Part 1 of analysis
No dramatic changes are expected in our security situation next year. A war will not break out, and a major military confrontation will likely not take place. For the time being, all the main players in the region that may ignite a major flare-up have a strong interest in maintaining restraint and avoiding confrontation.
Yet this doesn’t mean there is no cause for concern. Fuel vapors are still in the air, as well as enough sparks that may ignite them. The constant tensions in the Lebanon and Gaza theaters may cause occasional flare-ups, despite the desire on both sides to avoid them. This was the case this past year, and this will likely be the case in the coming year.
The change will apparently come in the terror arena, with terrorism escalating in the coming year – both in Judea and Samaria and within Israel. Hamas, Iran, and Hezbollah will do everything in their power to torpedo the recently launched negotiations and will boost their efforts should it turn out that the sides are indeed able to formulate a framework deal. If, on the other hand, the talks hit a dead-end or fail, the Palestinian street will be the one to rise up. IDF officials estimate that the people, under Fatah’s leadership, will head out to protest, but no Intifada shall break out – at least not at first.
This year too we shall continue to cope with three main threats: The Iranian nuclear threat, the rocket, missile, and mortar threat in the north and in Gaza, and the de-legitimization campaign against us in the international arena that already limits Israel’s ability to contend with the challenges, both tactically and strategically. It ties the hands of IDF soldiers and commanders when they need to face Hezbollah and Hamas, which deliberately operate out of civilian population centers, and it minimizes the government’s ability to initiate military activity.
The State of Israel does not have an adequate military, diplomatic, and PR response to these strategic threats, and it will not have such response in the coming year either. These threats are interrelated and in the worst-case scenario may combine to produce a war where we face hundreds of missiles and rockets from Iran, Lebanon, Syria, and Gaza, while the IDF’s air and ground forces have to limit themselves for fear of harming civilians and the sanctions to be imposed following the next Goldstone Report.
No Iranian breakthrough, yet
And what about Iran? Intelligence information acquired by the US, Israel, and the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency estimates that this year too, Tehran will continue to accelerate its drive towards nukes, accumulate more low-enriched uranium, and continue to developed atomic warheads for its missiles.
This is the bad news. The good news is that these same elements estimate that the leadership in Tehran will not achieve the technological and practical “breakthrough” this coming year that would bring it to the verge of becoming nuclear and having the capability, within a few months, to equip several long-range missiles with nuclear warheads.
If this estimate is accurate, the US and the international community still have about a year to examine the effect of the sanctions. At this time they appear to be hurting Iran, yet not to an extent that would prompt its leadership to suspend the military nuclear project. Hence, the coming year will be used by Israel – and apparently by the US as well – to prepare and coordinate what is known as “the military option.”
Experts at the Institute for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University estimate that Israel would not be able to strike Iran “without getting a green light, or at least a yellow light, from the Administration in Washington.” Barak and Netanyahu agree with this assessment.
This is one of the main reasons that prompted Netanyahu to respond to US pressure on the Palestinian front. In exchange for his willingness to offer concessions and compromise in the negotiations with Abbas, Netanyahu and Barak hope to get closer coordination and partnership with the US in respect to stopping or at least delaying the Iranian nuclear program. A significant encouraging sign on this front was the authorization granted by President Obama and top Administration officials for a new military acquisition package for Israel.
The decision whether to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities will be taken in Israel (and possibly in Washington too) only if and when Iran embarks on a “nuclear breakthrough” in practice – and this isn’t supposed to happen in the coming year.
Part 2 of analysis to be published Wednesday evening
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