Strategic analyst warns of Israel’s increasingly acute security challenges

June 9, 2022 by J-Wire News Service
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Brigadier General (Res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, Senior Project Manager at the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs and former Director-General of Israel’s Ministry of International Affairs and Strategy, addressed a recent Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) webinar.

Kuperwasser, whose topic was “Confronting renewed Palestinian Terror and Iran’s escalating aggression”, started on a positive note, saying Israel is strong in defence, economically, technologically, and, due to the Abraham Accords, even politically and diplomatically.

This, he said, will help Israel face its increasingly acute and problematic challenges.

His major concern is Iran’s nuclear weapons progress. Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz, he noted, gave a speech explaining that Iran is increasing the pace of its nuclear program and enrichment of uranium. It now has around 60kg of uranium enriched to 60%, meaning it has enriched 30kg in the last three months, and 43kg in the last six.

These, he added, are very concerning figures, as Iran is moving fast towards having enough enriched uranium for several nuclear devices. It is moving with similar speed in enriching uranium to 20%, so it has very advanced centrifuges. It only takes a decision to move from 20 or 60% to weapons-grade at 90%, so, “they are very close to having enough pieces of material for a first explosive device within two weeks… for two explosive devices within three to four weeks and for five to six explosive devices within three to four months.”

Iran is therefore, he said, “deep into the area where it can be called… a nuclear threshold country,” which has previously been an Israeli red line. It has been using the delays in the Vienna nuclear talks to rapidly enrich.

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He added that while some say it will still take Iran two years to have an actual weapon, it is also making uranium metal, so progressing towards a bomb, and has provided no answers about progress made before the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal. He explained that the nuclear archive Israel stole from Teheran had information about four sites, including two where uranium was subsequently found, but Iran refuses to explain where that uranium is now. So, he said, we should assume it has moved towards developing a bomb. It has also progressed towards developing nuclear-capable missiles.

Unfortunately, he said, the US still hasn’t decided how to stop Iran. It still wants to bring Iran into the JCPOA, which only delays, but doesn’t stop, Iran’s nuclear program, as well as allowing Iran to continue its other rogue activities. Israel is co-operating with the US on military exercises, including practising attacking facilities, to send a message to Iran. Israel is also trying to counter Iran’s efforts to entrench its forces in Syria to turn it into a base against Israel, and to send advanced precision-guided missiles to Hezbollah, which has up to 150,000 rockets.

if implemented, he added, the JCPOA will give Iran tens of billions of dollars to enhance this program and step up support for Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and proxies in Iraq and Yemen. Israel can slow Iran down in these areas, he said, but not stop it.

Another concern he has is in the Palestinian areas. He said the Palestinians understand that Israel is not prepared to use force to change the situation in the West Bank and Gaza, so while Israel is totally committed to strengthening the Palestinian Authority (PA), the PA works against Israel “in all potential fields” – paying salaries to terrorists, inciting against Israel and attacking it in all international fora.

Furthermore, he added, political factors mean Israel needs to limit its actions to prevent terrorism from Israeli Arabs. Fatah, Hamas and PIJ have incited the recent attacks, but not carrying them out, and so don’t bear the consequences. The attacks, unusually, are inside the Green Line, and so impact Israelis’ sense of security. Israel, is not well-equipped to deal with terror from Israeli Arabs, and the rise of religious and nationalistic fervour among them means it can’t be countered by improving living conditions. Israel is now considering establishing a National Guard.

It was in response to these terror attacks, he said, that Israel had to conduct the raid in Jenin in which Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed. Israel can’t investigate the death because the PA won’t give it the bullet, and there has been a major rise in anti-Israel activity in international fora taking advantage of her death to delegitimise and demonise Israel.

This, he said, is the fourth problem, from the Palestinians and the radical left. His main concern is the extreme left of the US Democratic Party trying to question America’s special relationship with Israel, which is very important to Israel. This must be countered now, he urged.

He noted Hamas is continually threatening Israel over matters such as Jerusalem and the flag march, but doesn’t believe it intends to put Gaza in harm’s way while it is still reconstructing after last year’s conflict and while Israel is giving more work permits to Gaza residents. It wants to restrict violence to the West Bank and Jerusalem while building up its military capabilities. However, he said, Israel should be prepared for escalation, adding that Hamas is more dangerous if convinced Israel won’t take severe action.

He said life in Gaza isn’t as bad as portrayed, and Israel is committed to improving living conditions there and in PA-ruled areas, so it allows Qatar to send money and oil to Gaza, and gives work permits. However, he said, this makes the PA think there is no cost for its incitement and paying stipends to terrorists.

Concerning the recent assassination of a high-ranking Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) officer in Teheran, he said he understands why people may blame Israel, as the officer was involved in several attempts to attack Israelis. This is nothing new, he added, assassinations of people in Iran involved in anti-Israel activity happen every now and then, and embarrass the regime severely. That’s why it always announces it has caught Israeli spies, but no-one believes these claims, he said. Also, he noted, increasing demonstrations about price rises are getting out of control in some areas of Iran.

He listed other matters that aren’t going Iran’s way – Israel keeps hitting its shipments in Lebanon, Hezbollah did badly in the Lebanese elections, and the US refuses to remove the IRGC from its terrorist list. However, he said, not enough is being done to stop the nuclear process. Israel may therefore need to act decisively again, and time is not on its side. He said he would like more pressure imposed on Iran to stop and a plan B involving decisive action that would make the cost for Iran of moving forward too high.

Kuperwasser did, however, express gratitude to the Iranian regime for the Abraham Accords, and for preventing the US for re-entering the JCPOA by demanding too much. He added that Iran definitely helped create the environment for the Accords, but wasn’t the main reason for them – they have proven that cooperation with Israel benefits Arab countries for many reasons – and hopes the US will help Israel widen them to include Saudi Arabia and other states.

However, he added, if the US re-enters the JCPOA, it may have a chilling effect on the Accords, because it will show the way to get something from the US is the Iranian way.

He said Israel can improve relations with Turkey, and Turkish President Erdogan is playing with the idea, including taking limited steps to reduce support for Hamas, so Israel needs to show respect, but stay cautious. If Israel can take Turkey out of the pro-Hamas camp, it should, he said, but not at the cost of its excellent relations with Greece and Cyprus.

He said Israel could also look to improve relations with Pakistan, but Pakistan is not very interested. Israel is concerned to try to ensure Pakistan gives Iran no further help with its nuclear program, especially with technology being the key factor holding Iran up.

On Lebanon, he said the election loss stopped Hezbollah taking over as Iran wanted, but no one there is strong enough to challenge Hezbollah’s power. It’s important to note that, as with Iraq, even the amount of money Iran is pouring in doesn’t mean the people want to be governed by its stooges. While it’s not covered in the international media, people there are still demonstrating against Iran, which shows they want something better than being ruled by the Iranian regime.


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