Ephraim Halevy, the former head of the Mossad.
(photo credit: YOSSI ALONI)
Former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy indirectly warned Iran on Tuesday that it would regret any attempt to launch a military attack against Israel.
“Israel is indestructible. That’s important to realize,” he told members of the Jerusalem Press Club on the eve of Remembrance Day. “Whatever the Iranians think they can do, they had better not try it, because if they try it, they will regret it.”
Halevy, who formerly headed the National Security Council as well, declined to predict whether or not the negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 world powers would lead to a positive result, but was doubtful that the parties would meet the June deadline for an agreement.
He concurred with the position of longtime US Middle East negotiator Dennis Ross, who wrote in the April 20 issue of Politico Magazine that “the key is not the rollback of the [nuclear] program, but our ability to monitor it. That is what will allow us to determine if the Iranians are living up to the deal and put us in a position to impose severe costs if they are not.”
Ross said he considered the deal “acceptable – provided that the transparency is real, we have assured response mechanisms to any noncompliance that cannot be blocked, and we establish in advance what the consequences or price will be for every category of violation.”
Rather than opposing an agreement, Halevy said he preferred an outcome that would serve the interests of all countries in the region.
He also contended that the position Israel had taken in terms of Iran being an existential threat had been overplayed, in that it raised the level of anxiety among the Israeli public but did not achieve positive results elsewhere in the world.
What specifically concerned him was Iran-supported activities in the region, which he said could have a serious effect on Israel.
Israel has a balance of deterrence in the South and the North and a series of hostilities that are not conclusive, he said, citing last summer’s 51-day war with Hamas in Gaza as the most recent example. Israel and Hamas are doomed to live in this situation for an undetermined period, he claimed, because Israel has absolved itself of dealing with Hamas politically and deals with it only militarily, thus forgoing the opportunity to rid itself of an adversary.
There is an even greater danger from the north than from the south, he went on, because there is a deep religious and sectarian relationship between Hezbollah and Iran.
Israel should not sustain a situation like this forever, he insisted. “It is wrong for a state to be in a continual state of deterrence with a non-state actor.”
He was also critical of Israeli leaders who he said had failed in their obligation to the public.
“The leadership of Israel owes the public an explanation as to what is the real strategy concerning the North,” he declared.
In this context, he stressed the significance of forming a political strategy concerning Iran, because Iran was involved in the political activities of the region.
It is equally important to have a political strategy concerning the Palestinians, he said.
Asked to comment on Russia’s selling “defensive” weapons to Iran, Halevy replied that the relationship with Russia had always been difficult for Israel, even though there had been times of Russian support for Israel. Russia is currently at a stage of reestablishing itself as an important factor in the Middle East, and President Vladimir Putin has applauded Iran’s showing flexibility in the negotiations.
Yet all this is changing the balance of weaponry in the region, Halevy emphasized.
For this reason, he went on, it is in Israel’s interest to have as little daylight as possible between it and the US. Just as Israel expects the US to accommodate Jerusalem’s interests, he said, Israel should show sensitivity and accommodate America’s.
“It’s not a one-way highway.”