Last spring, in an interview with Yediot Achronot, IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot offered a frank appraisal of all the major military theaters of operation and threats posed to Israel’s security. Among the subjects covered was Iran. Some time before the interview, the army had conducted a simulated war game in which the end result was that Iran rained missiles down on Israel. The interviewer, Alex Fishman, asked why Israel shouldn’t be concerned by this outcome, given that Iran is testing new ballistic missiles which could deliver their payload on Israeli targets.
Eisenkot responded with an important, amazing statement which, for some reason, received no coverage outside the Hebrew media, and none outside Israel. Here’s the passage from the interview (my translation):
“In my opinion, Iran has not carried out a premeditated attack [other possible translations are "pre-emptive attack” or "first-strike”] in 1,400 years. I think the chances that Iran will fire missiles on the State of Israel are low. The simulation was designed to address the enemy’s capabilities, not its intentions.”
In other words, the simulation assumed Iran had an intent or will to use missiles to attack Israel and the goal was to determine how much damage that could cause and how well the IDF could defend against it. However, Eisenkot does not assume Iran actually intends to launch such an attack.
The standard anti-Iran line offered by the Israel Lobby and Israel’s far-right leadership is that Iran is the world’s greatest terror state and that it seeks to “wipe Israel off the map” (this is the claim, not my belief). But Iranians retort that Iran has no such history of invading its neighbors. When it has fought wars they have always been in self-defense, after being attacked. That’s why Eisenkot’s statement is so refreshingly candid.
You’ll note as well that it stands in direct contradiction to the views of Bibi Netanyahu. Which means that the IDF fundamentally disagrees with the prime minister’s assessment of Iran’s intentions. And all I can say is thank God for that. Were it not for the deterrence this offers, Israel might have already launched two or three major air assaults on Iran and its nuclear-military capabilities over the past decade.
H/t to Hillel Schenker, co-editor of the Palestine-Israel Journal, for alerting me to this interview and his blog post from the Times of Israel, which featured it.