The Challenge facing Israel from Iran and Syria

Israel, from a national security perspective, is currently focused on Iran and Syria.
Israel and other states, including some in the Arab world, are gravely concerned about Iran’s determination to produce a nuclear bomb, which presents a clear and present danger, at least for Israel.

According to non Israeli sources, Israel holds nuclear weapons which could be used against Iran. If both states possess many nuclear weapons in the future, the worst case scenario could be that the first war between Israel and Iran could also be their last.

Tragically, in the late 70s, Iran turned from a kind of an ally of Israel into an enemy. The two states have no real reason for dispute. They don’t share borders, have no mutual struggle for land or natural resources, and are more than a 1000 KM away from each other.

The reason Iran presents a challenge for Israel is not necessarily her military projects including the nuclear one, but the nature of its regime and its policy.

There is hope for regime change in Iran because of its public’s disappointment of the Islamic revolution and the state of the economy. Yet Israel might not wait for the Iranian people lift this threat by overthrowing their regime, since this might not happen for some time, and meanwhile Iran might obtain a nuclear bomb.

There is an ongoing and fierce debate in Israel about how to deal with Iran particularly with her nuclear ambitions. One of the main questions is should Israel rely on the west -mostly on the United States- in this critical issue? Western powers do have much more military and economic capability, and could attack Iran if their economic campaign against Iran, such as the sanctions, fail.

Iran is far away from Israel but the Hezbollah, a powerful non state organization in Lebanon, is under strong Iranian influence. The Hezbollah has about 70-80,000 rockets and missiles that cover most of Israel. In case of confrontation they might be launched, in a rate up to 800 missiles and rockets a day. The highest probability is that a clash between Israel and the Hezbollah would occur because of an Israeli strike on the Iranian nuclear infrastructure.

As to Syria there is no peace between Israel and Syria but the border between them, in the Golan Heights, has been completely quiet since 1974. Syria has always wished to gain back the Golan Heights, an area it lost to Israel in 1967. For the last 38 years Syria could have tried to seize the Golan Heights by force but it did not.

Israel on her part could have initiated a preventive war or a pre-emptive strike against Syria in order to stop in advance a possible Syrian offensive. But Israel too restrained itself. A war that could have cost the lives of thousands from both sides was avoided.
Now Syria might turn into a failed state which could be used by terror and guerilla groups as a springboard to attack Israel. It would not be a challenge for Israel as the Syrian military was since 1974 but it could turn the Golan Heights into a frontline, in way as the Gaza Strip is since 2005.

All in all Israel could wait at least a few weeks to see if the talks between the international community and Iran go anywhere, and then conclude whether the United States considers the military option against Iran. If not Israel might attack Iran by itself.
As for Syria, Israel will continue to improve her readiness mostly in order to prevent terror and guerrilla attacks across their borders.

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About the Author
Dr. Ehud Eilam has been dealing and studying Israel’s national security for more than 25 years. He served in the Israeli military and later on he worked for the Israeli Ministry of Defense. He is now a writer and an independent researcher. He has a Ph.D and he had published five books He lives now near Boston, MA. His email: