Israel Must Use the 'Opportunity' Provided by the Arab Spring, Says Former IDF Chief-designate

Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant remains quiet about his failed appointment as IDF chief and says seven good years of Israel's security are about to end.

Maj. Gen. (ret. ) Yoav Galant spoke about his fears for Israel's security, and about how the country should "market" itself, at conference hosted by The Washington Institute for Near East Policy in Washington on Thursday.

On his failed appointment as the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, Galant has preferred to keep silent, stating only that "one day the full scope of the story will be revealed." But on Friday, as the speaker at the fifth annual Zeev Schiff Memorial Lecture on Middle East Security, he provided his perspective on events shaking the region, and how Israel should deal with them.

"I believe the Israel Defense Forces is doing a good job", Galant said. "The most prominent and difficult question is how to keep Israel just, and how to market it. I believe we have an opportunity now - after the world was watching [Syrian President Bashar] Assad killing more civilian Arabs than Israel killed in 60 years - we have to use this opportunity. And we need to be more humble, more solid, to pay more respect to other people, to young generations, because good ideas arise from these generations."

He also called Assad the last Alawite ruler of Syria, though Galant did not want to predict how long Assad could hold onto power.

In the case of Syria, Galant said, time is not on Israel's side. "It's not working for us in Syria, because the vacuum on the opposition side is going to be filled with radical Muslims, with Al-Qaida involved, the Muslim Brotherhood. In two years, we'll have very extremist people on the other side."

Seven good years of Israel's security are about to end, Galant claimed, as the changes in the Middle East have complicated Israel's situation.

Demographic trends are also undermining the impact of the IDF, he said. Within 10 years, Galant said, there will be 8 million Jews and 8 million non-Jews west of the Jordan, and later on, Jews will be the minority in this area.

He said that the Sinai Bedouin population on Israel's southern border is becoming an outlaw group, marginalized by the central government, but he stressed that this is an internal, domestic issue for Egypt to solve.

Asked what, in his opinion, are minimal defensible borders in the West Bank and how to deal with the settlements, Galant ducked the question.

He stressed that improving the situation for the Palestinians is in Israel's interest. "If the situation will be better on the Palestinian side, we'll get sooner to the solution."

Yoav Galant.
Nir Kafri