Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, 21st IDF Chief of Staff and Amb. Dennis Ross, Co-Chair of the Jewish People Policy Institute, discuss ‘the Strategic Triangle: Jerusalem-Washington-American Jewry’ at the Jewish People Policy Institute in Jerusalem. The event was conducted in Hebrew and English, this video has English subtitles.
The following is a full transcript of the event:
Avinoam Bar-Yosef: First of all, I would like to welcome the speakers and thank them for being willing to come here and speak about such an important subject in the life of the nation, a state that is important for all of us. I think it’s the most important explanations in this new century, this Zionist movement, that established the nucleus of the State of Israel, against all odds, in the Land of Israel, and the subject, as written in this investigation, is the relationship between the North American Jewish community, Jerusalem, and Washington. The speakers are Lieutenant General Gadi Eisenkot and Ambassador Ross. They don’t need a special introduction. I don’t have to add too much to tell you about the wonderful things they’ve done. Each, in his varied and various roles, has contributed in their own way to strengthening the Jewish people, even if their roles were defined in a very narrow and focused way. We, at the JPPI, are trying to contribute through strategic thinking, on the continued conflict and the continuation of the Jewish people. Every Independence Day, every year, we recognize the idea of soldiers in the Israeli public. And the IDF is considered to have the most trust of all government institutions, according to JPPI survey findings. This is not just because it’s an institute that represents all of us. It’s because all of our sons and daughters are there. It’s happening also because there are people like Gadi. Dennis Ross has been JPPI’s co-chair since its establishment. But the Jewish people was his top priority, and thanks to him and several of his colleagues, the United States and Israel have been able to find the common interests of both states. Interests that have added to Israel’s existential security. And when I heard that Dennis had left the Clinton administration, I brought him here because he was the only one who could ensure our success from the White House. He will come. And to, in order to direct this type of an organization. I thought that I knew him well enough to know how much the Jewish nation, and his Judaism, are important to him. He, right away, answered in the affirmative, and agreed to come here. That’s everything. Gadi completed a term of seven months in Washington that came to its culminatio with his seminal work on the Guidelines for Israel’s National Security Strategy, written along with Gabi Siboni at the Washington Institute for Near East Studies Dennis’ last book, which was written along with my former colleague, David Makovsky, is about the, it was published, or will be published, at Passover, in Hebrew. We couldn’t have two better people to open this discussion on the subject that we’re dealing with. But before handing the microphone to them, I couldn’t, I must, say something about a decision that was made that is not one of the decisions that Ross and Makovsky dedicate their book to. And here I mean, the decision made by Izhak Shamir, to close the gates of the United States to those, for those who wanted to leave the Soviet Union, we could see this as a cruel decision, to some extent. But this was a strategic decision that brought 1,250,000 immigrants from the former Soviet Union republics, assuming that they’re not, with the exception that they’re, no longer, refugees. These are immigrants that changed things in this country for the better, and they have enriched it’s thriving in the past generation. The decision that was made at the same time was the decision to bring the Ethiopian Jews. And I’m saying this because this connects the topics that we’re going to speak to, and mainly because I still believe that the greatest success of the State of Israel and the Jewish nation, in the last century, is in bringing together the ingathering of the exiles of the Land of Israel. But not just that; also, in order to respond to the horrible things that I heard, and I can’t think of a different definition, the horrible things that Rabbi Ovadia Yosef the Chief Rabbi said, that go against the values of the State of Israel, they undermine, not only do they undermine this wonderful immigration, these things go against any Jew, by virtue of being a Jew. Thank you, Gadi, for coming. We’re happy to hear you, and to learn from you, and of course, you can’t avoid talking about the things that happened in the past few days, Soleimani, and the Iranian response in the past few days. Thank you very much, Mr. Eisenkot.
Gadi Eisenkot: Good afternoon. I want to thank you for the invitation, and I would like to welcome Dennis Ross and David Makovsky for writing the book, and for having it translated into Hebrew, about the four Prime Ministers that made historical decisions, each in their own way, understanding that they are inspiring, and they’re strengthening the State of Israel. I am going to be talking about the security challenges of the State of Israel, Avinoam talked about the joint project I did with Professor Gabi Siboni at the Washington Institute. The idea wasn’t to write a book of history that describes the past, but to focus on basic guidelines for national security concepts we based on our experience in the past few years, including, I was the Military Secretary of two Prime Ministers, and then two other posts in the general staff, until I was the Chief of Staff, when I published “The Idea of Strategy” in its open version, open to the public, in order to share with them the national security challenges as I understood them. I’ll talk about the threats and the basic, updated basic concepts and we took the gamble, to propose changing two of the four basic concepts of the State of Israel, which are deterrence, defense, and decisive victory, also a few things on what, I feel, is considered the most important component of the national security of the State of Israel, which is resilience and the togetherness of the Jewish people. This is how I saw it as the Chief of Staff, when I talked about the trust of the public in the army. I saw this, one of the most important elements in the idea of civility to fulfill its mission, to defend the country, to ensure our existence, and to win the war, and the special relationship with the United States. It’s hard to go deeply into this topic, within 30 minutes. I will touch upon the most central themes. And some of the things that I will be saying, it will be telegraphic. We, we are dealing with dramatic events. The killing of Qasem Soleimani, as well as the firing of missiles towards American bases in Iraq. We are entering the year 2020 with a very wide scale of threats with security challenges and the public discourse recently, has been between the good decade, the better decade, that Israel has enjoyed, and statements about a greater chance is for war. And we will even hear sharper statements about an unavoidable war, and where you have three elections within a year, that causes, and what this causes to the discourse in the State of Israel and the international system within the JCPOA, that the US retreated from in May. The vague regional policy, trade policy in the Middle East, it has been very unstable in the past decade, where Iran had a very central role to play, both in the vision for the nuclear program and a desire to achieve hegemony, establishing itself, entrenching itself in Syria and other places. And, the missile industry that appeared, that influences not just the Iranians, but also its emissaries. And the Jihadis, Islamic Jihad, Hamas in the south. And various power brokers in Syria, that have caused ongoing instability in the past decade in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Libya, and other countries. The Palestinian arena, which is an ongoing challenge for the State of Israel, has weakened, it’s split with an ongoing strategic warning in the past three years about the chances for an escalation, both in the south and to the north. The challenge is to the relationship with, between Israel and Jordan, and the challenges between Israel and world Jewry. If I would have to summarize with one sentence, I would say what was said in the past few years. But, in any case, there’s a sense that this year the threat level is higher. I would say that the national security balance of the State of Israel has improved, and is at a point of advantage, compared to our enemies, along with the ability and possibility for escalation, and on all fronts. And this was said in the past few years. I think that this is even becoming more valid, in light of the threats that have been seen in the past year. The State of Israel has been around for 72 years, that we’ve been having, handling many threats. Multitudes, and terror as a basic phenomenon in our daily lives. It’s been with us from the establishment of the state, and it will continue being with us. Dealing with terror as an ongoing phenomenon that influences all aspects of our lives. Still, when we look at the State of Israel, there is a lot that we can take pride in, in the way that the country has developed and flourished, and in the economic, social fronts, and the infrastructure. We have a half-full glass that we can definitely take pride in. The State of Israel has reached all of these accomplishments without a security concept. So, you can ask the question, why we need a security concept? And why does Israel need a National Security Policy? Why do the main Organizations, Shabak, Mossad and the IDF, why do they need an institutional strategy? Why should, and certainly, why should we publish it, if up until now, we have managed without doing so? We could go back to a point of departure, which from Ze’ev Jabotinsky, 1923, that Israel, or the Jewish State in the works will need to build an Iron Wall that will clarify to our enemies, that the State of Israel cannot be defeated by force, and then perhaps we might be accepted in the region. And the complementary statement by Ben-Gurion, that without military force, the State of Israel could not arise. And a military force can’t alone solve the Arab/Israeli conflict. And I’m asking the question, even if that wall is built, the article was written in 1923, about when the Jewish power was at its beginnings, the Shemer Organization was united, started around then, there weren’t so many people in there and it was, what were you saying? I’m sorry. Yes. So, the Shemer Organizations was an organization of the state, on the way. In any case, when we looked at the capabilities that were built, the capability here is very impressive. A very impressive capability. The intelligence and strategic and military superiority of the State of Israel, The State of Israel has proved in our short history, that we are unvanquished in war. That doesn’t promise anything about the future. We must continue to foster and develop our military abilities, our social cohesion, and everything that makes up the state’s capabilities. In any case, when we sat down to write this paper, the Guidelines for Israel’s National Security Strategy, we reached a conclusion, or, I reached a conclusion, that even though we made out quite well without those things, it’s very important that the State of Israel have those basic documents. I see three of those types of documents which are important for the function of the organization. And, as an inspiration to the heads of the economic and educational, infrastructural organizations of the country. This is a national security concept to deal with the national security challenges, and it will change based on the elected government, who will set the direction, along with the institutional strategy and organizational strategy in the large organizations and the IDF. I see this as an obligation, as a duty. I think this will improve and refine the discourse, on the level of the leadership in the State of Israel, and between the leadership and the heads of the different systems. And the excuse for publishing it is very weak. I think that we can have a confidential version, that only those people that need to know will know about. Now when I look at the security challenges, today, I see in the future, in the near future I can see three attempted challenges. The most severe threat is the unconventional threat, the Iranian vision to achieve nuclear arms, or other states who might want to equip themselves with this capability in the next few years. And, there is this ability in Syria. Most in this majority is the chemical abilities in weapons of mass destruction, which has led to a reduction it has been reduced in the past few years, but this can change very fast. The second is the conventional state threat, which has also been weakened. It’s in the present, certainly since the first few years of the country, until the Yom Kippur War. This is the conventional threat that we’ve dealt with. The basic test is our ability. Our ability, these abilities exist in some of the states around us, even with those with whom we have peace. So, we must respond to this threat. And of course, the Syrian army that has acquired a lot of war fighting experience in the past few years. It’s just a matter of time until he recovers his abilities, it’s abilities, and becomes a serious threat. The third threat has a softer name, which is the subconventional threat. It has both the Hamas, the organizations, ISIS, including the artillery fire, which is their