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ICT Talking Heads Session 2: Former Ministers of Defense and IDF Chiefs of Staff

Session 2: Former Ministers of Defense and IDF Chiefs of Staff. The speakers are: Prof. Moshe Arens, Former Minister of Defense (1983 – 1984) and Minister of Foreign Affairs (1988 – 1990); Lt. Gen (Res.) Shaul Mofaz, Former Chief of Staff (1998 – 2002), Minister of Defense (2002 – 2005), current member of the Opposition, Kadima Party, MK; and Maj. Gen. (Res.) Amos Gilad, Head of the Political, Military, and Policy Bureau, Ministry of Defense, Israel.

Maj. Gen. (Res.) Amos Gilad – “in the past Israel has never had its easier, in regards to terrorism.” Gilad noted that the phenomenon of suicide terrorism, in Israel, has practically disappeared, as a result of the actions taken by ISA and the IDF. Today, Gilad stated, the P.A. opposes terrorism, and has been working against Hamas, particularly in light of Hamas’ actions towards Fatah members after they [Hamas] took over Gaza [in 2006]. A second threat is that of rockets. Gilad observed that, following Israel’s campaign in Lebanon in 2006, there have been very few rocket attacks from Lebanon, and that the same can be said from Gaza, following 2008’s Operation Cast Lead. In the center of the country, due to a combination of Israeli and Jordanian action, Israel has, what Gilad calls, “a quiet border all the way to Iraq.” Referring to the recent rocket attack from the Sinai, he called this a rarity. Moreover, he noted that Israel has not recently suffered from other forms of terrorism from which Israel suffered from in the past, such as sea-launched attacks. Yet, Israel, he argued, must not rest on her laurels; Israel must look to the future in order to answer future threats. The first present/future threat mentioned was that of rockets. This, he called, the “Qassam/Shihab” threat from “Hizbullah-stan.” There are currently around 25,000 rockets in Lebanon, which poses a serious threat to Israel’s north, particularly in light of the mayhem in Lebanon. The President of Lebanon, he said, “sold the south, and has no idea as to what is going on there.” “Hizbullah-stan is, essentially, its own state, with its own policies and militaries. Hamas-stan is built on the same model. Both are trying to build rockets which can hit Tel Aviv, to hit the home front, and hit strategic targets…” including psychological ones. To great measure, it can be seen, according to Gilad, that Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas, are working together. To this end, Gilad claimed that the P.A. could not, today, take over and control Gaza. “If Jordan, God forbid, would be unable to hold its security as it does, or if we should leave Judea and Samaria for whatever political reasons, we must be sure that the P.A. forces are strong enough to deal with the Hamas so that we are not caught between rocket and other attacks on two fronts. So what do we need to do? We need to maintain our deterrence.” Deterrence, he argued, can only be maintained so long as “they” [i.e. states, organizations] believe that Israel can destroy them. Moving on to the ever-present issue, a nuclear Iran, he stated, would pose a great danger from the “terror crescent,” (referencing the crescent of Iran, Syria, Hezbollah-stan, and Hamas-stan). Appearances are important, he argued. Even if it only appears that Iran has a nuclear weapon, it will strengthen and embolden the terrorist organizations, like Hezbollah and Hamas. Regarding the Hamas, “we must remember that they are not simply Palestinian terrorists. They are Muslim Brotherhood whose ideology is to turn the Middle East into an Islamic caliphate.” Iran, he said, cannot be allowed to get to the point that it can further impact terrorism. “Not to mention that the Arab States, like Egypt and Saudi Arabia will not allow the Persians to become the leaders of the region, which is even more of a danger… It’s a psychological issue that could tip the scales against Israel.” Concluding, Gilad stated that at present, Israel is “ok, but we have a lot of heavy clouds in the sky, some of which are unseen, and we need to maintain our deterrence, our defense, and our treaties with Arab States. To our great luck, the Arab States are acting against their own terror, and are working to maintain it. In the security realm, in my opinion, Israel can deal with it through increasing cooperation with other states.”

Prof. Moshe Arens – terrorism is, causing intentional harm against civilians, is an effective weapon. In the last years there has been a “plague” of terrorism, with Israel at the center. Israel, therefore, had to contend with “the suicide bombers, who are effective and precise weapons, able to target both a place and time. Serial suicide, as Israel was subject to 10, 20 years ago, during years where bombers were blowing themselves up on busses and in restaurants, in population centers, sometimes once, twice a day, were aimed to break the spirit of the attacked population, and were stopped mostly through Defensive Shield.” The second popular weapon among terrorists is rockets. Rockets, Arens noted, are not new, as the Germans used them against Britain. Yet, while very effective, they are not decisive. According to Arens, from then on, rockets have been available and cheap, and again, Israel has been the main target of rocket terrorism, primarily from Hamas in the Gaza Strip. “We have spent a lot of effort and funds, including on ‘Golden Domes,’ to defend against the relatively short range rockets. But, we have to deter those who have the ability to perpetrate acts of terrorism.” When discussing terrorist organizations, which don’t have a system of policy or administration, he said, there is little to be done. Yet, Arens argued that acts of terrorism will not occur if the terrorists are fearful of the response. Recalling the terrorism which used to be quite common coming from Judea and Samaria, he stated that such terrorism was stopped by deterrence. In contending with terrorism, it is important, according to Arens, to remember that terrorists, too, have considerations, and are, therefore, sensitive to acts which undermine them. Capabillity, he argued, is less important than motivation. (an argument with which I, your humble Jewlicious blogger, disagree). Arens provides two examples. First is that of Hezbollah. Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, but also has a system which is both hegemonic and part of the government, which results in their having a series of considerations in deciding whether to perpetrate acts of terrorism. The second example is the Second Lebanon War. Arens argued that in a very short period of time, Israel was able to deter Hezbollah, and stopped the katushas and the kidnappings, and though there is great criticism regarding the war, there is little doubt that Hezbollah today thinks twice, or even thrice, regarding the implications of attacking Israel. A similar example is that of Hamas in Gaza. According to Arens, there were a number of years in which Israel was unable to deter Hamas from shooting their short-range rockets at Israel’s population. Yet, Arens noted, a barrage of rockets from Gaza have not hit Israel, since Cast Lead, because Hamas, while a terrorist organization, also, has an administrative apparatus. Under this logic, the governmental apparatus provides some stability as a result of Israel’s actions against them. While there have been terrorist attacks from Hamas, as of late, they emanated from Judea and Samaria, where they do not have the administrative apparatus, which made the individual Hamas-men more free to act. Arens concluded by noting that deterrence, when it works, is key, but when it fails, causes problem.

