A looming conflict with Iran, escalation in Gaza and West Bank and an all-out war in the northern borders are possibilities that confront Israel this year, according to a new report by the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) from Tel Aviv University.
In a “strategic assessment,” INSS warned of a “rise in the likelihood of war” with regards to a variety of security, political and diplomatic factors.
This assessment, which the INSS prepares yearly to define the threats facing the state of Israel and identify possible steps that the country should take to protect itself, was presented to President Reuven Rivlin earlier this week.
INSS is composed of senior defense and diplomatic officials led by former Military Intelligence chief Yamos Yadlin.
In its 56-page assessment, INSS pointed to Israel’s various national security challenges, including the increasing tenacity and resolve of the Iranian regime pertaining to its nuclear capabilities and efforts to increase its foothold in Syria and other areas in order to operate against Israel; Hezbollah’s determination to achieve precision weapons; and Hamas’ efforts to calm tensions in the Gaza Strip and influence the terms of its developing agreement with Israel.
These factors are occurring while Israel is in the middle of a “political paralysis” in which the country has no functioning government for more than a year.
“The political paralysis in Israel is coming at a especially terrible point in time. Instead of shaking hands and coming together to meet the Iranian threat, we have entered into a very problematic internal tailspin,” said President Ruvlin after accepting the report from INSS.
Although Israel’s enemies do not appear to be interested in a large-scale conflict at this time, the factors identified could lead to the “possibility that a conflict could anyway take place in 2020,” the INSS report said.
The INSS assessment came in the shadow of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani’s assassination by the United States, an event that INSS analysts say gives weight to a possible escalation in the region and the need for a new Israeli strategy.
“The killing of Soleimani could lead to a scenario that demands Israeli consideration and coordination with the United States: a large-scale war between Iran and the United States,” it said.
“Israel must prepare for the extreme scenario, even if the chances of this happening in 2020 are low, Iran will decide to break out toward a bomb,” the report added.