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IDF Jets Held Iran Strike Dry Run in 2012


IDF fighter jets covertly flew into Iranian air space in 2012 in what was thought to have been a dry run for a commando raid at a sensitive nuclear site, according to an extensive report published by the Wall Street Journal.

The report, based on the testimony of almost two dozen senior US and Israeli officials, reveals the breakdown in relations and open mistrust that led to mutual spying between Israel and the US over Iran's nuclear program. The highlight of tensions came in 2012, when the US spied on Israel as it sent a jet to apparently hold a trial run for an attack on Fordow, Iran's most fortified nuclear facility that is built into the side of a mountain.

Responding to the flight, the US sent a second aircraft carrier to the Middle East and prepared fighter jets "in case all hell broke loose," according to a senior US official. Meanwhile the US was hiding its attempts to reach a nuclear deal with Iran secret from Israel, causing a situation in which both sides were forced to start spying on each other.

"After working in concert for nearly a decade to keep Iran from an atomic bomb, the U.S. and Israel split over the best means: diplomacy, covert action or military strikes," wrote the Wall Street Journal, noting that the sides may still be on a "collision course" if Israel feels pressed to strike Iran's nuclear program.

Back in 2009, the report reveals the two sides worked together to come up with options against Israel, which saw the CIA and Mossad plan covert action. However, Mossad leaders said US officials made clear they were not interested in taking more serious actions against the Islamic regime to block its path to a nuclear arsenal, such as by collapsing its financial system or regime.

US officials say the Mossad began to run several covert operations unilaterally given the lack of US cooperation, such as the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists. Then, in 2010, the Stuxnet computer virus was used by the US and Israel to thwart Iranian centrifuges. But after the virus spread accidentally on the internet, President Barack Obama called for more caution, while Israel argued the steps were only slowing, and not stopping, Iran's nuclear program. "Cyber and other covert operations had their inherent limitations," one senior Israeli official said, "and we reached those limitations."

At around that point in time Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu began to work to formulate a military strike on Iran's nuclear infrastructure. The US claimed Israel didn't have the right equipment to take out Iran's facilities, but Israel responded by briefing the US on its attack plan: cargo planes would drop IDF commandos in Iran to "blow the doors, and go in through the porch entrance" of Fordow to sabotage the nuclear facility, according to a senior US official.

In response the US said the plan was too dangerous and demanded advance warning before the attack was launched. "Whether this was all an effort to try to pressure Obama, or whether Israel was really getting close to a decision, I don't know," said Michéle Flournoy, who served as undersecretary of defense for policy at the time.

Then in early 2012, US spy agencies picked up a flurry of meetings between Netanyahu and his top security advisers, which Israeli officials say ranged from mission logistics to the fallout caused by the strike. The US increased satellite surveillance of Israeli aircraft, picking up when IDF pilots were put on alert on moonless nights that would increase the cover for an airstrike. They likewise spied on Israeli practice missions and intelligence gathering to find weak points in Iran's air defenses.

Officials say it appeared Israel conducted a dry run of the attack, although the information was so classified or fragmentary that few knew exactly what was going on. Tensions heightened amid an Israeli request for V-22 Osprey aircraft that can take off and land like helicopters, making them perfect for dropping commandos. Likewise Israel wanted to obtain the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, a 30,000-pound bunker buster bomb designed to destroy Fordow.

According to Gary Samore, who was Obama's White House coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction for four years, Netanyahu wanted "somebody in the administration to show acquiescence, if not approval" for a military strike. "The message from the Obama administration was: `We think this is a big mistake,'" he revealed, noting that the White House turned down the requests.

For his part, Obama was pressing for a nuclear deal with Iran, the leading state sponsor of terrorism. Back in December 2011, then-Senator John Kerry was sent to discuss diplomatic channels with Iran in a meeting with leaders of Oman. The White House hid the talks from Israel, deciding only to give Netanyahu information if a deal appeared possible.

The first secret negotiations with Iran were held in July 2012 and fell through, but "nobody was willing to throw it overboard by greenlighting Israeli strikes just when the process was getting started," according to a former senior Obama administration official. Israeli communications were being spied on by the US to see if the secret talks had been exposed.

During a visit by Netanyahu's then-national security adviser Yaakov Amidror in September 2013, the White House got the answer to that question. Amidror was told by White House national security adviser Susan Rice that Obama was making an historic call with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

In response, Amidror revealed that Israel had identified the tail numbers on the unmarked US government planes flying negotiators to Muscat, Oman, where the secret talks were taking place. Amidror said it was insulting for Obama's officials to think "they could go to Oman without taking our intelligence capabilities into account," and called the decision to hide the talks from Israel a big mistake.

It remains to be seen how the path will proceed for Israel and the US on the Iran issue now that the controversial Iran deal has been sealed. The deal sees Western powers obligated to protect Iranian nuclear sites from sabotage, and while State Department officials claimed Israeli strikes would not be included, Secretary of State John Kerry has indicated the US would defend Iran from Israel.

Without Being Intercepted, An Israeli Arab Flies Paraglider into Syria to Join ISIS

By DEBKAfile

In a major security breach, an Israeli Arab, 23, was able to fly by paraglider across into Syria from the southwestern village of Mevo Hama Saturday, Oct. 24, in southwestern Golan without being intercepted - although an IDF spotter had reported the event.

The pilot came from the Israeli Arab town of Jaljuliya east of Kfar Saba near the West Bank. His defection, apparently to the Islamic State, was clearly organized in advance. His landing in Syria was secured by a party from the jihadist group who came to pick him up. The massive air-and-ground search operation the Israeli military scrambled came too late. "We believe he planned this move to the other side, and joined a group there," Brig.-Gen. Moti Almoz told reporters during a conference call Sunday morning, after a gag order on the story was lifted.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said at the Sunday cabinet meeting that the Arab Israeli who crossed into Syria to join ISIS would be stripped of his Israeli citizenship. "Anyone joining enemy forces can no longer be an Israeli citizen," he said.