Lt. Gen. (Res.) Shaul Mofaz – “Nine years ago were the attacks of 9/11 which shook the world, and led to a change and an increase in mutual cooperation throughout the world to defend against global terrorism. The era of suicide terrorism, between 2000 and 2005, was the hardest military period Israel has ever had to contend with and had great difficulty in providing security to its citizens. It was difficult, because these people ultimately didn’t care about getting home. But then, at least their goal was mostly establishing a Palestinian state on the pre-67 borders. But now, new terrorism is coming from Gaza, though there, too, we [Israel] managed to deter it, and that is one of the great successes of the Israeli security apparati against terrorism.” Deterrence against radical organizations, Mofaz noted, requires a great deal of effort and funds. “The challenge of security and policy of Israel is first the double threat of Iran.” The Iranian threat, he argued, is the greatest threat to Israel. First, Iran leads the “radical crescent,” comprised of Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas. This threat is relatively new, he argued, not having existed 15 years ago. The second threat posed by Iran, is its desire to become a nuclear power. “An Iranian bomb is an existential threat to the State of Israel, probably more so than any threat since the War of Independence.” According to Mofaz, this element must be understood by all decision makers in Israel. Today, he argued, Iran’s strategy is to gain time and go slowly. In Mofaz’s opinion, there are three steps to preventing a nuclear Iran. The first is international pressure, the second is sanctions, the third is a military strike. Mofaz argued that anyone who believes it is possible to compromise with a nuclear Iran is “delusional.” The US, he said, needs to lead each of these steps. A related security element with which Israel need contend, Mofaz stated, is the threat of missiles, which the aforementioned nations all have. The security apparati cannot solely be relied upon to prevent such attacks. Mofaz was vehement that Israel must find other ways to contend with these threats. “It’s a challenge of challenges,” he said, and has been a major topic of peace agreements in recent years. He, also, mentioned the fields of contending with terrorism, and proliferation of unconventional, and conventional weapons. “In my opinion, we have an opportunity to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with two nation-states for two people.” Summarizing problems, he argued, doesn’t work, recalling the many years since Oslo. “The Palestinians,” he said, “are looking at the fact that they have two political administrations, Fatah in Judea and Samaria, and Hamas in Gaza,” and so long as they don’t win with politics, they will turn to terror. This calls for an interim agreement. He claimed that the starting point should be some form of agreement between Israel and the Palestinians; dealing with borders and security. If those can be settled, than it is possible to move on. Borders, he argued, should based upon the large settlement blocks (i.e. Ariel, Gush Etzion, etc.) in exchange for extra land near the Gaza Strip. The land size, he stated, must be equal to those of the 1967 borders, “though not necessarily the same as ‘67.” Peace can be made, he believes, with the help of the USA, Europe, and increased regional economics. Deterrence, though, must continue to be part of strategic though. Mentioning the preliminary talks which are scheduled for September 23, he said, “let’s set the border. We must continue building and strengthening our borders, the [settlement] freeze can be maintained so long as we see that the [peace] process will be completed in the near future. I believe that the process can lead to trust between the two peoples, which doesn’t exist today. Today there is a feeling that we can’t come to an agreement with them, but the Palestinians won’t accept anything without the Americans…. I believe with the help of the Americans, Europe, and a reasonable Israel, we can make peace in our path….” Mofaz was vehement that Israel defend her citizens, and provide legitimacy to her borders, and “we shouldn’t have to relate our story every day” and justify “to our enemies…” Mofaz, also, noted the importance of speaking with Syrians, in order to find a way to negotiate and break up the “radical crescent,” for, “if we don’t make the effort, it’s possible that someone else will make the decision for us, and we can’t be sure that that will take into account our security and national concerns… so we need to take those steps.. in the hope of peace….”

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2 Comments

  1. smb

    9/13/2010 at 3:07 pm

    If the Palestinians were really serious about peace, then we have something to work with. But the Palestinians are too busy with their cause to get rid of the infidel. Yes, there are some moderate individuals who want peace. But they are small and can’t do much. The group Hamas prefers to throw rockets rather than do something productive for its people.
    Israel has tried to negociate many times, but it needs the other side to agree to peace too.

  2. Adam Bashar

    9/14/2010 at 7:59 am

    I think first Israel need to make peace with Arab State and then with Palestinians, Beacuse how you can make peace with palestinians without Arab. second 2 state solution is not good for Israel, Palestinian will be an enemy state and deal with Arab state that dose not recogniz Israel so, they gain weapon and start to fight in a real way. pleas do not forget they something called Global Jehad in Palestian.
    first peace with Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Saudia Arabia,Lybia, and Gulf State,

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