Is War Between Israel and Iran Inevitable

In Israel’s Defense Forces (IDF) annual assessment of the security situation and challenges to be faced in 2022, it appears that a moderate improvement in the security situation surrounding Israel is expected. The Israeli government approved the proposed budget submitted by the Defense Ministry. “Israel’s defense establishment will receive NIS 58 billion, an increase of NIS 7 billion.” The extra allocation takes into account the possible operations against the Iranian nuclear facilities and other maligned Iranian schemes. According to reports, Israel would purchase various types of manned aircraft, intelligence-gathering drones, and unique munitions needed for a possible attack on Iran’s heavily fortified underground nuclear sites.

The evolving strategic cooperation Israel has now with Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, is a definite positive development for Israel. In addition, halting the Iranians and their proxies from advancing toward Israel’s Golan Heights, and the support Putin’s Russia is giving to Israel’s operations against Iran is clearly a positive development. The Russians have not obstructed Israeli aerial operations against Iran’s shipment of arms to Hezbollah, nor the Israeli attacks on the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) bases and their proxies in Syria.

What is difficult to predict, however, is when Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terrorist groups in Gaza would choose to launch another mini-war with Israel. During the May 2021 war, or as Israel calls it, Operation Guardian of the Walls, Hamas, and the PIJ suffered significant losses in personnel and arms. Many of their top engineers were eliminated, and their “secret weapons” (mini-submarines, and drones carrying bombs) were destroyed, along with a large quantity of their rocketry. The IDF has recommended a tough approach against Hamas’ attempts to rearm.

Although the Lebanese Shiite-Muslim Hezbollah is far more powerful than its fellow terrorist group in the Gaza Strip, Sunni-Muslim Hamas, it is exercising far more restraint in operating against Israel. Having achieved supreme political and military power in Lebanon, Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah knows that a war with Israel at this time would jeopardize all that he and Hezbollah have managed to accomplish. The 2006 Second Lebanon War Hezbollah waged against Israel was a devastating one for the Lebanese. A war now would be even more costly for the suffering Lebanese. While both Hamas and Hezbollah’s raison d’être is the destruction of the Jewish state, Hezbollah, unlike Hamas, will be held accountable in the confessional Lebanese system of government. 

The chances for a war initiated by Israel’s enemies, i.e., Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas are projected to be low in 2022. The explosive situation that existed in the last few years on Israel’s northern border has been reduced, and it appears that neither Iran nor Hezbollah are ready for a full-scale war with Israel. Addressing Israel’s Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee last month, Israel’s Chief-of-Staff, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi asserted that Hezbollah and the pro-Iranian militias in Syria were obstructed from receiving precision strategic weapons including additional missiles, drones, and air-defense batteries that could hinder the maneuverability of the Israeli Air Force. But, given the US and its western allies reluctance to use the military option against Iran, and the possibility that the US and the other JCPOA western members might settle for a partial deal is certain to provide Iran with incentives to incite a war against Israel either directly or through its proxies.

At this juncture, the Iranian regime does not have the support of the Iranian people to engage Israel in a devastating war. Iran has not fully recuperated from the 1980-1988 war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and the US imposed sanctions have created a sharp contraction in the economy. We might also add the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic on Iran’s economic woes. The dictatorship of the Ayatollahs, while being less concerned with the hardship of its people, is very much concerned about preserving its power. As such, witnessing recent demonstrations throughout the country with calls such as “down with the dictator,” a reference to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the regime is fearful of an uprising among its repressed, predominately Sunni minorities, including Kurds, Ahwazi-Arabs, and Baluchis, in addition to the culturally deprived large Azeri minority. Urban Persians and those classified as the educated middle-class are also resentful of the regime.

Once Iran becomes a verifiable “threshold nuclear state,” Jerusalem is likely to change its security assessment, and Israel might act unilaterally to stop the existential threat a nuclear Iran poses to the Jewish state. In that case, war with Iran is inevitable. Although the Biden administration has been consulting with Israel regarding the ongoing negotiations in Vienna, Washington has been dead set against any Israeli unilateral action against Iran’s nuclear facilities. Israel’s Defense Minister, Benny Gantz, pointed out that Israel’s defense establishment “is committed to safeguarding a strong, stable, fortified Israel, and ensuring that Iran does not develop an existential threat to Israel. We will continue to act with responsibility and to safeguard our independence of action in any place and sector, and secure Israeli citizens.

