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The annual conference on Israeli Security and Strength is a stronghold of conservative Israeli opinion on defense issues. The speakers are security professionals and defense experts, not peace activists or amateur political pundists. Remarkably, speakers this year showed agreement on the need for Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories. This view is in marked contrast to the position of certain right-wing Zionist groups, who would have us believe that the territories are a must for Israeli security.
Other key issues discussed included defense budget cuts, the security industry, the Israeli security fence/wall/barrier the future battle arena and future Israeli military development. Key speakers today (among others) were Avi Dichter, head of the GSS, Minister of Defense Shaul Mofaz, MK Prof Yuval Steinitz, Efrayim Sneh and Shimon Peres. Professor Herb London provided an after-dinner speech.
Several speakers discussed the inevitable need for Israel to withdraw from all or some of the occupied territories in the near future. Shimon Peres emhasized that while it was absolutely imperative to leave Gaza at the first opportunity, no unilateral steps should be taken in the West Bank, because withdrawal without an agreed-upon border will be a source of division and will prolong the conflict rather than hastening peace. However, Peres was by no means alone in his emphasis on the need for withdrawal.
Hawkish Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz noted that Israel is committed to the road map for peace, and to building a state with a Jewish majority, a phrase which is a code for Israeli withdrawal from the territories, and he called on Palestinian PM Abu Ala to suppress terror and return to the negotiating table, where, said Mofaz, he would find a willing partner. He said he is not optimistic about Abu Ala. However, Mofaz noted that since 1967 a debate has been going on in Israeli society about the future of the territories, and that we can no longer put off the decision about the disposition of the territories if we are committed to a state with a Jewish majority. We cannot will this problem to our children. Mofaz said the we must and will take on this most difficult decision to ensure a democratic and Jewish state. The implication was clear.
Mofaz devoted most of his speech to the economy and to social problems. He emphasized the need for a strong and well integrated society and a strong economy as an important ingredient in ensuring Israeli security.
Avi Dichter and Shaul Mofaz both stressed the need for completion of the security fence (wall/barrier). They noted that suicide attacks were likely to continue, and that since the Maxim Cafe bombing, the IDF had intercepted over twenty such attempts, in part thanks to the security fence. Several speakers emphasized however, that the chaotic manner in which the fence has been developed and deployed has generated needless international opposition. Dichter admitted that the Israeli security forces have failed to provide Israelis with the security they deserve. Dichter also remarked on the Iranian threat and discussed the danger of Jewish terror as well.
Many speakers addressed the problem of cuts in the Israeli defense budget. Israel spends about 9% of its GDP on defense, as opposed to 4-5% for most European countries. This burden doesn't include additional expenditures for police and security services. The defence budget was increased by about NIS 3 Billion in 2002 to cover the needs generated by the Intifada, but the budget for 2004 has cut the allocation by NIS 7 billion to around NIS 32 billion (less than $8 Billion in total, not counting US grants and loans). The speakers emphasized that the easiest thing to cut was research and development, but that these cuts and cuts in the Israel Defense Industry would have serious long range repercussions for the domestic economy as well as for defences, since a dollar spent on defense industries results in about 3 dollars of exports for Israel, some related directly to defense such as the Phalcon radar system and some related to civilian applications of defense technologies such as business jets.
The problem of reserve duty was discussed at length. Only about a third of Israelis actually do reserve duty, and the unequal burden has been the subject of acrimonious debate for years. MK Eitan Cabel invited decision makers to do reserve duty with him and observe the diffulculties facing ordinary reserve soldiers. The problem is not lack of patriotism or political motivation, since when reserves were called up to fight in the West Bank, 100% of those called responded according to speakers. Solutions offered for the problem included national service for all, increasing the number of draftees and shifting maintenance jobs from reservists to the regular army.
Several speakers discussed the advantages for Israel of developing a fleet of fast missile corvettes that could serve, together with missiles like the Arrow system, as a defense against missile attacks. They argued that development of a strong navy could serve to provide Israel with a substitute for strategic depth.
Efrayim Sneh and others discussed Iran's nuclear weapons program. All speakers took it for granted that Iran is developing nuclear armaments. Sneh took it for granted that the US will probably do nothing in the event Iran acquires the atom bomb. Some speakers believe that Israel will have to live with a nuclear Iran and work around it, but the consensus of opinion seemed to be that Israel should take action to prevent Iran from acquiring the bomb.
Shimon Peres and Herb London commented on the capture of Saddam Hussein, and expressed the opinion that this event would have a profound effect on Middle East politics. London noted also that the capture of the Iraqi dictator restored American credibility and caused a dramatic improvement in George Bush's approval rating in the US.
Dichter: Security forces haven't given Israelis security
By Haaretz Service
In a rare public appearance, the chief of the Shin Bet security service Tuesday called Iran
Addressing the Herzliya Conference on Israeli security and strength, Shin Bet chief Avi
Acknowledging that security forces had failed to provide Israelis with the level of security
"We must say this honestly: the defense establishment, and, within it, the General Security
Dichter said that it was clear to Yasser Arafat that "he's the only one in the Palestinian
Instead, Dichter said, Arafat betrayed the trust placed in him by Israel and other nations,
"In Judea and Samaria, it is critical to speed the building of the fence and the 'Jerusalem
Dichter said the existing sections of the fence had already proven that the barrier saves
Instead of a direct route of 27 kilometers, the terrorists were forced to take a circuitous
As for the issue of the enclaves of Palestinian villages created by the route, "the
Iran 'No. 1 terror state'
Argentine and Jewish leaders have in the past linked the bombing to the Lebanon-based Islamic
Dichter said Iran is trying to attack Israel not only by sponsoring Hezbollah and Palestinian
Detailing the Israeli losses of the Palestinian uprising, Dichter said that suicide bombings
Over the past 10 weeks, Israeli security forces have intercepted more than 20 suicide bombers
His remarks were carried live on national radio, which said it was the first time his voice
"The terror state of Iran contributes to heavy terrorism against Israel, both independently
Dichter said the involvement of Israeli Arabs, and in particular of the Arabs of East
He also singled the Palestinian Authority out as a factor in terrorism, although "The leaders
"It's clear to Arafat that he's the only one in the Palestinian Authority who is capable of
Instead, Arafat has violated the trust placed in him by Israel and other nations, both during
Over the past three and a quarter years since the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa intifada, 901
Threat of Jewish terror
"Stealing weapons from IDF reservists who were sent to guard their settlements was a 'kosher'
"In my view, the dream of these extremists - in their words, to remove the 'abomination' from
"For the State of Israel and the Jewish people in the Diaspora, Jewish terrorism is liable to
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