At a time when the Arab world is in turmoil due to the Israel-Palestine war which broke after the cowardly onslaught on Israel by terrorist organisation Hamas, Organiser Assistant Editor Ravi Mishra talked to Prof Efraim Inbar, President, Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS). The strategic expert said the barbarity unleashed by Hamas will be lengthy and costly as Israel needs to demonstrate that hurting it will have dangerous repercussions. Enemies need to know that Israel will exact a heavy price for robbing it of its peace. Excerpt:
Palestine-based Jihadi organisation Hamas launched an unprovoked attack on Israel in which hundreds of people lost their lives. Is it a failure of intelligence and could this have been averted?
It is indeed an intelligence failure of colossal dimensions, which will be investigated after we win the war in Gaza. I am not sure that all surprises can be prevented, but we should look at the surprise seriously and learn from our mistakes.
Despite this cowardly attack by Hamas, Palestine is being backed by many Islamic nations. Can you elaborate on this?
It is true that Muslim nations are not pro-Israeli because of anti-Jewish religious motives in Islam, but not all the Arab world is against us. Actually, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf States understand that the radical Islamist organisation such as Hamas is also a danger for them. Hamas is a Palestinian offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which wants to change many regimes in the Arab world. This makes them actually allies of Israel in fighting Hamas.
The WSJ report says that Iran is behind this attack. Was this attack to sabotage the peace deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia?
Well, it’s quite clear that Iran supports Hamas. It transfers funds. It trains Hamas terrorists and supplies weapons. It probably was part of the planning of the attack on Israel.
Israel has launched a major operation in Gaza against Hamas terrorists. How do you see this operation as Hamas is also getting support from other terrorist organisations in the region, including Hezbollah, which is said to be the proxy of Iran.
Well, first of all, we shouldn’t forget that Hamas is a relatively small armed organisation, with limited capabilities that the Israeli defence forces can vanquish. Indeed, there is a possibility of a multi-front war if Hezbollah decides to participate in the north or if Palestinian terrorists in the West Bank join the fray. But I think that Israel is strong enough to deal also with a multi-front scenario.
Hezbollah has said that it is planning to attack Israel.
There is a difference between saying and doing. So far, we have seen only limited attacks from the north. And of course Hezbollah has much greater capabilities, particularly in the missile area to engage Israel.
“Over the last 50 years, there was an improvement in Arab-Israeli relations. Of course, this is not necessarily a one-way street. But Saudi has shown its support to Palestine, and it has been targeting Israel in this conflict”
Do you think geopolitics will change in West Asia due to the Israel-Palestine war?
I don’t think so. This conflict is not a new conflict. It’s over 100-years-old. And after all, we see an improvement over time in Israel-Arab relations. First, it was Egypt that made peace with us, afterwards Jordan and then we have seen the Abram Accords, and now there is even talk about normalisation of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia. So over the last 50 years, there was an improvement in Arab-Israeli relations. Of course, this is not necessarily a one-way street. But Saudi has shown its support to Palestine, and it has been targeting Israel in this conflict.
Saudi Arabia has shown its support to Palestine. Your reaction to this?
Well, words are cheap anywhere in the world. And we should always take a look at what nations are doing, not saying.
Videos of brutality against Israeli women by Hamas terrorists have gone viral on social media. Many people were also taken as hostages by these terrorists. This has happened for the first time in the last few decades. How do you see this brutality?
Everybody saw the barbarity of Hamas. And this shows exactly what we are up against. Those are people that are similar to ISIS in their barbarism. And this barbarism only strengthens the Israeli determination to put an end to Hamas military capabilities.
“We appreciate very much the statements of the Indian Prime Minister, who is a figure that is much appreciated in Israel. And I personally got many letters of support from my Indian friends and colleagues. We know that India is a friend of Israel”
Your take on the fact that a section of media and human rights activists have maintained studied silence on this brutality?
International media did mention the brutality against women and children, and elderly people and civilians in general. But Israel does not always get a supportive view from the international media. Some of the international media is biased, and we have lived with it for many years. What counts is Israel’s military power and not the international media.
It is being said that due to political infighting in the country, Hamas found this as a big opportunity and crossed all the limits of cruelty.
I am pretty sure that the domestic struggles within Israel have eroded Israel’s deterrence, and it portrayed Israel as weak, which whetted Hamas and others’ appetite to attack Israel. In the Middle East, you cannot project an image of weakness. It invites aggression.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also condemned this cowardly terror attack by Hamas. So how do you take his statements?
We appreciate very much the statements of the Indian Prime Minister, who is a figure that is much appreciated in Israel. And I personally got many letters of support from my Indian friends and colleagues. We know that India is a friend of Israel.
Do you think that Israel will have to continue this operation for a long time?
It will not be a short war. It’s going to be lengthy and costly, but we have no choice but to demonstrate to everybody that hurting Israel is dangerous for those that try to harm Israel. We have to restore our deterrence, and to make sure that everybody understands that Israel is strong and is not hesitant to exact a heavy price from our enemies.