Intel Chief: ‘This is a Different Reality’

YERUSHALAYIM - At the annual Herzliya conference on Thursday, Israel’s military intelligence chief, Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, gave an ominous description of the nation’s security situation.

For the first time, he said, Israel finds itself facing four active terrorism borders: Lebanon, Syria, Sinai and the Gaza Strip.

“This is a different reality,” Kochavi told the prestigious gathering. “The threat of a security deterioration, caused either by us attacking or a terrorist attack on us … is growing.”

Regarding Syria, he said that embattled President Bashar Assad has his finger on the chemical weapons trigger, making advanced preparations to use them against rebel forces.

Kochavi noted that the Syrian air force is carrying out 40 to 50 sorties a week against the insurgency and that the Assad regime has fired 70 scuds and M-600 missiles, along with 600 rockets with heavy explosive warheads.

In anticipation of Assad’s downfall, his allies Iran and Hizbullah have flooded the country with some 50,000 armed militia, Kochavi said.

Addressing the Palestinian problem, the intelligence chief said Hamas has turned its military setbacks in Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012 to diplomatic advantage, styling itself as “leading the resistance” against Israel.

It is currently keeping the truce with Israel in order to pursue what Kochavi described as a “strategic-diplomatic track” aimed at taking over Yehudah and Shomron through a reconciliation with the Palestinian Authority.

“The quiet we are experiencing is only in place because Hamas wants this. It is deterred [by Israel] and needs time to recover. It has a deep obligation to Egypt, which enabled the [truce] agreement,” Kochavi said.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is in a “complicated trap,” Kochavi said. November’s Israel-Hamas conflict has shown that “he’s not relevant” and that “Hamas is growing in strength. The PA is in a difficult economic situation. There are no negotiations and no diplomatic horizon,” he added.

Kochavi described the growing economic strains affecting Iran due to the sanctions, including oil exports that have nearly halved, a 60-percent inflation rate, and rising unemployment. The regime is facing growing domestic criticism due to the economic pressure, he added.

“I believe the weight from the sanctions is becoming an increasingly decisive element in the Iranian decision-making process, but it has not yet caused them to change their [nuclear] policy,” he said.

“We believe Iran will continue to develop its nuclear program and intelligently deal with pressure from the street and the international community,” he said. “The regime believes there is not a high probability for an attack on it.”

However, said Kochavi, Iran has not yet decided to build the bomb.