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April 27, 2008: Israel and Iran

April 27, 2008

This evening the Israel Law Center, Shurat HaDin, sponsored a talk by Brig. Gen. Yossi Kupervasser, former head of Military Intelligence, on the subject, "Does Israel have a Response to the Iranian Nuclear Threat?"

The topic of his talk not withstanding, the General was quick to say that this should not be considered an Israeli problem, but rather a Western problem. Nor is the threat "simply" Iran, but rather the radical Islamic movement, with Iran at its fore, and its goal of changing the world order.

The Iranian regime is confident that it will succeed in its goal of achieving nuclear weapons because the West’s threats to date have been empty. One red line after another has been crossed by Iran over the last few years and there have been no repercussions.

Pressure via the international community is not possible because Russia and China, on the Security Council, have not been cooperative. This is because they are not entirely unhappy with Iran’s progress, as each has a desire to upset the current world order in its own way.


What is frequently ignored is that Iran has been doing R&D on its nuclear weapons program for some 15 years. There is currently some disagreement as to precisely how far Iran has come to date, but what is clear is that the window of opportunity for responding is closing — there is perhaps a year remaining before Iran has nuclear capability, perhaps two years.

The Iranians are prepared to endure hardship for the sake of their long term goals. Deterrence will work with them only if they believe that continuing with their nuclear development will endanger the Islamic revolution. Any pressure placed on Iran must be backed up with a convincing threat of military action.

As to that action, should it be necessary, far better that the US should take it. Should this not be the case, Israel is capable of military action that will set back Iran’s nuclear program for perhaps five years. (General Kupervasser suggests that the memory of what Israel did might well remain for far longer than five years and act as a deterrence to rebuilding.)

The military action would be difficult for Israel because multiple sites are involved, but it would be doable.

The General, of course, was not at liberty to spe ak about how this would be done, nor would he address actions that might be taken by Israel should Iran go nuclear before that military operation was put into place. (He has genuine concern about delays that might end up bringing us to that point — in essence action should have been taken yesterday.)


Coincidentally, Haaretz reports just today on a statement by Commander of the Israel Air Force, Major General Eliezer Shkedi, who said in a television interview that "in Nazi Germany, people didn’t believe that Hitler meant what he was saying. I suggest that we refrain from repeating that line of reasoning and prepare ourselves for anything."

According to Haaretz, Shkedi, who is soon to retire from his position, spent much of his service "dedicated to the preparation for a possible mission that was never discussed in public: an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities, should international economic sanctions prove to be fruitless."


Looking back over the past week, we see the following, which merits at least passing mention:

Talk of a "truce" (technically a hudna) in Gaza. First it came from Carter, when he met with Hamas officials, and then from the Egyptians, who were speaking about a six-month lull. The big breakthrough was ostensibly that Hamas was willing to have this hudna just in Gaza, with hopes that it would eventually extend to Judea and Samaria as well, but with no demand that it be inclusive from the start.

No point in revisiting all of the details or statements , because in the end it is not sincere on the part of Hamas and (presumably) it is not going to happen. Yesterday Mashaal told al-Jazzeera that there might be a ceasefire but that:

"It is a tactic in conducting the struggle. … It is normal for any resistance that operates in its people’s interest … to sometimes escalate, other times retreat a bit…the battle is to be run this way and Hamas is known for that. In 2003, there was a cease-fire and then the operations were resumed."

That, to a tee, is the description of a hudna — an official lull that allows Arabs to regroup and strengthen towards the time of renewing "the struggle."

We must hope that Israeli officials do understand this.

Hamas, which is hurting, is seeking a lifting of the blockade of Gaza in exchange for the ceasefire, but at a minimum would have to get other groups such as Islamic Jihad on board.


It made big news this past week when it was revealed that Olmert — using the Turks as a go-between — allegedly made an offer to Syria to return the Golan Heights in exchange for peace.

That it came just when the details about Syria’s nuclear reactor were being made public seemed to many as more than a little strange. There are claims that the connection in timing was not incidental — that there was some intention on Olmert’s part to allow Syria to salvage some dignity at a time of embarrassment, so that it would not overreact precipitously. (I am not sanctioning such an approach — merely reporting on it.)

At any rate, this will in the end also be talk that comes to nothing. For what was not emphasized in most media reports about Israel’s willingness to give up the Golan was what was expected in return — cessation of assistance to Hezbollah, a break with Iran, throwing Mashaal of Hamas out of the country, etc. This is simply not about to happen.

In a statement to the Qatari paper Al Watan, today, Assad said that the time has not come for direct talks between Syria and Israel.


The Golan is not only a significant strategic asset to Israel because of its height, it is also a much loved and strikingly beautiful area where vineyards thrive and recreational facilities have been established. Not insignificantly, it is the watershed for a good deal of Israel’s water.

Considered by Israeli law to be fully a part of modern Israel (civic and not military law applies), it is a region that according to Jewish law was also part of the ancient land of Israel (religious laws of the land, such as shmitah, apply here).

Most Israelis are much opposed to surrendering this area and a measure is being brought to the Knesset that would require approval within a national referendum before the Golan could be relinquished.


At the beginning of Pesach, three disguised vehicles , carrying a considerable volume of explosives, was driven towards the Keren Shalom crossing between Israel and Gaza and detonated. Thirteen IDF troops were wounded.

Keren Shalom is a crossing through which humanitarian supplies are driven. This is one of a series of events in which terrorists attempt to do damage to the very facilities that make life more bearable for the people of Gaza. To many this is simply incomprehensible, but that’s because we’re not thinking like terrorists.

The guess in most quarters is that the terrorists believe it is better that the people suffer than that Israel look good for helping. In fact, suffering Gazans makes great PR. In the case of Keren Shalom, 200 trucks laden with humanitarian supplies are permitted by Israel to ente
r Gaza each week.

According to Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant, head of the Southern Command , "Hamas is exploiting the compassion and generosity of the State of Israel by targeting humanitarian crossings. This is a deliberate attack against aiding the Palestinian population."

There is a further speculation that humanitarian compassion demonstrated by Israel is perceived by the terrorists as a sign of our weakness.


A similar action took place just today, when Hamas gunmen inside of Gaza attacked trucks on their way to Nahal Oz in Israel in order to receive fuel. The trucks, which had to turn back, were scheduled to bring fuel to UNRWA and to hospitals in Gaza.


While on Friday, Shimon Mizrachi and Eli Wasserman , two Israeli security guards at the Nitzane Shalom Industrial Zone, were shot dead by a Palestinian terrorist coming out of nearby Tulkarm. The complex houses nine factories that provide jobs to Palestinians.

Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah’s Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades all claimed responsibility.




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