Sunday, January 20, 2013

Our Situation Has Never Been More Complicated

Will 2013 be a good or bad year in defense for Israel? Several clarifications on the eve of Israel's elections
Amir Rapaport

Our Situation Has Never Been More Complicated
The main characteristics of the regional situation picture at the start of 2013 are an absence of stability (since 2011) and complexity. Therefore, the claim that Israel’s strategic situation has improved is simplistic (not to say expressly: incorrect).

Let us start with the good news: the analysis recently presented by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs is accurate with regards to at least two issues. Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis has indeed weakened considerably in the past year due to the Syrian civil war; and the pragmatism displayed by the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt (and its influence on Hamas in Gaza) is encouraging and even very surprising. In the short range, there is no danger of war against a regular army following the disintegration of the Syrian military, and due to the internal affairs in which Egypt finds itself immersed.

Now for the not so good news: the main reason Hezbollah has been holding its fire since the Second Lebanon War is not Israeli deterrence, but rather a strategic decision by Iran not to let Hebzollah get into trouble in any entanglement with Israel until “judgment day.” Iran strengthened Hezbollah’s strength in recent years, but only as a threat to Israel’s home front, for the day that it is attacked. This threat is not like the weapon arsenal possessed by Hassan Nasrallah in 2006, nor is it like Hamas’ fire from Gaza during Operation Pillar of Defense.
Hezbollah’s weapon stockpiles include missiles with warheads of hundreds of kilograms and precision of up to dozens of meters. Meanwhile, Iran is advancing towards acquiring a nuclear weapon according to its strategy. Next spring, it can announce the suspension of the uranium enrichment, thus neutralizing any option for an attack against it (the short route to a bomb will be continued far from the eyes of the UN inspectors, even if it takes several years). There should be no mistake: even if an attack eventually occurs, Iran and Hezbollah are capable of attacking Israel with heavy weaponry, at a scope that the Iron Dome and Arrow systems will find it difficult to confront.
The situation in Egypt is not encouraging either: when the Muslim Brotherhood establishes its rule, it might gradually dissolve the peace treaty with Israel, and even gradually become an enemy again. The situation in Jordan is not stable, and the possibility of the collapse of the Hashemite rule is no less than a defense nightmare from Israel’s perspective. The situation in Syria might be encouraging in the long range (if a moderate Sunni government will be established after Assad), but in the short range, the instability might lead to terror attacks and even the fire of missiles towards Israel. What about the Judea and Samaria region? There a wave of popular terror has begun, in part due to the growing perception in the Palestinian street that the path of struggle against Israel is the correct path.
Worst of all is the fact that Israel’s strategic support, the US, is no longer the only all-capable superpower as in the past. Furthermore, for the first time in decades, Israel does not even have one significant ally in the Middle East (after initially losing Iran, and later Turkey and Egypt). Is there anyone in Israel that wouldn’t want to return the situation in the region back by at least a few years? Perhaps only in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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