Sarah: Good afternoon, and welcome to another extremely important, extremely topical and extremely timely, Amet webinar. As most of you know yesterday was Yom HaShoah, a Day of Commemoration about the Holocaust. In the middle of the day, every Israeli hears a piercing whale of a siren and stands to attention. Last week 34 rockets were lobbed from Lebanon towards Israel, 25 intercepted by the [inaudible], and a Syrian drum manufactured from Iran was destroyed by the idea. On top of that, Iran has been aiding and abetting Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Shihad and other terrorist organizations from Gaza. Israel over the last several months, has witnessed a wave of terrorist attacks not experienced for several years. All of us were absolutely heartsick about the attack on April 7th in the middle of Passover that led to the untimely deaths of Lucy D and her daughters Mala, age 20 and Rena age 15.
Unfortunately, today, the Jewish people and the Jewish state of Israel have no positive enemies who share the same sorts of Nazi like genocidal intentions against our people. If one looks at the map of the Middle East, one immediately realizes that the head of the snake is in Tehran and they are working to eradicate us. Israel is now confronting a multi-front war. Here to help us understand all of this and how the IDF is prepared to deal with this is a wonderfully talented guest speaker, Sarit Zehavi. Sarit is the founder of the Alma Center, which does magnificent work on Israel’s northern border. If you’d like to support the Alma Center, I’d like to encourage all of you to please go to Israel-alma.org. That’s Israel-alma.org. Sarit was serving in the IDF at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
The Alma Center that she heads is a non-profit and an independent research and education center specialized in an Israel’s security challenges on its northern borders. Sarit has briefed hundreds of groups and forums ranging from US senators, congress people, and politicians to senior journalists and visiting VIP groups in Israel and overseas. Sarit Scripps, numerous position papers and updates focusing on Lebanon, Syria, and Israel’s national security challenges. She served for 15 years in the IDF specializing in military intelligence. Sarit holds an MA at Middle Eastern studies from Ben Gorian University. Sarit and her husband [inaudible] are raising their five children in the Western Galilee. I would also like to mention that the work that we do at Amet is also profoundly important, and in order for us to be able to continue our almost daily briefings on Capitol Hill and these wonderful educational forums with wonderful people such as Lieutenant Colonel Sarit Zehavi, we also would love your support, and you could please come to us and support us to the best of your ability at www.ametonline.org. That’s ametonline.org. And now we will turn it over to our wonderful guest, speaker Sarit Zehavi.
Sarit: Thank you.
Sarah: Sarit, first explain this multi-front war, where is it coming from that Israel has to confront right now?
Sarit: So, with your permission, I would share the screen with you. And while I’m talking, I want to show you something that we just made this week to like try to arrange this complicated issue. Look the narrative of the sheet access led by Iran recently is a narrative of unification of the France against Israel just as you described. This narrative was realized in the past month with all the incident that you described while we had attacks from Lebanon, from Syria, from Gaza, we had attacks in West bank. Some of this attacks were initiated kind of independently by the groups that you can see on the screens, but others were supported and corded or even directly executed by Iran. So the relationship of Iran with each of these groups that you see on the screen is different. Some of them are proxies, others collaborate, others get a little bit of support and encouragement, but Iran strives to create a narrative that will enable it to activate multiple fronts at the same time, or unification of all these fronts at the same time. And the one title, and the title is Al-Aqsa is endangered, Mosques in Jerusalem are in danger. This is a narrative and incitement to this narrative that is ongoing throughout the year, and it is intensified just before Ramadan and during Ramadan. And that’s why you always see Ramadan as a very tense and very violent time of the year and the past few years it’s even intensified.
Part of this message is also the preparedness to war. This is a message, and it is happening, especially on the Israeli Lebanese border, we have seen that, at least from last summer, Iran is saying, we have one joint operation room together all these organization. I’m not sure that there is already one joint operation room, but definitely already coordination is going on between these players or most of these players. And that way you could see as you described, and I will show you the timeline now that we created only for the North, which is a good example of what is happening, and you can see that we had the terrorist attack in Megiddo Junction that came from Lebanon. And then we had an Israeli retaliation probably. Then there was the drone that you mentioned, and we had the 35 rockets from Lebanon.
