Unnecessary Defiance


Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Gilead  | Personal Opinion | January 27, 2021​

The White House
Photo: Martin Falbisoner | CC BY-SA 3.0


We need to manage a calculated policy of respectable and respectful negotiations with the United States, and avoid public confrontation and insults, as they cause tremendous damage and have no desirable effect


The IDF Chief of General Staff is a key figure in Israel's national security, and every word he utters is of extraordinary importance. I feel uncomfortable but obligated to share my dismay with you following Lt. Gen. Kochavi's speech last night. The Chief of General Staff vehemently opposed the nuclear deal signed by U.S. President Barack Obama, from which President Donald Trump has since unilaterally withdrawn. The problem is that the new U.S. president, inaugurated just last week, is seeking to return to the JCPOA from which his predecessor has withdrawn. The U.S president is supported in his policy by the U.S. administration's leadership, primarily the Secretary of State, National Security Advisor, and head of the CIA.


The Chief of General Staff also stated in his speech that the original nuclear deal could have led to the nuclearization of the Middle East, and such public declarations may be interpreted as defiance by the United States. Israel has learned its lesson in the past when President Obama was confronted publicly, and unnecessarily, in my opinion. There is no doubt that the original agreement was full of holes, perhaps even altogether awful, but it stopped Iran's nuclear arms program. Since President Trump's withdrawal from the deal, Iran has made progress in its program for the development of weapons-grade nuclear. The military-security collaboration with the United States is a key component of Israel's national security, and as such, where's the logic in making statements that may be interpreted as publicly lashing out at the U.S. president and political leadership, who have only just entered office, instead of focusing on a covert dialogue between the Israeli prime minister and U.S. president, that would enable Israel to impact the content of the Iran Deal, and receive security assurances in exchange, if it is reached.


We must also remember that the foreign military-security aid the U.S. provides Israel has not been utilized over the past two years either, because Israel has avoided submitting a request to utilize it. The IDF's much-needed force buildup plan is consequently detrimentally impacted as well.


The Chief of General Staff has also revealed that he had ordered the preparation of offensive plans against Iran to prevent it from gaining weapons-grade nuclear capabilities. Is such a military option possible without U.S. coordination and collaboration? Past experience shows that it is not. No such possibility exists. Military plans belong in secret drawers as contingency plans. If a political agreement fails to be reached, Iran could advance its nuclear arms plan, posing a genuine strategic threat to Israel. Ultimately, if Israel will not obtain U.S. and European support, it may find itself alone, with no ability to put its plans to practice.


The question is: did the Chief of General Staff's speech result from a strategic political decision to begin a public conflict with Washington? One would assume there is no such policy in place, and so, should the Chief of General Staff, the supreme military commander of the IDF, really be causing America such discontent? An alternative may be suggested, in the form of top echelon discussions between the Israeli prime minister and his team on the one hand, and the U.S. president and leadership on the other, but first we should exhaust the option of covert talks, as these could minimize damage, and provide Israel with far greater security assurances.


The bottom line is, the Israeli prime minister and defense minister would be well advised to manage a calculated policy of respectable and respectful negotiations with the United States, and avoid such public confrontation and insults, as they cause tremendous damage and have no desirable effect. Will the U.S. administration shy away from blunt public diplomacy? Probably not!




Written by Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Gilead, head of the Institute for Policy and Strategy (IPS)



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