Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Sarah  Stern: Good afternoon and welcome to yet another extremely topical and extremely timely EMET webinar. Everyone can agree that the Middle East seems to have been definitely appended from what it was a few short years ago. And many would say it’s an infinitely more dangerous place. Just this week we awoke to the sobering news that the United States has been meeting in Iran in an attempt to revise nuclear talks with the Iranians.

One of the conditions offered was that the Iranians are allowed to continue enriching uranium at the present level. The buzzwords have been reported as being a freeze for a freeze. What exactly this means, we’re not sure. Does that freezing mean at the level of 60% highly enriched uranium, which is a new and very dangerous threshold?

We have to be aware that the JCPOA had specified that the Iranians were not allowed to enrich to a level greater than 3.67%. And yesterday, Iran claimed that it had reached an agreement with the IAEA to have closed two probes into the Iranian nuclear sites where they have found traces of uranium at the 83.7% level, which is just a hair’s breadth away from the 90% lethal level necessary for a nuclear weapon.

As IAEA Director General Raphael Grossi had said, “Iran is galloping towards a nuclear weapon.” Unfortunately, ever since March 10th when Beijing first brokered its agreement between Tehran and Riyad, we’re seeing a very different Middle East. Old rivalries seem to be coming together.” Just days after this agreement, Iran’s top security official Ali Shamkhani traveled to the United Arab Emirates to reach closer economic security and diplomatic ties. This is the UAE, one of the first members of the Abraham Accords.

This past Monday, Egyptian President, President Abdel Fattah El-Sisii, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan fresh from his electoral victory agreed, “The immediate start of upgrading diplomatic relations and exchanging ambassadors.”

In April, the foreign ministers of Jordan who signed a peace treaty with Israel back in 1994 and Iran agreed to meet and stated that “They will continue meeting an auditor to reach understandings based on future relations to establish cooperation, and to contribute to strengthening security.” And after 12 years, the butcher of Damascus, Bashar al-Assad, who slaughtered approximately 500,000 of his own people and displaced approximately 5 million of them has been readmitted into the Arab League.

Meanwhile, this past Ramadan, Palestinian Islamic Jihad launched approximately 1200 missiles into Israel. We’re all worried that the Iranian proxies of Hamas, Hezbollah, and other terrorist groups can emerge in a united front and attack Israel on multiple fronts at once.

This is a new and frightening world otter and Israel might well feel left out on its own once again in the Middle East. Hersch, discuss this is a wonderful friend of EMET and a wonderful, wonderful Israeli Patriot, Brigadier General Amir Avivi. Brigadier General Avivi is the director of Habithonistim. And is the founder and CEO of Habithonistim, Israel’s defense and security forum.

Habithonistim is comprised of more than 17,000 senior reserve retired officers, commanders, and operators from all branches of the Israeli security establishment. Retired from the IDSF after more than 30 years of military counterterrorism national security experience, Brigadier General Avivi has held various command positions in the core of engineers, leading thousands of soldiers in a dynamic environment combating terrorism.

He has also just completed a wonderful book and we can’t wait for this to come out and to host him on a book tour. And we should also say that Brigadier General Avivi has been at the heart of the policymaking process in the Israeli government for years and years, and of the defense establishment during his time. Avivi also serves as a principal of the new state solution working group. First, Amir, welcome once again to EMET. It is always a profound pleasure to have you.

Amir: Thank you, Sarah. It’s a pleasure.

Sarah: And my first question to you is just in case people don’t understand what the IDSF is and what it does and why it’s so important. If you just wanted to give a little bit of an overview of this.

Amir: So IDSF, Israel Defense Security Forum was founded in order to promote Israel’s national security looking in the very long term for generations to come. And we understand that national security is first and foremost about national values, about a connection to Judaism, to Zionism, to our land. It’s about spirit because we know that without spirit, there is no tank and no airplane that can help. The most important thing for Israel and for the Jewish people overall in order to thrive and succeed and be secure and meet all the challenges that we have, and we have so many all around the world. And is first and foremost to be connected to our values, with a strong sense of rightness, with a strong will. Everything is about will.

Will is the strongest power there is. And we believe that there is nothing that can stand in front of will, but what fuels will is believing in yourself, and being the hero of your own story. And with the Jewish people are the biggest story of all. And we have to remember a simple truth. We are the heroes of our own story, not the villains. People sometimes forget that. And in IDSF, we understand that really in order to shape the way the young generation, the society decision-makers relate to the values and also understand the challenges and what needs to be done. You need to be very, very proactive.