Two days later, it was from Syria and it was from Gaza. Something was happening pretty much at the same time. And there was a presence of Iranian commanders that decides at the time and some statements of Iranian commanders, that all of that happened is action, reaction, action, reaction circle. As you said, we understand that the address is [inaudible]. Before we move forward, I must say something from a personal point. Yeah, I’m an expert that’s fine. I research, I analyze what is happening on the border, but actually I leave 12 kilometers from the Israeli Lebanese border. And when these rockets were launched, I had 30 guests of my family for Passover at my garden. And we were eating lunch, and my nephew comes to me and says, Sarit, I hear explosions.
Something is happening. And I told her, everything is fine, continue to eat. Since I knew that I have a two square meters shelter, which I’m not going to squeeze in 30 people into it. So what can I say to keep everybody’s calm? I said, continue eating. Everything is okay. It was pretty difficult to convince them when we had these rockets flying, intercepted just above our heads. And what my family did is filming the interceptions of these rockets. After all of that happened the young people were a little bit tense, and my little daughter, Alma, asked a lot of questions and she didn’t understand why there are so many explosions in the Skype. And eventually I took the camera and I filmed my 89 year old father saying to the camera, nothing is going to intimidate us. We’ll continue to celebrate Passover this time. This was my crazy afternoon, very personally, and I am one out of thousands that had to run full shelter that day, and all of us were celebrating Passover. Five rockets fell in populated areas, just between the homes. We were very lucky that there was no casualties serious. Very, very lucky. By the way, it also gives us a small indication of what is iron do[?]. High percentage of success gave us the opportunity to continue to eat, but at the same time, it’s not 100%. So this pretty much around your question.
Sarah: So how might America’s receding posture in the region have contributed to the uptick of attacks?
Sarit: Sarah, look, what you mentioned is another brick in the world, And I want to explain to understand how the Iranians are analyzing or doing their situation assessment. We shouldn’t look just at the United States. United States is part of it, is an important part of it, but there are few more things, and I want to elaborate all. I think the most important one is actually the human once use this term, and now it is really relevant, tectonic changes. We are witnessing tectonic changes in the Middle East now because the open dialogue that is just happening now between the Arabs, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and maybe furthermore, and Iran and Syria, this is something that we don’t even start to understand. It’s no more isolation of the Shia axis led by, it’s not isolated anymore. This is different. Now, these Arab state didn’t switch sides, okay?
They didn’t become allies of Iran. They don’t view Iran as a friend. And of course, what we are witnessing now is due to a certain interest. But in the Iranian eyes, this is a huge success. And this is very important to understand. We saw the normalization agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia with Chinese mediation. This is the wake up call for the Americans. No doubt. We see that they are about to open embassies as part of this normalization. We see renewing of the diplomatic connections with Syria and debates, whether it’s going to be invited to the Arab Conference, yes or no. We see [inaudible] fire with Houthis of Yemen the while the Houthis preserve their power in Yemen. What’s going on? The Iranians see all these developments in the Middle East and to their analysis, wow, they succeeded in gaining what they wanted.
So this is number one. Second, yes, they’re also looking at what is happening in Israel. And to their point of view, the fact that there are demonstrations in Israel, it’s a sign of weakness. Now, you must understand that, this is not democracies around us in these countries, demonstrators are being shot. So if they see thousands of people going out to the streets and nobody’s killing them, it’s perceived as weakness, even though it’s actually a sign of power. In their point of view, it’s weakness that nobody’s like killing them. Nobody’s doing anything, and they can continue to demonstrate. It’s not a democracy way of thinking. Third, the Iranians made a huge progress in their nuclear military program. And I insist on saying military program because enrichment of Iranian to 80 something percent is not for civilian use. That’s clear. And they didn’t pay any cost, nothing happened. So they see this as weakness of the West. Their relationship with Russia, all of a sudden, until today, we knew that Russia provides technology and ammunition to Iran. All of a sudden, you’re not providing drones to Russia.