main mode of operation. Understanding that the Israeli home-front is our weakness, and therefore they’ve built an ability with over 120, 140,000 long, medium, and short-term ranges among Hezbollah. Hamas mimicked them and built additional capabilities. The idea of the attack tunnels against Israel is part of that idea to fear surprises, and to produce an advantage to the attacker. I think this is a threat that we took very seriously in the past few years. It’s a threat that I can say, that for the time being, it was indentified, both in the north and in the south, and it’s been handled. That doesn’t mean anything about the future, though. Even though we’ve built improved systems, technologically and physically, that are supposed to mitigate this threat substantially. But it wasn’t hard to imagine what would happen if that same threat in the north in January last year, in the beginning of January last year, under the name “Northern Shield,” where we identified the attack tunnel system of Hezbollah. The idea was to bring in hundreds of fighters, by surprise, through the underground tunnels, and along with massive firepower, to surprise us. This subject was, this was identified and handled, but our enemies understand that this is a pattern that could gain them an advantage, and this is a threat that we need to continue dealing with in the future, along with the terror that we’re dealing with constantly in Judaea and Samaria, with the building of a wondrous capability to the intel organizations and military, that can thwart most of these threats and produce a sense of security. Unfortunately, ever so often, we don’t succeed, and then these terror attacks do occur. The fourth threat, which will increase, I believe, in the next few years, has seriously increased in the past few years, is the cybernetic threat. Our enemies are operating all the time in this dimension and trying to harm us. In your booklets, you will see the national security concept, the national values, the vital interests, the security interests, a strategic analysis of the region, and an analysis of the elements of national security. Political, economic, military, social, and regional ones, and we also have a short chapter about world Jewry as an element of Israel’s national security. This, historically, before the establishment of the state, during the War of Independence, and this is how I see it, today. We committed to deal with basic concepts of the national security that’s really well-known, customs of warning, deterrents, and decisive victory had been with us for many years. But in 2006, edited by Dan Meridor, a fourth element was added, that announced a change of the intensity of the threat on the home-front. I see that in the, on our ongoing duty to develop Israeli power, not to fall asleep. To be creative and to be many steps ahead of our enemies, to be very prepared to protect power, and to project our willingness to use our military power, along with the need to use it logically and reasonably and from our experience in the past 10, 15 years when we’ve used force in some places. What has characterized these systems is that these were campaigns on one front against one enemy, or just one part of the IDF’s power has been used in the Gaza Strip. And, this is, here, we have to look at the different campaigns in 2008, 2012, and 2014. The complexity of Hamas and Islamic Jihad has produced for us in the urban spaces, in the ability to express the power of the IDF in these areas, when the IDF only uses a very small component of its capability. If you will, in 2019, one division was employed. In the next one three divisions were employed. In 2015, five divisions were employed. The basic goal is to allow for periods of calm while projecting power, and to allow the state to continue to flourish and grow. It’s been six years since the last campaign in the Gaza Strip, and 14 years since the Second Lebanon War, with all the criticism in the State of Israel, this created a window of peace, normalcy, and in my view, from a position of power, where a different pattern of operation has been used, which is a campaign between wars. The idea is to attack the military build-up of our enemies and reduce it as much as possible, in order to strengthen the Israeli side. The idea is that, the security systems should be constantly operating, and Israelis should be able to live their lives, as much as possible, while with a duty to point out possible threats. And a very quick turning point that will need to enforce the home-front to be very stalwart. The second thing that we have, is that we have to adapt to the spirit of the time. We have to find the same signs of our time, and ring the bells, and call up our reserve forces, to win the war. The concept that we suggested is more, is broader, that expresses the change that has occurred on the strategic, operational, and tactical levels. And for us, the title is supremacy. An intel supremacy that’s better adapted, rather than deterrence, or the era of warning systems that are improving, looking for those signs. And here the intel community in Israel, I feel, is a wonderful community with many capabilities that have been built over many long years, and have been providing to the heads of the state strategically an intel picture and an in-depth analysis, and on a tactical operation-level intel information that can have us focus our capabilities, while deal with the whole, very wide range of threats. Along with the duty and our need to be doubtful and be modest over the years, because as some that were strategic challenges from the Operation Barbarossa, to Pearl Harbor, to 9/11, Yom Kippur war. And if I only look at our experience, I can say that these are our black swans. These are two very gray swans. We had that same nuclear reactor in Syria that was built, and it reached a very advanced stage, and this is a warning both to us, and to our future generations. And the tunnels, the Hezbollah tunnels that had been built for over a decade. We only realized this at the very final stages of the tunnels. And this should be a warning to us, that even when you have this wonderful intel community, we can also be surprised, in the future. So, we need to greatly strengthen this capability, to be skeptical and to remain modest, and look for those secret projects that our enemies are identifying as a way of dealing with what they see as asymmetry, in their coping with Israelis. The third is Hamas and Hezbollah’s concert to point out the Israeli home-front a weak point, and to direct their firepower, to find the way to handle what they see as the strategic act of supremacy on, the State of Israel. And there has been a lot of investment. Still, we need to invest a lot, in order to be able to materialize our response ability, or the State’s response ability to protect the citizens on all dimensions. In land, in the air, and in the water. And on the cybernetic front. And the ongoing challenge in these types of wars is that the war should be as short as possible for the home-front and the security forces. We want to shorten the span of the war as much as possible. The fourth component is a designing component, in the Ben-Gurion concept of decisive victory. This is originally a tactical concept, for the deployed forces, according to Clausewitz, not to use the decisive victory is, for the strategic level, he said that it’s only through a tactical level. I think that the best way to define this as a victory, when they asked me to break this down, I would say that this is derived from two main parameters. The first is in the duty of the security establishments headed by IDF to achieve the war goals as the cabinet had designed. And then we can ask, what were the goals? What was achieved, and what wasn’t? The responsibility of the military system is to achieve this, full stock. And the second component is to ask, after a force deployment, has our strategic stance in the State of Israel improved, over time? If we take these two parameters, despite the feeling that we’ve missed something, since during the Yom Kippur War, I think that we can see this in a different light. Even though force build-up, I think that we have impacted their force build-up in Hezbollah, but they still have capabilities, there. The ability to deter ahead of the force build-up of conventional arms is complex. I don’t want to go into that. The bottom line is, and I’m really going to keep with my 30 minutes, here, I would say that the bottom line is that I see a need to arrange, to organize, the basic documents to the State of Israel, on the two levels that I mentioned. What we have right now is the National Security Council that is responsible for updating the National Security Concept. So, I think that, not because of a legal requirement, this is not where we should be going. We’re talking more about a functional, effective need that I feel, will create a broader understanding, more effectiveness for the heads of the security organizations that understand the interests, the concept that should be formulated, and I’m not going to the political discourse, I’m talking about the need to do things better. The second subject, that I see as a very important component in the ability of the State of Israel to contend with her enemies, is our national resilience and our solidarity. When I was Chief of Staff, I explained this through the fact that, when I recruited, in 1988, 84% of the men had recruited into the IDF. When my son was drafted into the IDF, the number of drafted soldiers was 75% of those who were required to do so. When I was drafted, it was 84%. What I think, actually one of my, the discourse about a professional army, and what do we really need. Everybody has a question that’s very different. It’s that understanding that the security challenges are still here, and they will be with us for generations, and the need to give service to everybody, and to have this mutual responsibility. Where everybody’s responsible for each other, and if we all do our duties, the IDF can do things to adapt the IDF to the challenges of the future, and to make it from a state army of the people, to one of those that’s more diverse, that’s more professional, that is also more rewarding. And I see this as an opportunity, as well. I think that’s what, that’a what we have in common here, is that we’re a Jewish Democratic country. I can say it today, as a citizen, that the reduction of social gaps and economic gaps in the State of Israel is something that we must do, in order to strengthen our national resilience, and of course, this isn’t only a military duty. There are many, wider aspects. But in any case, I see what’s holding this grand society together will take many years to keep doing this. From here, you can understand what my opinion is, about a professional army, and the army of the nation. I see a national army, as a critical component of our ability to cope with our challenges. Even though this carries several serious prices, when the IDF every year drafts 1/3 of its soldiers, maybe even if we improve the professionalism of our army, we could miss other things. It’s important to preserve this, and to adapt the army to future challenges, in terms of the State of Israel, and our relationship with the Jewish Diaspora, this is a subject that this institute is the very core of what we do at this institute. I see the mutual respect as an ethical issue, and the ability, if you will, to strengthen national security while expressing solidarity, instead of being patronizing towards the Diaspora. The third principle is an older principle, I’m not inventing anything, here. In any case, it’s come up in the recent past, which is the fact that the State of Israel has been defending itself by itself, and I think that this is the basic principle, to build from the very moment that we were able to do this, and to strive for constant supremacy over our enemies. The ability to have a constant component for the defense budget, along with the need to strengthen agreements that were built, which were based on what our predecessors have done. Each new person adds their contribution. This allows us to say that the State of Israel has the ability to deal with our threats by ourselves, along with the special relationship that we have with the United States, which I think is a fantastic relationship, between the systems, from my opinion, in terms of the intel that I know. And the professionalism that I have, that express our, that improve our professionalism, vis-a-vis our enemies, and the Israeli contribution to American interests, which I feel, is no less important. And this is expressed, and has been expressed, for many long years. Particularly in the recent past. The bottom line is, as a summary sentence, I would say, to ensure the existence of the State of Israel as a Zionist, Jewish, and Democratic state, that inspires to have full equal rights to all citizens, and operating to strengthen the Jewish people, and to encourage Jews over the world to come to Israel, and strive for peace. This is the direction that we need to go in, and strengthen, and we could think that if there will be a formal document that might bring the State of Israel to a place that it’s never been to, before. This is a functional need, and after many years, that we haven’t had this, like many developed countries, in order to find division and to be more effective for the heads of the organizations of the State of Israel. I think this is a functional need, and I’m definitely saying this from the perspective that I had, as a secretary to two Prime Ministers, and the Chief of the General Staff, for four years.
