Is Israel losing its soul?

Altogether, the United Nations and its agencies have condemned Israel so many times that, on one of those proportional maps, tiny Israel would loom over Saudi Arabia, with its beheadings and ban on women driving.

.. Israel has legalized the creation of additional West Bank settlements, built roads that only Jewish Israelis may use and, while recoiling from the word “apartheid,” adopted some of its techniques. For many Palestinians, freedom of movement is impossible.

.. For its part, Israel has drifted to the right, content to let the clock tick.

.. It permits too many Israel supporters to dismiss legitimate criticism as anti-Semitic babbling or to focus on the astounding failings of the Palestinians and not on the rightward drift of Israel in response. A law that stifles dissidence, that bars lovers of Israel from Israel itself, is not only repugnant on the face of it, but also additional evidence that occupation of the West Bank is corroding Israeli democracy. Israel may win the West Bank and lose its soul.

Report: Israel Passes U.S. Military Technology to China

Secret U.S. missile and electro-optics technology was transferred to China recently by Israel, prompting anger from the U.S. and causing a senior Israeli defense official to resign.

.. Israel has a long record of getting U.S. military technology to China.

In the early 1990s then-CIA Director James Woolsey told a Senate Government Affairs Committee that Israel had been selling U.S. secrets to China for about a decade. More than 12 years ago the U.S. demanded Israel cancel a contract to supply China with Python III missiles, which included technology developed by the U.S. for its Sidewinder missiles, The Associated Press reported in 2002.

The Most Expensive Weapon Ever Built

according to French intelligence sources the strikes had unquestionably been carried out by a pair of F-35s: not only that, but one of them had gone on to buzz Assad’s palace in a fuck-you show of force.

.. Israel is very proud of its machines. Four thousand people were invited to see the two F-35s arrive at Nevatim air base in the Negev on 12 December

.. Netanyahu gave a rousing speech celebrating the ‘long arm’ of Israel’s defence equipment. ‘This long arm was just made longer and mightier today,’

.. Israel is the only country that has been allowed to make significant modifications to the F-35: its variant, nicknamed the Adir (‘the mighty one’), includes a few extra computer systems of Israel’s own devising. There’s a picture of Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s defence minister, sitting in the cockpit of an F-35 during a visit last summer to Lockheed’s Fort Worth facility: he’s grinning like a little boy. Israel is now down to purchase fifty F-35s, at a total cost of $7 billion.

.. Obama and Netanyahu signed a new Memorandum of Understanding, according to which Israel is promised $38 billion of military aid over the next decade. Twenty per cent of that money is going to F-35 procurement: a nice subvention of American taxpayer dollars to an American company

.. Donald Trump, then still president-elect, tweeted: ‘The F-35 program and cost is out of control. Billions of dollars can and will be saved on military (and other) purchases after January 20th.’

.. Over the lifetime of the project the US is expected to have spent $1.5 trillion designing, building and maintaining 2500 planes

.. It would also have to be able to bomb targets on the ground five hundred miles away from base – an impressive range, for a fighter – and operate from the deck of a heaving warship at night and, if push really came to shove, hover and land like a helicopter.

.. But the expense was largely the point. An enormous project brings an enormous number of jobs, and Lockheed sensibly ensured that everyone and his neighbour was invested in keeping it from going belly-up. The joke term for this is ‘political engineering

.. the F-35 programme now involves more than 1200 suppliers in 45 US states, accounting for forty thousand jobs in Texas alone.

.. McCain is a leading representative of a dissident American military tradition that prefers light and agile to massive and lumbering, but it may not be insignificant that his home state, Arizona, is one of the few where Lockheed has recently shed jobs

.. F-35 customers now include Turkey, Italy, Canada, Norway, Japan, South Korea, the Netherlands and Denmark.

.. This means that every F-35 sale is a boost to the coffers of Britain’s own largest arms company. (BAE has also been allowed to do the foldy bits at the end of the wings.) And the opportunities are everywhere. There are aluminium sheets from Milton Keynes, electronic modules from Billingstad, circuit boards from Ankara, hydraulics from Melbourne, wiring systems from Rotterdam, manifolds from Adelaide, wing parts from Turin and actuators from New York. So when Trump threatened to slash the cost of the F-35 programme, or divert some of the custom to cheaper competitors, it wasn’t only American defence contractors who were in the firing line. Everyone had something to lose.

.. The ‘military-industrial complex’ turns out to be very simple: the juggernaut has its own momentum. Once it’s rolling it can’t be stopped, even if you’re Donald Trump, something he finally came to acknowledge on 16 March, when his budget plan for the next fiscal year allowed for the ramping-up of F-35 production as part of a proposed 10 per cent increase in overall military spending.

.. Thanks to its stealth requirements, with its weapons all stored internally to stop them alerting enemy radar, it’s an ugly, fat-bellied thing

.. But it flies well.

