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Ex-Israeli military chief Ashkenazi: Jordan, Gulf regimes are at risk

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JERUSALEM (JTA) — The regimes in Jordan and Persian Gulf countries are at risk of falling, former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi warned.

“Few foresaw what would happen to Mubarak,” Ashkenazi said Wednesday in a speech at the 2012 Israeli Presidential Conference, referring to deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who reportedly suffered a crippling stroke Tuesday and is on life support. “This process is not yet over.

“It’s enough to think of Jordan,” he said, noting that Israel’s neighbor to the east is a key ally. “The Gulf countries are not immune either.”

Ashkenazi said Israel cares more about the stability of Arab regimes than the characteristics of those regimes, even as it might prefer democratic countries over authoritarian ones. Unstable regimes, weak central governments and failed states all provide opportunities for terrorist groups to expand their influence, he said, citing Egypt as an example. Since Mubarak was deposed in February 2011, terrorists have used the Sinai Peninsula as a staging ground for attacks against Israel, including a deadly one this week.

Egypt will continue to be unstable for some time, Ashkenazi predicted.

In Iran, Ashkenazi said the military option needs to remain above all. "Anything that undermines the military option on Iran is counterproductive," he said, adding that the sanctions clock needs to be ticking faster.

Ashkenazi drew his biggest applause when he called for all Israelis to be drafted into the army as part of the repeal of Israel’s Tal Law on drafting the haredi Orthodox.

“I think we should draft everyone,” he said. “I think it’s very important they join the circle of service.”

Not all should become soldiers, he said, but the IDF should get first choice about who goes into army, and those remaining should go either to the police, fire or emergency services, or some form of national service.

Currently, Israeli Arab citizens and haredi Orthodox Jews do not serve in the Israel Defense Forces. Out of an estimated 10,000 or so haredim who become eligible for army service every year, Ashkenazi said, 1,500 can be chosen to continue on the yeshiva track and become Torah greats, but all the others should serve.

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