CIS meeting with the German ambassador

A five CIS board member team led by M.G.(Ret) Danny Yatom, former Mossad director, paid a visit to the Federal Republic of Germany Ambassador to Israel, Steffen Seibert.

'Commanders for Israel’s Security' (CIS) is A 10 years old, 580 members, all volunteer civil society movement, comprised of veterans from the top echelons of Israel’s Security, Defense, and Diplomatic establishments.  Concerned with Israel’s security, standing within the international community, especially in light of challenges faced in our region, the team introduced CIS and highlighted its original guiding principles which only grew stronger since the October 7 tragedy.

CIS stressed the importance of the historically unshakable bond between Germany and Israel in all areas and thanked the Ambassador for the German government commitment and dedication to addressing the hostages' families as well as the efforts to releasing them, which is the top, first priority.

The team presented its own vision and full support, as documented in the CIS publications, including the last one - "The Way Forward", for a US-led regional normalization initiative (The “Biden Initiative”) and the vital need of a separation from The Palestinians, for Israel's future as a Jewish and a Democratic Secure State.

The Ambassador welcomed the CIS team visit, gave his insights of the complexity of the issues at stake, and described the full support and the efforts of the German Government, the Embassy and the Ambassador personally, for the release of the hostages.

The Ambassador also mentioned the need for a political process, that will lead to a negotiated and peaceful solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict, and as a result of it, security and prosperity to Israel, the Palestinians and the whole region.

M.G.(Ret) Yatom was accompanied by former Minister B.G. (Ret) Dr. Ephraim Sneh, Ambassador (Ret) Yoram Ben Zeev, Adm. (Ret) David Ben Bashat, and CIS CEO Col. (Ret) Itamar Yaar.

COVER NOTE - 030524

The humanitarian situation in Gaza undermines Israel’s security


Translated from the Hebrew original.

March 10, 2024

 To: The Prime Minister and Members of the War Cabinet
Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Matan Vilnai

Re: The humanitarian situation in Gaza undermines Israel’s security

On behalf of the members of Commanders for Israel’s Security (CIS), hundreds of former senior officials in Israel’s security agencies and foreign service, I wish to draw your attention to the cumulative damage to Israel’s security and strategic interests caused by the Government's policy on humanitarian aid for over two million Gaza non-combatants.  This escalating situation is tangible, imminent, multi-dimensional, and is detrimental to the war effort.

Beyond the moral aspects, the crisis in the Gaza Strip, which is on the brink of a humanitarian disaster, poses a threat to vital national interests. It already affects the IDF’s freedom of operation as well as Israel’s ability to determine the Strip’s future. It also undermines Israel’s relations with the U.S., Europe, our Arab partners in Peace and the International Community writ large.

The government must reverse these negative trends swiftly and determinately, as they are no longer over the horizon. The government must revamp its approach to this issue: stop quarreling with friends and others over every delivery of assistance, significantly expand aid quantity, its transportation, and the number of dedicated crossings, while ensuring safe distribution to the two million non-combatants.

As indicated, the adverse effect of today's policy is multi-dimensional:

The U.S.

In CIS member’s contacts with senior U.S. administration officials (undertaken in non-CIS frameworks), they have encountered broad agreement on two war aims – eliminating Hamas’ capabilities and releasing the hostages, but at the same time witness growing frustration and anger over Israel’s lack of a “day after” strategy and, in the immediate term, what has been dubbed a “humanitarian stinginess.” These sentiments were expressed prior to War Cabinet Member Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Benny Gantz’s recent visit to Washington, which reportedly focused on these issues, but no less firmly in its wake.

The U.S. administration’s decision to airdrop humanitarian assistance (an unprecedented measure taken in territory controlled by a friendly state) and President Biden’s decision to establish a maritime supply venue, reflect the place of humanitarian aid in American values, strategic considerations and domestic constraints. They also demonstrate frustration over our government’s policies and a resolve to deny Israel "veto power" on this matter, and by implication, on other matters pertaining to the war in Gaza and the future of the Strip.

All of this is also expressed in National Security Memorandum (NSM) 20, signed by the President on February 8, which requires the State Department and Pentagon to obtain written assurances from recipients of American security aid that they adhere to the rules of international law, including the provision of humanitarian aid. The administration is already seeking such reassurances from Israel and members of Congress are advancing measures to ascertain compliance and stipulate consequences of violations.

