Halevi at Herzliya Conference
Halevi at Herzliya ConferenceAdi Cohen Zedek

Major General Herzi Halevi, the head of the IDF's Military Intelligence Directorate, spoke on Wednesday at the 2016 Herzliya Conference. The topic of his talk was "Israel in a Turbulent Middle East: Strategic Review & Intelligence Assessment."

"If our enemies knew our military capabilities they would spare themselves additional conflict."

General Halevi warned Israel's opponents against initiating a conflict, and discussed Israel's challenges and opportunities in today's Middle East. 

"I would like to describe the rules of the game in the Middle East," he began. "There are a lot of people who live in the Middle East with no electricity. Looking at the GDP per capita or unemployment rates it is noticeable that very big gaps have formed between us and our neighbors. It should not make us happy - a poor Middle East is a hotbed for terrorist organizations.

"The rules of the game in the Middle East has changed. Instead of few states, there are now many players. The transition from nation states to organizations is very significant. There are no good and bad guys, and players on the field change their identities."

Halevi continued to discuss the new ways in which conflicts and wars a formed in the Middle East, in what he calls 'dynamics of escalation'. "We live in an era in which it is most likely for wars to begin even though neither side is interested in it."

Regarding Iran, the general said: "The nuclear agreement was a great achievement to Iran, allowing them to be accepted among the world's nations and we believe they will honor it for the first few years. In the same time, Iran is investing great efforts against Israel. Iran is supporting the three main threats on Israel: Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad – in fact, they support 60 percent of it. It is a Shi'ite nation giving money to a Sunni organization – they would do that to hurt Israel."

Halevi then turned to discuss Israel northern border, particularly the issues of Lebanon and Hezbollah: "We have no offensive intentions in Lebanon. We do not want a war but we're ready for one more than ever. No army ever had more intelligence on their enemies as we do about Hezbollah today.

"The next conflict will not be easy. Hezbollah is suffering heavy casualties in Syria but also experiences significant achievements, and in this process they learn a lot and gain access to new means of combat," said Halevi. "Iran is sending weaponry to Hezbollah – some of it gets so Syria, but some of it stays in Lebanon. Syrian industries have resumed the production of weaponry for Hezbollah, and neither the world or Israel should accept it – it could escalate the next conflict.

"I am sure that, had Nasrallah or either of our enemies known our military capabilities, they wouldn't risk additional conflict.", Halevi concluded.