JERUSALEM, August 16 -- Israel said on Thursday that it will bar two Democratic US congresswomen from entering the country ahead of a planned visit over their support for a Palestinian-led boycott movement.
This decision was announced shortly after US President Donald Trump tweeted that it would "show great weakness" to allow them in. The move to bar Representatives Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota from visiting appeared to be unprecedented. It marked a deep foray by Israel into America's bitterly polarised politics and a sharp escalation of Israel's campaign against the international boycott movement. The two newly-elected Muslim members of Congress are outspoken critics of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians and have repeatedly sparred with Trump over a range of issues. Tlaib's family immigrated to the United States from the West Bank, where she still has close relatives. They had planned to visit Jerusalem and the West Bank on a tour organised by a Palestinian organisation aimed at highlighting the plight of the Palestinians. It was not immediately clear if they had planned to meet with Israeli officials, and spokespeople for the two congresswomen did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel is "open to critics and criticism," except for those who advocate boycotts against it. "Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar are leading activists in promoting the legislation of boycotts against Israel in the American Congress," Netanyahu charged. He said their itinerary "revealed that they planned a visit whose sole objective is to strengthen the boycott against us and deny Israel's legitimacy". Shortly before the decision was announced, Trump had tweeted that "it would show great weakness" if Israel allowed them to visit. "They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds." He went on to call the two congresswomen "a disgrace". The US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, endorsed the decision after it was made, saying Israel "has every right to protect its borders" against promoters of boycotts "in the same manner as it would bar entrants with more conventional weapons". Trump's decision to urge a foreign country to deny entry to elected US officials was a striking departure from the long-held practice of politicians from both parties of leaving their disputes at the water's edge. Democratic lawmakers in the US Congress denounced Israel's decision. Top ranking Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York said it was a sign of weakness instead of strength and "will only hurt the US-Israeli relationship and support for Israel in America". A close freshman colleague of the two lawmakers, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, said Israel's move is "bigoted, short sighted and cruel".
TEL AVIV, June 25 -- Hackers have broken into the systems of more than a dozen global telecoms companies and taken large amounts of personal and corporate data, researchers from a cyber security company said on Tuesday, identifying links to previous Chinese cyber-espionage campaigns.
Investigators at U.S.-Israeli cyber security firm Cybereason said the attackers compromised companies in more than 30 countries and aimed to gather information on individuals in government, law-enforcement and politics. The hackers also used tools linked to other attacks attributed to Beijing by the United States and its Western allies, said Lior Div, chief executive of Cybereason. “For this level of sophistication it’s not a criminal group. It is a government that has capabilities that can do this kind of attack,” he told Reuters. A spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry said he was not aware of the report, but added “we would never allow anyone to engage in such activities on Chinese soil or using Chinese infrastructure.” Cybereason declined to name the companies affected or the countries they operate in, but people familiar with Chinese hacking operations said Beijing was increasingly targeting telcos in Western Europe.
Western countries have moved to call out Beijing for its actions in cyberspace, warning that Chinese hackers have compromised companies and government agencies around the world to steal valuable commercial secrets and personal data for espionage purposes. Div said this latest campaign, which his team uncovered over the last nine months, compromised the internal IT network of some of those targeted, allowing the attackers to customize the infrastructure and steal vast amounts of data. In some instances, they managed to compromise a target’s entire active directory, giving them access to every username and password in the organization. They also got hold of personal data, including billing information and call records, Cybereason said in a blog post. “They built a perfect espionage environment,” said Div, a former commander in Israel’s military intelligence unit 8200. “They could grab information as they please on the targets that they are interested in.”
Cybereason said multiple tools used by the attackers had previously been used by a Chinese hacking group known as APT10. The United States indicted two alleged members of APT10 in December and joined other Western countries in denouncing the group’s attacks on global technology service providers to steal intellectual property from their clients. The company said on previous occasions it had identified attacks it suspected had come from China or Iran but it was never certain enough to name these countries. Cybereason said: “This time as opposed to in the past we are sure enough to say that the attack originated in China.” “We managed to find not just one piece of software, we managed to find more than five different tools that this specific group used,” Div said.
