Archive for January 24th, 2014

EU envoy: Israel will pay price for settlements

January 22, 2014

JERUSALEM (AP) — A senior European official on Wednesday painted an alarming picture for Israel if Mideast peace efforts fail, saying the country could face deepening economic isolation if it presses forward with construction of Jewish settlements.

The comments by EU Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen were the latest salvo in an increasingly contentious war of words between Israel and the European Union over settlement construction. Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the EU of unfairly singling out Israel for settlement construction while ignoring Palestinian transgressions.

A small but growing number of European businesses and pension funds have begun to drop investments or limit trade with Israeli firms involved in the West Bank settlements. While Europe is interested in improving already close ties with Israel, Faaborg-Andersen said momentum for further sanctions could grow if peace efforts fail.

“We have made it clear to the parties that there will be a price to pay if these negotiations falter,” he said. “If Israel were to go down the road of continued settlement expansion … I’m afraid that what will transpire is a situation in which Israel will find itself increasingly isolated, not necessarily because of any decision taken at a governmental level but because of decisions taken by a myriad of private economic actors.” He said this could include companies, pension funds or consumers who shun settlement goods.

Faaborg-Andersen said such action has resulted from commercial considerations and a growing focus on “corporate social responsibility.” But he said European officials have also held debates on possible EU-wide actions, such as labeling or even banning settlement products exported to Europe. Some individual countries have already imposed labeling laws.

“I think it’s well known that these are some of the issues that we have been discussing and that we have been looking into, making certain preparations for,” he said. Though no decisions have been made, he said calls to take action are “gaining momentum every time there is a settlement announcement here.”

Gad Propper, an Israeli business leader who chairs the Israel-European Union Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the impact of boycott calls has been limited so far. But he stressed “the quicker Israel and the Palestinians reach a two-state solution the better” because “if the situation will not change then the threats will increase.”

Israeli settlement construction has emerged as a key stumbling block in peace efforts. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem and the West Bank, areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, as parts of a future independent state. With more than 550,000 Israelis living in those areas, the Palestinians say time is quickly running out on hopes to divide the land.

Under intense U.S. pressure, the Palestinians dropped a longstanding demand for a settlement freeze when peace talks resumed last July. But they say they received assurances that Israel would show restraint.

Netanyahu says he made no such guarantees, and his government has pushed forward plans for several thousand new settlement homes since the talks began. The international community, including the United States and European Union, considers the settlements to be illegal or illegitimate, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said Israeli construction raises questions about its commitment to peace.

The European Union has said that if talks fail because of settlement construction, it will hold Israel responsible. “They are illegal under international law. They make a two state-solution more difficult, and they undermine trust in a peace process,” Faaborg-Andersen said.

European countries have become increasingly outspoken in its criticism of the settlements. Last year, Israel was forced to guarantee that any money it receives under a technology-sharing pact with the EU will not be spent in the West Bank or east Jerusalem. And last week, several EU members summoned local Israeli ambassadors to protest settlement construction.

Israel responded by summoning locally based European ambassadors to voice its displeasure, and Netanyahu accused the EU of hypocrisy by singling out Israel while ignoring alleged Palestinian incitement against Israel.

Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Zeev Elkin, said Wednesday that he had met with Faaborg-Andersen and expressed his “disappointment” over what he called the EU’s one-sided approach toward Israel. “While they are condemning us with every construction announcement,” said Elkin, “there is no declared condemnation about the shooting attacks from Gaza or the escalation in the region.”

EU officials say they routinely condemn Palestinian attacks and incitement. They also have warned the Palestinians that European countries are suffering from “donor fatigue” after spending billions of dollars in aid with limited tangible results.

Ian Deitch contributed reporting.

Israel to start Arrow 3 production although key test still to come

Tel Aviv, Israel (UPI)
Jan 21, 2013

The Defense Ministry and Israel Aerospace Industries are so confident the Arrow 3 anti-ballistic missile system will be able to destroy hostile missiles in space, they’re reported to be planning to start production even before flight testing has been completed.

And that includes the critical test of actually intercepting a target missile that will simulate an incoming Iranian Shehab 3b ballistic weapon, which Israel views as its main missile threat at the moment.

