Air Force ready to deal powerful blow

Former IAF Commander Amir Eshel: 'Chances of an initiated war against us in north are low.'

Mordechai Sones,

Israeli F-16C Fighting Falcon
Israeli F-16C Fighting Falcon
צילום: Flash 90

"The chances of an initiated war developing against us in the north are low because there's a responsible adult. Putin won't allow anyone - neither us nor the Iranians - to sabotage his project to stabilize Syria," said former Air Force commander Maj. Gen. (res.) Amir Eshel at the University of Haifa senior economists' forum.

Eshel, who spoke at a forum of Israeli Friends of the University, referred to the situation in Syria and said the Russians are now the main player in the Syrian theatre and Putin's main interest is to ensure stability in the region. Therefore, Putin's short-term interest is to allow Iranian activity, but with this in the long run he isn't interested in Iranian force continuity in the region.

Eshel says Syria's interest in stability reduces chances of an Iranian initiative against us that would lead to war. He added that this is the context in which Russian criticism a few weeks ago must be understood when the IDF attacked Iranian targets after an Iranian drone entered Israel.

Amir Eshel
צילום: Yaniv Koppel

"Russia released a statement that Syrian air space should be respected, and we immediately understood that it was criticism of Israel. That's true, but it was also directed against Iran, who shouldn't think they can use Syrian airspace as they please."

However, Eshel added that we have not heard the last from the Iranians, and the situation in the Middle East can always deteriorate into war, contrary to all assessments. "If war breaks out, I don't underestimate the enemy, but we have impressive capabilities - not just technologies. The air force knows how to do in 60 hours what it did in the second Lebanon war in 32 days," he said, adding that Israel had restored its ability to deal a powerful and surprising strike.

Eshel spoke of the fact that Israel now operates under a new strategy of continuous campaigning. This campaign has several characteristics, including the understanding that action must be taken without taking responsibility. In such a campaign, the term "air diplomacy" is of great importance. In this campaign, where Israel has common interests with other countries in the region on issues such as the fight against terror or the struggle against Iranian hegemony, the air force's capabilities are critical.

"Air diplomacy allows us not to embarrass our partners, and air operations have a much lower signature than operating a division. In the air one can do many things without embarrassing the rulers."

In this context, Maj.-Gen. (Res.) Eshel said the Palestinian issue is still of great emotional importance among citizens of the Arab world, and therefore we should not expect Arab leaders cooperating with us on a range of issues to "come out of the closet" about relations with Israel as long as the Palestinian issue is not resolved.