After decades rising up the chain, Tamir Pardo was the chief of Israel’s elite, feared and revered Mossad, from 2011 to 2016.
Since Pardo’s intelligence profile and contacts are still more current – unlike other Mossad chiefs who retired long ago – he has been slower to do official solo interviews with the Israeli media.
His first was with Channel 2’s Uvda program which was aired in late May and early June.
In his second solo interview, as part of this extended profile, Pardo elaborated at length about what was an unheard-of idea until this week: defeating Hezbollah with sanctions led by an alliance of the U.S., the EU and moderate Sunni-Arab states.
According to Pardo, who can go from being understated to taking over a stage, “The ability to limit the Hezbollah threat with sanctions is 10 times easier than with Iran – and if [U.S. President Donald] Trump would do it now, it would have a big effect on the Iran nuclear standoff.”
Why is his revolutionary idea necessary and how would it work?
“Lebanon is the only state in the world with a terror entity which has more raw power than the country’s army. Hezbollah is Lebanon. It sits in the government and the parliament. It decides all political issues. It is separate from the army and its army is huge. It has lots of fighting experience which should not be taken lightly,” Pardo told thePost.
The waxing-philosophical former Mossad chief continued: “This same organization, Hezbollah, is an inextricable part and operative of a third state – Iran. This model has no comparable analogy in the world.”
DURING THE Second Lebanon War in 2006, there was a concept of attacking Hezbollah without attacking the rest of Lebanon, Pardo explained. But he said this concept is now outdated.
Going into further depth, he said somberly that, “Israel can still carry out a war against Hezbollah. We can solve this theoretically with a war. But now to defeat Hezbollah completely, we would need to invade all the way until northern Lebanon because of their long-range missiles.”
Estimates are that sending ground troops as deep as northern Lebanon would likely entail far higher casualty rates for Lebanese civilians and for IDF troops than were seen even in the war. On top of all that, the Israeli home front would be hit by Hezbollah’s around 130,000 rockets.
Intimating he is reaching the crescendo of a finely laid out framework, Pardo said that in that light, “I argue that we can solve the Lebanese issue with a different and more fitting solution.”
“If Trump announces sanctions against Lebanon like he did against Iran, the Lebanese economy would not be able to last for more than three to four months. Lebanon is not Iran. It is a tiny nation which relies on the West and the Sunni moderate countries,” he said.
“Even if only some aspects of the serious Trump sanctions on Iran were imposed on Lebanon,” he said, this would be much more effective than a war against Hezbollah – if there was “a clear message that sanctions would only be removed if: 1) Hezbollah gave up its arms or was absorbed entirely into the Lebanese army, and 2) Iran has to withdraw its tentacles completely from Lebanon.”
Animated by the discussion, Pardo said this strategy could be a game-changer if it combined “Trump’s ability along with France… and support from the moderate Gulf states – since they have identical interests to us to neutralize Hezbollah, because it is giving them trouble in Yemen and other areas.”
“I think it is very sad that this strategy has not been carried out,” because it is “much easier for other countries to close their eyes and let Israel deal with Hezbollah alone,” said the former spy chief.
He continued, “They are closing their eyes to Iran getting into Syria through Hezbollah… Hezbollah’s involvement with Iraqi Shi’ite militias… [and] Yemen and even Iranian actions through Hezbollah in Africa.”
Pardo admitted that, in the short term, sanctions would harm Lebanon’s Sunni and Christian communities. But he said this harm would pale compared to the harm against them if there was a general war between Israel and Hezbollah.
WHAT ARE Pardo’s views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
Here, he is more circumspect. But, in a variety of ways including public speeches, it can be gathered that he believes the single biggest problem is that Israel must decide for itself what borders and solution it wants, get consensus and then implement it soon.
This could be done through negotiations or unilaterally.
It is likely that Pardo, whose natural inclination is to sit as the skeptic, would say that in the near-term, Israel will need to make decisions unilaterally because the Fatah West Bank and Hamas Gaza Palestinians cannot unite now.
Furthermore, his view is that there can be no negotiated deal until they unite and sign on to an agreement together.
How should Israel decide the intractable questions of borders and Jerusalem with so many polar-opposite political viewpoints?