So we’re a grassroots movement and also a think tank, and we mobilized thousands of officers to educate the young generation. Today we were active in all the proactive programs in Israel. This year we started reaching out to the high schools. We put a modest goal. We said we’ll go into 30 high schools in Israel this year. Now by the middle of the year already covered 50. And we’re working with the Ministry of Education and with the education core of the Army and because Zionism, which is, it’s amazing what I want to say now. Zionism is lack the education of the young Israelis, which is crazy.

And we are bridging this gap. Bringing the best officers will have to the high schools and getting the young generation connected again to their core values. And this, of course, immediately affects also the motivation to do meaningful military service. This is part of what we’re doing. And because we are a big organization, we’re able to meet any demand. This is why we’re getting more and more high schools to educate. And now, we are starting to get requests also from Jewish communities to come and also talk to the young generation and advocate for the young generation in the Jewish world. And we’re working with the minister Amichai Chikli to build programs also for the diaspora.

So we’re doing a lot of talking about education but shaping hearts and minds it’s also about being very active on media and social media. Today we basically dominate completely mainstream media in Israel. And we operate all social media platforms in Hebrew and in English, and we’re very active in social media. And we have a research department and we produce very high-quality papers, which we use when we meet with the prime minister, with ministers, with [inaudible] members, but also with diplomats.

Sarah, we come quite often also to Washington and with congressmen and senators and officials, and also in Europe. So this is what we do. We educate the young generation. We educate the general public through media and social media, and we work with the government’s policymakers and all that one goal of securing Israel and the Jewish people for generations to come.

Sarah: Right. So you’ve been traveling around the world and have spent a lot of time in America. What do you believe the state of Zionism is like among young American Jews?

Amir: I think we’re in a big crisis and I think that the problem is that that’s probably the biggest challenge we’re facing in Israel and in the Jewish world. And, Sarah, you did your opening a very long opening about Iran, and we talk about Iran, but the number one challenge we’re facing as a Jewish nation is our values. As I said before, in every great story there is a hero and there is a villain. And since the sixties, and this is something that started with the Soviet Union, they build a whole propaganda that was intended to vilify Zionism.

They worked very closely with the Palestinians. It’s not by chance [inaudible] Ph.D. with the USSR, Secret Service. And they built a concept that was also embedded in large parts of the Western world. Basically, the idea was to portray Zionism as Nazism. Think about it. It’s crazy. That we’re the victims, right? 6 million Jews were killed, but they managed to build an idea that basically vilifies Zionism and takes us from being the heroes of our own story to becoming villains in our own story. And unfortunately, many Jews are buying that in the form of talking about occupation and the Palestinians and all of that.

And today it takes the form of BDS and basically, it’s not a talk about two states or something like that. It’s Palestine will be free from the river to the sea. There are no Jews in the scenario. We’re all in the sea. And when somebody puts a narrative, which is completely false, but says, “You guys, you don’t belong here at all. You are European conquerors that came and conquered some invented state called Palestine. And it’s not your place.” And if the Jews are not really understanding who they are and what Judaism and Zionism are all about, then it becomes a serious problem.

And one of the things that they understand is on one end there is an unbelievable gap in knowledge. Today, when you talk to the young generation, you ask the most basic questions, they don’t know anything. It’s unbelievable. But also there is a problem and the people don’t understand that they need to know how to detach their basic values from practical issues. For example, you mentioned that I am among other things and I deal with the new state solution, which is one solution to this Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I actually deal with four different solutions. But I am a hundred percent Jew, a hundred percent Zionists. I love every centimeter, every inch of the land of Israel. I love my people. I love my heritage and my history. And still, on the practical level, I can deal with solutions. Look at a problem and deal with it. And Jews are mixing their values with solutions. If somebody thinks that maybe you have to give up the parts of Juddha Shumsher Jung, all of it. So they hate Juddha Shumsher Jung, they hate the settlers. They hate their heritage. They disregard their history. Why? Cause they want to solve a problem. That’s not the way to go about it.

And when we behave like that, it emboldens our enemies even, even more. They say these guys, they don’t believe o in their own history and rightness. And know the answer is simple. We’re the people of Israel and this is the land of Israel and it’s ours. Period.

