Former IDF chief of staff predicts post-Assad Syria could be positive for Israel if not aligned with Iran, Hezbollah.
By YAAKOV KATZ
A strike on Iran is “not needed tomorrow morning,” but Israel does need to present a credible military threat alongside sanctions and diplomatic action, former IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi said on Sunday.Speaking at The Jerusalem Post Conference in New York City, Ashkenazi said the right strategy was to continue the economic crackdown on Iran as well as actions that take place “under the radar.”“I think we still have time. It is not tomorrow morning,” Ashkenazi said. “It is better to persuade our friends in the world and the region that it is a global threat and [the government] has done a good job on this. In any case, Israel needs its own capability since we cannot [live] under an [Iranian] nuclear umbrella,” he said.“We need crippling sanctions and much more severe sanctions. It might now be too late and too light and it needs to be supported by a credible military threat,” he added.Former prime minister Ehud Olmert, also speaking at the The Jerusalem Post Conference, said there was still time to stop Iran with sanctions and diplomacy.Olmert said that the United States needed to lead the international efforts to stop Iran. He slammed the Israeli government for clashing with US President Barack Obama over the peace process with the Palestinians.“There is enough time to try different avenues of pressure to change the balance of power with Iran without the need for a direct military confrontation with Iran, and now is not the right time [for a military strike] which may not lead to the right outcome that is needed to ensure the security of the State of Israel.”AdvertisementSpeaking out against Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s assertion that sanctions will fail, Olmert said that there was still time before military action would be needed. He also criticized Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s comparison of Iran to Nazi Germany.“I am not certain that when we speak loudly it is more helpful than when we speak privately and quietly with the leadership of those countries,” Olmert said.“It is not a good strategy to fight with the [US] president,” he said. “Israel needs to support and respect the president and not fight with him.”Booed by the crowd in New York, Olmert said Israel needed to make concessions to the Palestinians in peace talks to gain legitimacy in the international arena. Olmert also said Israel did not need to hold on to Arab parts of Jerusalem in a peace deal and to retain a Jewish majority in the capital.“I am not certain that when we talk about Jerusalem and the indivisibility of Jerusalem, do we mean in real terms, and how significant it is for the future of the State of Israel and the Jewish character of the city of Jerusalem that Arab parts that were technically added to the city limits will forever remain part of Jerusalem,” Olmert said.Turning to the ongoing upheaval in the Middle East, Ashkenazi revealed that former Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman visited Israel two months before Hosni Mubarak was toppled and predicted that either he or Mubarak’s son Jamal would succeed the president.Ashkenazi said that someone in the room asked Suleiman how he could be certain that the transition of power would occur as he said. He said that Suleiman stated that it did not matter who voted but rather “who counted the vote.”The possible downfall of Syrian President Bashar Assad could be a positive change for Israel, since any regime which succeeds would not be aligned with Iran or Hezbollah, the former IDF chief said on Sunday.“Most of the weaponry that Hezbollah posses comes from Syrian depots, and the money from Iran,” he said.However, he shied away from predicting whether and when Assad will fall. The international community’s failure to take “tangible action” was like giving Assad a “license to kill,” Ashkenazi said.Turning to the threats against Israel, Ashkenazi said that Israel was no longer facing a clear enemy as it did during the Yom Kippur War in 1973.“In Yom Kippur it was simple. We had to mobilize. You saw the borders, the fences, minefields, and there was attack and defense,” he said.“Today war is different. You still need to mobilize,” but when you go to the battlefield, “you raise your binoculars and you don’t see the enemy.”
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