The IDF will eventually need to destroy Hezbollah, former National Security Council adviser Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror said Wednesday.
At the same time, he vehemently rejected a suggestion from an audience member that the IDF carry out a targeted killing of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.
Speaking at a panel before the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem, Amidror, who is also a fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, said: “There is no way to balance Hezbollah [within Lebanon]. If we don’t want them to get precise weaponry in the future, we will have to find a solution to the existence of this beast in Lebanon.”
“How and when, I don’t have a good answer,” he said. “But we need to remember their over 100,000 rockets can reach everywhere from the nuclear reactor in Dimona to Kiryat Shmona in the North… In the end, we will need to destroy Hezbollah by force.”
However, Amidror’s aggressive perspective on Hezbollah does not extend to its leader.
With the panel universally supporting the US targeted killing of Iran’s IRGC Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani on January 3, an audience member asked why Israel was not doing the same to Nasrallah.
Amidror responded: “Nasrallah is the most cautious leader in the Middle East. Why eliminate him? He understands the situation. He is living in a basement and is not going out. He is having a very positive role now” in preventing the outbreak of a larger war with Israel.
Moreover, he said, Israel had tried this with Hezbollah before and failed when it assassinated Nasrallah’s predecessor, Abbas al-Musawi.
“Hezbollah found a good successor,” Amidror said. Many historians argue that Hezbollah became a far bigger threat to Israel under Nasrallah than it had been under Musawi, meaning that killing Musawi might have made things worse, and so killing Nasrallah might also.
Another audience member asked Amidror about whether Iran’s regime could be toppled.
“No one knows how to push it to collapse,” he said. “No one has a prescription. Israel cannot try to change regimes in the Middle East. We tried. It was a huge failure. We should not do it. Academic experts will tell you: Yes, it can be done. But practically, how to push for it? At least for Israel it is too big, and even America doesn’t know how to do it.”
The Byzantine Empire appeared to be on its last legs for around 500 years, but it continued to limp on until 1453 despite some obvious weaknesses, he added.
Amidror discussed aspects of the IDF’s new strategy unveiled recently by Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi.
The IDF hopes to leverage new US technology and precision weapons in the field of air power to advance its capabilities, he said.
Furthermore, Amidror said, the IDF would seek to achieve “much stronger antimissile systems all over Israel, with at least three layers, and eventually a fourth layer, because we will introduce a laser antimissile system. It is not mature enough today, but we are doing many important steps to get it in the next few years.”
Also at the conference, former top Defense Ministry officer and IDC Herzliya official Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Gilead addressed the issue of whether Israel could cope with a new Iranian front in Syria along with the other security challenges it faces.
He responded: “Can you imagine 500 rockets per day [against Israel] plus accurate missiles targeting [Israel’s] strategic assets? Then [add in] cruise missiles, armed drones – all from Iran.”
“Our Air Force and [Military] Intelligence are operational successes” against Iranian entrenchment in Syria. “But that is not strategic and will not get Iran to drop” its efforts in Syria, Gilead said.
Amidror and Gilead agreed that despite substantially increased cooperation between Israel and moderate Sunni Arab countries against Iran and terrorism in general, support for the Palestinians on the “Arab street” would block normalization until there is a peace deal.
At the same time, other than Jordan, which cares about the issue of sovereignty over Jerusalem, Amidror said most Arab countries do not care about what the peace deal says if they can get the Palestinian side to sign.
Former Foreign Ministry director-general and current Jerusalem Center of Public Affairs president Dore Gold disagreed on some of these issues.
Careful diplomacy and robustly making Israel’s case to other countries can succeed in getting them to accept scenarios they might initially reject, he said.