Now let’s look at reality and deal with it. And when I stand in a synagogue, a community, and I say a simple sentence like, you don’t need to give up your identity to solve problems. It’s simple, but people like a shock when I say that. It’s a revelation. We can keep our identity and we really need to understand that Zionism is a whole concept. The moment you put one hole in it, it’s like a dam that you put one hole and you have water going out in one place. But then it starts going from another one and another one and another one, and eventually the dam collapses. And then you have post-Zionism. And this is what’s happening to us.

Sarah: Right.

Amir: People are putting holes in this whole idea. You cannot put a hole in Zionism. It’s a whole idea. You can discuss solutions. I always remind that when the Romans occupied our land, there were two giant figures a hundred years apart Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai and Rabbi Akiva. Now both of them were dealing with the same problem. Roman occupation. Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai looked at it and said, “Look, [inaudible]. We have to find terms with them. We have to negotiate. We have to live in Jerusalem. We have to build bible studies in Yavne, and this is how he dealt with it.” And Rabbi Akiva said, “No, we have to rebel and we have to fight them all the way.

And he started the rebellion of Bar Kochba. But nobody can claim about these two people. But they were not a hundred percent Zionist. Of course, they were. They knew exactly who we are. They knew exactly who this land belongs to. But on the practical level, there are different solutions. It’s okay to have different solutions, but you cannot hate yourself in order to find a solution. And also, there is a need to really connect to reality. People tend to also this [inaudible] reality one day. And when they talk about this issue, they put too much emotion. And I think that there’s a need for a bit of emotional detachment when you come to these issues.

Sarah: Right.

Amir: And be a bit realistic and look at the issues the ways they are.

Sarah: Right. As ambassador, your amendment says wishful thinking is not a policy statement and hope is not a policy statement.

Amir: I’ll tell you what we go about with the young generation of Israel. People always invite me, they want to hear solutions. And we have a lot of solutions on our website. If you go into, we have a whole paper talking about solutions. But I tell them I can present solutions and I will, but there is no point talking about solutions I’m not sure where really the problem is. What problem are we trying to solve?

And I think there is a big discussion on what is the problem. We’re not defining it. So people talk about solutions without even having a discussion about the problem. And then before we even talk about the problem, the question is what’s the right question? The right question should be what is needed to secure Israel and the Jewish people for generations to come.

We are after twice we were exiled from our own land. 2000 years, the diaspora, persecutions, pogroms, holocaust. We cannot afford another exile. We cannot afford it. We need to make sure that we’re secure and prosperous for generations to come. What is needed? Does anybody here know what the parameters needed for Israel to be secure for generations to come? If you don’t know that, there is no point in even starting to talk about the Palestinians or the problems with the Palestinians. We need to talk about ourselves.

Sarah: Right.

Amir: And in order to talk about us, and that’s when we start knowing who we are.

Sarah: Right.

Amir: Is understanding our values. So we do reverse engineering. Say, guys, we’re not going to start with the problem. Let’s talk about us then let’s talk about what we need to be to exist. Then let’s talk define right in the problem and then maybe we can talk about the solution.

Sarah: Right. Very true. If you don’t know where you come from, you don’t know where you’re going to. Yeah. So Amir but in terms of existential physical threats to Israel, we know that Israel is facing a profound threat with the development of the Iranian nuclear bomb. And we EMET to a lot more than our weekly webinars were on Capitol Hill every day and meeting with members of Congress and often… or their staffers, and often were asked, what is it that Israel really wants from the United States? Could you help us come to a solution here?

Amir: Again, solution for?

Sarah: What Israel really wants and needs from the United States.

Amir: Okay. I would like to start Sarah, by saying something before. Look, people lately are becoming really worried then what’s going to happen, and maybe there will be a big war in the multi-front world. What are we going to do? And all this political thermal in Israel. And so they should [inaudible] in the Army. And I want to make it crystal clear to everybody. Israel is strong. Israel is very, very strong, and we are able to win and we’re able to overcome all the challenges around us. And I think that the good news is that we understand what is in front of us. We understand the challenges. We know what the Iranian is. We understand what is surrounding us with all these boxes, Hezbollah and Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad and all this terrorism in the Juddha Shumsher Jung. And there was [inaudible] and so on.

