The New Israel Is Strong Enough for Peace

With its army focused and its neighbors distracted, Israel has a golden opportunity to end the occupation.

Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit

According to Time magazine, Israel was behind an attack on a Hezbollah convoy on the Syrian-Lebanese border Monday night. After the six mysterious attacks of 2013, the first mysterious attack of 2014 took place. According to Time, Hezbollah was trying once again to transfer advanced weapons from Syria, which is collapsing, to Lebanon, which is growing stronger, and once again, Israeli intelligence got precise information about the secret operation. Once again, the Israeli Air Force used the information to act precisely and stop the operation. Even though Israel supposedly violated the sovereignty of neighboring states, nobody uttered a word except for Hezbollah. It seems that the new Middle East must make peace with the fact that across its expanses, the new Israeli army does as it pleases.

A new Middle East? Yes. For a hundred years, the complaint was made against the Zionist movement that it established an artificial entity under the protection of Western imperialism. Then came the Arab Spring, which turned into Arab chaos and proved that the artificial entity established under the protection of Western imperialism was actually the Arab national home. See: There are no more Iraqis, no more Syrians, no more Lebanese and no more Libyans. There is no more meaning to the regional order that was shaped here 98 years ago by Mark Sykes and Francois-Georges Picot. Only the Egyptians have a strong national identity, and only the Arab monarchies have lasted, while most of the modern secular Arab nation-states have ceased to function, as have most of the modern Arab armies.

The old threat of Arab armies invading the Jewish state has been suspended from office. The Arabs’ ability to deal with Israel’s military superiority has disappeared. The new Middle East is an unstable system in which non-Arab regional superpowers (Israel, Turkey and Iran) operate with a fair amount of freedom inside the Arab zone, because Arab nationalism no longer stands in their way.

A new Israeli army? Yes. Former Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi’s army was fairly muscular, well-trained and shrunken. More than anything, it was characterized by fear of thinking and fear of speaking and fear of acting. Benny Gantz’s army is utterly different. Under the leadership of one of the best chiefs of staff we have ever had, its ethos is free thought, clean speech and energetic action. Since the chief of staff’s bureau does not deal anymore with active subversion of the political echelon and intimidation of the military command, there is leisure to build strength and use it wisely.

The quiet revolution taking place in Amir Eshel’s Air Force and the quiet revolution taking place in Aviv Kochavi’s Military Intelligence Directorate are providing the army with unprecedented capabilities that it is using again and again. After the failure in performance of the Dan Halutz era and the failure in values of Ashkenazi’s time, Gantz’s era is one of recovery and strengthening. Very quietly, without haughtiness or politics, the army is once again doing what it is supposed to do. It is using the State of Israel’s built-in advantages to put at its disposal a protective force capable of acting precisely and decisively.

The new Middle East and the new Israeli army are shaping a new strategic situation. In the past, Israel refused any withdrawal for fear that Arab armies might penetrate Judea and Samaria. In the past, Israel refused to end the occupation because withdrawal under fire was liable to encourage more attacks. But the new geopolitical environment, the relative calm and the IDF’s military superiority create a golden opportunity. They allow for risk-taking and risk management from a position of strength and self-confidence. Ironically, political initiative is necessary to ensure the Air Force’s current freedom of action. A deepening of international legitimacy is necessary to strengthen our national security. The army’s capabilities enable, and also require, movement toward ending the occupation.

Chief of Staff Gantz. He’s talking about a change in operational perception, not just cuts.Credit: IDF Spokesman’s Office

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