We are at a crossroads. The nuclearization of Iran has been progressing since
the mid 1980s, when it was always something that was “far away.” There were
always other, more pressing problems, and each government passed it to the next.
Intelligence experts are saying that it doesn’t matter anymore whether Iran is
able to assemble a bomb by the end of 2010, 2011 or 2012. What is important is
that Iran now has everything it needs to make that bomb.
Should they be
left to their own devices, the Iranians could have operational nuclear
facilities anywhere between a year and 18 months, if they don’t slow down due to
political considerations. At this point in time the Iranians are not taking big
provocative leaps that incriminate them and are, as always, playing for
As there is currently no prospect of regime change in Iran, if the
mullahs are allowed to obtain a military nuclear capability, others in the
region won’t hesitate for a minute to go that route too. Saudi Arabia, Egypt and
Turkey, which all see themselves as central actors in the Middle East, would not
tolerate a situation in which they are left behind in the nuclear race. US
President Barack Obama’s vision of a nuclear-free world would be dealt a death
If Iran gets the bomb, every third-rate dictator and radical
terrorist group will either try to obtain nuclear power or feel emboldened to
act more aggressively. Terrorists have been trying for years to get their hands
on nuclear material, and some of the more radical groups will not hesitate to
send an armed nuclear device to a Western port. The Cold War concept of mutually
assured destruction thus won’t deter terrorists, and it won’t work in a
multipolar nuclear system where a nuclear attack might not have a clear address
to which a state can respond.
While the bipolar world of two superpowers
has receded, the global map has now coalesced into two opposing camps: call them
the moderates and radicals.
The center of gravity of the moderate camp is
America, while the radicals are centered on Iran. Their battle is being waged
over emerging and failed states in the middle: the Palestinian Authority,
Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and Pakistan.
Terror groups will see in
a nuclear Iran an incentive to become bolder, and Iran may provide a nuclear
umbrella to whom it chooses. Nobody, for instance, will dare disarm Hizbullah,
and it will continue to deepen its control of Lebanon with Iran’s
Officials in Jerusalem say that there is an increased understanding
among key world powers that sanctions, no matter how tough, are not going to
stop Iran from its nuclear march. The question then is what they are willing to
do to stop Iran. The moment of truth is approaching and strategic decisions are
becoming impossible to put off anymore.
ISRAEL’S STRATEGY continues to be
one centering on the maintenance of good relations with the US. It is the source
of our military platforms, arms and spare parts. It has weapons and ammunition
storage sites here that we can use in times of emergency. It invests heavily in
maintaining our qualitative military edge. We go to it when we need diplomatic
support. A big part of how our power projection is seen around the world is
directly related to how our relation with America is perceived. When there’s
friction between us, we are perceived to be weaker.
When America looks
weaker, we look weaker.
Increasingly, our enemies’ rockets are becoming
more accurate and deadly. In the next round, they won’t fire them just at
civilian populations as they have in the past.
They are expected to
target our military and strategic infrastructure with highly accurate missiles
carrying heavy payloads. To counter this, we need a sophisticated, multilayered
anti-missile system in place, and for this we need American support.
the coming year, we continue to face threats on five fronts: Iran, Syria,
Hizbullah, Hamas and the global jihad. The state’s weaknesses are well known:
long borders, population concentrated in the center, no strategic depth, one
central airport and proximity to threats from Gaza, the West Bank and Lebanon.
Despite this, we are still the strongest power within a 1,500 km. radius, and to
maintain this, we need American support.
While an outbreak of war is not
foreseen in the coming year, defense officials believe that the decisions taken
and processes embarked upon this year will determine the direction the Middle
East will take in the coming years.
In the meantime, Jerusalem can
benefit from opportunities of unprecedented cooperation with America, Egypt,
Jordan, Saudi Arabia and others against the joint threat from Iran. The price
for this cooperation will be progress on the Palestinian
PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY President Mahmoud Abbas has been involved in
all negotiations with Israel since the Wye Plantation accord, but the question
remains about whether he really wants, and is able to provide, a deal to end the
conflict and all future claims. The Palestinians feel that time is on their
side, and even a cursory look at their official media and education material
shows that they are not preparing their people for peace. However, there are now
different voices within the Palestinian camp than there were 30 years ago, and
things on the ground have changed significantly. In Gaza, Hamas’s hold on power
is secure unless it is forcibly removed or is drawn into a power-sharing deal
with the PA. In the West Bank, increasing prosperity, law enforcement and state
building are contributing to optimistic assessments of a peace deal, even if at
the first stages Gaza is left out of the equation.
However, the feeling
in Israel is that there is no Anwar Sadat on the Palestinian side, nobody who is
willing and able to end the conflict. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has said
he is willing to break old paradigms and pay a heavy price to end the conflict,
but his moment of truth will come when he has to choose between his right-wing
coalition and an American president determined to achieve a historic accord.
What Bibi chooses will set the tone for relations with America, and will bring
the Palestinians to their own historic reckoning.
plan is basically the same one drawn up by the army during Ariel Sharon’s term
and approved by every defense minister since, with minor adjustments. According
to this plan, Israel will not allow a south Lebanon model to materialize in the
West Bank, in which terrorists fill the power vacuum left by an Israeli
withdrawal with an arsenal of rockets and suicide bombers, which draws Israeli
forces back in.
Within the security plan, Israel is demanding, mostly
from America, an understanding of the shifting and unpredictable nature
Middle East, and its strategic depth concerns. Israel and Iran were once
friends, so too were Jerusalem and Ankara. Israel is conscious of the
showing the resurgence of the eastern front. As one top defense official
this week, “You can’t defend Tel Aviv from Latrun.”
The challenge for our
peace negotiators in the coming year is not to let the country’s
lines be portrayed as an unwillingness to move toward a deal with the
Palestinians. Thus, the more America provides security guarantees, the
Politically, the extreme Left and messianic Right have
not managed to create momentum for their binational or one-state
Polls continue to show a solid majority within the Jewish Israeli public
two-state solution with credible security guarantees. The simple truth
there are 3.5 million Palestinians and 7.5 million Israelis between the
River and the Mediterranean. In any configuration other than a twostate
solution, Israel cannot remain both Jewish and democratic.
Israel’s delegitimization in the world is reaching alarming proportions.
a peace agreement, the country’s isolation will deepen, with real
diplomatic and economic consequences. If Netanyahu, with his current
is unable to forge a brave peace with the Palestinians and maintain good
relations with an American administration hungry for such a deal, he has
option of widening his government by bringing in all or some of Kadima.
longer he waits, and the closer we get to elections, the less likely
be interested in joining his government.
Netanyahu does not want to
scuttle any of his current coalition partners, but he will have a hard
keeping the more right-wing elements from bolting the further along the
he gets with the Palestinians. With the settlement freeze, he has
unprecedented steps towards satisfying the Americans and enticing the
Palestinians. Israeli negotiators are trying to convince the
Americans that the question of settlement construction should not be a
focus of the peace talks. What does it matter if a house is built on the
or Palestinian side of the border once the border issue is settled, they
Furthermore, if a building is planned today, it will only be
completed, at the earliest, in 18 months. And since the two sides are
reach a framework agreement within a year, including borders, why walk
the talks over the construction issue? And lastly, how many buildings
can go up
in a year? A thousand, perhaps? And if they are built in the large
blocs, will that really scuttle the talks? Israeli and Palestinian
to ask themselves what their real interest is: achieve a lasting peace
an elegant and convincing way to blame the other side for the failure of
talks. As 5771 rolls in, it seems that Obama desperately wants a deal,
doesn’t really want one, and Bibi doesn’t know what he wants yet.