Avinoam Bar-Yosef: Thank you, very much, Gadi. And, we will come back during the discussion, to the questions we mentioned, before. Thanks very much to the former Chief of Staff.
-I would like to ask you, Dennis, to give your remarks, and to reflect the US components, and the North American Jewish components, as a strategic asset. Thank you so much.
Dennis Ross: Look, as Gadi said to begin with, I know that everybody here probably wants to ask each of us about our reactions to the killing of Soleimani, the implications in the region, what will happen now, and I think we’re both ready. Probably easier for me, than for Gadi, to give you my comments on that, so what I’m going to do is not address that, at this point. But what I will do is, I want to comment a little bit on what we heard from Gadi, I want to explain a little bit about why David Makovsky and I wrote the book that we did recently, and I want to kind of connect what I’ve heard from Gadi, and that book. Which would touch a little bit on what you were saying I would talk about. Sometimes I address what you want me to address, and most of the time I address what I want to address. That’s what happens. Let me start off by saying the following, first: I had, not just the good fortune, but actually, the privilege, to have Gadi sitting in the office next to me for six months at the Washington Institute for Near East policy, and as you just heard, in terms of his outline of how to think about national security strategy and also the necessity of having it, Gadi is someone who should not be defined simply as a military man who understands the nature of combat and how you have to contend with the array of threats. He is someone who understands the context in which Israel is operating, and I would say to you, as a term that’s probably over-used, in the English language, he has a holistic approach. He integrates all the different elements of power, of which military is only one, and he produces what is, I think, a very coherent assessment, that has very practical implications for action. So, on the one hand, I would say I learned from him, over those six months, and I consider it actually, an extraordinary opportunity to have had those six months. Sort of, my first comment. My second comment is, obviously, I am in Israel a lot. I’ve spent the last month here. I spend a lot of time here in the JPPI, not as someone who is a coach, here, of the institute. And it also offers a perspective, an interesting perspective, because this is one of the, maybe the only place in Israel I know, where every stream religiously and every stream politically and ideologically is represented, so you actually get an interesting picture of how different points of view can coexist in a country that I view to be extraordinary. I’ve spent this month not only being here, but traveling around the country, actually spending a lot of time with the different military commands, as well. You can’t help but, when you’re travel around Israel, to be impressed by what is here, what has been developed. I was first here as a student in 1970, and when I relate to what exists then and what exists today, to say it would be two different worlds would be a gross understatement. Israel is an amazing, thriving country. I’m not sure you can say that about any other country in the Middle East. And as we think about that, you obviously can’t take it for granted. Given that, as a point of departure, why write a book that is entitled, Be Strong and of Good Courage, that is also identifying the need for that? Because Israel’s facing a fateful choice. It’s because, both David and myself have a deep attachment to the state, have an enormous respect for its accomplishments, understand very well the neighborhood that it lives in, but are also very worried about the reality, that if Israel stays on the current path it’s on, and continues to build outside the settlement blocks — building in the blocks is one thing, building outside the blocks is something else — Israel, by default, will become one state for two peoples. It’s not an argument, it’s a reality. And when it becomes one state for two peoples, and when one state is the only issue that is on the table to be discussed, when two states is not even part of the conversation, the Palestinians will create a new slogan, a new mantra, which will be “one person, one vote.” And that will resonate within the United States. And if you think that BDS and the de-legitimization movement is a problem now, it is child’s play compared to what it will be when this defines the new reality. So, a hard decision is going to be required. It’s not hard, logically, it’s hard, politically. Genuinely hard, politically, because the political landscape in Israel is made up, obviously, of different constituencies, different points of views. This is a democracy. And the weight of the settler movement is a very strong weight. It can’t be dismissed, and any leader will have to make a decision, at a minimum, to stop building outside of the settlement blocks. And if that doesn’t happen, we’re going to face a tipping point. You already have 104,000 who live to the east of the security barrier. I don’t know when the tipping point is, but I know it’s coming, and when it happens, you no longer have a choice. You lose the physical ability to create separation. And when you lose that, then you have one state for two peoples. Now, I can describe that, it doesn’t sound abstract, but of course it is abstract. And compare that abstraction to the threats that Israel faces. What Gadi did, is Gadi went through and he, in this paper, and again just now, he went through the different categories of threats. So, he talked about the potential WMD threat. He talked about the conventional threat. He talked about the asymmetrical threat, the non-state actor threat, increasing with rockets and mortars. I was down on the Gaza border yesterday. I visited, not only the the border, but I also went to one of the kibbutzim found there, and I see what they live with. And I know and I went into the tunnel in the north, the Hezbollah tunnel in the north. And this, there were six tunnels, there. They were designed, as you indicated, and you were the one who fashioned the strategy for when to reveal this and how to cope with it, and why there was a certain strategic timing to revealing it. Here were six tunnels, all designed to create a shock within Israel, to seize territory, hold it for a while, present Israel with what amounted to a kind of strategic surprise. Both for the shock effect, but also for the psychological effect, both in Israel and outside, as part of a larger strategy that Iran has had. Basically, the architect of that strategy was Soleimani, and, in addition to these categories of threats, which are real, tangible, in the last year from Gaza, you had 1,700 rockets that were fired at Israel. That’s not abstract, you know. And, by the way, the rockets are fired from highly populated, dense areas. They’re fired from hospitals, they’re fired from schools, they’re fired from mosques, and they’re fired only at civilian targets. And they’re designed to try to provoke Israeli responses that will produce a world reaction, that makes it harder and harder for Israel to defend itself. These are real. These aren’t imagined. The cyber threat is less visible, but profoundly real, and becoming more and more difficult to deal with. These were all part of the categories of threats that you identified, that Israel has to contend with. And you included then, also, as part of Israel’s broader security strategy, not only the need for unity here, to be able to contend with these threats, but you also talked about the connection to world Jewry, and you talked about the need for a partnership with world Jewry. Not a kind of patronizing attitude, not a dismissive attitude, not one that simply ignores the concerns of world Jewry, which by the way, makes sense from a lot of standpoints, but if Israel is the state of the Jewish people, by definition, Israel has to treat world Jewry as a partner, in terms of defending itself. And that brings me back, in a sense, to where I started. The threat that Israel faces to security is unmistakable. The right way to deal with those threats, in a sense, was offered by Gadi, as a kind of broad conceptualization, although his next paper’s actually going to deal with specific implications for how to deal with those threats. But one element of this is preserving Israel’s identity. Now if Israel becomes one state for two peoples, it will lose its identity. The threats to Israel are not only defined in strict military terms. Not preserving Israel’s identity is also a threat, even if it’s a more abstract threat. Now the answer is not to produce two states any time soon. Not because I wouldn’t like to see it, I mean there’s two national movements competing for the same space. Two states for two peoples is logically the right answer. But there’s a reality. A two-state solution is not available any time soon. And we can debate, you know, the Israeli role in that. I can tell you, if you had, you know, I guess Meretz is no longer a separate party, but if Meretz was responsible for governing Israel, you wouldn’t have two states, any time soon, because the Palestinians aren’t capable of negotiating at any time soon. They are divided. They can’t make peace among themselves. They’re certainly not going to be able to make peace with you. There is a looming succession to Abu Mazen. Succession periods are not characterized by accommodation or moderation, they’re characterized by those who will compete to see who can be more pure and extreme. So, two states, as while it’s desirable, is not achievable any time soon. What is essential, however, is that Israel not lose the ability to separate from the Palestinians. Preserving that ability is a key to preserving Israel’s identity. Now, as I said, to do that, is going to require a very difficult decision. It’s going to require a political leadership that is prepared to be “strong and of good courage.” It’s going to require that, because as I said earlier, there is going to be genuine opposition to this. It’s going to require the attributes of leadership