And Israel is preparing for these challenges. Maybe we’ll meet them, it’ll be hard. But we’ll overcome it. We’re strong and able to deal with these challenges. Now, I want to explain what we need from the US and I had an interesting discussion with Ron Derman. And told me something that I really relate to. He said that one of the officials in the US was lamenting, and was saying him wrong. You Israelis, you talk to the Russians, you talk to the Chinese. We Americans, we don’t like that. And I said to him, it’s like a boy dating a girl and she is dating also other boys and he’s not happy about that. But all he needs to do is put the rings. That’s it.

So what the US needs to do is put the ring on Israel’s finger and putting the ring on Israel’s finger means showing leadership and stabilizing the Middle East by building a coalition with Israel and the Sunni and moderate states, including Saudi Arabia and the Emirates and Bahrain, and Amman and promoting peace agreements because Saudi Arabia is more than willing to do peace with Israel and even expand this peace also to Pakistan and Indonesia and to Amman, but they’re not going to go forward with the peace agreement if the US doesn’t commit. Commit to being a leader and a player in the Middle East and falls a credible marital sweat only one.

Now this needs to be done not because of Israeli interests and not because of Saudi interests, but because of American interests. Because America is losing the Middle East to China and Russia. The fact that America is not present, it’s destabilizing one of the most dangerous, delicate places in the globe, the Middle East. And by not being present, we find ourselves in a reality where Iran is becoming more involved. They have Russian backup because the Russians have become the last year very dependent on Iranian capabilities. Russia is less present in Syria because they’re focused on Ukraine. So Iran is much more room to maneuver and the relations that have tightened.

So the prospect of an original war without a US presence is growing all the time. And this is very, very dangerous because if there will be a war in the Middle East, this will bring world recession. This will make all prices go crazy. This will destabilize what is already destabilized which is on the route saying of trade. Already we see a crisis that President Biden talked about when he visited Israel, talking about the movement of goods for East to Western and so on. The supply chain. And it’s going to get worse. So it’s in the best interest of the West and of the US to stabilize the region and be present here.

Sarah: Right. Okay. So, as you know, Mahmoud Abbas is in his 18th year of a four-year term and he’s in El Health. And according to the latest polls out of Khalil Shikaki Palestinian Center, 85% of people in the West Bank say that they would not listen to Mahmoud Abbas and certainly would not reelect him. What is going to happen to the Palestinian population after he dies? Where is this all heading?

Amir: So the day after Abbas is a big issue and we have done a lot of research about that. It’s interesting that this is a very crucial issue and there is almost no research about it. The Palestinian Arabs hate this entity. The Palestinian Authority, and are fed up with it, and they want it gone it’s already kind of falling apart and you have different fractions of the Fatah basically detaching on the Palestinian authority. You have the population much more supportive of Hamas and Palestinians Islamic Jihad, or other factions. You have a whole group of potential successors in the Fatah. Each one of them building its own militia, ready to fight the others for succession. And you also have the growing strengths of the local leadership.

The head of the tribes, the Hamulas in the different cities. They’re the real leaders really that have been there long before the Fatah came from Tunis and they want to go back to lead their cities and control what’s going on. So there is a fairly good chance that the day after Mahmoud Abbas there will be some kind of civil war. There will be fights between different factions and it’s very, very difficult to project what exactly will happen. We need to build all different scenarios and talk about them. Israeli defense establishment. Unfortunately, in this case, I think it’s stuck with the notion that the only good solution is the Palestinian authority, and it’s simply not true.

Of course, Hamas is not a good option and Palestinian Islamic Jihad is not a good option. But actually, the local leadership is a good option and whether we like it or not, whether the government or the defense establishment is supportive of this or not, this is our relative they might meet if, for example, in [inaudible] or Jericho, the Palestinian Authority is not present anymore. And the local leaders take leadership and say, that’s it, we control the city. What we will do? If it’s Hamas, we go in and we’ll apprehend them and we won’t let them control. But are we going to fight the local leadership of the cities? One of them to do that.

And it’s enough that one city, one detaches from the Palestinian Authority and that’s it. It’s over. Already half of them are not under the control of the Palestinian authority. Half of the Palestinians are under Hamas’ control, and then they will never, ever connect back with the Palestinian authority. There is no one Palestinian group that is already split. And the inside of Mahmoud Abbas is completely split. So it’s going to be very, very interesting what’s going to happen the day after Mahmoud Abbas.

Sarah: But you think with the internet and all of its popularity, the next generation of Hezbollah will be as stable as they had been in the past?

