Israel has been involved in four armed conflicts since 2006, and Maj.-Gen. (res.) Uzi Dayan, former national security adviser, thinks it is time to come up with ways to break out of that destructive loop.
Dayan, an ex-IDF deputy chief of staff, and currently the chairman of the National Lottery of Israel, is addressing the Jerusalem Post Annual Conference.
Although Israeli deterrence can work to some degree, it will probably – at some point – run out, as it did last summer with Hamas, Dayan argued.
Israel should not be going to war every year or two, but, rather, if attacked again, it should seek to eliminate terrorist leaderships and push hostile organizations out of their territorial bases, he said.
“If no one attacks us from Lebanon, Gaza or Syria, then there will be no war,” he stressed. “But if war is forced on us again, we have to defeat the terrorist organizations.”
As Iran and the international community continue to get closer to finalizing a nuclear deal, Dayan warned about the consequences of a bad agreement that would leave the door open to a nuclear-armed Islamic Republic, and tied these potential dangers to current strategic threats.
“A nuclear Iran poses a threefold threat. First of all, we are a target. We are not the only target, but we are a target.
We are a pretty strong country, but we are a small country, and small countries are vulnerable,” Dayan said.
“If Iran goes nuclear, very quickly it will proliferate to other terrorist organizations in the Middle East, especially Hezbollah, Hamas and maybe others.
They will be operating under a nuclear umbrella. Then, very quickly, other countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia will go for an equalizer [by getting their nuclear weapon]. And here we have a new nuclear race,” he added.
Unlike the Cold War, where a nuclear arms race was largely limited to two superpowers, a modern Middle Eastern equivalent would result in a nuclear club turning into a “mob,” resulting in a “very unstable planet, by definition.
So Iran has to be stopped,” Dayan stated.
Dayan urged the international community to avoid this scenario by going back and seeking a good agreement with Iran, an outcome that would be better than a military strike. An oil embargo and economic sanctions could achieve this goal, he argued.
“We think that the sanctions, very severe sanctions, can stop Iran. They work. We think that a good agreement is better than a military strike, but a bad agreement is catastrophic.
So what should be done is to turn the screw on the sanctions – an oil embargo and economic sanctions – and continue to negotiate with Iran for a better deal. The choice now is not between war and a bad deal. [The goal should be] a good deal that will take Iran back by years.”
Israel, for its part, has to take on the unpleasant role of threatening to activate the military option if Iran breaks through to the nuclear weapons stage.
“We must make it clear that we will do the best we can to not allow Iran to go nuclear. This requires us to threaten, with a loaded gun. No one believes a threat with an unloaded gun,” Dayan said.
“If you don’t do that, Iran will say: we will suffer but we will eventually go nuclear in two years, three years, or four,” he added.
“We have to continue to warn [the world] and explain how to reach a good agreement by continuing the sanctions. There is also the question of monitoring the nuclear program.
The Iranians could operate outside of the area of supervision, or they could erode the supervision,” he said.
Dayan also discussed Iran’s destructive function in the region, and its central role in regional wars, particularly Syria, where hundreds of thousands of people have been killed.
“Iran plays a major negative role here because Iran is a terrorist state. It just supports and encourages terrorist organizations, and at the same time tries to get nuclear capability. Everyone knows that the combination of terrorism and nuclear capability is something you don’t want to mess with,” he cautioned.
“Vis-à-vis Israel, Iran is building new terrorist outposts. First there was Hezbollah in Lebanon, now there is Hezbollah in Syria, and at the same time Iran supports Hamas in Gaza. And at the same time, it messed with everything in Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen.”
Dayan sounded a note of caution against targeting only the radical Sunni terrorists, as the West appears to be doing, while turning a blind eye to Shi’ite-Iranian extremists.
“We have to fight Iran, and I think the main lesson is that we have to fight terrorism, but not just some terrorist organizations – all of them,” he said.
“If you fight only Islamic State, by end of the day, the big winner will be Iran, Hezbollah, and [Syrian President] Bashar Assad.”
He urged the international community to help countries that fight terrorism, “Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia. We are all on one side.”
Asked to comment on the tense West Bank, where violent incidents are once again on the rise, Dayan acknowledged that “the status quo is not good,” before quickly adding, “but it is not the worst thing. We have been trying for 20 years to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians. I don’t think there is a Palestinian partner for true peace, meaning an end to the conflict and no more claims. There is no Palestinian leadership that is really ready to do this.
“We have to look at what is happening around,” he added. With Hamas ruling over one political entity in Gaza, and Fatah ruling over a separate one in the West Bank, a new reality has taken shape. “We agreed to two states, but we are looking at three states, and without recognition of us. This is a very big problem.”
Lacking a viable solution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, “we have to focus on coexistence with the Palestinians. And we have to continue to defend ourselves,” Dayan concluded.
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