Call with General Amos Yadlin on Elections, Iran, Syria
Israel Policy Forum
Moderator: David Halperin
February 5, 2013
11:00 AM ET
David Halperin: Thank you, operator, and thank you, everyone, for joining us for what will be a very intriguing conversation with Major General Amos Yadlin. When we originally scheduled this call, our intention was to discuss General Yadlin's specific recommendations regarding the peace process in the wake of Israel's elections, but, of course, there have been a number of recent developments that will also spark our interest regarding Syria and Iran, which will be certainly a focus of today's conversation. In fact, just in the last 48 hours or so, Amos Yadlin has been making headlines in Israel for his remarks at the unveiling of the INSS's strategic assessment for the coming year, which was just announced, I believe, yesterday and which we're eager to hear General Yadlin's reports on INSS's founding -- findings, excuse me. Major General Yadlin is the Director of Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies, which he joined in 2011 after more than 40 years of service in the Israel Defense Forces. Prior to this appointment, he had joined the Washington Institute for Near East Policy as the Kay Fellow on Israeli national security. Of course, from 2006 to 2010, Major General Yadlin served as the IDF's Chief of Defense Intelligence and was previously the IDF Attache to theUnited States. He is a former Deputy Commander of the Israel Air Force and he has commanded two -- during which he commanded two fighter squadrons and two air bases, including serving as the head of the Israeli Air Force's Planning Department in the early 90s. We couldn't be more thrilled to have General Yadlin with us for this timely discussion. As always, I will turn the call first over to IPF's national scholar, Professor of Political Science at UCLA, Steven Spiegel. We will open up the floor to questions during today's call. The operator will give instructions for how to do so. I want to thank you all for joining us and I will now turn the call over to Steve. Thank you both to Steve and to Amos Yadlin for joining us this morning.
Steven Spiegel: Thank you very much, David Halperin. We're going to move quickly, given the importance of the call. And Amos Yadlin, hello again. We'll begin with some few remarks and we're going to go to questions earlier than usual. Amos Yadlin?
Amos Yadlin: Yes. We just concluded 2012. 2012 was a year that everybody threatened us that it will be a very, very difficult year. The first threat was Iran and the Prime Minister of Israel and Defense Minister of Israel basically explain and argue that towards the fall we will have to do something about it, and since all the other strategies are not working -- negotiation, agreement, sanctions, covert operations, regime change -- Israel will have to react because Iran is entering the Zone of Immunity. This was one threat. The second threat was the threat from the upheavals in the Arab world, and once again, the black focus was that the peace process with Egypt will be abolished and Jordan will be the next victim, and then the peace agreement with Jordan. The third threat and a very grave scenario was thatSyriais going to disintegrate the chemical weapon will be launched towards Israel or other place. And the fourth important -- the fourth threat came from the fact that there is no peace process and the black predictions were that the PA will collapse and the Third Intifada will erupt. And the last one was about the Israeli international standing -- that the Israeli legitimacy will be even worse than it was before andIsraelwill lose all the support in the war.
So when we are looking backward to 2012, none of the above happened. So I'm saying it because people have the tendency to be whether in panic or euphoria, and I highly recommend not to be in these two state of mind because it's not helpful.
So let's go very quickly what did happen because the worst case scenario never happened in 2012. The Israeli government basically changed the red line or the trigger to go to Iran. The prime minister, in his speech in the UN, moved from the idea of Zone of Immunity because the Iranians really are now in the Zone of Immunity, according to the Defense Minister definitions. They have 2,700 centrifuges very deep in the mountain in Fowdrow near Qom. So the prime minister has changed the trigger of the Israeli attack to a number of kilograms enriched to 20% which enough for 1 bomb. The Iranians are below that. So there was no attack at (inaudible). This is the good news. The bad news is that somewhere early in 2013 -- maybe in the late spring, early summer -- the Iranians will be there in the new red line. About preserving the peace agreement, Egypt has all the reasons to keep the peace agreement to Israel. The main problems of Egypt are not with Israel. The national interest of Egypt is not to go to war with Israel -- to keep the peace accord and to deal with the main problem of Egypt, which are mostly economy -- a very bad economy -- a huge problem in transition to democracy, the relation between the civil authority and the military authority. They have many problems. None of them will be solved by going to war with Israel. The two countries -- the government of Israel and the government of Egypt-- deserve high grades for keeping the relation in spite of attempt of terror organizations from Sinai or from Gaza to bring them into a conflict -- (inaudible) conflict. And what we have seen in 2012 -- and I think it will continue in 2013 -- that the Egyptians are not going to (inaudible). They are not going to love us. We're going to hear that we are descendants of pigs and monkeys, but it will not go to the abolishing of the peace accord or, God forbid, in sending tanks to Sinai.