Amir: Hard to say. I don’t know.

Sarah: Yeah.

Amir: I don’t know, but I can tell you something from experience. Okay. Not field. I remember two years ago when the issue of sovereignty was still President Trump was still in office and there was talk about applying sovereignty in the Total Valley and in the Jewish towns. We met six generals with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and at a certain stage, he asked us, what will happen if I apply sovereignty and then the Palestinians will collapse? We didn’t propose this question, but it was interesting that we all answered the same six generals. General Jerry Singirok, commanded Operation Defensive Shield in 2002.

He said, listen, Mr. Prime Ministers, it’s not that theoretical question. It already happened because, in Operation Defensive Shields, the Palestinian authority completely collapsed. And for a year and a half, we worked with the local leadership in the cities with the municipalities. The municipalities are run by the local leadership. By the way, the municipalities in the Israeli Arab cities are run exactly the same by the local [inaudible]. This is the way Arab society is built. It’s not different between Israeli Arabs or Palestinian Arabs. And it was working for a year and a half, the fact that the Israeli government decided to bring back the Palestina [inaudible]. So that was the decision, but we did manage to work very well with the local leadership for a long time.

Sarah: Okay. And I know you spoke a lot about Israel’s capabilities if there is a war on many fronts, but there’s no getting around the fact that Hezbollah has 150,000 missiles aimed at Israel and that some of them have been converted into precision-guided munitions that can target really essential critical places of Israel’s infrastructure. So how in general, without revealing any secrets, is this Israel preparing for this scenario?

Amir: So, Lebanon is very different from Gaza and Gaza we can have the luxury, I would say, not to maneuver inside Gaza and rely on… I don’t know and just attack them from the air or mostly from the air. And prevents severe damage in Israel. It’s not the case in Lebanon. In Lebanon because they have much more capabilities and they can inflict serious damage even with iron domes or capabilities. Israel is not going to behave the same as in Gaza. If there is a war in Lebanon the Army will maneuver very, very fast.

We will conquer large portions of Lebanon, and destroy Hezbollah completely in all the places that we’re going to conquer. And Hezbollah is no match for Israeli defense forces. And I’m saying that not to brag. This is the reality. We are by far stronger than them. And once the ground forces will maneuver with our air power and precision capabilities and so on, we will learn one way with us destroying all the Hezbollah. Everyone will arrive. And they know that, and they know that this is why they’re not for many, many years, since 2006 Hezbollah hasn’t challenged Israel.

The Army has been preparing for a long time, and I can tell you that in reserve, what I do in reserve is check the readiness of the Northern divisions for war with Hezbollah. So when I say, what I say is not only because of my experience of 30 years in the Army or what I do in IDSF, but also by the fact that I have checked the readiness myself of the divisions that have to operate in Lebanon. And I can say that definitely, we are in high readiness. The units are motivated and strong, and the technologies are really amazing.

We have today’s capabilities that really enable the sphere of the forces to maneuver almost without anybody being able to stop them. Not that there is not going to be hard, and not that we won’t have casualties, we will, but we build really impressive capabilities. And we’re preparing like this week and next week, we’re preparing for this kind of offer.

Sarah: [inaudible]

Amir: By the way, just to get a sense of what the IDSF can do, not in theory, what the IDSF does every land. Okay? Every day and every night, we operate inside Judaean, inside Nablus, inside Hebron, and in areas that are full of terrorists, shooting from all over against our forces. And again, and again, and again and again, we go in, we apprehend who we want to apprehend, and we kill who we want to kill. And the 99.9 times all our soldiers go back safe and sound. And this is something we do every night. This is our capability, and it happens every night.

Sarah: Amazing. [inaudible] All right, and with that, is my honor to turn the podium over to my wonderful colleague Joseph Epstein, who will feel the questions that have come in and perhaps even ask some of his own. Joseph.

Joseph: Thank you so much Sarah, and thank you so much, Amir, that was very timely and very interesting. And I’d also like to thank all our attendees. There are a lot of really great questions. So without further ado, one question that we’ve gotten quite a bit after you were speaking about Hezbollah is how can the local Palestinian leadership or those Hezbollah be empowered to break away from the PA and make peace with Israel?