The IDF has taken into consideration that an operation to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities would more than likely create a major conflagration, involving Hamas, and Hezbollah. Israel is counting on its three-pronged missile defense systems: short-range Iron Dome, medium-range David’s Sling, and long-range Arrow III missiles. In addition, Israel has the use of the Patriot surface-to-air interceptor missiles. Iran does have the ability to deploy missiles, drones, and cruise missiles, though its Air Force still deploys older generation US aircraft, and the US sanctions curtail Iran’s ability to acquire updated western military technologies. Israel’s technology, on the other hand, is at least a few steps ahead of the Iranians, and it has the capabilities (albeit not absolute) to protect its civilians and military personnel. In the near future, and in view of the increase in the defense budget, projects that were delayed will now be reactivated. Israel’s high-tech industries will be moving into laser technologies and electromagnetic beams, as well as cyber and artificial intelligence (AI). 

The fifth annual Blue Flag drill was held in Israel’s Negev last October with thousands of troops and dozens of aircraft from around the world including the US, Britain, France, Germany, Greece, India, Italy, as well as personnel from Australia, Croatia, Finland, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Romania, and South Korea. Israel’s Air Force (IAF) commander Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, invited as his personal guest the commander of the United Arab Emirates Air Force, Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Nasser Mohammed al-Alawi.

Gen. Norkin believes that the international drill reaffirms the IAF’s legitimacy to act against external threats. He said, “We are living in a very complicated region, and the threats to the State of Israel from Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Iran are only increasing. Holding the international exercise in this current reality, while continuing our public and overt operational activities on all fronts, is of utmost strategic importance, and has an extensive impact over the IAF, the IDF, and the state of Israel.

Finally, security cooperation and intelligence sharing with regional states, and in particular the Gulf states of UAE, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia, provides Israel with a new sense of confidence. Yet, one must caution Israel and the IDF in particular, not to resort to overconfidence, or reducing its vigilance.

Iran has Taken Over Syrian Golan Heights

Veteran journalist and Middle East analyst Ehud Yaari recently came out with the disturbing statement that just across the northern border, the Iranian military is becoming firmly entrenched in the Syrian Golan. Yaari noted that for the past two months, these combined forces besieged the city of Daraa, occasionally shelling the city. Inside the city are rebel groups who refuse to surrender. The Syrian army intends to exile the rebels to the Turkish-controlled region to the north. Russian attempts at mediation have failed.

Daraa holds particular significance as it was the scene of the first protests against the Assad regime in 2011.

The tense situation threatens to explode at any moment. Another Syrian army bombardment of Daraa on Sunday killed six rebels. The Syrian army declined to comment on the reports but said in a statement it was losing patience with what it called “armed groups and terrorists” in the neighborhood.

Syria loomed as a belligerent threat to Israel until its civil war began a decade ago. But Yaari claims that even in its weakened state, it is still a threat Israel would be reluctant to aggravate. concern.

Though Jordan has expressed a willingness to renew ties with Syria, a powerful Iranian-Hezbollah threat on its border is unappealing to King Abdullah according to Yaari. He claimed that the Syrian army’s 4th and 7th divisions are now essentially controlled by Iran and Hezbollah, further amplifying the threat to Jordan.

Yaari notes that the situation has become even more complex as Israel cannot depend on US support under the Biden administration. The prospect of a dominant Iranian military presence in the Golan is, of course, unacceptable to Israel but with Russia firmly entrenched with the Khmeimim Air Base in Latakia, the IDF is limited in its ability to act against the Iranian presence.

“Israeli efforts to disrupt, prevent or delay the deployment of Iran and Hezbollah in the Syrian Golan region has not been completely successful,” Yaari said.“They’ve inserted themselves into the Syrian army’s nervous system – its chain of command – and into the everyday lives of the local population.”

Israel is caught in a delicate balancing act, caught between Russia, Syria, Hezbollah, and Iran. Yaari warned that a Hezbollah rocket attack targeting Israeli cities could be the match that sparks a major inferno in the region.

“Iran knows that once it erects a military outpost in the area, the IDF will not hesitate to strike,” he explained.“If Israel does not act soon, Iran and Hezbollah will establish a significant military presence in the Golan,” he concluded.