The civil war in Syria. As a human being, we can feel very bad about the hundreds, thousands, ten thousands of people that are killed. From national security point of view for Israel, what is happening in Syria is not necessarily negative, both from political aspect and then from military aspect. From political aspect, a very important country in the axis of radicalism, going from Iran to Syria to Hezbollah to Hamas. A very important country is disintegrating from this axis. Anybody who want peace (inaudible) must be very satisfied that this anti-peace axis radicalism is now weaker. From military point of view, the Syrian army is not an army that you undervalue, underestimate. It's a good army. It's a modern army. The best (inaudible) defense from Russia, a lot of scuds missiles and 600 rockets that they got from Iran, very good commando battalions. And this military, which is a huge threat to Israel, is now also weakening and, in a way, disintegrating. We still have risk from Syria-- a risk of being an Al Qaeda country, a Somalia-type country -- but from military point of view, each one of these are less dangerous than the Syrian regular army.
Relation with the Palestinians. The peace process, unfortunately, was -- in 2012 -- in the freezer, in the parking lot. Nothing happened. You can blame the Israeli government. You can blame Abu Mazen for going to the UN, for not coming to negotiation. You can blame the American administration for putting Abu Mazen on (inaudible) about the settlement. But the fact is that there is no -- any negotiation. However, the PA is not going to disintegrate. They are getting too much money to give up -- a billion euro and a billion dollar -- and they will continue to operate in this way or another. As long as they are reconciled with Hamas, I can see the peace process going forward. I have some suggestions. I can elaborate on it later, but the PA is there, Hamas is in Gaza. The last border of Israel that was unsecured was secured and now the (inaudible) is calm, and basically Israel enjoined a very strong deterrence and very strong security -- let's say a calm situation along all its borders -- all its borders. And Israeli can really be busy with its internal and domestic issues. I think that the most problematic issue on 2012 were the international standing of Israel. This is continuing to erode, and the main -- let's say the case study for us is the UN voting for the Palestinian state. Israel was basically isolated. And that's why I would recommend in 2013 to do something about Israel’s standing in the world.
So this is how we're moving from 2012 to 2013. We haven't solved the main two issues -- the Iran nuclear weapon -- how to stop it -- and the peace process or the peace agreement with the Palestinians. We are moving forward in 2013, trying to solve this issue. But we enjoyed another year off -- and basically this is the Israeli security concept. You cannot win a decisive victory over your enemies which are all the Arab states and maybe some of the Muslim states, but you can buy time year after year to build our country, and that's basically what we have done in 2012. And I hope we'll do it also in 2013.
I will stop here and I can speak about each one of the five points according to a specific question.
Steven Spiegel: Well, there's a lot to talk about here and I have a lot of questions myself, but operator, let's do something a little unusual. Given the weightiness of all of these five points, let's move to the group itself to ask questions and I'll fill in here and there as we move forward. So operator, can you please give instructions for asking questions?
Operator: Yes, sir. Ladies and gentlemen, if you have a question or comment at this time, please press * then 1 on your telephone keypad. If your question has been answered or you wish to remove yourself from the queue, simply press the # key. Again, if you have an audio question at this time, please press * then 1 on your telephone keypad.
Steven Spiegel: And operator, do we have our first question?
Operator: We do. Our first question or comment comes from the line of Dan Raviv. Your line is open.
Dan Raviv: Hi. It's Dan Raviv here. General Yadlin and IPF, thanks for doing this call. Could we focus a little bit on US-Israeli relations because theUnited States' stand touches on, I think, every one of the potential crises of last year and, of course, looking forward as well. What's your assessment? Obama's been re-elected. I can imagine that when you were in Washington, as the military attaché, you got to know both John Kerry and Chuck Hagel. Are you worried in any way?
