Bennett's Magic Formula to Fight Iran Draws Criticism From Defense Officials

Defense officials say the manner in which Bennett presented his methods for fighting Iranian terrorism was 'irresponsible and misleading the public'

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Bennett, last month. He believes Tehran is the source of 70 percent of Israel's security problems.
Bennett, last month. He believes Tehran is the source of 70 percent of Israel's security problems.Credit: POOL/ Reuters
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Tuesday presented his updated methods for fighting terrorism originating from Iran. The plan consists of investing enormous resources in weakening the regime in Tehran and developing a new cost-effective laser-based missile interceptor.

Bennett estimates that 70 percent of Israel’s security problems originate in Tehran. The cold war between Israel and Iran, mostly during Benjamin Netanyahu’s tenure as prime minister, was conducted unilaterally – Iran attacked Israel through its proxies in the region without Israel extracting the appropriate price for their aggression.

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Now, Bennett’s new approach is to take action gradually in an attempt to exhaust Iran’s power, wear it down and weaken the violent energy it is sending to its offshoots in the Middle East. Bennett described how the defense establishment will change focus to the head of the Iranian “octopus,” instead of being worn down by “scuffles” in Lebanon and Gaza.

According to Bennett’s simplistic explanation, the huge sums required to achieve this goal will come from Israel’s accelerated economic growth. The money accumulated will serve to strengthen the military, which will enable major operations against Iran resulting in reduced military confrontations in the region. The calm, Bennett explained, will enable the economy to continue to grow.

However, there are quite a few problems that can be expected along the way to implementing this vision, especially regarding plans for the new laser interceptor, as senior defense officials rushed to speak to the media on Tuesday to cool down expectations. These officials said it is unlikely that the direct and immediate means of implementing this plan will be possible in the time frame presented by Bennett.

Making the laser interception system operational is critical for the implementation of the “Bennett Doctrine.” The system – whose cost for every interception by the lasers is estimated to be just a few shekels – is expected to save Israel billions of shekels, and effectively change the reality on the ground: Instead of using costly interceptor missiles from the Iron Dome against cheap and improvised rockets, Israel will adopt an inexpensive and effective interceptor system that will seemingly neutralize the massive rocket infrastructure that Iran has deployed around Israel in the region.
Bennett announced the launch of a trial system within a year, and the first active operational system within two years.

According to the estimates made by the officials on Tuesday, who remained anonymous, the test system will only be operational in three years, at the very least, and long after Bennett’s term ends.
Additionally, defense officials told Haaretz that Bennett gave his speech without consulting them or their foreign partners, and the manner in which Bennett presented the subject on Tuesday was “irresponsible and misleading the public.” This comes at a time when the negotiations on accelerating the testing of the laser-based interceptor system are being conducted and Bennett’s statements could harm the necessary processes and present a false view to Israel’s partners, the officials said.

Bennett anticipated the criticism of his announcement and attributes it to the affection the IDF has for its existing systems, and the military establishment’s difficulty in adapting to progress. In his speech on Tuesday, Bennett wanted to make the defense establishment face up to the facts and insisted on an accelerated timetable, after receiving the impression that Elbit could complete the systems according to the timetable he presented.
Bennett’s speech on Tuesday was a rare occasion in which he gave public expression to the sense in Israel that the United States has lost interest in what is going on in the Middle East.

Israel and the regional threats it faces, in Bennett’s assessment, no longer really interest the Biden administration, and are now at the bottom of its priorities. Events, such as the withdrawal from Afghanistan, could well unfold in other countries in the region and serve to bolster Iran

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