There have been numerous indications in the past that Israel’s defense and intelligence branches don’t share Netanyahu’s glossy assessment of the Iran deal, and Israel’s military chief of staff, Lieutenant General Gadi Eisenkot, just publicly confirmed it is still the case. J.J. Goldberg of the Forward reports:
Israel’s military chief of staff told a prestigious defense conference last week that far from being a mortal threat, the deal has actually removed the most serious danger to Israel’s existence for the foreseeable future.
The chief of staff, Lieutenant General Gadi Eisenkot, was addressing the two-day annual conference of the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv on January 18. His 45-minute talk (video in Hebrew) was his first formal policy address since taking command of the Israel Defense Forces 11 months ago.
This is the most direct public challenge yet posed by Israel’s security services to Netanyahu‘s statements about the deal’s detriment to Israel’s survival. Eisenkot’s speech is the first time the army’s contrary assessment has been presented formally in a public forum.
Eisenkot said there were two “existential threats” to Israel, and both are currently “declining.” One was the threat of nonconventional weaponry, including both Iran’s nuclear program and Syrian chemical weapons. The other was the conventional military threat of the Syrian army.
Syria began handing its chemical weapons over to an international monitoring agency for destruction in 2013, following a U.S.-Russian initiative that has been widely criticized by conservatives. Eisenkot’s remarks appear to be the first authoritative Israeli acknowledgement that Israeli intelligence believes the arrangement has lifted the Syrian chemical threat. “The chemical threat to Israel is effectively nonexistent,” Eisenkot said.
As for the Iranian nuclear agreement, he said it is “a strategic turning point” that includes “many risks but also opportunities.”
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