Israel’s taciturn chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazy, dropped a little-noticed one-liner into his security briefing to the Knesset foreign affairs and defense committee Tuesday June 17: He said the army was prepared for any option against Iran. “Beside the actions and sanctions against Iran, it is important we remain ready for any options.”
Ashkenazi managed to skate over the ceasefire with Hamas, Hizballah and other hot topics in seven minutes flat. Members of this powerful committee complained about his economy with words and failure to add anything new to the media coverage.
But many ordinary Israelis, accustomed to coded military jargon, drew several messages from the chief of staff’s oracular sentence:
1. “The army is prepared for any option against Iran” means: Israel must prepare for war.
2. By omitting a time line for this option to be realized indicated early action, possibly even before the end of summer.
3. The very fact that Ashkenazy referred to Iran was seen as prompted by solid intelligence knowledge: His intelligence updates must have told him that Iran was too close to the threshold of nuclear armaments for Israel to delay much longer, especially since Israelis have despaired of a proactive American response to the menace.
4. It is understood by the Israeli public that war with Iran means fighting on all four fronts controlled from Tehran: Iran itself, Syria, the Lebanese Hizballah and the Palestinian Hamas. It is also appreciated that the civilian population would be in for extreme punishment from Iran’s long-range missiles and Syrian and Hizballah’s medium-range rockets, with thousands of short-range missiles launched by Hizballah against the north and Hamas against the south.
Israel’s intelligence at odds with the view from the West
5. The Israeli army chief’s implied dismissal of the “actions and sanctions against Iran” as a reason for Israel to be ready for “any options” indicated that Israel’s class of intelligence, especially that of the Mossad, about the effectiveness of these penalties, is at odds with the information put out by US president George W. Bush, European leaders and Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert.
The information gathered by Israeli intelligence bodies demonstrates a sanctions regime full of holes: For hundreds of Western, Arab and Far Eastern firms, including major banks, it is business as usual with Tehran.
6. The government’s and military command’s policy of avoiding armed engagement with aggressors, led by Olmert and defense minister Ehud Olmert, is increasingly challenged in recent weeks by the Israeli public, most vocally by military officers of all ranks.
The six-month truce with Hamas, which took effect in the Gaza Strip Thursday, June 19, was openly slammed as a sell-out to terrorists by one high-ranking officer and respected military expert after another, in interviews broadcast by all of Israel’s media.
They pointed out that, because the Israeli army was not given a chance to fight, Hamas came out of the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire as victor. The Islamist fundamentalists won a breather to come out of hiding, pull their resources together, rearm and regroup for their next offensive against the population of southwestern Israel.
Israeli is constrained by the truce from interfering with the free flow of new munitions and fighters trained in Iran, Syria and Lebanon, through Egyptian Sinai to the Gaza Strip.
Even vice premier Haim Ramon, a veteran dove, disparaged the truce accord as “another triumph for radical Islamists.” He added: “Israel first surrendered to radical Islamists in Lebanon (the 2006 Lebanon war) and is doing so again in Gaza.”
Some of DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military sources firmly believe that with typical understatement, Ashkenazi’s spare comment on Iran indicated that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has chosen its front for confounding these critics.
If the high command is deep in preparations for a military assault to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities, it would make sense to focus on this one immense operation and not dissipate its resources on several fronts.
In any case, if Israel attacked Iran, the flames shooting up on Israel’s borders would consume all the unpopular ceasefires, peace talks and understandings with terrorists – as well as flattening the critics.