Amos Yadlin: One of the main discussion that was in Israel the last year when the Iranian issue became a public debate and the public discourse is the issue of what America will do because the prime minister and the defense minister basically have said that if you have to choose between a nuclear Iran or attacking Iran -- the bomb or the bombing -- it is less dangerous to Israel to bomb Iran than let Iran being nuclear. On that, I basically -- I personally -- and my researchers as well -- agree with the prime minister and defense minister. However, we haven't agreed to the Zone of Immunity trigger and to the issue that Israel should attack in 2012 because we basically have said the other options were not exhausted, give more time for diplomacy, give more time for sanctions, and make sure that America is with you when you go because legitimacy is very important, and doing it when America is not against you. We are not asking green light from America, but the fact that the prime minister and the President of the United States have the same assessment of what's going on -- in a way, the same that it was between Olmert and Bush in 2007 -- is very important to the success of an Israeli attack. And one of my arguments was maybe the President will decide to do it becauseIranis not an Israeli problem; Iranis an American problem. Even if Israelwas not in the Middle East, I think the Americans will -- a vital interest of Americans that Iran will not be nuclear. They hear it from the Saudis. They hear it from the Turks. They hear it from everybody and they know that the hegemony of Iran with a nuclear weapon on -- over the Gulf energy and the freedom of navigation and all the interest of America will be in big danger. And I was among a very small group of people -- a minority in Israel-- who basically said that President Obama may do it. Now I'm coming to your question. When you see the nomination of a new Secretary of State, a new Secretary of Defense, and you are not sure that the argument you use is as strong as it used to be. However, knowing the United States, I know that at the end of the day the one who is making the shots -- the calls -- is the President. And no doubt that the four senators are like-minded -- the President, the Vice President, the Secretary of State and the designed Secretary of Defense -- but even those, let's say, very cautious, big believers in diplomacy, I think if Iran will not agree to the offer that I'm absolutely convinced that America will put on the table in the coming quarter, and Iran will not accommodate and will continue with its nuclear program. Even these four senators -- I still think that they may do something. By the way, highly (inaudible) commanded to invade another country in the Middle East, but you are -- you having one of the best air forces in the world, the most capable in the world, and the surgical attack on Iranian nuclear facilities -- not more than that -- I think will be a reasonable move, even from this new team.
Steven Spiegel: Are you suggesting that you have more faith in Obama and Biden than in Hagel and Kerry?
Amos Yadlin: No. I didn't say anything about the differences between them. I think that the nomination of these two senators that basically spoke against even sanctions onIran-- one of them -- was a bad signal to those in Israel who believed in the President and the Vice President. But I know that at the end of the day America-- in the American Constitution, the President is deciding.
Steven Spiegel: Okay. Operator, next question.
Operator: Thank you. Our next question or comment comes from the line of Joseph Klein. Your line is open.
Joseph Klein: Yes. Thank you. Joseph Klein from Canada Free Press. I'd be interested in your opinion of Israel's recent action in reportedly bombing the truck convoy containing Russian anti-aircraft missiles in Syria -- whether you think that, based on the information you have, was a wise decision because it may have prevented the transport of those missiles to Hezbollah, and whether you think there could be any unintended consequences of drawing Israel into the civil war in Syria.
Amos Yadlin: Yes. Israel, long ago -- long ago, before the Netanyahu administration -- even at the end of the Olmert prime ministership -- have declared a red line for transferring advanced weapons for Hezbollah. This is a violation of UN Security Council 1701 which basically had an embargo on any weapon going to Hezbollah, and Israel declared the scud missiles, advanced (inaudible) missiles, which are a lens to see, (inaudible) defense, and chemical weapon red line. And what you saw last week -- if you are accepting the conventional wisdom that Israel has done it, even though Israel never took responsibility -- you saw that somebody crossed the red line and (inaudible) attacked. When you're considering a pre-emptive strike, you don't compare it to the beautiful day of today, with the nice blue sky and no war and no anything. You have to think about the future. What you're going to meet in the next round or struggle with Hezbollah, if they will have chemical weapons, advanced air defense, advanced ballistic missiles and advanced anti-ship missiles. This is the real comparison -- the risk of escalation which (inaudible) exists -- and the risk of meeting much more formidable and dangerous enemy in the next round. So whoever decide to do it, I think that he has made the calculation that the escalation due to this attack will be less than coping with advanced weapon in Lebanon in the next (inaudible).
Steven Spiegel: Okay. Operator, next question.
Operator: Our next question or comment comes from the line of Mr. Oren Dorell. Your line is open.
Oren Dorell: Hi, General Yadlin. Oren Dorell from USA Today. I was wondering if you could give us a -- I guess an assessment of the viability of the Assad regime in Syria and also the prospects of the rebellion at succeeding. And also whether you can shed any light on what countries are providing actual weaponry and training to the Syrian rebels and to which factions.