Amir: So I think that I have met with several Hezbollah leaders and what they say to us is that the fact that for a long time, the government and the defense establishment are supportive of the Palestinian Authority and they view the Palestinian Authority as enemies. This discourages them. They say, “Look, we cannot take the initiative and take control of a city. If you guys, then we let the Palestinian Authority or even help the Palestinian authority. We can gain control of the city. We need to know that you back us up, that you defend us. That if we say that we are now controlling a city and we want to have direct relations with this [inaudible] that you back us.”

And unfortunately, this is not yet the case, not with the defense establishment and not with the government. I can say that in the government there are several leading figures that already understand that this is a good option, but we need the process now. I think that what will bring this about very fast is the collapse of the Palestinian [inaudible]. If it collapses and this becomes the one viable option. Cause today we have been told for 30 years, we have two options. All Palestinian Authority or Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. So everybody says, “Okay, we know the Palestinian Authority is terrible, but what is the other option?” Hamas. But once people realize that there actually, there is a third option and that we have no other chance because the Palestinian Authority collapsed. Then it’ll be relevant.

Joseph: Thank you. Another question that we’ve got quite a bit is about the status of the peace talks with Saudi Arabia. So do you see the status having changed especially after the talk between Saudi Arabia and Iran that was set up by Beijing?

Amir: I think that strategically, the Saudis are still… they know that the Iranians are a huge threat to them. They don’t trust the Iranians. They rather have a coalition with Israel and have peace with Israel. But they need American commitment and they’re signaling to the US that if the US is not present and they’re not packing them up, they might at a certain stage change alliance and go with the Chinese and go with the Russians, or at least keep options open, even with all Israelis with all our amazing relations with the US, the ring is not on our finger.

We keep always the options open. We keep good relations with the Russians. We give good relations with China. If we had full commitment, it wouldn’t be like that. It will be different. For example, Israel would assist dramatically militarily in Ukraine. We don’t do that now. We don’t want to upset the Russians. But if America steps forward and says, we are going to fight with you against Iran, or at least pose a credible military [inaudible] Israel will change and complete its policy regarding Ukraine and will assist the Ukrainians. We are able to shift this whole world around with our capabilities. So I think that the Saudis are keeping options open because they feel they cannot completely trust the US.

Joseph: Thank you. That actually brings me to my next question, which is, as the US seems to be less reliable in the region, is Israel trying to solidify other strategic, maybe regional partnerships? And do you believe that it has done a good job in this respect if it has?

Amir: Israel is working very hard to solidify relations with countries that share the same interest we have, like Azerbaijan, for example. But it’s much harder to do it when you don’t have the US present and leading this. But we are working, we are doing this. And it has good results. But still, the lack of commitment from the US is affecting the whole region.

Joseph: You mentioned Azerbaijan which is a great example of a strategic relationship that Israel has established, especially on Iran’s borders. And I wanted to ask, are there any other potentials for close relationships with countries on Iran’s borders? I know recently Israel opened up its embassy in Turkmenistan, and although it seems like the government there might not be as reliable or as stable as the Israeli one.

Amir: Azerbaijan is interesting because 25% of the Iranian population is Azeri. And Azeri is a strong force in Iran. Overall in Iran, only 50% of the Iranians are Persian. So you have Kurds, which has good relations with Israel, and you have Arabs, and some of them are in relations with Israel inside Iraq and you have the Azeris. But when you are in a good relationship with Arabazeris, it affects the Azeri population in Saudi and Iran. And you also have Persians that are supportive of Israel.

Israel has also some kind of initial relations with Pakistan also surrounding… so we’re building a whole ecosystem, but what will enable us to really push this much stronger is the American commitment because once Saudi Arabia says we’re doing a peace agreement, this will bring an alliance that will surround Iran from all sides. Will be very meaningful.

By the way, one of the big challenges Iran is facing now is from the Taliban. Taliban is getting stronger. Finally, maybe there’s going to be a good use of all these munitions and capabilities the US left in Afghanistan, cause now they’re moving it all to the Iranian border and trying to challenge Iran cause this is radical Sunni. And for them, Iran is the worst enemy. So having Afghanistan challenge Iran is actually not bad. And we hope to see them really active when they spill like ISIS was when they were fighting the Iranian malicious.

Sarah: They both be successful.

Amir: We wish all sides success.

Joseph: So ear earlier in the webinar you mentioned how the Zionist movement especially in the diaspora, is really in a crisis. What do you believe the future of the Zionist movement is inside the United States and what role should Israel play in relations with the diaspora?