This gives the Iranians a sense of a feeling of superiority. Oh, Russians need us. It’s a different kind of relationship, and on top of all of that is what we can call the American position, which is getting out of Afghanistan, which is less involvement in Syria. It’s not new by the way. It’s something that started a few years ago. Again, bad blood between United States and Saudi Arabia all of that together, everything I’ve just described brings the Iran to say, okay, our risk management can be different now.
Sarah: Okay, sorry. So speaking about the incredible relationship and realignment, which I do believe is a tectonic shift we see also that Saudi Arabia is what my colleague Hussein Abu Bakr Mansour called, is diversifying its portfolio. Just this week, Senator Lindsey Graham was in Saudi Arabia and seemed to concur with Mohammed bin Salman’s request to help develop a nuclear bomb from Saudi Arabia. Do you have any thoughts about this? I am not reassured, even though I know that although there might be a temporary [inaudible] they have been long-term rivals, and I hate to see the Middle East become a nuclear powder keg, what is your feeling about this?
Sarit: Well, two things. First, yes, that’s greatest risk. Each time we talk about the nuclear threats to Israel, I’m saying that the nuclear threat is not exactly around launching the nuclear bomb. This is like the extreme scenario. There is a very problematic situation that will emerge even without sending any nuclear bomb. Only by the fact that many, many players in the Middle East will have nuclear capabilities starting with Iran. And I think that if one of the results of a nuclear Iran will be a nuclear Arab countries, or a Saudi Arabia, Egypt I don’t know who is looking for its UAE, this will put the Middle East in a totally different situation. As I’ve said, these are not democracies. These countries are not stable, and to see this kind of weapons next to Israel in these hands, this is something that is unimagined. This is one of the reasons why Israel is fighting the idea of a nuclear Iran, because we understand, it will bring to a nuclear race all over.
One of the reasons, second reasons is that yes, it’ll be very difficult for us to make decisions around Israel’s defense preemptive attacks like we are doing today in Syria, if Iran will have a nuclear weapon. it’ll create a situation of Cold War like the one you had with the Soviets, but we are not United States. We are in the neighborhood, and that’s why this is very important. As for the Chinese, I must say that the Saudis do not view the Chinese, neither the Chinese, nor the Iranians as allies. Okay? The problem is that the Saudis feel insecure with the relationship with United States, and they’re very much afraid of this development that I’ve mentioned of the nuclear program of Iran. And that’s why we see this process of normalization, and that’s why we see this hug to China.
They’re saying, okay, if United States, we can’t play with that, let’s at least convey the message that we have alternatives, and maybe the Americans will understand the message. On top of all of that, there are economic interests of Saudi Arabia, of the Gulf countries in Syria, in Iraq, in Yemen, in rebuilding these countries. And they don’t want to leave these countries just to the shier Texas. They want to be part of the rebuilding of Syria. And I think this is another reason why they’re interested in creating this open channel.
Sarah: Saudi Arabia is very interested in its vision 2030 to diversify itself away from fossil fuels, and China had signed billion dollar trade agreement with Iran. I’m sure that they also signed billions of dollars in trade agreements with Saudi Arabia, in order for Beijing to promote itself and its own stature on the international scene. So they are unfortunately very wealthy, and they’ve only really up until today been involved in economic progress. But now we see that now they’re really fighting for stature in the world stage. So it’s a totally different picture. I have to say in the past administration, when there was no daylight or very little daylight between Israel and the United States, we saw how many of these Sunni Arab nations were running to sign the Abram Accords. So this is a totally different calculus right now. Ideally, we have a good relationship with many members of Congress, we don’t lobby, we educate. But ideally, if you could say something to the US Congress, what would it be right now?
