(February 18, 2019 / JNS) Leading Israeli strategists including former military leaders and diplomats assessed the threats and regional ambitions continuously posed by Iran and its proxies in Lebanon and Syria. The experts, all currently fellows at respected Israeli think-tanks addressed the threats as part of the annual Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations Leadership Mission to Israel, held at Jerusalem’s Inbal Hotel.
Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, a senior fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, explained to the audience that Iran is a challenge from three major perspectives. “The first and most dangerous issue is that the Iranians did not put away their dream to be a nuclear, military state,” he said.
He added that when Israel discovered the hidden Iranian archives last year, the question had to be asked: “Why did the Iranians keep all this knowledge in Tehran? The answer is simple: To use it one day.”
The second matter, according to Amidror, is that the Iranians are trying to build an independent war machine in Syria. “This is the war we are in now. When [Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad] Zarif talks about war with Israel, this is what he is talking about.”
And the third “is the effort by Iran to enhance the capabilities of Hamas and mainly Hezbollah to bring in more accurate weapons systems and to help Hamas build its capabilities.”
Amidror explained that from the Israeli perspective, “these are three different areas in which Israel is very occupied and concerned, and doing what is necessary to prevent the Iranians from implementing their plans.”
‘Convincing skeptics that Iran is a real threat’
The Mideast analyst also explained that while Iran may not be directly pursuing a nuclear weapon directly at the moment, they are preparing for it by working on long-range missiles and next-generation centrifuges.
On America’s pullout from Syria: “We should concentrate on how to handle Israeli policy and not American policy. They will make their decisions. America was in Syria to fight ISIS—not Iran. We need to ask ourselves what the consequences are of America pulling out. … The day America pulls forces out of Syria, Iran will open a land corridor from Iran to Syria and will make weapons transfers much easier for Iran. We need to focus on solutions to this new situation. We don’t want America to do the job for us. … We don’t expect anyone to fight for Israel. Israel will defend itself, by itself.”
Former Israeli Ambassador Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, lamented that when Israel speaks about the problem with Iran in Europe, nations often turn a deaf ear. He explained that when it comes to European allies and the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, “the challenge Israel has on the diplomatic side is convincing skeptics that Iran is a real threat.”
He emphasized that Israel cannot only address hardware such as centrifuges, but that it also “must address Iran’s ideology. It is a country which feels that the borders established around it shouldn’t confine it. … We need to do two things. We need to show what Iranian ambitions are about and use this evidence to make our point. We also need to show what they are doing with the Iran agreement and maybe this will wake people up but unfortunately many people are still asleep.”
Maj. Gen. (ret.) Amos Gilead, executive director at the Institute for Policy and Strategy IDC Herzliya, was incredulous at the passive world response to Iran’s hegemonic ambitions, saying “the fact that Iran keeps threatening to destroy Israel and nothing happens to them is unbelievable.”
Gilead said Israel cannot underestimate Iran, and that the Islamic regime is still bent on taking over the region.
He also noted that in this regard, “Iran is not successful technically and operationally, but Israel is not successful strategically. We haven’t convinced them that it is not worth it to pursue their ambition to destroy Israel.”