WASHINGTON, June 23 -- The United States has revealed a proposal to create a $50bn global investment fund for the Palestinians and neighboring Arab states, designed to be the economic engine of the long-awaited US Middle East peace plan.
The plan was posted on the White House website on Saturday, two days before a US-led workshop in Bahrain where the economic portion of the so-called "deal of the century" is set to be discussed. The Manama conference is taking place despite opposition from the Palestinians, who will not attend. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday rejected the economic plan and the US peace effort, which is led by President Donald Trump's senior adviser Jared Kushner.
"The economic situation should not be discussed before the political one," Abbas said on Saturday. "As long as there is no political solution, we do not deal with any economic solution."
Speaking to Reuters news agency, Kushner, who is also Trump's son-in-law, said the economy-first approach was "necessary" to break away from the political side, as it would be "less controversial". "Let's let people study it, give feedback," he said. "Let's try to finalize if we can all agree on what that could look like in the event of a peace agreement."
Fundamental political issues such as the occupation of Palestinian territories, the right of return for refugees and their descendants (of which roughly five million live in refugee camps in neighboring Arab countries) and border sovereignty were not mentioned in the plan. Instead, the economic scheme included 179 infrastructure and business projects, a billion-dollar investment to build up the Palestinians' tourism sector, and a $5bn transportation corridor to connect the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
DAMASCUS, June 2 -- Syria’s air defenses have destroyed the enemy’s air targets on the southern outskirts of Damascus on Sunday.
The news agency SANA reported that explosions can be heard in this area. According to the agency, the air defenses successfully repelled the enemy targets coming out of the Golan Heights at 2:22. The TV channel Al Arabiya reported, citing the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, that the attack was carried out against Hezbollah’s base and arms depots.
TEL AVIV, May 19 -- Duncan Laurence of the Netherlands has won Eurovision 2019 contest with his song "Arcade," receiving 492 points, the presenters declared at the final which is taking place overnight into Sunday in Tel Aviv.
Mahmood from Italy won the second place (465 points), and Russian performer Sergey Lazarev won the third place (369 points) with his song "Scream" after the viewers’ voting and the jury voting. Duncan Laurence was the bookmakers’ favorite, who said his victory was more than 40% probable. So, the bookmakers guessed Eurovision’s result for the first time in four years. There were no visual effects in Laurence’s performance. He performed his song at the piano. Representatives for 26 countries met at the contest’s final. The sum of points received from the viewers’ voting and the jury voting determined the winner. The Belarusian jury were barred from the voting due to the dissemination of information about the voting results.
JERUZALEM, May 14 -- As Apple rolled out an advertising campaign last month touting the impenetrability of the iPhone — “Privacy. That’s iPhone”, the commercials promised a secretive Israeli company called in its sales people to talk about an important update designed to thwart that very privacy.
According to one person at the meeting, the executives from NSO Group made a bold claim: using just one simple missed call on WhatsApp, it had figured out a way to “drop its payload”, a piece of software called Pegasus that can penetrate the darkest secrets of any iPhone. Within minutes of the missed call, the phone starts revealing its encrypted content, mirrored on a computer screen halfway across the world. It then transmits back the most intimate details such as private messages or location, and even turns on the camera and microphone to live-stream meetings. The software itself is not new — it was the latest upgrade to a decade-old technology so powerful that the Israeli defence ministry regulates its sale. But the WhatsApp hack was an enticing new “attack vector”, the person says. “Great from a sales point.”
It was an illustration of the sales pitch that NSO has made to governments around the world — and which have helped give a tiny and discreet company a market valuation of around $1bn. NSO’s few hundred engineers claim they have managed to manoeuvre around whatever obstacle Apple, the world’s most valuable company, has thrown in its way. Apple declined to comment for this article. At an investor presentation in London in April, the company bragged that the typical security patches from Apple do not address the “weaknesses exploited by Pegasus”, according to an unimpressed potential investor. Despite the annual software updates unveiled by companies such as Apple, NSO had a “proven record” of identifying new weaknesses, the company representative told attendees. NSO’s pitch has been a runaway success — allowing governments to buy off the shelf the sort of software that was once thought to be restricted to only the most sophisticated spy agencies, such as GCHQ in the UK and the National Security Agency in America. The sale of such powerful and controversial technologies also gives Israel an important diplomatic calling card. Through Pegasus, Israel has acquired a major presence — official or not — in the deeply classified war rooms of unlikely partners, including, researchers say, Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Although both countries officially reject the existence of the Jewish state, they now find themselves the subject of a charm offensive by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that mixes a shared hostility to Iran with intelligence knowhow. The Israeli government has never talked publicly about its relationship with NSO. Shortly after he stepped down as defence minister in November, Avigdor Lieberman, who had responsibility for regulating NSO’s sales, said: “I am not sure now is the right time to discuss this . . . I think that I have a responsibility for the security of our state, for future relations.” But he added: “It is not a secret today that we have contact with all the moderate Arab world. I think it is good news.”