that we distill and describe in the book. You know, we do deep historical profiles of Ben-Gurion, Begin, Rabin, and Sharon. They were different ideologically; they were certainly profoundly different in terms of personalities. Ben-Gurion and Begin were bitter enemies. Ben-Gurion, in Knesset debates, would never acknowledge Begin by name. He would always identify who he was sitting next to, and then, identify the person sitting next to… It’s fair to say that Rabin and Sharon had an awful lot in common, but obviously, they had a lot of things that divided them, as well. Although in the end, when you look at Sharon’s behavior as prime minister, he ends up adopting policies that are remarkably similar to Rabin’s. Three of these four leaders were very much shaped by the demographic issue, and the concern about it. And in the case of Ben-Gurion, he gives a speech after the War of Independence in which he says, “We could have taken the land to the Jordan River, but then we would have been a minority. In our country we preferred to have a smaller country and to be a majority.” Sharon quotes that speech, quotes that line, that language, before he gives his speech on disengagement, he quotes that, and he says, “We have some very big, difficult decisions to make. Rabin told me, in February of 1995, we’re sitting alone, and he said, I don’t know if we can reach an agreement with the Palestinians, but I can tell you, we have to partition the land. We won’t be a Jewish democracy, unless we can do that.” And Begin, who doesn’t identify the demographic issue that way, nonetheless is someone who is governed by a deep sense of ideology, when he presents his autonomy plan to the Knesset. He says, in when he’s explaining it, “We will not be Rhodesia.” He’s mindful. He’s asked, there’s debates five days from, June 14 to June 19, 1967, we got the minutes of all these debates, for anybody who has, if you want to get ahold of them, they’re very worth reading. They’re the most profound discussions of the future of all the territories, but specifically the West Bank, Judea, and Samaria. The most in-depth, profound, debate, discussion, of any time, by any government. And Begin wants to, Begin says, “We should give citizenship to all the Arabs.” When they questioned his ways, well, what are you going to do about preserving us, as a majority? He says, Well, we have to hope for Aliyah. And we’ll do it over seven years.” He cites Alsace-Lorraine, and the Germans and the French, and giving the French citizens, how the Germans approached this in 1870, and he says it can be a model for us, today. Took five years. To grant citizenship will take seven years. My own view is that Begin, when you saw, certainly, the way he confronted the decisions he had to make, at Camp David. He had his ideology, but he was also enormously practical, and when it came to take on his political base, he was prepared to do it. All these leaders define leadership as meaning, we bear the responsibility. We can’t defer it to our successors, it’s on our shoulders. We have to look at the cost of acting, but also the cost of not acting. We have a responsibility to educate our publics. We have to explain the states, it’s up to us to do that. And I would say, the lessons from that apply very heavily to now. And I think they, I mean, obviously, that’s not the particular case that you’re making, Gadi. But certainly, the implications of what you’re saying call on a leadership that is prepared to explain to the public, lead the public and not follow the public, try to build a consensus, try to emphasize unity, not division, within the country. And it seems to me, what Israel is certainly needing now, is, again, that kind of leadership. So, I will stop there. I’ll say one, I’ll make one more comment, because it does relate to the issue of the Diaspora. Partnership with the Diaspora, as I said, is essential. I would even say, helping to preserve Jewish identity in the Diaspora is not unrelated to preserving Israel’s identity as a Jewish-Democratic state, because it creates a natural ability to connect to Israel and to connect to Jewishness, and the values associated with Jewishness. If Israel loses its identity because it becomes one-state for two peoples, that will have a profound effect on the Diaspora, the connection to the Diaspora, and I would even make the case it will have an effect on Jewish identity within the Diaspora. Now I’ll close.
Avinoam Bar-Yosef: Thank you so much. Thank you. The discussion that will open now, deep and provocative, but we’ll start, I was asked to start with channel 11, so please. Yeah. Mr. Eisenkot, can you please talk about the Iranian threat in light of the assassination of Soleimani, and yesterday’s attack in the evening, and if we, here in Israel, if we here in Israel need to fear, do we have to fear the, do we have to be on alert because of this assassination?
– Since 2005, the Iranian threat has been defined as the most serious threat to the State of Israel. Let me remind you that this was after many years of fighting in the intifada, the northern front, and the Lebanon front has been an important event, and in the past 15 years, this has been the most important event. It has two main components. The first is the vision, the aspiration for nuclear arms, and the second is this attempt to achieve regional hegemony and entrenchment in Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip. Out of a concept regarding the State of Israel. was the commands force, and had been for over 20 years, and he has been leading the operation against us, as the grand strategist that operated against the State of Israel for years. I am not an intel guy, and I’m not surveying any role. Now, I don’t want to talk about events happening today. I think that the approach saying that this was an American thing, that it was a decision, an American decision instead of Israel, doesn’t need to stand on its head, along with the understanding that it’s, we should do everything needed, in order to defend ourselves. And I think this is what has been done. The State of Israel has that’s very good. We have a defense capability that’s very, very good. It’s never perfect, it also has a very high level of, a high ability to counterstrike and, if needed. And I believe that the things that need to be done will be done.
– [Interpreter] I’m sorry, I still can’t hear him. If you can please speak into the microphone, because I can’t speak and hear him well enough.
– With regard to Gadi Eisenkot’s presentation, I think that it’s hard not to, to disagree with what you’ve said, at least for me. I can no long, I can’t really go into details without reading the material that you prepared. I would say that, on a basic level, the security concept, or what Jabotinsky and Ben-Gurion had said, their position was very similar, and only their name is different. And it is today, too. It hasn’t changed. All of this hasn’t changed. What has changed?
– I’m sorry, I can’t hear.
– Okay, I think that you went into this, the war is changing from day to day. The form of the fighting might change, we’re seeing this in our reality, and what we’re talking about, today. What you determined that the Washington Institute could be that, in the next six months. The question that I’m asking is, what is the entity, or what is the, that I have, as the State of Israel, in order to constantly update our approach to the new situations that are changing constantly? Not just in a military sense and strategic sense, but also in the political sense. In that respect, I think that it’s good that the Prime Minister and Defense Minister should be the same. It should be one, and the same. Because sometimes we see defense ministers with all kinds of declarations that are totally disconnected with the political situation, and vice versa.
– Dennis, now you can take this off. It’s okay. I haven’t read your book. I’m talking about two things, today, I haven’t read. Not his report, and not yours. I read the critique, today, in the foreign affairs, which was quite interesting. I am not sure I would’ve included Rabin, among the four people you mentioned. Not from the security point of view, but because he, himself, very soon after taking a certain move on the Oslo Process, had very serious doubts about the partnership, about the person on the other side, and I don’t know what he would have decided, if he had been around later on. Anyway, the process has not succeeded, for different reasons. The other, or perhaps I should say about all the four, what is typical of all those four, that at the end of the day, when it came to decision-making, they were pragmatic. Including Begin, who did not name annexation, anywhere in the official plans of the Likud, for instance, in the elections, or anything like that. It was very easy for him to agree to Dayan’s demand not to annex the territories, as a condition for joining the government, because he, himself, didn’t want to do that. I think that, probably, is true of all heads of state we have had in Israel ’til today. I certainly agree with Dennis, that the one-state option is not an option. It’s the gravest danger to Israel, as a Jewish state, Democratic state, but certainly is a Jewish state. However, we are between the devil and the deep, blue, sea. Obviously, the two-states solution, as you said yourself, today is impossible. And I have great worries, talking about America, looking at some of the statements in the Democratic Party, who seem to ignore this, trying to put pressure on Israel to take a step which is not going to happen. It’s not relevant. It’s impossible. And therefore, what one must think about, we, the government, whoever; how do you cross this period, which can be very long? Not just because of Abu Mazen, because of the reality in the Middle East. Not to go to a one-state solution, which is a danger to the existence of Israel, in my view, but not to be goaded into a two-state solution, which at this time, is not only impossible, but it’s just as dangerous, for different reasons. I think that’s what we must put our minds to, as much as we can. Thank you.
– How do you want to do this?
– maybe we go question by question, so it’s kind of conversation.
