News Digest — 10/21/19

Syrian Kurdish Military Official Calls On Israel To Take Action Against Turkey

An official in the Syrian Democratic Forces called on Israel Monday (21st) to take action against Turkey’s military incursion into northern Syria.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also expressed confidence that the Jewish people would not neglect the plight of Kurds in northern Syria, invoking its history of persecution.

“The State of Israel must work to put an end to this war that is killing women and children and expelling civilians from their homes,” the official told the Times of Israel in a text message.

Ankara launched a cross-border attack against Syria’s Kurds on October 9 after the US announced a military pullout from the north of the war-torn country.

Last Thursday (17th), however, a US-brokered ceasefire was declared, giving the SDF until Tuesday evening (22nd) to withdraw from a 20-mile buffer zone Turkey wants to create along its southern frontier.

Despite the announcement of the ceasefire, some fighting between Turkish and SDF forces has continued.

“I am certain that the Jewish people understand the situation of the Kurdish people best because it lived these types of dangers throughout much of its history.  I’m sure it will not stand by idly as our region faces Turkey’s terror,” the SDF official said.

Since Turkey commenced its invasion, more than 300,000 civilians have been displaced, according to Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

On October 10, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “Israel strongly condemns the Turkish invasion of the Kurdish areas in Syria and warns against the ethnic-cleansing of the Kurds by Turkey and its proxies.  Israel is prepared to extend humanitarian assistance to the gallant Kurdish people.”



Tunisia’s New President Regards Any Ties With Israel As ‘High Treason’

Tunisia’s new president is a hardline opponent of any form of ties with Israel and recently called moves toward relations with the Jewish state “high treason.”

Kais Saied was the clear winner of last week’s second and final round of the North African country’s presidential elections, beating rival Nabil Karoni with 77% of the votes.

Before the election, in the final televised presidential debate, Saied became animated when moderators asked about his stance on normalization of relations with Israel, a sensitive issues in the Arab and Muslim world.

“Normalization is the wrong word to use,” he retorted.  “We should be talking about high treason.”

That is a common Arab nationalist position that ended up earning him praise among supporters and voters.

Tunisia currently has no diplomatic relations with Israel.  Its parliament was due to vote last year on a draft law criminalizing ties with Jerusalem, but the proposal did not get the endorsement of then-president Caid Essebsi, who died in Italy.

During the debate, Saied also said Tunisia was in a state of war with the Jewish state.

Born in Tunis February 22, 1958, into a middle-class family, Saied is an expert on constitutional law who taught at the Tunis faculty of judicial and political sciences from 1999-2018, but has no real experience in foreign policy.



How Israel Deters Iran – Evelyn Gordon

Israeli airstrikes in Syria seemed to be aimed solely at preventing Iran from establishing military infrastructure that could threaten Israel.  They were also sending an important deterrent message: If Tehran attacks Israel, Jerusalem will have no qualms about striking back. They may actually make war less likely by letting Tehran know that Jerusalem – unlike Saudi Arabia – won’t sit with folded hands if it suffers a significant Iranian attack like last month’s strike on Saudi oil facilities.

Israel is in a very different position from either Saudi Arabia or the Kurds because it has always insisted on defending itself by itself rather than expecting American soldiers to fight on its behalf.  Israel has a large army equipped with the best military gear American and Israeli ingenuity can devise, combined with, willingness to use it and experience in doing so.

Iran isn’t a superpower like the Soviet Union, which Israel had to rely on America to contain.  It’s a mere regional power, just like Israel. Moreover, the fact that the countries share no land border deprives Iran of its greatest advantage: its vastly bigger population, which enables it to field many more troops than Israel can.  Thus any fighting between Israel and Iran itself would be limited to air and missile battles, in which the superior equipment and skills of Israel’s air force provide a counterweight to Iran’s advantage in missiles.

Nevertheless, since an Israel-Iran war could wreak devastation on both countries, it’s much better to prevent it from occurring.  And that’s where all those Israeli airstrikes come in. Despite Iran’s willingness to engage in military provocations, it has shown no desire to risk serious military consequences on Iranian soil.



U.S. Army Chooses Israeli System To Protect The Lives Of Tank Crews

In recent days, Israeli defense corporation Rafael made a dramatic announcement, stating that it delivered on time the first batch of Trophy Active Protection Systems to the U.S. Army.  Trophy, a system that was first deployed by the Israel Defense Forces in 2011 and which has intercepted many threats fired at Israeli armored vehicles, will be eventually installed onboard four American M1 main battle tank brigades, for both the U.S. Army and Marine Corps.

The system has accumulated more than 600,000 operational hours and underwent 4,000 successful field tests.  It is now under contract for production for thousands of systems.

The U.S. Army is in a rush to install the system on its tanks because it wants to urgently send them to the European theater, according to a statement by American military officials who manage combat vehicle upgrades.  In the past, the United States spent a great deal of money trying to develop Active Protection Systems, but didn’t manage to find one it was satisfied with.

It therefore took a decision that is far from being a given and looked beyond American shores for a solution.

The armored brigades that will receive Trophy will take part in American deployments to Europe, dubbed “Operation Atlantic Resolve,” which began after Russia’s seizure of the Ukrainian Crimea region in 2014.  The United States is seeking to reassure European allies and deploys infantry and armored forces as a result.

Rafael has made major sales to America before, including Popeye air-to-surface missiles and electro-optic pods that help American aircraft gather critical intelligence.

“Active Protection” is a breakthrough technology – one that Israel developed from a painful lesson learned during the destruction of multiple tanks by Hezbollah missile cells in the 2006 Second Lebanon War.



Conductor Zubin Mehta Takes Final Bow With Israel Philharmonic

Superstar conductor Zubin Mehta, 83, took to the Tel Aviv stage on Sunday (20th) for his final performance as music director of the Israel Philharmonic, retiring after 50 years with the orchestra.

The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra appointed Mehta music advisor in 1969, music director in 1977, and music director for life in 1981.

His official biography says that during his tenure, “Mehta has conducted over 3,000 concerts with this extraordinary ensemble including tours spanning five continents.”

He was also music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic from 1962-78 and of the New York Philharmonic from 1978-91.

During his time in New York, he conducted more than 1,000 concerts, according to the New York Philharmonic website, which says his tenure “was the longest in the orchestra’s history.”

He has conducted other orchestras around the world including in Austria, Germany, and Italy.

Born in Mumbai, India, on April 29, 1936, Mehta grew up in a musical environment.

His father Mehli Mehta, founded the Bombay Symphony and was music director of the American Youth Sympathy in Los Angeles.  Together with his brother Zarin, Zubin is co-chairman of the Mehli Mehta Music Foundation in Mumbai, where children are educated in western classical music.