The intensity of public protest in the U.S., much like the effect of the Gaza situation in eroding support for Israel (especially among the young), should alarm anyone who appreciates the importance of the American factor in our present and future national security paradigm.

States in the region

In contacts with our peace partners – Egypt, Jordan and the Abraham Accords signatories – we have found that the initial support for a strong response to the murderous atrocities committed by Hamas on October 7, have given way to expressions of concern about the repercussions of the humanitarian crisis.

Just as some of these states provide aid to the Gaza civilian population, representatives of more than one of them report a decision to suspend normalization steps. This includes confining contact with Israel to directly addressing the situation in Gaza and regional stability, as well as to the need to prevent provocations by extremists on both sides during the month of Ramadan.


Whether inspired by the statements and actions of the U.S. administration or based on independent considerations, the opposition to Israel’s “humanitarian stinginess” throughout Europe and beyond has already led a number of governments to suspend the supply of armaments to Israel.

 The bottom line:

The damage caused by the policy of humanitarian stinginess, like that of outrageous statements of irresponsible ministers and MKs, undermines the foundations of security and diplomatic support for Israel emanating from capitals that are most important for our security.

We urge you all to restrain the extremist firebrands, prioritize Israel’s security and strategic interests over coalition considerations, and urgently lead extensive humanitarian aid efforts, before the IDF freedom to operate in the Strip, Israel’s freedom to shape the Strip’s future, and our relations with the U.S., Arab peace partners, Europe and the international community suffer irreparable damage.


Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Matan Vilnai

For the original letter (in Hebrew) - click here

For the translated letter (in English) - click here


Letter to President of the State of Israel, Mr. Itzhak Herzog

16 February 2023

The Honorable President of the State of Israel, Mr. Itzhak Herzog,

We, more than 440 members of the 'Commanders for Israel's Security' senior and former leaders of the IDF, Shin Bet (ISA), Mossed, Defense establishment, the police, and foreign services, turn to you at this fateful hour to express concerns that echo the same concerns you have voiced in your special address to the nation, for the damage to Israel's national resilience as a result of the hurried and swift legislative actions referred to as a "reform," but, for all practical purposes, are a regime revolution  in the system of government that will result in an everlasting tragedy. The latest data indicate that the overwhelming majority of Israeli citizens, people from all corners of society and political movements, vehemently oppose the nature of the government's recent actions.

We turn to you because the government's irresponsible plans will facilitate the subordination of all mechanisms of the State to a circumstantial coalition majority, having no checks and balances, with no meaningful separation of branches, by an unchallenged majority turning the government and its designees to become the Law, rather than subject to the law. Like many citizens watching the events unfolding in recent weeks, we, too, are astonished and deeply fearful of what may happen as soon as the first legislative proceedings are concluded. This proposed change is a revolutionary transformation of the character of the State, the values on which we were educated, with which we grew, and the values on which we raised the next generations. We see this looming regime change as an imminent danger to Israel's national resilience, standing amongst nations, security, economy, and its essential bond with Jewish People in the diaspora.

We, who led soldiers and combatants in Israel's wars, taught them the nation's ' values, and defended Israel on the battlefield and in the diplomatic arena, are strongly calling to prevent a fatal collapse of those values. Furthermore, the splitting of the chain of command, politicization, and the introduction of politics-oriented ideology interfere in the professional, the activities and processes of the defense, internal security systems, and foreign affairs operations, hurt the effectiveness of Israel's POL-MIL operations as a whole and may lead to external and internal confrontations, seriously damaging national interests resulting in unnecessary bloodshed, economic and social damage.

As in similar situations in which the rule of law and independence of the judiciary is damaged, the first to suffer the impact are IDF soldiers' and  security forces'  physical and legal defense together disadvantaged citizens, the protections of whom will disproportionately decline even further. That was recently the primary motivation of reserve soldiers and other combatants joining  the widespread protest campaign. As you also noted in your address to the Nation, the enemies of the State are rubbing their hands with joy, hoping that the government's actions will dismantle the foundations of Israeli society, its unity, and strength and will make it easier for them to attack the State of Israel, its citizens, and the entire Jewish People.

As those who bore the responsibility for the lives of hundreds of thousands of combatants, we call on you to act without fear and prevent, to the extent possible, the decline into the abyss and the disintegration we are facing. We write this with pain and with a sense of profound responsibility for the security of the State. As such, we will not neglect our national and civil duty and will fight in any lawful, legal way in a democratic state where the government and its designees are not the Law but, rather, subject to it.

