New Year Brings Security Challenges| September 20, 2022
While the IDF has until now been planning for strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities, 5783 could see it having to adjust to a concrete nuclear threat
he year 5782 was a difficult one for the chareidi community. A number of gedolei Yisrael passed away, some without warning: Rav Chaim Kanievsky, Rav Shalom Cohen, Rav Yitzchak Tovia Weiss, to name a few. We also lost some exceptional personalities, like Rabbi Uri Zohar, Benny Fishoff, and Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein. There were other tragedies, too, including several horrendous traffic accidents.
The Bennett-Lapid-Lieberman government — expected to breath its last in about two months — imposed a number of new taxes seemingly tailored to hurt the chareidi community, targeting such products as disposable silverware and soft drinks.
It was a tough year on the security front as well, characterized by a series of terror attacks in Jerusalem’s Old City, alongside other incidents. The Iranian nuclear project continues to advance by leaps and bounds and is set to be the primary security challenge of 5783. If it hasn’t already, Iran expected to hit the nuclear threshold during the course of the year. With a new nuclear deal — and Iran is practically already there, even if no deal is signed — the ayatollahs’ regime can choose when to take the remaining small steps to their first atom bomb, and when to reveal it.
The consequences would be dramatic: While the IDF has until now been planning for strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities, 5783 could see it having to adjust to a concrete nuclear threat. That massive shift would require reevaluating operational concepts, finding the right balance between offense and defense, and upgrading intelligence-gathering and cyber activity as well as combat readiness. In his first year as chief of staff, Herzi Halevi will have to make a decision about next-generation IAF fighter squadrons, likely based on an updated variant of the F-15.
The Israeli security establishment has already noted that the Palestinian Authority security apparatus has begun participating in firefights with Israeli forces, during IDF raids on Jenin, Shechem, and neighboring villages and refugee camps to arrest suspects.
Israel is particularly worried about developments in Shechem, a key central city. A new organization there called “the Lion’s Den” was recently formed, recruiting hundreds of Palestinians from various groups to cooperate in firing at IDF forces. A further deterioration in the situation and continued erosion of the PA’s control of the city could reverberate across Judea and Samaria and force the IDF to step up its commitments in the area.
Senior defense officials say there’s no good alternative to the PA security apparatus. Israel is left with two options, they say: helping the PA security apparatus assume security responsibility in the northern Shomron; or standing by and watching the PA collapse, which would force Israel to step into the resulting vacuum. The officials said that the situation in the northern Shomron has changed markedly for the worse, although the PA’s authority remains stable south of Ramallah, with health services, schools, the economy, and day-to-day governance going on as usual. In the south, the PA is also imposing law and order and rounding up gang members.
The weakening of the PA apparatus’s grip on the north, according to the defense officials, stems not only from the rise of the criminal gangs, but also from a prolonged decline in the Authority’s legitimacy, which is affected by Israeli policy. Since the end of the Second Intifada, Israel has not acted to strengthen the PA’s hold on the Shomron, which was severely shaken after Yasser Arafat stirred up terror in the area and the IDF was forced to reoccupy several cities. This state of affairs has damaged the PA’s standing in the eyes of Shomron residents and its rule is seen as weak and even helpless.
The mutual recriminations have been debated at length in the security discussions — still going on — between Israel and the PA. Israel can’t realistically expect the PA security apparatus to take action against the gangs in Judea and Samaria, say the Palestinians, while the IDF continues to enter the refugee camps every night to arrest suspects.
The Arabs also say that, as long as mourning tents for slain terrorists are set up every day, the PA can’t take effective action. Palestinian officials requested Israel limit IDF activities in the Shomron and instead let their forces take responsibility for the region. They argued that this method has proven successful in reining in spreading violence in the past.
The prevailing belief in the security establishment is that the wave of attacks is not coincidental. It’s part of a Hamas strategy to strike in Judea and Samaria rather than the Strip, and to challenge Israel’s tottering political system. For now, the terrorist wave, and the arguments about it, are ongoing.
That’s the percentage of Israelis who believe Israel should resort to the military option to neutralize the Iranian nuclear threat, while 32% say there’s no need for military action against Iran. In the Israeli-Arab sector, opposition to an operation rises to 57%.
In Favor of a Deal
Tamir Hayman, former head of the Military Intelligence Directorate and now managing director of the Institute for National Security Studies, addressed the potential nuclear deal with Iran, the tensions in Judea and Samaria, and the chances of a military confrontation with Hezbollah. “Very little remains to convince the Iranians of the credibility of a military option. We need a deal in order to build up capabilities that will genuinely threaten Iran.” He warned of the escalation in Judea and Samaria, and said that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah “hopes for a gas deal that he can tout as a victory.”
Who’s Up, Who’s down
Former prime minister Naftali Bennett: “My decision to form a government last year was the best decision I’ve ever made. It seems to me, and I say this with pain, that those now calling it a mistake are simply suffering from post-trauma. They’re cowed, fearful, broken. I don’t judge them and I’m not angry. I’ve seen and felt the machine that crushed them. I know what the pressure feels like, day in, day out.”
MK Ayelet Shaked responded: “The previous government was a last resort stemming from boycotts, and that’s why it collapsed. It’s time to put an end to the boycotts. I’ve returned home, I’ve returned to the right.”
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 929)
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