Questions are being asked due to Shin Bet clearly taken unaware of a conspiracy for the Israeli Arab's flight. No one discovered that a paraglider was being assembled in secret at Mevo Hama or had it brought there unnoticed and who helped him launch it. How did he set up communication with ISIS-Syria without being detected by Israeli security?. How did the preparations on the Syrian side to receive the pilot escape the attention of IDF military intelligence?. Why was no one on the spot authorized to shoot the paraglider shot down before it flew across the border? By the time the report went through channels, the bird had flown.

DEBKAfile's military sources add that the paraglider operation was set up by a hostile element to test Israel's defenses in three areas: The efficiency of IDF spotter posts across the Golan. The glider was indeed sighted and reported. Israeli Air force operations in Golan – which were indeed found with holes that can be used for penetration. Israel's air defense on the Golan. This episode exposed the absence of a commander with authority to act with dispatch to foil an unforeseen event. In other words, Israel's defenses were wide open to attack Saturday.

Netanyahu Reaffirms Policy Closing Temple Mount to Non-Muslim Worship

By DEBKAfile &

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Saturday night confirmed the statement by US foreign Secretary John Kerry that he had agreed to continue Israel's longstanding policy, under which "Muslims prayer on the Temple Mount; non-Muslims visit." The prime minister added: "Recognizing the importance of the Temple Mount to peoples of all three monotheistic faiths – Jews, Muslims and Christians - Israel re-affirms its commitment to upholding unchanged the status quo of the Temple Mount, in word and in practice….while maintaining public order and security."

Kerry's announcement came after his meetings with Jordanian King Abdullah II and Palestinian Authority Chairman Abu Mazen (Mahmud Abbas) in Amman to discuss the ongoing Palestinian wave of terror. "Israel will continue to enforce its long-standing policy on religious worship ... at the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, including the fundamental fact that it is Muslims who pray on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, and non-Muslims who visit," said Kerry.

He added that officials from Israel and the Waqf, which administers the Temple Mount, would hold talks on the reduction of tensions, and that both sides would carry out around-the-clock video surveillance of the sensitive area. DEBKAfile summarizes stating Saturday's talks are not expected to have any effect, mainly because neither King Abdullah nor Abu Mazen has influence on the Palestinian street, and as a result the wave of terror and rioting will continue.

Netanyahu said Sunday that adding video surveillance to the sacred Jerusalem site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and Muslims as the Al-Aqsa Mosque is in Israel's best interest. He told a Cabinet meeting that the step would help to both refute claims that Israel wants to change the rules that allow Muslims to pray there but not Jews, and also to "show where the provocations are really coming from."

Netanyahu recently raised the possibility of canceling the residency status of the 80,000 Palestinians living in East Jerusalem neighborhoods on the other side of the separation wall. Shuafat refugee camp and Kafr Aqab would be among the affected neighborhoods. He brought up the need to address the situation in East Jerusalem's neighborhoods beyond the wall during a cabinet meeting that took place two weeks ago. "There is no enforcement there, no law," Netanyahu said. "We need to examine the possibility of canceling their residency. There needs to be a discussion about it."

'It's Such a Nightmare, to See Your Child burning'


Uriel and Sigal Sofer, residents of Nitzan in the south, were traveling in their family car last Friday afternoon, to spend the Sabbath in Beit El, north of Jerusalem. The parents sat in the front and their children, Tair, 11, Matan, 10, and Tahel, 3, were in the back. Two other daughters took a bus to Beit El.

"Friday at about five o'clock," recounted Sigal, "we were about one kilometer from Beit El, on the way to spend the Sabbath at my husband's sister's home, and right before the bend, two murderers awaited us on the hill. Their faces were covered, my husband got a glimpse of them. As we passed, they threw two firebombs at the car.

"The firebombs smashed the rear windshield where Tahel was sitting. They fell on Tahel's seat and immediately, everything was burning. Tahel's dress, Tahel herself, her hair. The two children who were sitting next to her were also a little burned. My husband kept going a little to get away, and we stopped the car. It was frightening to see Tahel and everything else burning, and we were afraid that the car would also catch fire and explode.

"We got out of the car and pulled the seat out and we took her clothes off and put out the fire. We checked that Matan and Tair were also OK. We put out the fire on Tahel and seconds later the military was there and started to take care of Tahel. It's such a nightmare, to see your child burning. For children to see their sister burning. It's very frightening. All we wanted to do is to put out the fire."

New Proposal: Teach Arabic to All Israeli Students


The Ministerial Law Committee on Sunday approved for legislation a new law that would require children to study Arabic in elementary grades, starting with first grade. The law was proposed by MK Oren Hazan (Likud), and it will be introduced for its first reading in the coming weeks.

Hazan, Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, said that the proposal, authored by himself and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, was "especially appropriate during these days of increased terror. This is the government's message towards the pursuit of coexistence and towards the restoration of calm.

"It is exactly at this time that we must reduce the tensions and build a bridge of language, culture, and understanding between all citizens," said Hazan. "This law will help us all better understand the culture, mentality, and temperament of a million and a half of Israel's citizens, and make for closer relations and greater understanding between all. This will also help us better understand the hundreds of millions of Arabic speakers in this region as well."

The details of the law have yet to be worked out, but Hazan said that it would entail teaching spoken Arabic to children from first grade on, and proceed with reading and writing lessons in later grades. According to Hazan, if the Jewish population learns Arabic in the same way that the Arab population learns Hebrew, "we will also see much better days."

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