“Israels military deterrence was damaged”
in Hizballah war
The head of the Mossad (Israels intelligence service), Meir Dagan, has stated that Syria is more willing now than ever before to take military action against Israel. Addressing the Knessets Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee yesterday, Dagan said that as a result of the recent Lebanon war Syria felt more secure and confident in its ability to militarily confront Israel. Israels military deterrence was damaged in the war. Therefore, [Syrian President Bashar] Assads self-confidence grew … They are prepared to take more risks than in the past. Dagan said that the Syrian army is building up its anti-tank missile units, having seen Israel sustain significant losses and casualties at the hands of Hizballah anti-tank missiles in Lebanon. Moreover, he disclosed that Syria is secretly buying stocks of anti-tank missiles from Russia (Jerusalem Post, December 18; Israel National News, December 18).
Dagans testimony comes only days after a report of a revealing interview with an unnamed Syrian official who stated that if Israel does not withdraw from the Golan Heights within months, a guerilla organization allegedly formed in Syria, called the Committees for the Liberation of the Golan Heights, will soon launch resistance operations against Israeli positions and Jewish communities in the Golan. If in the coming months an agreement is not forged between Israel and Syria (for an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan), the Committees will begin attacks, the official said (Yediot Ahronot, December 13). Despite this looming potential danger, Israels Defense Minister, Amir Peretz, has made statements of concern regarding Israels defense budget, indicating that if it cannot be increased beyond the current NIS 35 billion, there will be no escape from making cutbacks in Israel Defense Forces (IDF) personnel quotas (Jerusalem Post, December 18).
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, The deeply worrying picture painted by Meir Dagans testimony before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee shows that Israels strategic position in recent months has worsened, not improved. Unilateral concessions in the midst of terrorist violence and a mishandled military campaign that failed to disarm and destroy Hizballah have convinced Israels enemies that more violence and terror is the way to wrest more land from Israel. Worse, as in the 1930s when Hitler was preparing and threatening war and countries like Britain and France were spending insufficiently on national defense, Israel too is looking increasingly unprepared and thus making war more likely.
If Israels enemies are to be deterred, Israel must be convincing them by its acts and determination that it is aware of the dangers and that it is preparing for them. Prime Minister Olmert is right to say as he did in recent days that Syria has done nothing to merit renewed peace negotiations, but he must do more than that to deter Syria. We urge the Israel government to give priority to strengthening the IDF and ensuring that it has learnt the necessary lessons of the recent Lebanon war. One of those lessons is that terrorists who are allowed to survive and rearm achieve a strategic victory which encourages renewed aggression. At such a critical time, this is not the moment for restricting the defense budget or making cutbacks in military personnel. Additionally, Israel must make it clear that any Syrian assault on Israel will result in the most severe military consequences.