Exclusive WSN interview with MajGen Yisrael Ziv,IDF

Posted in Israel / Palestine | 22-Jan-04 | Author: Dieter Farwick

Dieter Farwick, BrigGen (ret.), Editor-in-Chief WSN had the opportunity to interview MajGen Yisrael Ziv on the Israel/Palestine conflict. The biography of paratrooper MajGen Yisrael Ziv,47, shows a brilliant career in the Israeli Defence Forces. As company commander up to division commander and as “warrior” in the Lebanon war and in the Gaza strip until 2003 he gained a lot of experience in the “old” and “new” war-fighting. Now as Head of the Operations Directorate he can transfer his professionalis into the operations of IDF.
He holds two academic degrees in Economics and Political Science.

MajGen Yisrael Ziv,IDF, Head of Operations Directorate.
Dieter Farwick: General, what are the consequences of the American military victory in Iraq and the decision of Libya to stop the programme of weapons of mass destruction for Israeli threat perception and risk assessment?

MajGen Israel Ziv: These events and developments have changed the strategic balance of the Middle East. It could be the beginning of a new era in this region of the “sea of Arab countries with Israel as an island”. Israel is no longer threatened by weapons of mass destruction launched from Iraq and Libya. We hope that Iran will go the same way. A nuclear threat from Iran is a vital threat for Israel to live with.

The presence of US forces in the region have both positive and negative impacts. They contribute to the stabilisation of the Middle East. The American commitment in Iraq sent a clear signal, that even dictators have to follow certain rules. On the other hand, it fuels the terrorism in the whole region.

Terrorism is the greatest problem for Israel at this time. There is a kind of “terror channel” into Israel with Israel not being the only target. It is terrorism against the free world. A worldwide anti-terrorism would be the right answer, but we realise some reluctance in those countries which have not been hit by terrorism so far. It’s a question of political leadership in these countries to enhance the awareness of this threat and to improve the worldwide co-operation.

The outcome in Iraq will be decisive for the Greater Middle East. If USA failed in Iraq, Iraq would become a second Lebanon hosting terrorist organisations – with dramatic consequences for Israel. If USA succeeded it would enhance the stabilisation in Greater Middle East.

Dieter Farwick: We got the impression that the Israeli Defence Forces and others press the government to negotiate with the Palestinian Authorities. What is the reason behind this?

MajGen Israel Ziv: We are soldiers and have to do our military job against the terrorist organisations. We did our job. We achieved 99 percent of our task. But we are aware that peace and stability can only be achieved by political solutions. We see some light at the end of the tunnel and act as partners and consultants of our government, when we support our government in negotiations.

Dieter Farwick: What are the major stumbling blocks for any agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority?

MajGen Israel Ziv: That is without any doubt the so-called „Right to return“. To open the doors to 2-3 million people would be like committing suicide by Israel. There is no way to accept this proposal. I have the impression that even many Palestinians know that this demand is unrealistic.

Dieter Farwick: What are the chances for agreements like “road map” or “Geneva Accord”?

MajGen Israel Ziv: In my view the “road map” is still alive. It is an alternative to the Camp David process, which had been stopped by Arafat. The “road map” could bring more stabilisation. Both sides have their responsibility to bring violence down first. Arafat remains the main obstacle. He does not allow moderate Palestinian politicians such as Prime Minister Qureia and his predecessor to stop Hamas and other terrorist groups.

Dieter Farwick: Do you think that there is a war-tired majority of Palestinians willing and capable of stopping Hamas?

MajGen Israel Ziv: I cannot see such a movement. Since April last year Hamas blocks any political solution and agreement and continues the terrorist activities against innocent people.

Dieter Farwick: What are the chances for serious talks with Syria?

MajGen Israel Ziv: I do not take Syrian declarations too seriously. It seems to be a political game. There is no need for declarations, but for clear measures against the five terror organisations working more or less openly in Damascus. Another clear signal would be to stop Hezbollah activities from Lebanon. After these measures talks with Syria make sense.

Israels/Palestina geostrategic environment
Dieter Farwick: What are the pre-conditions for Israel for a Palestinian state?

MajGen Isael Ziv: Again, it’s the terror. It is not just to reduce the number of terrorists but to destroy the whole terrorist infrastructure. Then the way is open for the “road map”.

Dieter Farwick: What do you expect from the “fence”?

MajGen Israel Ziv: The decision to build the “fence” was not an easy one. It is a wall against terrorism. The prime task of our government is to protect its own people. We can not allow terrorists to drive cars with explosives into Israel and kill innocent people. Where the “fence” has already been finished, it works already for more security.

Dieter Farwick: What are the most important military lessons learned over the last two years ?

MajGen Israel Ziv: We are faced with a widened spectre of threats. It goes from “classic warfare” to “guerrilla warfare”. So we have to be prepared for high and low intensity warfare. There is another aspect of guerrilla warfare. In the past we were aiming for a “decisive victory” in a short period of time. It worked several times. But now we face a long lasting conflict – a kind of attrition warfare.

We have to train and structure our armed forces looking at the old and new challenges. We had to develop a new internal learning cycle. We now have a system, where we always look for new lessons learned and distribute them immediately to the units.

To avoid “collateral damage” we had to develop the capability for surgical operations. A prerequisite for those operations is “intelligence” for targeting. We need precise information where the enemies are to hit as soon and efficient as possible. We had to develop procedures to allow the ground forces quick co-operation with aircrafts and helicopters.

Dieter Farwick: What is your view of officers refusing publicly to serve in the “territories”?

MajGen Israel Ziv: It’s a severe problem we take very seriously. But it is not the tip of an iceberg. The motivation of our soldiers is high – including the many reserve soldiers.
The reserve soldiers are coming and serving as we expect them to do. We will reduce the number of reserve soldiers in the “territories – not as a reaction to the demonstration. You should know that soldiers already today can refuse to serve in the “territories”.

Dieter Farwick: Thank you for answering my questions in an open manner.
Coming to the end let me ask you, what is your prognosis?

MajGen Israel Ziv: We have to be realistic. There is no solution with Arafat. We will stabilise the situation in the given framework. I hope that we can bring relief to the Palestinian people who really suffer under the present situation because of the terrorism.

Dieter Farwick: General, thank you very much for your openness. WSN wishes your country and your people good luck for a peaceful future.