"Comfort, comfort my people says your God" Isaiah 40
  1. The Reuters news agency published an in-depth report this week about a surprise attack on Saudi Arabia in September. Riyadh and most Western governments placed responsibility for the attack, which utilized GPS-guided suicide drones and cruise missiles to make precision strikes on sensitive components of Saudi Aramco’s Khurais oil installation and the Abqaiq oil processing facility, squarely at the feet of the clerical regime which rules Iran. That regime, however, flatly denied involvement and was supported by Russia and China. Israeli leaders also responded, warning that a similar attack on Israel was probably already being planned.

    The Reuters report included a claim, based on information provided by four unnamed but highly placed Iranian sources which had direct knowledge of the events described, that a meeting of high-ranking Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) officers convened in Teheran four months before the strikes to discuss options for retaliating against the US for re-imposing sanctions on Iran following the Trump Administration’s withdrawal from the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal. Several officers present at the meeting demanded that a strike must be carried out against US military forces stationed in the region, but they were overruled by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who likely feared that the American response would be more than his regime could handle.

    The decision to strike at Saudi Arabia’s oil production infrastructure was settled on for several reasons, among them the hope that it would drive up the price of oil worldwide, which would automatically increase the Iranian regime’s revenue streams as most of its budget is derived from the sale of oil on world markets. Some analysts have also speculated that the IRGC officers took a calculated risk that the US would not respond kinetically to the attacks on Saudi Arabia as the alliance between Washington and Riyadh has come under significant strain in recent years for various reasons. If that is the case, the risk paid off as US President Donald Trump did indeed decline to launch a retaliatory military strike against Iran, although some press reports indicated that he did authorize the Pentagon to carry out cyber-attacks.

    Meanwhile, the strikes on Saudi Arabia and their implications reverberated around the world, including by producing brief spike in the price of oil and expressions of deep concern on the part of senior officials in Saudi Arabia and other allies whose security is tied to their alliance with the US.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned specifically in early October that IRGC forces in Yemen might be working on plans to fire UAV’s and/or cruise missiles at Israel. On 25 November, General Hossein Salami, chief of the IRGC, appeared to confirm that Netanyahu’s concerns were legitimate when he told a pro-regime rally in Teheran “We have shown patience towards the hostile moves of America, the Zionist regime (Israel) and Saudi Arabia against Iran... but we will destroy them if they cross our red lines.”

    During a recent press conference, the ICEJ News team spoke with Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, IDF Spokesman for Foreign Media, about Israel’s response to the strikes. He  said that Israeli intelligence and defense officials were studying the attacks closely and working on plans to defend against similar strikes Iranian forces might attempt to launch against Israel.

    However, the problem of how to defend against suicide drones and cruise missiles presents many technical challenges. Unlike high trajectory ballistic missiles and rockets which Israel and the US have developed defense systems against (including the THAAD, Patriot, Iron Dome, David’s Sling and Arrow systems) these drones and cruise missiles are designed to fly low and hit small targets with pinpoint accuracy enabled by their GPS guidance kits. This also allows them to be fitted with a relatively small and light explosive charge while a relatively small amount of fuel is needed to carry them to their target, allowing them to fly at a much higher velocity. So they’re smarter, smaller, faster and flying at significantly lower altitude than an old-fashioned rocket or ballistic missile, all of which makes them much more difficult to intercept then those old-fashioned threats.

    All of this has the defense establishments in Israel and many other Western countries scrambling to figure out how Iran managed to put together such a potent weapon and how to defend against it. One commentator asked the question of whether this paradigm shift was comparable to the advent of air warfare in WWI, while another questioned whether the quantum leap forward in tactical advantage it gives to the military which has mastered it could cancel out the strategic advantage their opponents might have by possessing nuclear weapons.

    In any event, the Reuters report quoted an unnamed IRGC commander who participated in the planning for September’s attack on Saudi Arabia as telling his subordinates to make plans for “the next one” which could very well mean the IRGC is planning to hit targets in Israel from their bases in Yemen and/or western Iraq and possibly even Syria. If that is the case, then the clock is ticking for Israel’s defense community to find a technical solution to this new and unexpected threat.
  2. IDF units in Israel’s south were on high alert Wednesday following an overnight barrage of rockets from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip which prompted the Air Force to hit Hamas infrastructure in the Strip in retaliation. "We deem a rocket that does not cause damage to be the same as a rocket that does," Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said. “Those who fire will be hit.” The rocket barrage coincided with a “day of rage” which the PA declared for Tuesday and which involved thousands of Palestinians rioting in the West Bank and Gaza Strip against a recent declaration by the US that Israeli settlement communities are not illegal under international law.

