Fire Weaver vs. Arson Terror

The events of the last week in the south indicate that Israel and the Palestinians have embarked on a path of no return leading to a full head-on collision. Also, Israel seeks to position itself as a global power in the field of 'intelligent systems,' and the US faces a dilemma regarding the sale of F-35 stealth fighters to Turkey. Amir Rapaport's weekly column

Arson kite flyers in Gaza (Photo: IDF)

The Israeli defense establishment is currently investing a substantial effort in the development of the Fire Weaver system – one of the most creative projects of the Ministry of Defense, the IDF and the Israeli defense industries (mainly Rafael and Elbit Systems, in this case).

The project, as a whole, appears to hail from the worlds of computer games: it will enable warfighters at sea, in the air or on land to mark a pop-up type target using sighting crosshairs on a touchscreen, and the strike that would follow may come from anywhere. In an attempt to simplify the explanations regarding the new system, this process is normally referred to as a "Target Tender." Regardless of the element that had identified the target on the ground and placed the crosshairs on it, any IDF element operating in the area (or even at a distance) may engage the designated target using precision-guided munitions within seconds. Total destruction is almost assured.

Very soon, IDF warfighters will experiment with the Fire Weaver in the context of the major summer exercises. Fire Weaver is only one element in a range of 'fantasy world' weapon systems currently under development, most of which remain confidential for obvious reasons. This system, along with cyber warfare setups and creative intelligence collection methods (that are much more ingenious than recruiting agents such as former Israeli minister Gonen Segev – an affair that is admittedly important to public awareness but has produced only marginal damage), position the IDF at the forefront of global technology.

The major problem is that the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip position very primitive weapons opposite the most advanced technology. For example, after the IDF had developed the Iron Dome system against the "dumb" rockets, the Palestinians excavated the underground tunnels, which constituted the surprise of Operation Protective Edge of 2014.

Today, the IDF is close to eliminating the infrastructure of underground tunnels from the Gaza Strip (by the end of this year, according to the directive of the IDF Chief of Staff). In the meantime, however, thousands of flaming kite and helium-filled balloon launching teams took to the fields. The IDF already fired at some of the kite-flying teams earlier this week (prior to that, the IDF had dispatched drones to cut the drawstrings of the kites), but even if an Israeli solution to this nuisance is found eventually, a new primitive weapon will emerge in our theater.

Accordingly, in the duel between the Fire Weaver and the kites, one should view the broader picture. The most significant consequence of the events of the last week (including the massive IDF attacks in the Gaza Strip and the launching of rockets into Israeli territory), is that Israel and the Palestinians have embarked on a path of no return leading to a full head-on collision.

Pursuant to the fire exchanges of the last few weeks, Hamas no longer shows restraint following IDF attacks or blames Islamic Jihad for firing at Israel. Both parties issued a joint statement on Wednesday, pledging to attack Israel every time Israel has attacked targets inside the Gaza Strip.

This collision course, whose end is not yet clear (while it is reasonable to assume that its peak is still ahead), is similar, to a certain extent, to the process that takes place between Israel and Iran in Syria. Over there, too, the parties are committed to mutually contradicting policies, and it is safe to assume the last word is yet to be spoken. The commander of IDF Northern Command, Maj. Gen. Yoel Starik, said this week at a conference honoring the warfighters of 1948, that Iran still regards Syria as its outpost. Israel, for its part, is committed to preventing the Iranians from consolidating their position in Syria. In view of the above, it is very likely that the parties to the Syrian conflict, Iran and Israel, only delay the inevitable confrontation between them so as not to annoy the real boss in Syria – Russia. The Russians are totally immersed in hosting the 2018 FIFA World Cup games (the world press reported this week that Israel and Russia had reached an agreement regarding the alleged suspension of Israeli attacks during the tournament).

More is to come – in Syria as well as opposite Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The Island Dilemma

An out-of-the-box solution to the situation in the Gaza Strip can be a diplomatic solution – not just a military one. One of the creative ideas raised in this context was to build an island for the loading and unloading of goods, along with a passenger terminal opposite the Gaza Strip. The Ministry of Intelligence (whose minister happens to be the Minister of Transportation as well) is the government organ leading this initiative. Erecting a manmade island opposite the Gaza Strip in this format can relieve Israel of the international accusations regarding the so-called siege. As it stands now, the IDF and the Civil Administration support this initiative enthusiastically. The defense minister and the cabinet, however, are strongly against it. Naturally, the position of the minister and the cabinet prevails.

Intelligent Systems

Back to the fantasy world technology: Israel has consolidated its status as a global cyber power largely owing to the vision of the prime minister at the outset of the present decade. Back then, Benjamin Netanyahu had set a goal of establishing Israel as one of the three global leaders in the field of cyber. To a considerable extent, Israel has accomplished this goal.

Netanyahu has recently presented a new vision: establishing Israel as a global power – both economic and technological – in the field of Intelligent Systems. What exactly is the intelligent systems field and how could Israel become a leader in this field? A committee whose goal is to turn this new presumption into reality has started operating recently. Heading the committee are Maj. Gen. (res.) Professor Isaac Ben Israel, who consolidated the guidelines for the cybernetic project about seven years ago, and Dr. Eviatar Matania, who established the National Cyber Bureau and headed it for six years. Ben Israel and Matania will present the recommendations of the new project to the prime minister within a few months.

The Turkish Dilemma

The United States currently faces a major dilemma: whether to supply state-of-the-art F-35 stealth fighters (the same fighters the IAF has been flying since late 2016) to Turkey.

The first few Turkish F-35 aircraft was unveiled in a rollout ceremony on Thursday.

The dilemma the US faces is rather intricate: on the one hand, Turkey had joined the Future Fighter project as a full-fledged member of NATO. On the other hand, the world regards Turkey under Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a country that had crossed the lines repeatedly. The most difficult problem is the fact that the Turks decided to acquire from the Russians their most advanced Radar system, designated S-400. If the Turks acquire both the advanced Russian Radar and the US stealth fighter, they will be able to identify the shortcomings of both systems. The Americans understand this very well, so the US will undoubtedly find a way to withdraw from the deal with Turkey. A relevant bill the US Senate has passed this week is probably only the first step in that direction.

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