– Can I respond? I think you can respond, yes. Okay, so I will answer you, briefly, and tactically, it should be the National Security Council that should do this. I think that they have a role, and they, they have the knowledge and the broad experience, so this should be done in partnership with all of the organizations in the defense establishment. And with regard to our special structure, this compared to the United States and England, we have to adapt to our reality, which is complex, and I that the of a government of it has to be one concept, that has to be a national security concept, that we’ll have permanently. And I think that you can definitely reach a broad consensus over this booklet. Where will be the gap, and where will be our greatest challenge? The National Security policy, which is derived from the agenda of the elected government. So therefore, that policy needs to be written by the elected government, and within six months it needs to be presented to the Knesset committee, that’s relevant to it in order to be to the establishment. And the is the
– It’s all in my book. It sounds like we violently agree. What I’m suggesting is, there isn’t two-states anytime soon. But if you don’t stop building outside of the settlement blocks, you will have one-state. So, the in between position, for me, is preserve separation as an option. I would do it. What we recommend in the final chapter is several things. One is, stop building outside of the settlement blocks. Two, create some financial incentives for those who live outside the settlement blocks, to move back into them, or, into Israel. Three, declare there’ll be no Israeli sovereignty to the eastern barrier, but that has to be worked out consistently with what Israeli security needs are going to be. And four, open up area C for Palestinian economic activity, so that at least there can be greater economic viability for the Palestinians. When you cut off area C from areas A and B, you’ll also dramatically erode what they can actually have, economically. If you continue on the path you’re on now, and you keep building, the you make one-state an inevitability. You lose the option of something else. Look, do I know for sure there’ll be two-states, down the road? I don’t. Maybe there’ll be some confederation option. But if you don’t have separation as an option, and if you lose that soon, you can have tactical decisions that are made in the near-term that will have long-term strategic consequences. I want, I mean, if I were doing what I used to do, I wouldn’t have Israel announce these things, I’d have them give them to us in our pocket, and have us use it, diplomatically, with the Europeans, with the Arabs, with the Palestinians, to also see what we could draw out of it. But the point is, if you have something like that, it also gives you an ability to deal with what is another problem that I didn’t touch on, which is the danger that Israel is losing its bipartisan position within the United States, which is a long-term strategic danger, in my mind as well. Being able to point to the kind of things I’m describing, even if it was only just stop building outside of the settlement blocks, could be used very significantly within the US, to reach out to Democrats. And clearly, there’s the left wing of the Democratic party right now, is raising the kind of issues that would have been unthinkable in the past. When I hear people, some of the, you know, some candidates, being prepared to condition assistance, US assistance to Israel, when the only assistance we give is in economic assistance. It’s only security assistance. And you look at the character of the region, right now, I mean, what it shows is a disconnection from reality.
– Thank you. There is a–
– I would like each of you to briefly introduce yourselves. Yes, go ahead, Danny. First of all, I would like to tell you, sorry, he needs to take the microphone, please. I can’t hear what he’s saying. I apologize. I can’t hear a word he’s saying. I apologize.
– [Danny Danon] I do have a question and a comment. The first comment is, is the fact that the State of Israel left the JCPOA, from the, did it not change the nuclear intentions of Iran?
– [Interpreter] I’m sorry, I can barely hear him. I’m going to try to try to change that. Please.
– [Danny Danon] The alternative that I thought about, I’d be happy to hear what you have to say about this, is that even though the United States is prepared to commit to Iran not achieving a nuclear weapon, wouldn’t it have been a great idea, if the United States would have proposed that if they ever have a nuclear weapon, any attack on Saudi Arabia or Israel is as if the United States had been attacked with nuclear weapon. I think that that could be a deterring element, and that will strengthen those in Iran, and there are people like that, who don’t want to waste resources and international connections on their nuclear programs. Thank you very much.
– The signing of that agreement, over four years ago, we in the IDF would consider this to be a strategic turning point. If there was an Iranian nuclear project, there wouldn’t have been a question in my discussions with regard to the Iranian vision of acquired nuclear weapons. There would have been full agreement, along with the understanding that because of the distress that Iran has gone into, the agreement was signed. And the understanding is that this agreement is a strategic turning point that gives us the opportunity, we couldn’t say it was four, six, eight, 10, or 15 years. It would be proper for us to use that properly. And we have no illusions regarding to Iran’s aspirations for nuclear weapons. The American withdrawal maximized the pressure that influenced what happens in Iran and has brought us to the situation that we’re in, today, including the implications that we’re seeing in Lebanon, Iraq, and in Iran itself. Because of the reality that the Iranians have brought upon themselves. Now, to answer your question of, if this has changed anything, it’s too early to say, because only this week the Iranians announced that they are no longer bound to the agreement, even though they’re continuing to cooperate with the Atomic Energy Commission. When the agreement was signed, we said that, for us at the IDF, we have no privilege of saying, okay, an agreement was signed, therefore we can forget about it. No, this is still the IDF’s main mission, and the main mission of the security establishment. And I think that this is the right way to regard this. While understanding the severe potential that this type of a capability has, if they materialize it. And with regard to the Defense Pact, that doesn’t appear as part of this booklet. There is a statement regarding the older principle of relying on ourselves, and based on that, we’ve built an impressive capability, not because we’re haughty about it, or because we’re not aware of the future challenges and threats, it’s the idea that Israel should be able to defend itself. And when you have a Defense Pact, what that means is that I’ll defend you when you need to be defended, and vice versa. I’ll involve you in my force employment, because it could affect you. So therefore, the statement was, that we have to continue to improve the past agreements, the previous agreement, I think, was signed in 2012, which there defines the intel operational technological cooperation, talks about Iron Dome and other topics. It would be proper to take this agreement and improve it, under the headline of the special relationship between the US and Israel. And not in terms of a Defense Pact, with a mutual force employment, because I don’t think that’s right for either side.
– [male inquirer] What about the nuclear?
– [Interpreter] I left this for Dennis. This is a question for the United States.
– Thanks, Gadi.
– [Interpreter] Gadi.
– Danny, I’m not a fan of it, and the reason is, the Saudis and others have said, if the Iranians get nuclear weapons, they’re going to get nuclear weapons. And you can talk about external guarantees, A, I don’t know how ultimately credible they would be for the Middle East, B, I don’t think deterrence, in the traditional sense is as likely to work in the Middle East, if you have the Middle East characterized by a number of nuclear powers. What worked during the Cold War era was that both the Soviets and the United States had an invulnerable capability that guaranteed even if they were struck first, they could retaliate. Here, the odds of that would be very limited, and it would create enormous incentives to strike first, in a crisis. So, I think what we want to do is, we want to ensure that Iran never has nuclear weapons, and I think that’s still the best policy. Now the question is, are they, now that they have declared they’re fully withdrawing from it, although as Arif said, if they will go back into compliance if the US were to go back into compliance. I think that’s part of presenting a different face to the United States and the world. You know, we’ll see what happens in the United States. We’ll see what the response is to what’s happened today, I wouldn’t, I like to say that I’m, I probably lack the humility I should have, when it comes to predicting what happens in the Middle East. But I’m very humble, when it comes to predicting what Donald Trump will do. And I can see it going two very different directions. I can see him also even using the Soleimani strike, which is a game-changer, in many respects. Also, the justification not to do anything more. Who knows? I mean, the Iranians acted today in a way that was designed to be limited, but to show they had responded. Will he respond? He’s made it clear, he doesn’t want to be a part of the endless wars. He really doesn’t want to be in this region. So, does he want to get into a tit-for-tat with the Iranians? The Iranians, Khamenei, was affected in a monumental way by the Iran/Iraq War. He does not want direct shooting conflicts. That’s why they prefer indirection. That’s why the use Shia proxies. They’re quite willing to fight to the last of the Shia proxies. Much more sensitive to their own casualties, much more sensitive to any attacks on Iran, itself. I don’t think what we’ve seen today is the end of what the Iranians will do, but it may be the end of the things that they do, where they take credit. Everything else is more likely to be indirection.
– [Interpreter] Before passing on the microphone, there’s a certain round of statements here that I would like to answer, Danny, very briefly. When I talked about the nuclear state, I’m talking about the core state of the Jewish people, of course. But when you raised the point, you didn’t talk about this before. I don’t think it would be horrible to call this the nuclear state of the Jewish people. And the situation that’s being described here, in light of the challenges. Go ahead.
