by Yoav Limor
As complex as Middle East realities are, with the proper vigilance the IDF can maintain considerable operational leeway.
The military's latest security assessment as to the chances of a flare-up on the northern or southern borders is akin to an intricate game of chess: Rather than having a clear, square board with known black and white pieces moving across it, we are dealing with a round, multicolored board, with a myriad of pieces going in all directions.
The analogy is clear. Middle East realities are complex and dynamic. Potential conflicts are no longer as clear-cut as Israel versus Syria or Israel versus Hezbollah. Now they involve multiple arenas that are influenced by and affect numerous elements, including some that are completely contradictory.
If in the past the military would have been able to come up with situation assessments that were true for a lengthy period of time, today it is required to revise its assessments on a quarterly basis, and sometimes even on a monthly or weekly basis.
In this complex reality, knowing has taken a back seat to understanding. Just last week, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot admitted that there was no intelligence predicting more than 100 of the terrorist attacks carried out during the recent wave of terrorism.
The insight, however, is clear: It is imperative that two crucial elements be maintained -- namely, the close collaboration with the Palestinian security forces and the work permits afforded to some 120,000 Palestinians -- to thwart further escalation.
This frame of mind corresponds with the Israel Defense Forces' overall situation assessments, which aim to recognize opportunities as well as threats. The political echelon might not like it, but that is what the military is suppose to do -- keep things professional, ethical and on point, devoid of any political bias.
The most prominent example is Iran: The military believes the West could have struck a better deal with Tehran, especially regarding the fact that it sponsors global terrorism, but it recognizes the advantages outlined in the current deal, especially when it comes to the Islamic republic's nuclear program.
Aside from the rolling wave of Palestinian terrorism and the constant volatility of the Israel-Gaza Strip border, the IDF has warned of a potential escalation vis-a-vis Hezbollah; a conflict that seems ever-brewing, but might boil over this year.
Here too, alongside the threat, there are mitigating factors, such as the advantage of having increased involvement of world powers in the area, which is likely to limit the Shiite terrorist group's actions, as well as the common regional interests shared by Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states, which may open the door to new opportunities for Israel, subject to some kind of progress on the Palestinian issue.
All these elements afford Israel considerable operational leeway, as long as it remains on high alert. The bottom line includes an understanding that the current Middle East era entails more questions than answers, not only over the future of post-civil war Syria, or the results of the Sunni-Shiite feud in the Arab world, but also over more earthly issues, such as how in 2016 the knife has become the most attractive weapon in the world.
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