Amos Harel/Netanyahu’s UN Intel Reveal Forces Hezbollah to Reconsider Beirut Missile Sites عاموس هاريل من الهآررتس: كشف نتانياهو لمواقع صناعة صواريخ لحزب الله بالقرب من مطار بيروت يجبر الحزب على اعادة النظر في مواقع تخزين وصناعة صواريخه

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Analysis/Netanyahu’s UN Intel Reveal Forces Hezbollah to Reconsider Beirut Missile Sites
عاموس هاريل من الهآررتس: كشف نتانياهو لمواقع صناعة صواريخ لحزب الله بالقرب من مطار بيروت يجبر الحزب على اعادة النظر في مواقع تخزين وصناعة صواريخه
Amos Harel/Haaretz/September 29/18

Between Palestinians and Hezbollah, Israel tries to steer clear of an October surprise ■ As 2019 nears, IDF assessment sees improved strategic balance, but warning signs are already flashing ■ Israel may not see a new army chief any time soon

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to the UN General Assembly on Thursday refined all the trends of his recent appearances in this forum: impressive rhetoric, an aggressive stance on security, as well as new and detailed intelligence information.

Netanyahu, more than in the past – and certainly more than his predecessors – intentionally blurs the lines that once separated intelligence work from the diplomatic and public-relations offensive. The material is quickly translated into steps seeking to attain practical results. Netanyahu’s tactic certainly sends fear down the spines of the elders of Israel’s intelligence community, but it’s hard to ignore its rapid effect on the international agenda.

The new intelligence that Netanyahu presented included two main discoveries. In a secret facility in Tehran, Iran is hiding large quantities of materials that can be used to make nuclear bombs. This information comes from the Mossad, Netanyahu reported. Meanwhile, in the heart of Beirut, Hezbollah is building, with Iran’s support, sites to improve the precision of its missiles. The source of this information is the Israel Defense Forces.

Netanyahu’s messages were directed in large part at the International Atomic Energy Agency, stressing the need to keep putting pressure on Iran because of its violations of the 2015 nuclear deal. Also, Hezbollah now knows that Israel might later act against sites the organization thought were secret. And now everyday Iranians in Tehran and Lebanese in Beirut know that dangerous facilities are being built in their own neighborhoods.

The exposure of the missile sites in Beirut continues the campaign of recent years against Hezbollah’s growing strength. This is mostly against the group’s project to obtain those precision-guided missiles – efforts, with Iran’s help, to upgrade its rockets and missiles in a way that would let it, during a war, systematically attack Israeli military and infrastructure targets.

The Israel Air Force’s attack on September 16 in Latakia in northwest Syria, during which a Russian spy plane was shot down by Syrian anti-aircraft missiles, was also directed against smuggling from Latakia to the Beirut area of components for the precision-missile project. In recent months, Western media outlets have published a raft of information on the civilian flights the Iranians have used to move this technology to Damascus and Beirut.

Netanyahu backed his statements with aerial photographs and other information released by the IDF. Israel revealed the final destination of the precision-missile project: three sites in Beirut, where Hezbollah, with Iranian help, would be able to upgrade its missiles close to home, instead of relying on a smuggling route through Iraq and Syria that has been under frequent attack.

The IDF says Hezbollah is still working intensely on the process. The weapons plants, which have not yet become efficient industrial production lines, are under a soccer stadium in a residential neighborhood, less than a kilometer (0.6 miles) from Beirut’s international airport.

The public warning will now require Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah to reconsider the project. Netanyahu didn’t make a direct threat to attack, but the exposure hints that Israel might attack – as it has done against Iranian sites in Syria. Still, what’s hanging in the balance is even more critical. Hezbollah has declared many times that an Israeli strike against it inside Lebanon, as opposed to the bombing of convoys in Syria, will lead to war.

Narrowing margin of error
At the end of last year, Military Intelligence placed a pessimistic forecast on the table of the cabinet and security cabinet. The heightened military friction with Iran in Syria, along with the grave infrastructure situation in the Gaza Strip, have increased the risk in the year ahead of an unplanned war due to a miscalculation or local incident, MI said in a report. The situation was most sensitive in May amid the Iranian threats of revenge against Israel for its attacks in Syria, the transfer of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and the Palestinians’ violent demonstrations at the Gaza border.

