A new Wikileaks cable published in the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten, recounts a meeting between IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi and a U.S. Congressional delegation headed by then-House armed services chair, Ike Skelton. The newspaper offers an overview of the meeting:
Documents of the talks between the Ashkenazi and Skelton, as well as numerous other documents from the same period of time that Aftenposten has gained access to leave a clear message: The Israeli military is in full swing to prepare for a new war in the Middle East…in the same areas where previous wars took place, namely in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip…
“I’m preparing the Israeli army in a major war since it is easier to scale down to a smaller operation than to do the opposite,” he told his American interlocutors.
“Israel is also on a collision course with Hamas,” [he warned]….In the next war Israel could not accept any restrictions on warfare in urban areas, continued Ashkenazi. During the war in Gaza…the Israeli army made mistakes, but never attacked civilians deliberately, he claimed.
Ashkenazi told the Congressional delegation he was more worried about the threat from Hamas and Hezbollah, whose rockets could blanket virtually all of Israel, than Iran. However, he did note that Iran had 300 Shihab ballistic missiles that would give Israel only 12 minutes warning before striking. All of this was designed to emphasize the IDF’s focus on missile defense in its strategic doctrine.
The Israeli general boasted of close U.S.-Israeli intelligence cooperation:
The Israeli army also has a very good cooperation with the NSA, the American intelligence organization, [he said].
In a separate briefing among Sen. Kirstein Gillenbrand, Gen. Yoav Galant, and unnamed Israeli intelligence officers, the following mendacious sophistry was offered:
Representatives of Israeli intelligence claimed that in the Gaza war [the IDF] had shown great restraint: During Cast Lead, the IDF operated with limited power and without [any intent] to occupy territory in Gaza. It was decided also not to go into the main urban areas. The result was that an operation that could have lasted three days, took three weeks, said the Israeli General Yoav Galant.
Also, the U.S. estimate of the Hezbollah rocket arsenal is half that of the IDF estimate: 20,000 compared to 40,000. There seems to be a standard IDF intelligence policy of exagrerating the threat posed by Israel’s enemies. The scary warning that a Shihab would hit Israel 12 minutes after firing seems of a piece with this alarmism. Note too, Israel’s continually moving target date for Iran to become nuclear-ready.
One wonders whether any of the U.S. elected officials privy to these meetings believed anything they were told. I presume the fact that they attended meant they attached at least some crediblity to the words of their Israeli interlocutors.