In today’s Middle East, radical forces, which thrive on chaos, are on the rise; and those who rule the Arab states are here today and gone tomorrow.
Independence Day in Israel, which this evening starts celebrations for the 65th year of Israel’s Independence, takes place deliberately right after Memorial Day, dedicated to honoring Israel’s fallen soldiers, so the Israeli public remains keenly aware that independence is possible only due to the sacrifices made by the fallen.
This year, however, looks set to be decisive – when the world finds out whether the international community’s policy of engaging Tehran diplomatically, while applying biting economic sanctions, will work or not. Should the policy fail, military action remains a serious possibility.
Since Israel’s founding in 1948, Israelis have sought peace and seized upon opportunities to make it when they arose, such as Israel’s return of the Sinai Peninsula in 1979 in exchange for peace with Egypt, as well as departure from Southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.
“Despite everything,” said newly appointed Defense Minister, Moshe Ya’alon, “despite so many elements that wanted to prevent this country’s founding, and who continue to invest so much every day to destroy us – they arise here in our intelligence assessments, Iran, Hezbollah — nevertheless, there is no doubt, that what stands between independence and a lack of independence is the shield of the IDF. ”
“We have the great privilege of defending Israel and protecting its independence,” Israel Defense Force Chief of Staff Benny Gantz concurred this week at IDF General Headquarters in Tel Aviv. “I wish us a successful year of independence, in the face of the challenges that are emerging before us. I am sure we will know how to carry out our missions.”
While Ya’alon and Gantz have been studying the intelligence on the upheavals and multiple asymmetric threats developing on Israel’s borders, Iran and its nuclear program remain at the top of the security agenda.
Although a collapsing Syria no longer remains a conventional military threat to Israel — the Syrian army is engaged in fighting the rebels, while steadily losing its power — the crumbling Middle Eastern old order is allowing for a plethora of terrorist organizations to grow on Israel’s borders.
Hizballah, for example, an Iranian-backed Shi’ite terrorist group, remains with its estimated 80,000 rockets – an unprecedented number of projectiles – pointed at Israel.
Should Hezbollah initiate a future round of hostilities, the IDF has prepared a large-scale ground operation into Lebanon, aimed at extinguishing rocket attacks on the Israeli home front.
The Israel Air Force has also been busy preparing surprises for future conflicts. New technologies allow fighter jets to strike as many as 1500 targets in 24 hours. Israel’s reply to Hizballah aggression would be devastating.
Both Iran and Hezbollah are in the process of setting up a militia in war-torn Syria. This militia, made up of 50,000 fighters, will remain active in Syria even if the Assad regime is toppled.
Also in Syria, Al-Qaeda is planning to raise the flag of radical Sunni Islam, as its Syrian and Iraqi forces announce a merger.
In Israel’s south, near the Gaza strip, the IDF is also closely monitoring Hamas, which, at least for the time being, has remained deterred by Israel. Next door, however, the Sinai Peninsula is filled with Al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadi fighters, who are planning their next cross-border attack.
The IDF is closely studying this complex map of threats, and making sure it is ready for the future. Today, with Israel’s military is at its strongest, the country is capable of dealing with its highly chaotic and dangerous environment.
Originally published at the Gatestone Institute.
About the Author: Yaakov Lappin is a journalist for the Jerusalem Post, where he covers police and national security affairs, and author of the book The Virtual Caliphate. He is also a visiting fellow at the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.
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