The situation calmed down somewhat during the summer because of Israel’s resolve on both fronts. Iran scaled back its rhetoric a bit, and the United Nations, Egypt and Qatar bolstered efforts to achieve a long-term arrangement for Gaza, which so far has yielded only a partial cease-fire.

As October looms, and all the more so as the new year approaches, warning signs are reappearing. Lebanon is a new focus of concern. Along with the weapons plants, tensions might arise over the fence the IDF is building at a number of points along the border. In the next few weeks, the planned work on the barrier will reach two areas where the border is in dispute, near Kibbutz Misgav Am and east of Rosh Hanikra.

But the real ticking bomb remains the Palestinian arena, most potently the Gaza Strip but the West Bank as well. Two weeks ago, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot warned the security cabinet about a growing risk of escalation in the Palestinian territories. The reconciliation effort between the two Palestinian camps has run aground, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is frustrated by the U.S. sanctions against him and the total stalemate in the peace process, despite the renewed interest that U.S. President Donald Trump has suddenly showed, in his inimitable convoluted way, in the two-state solution. On top of that, Gaza’s Health Ministry said seven Palestinians were killed, including two boys age 12 and 14, by Israeli fire during clashes along the border Friday.

On Thursday, in what is something of an exception, we received good news from New York. At the conference of nations that donate aid to the Palestinians, which is held alongside the annual UN General Assembly, a preliminary agreement was reached that could ease the electricity shortage in Gaza, at least slightly.

After months of discussions, the special UN representative to the Middle East, Nickolay Mladenov, has reached something of a breakthrough. It looks as if Qatar will agree to join up and finance the supply of fuel for Gaza’s power plant. This means, or so everyone hopes, a significant increase in the power supply to the Strip to eight hours from four.

The Qatari aid is estimated to be in the tens of millions of dollars. But the recent harsh reports on Gaza’s infrastructure attest to the urgent need for additional economic aid.

Thus, the IDF’s conclusions as 2019 looms: Israel’s strategic balance has improved given its military power and strategic alliance with the United States, and to a lesser degree with some of the region’s Sunni Arab countries.

But Israel’s margins of error are narrower than they were, and the region is in a state of tremendous volatility. This year, despite the security tension, Israelis’ feelings of security have remained solid, and the economy continued to grow. But maintaining those achievements next year looks to be much more difficult.

Friday morning shock waves
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman is no longer trying to hide the disagreement: Netanyahu wants to appoint Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir as the next IDF chief of staff, and Lieberman opposes this choice, reported Ben Caspit in Maariv on Friday. Lieberman wants to promote Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon to the post, or, it seems as his second choice, Deputy Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi.

The next three weeks are key. If in mid-October Netanyahu announces early elections, as rumor has it, it’s possible the appointment of the new chief of staff to replace Eisenkot will be postponed until after the vote; that is, until the spring. The same goes for the appointment of a new police commissioner to replace Roni Alsheich

After the elections, the negotiating strength of all the sides will change. If Netanyahu wins big, as most opinion polls show, his ability to influence these senior appointments will grow. And it’s not at all certain that Lieberman, or Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, will remain in their posts. Presumably this is the reason for the timing of Caspit’s article on the appointment. If it’s true that Netanyahu and Lieberman don’t agree on the appointment of the new chief of staff, it would be better for Lieberman to bring the matter to a head now and try to force a decision.

Netanyahu, unlike during his first term as prime minister in the late ‘90s and immediately after his return about a decade ago, tends to be more deeply involved in appointments of senior officials. Also unlike the past, he’s in no hurry to accept the recommendations of the minister in charge or approve anyone perceived as the “natural candidate” by the organization in which he serves.

Caspit’s article also sent shock waves through the General Staff on Friday morning. Zamir is considered a talented and decent officer, but his appointment as chief of staff over more veteran generals would be met with criticism. This is partly because he has served as Netanyahu’s military secretary, though unlike other officers who have held the post, Zamir was careful not to sully himself in politics.