Amos Yadlin: Okay. Assad, unlike Mubarak, still has his army very loyal to him, and not only loyal, willing to kill the enemies of the regime. And unlike Khadafi, Assad is protected from an outside intervention because the Russians are now preventing any US Security Council resolution to do anything against Syria. As long as these two elements will be kept, Assad can survive. Assad can survive. I will give you another three indicators to look at, and if you see them in the future, it may be signaling that Assad is on his way out. One of them is the minorities that are now sided with him -- the Christians,even some of the Kurds. The Christians have seen how Christians were treated in Iraq, in Lebanon, in Palestine, and they are not happy. And if you see the minorities moving away from Assad, you know that maybe they now have an analysis that is about to go. The second issue is the elite Sunni, let's say, merchants -- those who are running the economy. They are still in the big cities --Damascus and Aleppo-- with Assad. They haven't deserted him. And last but not least is the economy. The Syrian economy is in very bad shape. Investments have stopped. All the billions of dollars that were invested in Syria before the crisis were coming mostly from Turkey and the (inaudible). None of them are now investing in Syria. Tourism basically has stopped. This was like 25% of the foreign currency that came to Syria. Oil production is going down because of sanctions. And the Syrian economy is in very bad shape. The Iranians and the Russians are helping them a little bit, but they have to write a check of $3 billion to $5 billion a year to keep the economy going. And none of the them -- the Russians or the Iranians -- are happy about it, so you have to look at the Iranian -- the Syrian economy as well. The last (inaudible) is as long as it will be an internal fight, Assad is military stronger than the opposition. And to your last question -- who is helping the opposition -- the weapon is coming from the Gulf, from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Libya. The Qataris are paying for most of it. Some of it is paid by the Saudis. Help to the opposition, which is not weapon, is coming from Turkey and maybe even from your government. But still, if you look at the military (inaudible) -- the tanks, the airplanes, the heavy weapon -- of the regime is still much stronger than the light weapon of the opposition. The opposition can survive. It's a tie now. None of the sides can decide the other one. But if it will continue to be an internal fight, Assad can survive for a long time.
Steven Spiegel: Okay. Operator, next question.
Operator: Yes. Our next question or comment comes from the line of Mr. Joel Tauber. Your line is open.
Joel Tauber: Hi. My question is how will the most likely coalitions that Bibi arranges affect, in your view, the Iranian and the peace process? In other words, which of the various coalitions that they're talking about and how would they affect both of those areas?
Amos Yadlin: Yes. I'm not an expert for Israeli internal politics. I try to keep myself out of it. But let me try and answer some of the question. On Iran, even though Iran is number one national security issue in Israel, it was not an issue -- it was non-issue on (inaudible). Basically, most of the Israelis are accepting the prime minister and defense minister and the last government position that if you have to choose between the bomb and the bombing, the bombing is preferred. It has nothing to do with which party are you. Let's say that Kadimas tried to have another idea and ended up with two member of the Knesset. So I think any coalition will be -- any composition of Bibi [Net's] coalition will be basically onIranwith the same dilemmas that has nothing to do with the political opposition of the parties. It will have to do with the strategic implication of what to do or not to do against (inaudible). On the peace process, it is different. It is different because, unlike the conventional wisdom thatIsraelis drifting to the right, this election show that the core and the majority of the Israeli population is not drifting to the right. And the right lost some (inaudible). And even in the right block, when you put the very extreme ultra-orthodox, they are not right on the Israeli-Palestinian negotiation issue. They are more of -- belonging to the left. So now it depend who Bibi will create the coalition with. If it will be with the right wing party of Naftali Bennett, it will be difficult to go to a new negotiation. If it will be with Yair Lapid and Tzipi Livni and Mofaz, I think this is a move towards the center. But to tell you the truth, even the right wing -- the Naftali Bennett party -- they are not against going to negotiation. They basically believe that even if Bibi will go to negotiation, it will fail because of the Palestinians. So the bottom line is that I think that the prime minister heard -- understands that he has to go back to negotiation, and he will do it with whatever will be the coalition. What kind of position he will come to in the negotiation is a different story, but it's too early to judge.
Steven Spiegel: Alright. Thank you very much. I have an e-mailed question from Trudy Rubin of the Philadelphia Enquirer. And she asks the following question -- whether from your risk-benefit calculus would a US/Iran deal that slows the Iranian development of nuclear weapons -- or movement, I guess, would be appropriate now -- on the nuclear front be preferable to a strike this spring?
