An Alternative Intelligence View

The annual intelligence estimate of the state research bodies was submitted to the cabinet early this week.

The annual intelligence estimate of the state research bodies was submitted to the cabinet early this week. Below is an alternative intelligence estimate.

Iran: Israel's effort to stymie President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's nuclear program in an elegant manner hit the skids. The likelihood of diplomatic and economic pressure stopping the Shi'ite centrifuges is pretty slim. The likelihood of the United States attacking Iran is low. If John McCain does not make it to the White House, Israel is likely to be faced with a cruel decision at the end of the decade: to attack a nuclearizing Iran or accept a nuclear-capable Iran. Either option will pose a test to Israel unlike any it has faced since 1948. Israel under Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is unprepared for this test.

The northern front: Syria is getting stronger. Hezbollah has significantly increased its power. The current calm along the northern border should be viewed as imaginary and deceptive. It is rooted, above all, in Lebanon's complicated internal politics. But the cooperation between Syrian President Bashar Assad and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has become closer. Both are incensed over the humiliating events of September 2007 - the attack on the secret facility in eastern Syria - and February 2008 - the assassination of Hezbollah terror chief Imad Mughniyah in Damascus. If Israel does not initiate a peace process with Syria immediately, the joint anger could give birth to a serious military incident in the North. Its timing, extent and implications are difficult to assess. Israel under Olmert is not doing what it needs to do to prevent it.

The southern front: The Qassam has proven itself as the perfect weapon in the current asymmetrical conflict. Its strength is in its weakness. On the one hand, it erodes Israeli sovereignty and the sense of mutual responsibility. On the other hand, because it causes only limited damage, the Qassam does not create the national determination and international legitimacy that would enable a decisive blow against those who fire it. As a result, Israel faces an insoluble problem. Just as all efforts to elegantly block Iran's nuclear aspirations failed, so too every effort to elegantly bring down the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip has failed. Hamastan is not an existential threat to Israel, but it does inflict a wound that bleeds into the water and attracts sharks. Israel under Olmert has no consistent, credible and effective policy for coping with Hamastan's Qassams.

Annapolis: The negotiations with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas cannot solve the core of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in 2008. There are no and will not be any quick and satisfactory solutions to the issues of the refugees, Jerusalem and demilitarization. The talks are likely to end in a failure that will weaken the moderates on both sides and obviate a division of the land. Alternatively, the process will result in a vague document that will provide neither security to Israel nor hope to the Palestinians. In this case, the gap between reality and the document will lead, sooner or later, to a deterioration of the situation. Israel under Olmert is committed to a two-state solution but it is actually liable to further impede its realization.

The Arab world: The moderate Arab regimes fear the rise of radical Islam and are trying to prevent it. But the legitimacy of these regimes is very slight. In consequence, some of them are conducting a two-faced policy. On the one hand they cooperate with Israel and the West, but on the other they maintain relations with Tehran and the Muslim Brotherhood. If Iran goes nuclear, the moderate regimes will get closer to Tehran. The same will happen if the U.S. beats a hasty retreat from Iraq. The U.S. attempt to foment democratic revolution in the Middle East failed, and it is causing the gradual decline of the U.S.'s superpower status. Israel under Olmert is not responsible for this process, but it is not readying itself for the dramatic changes liable to come.

Israel's Arab minority: The throwing of rocks on roads in Israel is less deadly but more worrisome than terror attacks. The seismograph is trembling. If one of the more serious external scenarios is realized, it could be joined by an internal earthquake. Israel under Olmert is not doing enough to embrace Israel's Arabs, to guarantee their rights and clearly spell out to them the red lines that a national minority must not cross.

That's it for the bad news.

But there's also some good news. Thanks to the local version of "Survivor," Israel now has two commercial television stations dumbing down the public, not just one. Thanks to the new Calcalist, Israel now has three Hebrew-language financial newspapers twisting the minds of the country's elite and making them think that the nouveau-riche wealth bubble is genuine. Thanks to the Winograd Committee - remember that? - Israel missed the opportunity to do a genuine soul-searching between the Second Lebanon War and the war to come. The Israel Defense Forces has done everything in its power to train, prepare and deter, but the IDF cannot protect Israel under Olmert from itself. So let's all have the most terrific spring ever, and a really cool year.