The Israeli defence and security think tank, the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), has identified a potential war on its Northern border as the most serious issue facing Israel in 2018. The report also highlights the danger from Hamas in Gaza and the potential for ISIS in Sinai to launch a major terrorist attack against Israel.
According to its 2018 Strategic Assessment, released yesterday: “Iran continues to arm and finance proxies near Israel’s borders as an arm against Israel. Iranian actions to build a military force in Syria may – with the Israeli Government’s resolute policy of dealing with this threat – lead to an escalation on the northern front. This will probably not be limited to a single element, and will lead to confrontation on the Syrian and Lebanese fronts simultaneously with the integration of forces of Hezbollah, the Syrian regime, and forces serving Iran. In the background, Russia’s presence and involvement, while seemingly neutral, will impose limitations on Israeli freedom of action.”
The assessment concludes that the second biggest issue is the prospect of a military confrontation with Hamas in Gaza. It says: “While the organisation is deterred it continues to build its strength, and even if both sides are not interested in it, confrontation may break out due to: uncontrolled escalation of a localised incident; an initiative of jihadi elements; difficulties in implementing the internal Palestinian reconciliation agreement; or tensions surrounding the issue of Jerusalem.”
While the IDF is successfully developing tools to neutralise the threat from underground tunnels, this could lead to factions inside Gaza to initiate an earlier confrontation. The report also notes the ongoing socio-economic and humanitarian difficulties in Gaza.
The third threat to Israel’s borders is from ISIS with the report declaring that “while the organisation has been defeated and lost its important strongholds in Syria and Iraq, it is precisely this defeat that transfers the centre of activity to areas where a comprehensive military effort to combat the organisation has not yet been concentrated.”
The INSS says that “the presence of the Islamic State in southern Syria near the Golan Heights, and especially in the Sinai, which translated into many attacks against the Egyptian army and the civilian population, points to a growing threat with potential for a major terrorist attack against Israel”.
The 2018 Strategic Assessment was presented to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin by INSS Director, former head of military intelligence, Maj Gen (res.) Amos Yadlin. President Rivlin said that the “important document…stresses again that political progress with the Palestinians is necessary in order to deal with the totality of the threats facing us, as well as to reach new breakthroughs in our relations with the various Arab countries in the region”.