Is war coming between Israel and Hamas or Hezbollah this summer?
DB: Right now, we are very honored and privileged to be joined by Dr. Arieh Eldad. He is a member of the Knesset in Israel. He is also a general in the reserves of the IDF, a brilliant man, and Israel has a situation on its hands with Hamas taking over the Gaza territories. So Dr. Eldad, welcome, and why don’t you tell us what Israel is up against.
AE: Thank you very much. Hello, Dean.
AE: I’m, as many other Israelis, look from outside at what goes on in Gaza. And it really proves everything that we anticipated that’s going to happen once Israel withdraws, and leave the Palestinians on its own devices.
DB: Now does this mean officially that the Israeli body politick understands that there’s no partner for peace there?
AE: It’s very difficult to say what Israeli leaders understand, because they proved themselves in the last summer, and during the war in Lebanon as so weak, and so very difficult to take decisions, and so difficult to encompass the situation. So I don’t really know what they grasp of the situation, but for more and more Israelis, the two state solution is no longer a valid option.
DB: Now just to explain to our audience, we have two satellites hooking up this conversation. That’s why you’re hearing a little delay here. Dr. Eldad, what’s going to happen with domestic Israeli politics? I know Ehud Olmert is very unpopular. Can he hold onto his power?
AE: Ehud Olmert enjoyed in some recent polls less than 3% support of the population. But yesterday, or the day before, they had primaries in one of the partners in his coalition, the Labor Party, and Ehud Barak, that used to be the prime minister in Israel years ago, is now the leader of the Labor. He replaces a guy called Amir Peretz, who’s currently the minister of defense, and failed totally during the war in Lebanon. Ehud Barak will join Ehud Olmert’s government within a few weeks as the minister of defense, and he will certainly strengthen this government. But on the horizon, in about two months from now, we wait for the final report of the investigation committee, the Winograd Committee, that investigated the war in Lebanon. And their partial report was so severe that everybody was sure that the government will fall within a few days. I think the recommendation in this report will say that Ehud Olmert can no longer be a prime minister, because he failed. And in that case, I think we might have new elections within three, four or five months.
DB: Now, we’re speaking with Dr. Arieh Eldad, a member of Israel’s Knesset, and a general in the IDF, Israeli Defense Forces, reserves. You’ve referred to Ehud Olmert’s position as a post-Zionist philosophy. Why don’t you explain to our audience what you meant by that.
AE: Zionism claimed that the land of Israel belonged to the people of Israel, that the people of Israel are entitled to settle the land of Israel. This was recognized in the Balfour Declaration of 1917, and later by the decision of the League of Nations from 1922. But the decisions of Ehud Olmert to withdraw from a large portion of the land of Israel, and hand over it to Hamas are really a post-Zionist situation. If he can say that Jews are not allowed to live in certain areas in the land of Israel, that contradicts basic Zionism.
DB: Now Dr. Eldad, we only have 20 seconds left in this segment, and we’re going to hold you over for another one. Quick answer, do you think Israel, is Israel inevitably headed to war this summer?
AE: I almost hope that we will have a war, because if we will not, it means that our enemy will get so strong that it will be extremely difficult to defeat them.
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DB: Dr. Eldad, before we went to break, you mentioned that you actually hoped that there would be a war this summer. Could you elaborate on that point? Because I think that’s an excellent point, and that’s something our audience needs to hear.
AE: Yes, the situation right now in Gaza Strip is that Hamas won the war against the PLO, and it created a Hamas standard. The situation is exactly as if the Taliban or al Qaeda would establish a state in Mexico. I’m sure the United States wouldn’t be able to tolerate such a irredenta, and a terrorist state on its border with a clear declaration that their ambition is to destroy the United States. This is exactly the situation in Gaza Strip. Hamas is in control. They’ve got a huge amount of explosives, munitions, advanced missiles smuggled through the Egyptian border. If we will allow them another year, they will get elaborate missiles to cover the whole area of the state of Israel. We must prevent it. It’s a kind of preventive medicine that I would recommend in any other field of medicine, not to allow them to create such a terror base that we will be engaged with for the rest of our existence.
DB: Now Dr. Eldad, does the rest of the Israeli body politick, have they reached this conclusion also? Or are they getting there? Or where do they stand right now?
AE: I think it’s unanimously accepted that Israel cannot accept such a situation where Hamas is in power in Gaza. But the debate is whether we should go for a large-scale ground operation in Gaza, which might cost heavily in lives of soldiers, or we should try, as some people recommend, to bring an international force that will go to Gaza Strip, and try to fight for us. I suspect that not many states in the world will volunteer to go into the hell in Gaza Strip when Hamas openly declared that they will fight any other nation that will come to sit in what they think is their land and their territory. And I think eventually, Israel will have to go to separate between Gaza Strip and Egypt, to prevent smuggling of munitions and guns and explosives, and be in control of what goes on there.
DB: Now we’re speaking with Arieh Eldad. He’s a member of Israel’s Knesset, that why don’t you tell us what you see this summer looking like. Do you see a two front war with Hamas on one front and Hezbollah on the other front?
AE: The question whether we will have a war with Hezbollah or not is totally dependent on Iran. Hezbollah is the front line army of Iran, and they will start any provocation, like they did with the kidnapping of the soldiers last summer, only if they’ll have direct orders from Iran. In a certain situation, when Iran wants to take off the heat from them, they may try to set a new fire in Northern Lebanon. By now, Hezbollah’s got all the missiles from Iran through Syria, all the missiles that were destroyed during the war, so they are capable of starting a new event.
DB: Now the Winograd Commission, for the benefit of our listeners, the Winograd Commission was an Israeli commission that looked at the conduct of the Hezbollah war last summer, and declared the conduct of that war disastrous. Dr. Eldad, how will the IDF perform this summer? What kind of confidence do you have regarding that?
AE: The IDF performed quite poorly, mainly because the orders they got were confused and very much not serving any goals that may end the war. They got, for the first week or so, orders to use only air force to fight the guerrilla, and there’s no way to win the guerrilla with air force. And then, they got orders to do very limited ground operations close to the borders. And of course, this couldn’t win the war. On one on one missions, they were very good. But the kind of orders that they got caused really a catastrophe, and the end results of the war, because for 30 days or so, the whole northern part of Israel was attacked with missiles fired from Hezbollah that the IDF couldn’t prevent.
DB: So looking forward to this summer, do you have confidence that the IDF is ready to fight a two-front war?
AE: The IDF can do it, of course. But it needs leadership, both military and political leadership that we didn’t have last summer. The highest command of the military was changed, the chief of staff resigned, and just fully resigned, and we have, or will have a new minister of defense, which is a very capable ex-chief of staff, which is Ehud Barak. He was also a prime minister in the past. So the leadership will be better if we will have a war against Lebanon in the next summer.
DB: We’re speaking with Dr. Arieh Eldad, a member of Israel’s Knesset. Dr. Eldad, we only have about 30 seconds left. Really quickly, what is the attitude on the Israeli street right now? Are they bracing for a fight? Are they ready? What do you sense from your fellow citizens?
AE: The citizens feel that they must change the leadership. The main frustration is from lack of leadership. And once we have this leadership, they’ll be ready to go with this leadership, even for war if anything else didn’t work.
DB: Dr. Arieh Eldad, I want to thank you so much for staying up late and joining us. I know it’s in the middle of morning in Israel. Really appreciate your time, and really appreciate your insights.
End of interview.