Then there’s of course the question of experience. Zamir has only served in two positions as a major general: as Netanyahu’s military secretary – therefore with no active membership in the General Staff – and as Southern Command chief. Kochavi has headed Military Intelligence and Northern Command, and has been deputy chief of staff, while Alon has headed the Central Command and the Operations Directorate.

Caspit’s article will now make the race for chief of staff even more frantic and could introduce a bad atmosphere, something the four candidates (the fourth is Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, whose chances are considered slim) have been very careful to avoid.

For no fault of his own, Zamir will suffer for being “Netanyahu’s man.” Alon may very well face a campaign by the settlers against him. And Kochavi, the most experienced of the bunch, will now be seen as a compromise candidate who may be the default choice. Whoever wins will reach the finish line bruised but owing gratitude to Netanyahu. Maybe that was really the idea after all.

Time on his hands
Two weeks have passed since the resignation of the two representatives of the public appointed by Netanyahu to the advisory committee for vetting senior civil service appointments. But even though high-level appointments await decisions and approval – like the IDF chief of staff and police commissioner – Netanyahu has yet to announce who will replace those two representatives.

The apparent disagreement with Lieberman, with a possible early election in the background, could conceivably leave Netanyahu seeking to extend Eisenkot’s term by a few months; his term ends on January 1.

A short summary of the previous episodes: Netanyahu appointed to the civil service appointments panel Brig. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Nagel, a former deputy National Security Adviser, and Iris Stark, the new president of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants in Israel.

A nonprofit group, the Movement for Integrity, petitioned the High Court of Justice against the appointments on the grounds that the two are close to the prime minister. The court held a hearing on the petition this month; the justices hinted that they weren’t comfortable with the appointments. Immediately after Rosh Hashanah, Nagel and Stark announced that they were withdrawing their candidacies.

Since then, Netanyahu has gone off to New York to speak at the United Nations, amid the crisis with Russia over the downing of the spy plane. Netanyahu returns from the United States only on Sunday, and government ministries won’t resume full work until Tuesday after the Simhat Torah holiday. On October 15, the Knesset’s winter session opens, with the unresolved crisis over drafting ultra-Orthodox young men into the IDF in the background. Netanyahu is considering calling for early elections in mid-October, which would be held early in 2019.

If that’s what happens, a further delay in the senior appointments is possible. Four years ago, then-Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein offered a strict interpretation that curbs a lame-duck government during an election period. At the time, Weinstein delayed the appointment of the new police commissioner.

The question now is what the current attorney general, Avichai Mendelblit, will decide concerning the appointment of the IDF chief. In any event, it’s clear that the time for appointing the chief of staff and police commissioner is dwindling, though that might be less the fruit of calculated planning and more Netanyahu having a lot on his plate, and his tendency to procrastinate regarding appointments.

As Haaretz reported in June, the possibility of extending Eisenkot’s term came up a few months ago amid the tensions on the Syrian front and the clashes on the Gaza border. Eisenkot had his reservations and told various forums he intended to complete his tenure as scheduled; this would give his successor full input regarding the IDF’s work plan for 2019.

Regarding the new police commissioner, the appointment comes at a sensitive time for Netanyahu in light of the corruption investigations against him and his wife. Protocol stipulates that if no new chief is appointed, the cabinet may vote to make the deputy commissioner acting commissioner. Alsheich’s term ends in December, after Erdan decided not to extend his term.

*Amos Harel/Amos Harel

Israeli Army Publishes Report on Hezbollah Sites in Beirut Neighborhoods, Near Airport
Beirut, Tel Aviv/Asharq Al- Awsat and Nazir Majli/Saturday, 29 September, 2018
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed, during a speech Thursday at the United Nations General Assembly, to have located three Hezbollah precision missile sites near Beirut’s airport.
“Israel knows where you’re doing it, and Israel will not let you get away with it,” he said. The Israeli army spokesman published a report backed by video clips and photographs that he said were taken by Israeli satellites, claiming that Hezbollah military sites were in the heart of the Lebanese capital, in a number of neighborhoods, and adjacent to the Rafik Hariri International Airport. The Israeli military spokesman said that Hezbollah was trying in the last year to set up an infrastructure to turn surface-to-surface missiles into precision rockets in the neighborhood of Ouzai, adjacent to Beirut airport. The Israeli report pointed to three sites used by Hezbollah. One of the alleged sites is located under a soccer field used by a Hezbollah-sponsored team; another is just north of the Rafik Hariri International Airport; and the third is underneath the Beirut port and less than 500 meters from the airport’s tarmac. Meanwhile, Lebanese President Michel Aoun ruled out that recent Israeli threats to Lebanon would lead to an escalation on the Lebanese front. “We will defend Lebanon by all means available to us,” he said, underlining Lebanon’s commitment to the UN-sponsored ceasefire agreement. “We will not start using any weapons against Israel and we are committed to the UN-sponsored ceasefire agreement,” Aoun said in remarks to the Russian government-funded news outlet Russia Today, as reported by the presidential office.