JERUZALEM, May 13 -- President of the State of Palestine Mahmoud Abbas expects to hold a bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Meeting on Cooperation and Confidence Measures in Asia in Dushanbe on June 15, Palestine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Riyad al-Maliki said.
"I expect that it will happen the next month in Tajikistan, where a summit on cooperation and confidence measures in Asia will be held," he said. "As far as we understand, President Putin will participate in it, and our president will also be there. We are working to organize their meeting during the summit."
The Kremlin has not officially announced yet that Putin is planning to meet with Abbas in Dushanbe. Riyad al-Maliki reiterated that his last meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was held two weeks ago on the sidelines of the Russian-Arab Cooperation Forum. "We discussed the situation in Palestine, the Israeli position on the so-called occupied territories, and the expected deal of the century (the US’ proposal on the Palestinian-Israeli settlement)," the minister stated. It was especially important to him "that Lavrov affirmed that the Russian side will not recognize ‘the deal of the century’ in case it violates the earlier reached multilateral agreements," he said. "The Russian representatives explained that their position coincides with the UN’s stance, with the resolutions of the Security Council and the General Assembly and they expect the other states to respect them," the minister noted.
JERUSALEM, April 7 -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that he would annex illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank if he wins another term in office, in an attempt to win over right-wing voters.
He made the statement in -an interview with Israeli Channel 12 News on Saturday, three days before the April 9 election. Reuters news agency reported that he was asked why he had not extended sovereignty to West Bank settlements since Israel had annexed East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights without international recognition during the 1967 war. "Who says that we won't do it? We are on the way and we are discussing it," Netanyahu said. "You are asking whether we are moving on to the next stage - the answer is yes, we will move to the next stage. I am going to extend [Israeli] sovereignty and I don't distinguish between settlement blocs and the isolated settlements." Mitchell Barak, an Israeli political pollster and analyst, said he classifies Netanyahu's comments as nothing more than election talk. "Whatever happens in the election, stays in the election. I don't think he has any real intention of [annexing settlements]. We don't know. It's highly unlikely that this will turn into policy," Barak said. "If voters see him embracing this policy, they may move to vote for him, but it's nothing more than an election gimmick at this point."
However, many Palestinians have been taking his words seriously, including Aida Touma-Suleiman, a member of the Knesset (MK) running for the joint Arab Haddash-Ta'al party. On the eve of the last election in 2015, Netanyahu similarly made waves by stating that if he returned to the office he would never establish a Palestinian state, reversing his previous endorsement of a two-state solution. Since then, he has done precisely what he said, Touma-Suleiman said. "Everyone thought it was election talk. But for four years he has step by step almost accomplished the mission he stated … In my opinion, he is going to annex the settlements," Touma-Suleiman said. "I hope we'll be able to see a government that's more rational at least. I don't believe that Benny Gantz is an alternative. I don't believe that generals will bring hope to this country but I can see the damage that Netanyahu is doing, which is long-term damage and I would like to see it stopped immediately."
TEL AVIV, March 25 -- Seven Israeli citizens were hospitalized with injuries of varying severity on Monday after a rocket was launched from the Gaza Strip that hit a residential building in the moshav of Mishmeret in Central Israel, the national medical service, Magen David Adom, reported.