Sarit: Wow. How much time do you have?
Sarah: We have quite a bit of time.
Sarit: Look, I’ll say a few things. First Americans, you should learn the rules of the jungle of the Middle East. And it’s a different kind of jungle than America. When I meet students, by the way, I always tell them, forget all the models that you learn in political science. Now let’s talk about new models, because the culture here is different. Okay? Now, when President Biden is coming to Israel with kisses and hugs, and then he flies to Saudi Arabia, and giving the fist to the prince crown, this is an insult in the eyes of the Saudi. He needs to pay for this insult. I’m sure that if somebody was aware of that in the American administration, it wouldn’t happen. It’s just awareness to the cultural codes of behavior that sometimes can dictate policy.
Now, of course, it’s not the only thing that dictates policy, I don’t want to exaggerate, but it influence. It’s all about the people. If you want to create security, if you want to create a personal relationship, you need to understand this small tactic. So this is one thing that I think it’s very important. I don’t know, I’m sorry, I was not watching the visit of Lindsey Graham, so I don’t know what he did. But if he was briefed carefully, he was supposed to be aware of this code as well. This is one thing. Second, let’s talk about Syria. It’s very, very important to preserve some kind of presence in Syria that will put some disturbances on the Iranian military development and military establishment there. Because the specific place, I want to show you a little bit complicated map, but I guess you can deal with it.
The map of the land corridor where the Iranians are smuggling advanced weapons from Tehran through Iraq into Syria. From there, it goes to Lebanon. You can see red routes on my map, these are real roads that these trucks are going on, and the Americans are here. Can you see my clicker, Sarah?
Sarit: Americans are here in the light blue area. If you pull out from here, the Iranians will have the shortest route from Tehran to Syria. So now they have a longer one, which is [inaudible] it’s a problem, we are aware of that, but don’t give them another present, this is very important. Another thing is pay attention to the fact that there are more and more Iranian attacks against the American presence in Syria. And you need to think it over what kind of policy you want to develop around that.
Because again, just action reaction, action reaction, limited reaction, I don’t see this getting anywhere. You can be very creative in how you retaliate to these kind of attacks against your forces in Syria. I said that before we were online, and maybe I’m saying that again. I think my greatest ask is to change the perception around the nuclear capability of Iran from a perception that believes that, well, it’s a problem of Israel to a perception that believes that it’s a global problem. Now, even if everybody’s telling me, yes, we understand that we are aware of da, da, da, da, da, da, at the end of the discussion, I am being asked, so when Israel will attack Iran. So if eventually this is the question I’m being asked, it means that the bottom line, everybody believes that it’s the problem with Israel. Because the question that should be asked is, when are we going to attack the nuclear capabilities of Iran, Israeli, United States, NATO, or any other western alliance that we can imagine, because it’s not just my problem. And it shouldn’t be the basic assumption that if everything will go wrong, these crazy Israelis will do something. This should not be imaginary scenario. I think this is enough
Sarah: Right. The truth is if and when it is only up to Israel, and it might be we know that if Israel attacks there will be even greater anti-Semitism throughout the world saying, Israel is bringing us into World War iii. I know, and I shouldn’t know the details, but I do know that there are wonderful military strategic officers and people in the Masad who have other things up their sleeve that might prevent Iran from actually taking it’s 83.7 percent of nuclear enrichment and putting it on a nuclear warhead. I know that there’s military planning that I should not know of, and I will never be privy to, and I shouldn’t be privy to. And even if I were, I would never say it .
But this is what the United States has got to learn, we had a wonderful president named Teddy Roosevelt who said, speak softly, but carry a big stick. We need a big stick. As an American, I’ m terribly saddened to see how our international standing in the community of nations has plummeted. Beijing thinks that they can step into the plate, and it’s demoralizing because we know that autocratic regimes such as Moscow, Beijing, and Tehran, they don’t care about human rights. And despite what people might be saying on one side or the other about the debate over judicial form, this is democracy in action. These people that are on the streets are actually patriots because they care about the future, as are the people who are on the other side.