Amos Yadlin: Yes. It was the headlines of my briefing yesterday. I basically said that I'm not afraid of an offer that will come from Washington to Tehran. I will prefer an agreement to the bomb or the bombing option. However, we have to be very careful that the agreement is a reasonable agreement -- acceptable agreement -- because if the agreement allowed the Iranians to break out to the bomb anytime when they want to, it's a bad agreement. The Iranians are able to break out to the bomb tonight within 4 to 6 months for the first bomb, and if they want an arsenal of bombs, it will take them a year or year and a half. This is a long enough time for the Iranians to be afraid that they don't have to do it. The idea ofIranis not to have 10,000 centrifuges. It's to have 100,000 centrifuges, to be able to break out in weeks or one month. The period that they think is shorter than the time that they will be stopped by anybody. So I will look at the proposal -- the agreement -- that may be coming due to the criterion, whether it's taking the Iranians -- it's taking from the Iranians the option to break out in a very short time -- to violate the agreement at any time -- that if they violate the agreement, they will need at least two years to break out. How you do it? You limit the number of centrifuges to a very small number -- 1,000 -- 2,000. You make sure that all the enriched uranium is going out ofIran, repossessed to a nuclear fuel can be brought back toIranif they need them. So what the Iranians are getting -- they're getting the recognition in their right to enrich. You are going with their covert story -- the story that they need it for energy -- peaceful energy -- but you don't let them the possibility to break out in a very short time. Such an agreement is better than the bomb and the bombing.
Steven Spiegel: Alright. Because that's very important. Let's go on. Next question.
Operator: Our next question or comment comes from the line of Chemi Schalev. Your line is open.
Chemi Shalev: Hi. Chemi Shalev here, if the Iranians have already entered into the zone of immunity, does that mean that in effect an Israeli military strike is, in your eyes, off the table? And two, why do you not think that the possibility of a break-up of Syrian state and of the Syrian army which could lead to terrorist forces getting their hands on non-conventional weapons -- why do you not think that that is a greater threat to Israel than the situation that existed before the unrest broke out?
Amos Yadlin: Okay. Zone of immunity -- I never accepted something that will dictate the possibility or non-possibility of an Israeli act. The Israeli option is on the table. It's on the table. I will not go to any details. I will say only three words -- it is doable. On your second question, once again, I don't belong to those who think that the terrorists can use chemical weapons so easily. Chemical weapon is more of a psychological weapon. It was never used in the last 40 years in an efficient way. It was never used against somebody who has (inaudible) vis-à-vis the user of chemical weapon. Chemical weapon was first introduced in World War I and whenever the other side had the possibility to retaliate, it was stopped. Chemical weapons were in the hands of all the parties in World War II. They never used it because they knew the other side can retaliate. Chemical weapon was used against the poor Yemenite by Abdal Nasser at the early 60s and the poor Kurds by Saddam Hussein in the 80s because both of them cannot retaliate. To use a chemical weapon, it's very difficult. You need a platform. You need an airplane to spray. I don't see Al Qaeda with an airplane. And even if they hijacked an airplane, who says that this is the airplane that can spray chemical weapon? If you fire them with missile or rocket, you need to have missile and rockets. It is very difficult to produce a fuse that will open the warhead at the right height.
Technically it is very difficult to develop a fuse that will spray the chemical weapon in the right height above the terrain, and I don't believe that Al Qaeda or any other terrorist can do all the preparation for chemical weapon lunching, which means bring two separate materials, mix them, transfer them to an air base or to a missile base and launch them without, first of all, being hit by himself, because they don't have the right (inaudible) to do it, and maybe hit by somebody who'll look at this weapon and have the capability to pre-empt it. So I'm not that afraid of the chemical weapon and I'm not buying, once again, the headlines of this is a time to be in panic. I refuse to be in panic.
Steven Spiegel: Okay. Operator, next question.
Operator: Thank you. Our next question or comment comes from the line of Mr. Robert Goodkind. Your line is open.
Robert Goodkind: Thank you very much and thank you, General, for your wonderful answers. You indicated before in your initial remarks that you had some ideas with respect to the negotiations or restarting negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis. Would you elaborate on that for us now?
Amos Yadlin: Yes. My recommendation is that the new Israeli government will submit this proposal to the Palestinians. It will be along the lines of the Clinton Parameters, the Olmert Parameters, new parameters that take into consideration the changes, but basically we all know what will be the -- if there will be a peace, what are the parameters of peace between Israel and Palestine. Israel should do the concessions on the two-state solution, on the border that basically should be the 67 border plus the settlement blocks and some Palestinian presence in Jerusalem. The Palestinians have to make the concessions of declaring end of conflict, end of claim, through the security arrangement that the Palestinian state will not become a base to launch any military attack on Israel and the refugees would return only to the Palestinian state. This is basically the peace parameters that we all think that, in the future, if the miracle will happen and we come to agreement with the Palestinians, this is the parameters.