"Seven people were evacuated to a hospital with injuries: a 60-year-old woman in moderate condition with shrapnel wounds and burns, a 30-year-old woman in moderate condition with shrapnel wounds to her leg, as well as five more wounded including children aged 12, 3 and 6 months," the service’s communique reads. Earlier, the Israeli military reported that they had detected a missile launch in the Gaza Strip aimed at Central Israel. "After the reports of air raid sirens having been triggered on the Sharon plain (north of Tel Aviv) we detected a missile that had been fired from the Gaza Strip," the army press service said. The military previously reported that sirens had been triggered on the Sharon plain, in the Hefer Valley Regional Council. The police press service said that the missile had hit a residential building in the Mishmeret moshav, sparking a fire.
For first time since 2014 - when Israel launched a 50-day long operation dubbed Protective Edge - on March 14, air raid sirens went off in the greater Tel Aviv region. The military then said that two missile were launched towards Tel Aviv, with no casualties reported. The Iron Dome missile defense system didn't intercept the rockets, while Israel in retaliation hit a few dozen military targets in the Gaza Strip, the army press service also added.
KUALA LUMPUR, March 24 -- The J-10 “Vigorous Dragon” is a mainstay of China’s effort to modernize its large fleet of single-engine jet fighters, with 350 already in service.
An agile tactical fighter similar to the ubiquitous F-16 Fighting Falcon , the Vigorous Dragon was the first domestic Chinese design roughly on par with Western and Russian fourth-generation fighters . However, there is considerable evidence that the J-10’s development was heavily informed by a jet fighter developed by Israel with U.S. engines in the 1980s. Israel first manufactured its own jets after its order of French Dassault Mirage Vs was embargoed in 1967. Israeli agents obtained Mirage V schematics (and most likely manufacturing components and even airframes), allowing Israel Aerospace Industries to produce two domestic clones: the Nesher and the improved Kfir. These both served with the IAF and were exported broad.
Mayor of New York City Robert Anderson Van Wyck breaks ground for a new underground "Rapid Transit Railroad" that would link Manhattan and Brooklyn. Between 1969–1979, the IAF received high-performance twin-engine F-4 Phantom fighters and F-15 Eagles from the United States. However, it still wanted a cheaper single-engine tactical fighter to replace its increasingly vulnerable A-4 Skyhawk and Nesher jets. So why not also build the Nesher’s replacement domestically? The resulting dapper IAI Lavi (Lion Cub) had delta-wings (good for high-speed performance) combined with canards, a second set of small wings near the nose for improved lift and maneuverability. The Lion Cub was so maneuverable it was aerodynamically unstable, but an advanced quadruple-redundant fly-by-wire flight control system counter-acted the instability. Composite materials were extensively incorporated to lower the Lavi’s weight down to just 7.25-tons empty. A compact Pratt & Whitney 1120 turbofan slung under the belly delivered large amounts of thrust, allowing the little Lavi to fly far and fast carrying up to a sixteen-thousand-pound payload. In fact, with the exception of the canards, the Lavi closely resembled in appearance and capability the U.S.-built F-16s that entered Israeli Air Force service in 1980. These soon saw extensive combat service, destroying the Iraqi Osirak nuclear reactor and shooting down over forty Syrian fighters over Lebanon without loss.
Israeli and U.S. critics of the Lavi pointed out Israel was investing $2 billion in development costs to reinvent an airplane it had already bought from the United States. The more ground-attack oriented Lavi did differ in a few respects, however. It had a lower maximum speed of Mach 1.6-1.8 compared to the Falcon’s Mach 2, but had 50 percent longer range. It also had a powerful internal mounted jamming system for self-protection. The Lavi’s Israeli-designed avionics were comparable to the later F-16C model than the more rudimentary F-16A. owever, by the 1980s jet fighter development costs had grown exponentially as they grew more and more sophisticated; and, unlike the Nesher and Kfir, the Lavi was not cloned from an existing design. IAI hoped to make back the costs by exporting the Lavi, particularly to states facing embargoes due to poor human-rights records such as Apartheid-era South Africa, Chile and Argentina. But the U.S., provider of 40 percent of the Lavi components, didn’t want to subsidize a competitor for the F-16. Washington signaled it would only cooperate if Israel refrained from exporting the Lavi. By 1987 IAI had built two flying two-seat Lavi prototypes which demonstrated excellent performance in eighty-two test flights. Three more were under construction. It had also tested the PW1120 turbofans on an F-4 ‘Super Phantom’ which demonstrated such extraordinary performance it even flew a demo at the Paris Air Show and was briefly considered for export. However, the extraordinary financial commitments the Lavi entailed made it extremely politically divisive. On August 30, in an 11-12 vote, the Israeli cabinet canceled the Lavi. Ninety additional F-16s were procured instead.