And this is what democracy is. We would have no civil rights movement in the United States if people didn’t come to the streets, and we might still be fighting in Vietnam if people didn’t go into the streets. And the Middle East doesn’t know from such a thing. They’re monarchies and they don’t know what democracy is. In the meantime, we see all these pictures on memory of the cartoons from Tehran making fun of Israel, because they can’t relate to what democracy really is. So it’s a tough, tough time. We have seen and heard that people on the streets have said, I can’t support this government, I will not serve in the reserves, I will not go into the IDF. Do you believe if Israel is really confronted with an existential threat, people will rise to the occasion and will put aside these.
Sarit: No, people will take plans from outside of Israel to come back to Israel to participate in the fighting. It doesn’t matter how Israel would look like, eventually Israelis understand that it’s their only country, and we don’t have any other. By the way even now, what you said, everybody assigned no one said, I’m not coming to reserves. Moreover, following these statements, I can testify for my own family and for myself, we all want to volunteer to reserves. Many of us wants to volunteer to send the message that IDF is not part of this discussion, and IDF will defend the state of Israel,
Sarah: As I say, Israel [inaudible]. There’s no other place and we’ve gone through so much. Next week, we’re just finished [inaudible]. We’re going to be commemorating [inaudible]. We have all the thousands of people who’ve lost their lives in defense of the state of Israel and thousands of people who lost their lives to terrorism. So we’re not going to go back to become diaspora Jews again once we’ve gone so far. No matter what, what kind of personal sacrifice it takes, and your family is certainly living up there just a few kilometers from the Lebanese border has really endured a tremendous amount. But I personally was very, very thrilled to see the videotape right after Passover of your father saying that these Lebanese explosions are not going to interfere with my enjoyment of the holiday of Passover. I thought it was so heartening and so encouraging. So finally, if Israel is left to its own devices, do you think Israel would be able to handle the Iranian nuclear threat?
Sarit: I think Israel can damage greatly the Iranian nuclear threats, and as you mentioned to disturb it. The sanctions and the Western activity didn’t stop the Iranians from getting where they got. So, it’s very important not to be naïve. If the Iranians will not be stopped, they will continue. They don’t have any plans to stop now. They don’t feel threatened enough now, we must put the military option on the table so they will feel threatened and they will stop.
Sarah: All right. Now is my supreme honor to turn the podium over to a colleague that I have really grown to admire and respect immensely, Hussein Abubakr. Hussein.
Hussein: Thank you. Thank you very much Sarah, and thank you very much, Sarit. It’s a great honor and privilege to have you here. And thank you very much for all our audience who tuned into this webinar. Please continue to send us your questions through the Q and A function. Sarit, we received a number of questions actually asking about the last round of tensions on the Israeli Northern borders between Israel and Lebanon. Can you tell us exactly what is the context, one question said, was it the Palestinians or was it real Hezbollah? Is it the proxy for proxy for proxy? What’s going on there?
Sarit: Well this is a very important question. Look, it’s kind of a lab when we speak about Lebanon to understand the Middle East in general and the strategic situation we are in. Because what actually happened is that Hamas is the one who probably launched these rockets from Lebanon. In previous times, like two years ago when Hamas launched rockets from Lebanon, three rockets four rockets, our evaluation here in Alma Center was that Hamas did that without the confirmation of Hezbollah. But launching 30 rockets at the same time, from various areas, from private territories or olive shades, orange George Shades. This is not something that Hamas can do from Lebanon without getting the involvement of Hisban[?]. Operational involvement, how can they enter an or shaded and put tens of rockets there. Okay, they can sneak, launch them and leave, but 30, it’s different. 30 if you do it without coordinating with Hezbollah, you are getting Hezbollah very angry.