Steven Spiegel: It's not that different from the Olmert plan, is it -- what you're saying?
Amos Yadlin: It's not so different.
Steven Spiegel: No. Okay.
Amos Yadlin: It's not so different. And I remind you that Abu Mazen never said yes, unlike the conventional wisdom in some of your circuits. Never say yes to that.
Steven Spiegel: Not (inaudible) circles, let me assure you. Please proceed.
Amos Yadlin: But I think we have to put it again on the table. And for me, it's a win/win. If I'm wrong and the Palestinians will agree -- wonderful. It's a big win. We'll have a peace. If my analysis is right and the Palestinians will never agree, especially now when they reconciled with Hamas, then at least we will (inaudible) and we can go to the next stage because I don't want to stay and to rule 2.5 million Palestinians. By the way, it's only 2.5 -- 1.5 are already gone toGaza. And I will do another unilateral move, which is 80% towards a two-state solution. The unilateral move in Israel has a very bad reputation based on 2003 withdrawal from Lebanon and the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza. But when you look deeper into it, strategically these two moves were not so bad. I hardly know anybody in Israel who wants to go back to (inaudible) Lebanon or to Gaza. So let's debrief the way we used to do in the Air Force after every flight. What was the mistake in the last flight? And correct them in the next flight -- the next sortie. Let's correct the mistake we have done in 2005 when we disengaged from Gaza. And I will be very short and brief on three mistakes. There are like 20 of them. The first mistake -- we left the corridor open for weapons to come from Iran to Gaza. We should not do it again. We should keep Jordan very secure in Israeli hands until the Palestinians will come to their agreement, and this will make sure that there will be no rockets and missiles coming from the West Bank to Israel. The second mistake was giving back every inch, hoping for the (inaudible) to recognize that we end the occupation, which never happened in Gaza. And we cannot evacuate all the settlers because if the Palestinians are not coming to peace, there is no need to do it. So we will withdraw to basically (inaudible). And we keep 5%, 8%, 10% of the West Bank until the Palestinians will decide to make peace. The third mistake was it handled [defense unilateral] which, once again, without a presubmission of a peace proposal. After submission of peace proposal and after the fact that the Palestinians will reject it, we'll have the moral authority to ask our friends in Europe and theUnited States to support a move to 80% of the final agreement that the Palestinians are not agreeing and wait for them to decide that they want peace. So coordinate with this engagement. I called it not unilateral disengagement; I called it coordinated disengagement with the support of whoever decides to support us. And maybe some agreement even with the Palestinians. So this is my plan. I'm not innocent and I'm not naïve enough to think that the government of Israel will adopt it the next morning after it will be created, but if we look for the medium range and the long range, this is the only situation if we want a Jewish democratic secure and legitimate Israel, and I'm insist on the (inaudible) -- Jewish, democratic, secure and legitimate.
Steven Spiegel: Are you writing this up? Have you written this up?
Amos Yadlin: Did I?
Steven Spiegel: Yes. Are you writing this plan -- this proposal up?
Amos Yadlin: Yes. Yes. We already discussed this plan in 2012 in my institute. We presented it to the main figures. We haven't gone public with it yet because 2012 -- we basically deal publicly with the Iranian discourse, which was more urgent and more critical. But in 2013, the institute will have a campaign to push this (inaudible) -- this plan.
Steven Spiegel: Okay. Thank you very much. Operator, next question.
Operator: Thank you. Our next question or comment comes from the line of Mr. J.J. Goldberg. Your line is open.
J.J. Goldberg: Two questions. The first one is the -- to the best of your knowledge, is the Saudi -- the Arab Peace Initiative still on the table? And would it be helpful to Israel if it declared that as a basis for beginning negotiations? Rather than offer a final status agreement as you suggested, wouldn't it make sense to say, "We'll go in and talk on that basis" as, I believe, some of your colleagues in the defense establishment have suggested in the Israel Peace Initiative? And the second question -- when Abu Mazen did not say yes to the Olmert -- or to the last Olmert offer, wasn't it left in the air that the -- Abu Mazen had conditions that Olmert had not met -- a disagreement on numbers of refugees and Ariel and a few other issues that could be discussed in further negotiations if Israel indicated a willingness to talk on the basis of the 67 lines?