We feel obligated to turn to you, and encourage you  to act as "the responsible adult" and as the representative of the clear majority of the people who share the same feeling, and ask  you to carefully consider  signing any laws that contradict the modern Jewish, national, democratic character of Israel, enshrined in its  Declaration of Independence. Precisely for that, you were granted the authority to sign laws as a requirement for their going into effect.

With great respect,

On behalf of hundreds of members of the 'Commanders for Israel's Security' movement:

  • Matan Vilnai, Ambassador, Maj. Gen. (res.), former Deputy Chief of Staff
  • Tamir Pardo, former Director of the Mossad
  • Nadav Argaman, former Director of the ISA
  • Shlomo Aharonishky, Commissioner (ret.)
  • Uzi Arad, former National Security Advisor to the PM
  • Ruth Kahanoff, Ambassador, former Deputy Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Ami Ayalon, V. Adm. (res.), former Director of the ISA
  • Amram Mitzna, Maj. Gen. (res.), former Commander of the Central Command
  • Jacob Or, Maj. Gen. (res.), former Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories
  • Danny Yatom, Maj. Gen. (res.), former Head of Mossad
  • Aharon Ze'evi-Farkash, Maj. Gen. (res.), former Head of the Israeli Military Intelligence Directorate
  • Yoram Ben-Zeev, Ambassador, former Deputy Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Amnon Reshef, Maj. Gen. (res.), former Commander of the Armored Forces
  • Nitzan Alon, Maj. Gen. (res.), former Commander of the Central Command
  • David Ben Bashat, V. Adm. (res.), former Navy Commander
  • Danny Rothschild, Maj. Gen. (res.), former Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories


Letter 2 President of the State of Israel

Ignorance-Based Initiatives

The Generals’ Letter

Published in "Haaretz" | 1.1.2023


The various legislative initiatives and other coalition arrangements that underpin Israel’s new government -- above all the so-called “Smotrich Law” -- afford blatantly political actors a chance to interfere in operational security affairs. In practice, these players will now have legal sanction to take action on the West Bank and vis-a-vis the Gaza Strip aimed at reshaping realities in ways that could undermine security and trigger political upheaval and social crises.

These initiatives, oblivious to the complexities of managing security in the territories, reflect a combination of ignorance and lack of professionalism, alongside a religious fervor to annex the West Bank – initially by practical steps, formally at a later stage.  Such developments will inevitably lead to the collapse of the Palestinian Authority, necessitating direct Israeli control over and management of Palestinian life, including health, welfare, sanitation, and infrastructures, in both urban and rural areas. All this will costs us tens of billions of shekels annually.  Hamas and other extremists are no doubt rubbing their hands together in anticipation.

Neither the media nor the general Israeli public have displayed any serious interest in civilian affairs on the West Bank in recent years.  Such matters are erroneously considered marginal, at best, to security issues.  The seemingly technical, administrative decision to appoint a second minister in the defense ministry -- in charge of coordinating government activities in the territories and managing the Civil Administration -- conceals a major change of strategic proportions, one with grave legal, military and international implications. Not only will it impair Israel’s operational military capability, but it will detract from our ability to manage civilian life for Israelis and Palestinian’s alike, including our capacity to ensure security. This, in turn, will produce dysfunction and chaos, because civilian life cannot be sustained absent comprehensive security protections.

This is the true significance of transferring the Civil Administration in the territories – areas under the authority of the minister of defense -- to a second minister within the defense ministry.  In practice, day to day affairs will now be managed via an alternative channel, behind the backs of security officials.

The West Bank is not sovereign Israeli territory.  It is therefore either misleading or irrelevant to compare administrative arrangements there with structures of governance within the State of Israel.  By international law, responsibility for law enforcement on the West Bank lies with OC Central Command.  Due to the complex legal situation on the West Bank, Israeli law applies mainly to Israeli citizens and settlements.  Under existing law, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) and the Civil Administration are authorized by OC Central Command -- who answers to the minister of defense, who in turn represents the government -- to coordinate civilian affairs with each other, with military authorities and -- when necessary -- with Palestinian officials and international representatives.  These Israeli agencies operate out in the field, not from government offices in Jerusalem.  Their areas of responsibility include, among other things, land use planning, employment, water, electricity, infrastructure and communications.