بعد التصعيد… هل تضرب اسرائيل لبنان؟
“الراي الكويتية” – 29 أيلول 2018/عَكَسَ «التدافُعُ الخشنُ» على «مثلّث» التوتر العالي في المنطقة والمحكوم باستقطابات الحدّ الأقصى، حساسية «المسرح السياسي» الذي تدور عليه معركة تأليف الحكومة الجديدة في لبنان. واقتحمتْ «مضبطةُ الاتهام» الاسرائيلية لـ «حزب الله» ومن على منبر الأمم المتحدة ثم بلسان القيادة العسكرية حول استخدامِه محيط مطار بيروت الدولي لتخزين جزء من منظومته الصاروخية الدقيقة وتطوير مقذوفاتٍ غير دقيقة الى أخرى أكثر دقة المَشهدَ اللبناني في غمرة استمرار «الأبواب الموصدة» بوجه الملف الحكومي الذي يدور في مكانه منذ 24 مايو الماضي. وتمّ التعاطي في بيروت مع الاندفاعة ضدّ «حزب الله» على أنها، إما في سياق رفْع الضغط على الحزب بعد إعلان أمينه العام السيد حسن نصرالله ان «المهمة أٌنجزت وأصبحنا نملك ما يكفي من الصواريخ الدقيقة»، وإما في إطار «مراكَمة إعلامية» تمهيداً لعملٍ عسكري، ولا سيما أن المزاعم الاسرائيلية جاءت بعد نحو 3 أسابيع من تقرير لقناة «فوكس نيوز» نقل عن مصادر استخباراتية غربية ان إيران تهرّب الأسلحة إلى «حزب الله» من خلال «شركات طيران مدنية» (سمّت خطوط «قشم فارس») حملت في يوليو واغسطس الماضيين مكوّنات لتصنيع أسلحة دقيقة في مصانع إيرانية داخل لبنان. وإذا كانت حسابات أي ضربة اسرائيلية لمواقع الصواريخ المفترضة ترتبط بـ «توازن الردع» الذي أرساه «حزب الله» والذي يمكن ان يجعل أي استهداف للحزب في لبنان يفجّر «الحرب الأخيرة»، فإن التماهي اللبناني الرسمي مع الحزب والذي عبّر عنه الرئيس ميشال عون، يجعل أوساطاً مطلعة تبدي خشية كبيرة من ان يدفع كل لبنان ثمن تضييق الخناق الذي يتصاعد على الحزب، الذي يواجه اتجاهاً بريطانياً غير مسبوق، لحظره. وفيما اكتفى وزير «حزب الله» محمد فنيش بالقول، «لنترك نتنياهو مع أكاذيبه وأوهامه. والمقاومة لديها قدراتها كما عبّر الأمين العام، والاسرائيلي يعرف تماماً ماذا ينتظره إذا أقدم على اي عدوان ضدّ لبنان، واذا لم يعرف فسيتفاجأ»، رد وزير الخارجية جبران باسيل بتغريدة قال فيها: «ها هي اسرائيل مجدداً تختلق الذرائع لتبرّر الاعتداء، ومن على منبر الشرعية الدولية تحضّر لانتهاك سيادة الدول، متناسيةً ان لبنان دحرها وهزم عدوانها وغافلةً ان غطرستها و(صداقاتها الجديدة) مجدداً لن تنفعها». وفي موازاة ذلك، يجري رصْد إذا كان هذا الضغط الخارجي المتصاعد على حزب الله و«ارتفاع المَخاطر» سيجعل الأخير يتشدّد أكثر في الملف الحكومي أو يدْفع في اتجاه الإسراع بالتأليف لتكوين «شبكة أمان» تكون بمثابة «واقي صدمات»، وسط اقتناع الأوساط السياسية ان طرح تشكيل حكومة «امر واقع» او «حكومة أكثرية بمَن حضر» كما لوّح عون مسألةً غير قابلة للتحقق، ليس فقط لأن التوازنات لا تسمح بذلك، بل أيضاً لأن «حزب الله» من مصلحته وجود حكومة وحدة وطنية، وإذا لم يكن راغباً بالضغط في اتجاه تسهيل ولادة الحكومة فإن لا مصلحة له بالتأكيد بإشعال جبهاتٍ داخلية تجعل ظهْره مكشوفاً.

