Ex-Mossad head ranks threats: Internal division, Palestinian conflict beat Iran

Given the opportunity to rank the country's greatest threats, former Mossad Chief Tamir Pardo didn't list Iran as number one.

December 25, 2017 10:12
3 minute read.
A DRIVER argues with haredi men as they protest against the detention of members of their community

A DRIVER argues with haredi men as they protest against the detention of members of their community who failed to report to a military recruiting office, in Jerusalem last month. The placard in Hebrew reads, ‘Fans of those imprisoned from the Torah world.’ (. (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)


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Relations with the Palestinians and internal divisions are greater threats to Israel than Iran, former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo said on Monday.

Pardo, in a rare public appearance at a Calcalist conference in Tel Aviv, was answering a question on which of three possible threats – the situation with Iran, the country’s internal divisions or its conflict with the Palestinians – were the worst for Israel.
He said, “The latter two.”

In a veiled criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Pardo implied that Netanyahu and other heads of state were mishandling the challenges of the current era.

“The world is in a revolutionary phase” similar to the scope of “the industrial revolution,” he said, and added that such mega-revolutions were “usually violent and unstable.”

Many political leaders today “are not trying to contribute to stability,” rather they are “moving things backwards,” Pardo said, sounding concerned.

He has said the same before. In 2016, he suggested that Israel was heading toward civil war.

In 2017, he said failure to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians put the country in a more dire situation than its sparring with Iran.

Much of Pardo’s address, however, focused on the issue of cybersecurity.

He told the audience that states are underestimating the power of cyber warfare.

Asked why Israel would not use its cyber capabilities to literally shut down threats posed by Hezbollah in any future war, Pardo answered, “Those who handle the issue in Israel will know what to do” when the issue arises.

He then reminded the audience that Israel is not alone in cyberspace, and that the Lebanese terrorist group also knows how to use the web to its benefit.

Cyber warfare is “soft and silent” and “can do more damage” than special operations military teams, he said, and the cybersecurity situation is not secure, and businesses and users are susceptible to vulnerabilities.

Pardo spoke to the impact of poor cybersecurity on businesses, saying a hacker could potentially turn a company upside down, costing a nation tens of thousands of jobs overnight.

He also warned Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump and other heads of state about their uses of social media – noting there could be unintended dangers and that enemies could potentially use these platforms against the leaders and their countries.

Pardo said Israel’s cybersecurity system is exceptional, but hinted larger states may be in a better long-term competitive position since their larger populations mean they are likely to eventually train a larger number of cyber experts.

As head of the Mossad from 2011 to 2016, Pardo was known to have contradicted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s focus on Iran and on the need to attack it.

IDF head of the Planning Directorate Maj.-Gen. Amir Abulafia, who came after Pardo, also presented a dark picture on the range of security threats facing the country.

Abulafia struck a different tone and said that Iran remained a major threat and that the nuclear deal with the West had not ended the nuclear threat the country could pose.

Next, he said ISIS was not gone but had merely “changed its shape” and was in the process of reinventing itself in a way that would continue to present a threat to Israel and the West.

Regarding negotiations between Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank, Abulafia said the IDF’s biggest concern was that Hamas “will try to use” the Palestinian national unity negotiations “to take over the West Bank” from Fatah. But he reassured the audience the IDF was “ready for such attempts.”

While acknowledging the IDF has made great progress in confronting the tunnel threat with new technologies and tactics, Abulafia admitted the threat was not entirely solved. Still, he said that the IDF “was on the right track.”

Finally, Abulafia noted, “Security is far more expensive today than it used to be,” using as an example the cost of flight, which he said is now five times greater than in the past.

The IDF is constantly being asked why there is no 100% Iron Dome defensive coverage of the country, Abulafia said. He then explained the implications of limited resources and said that if the IDF paid for 100% defensive coverage, it would need to give up on funding some of its offensive capabilities.

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