A closer look at how the new law will be implemented by the second minister suggests that enforcement and supervision agencies are now likely to pursue explicitly political agendas rather than working in concert with military authorities.  This will also be the case in matters such as construction in Israeli settlements, the takeover of Palestinian private, public or abandoned lands, building permits for Palestinians, trade between the Palestinian Authority, Israel and the world, communications, and agriculture.  Basically, it will mean de facto annexation.

Hidden from public view, these changes will literally generate strategic chaos.  This, in fact, may be the true motivation of their authors, even if it contradicts stated government policy, or the intentions of the Prime Minster himself.

Israel’s defense minister, who bears overall legal responsibility for what transpires, will either not know, not want to know or will deliberately turn a blind eye.  And this is only part of the story.  An even more dangerous outcome will be the complete splintering of the military chain of command.  The minister of defense, the IDF chief of staff and OC Central Command have always managed, in a coordinated fashion, four key security agencies on the West Bank: the IDF, the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet), the Civil Administration and the Israel Police.  This arrangement has been formulated over the course of many years, in drawing lessons from previous arrangements which saw considerable blood, sweat and tears.  It offers an effective response both to challenges on the macro level and to immediate, tactical requirements.  In the territories, even a seemingly minor tactical operation, such as a home demolition, handling of a traffic accident, or the response to a terror attack, can easily escalate, also becoming international incidents with strategic implications requiring immediate decisions that are conveyed simultaneously to all operational units.

Incompatibility between authority and the division of responsibility will also become manifest if Border Police units operating on the West Bank are placed under the authority of the new minister for national security, further undermining the existing, operational chain of command.  It will create a situation whereby three different government ministers – the minister of defense, the minister in charge of the Civil Administration, and the minister in charge of the Border Police – will all be involved in managing a single event requiring immediate attention, and must somehow find a way to prevent it from escalating out of control.

In practice, this will mean that a process normally managed quickly and efficiently by professionals, far below the level of the defense minister, will now require the intervention of the Prime Minister himself, and possibly a decision of the security cabinet.  This time-consuming process, possibly involving conflicting ministerial interests, could result not only in irreversible changes on the ground, but in the very real potential for a breakdown in security and an outbreak of uncontrolled violence.

The State of Israel is likely to pay a severe price for these developments in terms of blood, social unrest, economic damage, and international isolation.  The general Israeli public, who have no desire to mortgage their own future and that of their children to irresponsible adventurism, will bear the brunt of these policies.

Finally, the chaos that follows in the wake of these changes will rebound against advocates of the new policy themselves, making it harder for the government to implement its own policies. On the strategic level, these changes will pull the rug out from under Israel’s claim that its actions on the West Bank do not represent permanent rule but rather constitute a temporary arrangement, until a final status arrangement comes into force.  This will have a dramatic impact on Israel’s international standing, its economy, diplomatic relations, and on our ability to provide legal defense for settlers, Israeli service personnel, and government decision makers.


  • Maj. Gen. (ret.) Matan Vilnai, former deputy IDF chief of staff, former minister for civil defense, is Chair of CIS.
  • Maj. Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Or, former Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Commander of IDF forces in the West Bank, and Representative of the State Comptroller in Israel’s security services, is a member of CIS.
  • Maj. Gen. (ret.) Danny Yatom, former head of the Mossad and IDF OC Central Command, is a member of CIS.
  • Maj. Gen. (ret.) Amram Mitzna, former OC Central Command, is a member of CIS.
  • Maj. Gen. (ret.) Nitzan Alon, former Head of the IDF Operations Director, former IDF OC Central Command, is a member of CIS.
  • Brig. Gen. (ret.) Dov Sedaka, former Head of the Civil Administration on the West Bank and Gaza, is a member of CIS.
  • Brig. Gen. (ret.) Ilan Paz, former Head of the Civil Administration on the West Bank, is a member of CIS.

CIS: Jerusalem events expose policy illusions, need for change

Rockets on Ashkelon, riots on the Temple Mount and elsewhere in East Jerusalem, violent clashes between Israeli forces and hundreds of young Palestinians and Jewish extremists, protests by Israeli Arab Citizens, young and old - all are evidence of the explosive potential in Jerusalem that threatens stability and security in the city and beyond.