So we believe that there was an involvement and assistance of Hezbollah this launching, though it was made by Hamas. The question of the Israeli retaliation here, it’s different because what the IDF had done was to say, okay, it was Hamas we retaliate against Hamas in Gaza, and that’s why you have seen kind of a night of an escalation from the Gazain[?] border, because eventually IDF has to choose its battles, has to prioritize this multi front campaign. IDF have decided to retaliate in order to create deterrent to retaliate in Gaza. It doesn’t mean that Hezbollah was not involved. Afterwards came Netanyahu and stated that there was a retaliation also against Hezbollah, kind of a secret retaliation, which none of us here in Israel understand what exactly it means.
Hussein: All right, thank you very much. Okay. How about Syria? Things also heated up a little bit. There were attacks from Iranian militias on American sites in Syria. one contractor got killed. Few soldiers got injuries, and I think actually the Pentagon just released a report saying that there were a lot of brain injuries out of this on the United States retaliated. Then you share with us also your understanding of what’s going on in Syria.
Sarit: I must tell you something, which it’s kind of not my interest to say it, but I will say it because that’s the reality. What the Iranians are doing in Syria is that they try to create an equation that when they attribute an attack to Israel against their infrastructure in Syria, they retaliate against the United States. This is a policy that started around a year ago, and we see this happening again and again and again, kind of to again to create this linkage between Israel and United States and trying to de deter Israel from carrying on this campaign between the wars, these attacks against the Iranian weapons in inside Syria. This is what you have seen now. We see kind of an escalation in this. There was last month that you had a few days of battle with the Iranians, but it’s ups and downs here. I can’t say it’s linear or something that goes up.
Hussein: Thank you. And how about the Wall Street journal report that Iran was actually now in a tour to recruit its allies to attack Israel? There was a report that came a few days ago saying that the Iranian now and talks with people in Lebanon, and, and they are getting ready or preparing strikes against Israel.
Sarit: I think this is kind of simplifying what I was trying to explain.
Sarit: Meaning the Iranians are trying to mobilize various players to coordinate and collaborate to unify the fronts. I cannot say that they can order everybody to do exactly what they want exactly the way they want it, but no doubt that the address is Iran, that Iran is part of the incitement that has been going on, and there are proxies of Iran that completely doing what it want in this region not all the players.
Hussein: Right. And are those preparations a part of a specific Iranian strategy that has to do with their nuclear program, or is it just simply what they like to do?
Sarit: Well everything is connected eventually, but I think the unifying of the fronts and the try to get everybody on board before the nuclear issue, I think it’s like two parallel routes that the Iranians are walking in. Again the reason for all of that is because this assessment that is ongoing in Tehran and the new assessment now, is that they can do that. They can create more escalation. They can weaken state of Israel without paying any cost.
Hussein: All right. As you may have imagined, we received a number of questions asking about Israel’s capability to withstand a kind of a circle of coordinated multiple theater aggression from Iran at the same time during potentially the spiking of tensions because of the Iranian nuclear program. How prepared is Israel? Others are saying that Israel is not prepared at all. How prepared is Israel for this potential scenario?
Sarit: What do you expect? In war, they will be casualties. If Israel will be attacked from few fronts at the same time, it’ll be difficult. There will be a lot of damage. But exactly as my brother-in-law explained to my little girl when she asked, okay what is happening if we have alerts here? And he said, if you have alerts here, the Lebanese are going to have alerts there. The damage is not going to be just in the Israeli side. And I think that Hizbar[?] understands that, and I think the Lebanese understands that. I don’t think Tehran cares about it. And yet we didn’t get to the moment that Tehran is willing to sacrifice Hezbollah completely in order to go to this kind of escalation. If this will happen, the damage will be on both sides. There will be damages. Israel will survive, since we don’t have too much of an option, it’s either survivors or done. So we’ll survive. But it will be damage, and we are aware of that.
