamas rules.

At the start of 2022 Israel agreed to issue work permits for up to 10,000 Gazans, in addition to several thousand permits already issued. When Gazans took part in a terrorist campaign against Israel in 2000 the number of work permits was reduced became some of the permit holders agreed to join terror groups and try to kill Israelis inside Israel. Hamas was already in Gaza and took control of Gaza in 2007 by promising less corruption and more attacks on Israel. Eventually only a handful of entry permits were provided to Gazans.

Hamas no longer wants to use a work permit system to organize terror attacks inside Israel because the unemployment rate in Gaza reached 50 percent in 2021 and many Hamas leaders realized that most unemployed Gazans blame Hamas for the lack of Israeli work permits. In response Israel agreed to take a chance and again issue more work permits. Since 2000 Israel has brought in West Bank and foreign workers to replace the Gazans. The foreigners were non-Moslems from distant countries and the West Bank workers knew that they could be replaced by the more expensive workers, who were also more difficult to work with because few understood Arabic or Hebrew, although many understood English. The foreign workers are in Israel for specified terms and as those contracts end and are not renewed more jobs can be offered to Gazans. The Gaza and West Bank economies have stagnated and more Palestinians have become dependent on foreign aid just to survive, all because of the Hamas and Fatah policy that Israel must be destroyed. By 2006 Israel had defeated the terror campaigns and kept subsequent terrorist efforts out of Israel, where the economy grew faster than any other in the region. Israel needs workers, Gazans want jobs and Hamas does not want a revolt led by the unemployed. Current unemployment in Israel has been between three and four percent. Despite the risks, terror groups in Gaza will use threats to Palestinians to persuade Palestinians with permits to work in Israel to assist in smuggling items for the terror groups.

August 6, 2023: In northwestern Syria (Hama province) an Israeli air-strike against the SSRC (Scientific Studies and Research Center) facility at Masyaf. This attack killed a Syrian scientist who specialized in developing precision weapons. Israel has been monitoring and occasionally attacking Masyaf for years. Since 2017 Iran has been actively assisting Syria in expanding the Masyaf operation, resuming the manufacture of chemical weapons and moving more of that to underground bunkers that are resistant to airstrikes. The recent attacks destroyed all the entrances to the underground facilities and apparently collapsed some or all of the underground spaces. Israel makes it clear that such attacks will continue as long as Syria and its patron Iran try to attack Israel and openly call for the destruction of Israel.

August 5, 2023: In Tel Aviv, two local Arabs who had been recruited and armed by a radical Gaza group Hamas, opened fire on two security guards who appeared to suspect the Arabs were looking for trouble. The Arab gunmen wounded one of the security guards before the other one opened fire and killed one of the attackers. The second Arab gunman fled and is being sought by local police. This incident was related to recent clashes between Israeli settlers and Palestinians in the West Bank. That incident left one Palestinian dead. That was followed by Palestinian calls for attacks inside Israel. Israel security forces are seeking to reduce the tension between Jewish settlers and local Palestinians in the West Bank. Palestinian radical groups, like Hamas in Gaza, have established a presence in the West Bank and are distributing guns to local Palestinians willing to attack Israelis. Israeli intelligence has informants in the West Bank who provide details of the Hamas efforts and Israeli troops carry out raids on locations where the guns are stored. This sometimes results in a gunbattle between the Israeli troops and the armed Palestinians.

August 4, 2023: In Gaza, Hamas mobilized hundreds of armed personnel to confront and suppress widespread demonstrations protesting the growing economic problems in Gaza and the inability of Hamas to do anything about it. The reduced the number of protests but did not prevent some from taking place. Continuing rocket attacks against southern Israel have resulted in Israel blocking supplies from entering Gaza. The problem is that Hamas is more concerned about attacking Israel than looking after the welfare of Gaza residents.

August 3, 2023: In southern Syria (near Damascus) an Israeli airstrike hit Hezbollah targets. The warehouses containing Iranian munitions exploded and lit up the night sky. Four Syrian soldiers were killed and four wounded. Two members of an Iran-backed militia were also killed. The was the 21st Israeli airstrike in Syria this year.

August 2, 2023: The United States army purchased two Iron Dome batteries and were pleased with their performance in tests. As a result the Americans was to begin production of the Iron Dome Tamir missile in the United States. The Americans have developed a truck-mounted mobile Iron dome system to provide protection for army units wherever they are.

July 31, 2023: In the Black Sea, an Israeli cargo ship defied the Russian naval blockade and entered Ukrainian waters, followed by four other cargo ships. An American P8 maritime surveillance aircraft flew overhead searching for any Russian naval activity. The Russian threat was not backed up by the presence of any warships, because doing so would make the Russian ships targets for Ukrainian anti-ship missiles or small, fast unmanned bomb boats.