Amos Yadlin: There is not something like the Saudi Peace Initiative. Unfortunately, the Saudi Peace Initiative that was reasonable was changed in the Beirut Summit in 2002, and it was changed for the bad in every aspect. They put the Lebanese and the Syrian inside, the issue of the refugees is, according to 194 Resolution, which Israel cannot live with, and unfortunately, the Arab Peace Initiative -- not the Saudi Peace Initiative -- is a take-it-or-leave-it proposal on the table, and I suspect it is not on the table anymore. But let's say that it was never taken formally from the table. The Saudis -- they're very unhelpful when President Obama has tried in 2009 to initiate the peace process again because the idea of freezing the settlement as [CBM] from Israel and some [CBM] from the Arab world that the Saudis should be submit it, they basically refuse to do anything. So I'm not sure that it's on the table, but if we want it to be the platform, it should not be a take-it-or-leave-it proposal. It should be, as you say in your question, a base for negotiation. And once again, a very difficult base to start with, but if the Arabs would come and say, "This is a base for negotiation but not a take-it-or-leave-it kind of proposal," I think Israel should accommodate it. On the issue of why Abu Mazen refused to accept the Olmert proposals, I never heard the argument that you mentioned. I heard another argument -- that he basically understood that this is the last month of Olmert. Olmert was quite weak the last period of his government, and he decided that he will wait for the next prime minister, or he thought that Olmert is not strong enough to do the concessions needed from the Israel side. This is the formal Palestinian excuse why they haven't said yes. I personally think, and I know from my previous job as Chief of Intelligence, that they basically couldn't agree to the end of conflict, end of claim, which they define in an inner circle discussion as agreeing with (inaudible) and they will never agree to the right of return only to the Palestinian state. This is the real problem. All the other issues are excuses. But why don't try again? Maybe I am wrong. Maybe they have learned something in the last 5 years.
Steven Spiegel: Okay. I think what we're going to do is take, operator, three questions at once because we're running out of time and I know a lot of people are on the queue. So let us take the next three questions.
Operator: Okay. Our first question comes from Laura Rozen. Your line is open.
Laura Rozen: Thanks, everybody, for doing this. General Yadlin, the offer you described to Iran in response to Trudy Rubin's e-mail is kind of the go-big offer. My understanding when the 6 powers meet with Iran in Kazakhstan later this month -- they're basically going to discuss the small -- a tweaked version of the small offer that they debated last year at the (inaudible) on just kind of focusing on 20%. So how do you see it moving from -- where do you -- when do you the United States or the 6 powers basically giving Iran a more big offer that rejection might be a kind of ultimatum?
Operator: Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Jonathan Broder. Your line is open.
Jonathan Broder: Hi, General. Jonathan Broder from Congressional Quarterly here. I wanted to ask a question about US to Egypt. There has been some debate on Capitol Hill about the advisability of that aid. Right now, it's going through but the more turmoil there is inEgypt, the more lawmakers are becoming very wary of providing that aid. And I was wondering, from Israel's point of view, how -- what's the sense of what America ought to be doing on aid to Egypt?
Operator: Thank you. And our final question comes from the line of Mr. Doug Bloomfield. Your line is open.
Doug Bloomfield: Yes. I want -- you haven't mentioned Jordan. I'd like to hear what you think about the situation in Jordan, the threats it faces and its susceptibility to what is going on all around it.
Amos Yadlin: Yes. I need an hour to explain what's going on in Jordan, but if I have to do it one sentence, it is much better now than it was before the election. The King has survived the election and he basically got a parliament that will support his very slow reform. The background of what's going on in Jordan is the fact that Jordan really don't want to go to the situation in Syria or in Iraq. The Jordanians are smart people and they have seen what's happened in Iraq in the last decade. They used to have 400,000 refugees from Iraq. Now they have 250 refugees from Syria. They are very cautious. The Palestinians are cautious. The East Bankers are cautious. The King is cautious. The Muslim Brotherhood is cautious. And they are moving forward. There are demonstrations, but the demonstrators know not to go too far. The King is smart enough not to put bullets in the rifles of the policemen and the soldiers. So basically, Jordan-- as long as it will be able to cope with the economy issues -- and they are getting a lot of aid from the Saudis, from your country. I think they will go step by step forward and very cautiously not to deteriorate to the Iraqi or the Syrian situation. To tell you that the problems they are facing are easy -- not at all. Not at all. Not the political issues of how you make a reform from the kingdom that is very (inaudible) to something that is more democratic or the problem of the economy. The price of gas and oil is killing them. And it's not easy. But I'm quite encouraged by the way it was handled in the last year, and I give a lot of compliment to the leadership, both in the king court and in the opposition. They are very cautious and I hope they will continue.