    Lehava Leader Indicted for Racism and Incitement
    Rabbi Bentzi Gopstein, head of the Lehava organization which has, among other things, been involved in demonstrations against Israeli Believers and has also agitated against personal relationships between Jews and Arabs, was indicted on Tuesday. Gopstein’s indictment indicated that he was being charged regarding public statements he made between 2012 to 2017 which the court had determined were tantamount to encouraging physical violence and intimidation.

    Arab Journalists Tour Israel
    In another sign of Israel’s growing relations with its Arab neighbors, a group of journalists from Saud Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq and Egypt toured Israel in recent days as guests of the Foreign Ministry. “My goal is to bring people here to get to know the real Israel, to see it first hand, and not through television or social media, and see how Israel is unjustly slandered,” said Hassan Kaabia, the Foreign Ministry’s spokesman for the Arabic media who organized and accompanied the group.

    SodaStream Plant to Undergo Massive Expansion
    In yet another defeat for the movement to Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) Israel, intenational beverage conglomerate PepsiCo announced this week that it will expand its plant in southern Israel producing products for SodaStream, an Israeli company it acquired a few years ago. The announcement said the plant expansion at the site in an industrial park near Rahat would cost $92 million and create over 1,000 new jobs, nearly twice as many as already exist there.

    Today's video gives some analysis of the situation in Israel's Eastern Neighbor, Jordan

  3. Israel’s Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit gave a legal opinion on Monday that effectively repudiates all the arguments made by those who are attempting to force incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu out of office immediately following his indictment last Thursday on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Nevertheless, a rally is being organized for Tuesday evening at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art to support Netanyahu against what he has described as a “coup attempt” by Mandelblit as well as State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan and the national police force.

    “The rule of law must be equal, so what happened to me and to others should not happen,” Netanyahu said at a meeting with Likud mayors on Monday. “The citizens of Israel know that they should decide who will be prime minister. It is the essence of democracy that it is the majority that rules and it cannot be stopped elsewhere. Everything that is broken must be investigated. We still have a mission of forming a unity government if possible. Contacts have not stopped; they are taking place. This is necessary for reasons I cannot explain. There are immediate challenges that are not small.”

    Leaders of other Knesset factions expressed their outrage at the rally and at Netanyahu’s conduct in general in public statements throughout the day on Tuesday.

    Archeologists Continue to Unveil Church of Glorious Martyr
    The Israel Antiquities Authority have continued unveiling their findings from a dig at the Byzantine-era “Church of the Glorious Martyr” site in Beit Shemesh. “The whole reason for the existence of this place is for the nameless martyr,” said Benjamin Storchan, director of excavation for the IAA. “It is an archaeological mystery. You can look to pilgrimage accounts of people who traveled to the Holy Land, [and there are] thousands of lists of martyrs…who died in early Christian times. We can’t yet associate this church with one specific martyr.”

    Archeologists have dated the construction of the original church structure to the reign of Emperor Justinian in the 6th century CE (527-565). It underwent extensive expansion beginning in 583 AD under the patronage of Emperor Tiberius II Constantine (574-582 AD).

    Here is a video about the church

    Israel Blesses the World
    Innovation:Africa, an organization with branches in Israel and the US, was one of three recipients of the 2019 InnoDip Award for innovative diplomacy for their efforts to bring Israel’s technological solutions in the fields of solar power, water and agriculture to rural villages in Africa. In related news, TIME magazine featured two Israeli-developed products in their recent feature about the Best Inventions of 2019. The two inventions were Watergen’s condenser units which collect vapor and turn it into drinkable water and OrCam Technologies MyEye2 “talking glasses.”

    Here is a video about other ways Israel is blessing the world

  4. The clerical regime which rules Iran organized a massive rally in central Teheran on Monday to denounce the recent anti-regime demonstrations which broke out in dozens of cities and villages around the country and support Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. General Hossein Salami, chief of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) addressed the rally, declaring that the US, UK, Israel and Saudi Arabia had sent agents into Iran to stir up a small number of local malcontents, adding a warning to the internal and external enemies of the regime that “If you cross our red line, we will destroy you. We will not leave any move unanswered.”