Hussein: Thank you. We’re going to switch a gear and then we’ll come back to Iran, Saudi Arabia, Hamas, and Palestinian authority. So recently Saudi Arabia has been on a tour to meet with everyone. The Saudis were actually in Damascus, breaking [inaudible]. They just started talks with the Iran, as everybody knows. and then we had the Palestinian Authority [inaudible] visiting the same day, the delegation of Hamas leadership was invited to perform the Ramadan Hatch in Mecca. What are the Saudis trying to do exactly.
Sarit: Wow. It’s really difficult for me to evaluate because there was so much disinformation around that. I felt like as if Hamas is imposing itself on the Saudis rather than the Saudis are hanging Hamas. This was my instinct. Okay. I thought that the Saudis prefer to see Palestinian authority there rather than Hamas. And Hamas was just jumping in a way that it was difficult for the Saudis to completely reject it. I think that, again, this is the Saudis trying to play all over, and maybe even looking at what is happening in Israel in kind of worrying of escalation here and trying to talk to the Palestinian authority and see what can be done. I must mentioned that Palestinian authority is an entity that got weakened in the past decade, in a sense that Hamas is actually threatened in its existence. So I think that the Saudis here wanted to see what can be done to stabilize things back, preventing Hamas gaining control over West man.
Hussein: Right. There are no direct relationships between the Saudi and Israelis but maybe can Saudi rely on Israel to try to help them deescalate and contain detentions, whether with the Palestinians or with the Iranians?
Sarit: I wouldn’t use the word rely, but I believe that the Saudis wants to calm things down, and they’re definitely trying to do that, but rely, we don’t rely on anyone.
Hussein: All right, we received a question asking, well, if Iran is pulling all the strings and they have this elaborate strategy of mobilizing allies here striking USA here in order all of this to get at Israel, or retire against Israel, why doesn’t Israel have the same strategy? That is whenever Iran does something somewhere, Iran retaliates, wherever Iran is not necessarily against that place.
Sarit: Who said, we don’t have this policy?
Hussein: I don’t know, do you?
Sarit: Not for YouTube is it?
Hussein: Not for YouTube. All right.
Sarit: I know Nala[?] is watching me as well.
Hussein: Well, I hope he leaves the donation for Met. He can find the link. So we received also more questions about the Iranian nuclear program specifically. I don’t know if you have luck here with us, but basically the last thing that we heard is it’s very advanced nobody’s stopping yet. Enrichment is almost reaching 90%, or the IEA detected almost or near 90%, where is the Israeli red line under Iranian nuclear program, especially that, and this is a quote from, from also from one of our audience, that people in the US government had quotes to the extent like they will prevent Iran from quote unquote field and nuclear weapons, which really indicates a willingness to let them go as far as having a nuclear weapons to field to begin with. is there an Israeli line in the sand somewhere where once Iran crosses that threshold, it will automatically trigger action?
Sarit: Look, I’m not a nuclear scientist, so I don’t know exactly where is this point that you’re asking about. But what I can say is even if Iran will reached the Iranian to 90 something percent, which is the passing the threshold of nuclear power they still have something very important that they need to gain, which is putting this uranium on a pound. And they still don’t know exactly how to do that. They can gain the knowledge since it is within the hands of China. It’s in the hands of North Korea. It’s in the hands of Russia. All of these countries already have nuclear bombs, but Iran doesn’t. So even though everybody said it’s matters of weeks or matters of decision, it’s matter of decision with regard to the enrichment of Iranian, but not with regard to building a bomb. It’s a little bit different. So maybe have a little bit more time, just a little bit more time. I think that we may get to a point that all of us will know exactly, no, because as Sarah mentioned, some of the campaign is not happening with jets and attack it’s happening secretly. And that’s why these red lines is something that we cannot discuss.
Hussein: Depending very carefully on political bombs. We received a number of questions on the judicial reform, as you may imagine. But basically it’s just a matter of threat I think we should just keep it there. We received a question asking, we’ve been hearing from prominent people is of an existential threat to Israel as Iran. What do you think about this?