The Israeli business daily Globes reported Arrow 3, being developed by state-owned IAI and the U.S. Boeing Co., is scheduled to undergo that test sometime in the next few weeks.

Defense expert Yuval Azulai said the Ministry of Defense and IAI’s engineers “are so convinced that the missile will work that they’ve decided not to waste precious time and to begin production.

“Few interception tests are planned anyway, and if the tests that will be carried out indicate a gap between planned and actual performance, minor software updates should be able to correct them.”

Arrow 3 is expected to become operational in 2015, and planners at the Defense Ministry are already thinking about future upgrades of the system to give every Iranian missile an explosive reception,” Azulai said.

The two-stage Arrow 3 system successfully passed its second flight test over the eastern Mediterranean Sea Jan. 3 and reached its operational altitude outside Earth’s atmosphere.

Officials said the “kill vehicle” jettisoned its booster rocket and carried out “various maneuvers” in space for several minutes using thrust vectors.

During the 10-minutes test, it communicated well with the system’s advanced Green Pine radar developed by Elbit Systems subsidiary Elta Systems and the command-and-control center built by Tadiron, now part of Elbit’s Elisra division.

Arrow 3 is designed to intercept ballistic missiles in space before they’re over Israel and shoot them down at high altitudes to disintegrate nuclear, chemical or biological warheads.

Unlike the Arrow 2 variant currently in service, which is designed to intercept ballistic missiles at lower altitudes within Earth’s atmosphere with explosive warheads, Arrow 3 uses interceptors that ram their targets.

Arrow 3 will constitute the topmost tier of a multilevel missile defense shield known as Homa, Hebrew for Wall, that’s being put together with hefty U.S. funding over and above the annual $3.1 billion in U.S. military aid Israel received.

Arrow 2, operational for several years, will be its back-up, gunning for any ballistic missiles that slip through the Arrow 3 screen.

The next level down will be David’s Sling, designed to counter medium-range missiles and cruise missiles. It’s being developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, Israel’s biggest defense company after IAI, and the U.S. Raytheon Co.

Rafael’s Iron Dome system, designed to intercept unguided rockets and short-range missiles, forms the bottom level.

It’s been operational since early 2012 and by the military’s tally has racked up a kill rate of 84.6 percent against the rockets unleashed by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip it has engaged.

On Saturday, Rafael announced on its website that it plans to unveil yet another system, Iron Beam which uses a high-energy laser to destroy short-range rockets, artillery and mortar shells, at the Singapore Air Show to be held Feb. 11-16.

It’s designed to complement Iron Dome, and once operational would reduce the cost of intercepting rockets, such as those used by the Palestinians and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Each radar-guided Iron Dome interceptor costs nearly $100,000 but Iron Beam would cost significantly less.

The United States and Israel worked on a laser-based missile defense system known as Nautilus (1996-2005). It cost $300 million, but was shelved because of its perceived poor performance in cloudy weather and in countering salvos of missiles and rockets.

The tactical high energy laser project was conducted by the Northrop-Grumman Corp., the prime contractor, with a group of Israeli companies that included IAI, Rafael, Elbit and Tadiran.

In February 1996, Nautilus shot down a rocket in a test at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, the first time a rocket had been destroyed in flight by a laser beam.

But the program was constantly held up in the U.S. Congress and in 2001 Israeli commanders deemed Nautilus irrelevant and too expensive.

Source: Space War.

Israeli company to unveil laser defense

Moscow (Voice of Russia)
Jan 21, 2014

A state-owned Israeli arms company says it will unveil a new laser-defense system next month that will be capable of shooting down short-range rockets and mortar fire.

Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. says the “Iron Beam” system will use a “directed high energy laser beam” to intercept incoming projectiles fired from short distances. The system is to be displayed at the Singapore Air Show next month and is expected to be operational next year.

Once deployed, Iron Beam would add another element of protection to Israel’s multilayered missile defense system.

Israel is developing a new generation of its “Arrow” system to intercept long-range ballistic missiles in space. It also is developing a system to intercept medium-range missiles and has deployed “Iron Dome,” which shoots down short-range rockets.

Source: Space War.