The messages of concern from the Arab world - including countries that have recently normalized relations with Israel - and from the wider world demonstrate the centrality of Jerusalem and the sensitivity to everything that takes place there, and required prudent policy before undermining further Israel's relations - political, economic, and even security - in the region and beyond.

CIS, with its more than 300 members, all veterans of the security agencies at the highest levels, is convinced that Israel has the capability and power necessary to deal with any security challenge. However, recent events reaffirm two old truisms: not every problem has a military solution; wise political conduct can prevent a security escalation.

Against this backdrop, CIS calls on the government to handle the unfolding events with the sensitivity and wisdom befitting a complex city sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians around the world.

CIS welcomes the Israeli High Court of Justice’s wise decision to postpone its deliberation on the Sheikh Jarrah issue, so as not to be exploited by extremists at this high-risk moment. In the same spirit, CIS calls on the Israeli government to act responsibly: To exercise sovereignty by prudent governance, not by tolerance to provocations. To restrain inciters - whoever they may be - and to immediately distance them from friction zones and sensitive locations.

Proper preparation of the Israeli police was indeed essential, but, as was also revealed this morning, it does not have the power to prevent friction, flare-ups, and the exploitation of circumstances to undermine security in the city and beyond. Responsible national leadership should guide the security forces in this spirit, thereby calming spirits and containing the event before it escalates further and claims additional victims.

The series of recent failures in a variety of areas experienced by the state requires a thorough examination of assumptions and patterns of action. As is becoming clear during these hours, this is especially true regarding national security.

The morning after the event, the Israeli government should draw lessons regarding three illusions revealed in full force: 

  • The illusion of relative quiet in Jerusalem, that underpins ignorance as to the explosive relations between Palestinians and Israelis in the city as well as the regional and international sensitivity to what is happening there. A fundamental change in attentiveness and policies is called for regarding the needs of all religions and populations in the city and uncompromising adherence to the Status Quo in its holy sites.
  • The illusion of decoupling the West Bank from the Gaza Strip and from East Jerusalem- as if events in one do not affect the others. Repeatedly, the residents of the ‘Gaza Envelop’ and the entire south have paid the price for this illusion. The formulation of an alternative strategy is called for. One that enlists a potent regional and international coalition for an integrated process of solidifying the Gaza ceasefire, launching an extensive rehabilitation and development plan for its population, and facilitating a gradual return of the Palestinian Authority to its management.
  • The illusion of stability between Israel and the Palestinians throughout the territories. Israel must formulate a comprehensive strategy that meets Israel's security needs while creating a political horizon (even if its implementation is not readily available), improving the quality of life for all who live in Israeli-controlled territories, reducing friction between Israelis and Palestinians, and thus contributing to stability on the ground and the prospects of future separation between the two peoples.

CIS has formulated practical plans for most of the issues whose explosiveness has been exposed. CIS stands ready to provide the experience and expertise of its members, all past senior IDF, Shin Bet (GSS), Mossad and Israel Police officials to the government, defense establishment and to other national agencies in support of the vital effort to formulate an alternative policy on each of these security issues.


For now, all Biden Wants from Israel, Palestinians is Quiet

With domestic and international problems to deal with, the United States has no time to drown itself in our conflict. Its renewed support for the Palestinian Authority has only one goal: to maintain stability.  The resemblance to Israeli interests is remarkable.

Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Gadi Shamni, Dr. Nimrod Novik

April 21, 2021 | Ynet

The recently announced renewal of American support for the Palestinian Authority (PA) is neither a concession nor a goodwill gesture. It is also no mere “anything but Trump” caprice. It is, rather, a measure that aims to balance three considerations: the needs of the PA’s civilian population, US law and the American interest in stability. In any event, it serves Israel’s security.

The needs of the Palestinian society hardly require elaboration, particularly with the economic and other ramifications of the Corona pandemic in a society with a GDP that is barely 5% of Israel’s. As for US law, as befits a properly functioning democracy with separation of powers, assistance to the PA is anchored in congressional legislation.

The third consideration, however, merits elaboration. It is no secret that the Palestinian issue does not top the US policy agenda. President Biden and his senior officials are preoccupied with COVID19 and racial tensions at home concurrent with a multitude of challenges abroad, which begin with China, continue with Russia, Iran and North Korea, and end with the need to rebuild alliances and forge a broad coalition to combat global warming. Consequently, this is not the moment for a conflict-ending effort on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

As a result, the administration’s middle management officials who are entrusted with our ‘file’ are faced with a complex situation, where superiors expect them to keep matters under control so they do not ‘waste’ the President’s, the secretary of state’s or the national security advisor’s time, yet, in the region, Israelis -- accustomed to frequent conversations with, and visits to the White House -- do not view them as empowered to determine policy.