I want to say two things around it. Okay. First thing I want to say that yes, the judicial reform is exemplifies rifts and deeper questions than just the judicial system in the state of Israel. Meaning that the Israeli society is very diverse. It is built from people who came from various places around the globe. And there are different kind of problems that I don’t have the time to get to all the details in this, but if I’m comparing this to United States, and you take, for example, the issue of weapon and the issue of abortions, these are issues that it’s in your hearts and you will fight for them. Doesn’t matter which side are you. It’s the same in Israel these are issues that are in the hearts of the people, and they will fight for it, not fight with guns, but fight for it, because these are issues that are actually around the question of who are we? And around the question of conservatives, liberals, seculars, religious, Ashkenazi, Sephardi, periphery, center questions that you have in United States in a different way. That’s why I don’t think it’ existential threat I think it’s a dialogue that is over here, its discussion. And I must tell you something, as in Israel, when we went to vote during the past few decades, the main discussion was between left and right in Israel was about the Palestinian question, whether we should support a Palestinian state or not support a Palestinian agreement with the Palestinians, or not support the Oslo agreements, or not. in the past decade, this was the question, and I always said to myself, how come we are not discussing what is happening inside Israel? We have so many things to talk about.
And what happened in Israel in the past two years is that we actually, it’s funny to say, but we actually became a normal country. We are going to vote, and we have huge debates and discussions around the nature of the state of Israel, not around something which is external or on the border, no it’s who we are in this framework named Israel. And in this respect, I think that this is a very positive development, even though now we are in the middle of the crisis, and it’s not easy for all of us to see this,
Hussein: But it’s not as dangerous as an Iran nuclear bomb.
Sarit: No, it’s totally different. Look, again, I’ll give you an example from my own family. My husband’s family went to participate in the demonstrations for the legal reform, and my brothers participated in the demonstrations against the legal reform. So who am I going to join in this civil war? Which side? I actually don’t know, because there isn’t going to be a civil war here. With all the differences and diversities, we are brothers that have an argument how to build this family. And you guys in United States have all kinds of debates as well. Yes, and sometimes it’s even deteriorated balance. But United States is not going to collapse because of abortions, or weapons which is about humans lives. This were another, and that’s why also in Israel, we have harsh debates. People are very angry. People are very much worried. They are going out to the streets. Eventually we’ll find a way.
Hussein: We’re rooting for you. Another question that’s related to this issue, is basically asking, the relationship between the political conditions, and kind of almost instability and the security situation. Is all of this kind of political tension contributing to an uptick of violence, or is it a coincidence? Yes, you also have the incitement, sadly the annual season of incitement, of Ramadan. So what is exactly the nature of that relationship?
Sarit: As I’ve said it’s a brick in the wall, meaning that when the Iranians are doing situation assessment about the strategic situation of the state of Israel, whether to fight it or how to fight it, and whether to escalate the situation, the internal situation in Israel is part of their situation assessment. They don’t ignore it. And their interpretation is interpretation of weakness. I agree. Yet, I don’t think it started with the protest. I think it started with elections, one after the other. And with the political crisis in Lebanon, and maybe it’s intensified with the process that as we discussed, they view the protest differently from what it really is, because in their countries, protest means that they need to kill the protestors rather than to enable them to go to the streets.
Hussein: Well, thank you very much, Sarit. This was the last question that we’ve had from the audience. And thank you everybody who sent us questions. Sarah.
Sarah: Right. Thank you so much, Sarit. I really would like to encourage everybody who listened today to please support the Alma Center. Sarit has incredibly valuable work up there on Israel’s northern border. I’ve been there to this a remarkable center myself, and I’ve seen the work she does. Also to support the good work of Amet. Next Wednesday at our regular time, 12 noon we’re going to be honored to have a special [inaudible] presentation with professor Efraim Inbar, who is the head of the Jerusalem Institute for Security on strategy. Thank you to all of our wonderful audience who has tuned in to us today. Thank you so much Sarit.
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