2022 is about to end, and we are about to embark upon 2023. Brig. Gen. Amit Sa’ar, head of the Research Department in the IDF’s Intelligence Directorate, speaking at the Gazit Institute conference on December 5th, declared that Israel is entering 2023 with more threats from more arenas and by more factors, emphasizing two main focal points: Iran and the Judea and Samaria region.
Following are the main points emanating from the situation assessment regarding the main arenas that will constitute a security challenge for Israel in 2023:
In contrast to the previous protests in Iran, the focus of the protests in recent months has been against the nature and essence of the regime, in contrast to previous protests in which the issue was the economic and political situation. The nature and essence of the current protest are very troubling to the regime.
Most of the demonstrators in the current protests in Iran are young (not just university students, but also high school students). A great deal of the violence is perpetuated by both the demonstrators and the regime. It seems that the demonstrators have lost their fear of the regime. Young people in the cities are connecting with minorities in the periphery. Even if the protests fade, the causes will remain, thus leaving the regime with problems in the coming years.
Iran feels at ease in the international arena. The West’s desire to reach an agreement with Iran had a moderating effect on Iran. In 2022 Iran played “hard to get” based on its assumption that if it just desires, the world will immediately cooperate. The recent suspension in the nuclear agreement talks, the protests against the regime, and the Iranian military aid to Russia have caused Iran to “paint itself into a corner.”
Iran’s nuclear program is currently in the most advanced state it has ever been. Iran completely controls the complex process of uranium enrichment. From Iran’s point of view, there is no technical obstacle in enriching the uranium in its possession to the level of 90%; it is only a matter of making the decision. When Iran decides to do so, the enrichment will take only a few weeks.
Today, Iran can give its proxies (militias) advanced weapons capabilities and this increases the threat to Israel, the Middle East and the world.
Iran has always regarded Russia as a balancing factor for the West, despite the traditional suspicion between Iran and Russia. The rapprochement between Iran and Russia stems from the Russian need for weaponry due to the war in Ukraine. For the first time, Iran is supplying Russia with advanced weapons to help it in its war against Ukraine (UAVs and ballistic missiles). Iran manages its risks based on strategy and knows there will be an international response due to the aid. The Iranians know they can extract a price from the Russians in exchange for this aid. The price will probably be exhibited in the Syrian arena, and Iran’s entrenchment activity in Syria will probably not suffer from Russian obstacles as it did before the Ukraine war.
As for Israel, Iran has acknowledged that Israel is the main threat to it and is treating Israel as a direct adversary. Iran is gradually building capabilities vis-à-vis Israel in order to wage a symmetrical war against it. Iran stands challenged towards 2023 but is not without a fitting response.
Judea and Samaria – The Palestinian Authority
There is a gap between the leadership and the public in the Palestinian Authority. The public is indifferent to the leadership, and today there is no prominent figure considered by the Palestinian public to bring them to their national goal. This results in the fact that the PA is losing its legitimacy in the eyes of the public.
The Palestinian Authority faces a major challenge from terrorist networks with access to large quantities of weapons. The characteristic of these terrorist networks is that these young people, born after the second intifada, are angry with the established organizations and are interested in building their own narrative on social networks, especially on TikTok.
In light of these comments, Hamas sees the Palestinian Authority territories in Judea and Samaria as an opportunity. Hamas does not meet the goals and objectives it set for itself in Judea and Samaria, and its influence on the ground is minor: Hamas is almost not involved in terrorist attacks and receives almost no support from the Palestinian public.
President Assad’s forces now control about 60% of Syria’s territory before the civil war outbreak in 2011. The world has come to terms with the fact that President Assad survived the war and is rebuilding the country. On the other hand, Syria is a captive, threatened by the radical Shiite axis led by Iran. This situation will leave Syria in a state of instability in all aspects. Assad now understands that he needs to control his territory and is unwilling to pay the price for the radical Shiite axis activity led by Iran in his territory. Although Assad’s power is limited and he is part of the Shiite axis, he will try to impose restrictions on the axis. This is based on the understanding that his regime will pay the final price. As far as Assad is concerned, Qassem Soleimani’s vision of turning Syria into a “second Lebanon” has become irrelevant.
Nasrallah’s confidence has risen. Nasrallah has always considered himself an “expert on Israel.” The combination of overconfidence and underestimation can lead to a dangerous combination. As we have noted in recent months, Nasrallah preserves and will continue to preserve the narrative of the border dispute with Israel despite the agreement on the maritime borders, comparing this agreement to the “liberation” of south Lebanon from IDF forces in 2000. In addition, Nasrallah defined the religious justification for a confrontation with Israel against the backdrop of the border conflict: “God will help Muslims in their war against those who do injustice to them.” At the same time, Hezbollah’s power buildup has not ceased And from Hezbollah’s point of view, it is a condition for stability.
How is Israel perceived by its enemies?
Israel is generally considered a party that will not hesitate to use force, with a high level of deterrence and high freedom of action. Israel is perceived as a strong player in the Middle East, stable, with large economic and scientific capabilities relevant to the region’s problems. Israel is relevant to the climate crisis, water shortages, high-tech, etc. As far as the Iranians are concerned, Israel is a threatening player, the Palestinians see Israel as vulnerable to attack in the international arena, and as Hezbollah is concerned, Israel is perceived as a deterrent but is also deterred (Hezbollah does not want war but is not afraid of it).