(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The coming year will not be a quiet one in the world of security, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon warned Tuesday during a briefing with journalists at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv.
“Things can occur in every sector,” he said, citing the high level of instability afflicting the region.
Causes of instability include the presence of multiple terror organizations in Gaza, heavy fighting in Syria, and Iran’s strategy of becoming a nuclear break-out state while remaining the No. 1 state sponsor of terrorism in the world. Hezbollah continues to build up its capabilities in Lebanon, and Islamic State fighters are provoking conflict throughout the Middle East, though they pose no immediate threat to Israel, or to Jordan, Ya’alon said.
“What keeps us busy today are the regional developments and how they impact us,” he stated.
Turning his attention to the Gaza Strip, Ya’alon said Israel was not waiting for a cease-fire agreement with Hamas, adding that Israel had already expanded the fishing zone for Palestinian boats to 6 miles and opened border crossings to Gaza to an expanded convoy of trucks carrying humanitarian aid.
The Palestinian Authority will likely take control of the Gazan side of the Rafah crossing with Egypt and will also be the channel through which funds arrive in Gaza, Ya’alon said.
Nevertheless, Hamas will remain the dominant force in Gaza, he continued, adding, “We have no illusions about this.”
He defended the performance of Military Intelligence during the Gaza operation, saying it had met expectations. He also rejected criticism that there had not been enough creative Israeli operations in Gaza.
“A war is not about gimmicks,” Ya’alon said. “Creating 7,000 targets and attacking them from the air, ground and sea is what we did. It doesn’t have to be creative, it has to be effective. We did carry out daring raids as well.”
In the West Bank, Israel is working to strengthen the Palestinian economy and allow Palestinians in cities such as Jenin to “live honorably,” the defense minister stated. Jobs in areas such as construction – in Israel and in the new West Bank Palestinian city of Rawabi – as well as at local factories mean that the level of employment in the West Bank is “reasonable,” he added.
Addressing the Iranian nuclear program and Tehran’s talks with the international community, Ya’alon noted that the July deadline to reach an agreement had passed without one, and he expressed doubt over whether the new deadline of November would be met.
“Our position on this issue is clear. Any agreement that leaves Iran with independent enrichment capabilities is unsatisfactory.... From our perspective, leaving core capabilities in Iran’s hands is not acceptable,” he said.
Addressing the upcoming process of selecting a new IDF chief of staff, Ya’alon said the next military chief would be selected from among serving senior officers – thereby ruling out the possibility that former OC Southern Command Maj.- Gen. (res.) Yoav Galant would be chosen for the job.