– I would like to clarify the question about the need in Israel for a strategic policy. In this context we are marking anniversary of the state, and part, along with all the superlatives mentioned about us, I agree with that. And when you look historically, to see what’s happened since the first temple, you know, 72 years from the beginning of kingship, so, it’s apex was at the construction of the temple. And 20 years later, everything starts to break down. The kingdom divides in two, the Egyptians conquer part, a big part of, our territory, and when I go, continue to the Hasmoneans, and the Hanukah story, so, enter to the Maccabee, for 72 years. If you think, so, the summit there was really the Hasmonean kingdom, with Alexander Jannai, that was when we were at our greatest borders, our widest borders. And then, several, 20 years later, Pompeii conquers Jerusalem. So, I agree with what was said here before. We can take these things as great, but we can’t take things for granted. And the assumption is that because we’re so small, and because we’re in a very, very unstable geo-strategic situation, the need to rely on somebody strategically, is very great. And my question basically, I have three questions in that context. The past several decades, our greatest rock to rely on was the United States, strategically. To what extent can we rely on that, and count on that, in general, in the short-term and in the long-term? Where are the limitations to that? Where the Chief of Staff in Israel says to himself, to what point can I rely on the United States, or would it be risky to rely on them? Where are the boundary lines, in terms of, from the perspective of the American president, how far is he prepared to go, with the State of Israel? What are the boundaries of that commitment? Can we those things? Two. In the of the subject of the bipartisan support, it think that everybody sitting here, or many people sitting here at the table had the opportunity to deal with these things. For them, it’s a holy, or sanctified value. And I would like, in any case, just to ask the question of how much you can count on that? How much, by, we’re seeing the distancing between the State of Israel and the Democratic Party. To what extent. Is that a function of Israeli policy that can be corrected? Or, a very polarized political situation, in the US, which is temporary? Or is it a longer, deeper, more profound trend? Because we can’t assume that, even if Democrats come back to power, IF they come back to power, if we’ll have to restore the bipartisan support for Israel, because of deeper issues. And, the third question is, every time you have more than one superpower, how would it be proper for Israel to conduct itself? In the time of the Cold War, it was simple. There was a simple choice between one, and two. I remember experiencing personally, and directly, and indirectly, four significant crises between the US and Israel. And I think that Dennis, you remember the first, in 1991, when we went to Washington after the Persian Gulf War, and we thought that we would get the red carpet. Cheney, who wasn’t an enemy of Israel, he dropped the bomb on us, that he thought that we had exported patriot technology to China. Everybody knows the Harpies and the Falcon and the issue of infrastructure, the FIG. How would it be proper for Israel to conduct itself in the next two decades, within the world that is being formed and designed today? That’s all I had for you. Thank you, very much.
– [Interpreter] I knew that Sallai will raise the level of provocative comments that have been said here. The first thing is, that he, can you please have him speak into the microphone? I’m sorry.
– This reminds me of a conversation. It’s an important topic to discuss, but this reminds me of a meeting between the Palestinians and Americans that I, coincidentally, went to. Where Abu Zayd expressed this as a fact, not as a historical head. hearing from you. In the of Abu Zayd, that provokes a lot of thought. Thank you. Go ahead.
– Sallai, look, the questions you’re asking are really profound. And I’m probably not going to give profound responses, but I’ll give a kind of initial set of responses that should also be a reminder of maybe this is something that has to be looked at much more deeply. First, do I think that we can I want to answer in the order of those questions. I’m going to kind of integrate, I think, the responses. The bipartisan issue goes a long way towards the first question you asked. When there’s strong bipartisan support for Israel, then the level of confidence that you can have in the United States being there for Israel is quite high. When there is not that kind of high bipartisan support, there is much more reason to be concerned about the nature of the commitment. And I say that for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is, you know, one, when there’s great division and polarization, as there is today, Israel can become a point of the debate. When there’s a lack of consensus, to do something that might be difficult, for Israel, will become harder, politically. So, you know, I think there is still an enormous amount of instinctive support for Israel, including in the Democratic Party. I have to be honest. I think there was great damage done by the Prime Minister making the decision to go to the congress and oppose Obama’s policy on Iran, in a joint session of the congress, that was arranged behind the backs of the administration, behind the backs of Democrats, within the congress. To this day, those who are strong supporters of Israel on The Hill, in the Democratic Party, are deeply resentful of that, raise it almost every time I talk to them. It’s kind of the first issue you have to cut through, before you can get to why I may be up there talking to them. And the combination of that, and the polarization, and the alienation of the Democrats from Trump, and the imagery of the Trump/Bibi connection, all that deepens the problem today. Now, if what I’m describing is more personality-driven, then it can be reversed pretty easily. The problem is, that the longer it goes on, it becomes a habit. And now you have something that’s taken place, that just wasn’t the case, before, and I decided, I noted it, before, earlier. The more people in the left side, or the progressive side, of the Democratic Party feel it’s okay to say certain things, the more that becomes legitimate. It’s not outside the bounds of what can be discussed. It was before. The kind of things that you’re hearing now are the things that would not have been raised, before. Or, at least would have been seen as purely fringe attitudes. So, this is something that requires the Israeli government, it requires a really serious effort of outreach to Democratic leaders. And not just in Washington. Israel has a great story to tell, on issues that matter to the Democrats. Climate change, environment, Israel has a very good story to tell. That’s a very prominent issue to the Democrats. It’s huge within the states where Democrats are the governors or are the majority of the state legislators. Israel should, there should be a very serious outreach now. Not just in Washington, but to the states. They’re taking, by the way, the states are taking independent action from the Federal Government, because the Trump administration’s approach to climate change is, they’re able to restrain their enthusiasm, for suggesting that it’s a serious issue. So that’s one thing that could be done. There are other, the LGBTQ issue. Again, very significant for the Democrats. Israel’s very good on that issue. There are ways to reach out, and there should be a conscious effort to do so. And the more that can be addressed, the more I’m confident that the basic question of the enduring nature of the US commitment to Israel will remain. Now there is a bigger issue, which is, what’s America’s role in the world? And in many respects, Trump is a continuation of Obama, not a departure from Obama. Trump really doesn’t want to be here. You know, he’s twice, after phone calls with Erdogan said we’re getting out of Syria. And the acting in, as I said, acting in Soleimani is a game-changer, but it can also be a justification to say, okay, we did what we needed to do. The Iranians know we mean business, we really don’t need to be there. You know, the attitude towards the Russians, and allowing the Russians in, stepping back. You know, Trump, during the campaign before 2016 said, what do we care about Assad? Russians want to be there; Iranians want to be there. That’s fine. Leaving vacuums that get filled by the Russians ultimately doesn’t serve Israel’s interests, compared to having the US be seen as a major player in the area. When Putin shows up in Saudi Arabia and the Emirates one week after. We step out, you know, we move out of Northeast Syria, away from the border with Turkey, allow Turks to go into Northeast Syria, basically walk away from the Kurds, who lost 11,000 fighting ISIS. We lost six. That sent a message to everybody in the region. And Putin was very quick to take advantage of it. Why is Putin going to Syria now? Precisely because, suddenly he saw a manifestation of US power, and he wants to, again, immediately be, in a sense, shape the argument. I ironically think you may well see Putin try to be a mediator between Trump and the Iranians, as a way of showing the centrality of the Russians. Now that gets to one of the issues you raise, how does Israel operate in a world where the US has withdrawn, at least somewhat? There are other powers that are, you know, filling vacuums. How does Israel, and you’re, I remember the episode you described very vividly. I also remember how we sorted it out. And all I can say is, precisely because of what’s happening between the US and China, Israel needs to have a, needs to develop a position with the US, where everything is somehow coordinated, there’s no surprises, where you can kind of work through what are the do’s and the don’ts. I don’t think I was here, but he has a paper that the institute will be publishing soon, that addressed a lot of that. The point is, it will require more dexterity, on Israel’s part. But I don’t take the, the reality of what looks like American retrenchment as a necessary and enduring reality. There is a pattern with the United States. When we have, when we have paid heavily for engagement in foreign conflicts, there has been a natural impulse to withdraw. We did it after World War I, we did it after Vietnam. There is also, it runs counter to what is also an American self-image. The fact that we have had American forces on the ground, we’ve paid a high price in Afghanistan and Iraq. Since 2001, feeds a sense of saying, why should we be involved in these terrible conflicts that we don’t resolve, we pay a price for? There’s a natural impulse to withdraw. There’s a natural instinct to say, to question that it’s legitimate. But ironically, one of the lessons that should’ve been learned is, you know you don’t want to be the world’s policeman, because you can’t afford it, the you need allies. You don’t want vacuums to form, because the worst forces will fill it, the you need allies and local partners. The irony was, with the Kurds, we actually had a local partner that was prepared to fight for itself. That’s actually the model that we should be using. We provide support, intelligence, logistic, you know, some training. Some material. Special operators. The, it’s a completely manageable price. If that looks like we’re not even prepared to do that, that raises much bigger questions.
– The second question is, if possible, what are the prices that you’ve given, is that, to tied and our mutual commitment and military force. The IDF has responsibilities, is responsible for the ongoing existence of this state, and victory in these wars. With regard to the need to improve the special relationship with the United States, I think that there’s no argument, here. I still think that we have to take a moment to look back and advance an agreement that will express the special relationship, but to leave some room for maneuver. And we have to remember the attack of the reactor in ’81, and what the alliance means for that, and what will be, if we have an attack like that in the future, and we have to look in the recent past and the decision to travel to Russia in 2015, and to build a mechanism to prevent friction. I think that was a decision that matched the Israeli interest. It helped the IDF’s ability to operate within a very complex reality in Syria, and built a mechanism, along with the Russians, where, in their command post they have, at the Russian command post, there’s a connection between the Quriya and the Russian post, and in order to prevent a clash between planes. Several months ago, the Russians downed an Aleutian plane. But, this, to a great extent, this gave us, the IDF, room for maneuver. And this is in coordination with our capability and our interest to build a mechanism with the Russians. I think this is true for trade with countries in coordination the American interests. And here, the question is, what will be the implication of a Defense Pact on force employment, the need for the IDF’s freedom of maneuver. What are the advantages, what are the disadvantages, and will this guarantee the existence of the State of Israel over the long-term? I think that the historical lessons tell us what we need to do in order to produce a stronger, more consolidated society. There can be deep disagreements over national interests, but there has to be something bringing together all the people that live here, and have lived here for many years, along with the need for some sort of a, something, a strong strategic part that we can rely on, that has given us a lot of benefits, over the years. This is needed today, and the future, just as it was needed in the past. I’ll take another few questions together. So that, please, you can start.