    Iran's Foreign Ministry added their own condemnation of what they referred to as the "interference of foreign countries" in the demonstrations. Ministry spokesman Abbas Musavi told journalists "We recommend they watch the rallies taking place these days in our country so they realize who the real people are in our country."

    Here are some videos about the recent events in Iran

    Here is a video about the Iranian threats against Israel

  5. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Naftali Bennet toured IDF positions on the Golan Heights on Sunday, with Netanyahu telling reporters that “Iran's aggression in the region and against us continues. We are taking all the actions necessary to prevent Iran from entrenching itself in the region. This includes action necessary to thwart the transfer of lethal weapons from Iran to Syria, via the air or sea…I cannot provide any more details, but this is a process taking place all the time.” Meanwhile, ‪US Army General and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley was in Israel on Sunday to meet with his IDF counterparts, with Iran believed to be at the top of the agenda for those meetings.

    Here is a video about the Iranian threats against Israel

    In Iran on Sunday, officials were describing the leaders of the recent round of street demonstrations against the regime as "mercenaries" hired by its enemies to come to Iran and stir up trouble amongst the population which was otherwise perfectly satisfied with their lives. The demonstrations, which took place in dozens of large cities and small villages all over Iran, ended with over 100 people dead and many more injured, along with the violent destruction of scores of government buildings, police stations and vehicles, banks and other regime-affiliated landmarks.

    Netanyahu Blocks Challenge from Political Rival
    Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu blocked efforts to hold a snap primary for leadership of his Likud Party on Sunday evening, despite explanations that it was a move that could save Israel from the necessity of holding yet another election early next year by Netanyahu’s top challenger within Likud, Gideon Sa’ar. Former Jerusalem Mayor and current Likud MK Nir Barkat also clashed with Sa’ar and made an alternative proposal to the party leadership for a vice-chairman to be elected who would serve as Prime Minister while Netanyahu was fighting his legal battles in court, while Sa’ar told the Reshet Bet radio program Monday morning that he and his family have been threatened with violence for his efforts to unseat Netanyahu.

    "I am forced to go through a campaign of incitement and libel against me and my family, including threats of violence," he said. "For years, campaigns of libel have been led against me. None of it scares me. I sleep well at night and I know my family and I will have to go through a lot of slander. I knew it when I got back into politics. I think I will be able to form a government, and I think I will be able to unify the country and the nation. I followed Netanyahu in countless election campaigns, but today he is politically blocked. Unfortunately, Netanyahu cannot form a government even if third elections were to be held, he should have drawn his conclusions. Those who follow me on social networks see that I keep receiving threats of violence. None of this will deter me from doing the right thing for the Likud and the state."

    EU Criticizes Syria and Russia for Bombing Idlib
    EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini criticized the Assad regime and its Russian ally over the weekend following reports of heavy bombardments of camps housing displaced persons in Idlib Province, the northwest portion of Syria bordering Turkey which has become the last holdout of the rebel groups opposing the regime. Meanwhile, in neighboring Lebanon, fresh demonstrations were called for Monday after security forces loyal to the government arrested a group of children for pulling down a sign supporting President Michael Aoun’s political party, the Free Patriotic Movement.

    Violent street demonstrations also continued in Iraq over the weekend, with an additional six protesters killed on Sunday. Clashes between demonstrators and security forces in the southern city of Umm Qasr accounted for three of the deaths along with dozens of injuries, while a similar event occurred in Nasiriyah, a mid-sized city south of Baghdad. Western journalists observing the events said security forces fired live ammunition at demonstrators at both demonstrations.

    Report Finds Inadequate Bomb Shelters in the North
    Reports emerged over the weekend that over 200,000 residents of northern Israel living in the Mateh Asher Regional Council’s confrontation zone, defined as being from zero to nine kilometers from Israel’s northern border, lack adequate protection from incoming rocket attacks. The IDF Home Front Command issued a statement in response to the report saying it was aware of the situation and was working to rectify it.

    South African University Rescinds BDS Motion
    In another defeat for the movement to Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) Israel, the University of Cape Town announced over the weekend that it is rescinding an earlier move to boycott Israeli academic institutions. South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) national director Wendy Kahn issued a statement to the Jerusalem Post saying the announcement sends “a resounding message of their commitment to academic freedom.”

    Today’s video shows how the IDF interacts with its allies