إتهام إسرائيل الأخير لـ”حزب الله”.. مقدّمة للأسوأ؟.
وكالات ومواقع الأكترونية/29 أيلول/18/”في تطور لافت، اتهمت إسرائيل “حزب الله” بإنشاء بنية تحتية لتطوير الصواريخ في بيروت بتمويل إيراني. ونشر الجيش الاسرائيلي صوراً وفيديو لِما قال انها “بنية تحتية في حي الأوزاعي المجاور ل‍مطار بيروت الدولي، لتحويل صواريخ أرض – أرض إلى صواريخ دقيقة”. وفيما ذهبت بعض القراءات لهذا الحدث الى حد عدم استبعاد ان تكون إثارة اسرائيل لهذه المسألة مقدمة لِما هو أخطر، قالت اوساط الحزب انه يقارب هذا الأمر بما يناسبه، ولاحظت انه يشكّل في جانب منه استكمالاً للمسار التحريضي على “حزب الله” الذي بدأ اخيراً في الامم المتحدة. ورداً على سؤال قالت الاوساط: “انّ المواجهة مستمرة ولا تتوقف مع اسرائيل، وهي تدرك جيداً انّ كلفة استهدافها ل‍لبنان عالية جداً، فالحزب وضع معادلة عندما تضرب نَضرب، الهدف بالهدف، الضربة بالضربة بحجمها ومستواها، اسرائيل أكثر من يدرك مخاطر الانزلاق الى تصعيد كبير، وبالتالي لا نعتقد انها ستذهب الى التصعيد، فما تقوم به اليوم هو التحريض”. ورداً على سؤال آخر، لفتت الاوساط الى “انّ هناك سلسلة مترابطة، تبدأ من العقوبات على الحزب، وصولاً الى محاولة تحريض اللبنانيين عليه، وإثارة البلبلة”.

روسيا تحذر ‘اسرائيل’ من توجيه ضربات عسكرية ضد لبنان.
وكالات ومواقع الأكترونية/29 أيلول/18/حذرت روسيا على لسان وزير خارجيتها سرغي لافروف طيان الاحتلال الاسرائيلي من توجيه ضربات عسكرية ضد لبنان . ونقلت وكالة “سبوتنيك” الروسية عن لافروف قوله في مؤتمر صحفي على هامش أعمال الدورة الثالثة والسبعين للجمعية العامة للأمم المتحدة، ردا على سؤال عما إذا كان كيان الاحتلال سيضرب في محيط مطار بيروت بسبب زعم سلطات الاحتلال وجود صواريخ لحزب الله: “سيكون هذا انتهاكا خطيرا للقانون الدولي وسنعارض بشدة مثل هذه الإجراءات، لكننا نحذر من أي انتهاكات مهما تكن لقرارات مجلس الأمن في الأمم المتحدة”. وفيما يخص مخاوف كيان الاحتلال بشأن التواجد الإيراني في سوريا، أضاف وزير الخارجية الروسي، “عندما أعربت “إسرائيل” عن قلقها من أن الوحدات الإيرانية أو الموالية لإيران كانت في الواقع على الخط الفصل في مرتفعات الجولان، توصلنا إلى تفاهم، خاصة أنه في ذلك الوقت تم تحرير منطقة خفض التصعيد الجنوبية من الإرهابيين، وتراجعت الوحدات الإيرانية أكثر من 100 كيلومتر كما طلب منا الإسرائيليون، والأميركيون”.