From Israel to China
Thus ended Israel’s production of domestic jet fighters—but not of advanced weapons and components for jet fighters, which was greatly boosted by technologies developed for the Lavi. One notable export was the Python-3 heat-seeking missile, which boasted the then still-rare ability to engage planes from any aspect using a helmet-mounted sight. The technology was licensed for production by China’s Xi’an Aircraft Corporation in 1989 as the PL-8 missile, which remains in service today. Other technologies transferred include the E/LM-2035 doppler radar (derivatives installed on the J-8 and J-10 fighter) and the Tamam inertial navigation system. In fact, during the 1980s, the U.S. and Western Europe were also exporting military technology to China, then seen as a counter-balance to the Soviet Union. U.S. firms even explored co-developing updated J-7 and J-8 fighters for Beijing. However, Chinese-Western defense cooperation ended abruptly following the Tiananmen Square massacre on June 4, 1989. However, in the mid-1990s, U.S. newspapers began reporting that intelligence agencies were concerned about continued Israeli technology transfers to China—including some components given to Israel by the United States. This included allegations that Israel had transferred Lavi technology for China’s program to develop a fourth-generation jet fighter. The Chengdu Aircraft Corporation had begun work on the J-10 in 1988 under engineer Song Wecong, who can be seen next to a Lavi in this photo (fourth from the right).
In his book Lavi: the United States, Israel and a Controversial Fighter, John W. Golan wrote:
Israeli involvement in the J-10 appears to have begun at around the same time that China first opened diplomatic relations with Israel in January 1992 . . . Israeli contractors were engaged to provide the aerodynamic and structural outlines for the J-10. The Israeli influences on the J-10’s design are unmistakable: a close-coupled, canard-delta arrangement; a single-engine fighter featuring a ventral engine inlet; twin ventral strakes; and an area-ruled fuselage. You can see the striking resemblance in these photo comparisons. Concerns over Israel-China technology transfers spurred Congress to ban exporting the hi-tech F-22 Raptor stealth fighter . Unfortunately, the lack of export orders combined with later defense spending cuts, led to the premature closure of the F-22s production line . In its final years, the Clinton administration also blocked Israel from exporting its Phalcon airborne early-warning aircraft, forcing China to spend years domestically developing a wide variety of its own AEW aircraft. According to Golan, “Israeli involvement in the J-10 program appears to have been curtailed at around the same time, with Russia stepping in to market Soviet-developed avionics systems to supply production versions of the aircraft.” Both Song and IAI officials have staunchly denied collaboration in the J-10’s development. However, in 2008, Jane’s reported that in extended interviews with several visiting Russian engineers that Chengdu “benefited from significant, direct input from Israel's Lavi programme - including access to the Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) Lavi aircraft itself . . . This has included extensive design and performance modeling, wind-tunnel testing and advanced aerodynamic design input . . . Jane's was told how Chengdu officials of the highest level stated how they had one of the IAI Lavi prototypes in their facilities.” Hypothetically, Jane’s Russian sources may have been spreading misinformation. Russia’s aviation industry has a decidedly love-hate relationship with China. However, if Israel did transfer Lavi technology to China—both parties would have strong incentives to deny it. At any rate, the J-10 is more inspired by the Lavi than an outright clone. It is significantly longer and heavier, and has different wings. In his book, Golan explains that China lacked access to the compact PW1120 engine and the capability for wide-scale manufacturing of lightweight composite components. (China finally achieved the latter with the Y-20 transport plane .) Therefore, Song had to lengthen the J-10’s fuselage by two meters to accommodate a Russian AL-31F turbofan, resulting in an 11.75-ton jet.
Nonetheless, the J-10 remain an agile, versatile and inexpensive multirole fighter designed from the outset to incorporate hi-tech avionic systems and guided weapons. Though not a cutting-edge stealth aircraft , it marked an important milestone in China’s military modernization—achieved, most likely, with a little foreign assistance.