An IDF artillery gun fires a shell into Lebanon, after a roadside bomb exploded next to an IDF military border patrol near the Sheba Farms area near Kiryat Shmona, Israel, January 4, 2016..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A senior IDF officer told Saudi news outlet Elaph in a long interview that touched on regional security issues, that the Shi'ite militant group Hezbollah should not make a foolish mistake that will lead to a harsh Israeli reaction which would place Lebanese citizens' lives at risk.
Without specifying, the officer confirmed that Israel had secret relations and common interests with a number of Arab states besides Egypt and Jordan.
The item in Elaph was the second interview an Israeli official
has given the Saudi paper in recent weeks.
Last month, in the Foreign Ministry’s first interview granted to a Saudi news outlet, the ministry's Director General Dore Gold told Elaph that Jerusalem would not allow the transfer of weapons from Russia to Lebanon, or attacks from Syria on Israel.
The IDF officer said that the changing face of the Middle East presents new challenges for Israel in particular in the military field. "Traditional warfare has ended, and we find ourselves today faced with a long term war of attrition and terrorism, missile threats upon us, and mortar attacks meant to harm our citizens," he said.
"Israel continues its policy of deterrence, that decreases the chances of confrontations in the region," he said. The officer, who serves in the IDF's Strategic Brigade, emphasized Israel's strategic depth that can prevent future attacks, giving the example of Israel preventing advanced weapons transfers from Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
On Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah's threats of revenge for the assassination of terrorist Samir Kuntar, which was credited to Israel, the officer said that the Israeli reaction to any potential Hezbollah attacks will be severe.
"We do not view Lebanon and the Lebanese people as enemies, but Hezbollah is interested to insert the Lebanese people and the villages [in southern Lebanon] into the conflict, which will result in the destruction of what took years to build," he said.
The officer presented a map of Lebanon and pointed to the village of Mahebeb in southern Lebanon, and said that the village, like 30 percent of the villages in the area acts as a weapons hideaway for Hezbollah rockets and disguise for the militant organization's outposts and that the local residents were human shields.
"From a military point of view, the civilians are the first to be harmed during a confrontation. Israel has full information about the villages in the South, where Hezbollah is hiding behind innocents," he said.
The officer said that Israel would try to avoid civilian casualties in a future war.
"Israel is ready for all confrontations with Hezbollah, and it is better prepared than it was in the Second Lebanon War in 2006. This is despite the fact that Hezbollah has 100,000 missiles. It won't be easy but the damage on the other side will be heavy in a way that has yet to be seen," he said.
The officer then outlined how he saw the different regional powers and Israel's place in the Middle East.
"The region is built on four different powers. The first is Iran and its supporters including Syria, Hezbollah, the Houthis in Yemen and other Iranian supporting groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. This power is not in a good situation and so it tries to start confrontations with others, including with Israel occasionally," he explained.
"The second power, and the most important one today, are the moderate countries such as Egypt, Jordan and the Persian Gulf states. Israel has a common language with these states. It has existing ties with Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority and the possibility for civilian and military cooperation exists."
"The third power is the Islamic Brotherhood who no longer has influence after failures in Egypt and Tunisia. The fourth power consists of jihadi groups such as Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra who fight everyone from Iran to the moderate states as well as the Muslim Brotherhood."
"We in Israel are an island of stability in this stormy sea. But there is a danger that the strife will reach us as well if the instability in the region continues for a long time," he said. "Therefore, we need to take advantage of the opportunity and work together with the moderate states to renew quiet in the region," he added.
The officer said that Israel was building its military strength as a deterrent, but that it was not attacking.
"We are not interested in war, but if our hand is forced we will act. Our capabilities are great," he said.
On the ongoing war in Syria, he said that Israel was not intervening in internal affairs there because it did not want to be attacked by any side involved. He emphasized that Israel had redlines and it would act to prevent the transfer of advanced weapons from Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon and it would act to prevent Lebanon from becoming a military outpost for Iran.