July 30, 2023: In the north, across the border in Lebanon there is increasing violence in Palestinian refugee camps s Palestinian radicals seek to establish themselves in the camps and often use guns to get their way. This is opposed by other armed Palestinians opposed to radicals operating in the camps. This has led to gunfire and some civilians have been wounded, including two children. Outside the camps, the Iran-backed Hezbollah militia has been more active on the Israeli border, demanding that Israelis leave some border areas. Hezbollah threatens to use force if the Israelis don’t comply. This could start another war between Hezbollah and Israel. Lebanon does not want that because another war would be Israeli artillery and airstrikes against Hezbollah forces on or near the border. This would endanger Lebanese civilians living near the border.

July 17, 2023: In southern Syria (near Damascus) an Israeli airstrike was carried out against Iranian (Hezbollah) targets. One Syrian militiaman and two Iranians were killed. Fires could be seen and explosions heard for several hours.

July 12, 2023: Police in Azerbaijan foiled a plot to attack the Israeli embassy, and arrested two Afghan men involved in the plot. Ten days later Mossad (Israeli foreign intelligence) uncovered an Iranian plot to murder Israelis working in Cyprus. This was accomplished by identifying and capturing the Iranian assassin. When interrogated by Mossad, the Iranian man revealed that he was part of a network the Iranian IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) Quds Force was seeking to form in Cyprus. Quds is the section of the IRGC that specializes in foreign operations involving espionage and assassinations. Mossad and Quds have confronted each other in several foreign nations over the last few decades. Quds is usually the loser because Quds is usually engaged in schemes to kill Israelis and the local police will act if the foreign killers are pointed out. When Mossad discovered this plot, they sent agents into Iran to capture and extract the Iranian who organized this Quds effort. Israeli interrogators discovered that the Iranian effort in Cyprus was extensive, but now they had names of the people involved and had them arrested by Cypriot authorities.

The Quds operation in neighboring Azerbaijan was about Israel and Azerbaijan establishing formal diplomatic relations and opening embassies in both nations. Azerbaijan has other reasons to prefer dealing with Israel rather than Iran. About a quarter of Iran's population is Azeri (a Turkic people). Persia and its successor Iran controlled almost all Azeri-populated territory until Russia seized part of it in the 19th century. For a while after World War I, and since the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Russian Azeris were independent. While the Iranian Azeris are generally loyal to Iran, they are still Turks and speak a different language than the ethnic Iranians. Seeing Azerbaijan allying itself with Israel, for whatever reason, does not sit well with Iran, but there's not a lot it can do about this. Iran was not able to provide the weapons or other military assistance the Azeris needed to overcome the Armenian threat, so the Israelis were called in, and later Turkey as well. The Azeris have proved to be good allies. They have detected and destroyed Iran sponsored terrorism efforts, like one that was planning to attack Israelis in Azerbaijan. Iran was believed behind this plot, and Azerbaijan did not appreciate it. Azerbaijan has bought several billion dollars’ worth of Israeli weapons over the last fifteen years.

Iran might try again in Cyprus, because that’s what Quds Force does. Quds is often successful if their local efforts do not involve killing Israelis. Even in those cases the Quds operation may be compromised by Mossad, which will tell local police about what Quds is up to. The IRGC is not pleased with all this Mossad interference, especially when it involves Mossad agents operating inside Iran. Quds is also dismayed at their inability to operate inside Israel. The best Quds can do is get some operatives into nations bordering Israel, including the Palestinian West Bank. Quds supporters in the West Bank don’t last long because Israeli police and soldiers often stage raids in the West Bank to capture Palestinians planning attacks against Israel. Quds is safer in Lebanon or Syria, but not in Jordan or Egypt. Iran is not on good terms with Egypt or Jordan. Mossad will often warn Jordan or Egypt if there is new Iranian activity in their countries.

Despite all these setbacks, Iran has increased its efforts to carry out attacks inside Israel. The IRGC is taking the lead with its Quds Force, which specializes in attacks against foreign enemies. Shin Bet, the Israeli domestic intelligence service, recently arrested two West Bank Palestinians who had been recruited, via the Internet, by Quds Force as part of an effort to establish a network of Palestinians in the West Bank who had been trained and organized by Quds to carry out attacks against Israelis using rockets launched from the West Bank. This Quds network would also provide Iran with information on the West Bank. Such a network has not yet been established, in large part because Shin Bet detects Quds activities and often monitors them rather than immediately shutting them down. That was the case with the two recently arrested Palestinians, who had been sent to Turkey where Quds could provide training. Shin Bet waited until it had identified other Palestinians working for Quds.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close