– [translator, for Yizhar Hess] Hello. Yizhar Hess, and I am the director of the Tradition of the Masorti Movement. I have a question for Gadi, but I’d be happy if Dennis can also answer the question. We we’re all happy to hear what you had to say with regard to the Jewish people and the Diaspora, and then our need to have a real partnership without patronizing. I think this is important, both externally and domestically, and I’d be very happy to hear what you have to say about the Chief rabbi’s remarks, with regard to the immigrants from Russia, or, the former Soviet Union. Some of them served under you. There were commanders serving under you. I think this is an important component of national security, and Dennis, I’d be happy if you were to respond to that, too.
– [Interpreter] This isn’t an excuse, but I didn’t hear exactly what the Chief Rabbi said with regard to immigration in the past few decades, both from the former Soviet Union. It’s clearly strengthened the State of Israel a lot, in light of the pessimistic thoughts in the past, despite that, this has really contributed to the State of Israel. It’s contributed a lot to the State of Israel, and it’s not even, you know, their partnership, their contribution in all aspects of our life, and certainly in the IDF. The need and the president spoke several years ago, about the four tribes in the State of Israel. And when I came to the United States I asked them, where is the fifth tribe? We have a fifth tribe that’s very big, and it’s here. It’s a tribe that deeply identifies with us. We have a common religion, common values, and hundreds of soldiers, by the way, draft every year. They choose, because they’re Zionist, not to go to college, rather to come here to draft into the IDF. I’m talking about thousands of people, I’m talking about people serving, at any given point in time, in the IDF. This is an expression of the mutual commitment, not just in financial contributions. It’s also this deep identification of Israel, willing to come and serve in the IDF, even though they aren’t legally obligated to do so. I think that this is an ethical, moral duty, if you want. And it’s not, it doesn’t sound good to say that it’s utilitarian, to say that we are committed the State of Israel is a totally different state, that requires us to think deeply about the nature of our connection, and the nature of the connection between the Jewish Diaspora and the State of Israel. When you there, now, recently, I was exposed to this. And I will tell you a short story. One of the members of the institute asked me to meet with seven young people from his community, who had decided, in August, to make Aliyah and join the IDF. He organized a meeting with these seven people, seven young people, both men and women, with their parents. I presented reality. I told them what it means to be a soldier. I talked to them about the difficulties, and I asked them, listen, what is causing you, you young people who’ve just finished high school, to give up on this good life and come to endanger your own lives? Some people said they wanted to be in the fighter units, elite units. So, they said to me, Zionism. And I think, that this expresses the deep connection and the deep connection with Israel. And another point of view, or angle, I can give you. I also met with people from Machal, from the Foreign Volunteers Brigade, or with their children. And they talked about the Machal heritage. They said that 70% of the pilots spoke only, in Israel, only spoke English, that came from Australia, the United States, and England. And there isn’t enough said about that in the IDF battle heritage. And I said to them that, you know, now we call the young people immigrants lone soldiers. They are foreign volunteers, and that says something about the way that we regard these things, and we deeply recognize and appreciate them. And here I think that it would be a good idea to rethink the connection. It’s not just a contribution to this, or that unit, it’s something much more profound, with regard to the mutual commitment, and has strengthened the connection.
– You know, if one of the things you’re trying to do is to create greater unity among the religious streams, this is a statement that’s designed to create separation, not unity. And again, if you want to create greater connections with the Diaspora, this is the surest way to undercut that. Unfortunately, I have to apologize, I have to leave, I’m very sorry about that. But Gadi’s more interesting than I am, anyways, so.
– I am going to go ahead. Go ahead. Go ahead.
– Shalom. Eran Etzion, I come from the Foreign Ministry. I listen to you, and I also tried to go over the document. I read it a little bit, what was published by the NSC, and a sense in what I feel is that, it doesn’t too much new, not many new things. A lot of things that we already have known for many years, but it anchors these things. It may be organized differently, but there’s nothing new, there. There are two things that I identified as new ideas, and if there are any more, I’d be happy to hear about them. The first is, is not using the term Decisive Victory, but rather victory. I think that’s an important thing. It still leaves a lot of open questions, so I’d be happy to hear about what was the last war that we’ve won, according to that definition, and if that’s too complicated, where, in the world, can we find an example of a victory in using the context that you’re talking about? And the second thing is the army of the people, and the change, there. And here too, from what I know, and I dealt with this at the National Security Council, and I’ve been following this and tracking this. The model, or the change that you’re presenting, that the IDF will choose first and then everybody will do national service may sound good, but, first of all, it creates many problems, like any solutions. But I’d be happy to hear, first of all, how do you avoid a situation, where the IDF becomes an army of first-class citizens, and how does this work economically? Because, from what I know, you can’t avoid drafting. You can’t put all the ultra-Orthodox and Arabs into national service. It doesn’t work. We can’t afford it. It requires other things of our economy. That’s it.
– Okay. As I said before, in the introduction, the desire is to present an arrangement of these basic documents. The idea of strategy has been valid for five years already, and it’s well-known. The security concept, there was no idea here to say something new. We wanted to make it coherent and organized in one place, to update the basic concepts and their two main updates, to update campaigns between wars. And in the past, they said that the IDF was either prepared for war or in war. During war there was a new concept that has evolved, that has contributed a lot to the State of Israel, and it has many components that go beyond the military component. And it says what’s written here is telegraphic in the IDF. We wrote a basic, fundamental book, that’s very big, very long. There was a change that began in 2015, in the shortening of the draft service by four months, the discourse on the draft law, and to lead to change, that’s expressed in an army of the state, that’s either international security or the army, to allow the IDF to decide that this guy will only do two years because that’s what we’ve decided, with regard to Yeshiva students, they only do a year and months. The IDF has to have the ability to say I want this guy for two years, I want them for two years and a, two and a half years, and to create another level of another permanent year, for 3,000 servicemen, to increase that significantly, and not to be ashamed to say to increase the compensation and recognition. Today there are 6,300 soldiers fighting or studying in a program, where they’re all combat soldiers. And the IDF, the defense ministry, they’re all financing the tuition for three years of our University studies. A change was done in the special units, like a pilot’s course, where you signed for eight years. You do three years, another three years of permanent service, and another two years of University studies. With that salary, in order to express that compensation. And this expresses the change that the army, I think that the army needs to go through, in order to adapt itself to changes in Israeli society, and future challenges. There’s one more thing that, it’s one more new thing, that it has, here. It’s the reasons for war. There are three: the Agranat and the Kahan and the Winograd Commissions and three reasons for war. There’s an IDF document from to present the different options, and the recommendations for a modus operandi. I think that there’s something new, with regard to BDS, the need for legitimization, and still, this is the first document. The more significant of the two documents is the document that I really hope will be written. And here, the desire wasn’t to go back and write a historical book about Jabotinsky, Ben-Gurion and where they came from, rather, to go into the footsteps of the National Security Headquarters that you were in, and to present a document saying this is how it needs to be. Take this, and create a much better document, that will be, there will be a confidential document in your coffer. And you’ll know what’s proper to do. And there should be another document that will be given to the public, because security is a very important component. It’s not the only one. There’s tourism, economics, and all kinds of other things. And this is what we tried to express, here.
– Sergio Della Pergola Thank you. Sergio Della Pergola from the Hebrew University. I think that I’ve been walking around the room, the elephant in the room, which is demographics I’ve been dealing with for forty years. According to my understanding, of a state leadership and government, you know, that’s expressed in certain things that we’re seeing, here, and that we know. The first is that almost entirely, the foreign ministry is almost been wiped out, which is still a very important executive branch. It is a lot of strategic damage dealt. I am a researcher, and I have a lot of contacts, in the academic world, mainly. A strategic damage to our relationship with the younger part of American Jewry. We’re coming to a position where, it’s not that the State of Israel is irrelevant, it’s just that there’s no, we can’t understand what the content of the discussion. I see this. And I hope that we will never reach that moment where that same misunderstanding will happen in a conversation between the section commander and the section, in the field. So, I’m very low rank in the military, but I think that there’s a strategic weakening of the state. We’re speaking in a way, you know, that I really appreciated the challenges and some of the solutions, but if the entire structure has been profoundly weakened, there’s a problem. So, shouldn’t we seriously upgrade this aspect, which is, domestic governance norms. And, while thinking about solutions, you know, a long time ago I thought that we needed to reach this, to have a serious, radical change in the election method, which is simply, somewhat keeping itself alive. But the question is, do we put this into the four or five strategic points that you have raised? Part two, which is a civilian part: As citizen, you know, you’re today, a citizen. You’re no longer just a general.