About the aid to Egypt, I think what is happening in Egypt is less optimistic than what I just described in Jordan. It seems like the Muslim Brotherhood decided that once they [caught] the positions of power, they are not going to give them up. And I would like to see America putting some red lines to the Egyptian behavior about democracy, about human rights, about the peace accord with Israel. And as long as they are not crossing these red lines, they need a lot of help. They need -- they went down from almost $36 billion of foreign currency towards to the last dollar. They are now around 12, 13. They need desperately economic growth. They need 7% to accommodate to supply jobs to the newcomers from the universities and the high schools. And the money is not coming. It's coming a little bit from Qatar that gave them $5 billion. It may come a little bit from the Saudis, but they need money from you, they need money from the IMF. Getting money from IMF is a company with some demand for restructuring the economy, especially the subsidies. Nobody who rules Egypt will leave the subsidy system because it's immediately send million to the street about bread and gas. So Egypt is in a big problem and we should -- I can recommend helping them as long as they are not crossing some red lines.
About the 20% agreement with Iran, if it is only the 20%, it's what I call bad deal because it's exactly playing to the Iranian strategy -- having more and more centrifuges, keeping all the enriched uranium in their hand and being able to break out in a very short time. The fact that they are not enriching to 20% is not that important because anybody who knows how to reach to 4.5% knows how to reach to 20% and knows how to reach to 64% and to military level at 93%. So I wouldn't be concentrated on the 20%. If we are not stopping the number of centrifuges, if we are not taking the enriched uranium out of the reach of the Iranians, we're basically playing to their strategy.
Thank you very much for listening.
Steven Spiegel: Thank you. Operator, I think we have -- if you have time for one last question. One last question, Amos Yadlin. If you can just stick with us. And I'm told we have one more person on the line who would like to get in.
Operator: Our final question or comment comes from the line of Benny Avni. Your line is open.
Benny Avni: Yes. Can you hear me?
Steven Spiegel: Yes we can. We're running out of time so please ask your question briefly.
Benny Avni: Thank you very much. Benny Avni of New York Post and Israel Radio. The -- at the UN -- this is on Syria. At the UN, Lakhdar Brahimi, the Special Representative, told the UN's closed session that Assad now and his inner circle feel like they are on the ascendance. They're doing much better. Is that also your assessment? And what are the reasons for that? Recent feeling of -- feeling better about (inaudible) situation.
Amos Yadlin: It's very difficult to say whether Assad feels that even their sentence. When I was Chief of Intelligence, I used to say 95%, 98% -- I can give you a guarantee on an assessment on technical issues. On how many centrifuges are in Iran, what is the range of (inaudible), how many kilograms of enriched uranium. On that, you can give a very accurate answer if you have good sources. The mood of a leader -- a future decision of a leader is very subjective and not accurate. So it depends who this Brahimi (inaudible), whom he spoke with, what is his interest in saying that. When I'm listening to the Syrian leaders, they feel that they basically were able to halt the opposition. Okay, they lost some ground. They are not controlling all the periphery. But they won the war or the fight over Apollo and Damascus, and they basically feel that, in the worst case, they withdraw to an (inaudible) sector. But they are not willing to give up yet and I told you, until I see a general -- not the head of the academy, not the head of the military policy -- a general who is commanding a division -- an elite division -- that defected with his division, and until I see the Russians supporting a no-fly zone in Syria, I think Assad is quite safe.
Steven Spiegel: That's a big statement. The Russians could help big time obviously. Alright. I want to thank General Amos Yadlin for this really very impressive review of all issues. We're so -- all outstanding issues. All questions have been answered. We thank you so much for your participation. Hopefully we can do it again in the not-too-distant future, but we're very grateful and I think I speak for --
Amos Yadlin: And you're all invited to visit the INSS when you are in Tel Aviv or just to be subscribed to our website. It's free. It is free.
Steven Spiegel: Well, I think that's very important. I am subscribed and the material from INSS is outstanding and I think you all would want to be more involved in INSS' materials because, as you see today, that group is engaged in extremely important research and analysis that we all should know more about. So on that note, IPF thanks you all and we're going to say, wherever you are, good-bye and good luck.
Amos Yadlin: Good night from Israel.
Steven Spiegel: Thank you. Bye-bye.