There is a heavy feeling on the eve of Israel's 73rd Independence Day. Our national situation was better in previous years, and the worst is still ahead of us. Of course, the most immediate concern is impending Iranian revenge amid a wave of reports on the attacks attributed to Israel against Iranian targets: this time, an attack on an Iranian command ship in the Red Sea near Eritrea, and the blackout of the electricity system at the uranium enrichment facility in Natanz, no less.
These join a long list that also includes the assassination of the head of the Iranian nuclear program, Dr. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, which was also attributed to Israel several months ago, and countless attacks against Iranian targets in Syria. So is Iran planning a high-profile revenge attack? A report by the Israel Security Agency and the Mossad, also this week, that Iran is trying to kidnap Israelis using purported female escorts on the internet, reveals only a small measure of the concern. It is possible that the Iranians are planning something much more serious.
Looking at the big picture, it must be asked whether Israel has the ability, despite the operation attributed to it in Natanz, to prevent Iran from becoming nuclear in the long term, following Iran's announcement that it is enriching uranium to a level of 60% purity, and the impending renewal of the agreement with the powers, including the U.S.
Looking at the even bigger picture, is Israel's national strength clearly declining? Unfortunately, the answer is clearly yes, because national strength is not only based on the number of planes and the number of troops, but also on fateful matters such as government stability and social unity. In these fields, as is well known, we are not in a good situation.
Amid my feeling of unease on Israel's Memorial Day for the fallen in Israel's wars, I placed a call to one of the figures in the field of intelligence whom I have admired for decades – Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Amos Gilad. Among his many positions, he served as head of the Research Division of IDF Intelligence and head of the Political-Military Bureau of the Defense Ministry, under countless ministers. Today, he is head of the Institute for Policy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.
"We're not on the brink of a disaster," Gilad told me in his latest assessment of the situation. "But the general situation of the country is not good. Let's start with the basics. Iran today is the main threat facing Israel, and ever since I presented the threat for the first time to the Prime Minister in 1996, Benjamin Netanyahu, the threat has only grown exponentially.
"Today, the Iranians have hundreds of missiles that can directly reach Israel, and our success in stopping their entrenchment in Syria is impressive but not strategic, because the threat from there has not been removed, and the Iranians are continuing their efforts there. On the nuclear issue, the Israeli strategy has had impressive success in delaying the Iranian program for a long time, using a long series of operations."
According to Gilad, he is concerned about the reports about the attacks on Iranian targets. "In the past, Israel knew how to keep silent regarding much more significant operations, including the attack on the nuclear reactor in Syria in September 2007, which was under a cloud of secrecy for many years. The current provocative policy of Israel is very bad. It is preferrable to remain silent in order not to hurt Iran's pride, besides hurting them physically, and thus compel them to seek revenge."
"The unnecessary talk seems to me, from the side, to be another sign of government weakness, a result of a very serious crisis in Israeli democracy. That is a real danger to Israel's strength now." In addition, Gilad noted two other main dangers, in his view, on the eve of Israel's 73rd Independence Day. "Also, the policy of provoking the administration of Joe Biden, whose results were shown in the chilly visit by the U.S. secretary of defense this week, can be seen as a big mistake, in my view, and above all I am worried about the policy of provoking Jordan."
"The peace treaty with the Hashemite kingdom always had great strategic importance for Israel. It distances the eastern front hundreds of kilometers from us and saves us defense expenses of billions of shekels each year. The provocation of Jordan, which to me looks intentional, is very dangerous and wrong. In general, it seems to me that fateful decisions are being made based on political and personal considerations, without oversight by the Knesset. That's why I am very worried on this Independence Day," said Gilad.
And now, 2,000 kilometers to the southeast
President Biden's decision this week to authorize the sale of F-35s to the United Arab Emirates was expected. Personally, I returned very excited from the country that is, openly, the new regional ally of Israel (there were also positive strategic developments in the 73rd year of independence!).
Previously, during the last five months, I spent days and nights in Dubai and Abu Dhabi in order to turn the idea of moving the Cybertech Global conference, during the year of COVID-19, from Tel Aviv to the UAE into reality. As the founder of Cybertech events around the world (as well as founder and editor-in chief of Israel Defense), it was a special cultural and business experience, and I will provide all the details when the time comes.
In the meantime, I can tell you that my general excitement from holding the Cybertech event in Dubai was shared by thousands of people from 50 countries around the world (including delegations from the majority of Arab countries) along with hundreds of Israelis including Yigal Unna, Director General of the Israel National Cyber Directorate, which is under the Prime Minister's Office. It was authentic and complete excitement. Undoubtedly, it was one of the most exciting events of my life.
For a certain amount of time, I didn't think about the big trouble with Iran or the internal troubles in Israel. I felt like a person playing a certain role in the heart of a new Middle East, just like the vision of Shimon Peres at the beginning of the 1990s in the previous century.
Happy Independence Day!