“The result will be that due to tacit approval of the other powers, through cunning and sophistication, Iran will continue to turn the Syrian Golan and the Houran in southern Syria into a branch of the Lebanese front line,” Yaari wrote. “Hezbollah and its patrons will be deployed from the Yarmouk River to the Mediterranean. Putin, despite his promises, is not thwarting this plan and Assad will certainly not stand up to those who saved him from an uprising that began a decade ago and has yet to subside.”

Yaari’s analysis was supported by a recent report published by a Turkish think tank that claimed that Iran has doubled its presence in southern Syria’s Golan Heights, while building military infrastructure in the region, specifically for a future conflict with Israel.

Adam Berkowitz

The Middle East is About Religion, not Land

If you’ve seen videos of recent attacks on Jews in New York City, Los Angeles, London and elsewhere, you may have missed a very revealing aspect of those attacks. They were almost always — as they have been for decades — accompanied by curses such as, “F—- the Jews.”

Now, given that the perpetrators are almost always Muslims — whether immigrants or children of immigrants from an Arab or other Muslim country — two questions present themselves:

Why attack American or French or British Jews? And why curse “the Jews”? In other words, given that the recent wars have been between Hamas and Israel, why aren’t these attacks outside of Israel on Israelis and Israeli institutions? And why level curses at “the Jews”?

The answer is this: The Muslims who seek Israel’s destruction do so because Israel is Jewish, not because Israel occupies the West Bank or Gaza.

First, the Muslim world sought Israel’s destruction from the day Israel was established in May 1948, before it occupied a centimeter of the West Bank or Gaza.

Second, Israel does not occupy Gaza. Israel withdrew completely from Gaza 16 years ago.

Third, the Palestinians rejected a state of their own five times:

Rejection No. 1: In 1937, the British Peel Commission offered the Arabs 80% of the geographical area known as Palestine. The Jews were offered 20%. The Arabs rejected it.

Rejection No. 2: In 1947, the Arabs rejected the United Nations partition plan.

Rejection No. 3: In 1967, in the course of defeating the attempt by Egypt, Syria and Jordan to destroy Israel, Israel conquered the West Bank from Jordan, Gaza from Egypt and the Golan Heights from Syria. Most Israelis had no interest in retaining Gaza or almost any part of the West Bank except for East Jerusalem, the Jewish city in which Jews have lived for 3,000 years, from 1,400 years before Muhammad was born. The Palestinians, as the Arabs of Palestine came to be known, and all the Arab states rejected partition and peace.

Rejection No. 4: In 2000, at Camp David, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat a Palestinian state in all of Gaza and 94% of the West Bank (Set ITAL)with East Jerusalem as its capital. But Arafat rejected the offer. In the words of U.S. President Bill Clinton, Arafat was “here 14 days and said no to everything.”

Rejection No. 5: In 2008, Israel tried again. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert went even further than Ehud Barak had, expanding the peace offer to include additional land to sweeten the deal. The Palestinians said no, again.

The reason for all these Palestinian/Arab rejections of a state of their own was that it meant a Jewish state in the Middle East still existed.

The Middle East dispute has never been about land. Israel is the size of New Jersey. It is slightly larger than El Salvador. If it were the size of Manhattan, the Palestinians and many Muslim states would still seek its destruction. There are 22 Arab states in the Middle East, but there is no room for one Jewish state. There is even a state with a Palestinian majority: Jordan. The issue is not land. The issue is religion.

Why is Iran wholly preoccupied with destroying Israel? It has nothing to do with Muslim solidarity; the Iranians don’t give a damn about Palestinians. It is entirely about hatred of Jews and the Jewish state. If the Iranians cared about fellow Muslims, they would be targeting China, which is accused by the United States and other Western countries of committing genocide against the Uyghurs — a predominately Muslim ethnic group that lives in China — a charge that includes forced sterilization of Uyghur women.

Westerners want to believe it is about land — in part because they are secular and think in secular terms. And in part because they need to believe that the dispute is about land. Only then can they blame Israel. If it were about a Muslim desire to destroy the Jewish state, they could no longer blame Israel. Even worse: They would have to blame Islamist fanaticism.

Dennis Prager