Hezbollah remains the most serious conventional threat Israel is facing, more than Hamas or Iran, a report released Monday by the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) determined.
According to the report, submitted to President Rivlin by INSS head Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, Hezbollah has rockets that can reach any range, precision-guided missiles, attack and suicide drones, the best Russian-made air defense systems and ground units that are training to conquer Israeli towns and cities.
The INSS recommended to improve Israeli intelligence gathering in an effort to continue reducing the transfer of advanced arms to the terror organization and consequently reduce the chances of an escalation.
However, the potential for the eruption of a conflict with Hamas is higher than with Hezbollah or Iran.
Hamas, the INSS determined, may have been deterred after the 2014 Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, but it is continuing to build up its strength.
Furthermore, even if both sides are not interested in escalation, a conflict can break out over violent incidents or due to the deep social and economic frustration in the strip that will manifest itself in violence against Israel.
Regarding Iran, the INSS noted that while the nuclear agreement signed with world powers does give Israel a window of opportunity in the short term, Tehran is strengthening its conventional capabilities.
In the medium and long term, Iran will become much more dangerous and enjoy international legitimization for a broad and unrestrained nuclear program.
The INSS report details three significant challenges Israel will face on the long term: an enemy state having nuclear capabilities; the creation of a "one-state for two people" reality in Israel; and the erosion of Israel's international status.
Maj. Gen. (res.) Yadlin noted that a window of opportunity has opened that would allow Israel to handle these challenges: The incoming pro-Israel Trump administration in the US; Israel's shared interests with the pragmatic Arab nations; and adopting a bottom-up approach to dealing with the Palestinians, in cooperation with world and regional powers.
The INSS stressed that the direct conventional threat to Israel remained significantly low, but that paramilitary militias funded by Iran are growing stronger.
The institute determined that the United States remains committed to Israel's security, and said that negotiations over the military aid package showed the extent of this commitment, despite the tensions between the two leaders.
On the other hand, the INSS also pointed to negative trends: The Israeli government sticks to a policy of passivity and sanctifies the status-quo as the country's international status continues eroding due to the freeze in peace talks with the Palestinians. The diplomatic freeze, economic woes, the Palestinian leadership crisis and the mounting despair continue feeding "lone wolf" terrorism and increasing the potential of a full-blown conflict erupting.
The report determines that continuing with the current trend, "which is erroneously referred to as the 'status quo,' will reduce Israel's options and endanger its future as a Jewish and democratic state."
"Despite the relatively convenient strategic situation, the Israeli leadership must not avoid discussions and hard decisions that are vital to the formation of a pro-active national security policy that promotes Israeli interests as a Jewish, democratic, safe and legitimate country within the known borders," the report states.
"Even if it appears there isn't a partner on the other side—neither to reach an agreement nor to implement it—it is an important Israeli interest to stop the gradual descent toward the negative and irreversible reality of one-state to two peoples."
The report's conclusion, President Rivlins said, was "that Israel must preserve its independence in order to safeguard its essential interests. Yet in the same breath, you make clear that specifically for the sake of this security and independence, Israel must have cooperation with as many countries as possible in our region and around the world. You highlight that sovereignty and security will never be assured only with high walls and military might. Today more than ever, this is a message of unparalleled importance."