Senior general analyses the threats to Israel’s security – both external and internal

August 2, 2023 by J-Wire News Service
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In the latest Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) webinar, Lt. Gen. Moshe (Bogie) Ya’alon, former Israeli Vice Prime Minister, Minister for Defence and IDF Chief of Staff, spoke about “Countering Iran’s three front proxy war against Israel”.

Lt. Gen. Moshe (Bogie) Ya’alon

He noted Israel’s main security challenge is the reluctance of too many neighbours to recognise its right to exist as the nation-state of the Jewish people, adding it’s a false analysis to say it’s about the 1967 occupation.
However, he said, there have recently been dramatic changes. There is currently a battle for strategic Middle Eastern hegemony between three Islamic elements. Iran has, since 1979, aimed to export its revolution and have the region follow Shi’a Islam, strengthening its grip on areas of the region through proxies. These include Hezbollah, which it has armed with 150,000 missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles, sophisticated air defences and ground-to-sea missiles. He added that any decision to launch a war against Israel from Lebanon will come from Teheran, not Beirut.

He continued that Iran also has Shi’a militias around the region commanded by Iranian officers, has established another front against Israel with a stronghold in Syria, and in the Palestinian areas, Iran finances and directs Palestinian Islamic Jihad and mainly funds Hamas, even though they’re both Sunni. Iran is also challenging Morocco and meddling in Iraqi politics.

The second element, he said, is jihadist Sunnis pursuing an Islamic caliphate. They are in retreat after IS was defeated, but still active in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Africa and the Sinai, and occasionally against Israel.

His third element is the Muslim Brotherhood, whose unofficial leader, Turkey’s President Erdogan, seeks a neo-Ottoman empire but needs to be cautious for financial reasons.

He said Israel had been allied with the region’s non-Arabic countries, but that has dramatically changed because it now has strategic relations with most Sunni Arab states. So now the Sunni Arab camp with Israel is opposing Iran, opposing the jihadists and a rival to Turkey, with no real Arab-Israeli conflict generally.

He explained that Israel has no border with Iran and is not claimed to be occupying any Iranian land, so the problem is that Iran’s revolution brought about a strategy that bringing back the Messiah, the Mahdi, needs a Shi’a Middle East, and Israel’s eradication, because there is no room for a Jewish state in land considered Islamic. Iran’s regime, he said, will sacrifice to achieve this but prefers to attack through proxies. It also pursues its strategy against Israel through global terrorism, including two devastating bombing attacks in Argentina in the 1990s and recent attempts in Cyprus, India, Georgia, and Africa, which Israeli thwarted.

Ya’alon is unsure whether Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei has decided to acquire nuclear weapons capacity itself but can now enrich uranium to the level needed for a bomb, and his policy is to have the indigenous capability to produce everything necessary for a nuclear weapon, including missiles. Iran’s missiles, he said, currently cover 1,300 km, but it’s aiming for 10,000 km.
He added that Iran lacks weaponisation, the most challenging aspect. The Iranian nuclear archive Israel stole showed Iran tried to acquire weaponisation knowledge prior to 2003 but stopped for fear it would be attacked if it weaponised. Israel, he said, has implemented a policy that it won’t tolerate a hostile country in the region with military nuclear capabilities. In 1995, Iran thought it would manage weaponisation by 2005, but still hasn’t, maybe due to a deliberate decision or challenges such as viruses or “work accidents”.

He said Israel is pursuing its “campaign between wars” against Iran, including the bombing in Syria and some in Iraq, because it won’t tolerate Iran’s aspiration to be on Israel’s border. Iran is deterred from dealing with Israel but is trying to do more, he added. It has impressive UAV capabilities, but Israel is well-equipped with defensive measures, such as Iron Dome, Arrow and David’s Sling. However, he said, the best defence is a good offence, so Israel should be ready with that too.

He said gangsters rule Jenin, with the PA too afraid to enforce security as Oslo requires. Israel decided to deal with it through special forces arresting or, where necessary, killing terrorists, and they resisted. Israel identified laboratories there producing sophisticated explosives and IEDs, and saw terrorists trying to launch rockets, so conducted an operation there. It killed some terrorists, destroyed weapons caches and convinced the PA to go back in. Generally, he added, the PA does about 30% of the work of combatting West Bank terror and Israel about 70%, while Israel also tries to deal with Iranian funding of terrorists in Jenin.

The Megiddo roadside bomb earlier this year, he noted, was the first terrorist attack from Lebanon in 16 years. Hezbollah, he said, contests some of the border, and challenges Israel with small border actions, such as pitching two tents in Israeli territory, and other provocations. It may consider more provocations because it sees Israel’s current turmoil, such as disputes with the US, internal disputes and some soldiers refusing to serve.

He believes Hezbollah probably won’t provoke a war, as it is still scared of Israel and not willing to pay the price of hostilities in terms of what Israel will destroy, learning lessons from the Second Lebanon War and Israel’s responses to rockets from Gaza. He said Israel should be ready to respond to provocation and that while Israel will also pay a price, any conflict will end in ceasefire terms according to Israel’s conditions, as all past conflicts have.

China’s involvement in the region, he said, results from US weakness there. The US disengaged in Syria, so now there’s a coalition of Russia, China, Iran and Turkey. US disengagement in the region is not in its or Israel’s interests, he added. Its allies find other allies, such as China or Iran. US engagement doesn’t need troop presence, just political, economic and weapons support, and a determination and strategy to help allies.

He said any strategy to stop Iran from acquiring military nuclear capabilities and stop its arms proliferation, missile development and terrorism should combine isolation, economic sanctions, and a credible military threat, which previously led to internal strife in Iran and the regime suspending its nuclear program. Unfortunately, he said, Iran negotiated better than the US during the JCPOA talks, despite being on its knees economically. Now Joe Biden is trying to reach an understanding which may roll back Iran’s program in exchange for allowing it to access billions of dollars. Ya’alon said the US needs to lead any strategy isolating Iran, but is unsure it can. However, he added, there will be opportunities to put Iran in a corner, and it would be a different Middle East without Iran’s proxies.

He said the Palestinians should have autonomy in less than a state – political independence in their own land, but demilitarised. He can’t see an independent Palestinian state because their economy is not viable, with most of it consisting of employment in Israel, and their infrastructure is connected to Israel’s like Siamese twins – they can’t be separated. He doesn’t believe they would accept this, based on their refusal of every previous partition plan, with the Second Intifada being a direct response to the Camp David offer. His solution is for Israel to continue to fight terror, but facilitate the Palestinian economy and improve conditions so they can live with dignity. He thinks that the PA security apparatus will play a significant role in determining who succeeds Mahmoud Abbas as President, although Hamas will also challenge.

On the battle over Israel’s proposed legal reforms, he said he has participated in all Israeli wars since the late 1960s, but this is the most significant battlefield he’s been in. He says Netanyahu wants to crush the judicial system because of his legal problems, including various investigations into government conduct. Other coalition parties prefer not to have a strong judiciary because it will interfere with their agendas. In Israeli democracy, he said, the courts provide the checks and balances, so weakening them is dangerous, turning Israel from a democracy to more like a dictatorship, with the courts unable to oversee the PM and ministers.

He’s encouraged Israelis understand this, as seen by numbers demonstrating, and has been going from demonstration to demonstration addressing the demonstrators because this is about Israel’s future, values and DNA. Israel, he said, should be governed according to its Declaration of Independence, which should unify Israelis. He concluded that the controversy is hurting Israel’s economy, security and US relationship, but believes Israel can get back on the right track.


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