– Let me allow myself to continue what you said, and I think that Dennis left, but I think there’s a reason why that you chose those four leaders to write the book about. Because each of them took the initiative and tried to fashion, to form the State of Israel, looking to the future. Begin, with the peace agreement with Egypt, Rabin, which I think is sending the same line. Not just in the agreement within Jordan, and the Palestinians, he’s definitely in the same, in the same place, in the same group. The same about Sharon. My question, with regard to Della Pergola is a major game changer, with Qasem Soleimani. That’s the fact that we’re coming to the end of the lost decade. I think that the State of Israel has experienced a lost decade between 2010 to 2019. There was nothing with the Palestinians, nothing with the Jordanians, nothing with the Egyptians. And, forget about whether it’s a tactical issue. There was nothing happening here, with Lebanon. Nothing happened. And I think that the major game-changer is coming to the end of the lost decade, and in hope that this will open many opportunities, I hope you will talk about this here, too.
– [interpreter] Can you please say something about this?
– I just have one comment. When you talk about the youth in the United States, you need to as a demographer, to talk about the major growth of the religious population in the United States. The Orthodox population. The Jewish Orthodox population. Which, according to what we know, in New York, it represents 2/3 of the children, up to the age of 18, grow up in Orthodox families, in the United States. In all of the United States, over 1/3 of the population. That changes the picture, as well. See, you can’t, you’re definitely right, about what you said, but you also have the other side of the coin.
– Okay. I was just, this week, one year ago, I was supposed to be released from the IDF. I still took upon myself all the duties of the first year, after resigning from the army, so, I didn’t express myself in regarding topics that don’t have to do with security. And this morning, we woke up to this question from a survey, from the Democracy Institute, that points out that 91% over years, 21% of the people believe in the IDF. 71% believe in the institution of the president and the other institutions are at around 40, 50%. And this is very concerning. We need to handle this, and I see this as part of the power and the resilience of this Israeli society. And this is a warning sign, for us. You talked about many different subjects, and Uval here, also talked about a lost decade. In my role, I saw my role as one where I needed to provide security, and a sense of security, as well as freedom of operation for decision-makers, to make the right decisions for the State of Israel, for Israeli interests, out of a position of strength. We had the incidents in the year and 1/2 that have gone by in the Gaza Strip, and around the Gaza Strip, but I can tell you that, all in all, in Israel, in the past decade, there’s this position of strength. It’s a position of being at an advantage, and here, I agree with the military state. You know, I was on the front when the second intifada broke out, and statements such as, you don’t do serious steps under pressure, under pressure of incidents, and the blood that was spilled because this is seen as weakness. And these things were said back then. And this is a political question, that stands, that’s put to the test time after time, where’s the right direction for Israeli society? I admit that I didn’t deal with this too much, although today I am a civilian, I took upon myself to follow certain rules to follow the, not just to follow the law, but also to follow the spirit of the law. Because, legally speaking, there’s no problem for me to express myself, now.
– Ilan Greenfield, from Gefen Publishers, and from the founders of I think that one of the topics I need to talk about is education, both of our children here, and of the children in the United States. I think that we need to understand, that we have to say that, if they won’t be Jewish there, they won’t have any kind of approach to the State of Israel, or the internal attitude, and no connection. Now there are three military economies. There are two in, one in Sufa, near Aza, Gaza, and two in Ma’ale Adumim. When you see young people that have no Jewish identity, and I’m not even talking about religious identity, I’m talking about a Jewish identity, that this is the state of the Jewish people, they totally get lost. The same happens in the United States. And you mentioned this, Avinoam, that there’s a very high percentage of religious Jews in the United States. They are the ones that are identifying with Israel, they are the ones that are coming to the State of Israel. Unfortunately, the other movements are slowly disconnecting from the State of Israel. I think you talked about the foreign volunteers brigade, and these young people, and I had the opportunity to meet a young, 23-year-old, Machal soldier. When he was 21, he simply left the United States, and volunteered to bring ships with holocaust survivors to Israel. In our Israeli system, we don’t talk about those things. We’re not interested in those things. They aren’t worth our attention, and I think that’s wrong. Once we’ve given our youth some values and some sort of a goal, we have wonderful young people. Our people here in the Academies, they sign up for extra service, they go to the, all of the Academies do this, and I think that we have to talk about this point, of education, and instilling Judaism, Zionism, and good citizenship.
– [interpreter] I’m sorry, I can’t hear him. Would you like to add something? And then a want Avi to summarize.
– Yes. So, this ties into the danger that Israel is about to lose its bipartisan support of the United States, and I’m asking myself, and you, to what extent does the Jewish community and the United States contribute to that, even indirectly, and what does it come from? In the past few years, they have been saying a lot that the Israeli government invests a lot more in the evangelistic community, as a strategic asset, at the expense of the Jewish community, as a strategic asset. For you, to what extent is that true? And if so, to what extent does this present a danger to the security of the State of Israel?
– Okay, well, it’s true that I spent six months in the United States, and my wife was born in the State of Israel, it’s a major part of the family, but I don’t consider myself to be such a great expert, to answer this question with a profound answer. Look, the bottom line is, the great importance of fostering the connection with the two large parties, and the way that the State of Israel is perceived, both by the American Jews and by the citizens of the State of Israel of the United States. Dr. Chuck Friday wrote a book about the Security Concept. He told me about a survey among students. They were asked if the State of Israel is a Democratic country, and the answer that he told me about was that 25% said yes, and 25% said no, 25% didn’t know. I think that this is concerning, and there’s a struggle here, and the most important place for us, and that same strategic place for us to rely on, the connection with the Jews, and then you have the connection with the two parties, then the connection with the public there, and the way that the State of Israel is perceived there. I also have observed, you know I have a lot of free time now, in that episode on the channel two about the Americans, and that says something, and it’s very thought-provoking, about the way that we need to operate, even though there’s still a support in that we still have fans, there, to look where things are going the next 10, 15 years, and where public opinion is going in the United States, certainly when it comes to bipartisan support.
– I would like to summarize. I didn’t think that you have to summarize. This is not so much of a question, just summary comments. This is, you know, we have here, in this very serious forum, there are quite a few people who have dealt with different components of national security, politics, and the army on different levels. And, I was next to them. There is one subject that I think that we can’t ignore, which is, which expresses the frustration of all those in the government, with security planning. And this is that Israeli leadership is constantly, has never really given, issued us, a direct directive. And, what’s to write the planning documents, the different planning documents. There is no directive. It’s not clear enough to the planners, what Israel wants our Eastern border to be. Which, ties into the deeper question of, how we want to, in terms of the Israeli interests, how do we want to see the solution of the Palestinian problem? Because if we look at the past 10 years, I don’t think that we got from the Israeli government, talking about the Israeli government in the past decade, as the citizens, right here I’m speaking about those who deal with planning, we haven’t gotten a clear vision of what they want, where they want to go, where they’re headed. When you have to plan, when you are supposed to, to present a document, with a security concept, with the different components of it, when you don’t have a clear picture of what the grand directive is, of the government you’re working under, it is hard to write a paper that is really effective. I think you can’t talk about subjects like planning, planning and security, without dealing with this painful point of this lack of a clear directive. This opens up a new discussion, if I could say on the one hand on this happy note, but that’s not the case. This opens up a new discussion and this is, for the next invitation, for the next session. But I definitely I do want to summarize and ask one thing. And in the conversations that I had as a journalist with Yitzhak Rabin, he would always say to me, at the end, when you want to lead a nation, you need to always give that nation the light at the end of the tunnel, okay? So that, in any case, so that I can end this on a more positive note, I would ask, where do you locate that point of light at the end of the tunnel?
– If you ask me about that point of light, I would talk about the younger generation growing up in the State of Israel. Those 7,000 young people every year, and there’s a much larger number of young people who will graduate high school and then need to serve for two or two years and eight months, or two years but they say no, I would like to do some sort of preparation. They go to the military academies. Another several other thousands of people who want to contribute in civilian ways, before they’re they draft. This is a great generation. And in all my visits as the Chief of Staff I’ve seen these young people who love the country. They have great capabilities, and they, we need to present them with challenges and the competition to reach those special units. We need hundreds, and every year we have over 10,000 young people who want to join those, the best units of the IDF. The desire to defend their country, this willingness that still exists among the young people in the State of Israel to do more and to contribute. And the challenge is to continue to foster that young generation, and to educate, in education, their identity, their desire to, and willingness to defend the country and to have a better, more developed, more advanced country. I would say, if you ask me about the speck of light, I would look at the young people, regardless into the scouts or Bnei Akiva. You come in with a set of values, and in these conversations, I’ve had many, often with the Rabbi, I say to him, look at the values that you, that are published, and the scouts of Bnei Akiva websites, you’ll see they are almost entirely identical. There’s almost total over 1,000 young people and young, in these youth movements. There’s a total match between the values and what’s actually done. And there are many challenges, so, I would say that the young generation is the speck of light, to come, their desire to go to the combat support units and the technological units like 8200. To see 20-year-olds, 20, 21-year-olds, 18-year-olds with these incredible capabilities, that really inspires pride. And yes, and after that, I talked about the younger generation. So, high school students and draftees.
– So, I would really like to summarize here, and thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for joining this conversation. We are waiting for the year of the gag order year, so to speak, when you, to pass, so that you can express yourself. I am sure that we will see you later. Continue to contribute. Thank you very much.