It would seem that Pardo would support Israel deciding on its borders, including Jerusalem, by a referendum which offers multiple options. The options could be everything from an almost complete West Bank withdrawal and the Palestinians taking the predominantly Arab Jerusalem neighborhoods like Shuafat, to no West Bank withdrawal at all.
His view is that if the Palestinians later made a peace-deal offer and asked for additional areas in return, then Israel could address that offer when it comes up. But at least Israel would have set borders and will need to invest sufficient funds in Arab areas it is keeping that may currently be in limbo.
Pardo stands behind his earlier public statements that even former prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin, Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert were not ready to set Israel’s borders and so hedged on the issue.
He foresees a disaster over the horizon if Israel does not resolve its conflict with the Palestinians, though preferring not to play the prophet, he would not set an exact date for the disaster.
If there is no end date, why couldn’t the conflict go on endlessly?
The former spy chief’s view would be that it will not go on endlessly and that not knowing the end date is actually a scary thing.
Pardo believes that Israel must resolve the borders issue before the demographic problem ends the possibility of the two-state solution and leaves only the one-state possibility.
Unfortunately, if Israel does not solve the issue, he thinks that whoever emerges to resolve it for Israel will seek to force a solution which will be worse than if the country resolves it for itself.
WHAT ABOUT all of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s achievements diplomatically with India and other countries – and this despite not having resolved the Palestinian issue?
Pardo would say that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi visiting Israel proved nothing because he also told the Palestinian Authority everything they wanted to hear when he visited them.
Netanyahu’s achievements with India, Africa and elsewhere may help on the margins, according to Pardo’s thinking, but they will not change the UN, the moderate Sunni states or most of the world’s view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He would say that anyone who thinks otherwise is living in a dream world.
Likewise, he sees Trump’s moving the US embassy to Jerusalem as less significant than it could have been if it had been done as part of a deal with the Palestinians.
How does he view the current Iranian nuclear standoff and other threats?
It can be gathered that Pardo thinks it will take time to see the impact of the US sanctions on Iran which really only fully started on August 6.
While some have cited the current wave of Iranian domestic protests as stemming from the new sanctions, he would argue that the protests are a result of several chronic economic problems in Iran which predate these sanctions.
At the top of his list for causes are the corruption of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and Tehran investing funds gained in the Iran nuclear deal into foreign adventures instead of into the Islamic Republic’s domestic scene.
REGARDING TRUMP’S leaving the deal, the former Mossad chief had opposed the withdrawal of the US. He believed it would give Washington less leverage and impact, making the situation more dangerous.
Furthermore, he was concerned that the US leaving the deal could be part of it moving further out of the Middle East altogether, which could be very bad for Israel.
In any event, he is convinced that Trump’s leaving the deal will lead to a new deal at some point.
He would say with a playful wink that there is no doubt that whoever signs the new deal will say it is a better deal. But Pardo did not trust Iran’s word after the first deal and will not believe them after any “ultimate deal” the US gets later. Quite simply, he believes that the current regime in Tehran has no credibility for keeping deals.
Nor does he put any faith in stopping the Islamic Republic from obtaining a nuclear weapon through a narrowly tailored one-time military attack on its nuclear facilities.
He would confidently say that if, at the final point of no return, Israel had to attack Iran’s nuclear program, it would find a way to deal with Iran’s newer anti-missile systems – no matter how advanced. In fact, that very confidence is why he would oppose attacking at any earlier time.
RATHER, HIS view would be that there are three ways Iran could be stopped from going nuclear.
The first is a full invasion, which he thinks is a bad idea. The second is convincing Iran through a variety of coercive measures to back off – which he would say is exceedingly difficult. The third is internal regime change. While regime change could happen, he would not be able to predict whether it will happen in three days or 30 years, if at all.
After all of that, always full of surprises, Pardo’s view would be that Iran’s conventional weapons threaten Israel more than its nuclear program (at least as things currently stand.)
He also believes that it is a major problem that Israel has let Iran use Hezbollah for many years – and now to have its proxies on Israel’s Syrian border, while the IDF has no equivalent border with Iran.
One thing is for sure: as more time passes since Pardo’s retirement, we will only hear more no-holds-barred commentary about current major security questions from the man who, until just over two years ago, lived in the shadows and was largely responsible for the fate of the nation.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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