MI chief warns: TA may be on frontlines of next conflict

Outgoing Military Intelligence head Yadlin says current quiet should not lull Israel into complacency, adds that Iran is number one threat.

Amos Yadlin 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Amos Yadlin 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Tel Aviv is likely to be on the front lines in the next large military confrontation, Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin, the outgoing head of Military Intelligence, warned at his final briefing to the cabinet on Sunday.
On Monday, Yadlin, 59, a veteran air force pilot who has lead Military Intelligence for five years, will hand over command to Brig.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, a 46-year-old former head of the IDF’s Operations Division, who will be promoted to major-general.
“Israel’s deterrence is very strong, but the quiet should not fool us,” Yadlin said. “The opposite is the truth: Our enemies are getting stronger and arming.”
Yadlin said that the principle threat to Israel was from Iran, and not solely because of its nuclear program.
“Iran’s tentacles extend to all those who are working against Israel,” he said. “In the next confrontation there is a likelihood that more than one front may erupt, and Tel Aviv will be turned into the front lines.”
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak praised Yadlin for his five years as Military Intelligence chief and his 40 years of IDF service. Netanyahu said the head of Military Intelligence was perhaps the most important position in the intelligence services, and that Yadlin carried out his duties in the best way possible.
Barak said that under Yadlin, the IDF’s intelligence-gathering capabilities improved “beyond all imagination,” although it was “impossible to provide the details here.
“In intelligence, successes are always hidden while the failures are on the front page of the newspapers and are discussed endlessly,” Barak said.
“But as someone who knows the whole balance, it is unusually positive. Even where there were failures, and there are failures in our system, under Amos there was a determination to check them, investigate them and genuinely try to learn the lessons and see what needed to be done so they did not happen again.”
Yadlin played a key role in both of Israel’s recent major conflicts – the Second Lebanon War in July-August 2006 and Cast Lead in December 2008- January 2009, as well as in a slew of covert operations, many of which are still classified.
After the Second Lebanon War, Yadlin led a series of reforms aimed at making Military Intelligence more relevant to combat units, many of which operated with outdated maps and intelligence during the fighting against Hizbullah.
He made fundamental changes to Military Intelligence and established a new position, responsible for coordinating with the “consumers” of intelligence in the field. The position is currently held by Brig.-Gen. Herzi Levy, a former commander of the Paratroopers Brigade.
While it’s never been confirmed, Yadlin must have played a key role in the decision-making process leading up to the reportedly Israeli bombing in September 2007 of a nuclear reactor under construction in northwest Syria. According to foreign reports, Military Intelligence’s Unit 8200 signal intelligence group provided key data that led to the discovery of the reactor.
Yadlin was one of the fighter pilots who in 1981 flew to Iraq and destroyed the Osirak reactor under construction by Saddam Hussein.
During Operation Cast Lead, Military Intelligence – in conjunction with the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) – provided key intelligence that led to the bombing of most of Hamas’s arms caches and underground rocket launchers.
Over the past two years, Military Intelligence has focused on collecting information and creating target banks to be used in case of conflicts with Hizbullah in the North and Hamas in the South.
Nevertheless, Iran and its nuclear program continue to be the primary challenges for the intelligence community.