Middle East Newsline,http://www.menewsline.com
TEL AVIV [MENL] — Israel’s military envisions the prospect of a regional war in 2012 that could include such countries as Egypt and Turkey.
Military sources said the General Staff has been drafting assessments that included a forecast of rising Israeli military tension with such countries as Egypt, Iran, Jordan and Turkey. They said Arab dictators were being replaced by populist leaders who encouraged hostility toward the Jewish state.
“This leads us to the conclusion that through a long-term process, the likelihood of an all-out war is increasingly growing,” Home Front Command chief Maj. Gen. Eyal Eisenberg said.
In a Sept. 5 address to the Institute for National Security Studies, Eisenberg provided one of the starkest forecasts by the military in more than 20 years. The general, who military sources said gave a speech approved by the General Staff and the censor’s office, said such U.S.-supported military powers as Egypt and Turkey, under the guise of democracy, were turning against Israel in 2011.
“After the Arab Spring, we assess that a winter of radical Islam will arrive and as a result the possibility for a multi-front war has increased including the potential use of weapons of mass destruction,” Eisenberg said.
Over the last four months, Israeli military commanders have repeatedly warned of regional instability. But this marked the first time that a senior commander cited Egypt and Turkey as prospective belligerents. Egypt receives $1.3 billion in annual U.S. aid, and Turkey has been a leading NATO ally.
“In Egypt, the army is collapsing under the burden of regular security operations,” Eisenberg said. “And this is reflected in the loss of control in the Sinai and the turning of the border with Israel into a terror border, with the possibility that Sinai will fall under the control of an Islamic entity.”
Eisenberg said Iran was growing stronger and more reckless. He said Iran’s nuclear program was intensifying and expressed concern that Israel could be attacked by weapons of mass destruction in any future conflict.
“This raises the likelihood of an all-out, total war, with the possibility of weapons of mass destruction being used,” Eisenberg said. Iran has been bolstering Hizbullah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Eisenberg said Hizbullah was also dominating the Lebanese Army and had gained access to its weapons.
“In Lebanon, Hizbullah is growing stronger within government arms, but it has not lost its desire to harm Israel, and the ties with Turkey aren’t at their best,” Eisenberg said.
The general also disclosed that Hamas enhanced its missiles and rockets over the last year. He said the Israeli military has determined that Hamas was using an unidentified projectile with a larger conventional warhead.
“We discovered a new weapon, and as result of this we instructed the public to hide under two roofs, rather than only one,” Eisenberg said.
Israeli Military sources said the remarks by Eisenberg were meant to warn the Israeli public of a regional war that would include massive missile strikes.
On Sept. 6, the Home Front Command and Israel Atomic Energy Commission conducted an exercise called Fernando, meant to simulate a missile strike on the nation’s nuclear reactor in Dimona.
In an unprecedented move, the Atomic Energy Commission released a statement to assuage Israelis that Dimona could withstand a missile strike by Hamas, Iran or Syria. Fernando, the first such exercise since 2004, was said to have tested an Israeli response to an enemy missile that struck the reactor core.
“The chance that a problem will occur and radioactive material will escape at a level that will endanger the public is extremely small,” the commission said.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has sought to play down Eisenberg’s remarks. Barak, also believed to have approved Eisenberg’s speech, said Israel has maintained deterrence against its enemies, even those with chemical weapons arsenals.
“We are convinced that our enemies wouldn’t dare use chemical weapons against Israel, in the event that they have such [weapons], neither now nor in the future,” Barak said. “They know well why they shouldn’t even think of using chemical weapons against Israel.”
But Barak expressed concern over the deteriorating relations between Israel and Turkey, strategic allies from 1996 until 2008. Barak urged the government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan to reduce tension.
“Israel and Turkey are the two strongest, and in many ways the two most important countries in the Middle East,” Barak said. “We have our differences, and even in differences it is important that both sides use their heads and not their guts. It would be better for everyone and for stability in the region.”