Amir: First of all, I want to say that Zionism not only not ended, it just started, or just at the beginning. We have a long, long, long way to go, and maybe for a decade or two, we got a bit confused but I can say at least looking at the young generation in Israel, they’re not confused or much less than some of their parents. And there is really a yearning for being connected to their identity and their patriotism. Something that the young generation connects to really, really easily. I think that Israel needs to understand, and I write in my book that today from the four biggest challenges in campaigns Israel is facing the government is dealing with only one. Iran.

And they’re not dealing seriously with the challenge of what is happening in the diaspora. They’re not allocating the funds needed, the attention, the understanding that they’re losing millions of Jews. This is critical to deal with and my feeling in my organization we’re not willing to give up any Jew. We want to fight for the Jewish people. We care about all Jews. And we really are pushing the government to change policy and understand that we need to fight and when we talk about antisemitism, PDAs, and campus and all of that, I can tell you that I think that the focus is not in the right place.

You have organizations and people pouring millions and millions of dollars into this issue in the university. It’s almost a waste of time. We need to focus on ourselves. We need to focus on the Jewish people because when you don’t do that for 18 years, and then you send an 18-year-old Jew to the university stands, a long chance he comes without the basic things, the basic tools he needs to be able to cope with… it’s like taking somebody from civilian to our war in Lebanon without going through basic training, without equipping it, without anything. Doesn’t make sense. So we really need to invest in the young generation in the community that we need to build leadership. This is what we want to help to do. Build, give the knowledge, and build leadership and understand that it’s not only about information, not only about talking to the mind. You have to talk to the heart.

Being a Jew was always hard, okay? For centuries. But Jews knew that the delta force of the nations, that they’re special. Now, if you are a special unit, it goes without saying that it’s hard, it’s part of the job, but you are proud. Say, listen, guys, I’m in a top unit. But what happens if it’s hard and you think you’re in a shitty unit? Why bother? Now what we do in the Army, all our service, is builds unit pride, is built unit resilience because we need to lead soldiers in war. They need to be strong, proud, and resilient. And it’s a lot about values and talking to the heart. It’s not just about talking to the mind. It’s not just about teaching them history. It’s much more than that. It’s about leadership and this is what we need to bring to the communities.

Joseph: You make an excellent point, and I couldn’t agree with you more. And so another question that we’ve gotten multiple times is on the American insurance of not letting Iran achieve a nuclear weapon. How much credence should Israel give to those promises and does Israel have a red line when it comes to Iranian nuclear proliferation that would cause it to attack?

Amir: I think that the message Israel is conveying all the time is we will defend ourselves by ourselves when neither when needed, and we’re not relying on anybody. Now the US should be involved and lead this, not because of Israel, but because of US interests. Okay? It’s not for us. It’s for the US. And if we need to defend ourselves by ourselves, we’ll do that. But the problem is that if we do it alone the prospect of original war will be very high. If we do it as a coalition, this enhances much more the success and also we’ll stabilize eventually the region.

It’s a very different scenario. Now, the red line there are a lot of different things that can become a red line. For example, the Russians equipped the Iranians with certain capabilities. For example, the underground projects that Iranian is doing now and our assessment, can we hit it or not? For example, do we think that we can bring yet the US on board? Do we have more time or not? It’s not only about how much they’re enriching running, it’s part of the decision making and there are other issues and considerations, which I cannot talk about.

But I can say when I became the camp of the chief of general staff and I stayed the camp of the chief of general staff, you see everything, everything, everything that the chief of staff knows, you know. And I remember when I really got to understand what we were able to do, but I thought to myself that really I’ve never seen a movie that can capture the audacity and creativity of the Israeli defense forces in the of Israel. What we know how to do is beyond imagination and the day we’ll have to do it I think the whole world will be astonished but by the capabilities of Israeli defense forces.

Joseph: Thank you.

Amir: That day might come pretty soon.

Joseph: Thank you. Just this week Recep Tayyip Erdogan was declared the winner Turkish elections for president. How does his victory affect Israeli Turkish relations? And do you think even if he is voted out at some point, is there a way that Israel and Turkey could return to the point that they were before Erdogan was elected?

Amir: So in this case, you had two terrible candidates that were contesting for presidency and then at least that one we know for many years. And then actually, as you know, in the last year or two, we came to an understanding that he needs to improve relations with Israel. We have a lot of common interests with Turkey. We have a trade that is all the time growing between the two countries. Erdogan is very interested in our gas capability and would like to have this gas move through Turkey to Europe and not through Italy or Greece.