Three guiding principles should underlie effective cooperation between the US, Israel and the Palestinians:  Stop the slide towards an ever-conflicted single state reality west of the Jordan River, measured steps towards separation between Israelis and Palestinians, sustaining—and improving -- conditions for an eventual two-state solution.
The default approach derived from these conditions is to focus on a modest goal and measured steps to its implementation. The goal is stability. In practice this means preventing instability in a field littered with explosive charges. These include the Gaza pressure cooker that threatens to discharge steam; ongoing efforts of Hamas and other terror groups to carry out attacks in and from the West Bank against Israelis; the erosion of the status quo on Temple Mount, and more.

To this troubling menu one must add a further cause for concern: the potential for the erosion of security cooperation between the Palestinian security agencies and the IDF. Here the concern is not necessarily with leadership instructions to terminate coordination, but rather with rank and file refusal to carry out orders.

IDF, Shin Bet (Security Agency) and COGAT (Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories) officials have repeatedly informed the government and Knesset about the contribution of the Palestinian security agencies to Israel’s counterterrorism efforts.  Still, it appears that our leadership is yet to realize that declining motivation on the part of Palestinian servicemen will undermine efforts to foil terror attacks and that Israeli behavior accelerates this process.

Every move on our part that reduces hope for a political settlement of the conflict (however remote), like any mention of a unilateral annexation, exposes Palestinian security personnel to accusations – by family, friends and the general public – that they are traitors and collaborators with the occupation, who serve Israeli interests rather than Palestinian national aspirations.

With that complex setting in mind, the US administration does not demand painful concessions required for a breakthrough towards peace. What it does expect is responsible conduct.  Given that such a behavior serves first and foremost Israel’s security interests, and as current conditions both in Israel and among Palestinians, are not conducive for a negotiated agreement, isn’t this a sound basis for effective cooperation between the next Israeli government and the Biden administration?

Against the backdrop of the explosives-strewn landscape, Israeli policy must aim at stabilizing the situation, strengthening the PA and ensuring effective coordination with its security agencies. Moreover, the Corona crisis has illustrated how important a well-functioning PA is in addressing the needs of millions of Palestinians and highlighted the threat to Israeli and Palestinian lives presented by the erosion of the PA’s ability to function and to coordinate with Israel.

There seems to be an urgent need for a serious discussion inside our government, as well as between it, the U.S. and the Palestinians, to jointly decide on an action plan that while not ignoring political realities on either side, addresses the real and imminent danger of instability and risks to human lives.

Three guiding principles should underlie such an effective cooperation between the US, Israel and the Palestinians: stop the slide towards the ever conflicted single state reality between the Jordan River and the sea; reverse that slide by means of security-based, measured steps towards separation between the two peoples; and sustain -- and improve -- conditions for a future negotiated two-state agreement.

Maj. Gen. (res.) Gadi Shamni is a former IDF OC Central Command, military attaché in the US, and military secretary to Israeli prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert.

Dr. Nimrod Novik, a former policy advisor to Shimon Peres, is a member of the steering committee of Commanders for Israel’s Security, and Israel fellow at the Israel Policy Forum.

Israel Should Support Biden’s Efforts to Revive the Iran Nuclear Deal

Reducing Iran’s breakout time and restoring robust monitoring are the most urgent priorities. A return to the JCPOA can achieve these goals.

BY Tamir Pardo, Matan Vilnai

April 19 |

Reports of damage to Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility and to an Iranian intelligence ship in the Red Sea - whether or not Israel had anything to do with either incident - and Iran’s subsequent announcement that it will increase its uranium enrichment to 60 percent levels, accentuate both the risks associated with Iran’s nuclear and regional ambitions and the urgent need to address them.

On the face of it, the United States and Israel share a similar assessment of the Iranian nuclear threat and regional menace but are also strongly committed to the same goal of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and, in doing so, to prevent other countries from following suit. Neither is so naive to believe that Iran will abandon its military nuclear ambitions or that a nuclear Iran will not lead to further proliferation and instability in the region.

