'Democracy in the Middle East? Doesn't work'

Security expert says that war against ISIS is going well 'generally speaking', and warns against attempts to impose western norms on Arabs.

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Shai Landesman,

Amos Gilad
Amos Gilad
Flash 90

Major-General Amos Gilad (Res.) head of the Defense-Political Branch of the Defense Ministry, says that Hezbollah, not Iran, is the chief threat to Israel's security.

"Though it's true that Hezbollah's military capability isn't being utilized right now because of Israeli deterrence, it's important to remember that in terms of pure capability, Hezbollah is in possession of more than 100,000 rockets. Quiet is preserved in the Galilee because as far as Hezbollah is concerned the price they would have to pay is too high, but we can't afford to fall asleep on watch, and we don't," said Gilad in the international conference at the Institute for Counter-Terrorism in the IDC in Herzliya.

According to Gilad, "Syria no longer exists in practice. The name is now purely technical. The good news in that area is that artillery leakages aside [referring to the mortar shells from Syrian territory that have hit open areas in the Golan], our deterrence is working well and our Golan Heights are quiet and stable. We achieved this objective through deterrence, networks of connections, and other means.

"We must remain vigilant - an organization such as ISIS doesn't hesitate to use chemical weapons, but so far they're only using them against the Syrian regime. In the war between these two sides chemical weapons have become de facto conventional, even though the regime claims it has given up theirs," Gilad added.

The Major-General also said that, in his assessment, ISIS is flagging and losing its power and momentum. "They are on their way down, they aren't recruiting nearly as well, and more of their plots are being foiled. All the intelligence services of the world are united in the fight against them and thus the results are, generally speaking, good."

Gilad hurried to balance his comments: "I'm not saying their end is near, but they're losing their momentum. In paradoxical fashion, this is causing them to ramp up their efforts at cruel terror attacks and their attempts to spread [themselves] around the world. I don't want to seem overly optimistic, but when a murderous group like ISIS stands alone without allies against the kind of opposition it now faces - it loses."

Major-General Gilad then turned to what he termed a more "controversial topic", the notion of nation-building, or attempts by western countries (practically speaking, this means the US) to impose democratic governance in Arab countries, including those neighboring Israel.

Attempts to impose democracy on Arab countries have been favored at different times by Republicans such as both Bush presidents and by Democrats such as President Obama, though Obama tends to oppose imposition by force.

"In the Middle East, you have to make a choice between democracy and stability. Stability is a strategic goal of ours. This may sound conservative and old-fashioned, but attempts to impose democratic governance will fail in the Middle East. I suggest we try to preserve what we have."