.. it achieved a kill ratio of 20:1, meaning that for every twenty enemy aircraft downed, only one F-35 was lost.

.. One of the gizmos that comes as standard with every F-35 is a carbon-fibre helmet

.. Each has to be custom-fitted to an individual pilot’s head using a bit of 3D modelling. They cost $400,000 apiece: another figure to snort at, perhaps, but then each AMRAAM missile costs $400,000 too

.. the F-35 helmet beams in the pictures gathered by six infrared cameras mounted on the outside of the airframe. This means that just by turning his head the wearer can see what’s above him, behind him and even below the aircraft’s floor.

.. Picture of enemy airfield not clear? Click. The active radar array will scan a high-resolution image of the area of interest. Then all the pilot needs to do is touch a point on the map and the selected weapon will take it out in seconds. Click.

.. Friendly aircraft are indicated in green on the radar screen, potential threats are yellow and enemies red. Unless you’re colour-blind, it all makes operating a deadly aircraft so very simple: what’s not to like?

.. no one is in a position to get into dogfights with the US any more

.. The last American fighter jet to be recorded lost to an enemy aircraft was an F/A-18, shot down by an Iraqi MiG in 1991.

.. The man in the pilot’s seat has become just another node in the network, through whom information is filtered: he’s already an anachronism. Even before we have drone swarms of lightweight autonomous vehicles performing air interdiction with the help of artificial intelligence, it isn’t clear how much future there is in piloted warplanes.

.. The combined marketing muscle of all the Lockheeds, Boeings and Raytheons in the world has failed to come up with any definition of what a ‘sixth generation’ fighter would be. This, it appears, is the end of the line.

The Man Who Would Beat Bibi

“I can’t think of any other democracy in which the same person was prime minister, or president, or head of state in 1996 is still the head of state,” Lapid tells me in an interview

.. Some these days even see him as Israel’s answer to Donald Trump, a celebrity come lately to politics, with no discernible ideology and a flair for popular slogans.

.. The latest polls generally show Yesh Atid (“There Is a Future” in Hebrew), leading Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party by about four seats in parliamentary elections.

.. Netanyahu is facing a rapidly spiraling investigation into a host of allegations involving gifts and perks from big donors and trading favors for positive media coverage, not to mention new pressures from the right wing in his coalition who feel emboldened by Trump’s ascension to push for harder-line policies.

.. the country’s Labor party, historically the main opposition to Netanyahu’s Likud, has all but collapsed—a fate not dissimilar to the old left in many European countries like Britain in recent years.

.. he is running as “an extreme moderate,”

.. Lapid’s patriotism, compelling biography and cheerleading nationalism on his overseas trips are clearly playing well in Israeli politics

.. In this day and age of Trump and Brexit, when fiery right-wing populists are challenging for leadership of both France and Germany in hotly contested elections that have establishment types openly fretting about the death of the liberal international order, Lapid’s equally corny appeal for the virtues of “responsible” centrism can have an oddly soothing effect.

.. Trump’s handpicked negotiator, his longtime personal lawyer Jason Greenblatt

.. He even was reported to have pushed Israel to freeze West Bank construction outside already established settlement blocs, a demand that veteran peace process watchers see as key for the Trump team to make if it is serious about getting Palestinians to the table.

.. “Trump didn’t move the Embassy, pressured Bibi to put the brakes on settlements and reached out to Abu Mazen. He seems to really believe he can be the peacemaker,”

.. If Netanyahu can’t deliver on more settlement-building from a supposedly favorable Trump administration, there are plenty on his right flank poised to criticize him. And then, there’s Lapid—officially still a two-stater though he talks increasingly these days not of peace but of “separation” between Israelis and Palestinians as the goal

.. the administration’s asks of Israel on restraining settlement activity are well within the range of traditional U.S. policy under previous administrations—much to the disappointment of some Israelis who thought it would be ‘anything goes,’”

.. But I don’t see any indication that ether Bibi or Abu Mazen is capable of taking risks necessary to get a deal

.. “The right wing has Bibi by the throat and he cannot afford to do anything to jeopardize his coalition. Bibi cannot afford any kind of cracks in his coalition and they all know it, so they’re all going to press him and he will bend to them, he has to. No politician in Israel planning to run in next election wants to talk about peace.”

.. essentially endorsing Lapid’s view that only a new centrism could save the country from the “abominable practice of both right and left to hand over the keys to the kingdom to parties that are essentially fanatic and anti-democratic.”

.. Haaretz, a liberal newspaper with which Lapid has developed a feud so pronounced he boycotts its reporters.

.. Lapid is also articulate, adaptive, well-read and savvy.

.. “It’s the problem of centrists all around the world,” he says. “You don’t get to say those inflammatory, very interesting things that the extremists from both sides get to say. You are talking on behalf of complexity

.. he’s disciplined enough not to get drawn into fights he’s never going to win.