He also understands that if he wants to improve relations with the US he needs good relations with Israel. So overall, I think for Israel it’s good, although he is a terrible guy. But for Israel, him winning the presidency compared by the way to the other guy, I think it turned out okay. But in Turkey, you have to always keep an eye open and see where this is going.

Joseph: Thank you. Previously you mentioned the large Israeli minority in Iran and you also spoke to the Kurdish minority there as well. Is Israel doing anything to empower that Kurdish minority Jew?

Amir: Not enough. I think that more can be done. I cannot really say exactly what Israel is doing, but I would say this. I think that one of the benefits we can have from a coalition that will challenge Iran, this will empower the Iran people dramatically to bring down the regime. They need to see the white-standing wisdom, and this is not happening. The day they will feel that there is somebody who actually is willing to threaten the regime, this will empower them a lot to be much more active. I think not only Israel, I think the US can do much more in encouraging Iranian society to fight its own regime.

Joseph: Thank you. Concretely speaking when you speak of developing an anti-regime coalition, what needs to be done?

Amir: I think it’s first and foremost about a clear declaration. You cross the red line or do not allow this anymore, formally do a coalition. I think that central command has quite a lot of air power if they want to show off and bring another big carrier with more planes. Okay. But when you take Israeli capabilities, Saudi capabilities, everyone’s capability, all these countries and the US says, okay, this is a quality coalition and we have American capabilities. And now we’re going to challenge the Iranians and demand them to dismantle the program. This will be dramatic. It doesn’t necessarily require the US to amass much more force than what they already have.

Certainly not when they have Israel. Now this is maybe finally the US will be able to explain to the American people why they spend so much money in building these forces like Israel and the Saudis and so on. It’s time to utilize them for American benefit. And we have to understand that because there is a need to build global deterrence. The globe is not stabilized. The Chinese are contemplating invading Taiwan. The Russians are aggressive in Europe. Iranians in the Middle East. This act can bring deterrence also in the Pacific and in Russia and this will help America in the sense that they won’t need to amass so many forces because now the US is building huge bases in the Philippines. All the marines are being brought to this region. They’re facing China directly. This is not a smart move. It’s better to challenge the Iranians and deter the Chinese and not challenge directly the Chinese.

Joseph: If this coalition was created and since I see we’re out of time. So this will be the last question. If it was created, do you think Iran would be able to establish a coalition to counter, do you think China and Russia would be interested in being part of that?

Amir: No, I don’t think that Russia or China will get involved militarily, and certainly China. Russia maybe will not want to maybe assist a bit militarily, but you have to understand Russia is completely occupied in Ukraine. Hundreds of thousands of injuries and dead people, they cannot… they have no ability to do anything in this region, and therefore the Iranians will be alone. Now if we challenge the Iranians, this will also affect dramatically the ability of Russia to fight in Ukraine. There is a lot to gain here, so really I don’t understand what the US is waiting for. It’s not clear peace agreements, deterrence, ability, and so much to gain.

Sarah: Thank you so much, Amir, is always a pleasure to listen to your intellectual clarity and your moral courage. And you represent, I know not just yourself, but 17,000 members of the IDSF. Wonderful, proud, courageous Zionists and fighters for the state of Israel, which we all depend on so much. Please if you would like to support IDSF your website is Is that it?


Sarah: Also in this world where things seem to be append radically our American members of Congress depend on EMET to give them accurate and up-to-date analysis for their critical policy decisions. So if you like what you hear and you want to continue our presence on Capitol Hill, please remember also to support Again, Amir, it is always a privilege and an honor to have you on.

Amir: Thank you.

Sarah: Thank you so much.

Amir: Thank you very much, Sarah.

Sarah: Okay, bye-bye.


About the Author

The Endowment for Middle East Truth
Founded in 2005, The Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) is a Washington, D.C. based think tank and policy center with an unabashedly pro-America and pro-Israel stance. EMET (which means truth in Hebrew) prides itself on challenging the falsehoods and misrepresentations that abound in U.S. Middle East policy.

Invest in the truth

Help us work to ensure that our policymakers and the public receive the EMET- the Truth.

Take Action

.single-author,.author-section, .related-topics,.next-previous { display:none; }