For IDF, the deal of­fers win­dow to fo­cus on more im­me­di­ate bat­tles

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - ANSHEL PFEFFER

IT TOOK a rare pub­lic lecture by the IDF Chief of Staff, Gen­eral Gadi Eisenkot for the Is­raeli se­cu­rity es­tab­lish­ment’s view of the Ira­nian nu­clear deal to fi­nally be aired.

The agree­ment “has many risks, but also op­por­tu­ni­ties” said Gen­eral Eisenkot, speak­ing in Tel Aviv on Mon­day, and added that Tehran’s move was a “sig­nif­i­cant change in the vec­tor in which Iran has been walk­ing”. He said that over the next few years, Iran would make se­ri­ous ef­forts to keep its part of the deal.

Not that Iran has given up its am­bi­tion to ac­quire nu­clear weapons one day in the fu­ture, he said, and ar­gued that it would con­tinue to “con­front Is­rael through prox­ies”. How­ever, as far as Is­rael’s im­me­di­ate se­cu­rity pri­or­i­ties are con­cerned, he said, the Ira­nian nu­clear is­sue can now take a back seat while at­ten­tion is fo­cused on more im­me­di­ate threats — Hizbol­lah, Pales­tinian ter­ror, Gaza and Daesh.

The lecture was sur­pris­ing to those who have be­come ac­cus­tomed to speeches by Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu and some of his min­is­ters high­light­ing the ex­is­ten­tial threat of the Ira­nian bomb.

It came as no sur­prise to those who, for over two years now, have been lis­ten­ing to the pri­vately ex­pressed views of Is­rael’s de­fence chiefs. Since the first in­terim agree­ment with Iran was signed in Geneva in Novem­ber 2013, it be­came clear to many in Is­rael’s in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity that the Ira­ni­ans were ea­ger to find a way out of the sanc­tions crip­pling their econ­omy.

Only the IDF Chief of Staff, with the re­spect he com­mands in Is­raeli so­ci­ety, can al­low him­self to de­vi­ate from Mr Ne­tanyahu’s line in pub­lic. And even then, only in a nu­anced way.

What Gen­eral Eizenkot was say­ing in his lecture, and what he and other se­nior of­fi­cers and in­tel­li­gence chiefs have been say­ing in pri­vate, is that while Iran re­mains an im­pla­ca­ble

Gadi Eisenkot en­emy, it has taken a step back. The sanc­tions have played their role and forced it to roll back its nu­clear pro­gramme, at least tem­po­rar­ily.

In the in­ter­val, un­til Iran de­cides whether or not it can af­ford to re­sume its nu­clear projects, Is­rael must re­di­rect some of the mas­sive re­sources that it was ded­i­cat­ing to the Ira­nian threat to­wards en­e­mies closer to home. Iran is the prin­ci­pal spon­sor of the most sig­nif­i­cant en­emy fac­ing Is­rael, Hizbol­lah, and one of the fun­ders of Ha­mas’s mil­i­tary wing, but there are other threats that have lit­tle con­nec­tion to Iran.

Is­rael’s mil­i­tary and in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity need to keep a weather eye on Iran, to make sure it is stick­ing to the lim­i­ta­tions on its nu­clear plans and to de­tect if and when it be­gins to re­ac­ti­vate them. Mean­while, Is­raeli se­cu­rity forces are ea­ger to use this pe­riod to pre­pare it­self for a more con­ven­tional con­flict — an­other show­down with Hizbol­lah, a se­cond ma­jor op­er­a­tion by Ha­mas, or an at­tack by Daesh, which could come any time and in any place. Iran will wait.


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