Despite a controversial UN report condemning Israel for alleged war crimes during the Gaza War — which, said an Israeli defense analyst, was designed “to undermine Israel’s right to self-defense” — the country has sent out clear signals it is prepared to fight threats to its existence.
Yaakov Katz, who also serves as a military correspondent for the Jerusalem Post, made his assessment when he presented A Dangerous Neighborhood: Israel’s Challenges for 2010 on Feb. 16 at the East Brunswick Jewish Center.
Since lapses uncovered in the 2006 Lebanon war, Katz said, Israel has increased troop training and has bolstered its military hardware to build a “qualitative” fighting force.
Critical to this equation is the $3 billion in military aid Israel receives annually from the United States, which allows it to purchase advanced weaponry, including a “fifth-generation” stealth bomber that could allow it to enter Iran virtually unnoticed.
Katz was making his only New Jersey appearance during a speaking tour for CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.
The program was cosponsored by EBJC, the Young Israel of East Brunswick, the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County, and the East Brunswick-based Campus for Jewish Life.
In his talk, Katz — a Chicago-area native who served in the Israel Defense Forces after making aliya — focused on security threats from Iran, Israel’s military capability and intelligence operations, the vital United States-Israel alliance, and the recent and much-lambasted UN Goldstone Report.
Katz called the Goldstone Report and statements critical of Israel from such organizations as Human Rights Watch efforts to undermine Israel’s right to self-defense.
“Their main goal,” he said, “was to take away Israel’s right to defend itself no matter how many rocket attacks on Israel.”
Katz said terrorist states and organizations like Hamas, Hizbullah, and Syria — all supplied by Iran — represented a “real axis of evil.”
Iran threatens to further destabilize the already unstable Middle East by setting off a nuclear arms race, and both the United States and Israel have made it clear that that would be unacceptable.
While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama initially clashed over tactics for quashing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, both have modified their policies.
“Obama tried to talk to [Iran] and failed, as Israel said they would,” said Katz. “Now he’s talking about tougher sanctions. Israel’s strategy is to get Obama to realize he’s failed; talking failed, sanctions will fail, and he will have no option but military.”
In recent weeks U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that Iran’s failure to respond to overtures had succeeded in galvanizing international support for efforts to isolate Iran.
In the meantime, Katz said, Israel has come to believe that tough sanctions could have a positive effect if they spur the Iranian people to put pressure on their leaders to bring about change.
If such sanctions do not work, he said, Israel has let it be known — through past actions — that it will not stand by while its existence is threatened.