What happened: IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi addressed the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee yesterday and updated lawmakers on the Iranian threat.
- He warned: “Israel faces many security challenges on six different fronts. On all of them Israel is working on defence, including measures to thwart attacks as well as attack plans. Over the past year we have continued to fight our enemies with operations and covert activities around the Middle East.”
- Committee Chair MK Ram Ben Barak (Yesh Atid) added: “Iran is trying to create terror infrastructure in Syria, is ramping up its efforts to deliver strategic weapons to Hezbollah, trying to lay the infrastructure for terror attacks in Gaza and in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank]; it is trying to attack Jewish and Israeli targets abroad, working in the cyber arena and moving towards developing the nuclear capabilities that would give it a defensive umbrella that would allow it to ramp up its belligerence around in the region.”
- In parallel, Defence Minister Benny Gantz related to the Iranian threat yesterday, saying: “We are working broadly against a number of efforts to build up militarily and to upset the balance in this region. We will not allow Hezbollah or any other Iranian proxy to obtain weapons that would threaten Israel’s supremacy in the region … we are continually working to prevent war; we conduct operations, send messages, prevent military build-up. But if and when there is war on the horizon our home front will be ready and we will be ready to carry out operations that have never been seen before, operations we never had the capability to carry out. These will strike the heart of terror and its abilities.”
Context: The budget that was passed last week included a large investment for the military.
- The overall annual budget was 609bn (£145bn) for 2021. Israel’s defence establishment will receive NIS 58bn (£13.8bn), representing an increase of NIS 7bn (£1.7bn).
- Kochavi said the budget will allow the IDF to deal with a range of threats, as well as significantly improving training for both the regular army and reserve units. Moreover, the additional spending could go towards acquiring new aircrafts, UAVs, and munitions that could penetrate Iran’s underground nuclear sites.
- Israel has recently accelerated its attacks on Iranian targets in Syria. According to Syrian sources, there have been at least seven attacks in the last month.
- According to reports earlier this week, two different targets were attacked simultaneously. One was a weapons factory east of Tartus, which manufacture precision-guided missiles. The second target was thought to be a weapons shipment in an airport southeast of Homs.
- The overriding objective of IDF airstrikes remains to prevent Iranian entrenchment and weapon deliveries.
- Israeli analysts have speculated that the current wave of attacks is being carried before winter begins, after which weather conditions become less favourable.
- With all strikes in Syria, Israel continues to liaise with Russia through their deconfliction mechanism, which is thought to have been discussed when Prime Minister Bennett recently met with President Putin. Despite supporting Syrian President Assad, Russia is also perceived to share the objective of limiting Iranian influence in Syria.
- Meanwhile, the latest reports from Iranian media on Friday suggest that the country has increased its stockpile of 60 per cent enriched uranium to 25kg.
Looking ahead: The nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 are expected to resume in Vienna on November 29. Israel suspects Iran will continue stalling for time as they continue to advance towards the nuclear threshold status.
- Kochavi also told the committee: “The IDF is speeding up plans to deal with Iran and with the military nuclear threat … the IDF will continue to operate in order to remove the threats and will respond strongly to any breach of sovereignty, from Gaza, from the north, whether from Iranian forces or Palestinian forces.”