Monday, May 19, 2008

19-May-08: Only part of what we're facing...

The head of Israel's military intelligence, who has maintained a strict public silence since taking office more than two years ago, has gone public with deep concerns that he says need to be known to the Israeli public. He asserts that we currently face no fewer than five significant inter-related but nonetheless separate (and cumulative) threats. In addition to the weakened Palestinian Authority, these emanate from Hizbollah, Iran, Syria, Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin describes them, according to an article in Haaretz entitled Future Imperfect, as comprising:

Hezbollah: "There is a massive Hizbollah presence south of the Litani River... They have rockets south of the Litani. They have combat forces south of the Litani. They have observation points and intelligence in the villages along the border." "Hizbollah's steep-trajectory munitions now cover large areas of Israel," including "metropolitan Tel Aviv and even farther south." "If there is a future flare-up, Hizbollah will try to attack Israel not only from the area south of the Litani but from deep inside Lebanon as well."
"Hizbollah did not intend to take over Lebanon last week. If it wanted to do that, it could. It has the capability to conquer the whole of Beirut within days. But it understands that if it seizes full control of the government it will bear a situation in which it possesses the power but not the authority is convenient for it." "The Iranian influence in Lebanon was greatly strengthened after the departure of the Syrians in 2005: the vacuum left by Syria was filled by Iranian ideology, financing, weapons and know-how."

Iran: "I suggest that we do not talk about a nuclear Iran, but about the ways to prevent Iran from nuclearizing. Iran is not only a threat to Israel; it is a threat to a large number of states in the Middle East. And above all, Iran is a global threat. The Iranians are developing missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons to Europe, and in the future of crossing the Atlantic... An extremist regime with extremist weapons is an existential threat to the State of Israel - at this stage, a potential threat. Still, we must not exaggerate. We must not treat this threat as one that is going to end thousands of years of existence of the Jewish people. Absolutely not. Israel is capable and will be capable of coping with that threat in all dimensions."

Syria: "Iran, which became Syria's strategic prop, now has Damascus in a bear hug, in terms of weapons supplies, training and money. Thus Bashar Assad's ability to sever himself from Iran and from Hizbullah is far more limited."

Hamas: "Hamas is now preoccupied mainly with trying to smuggle standard-issue rockets into the Gaza Strip. The range of those... Katyushas is generally about 20 kilometers... However Hamas does not want to stop there. It wants to obtain rockets with a longer range... Given the present developments, every place that is within a range of up to 40 kilometers is liable to be targeted. Ashdod, Kiryat Gat, even Beersheba."
"Hamas' long-term strategic goal is for the State of Israel to disappear and for the Palestinian state that will succeed it to be an Islamic theocracy. But Hamas has more immediate goals: to consolidate its rule in Gaza, to break the siege of Gaza, to seize control of Palestinian politics, to create deterrence against Israel and to continue the fighting against Israel. Take note of the order."

Needless to say, this view of life in Israel is at complete odds with those far from here who paint the Arabs -v- Israel conflict as a David and Goliath affair, with Israel (improbably) as the Goliath. The reality is that we face an existential situation of great complexity and of immense seriousness. Or to put it more carefully: a situation that's deeply worrying in a life-and-death sense to those of us at actual, measurable risk.

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