Yet in practice no issue has divided Israeli and U.S. policies and leaders more than the Iran nuclear deal (also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA).

Given this common objective, to avoid the distrust and acrimony between the United States and Israel that accompanied the negotiations and signature of the JCPOA, and—most important - to block Iran’s path to acquiring nuclear weapons, we and other members of Commanders for Israel’s Security (CIS), a nonpartisan movement of more than 300 former leaders of Israel’s security establishment, are convinced that differences in the two governments’ approaches to this common challenge can and should be bridged.

With that in mind, CIS has recommended to the Israeli government that it should support the Biden administration’s two-phase strategy - the first of which focuses on reviving the JCPOA, while the second is aimed at reaching a follow-on “longer and stronger” agreement - and closely cooperate with Washington on the design and execution of both.

The two-phase approach is to begin by bringing both Iran and the United States back into the JCPOA, assuming that Tehran’s recent violations and certain flaws in the implementation of the original agreement (all beginning well before the U.S. withdrawal in 2018) are all addressed.

To recall, the goal of the JCPOA was to ensure that Iran could not acquire fissile material for a nuclear weapon in less than a year - a measure known as breakout time. However, failure to implement core provisions, coupled with Iran’s violations since the U.S. departure from the agreement - including its pursuit of faster-spinning centrifuges and more highly enriched uranium—have brought Iran to within three or four months of possessing weapons-grade fissile material. Concurrently, Iran has accumulated a formidable arsenal of delivery systems for such weapons, which it developed in contravention of a series of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

We have urged Israel’s government to support the United States’ effort to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal and ease related sanctions in return for Iran resuming full compliance with all three sets of obligations presented by the White House in 2015 as the JCPOA package. These include the core provisions of the JCPOA itself, U.N. Security Council resolutions that prohibit development of dual-use weapons delivery systems (including Resolution 2231 of 2015), full compliance with the comprehensive safeguards set by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and (under broadened powers codified in the Additional Protocol) granting IAEA inspectors unfettered access to nuclear sites (without cleansing the sites first), as mandated by Iran’s Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) obligations and reinforced in the JCPOA.

Despite the shortcomings in the deal, no alternative diplomatic platform for dealing with the immediate crisis is available.

A U.S. return to its former status as a party to the JCPOA would restore its ability to determine when sanctions are snapped back, when sanctions relief is warranted in the context of Iran’s compliance, and its ability to affect decisions concerning the efficiency of inspections and reactions to violations when detected.

In addition, a U.S. willingness to return to the JCPOA and ease sanctions should be premised on the ability to ensure the implementation of key clauses in the 2015 nuclear deal that have been dormant, poorly implemented, or evaded by Iran. The most critical among them are those spelled out in Section T of the agreement, which were designed to verify that Iran does not pursue weaponization activity (activity that, as the nuclear archive exposed by the Mossad has shown, Iran had pursued, in violation of the NPT, prior to 2003), conversion of two facilities that Iran has failed to carry out, and collaboration with the IAEA on demonstrating the peaceful nature of its nuclear activity and ratifying the Additional Protocol, which grants the IAEA comprehensive access rights.

Despite the shortcomings in the Iran nuclear deal, no alternative diplomatic platform for dealing with the immediate crisis is available. Still, given Iran’s intentionally drawn-out negotiating style, lifting of sanctions should be linked to Iranian rollback of all violations and restoration of the status quo ante of levels of enrichment, quantities of fissile material, and deployment of centrifuges as specified in the JCPOA. But these would not suffice. The arms moratorium on Iran in the JCPOA already expired last October, other obligations are also due to phase out in coming years, and some steps Iran has undertaken since 2018 (such as its mastery of more advanced centrifuges) cannot be reversed. These shortcomings mandate a two-pronged follow-up strategy.

One component of it, which we deem essential, is the Biden administration’s aim to produce a new, “longer and stronger” agreement and to tackle issues including the Iranian missile program as well as the country’s destabilizing behavior in the region. This effort is likely to be complex and protracted.

Pursuit of these long-term objectives should not be allowed to delay or otherwise jeopardize the immediate goals of reducing Iran’s breakout time and restoring a robust monitoring regime - both of which could be achieved in phase one, through a revived JCPOA.

Matan Vilnai is the chair of Commanders for Israel’s Security and a former deputy chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces and deputy defense minister, as well as Israel’s ambassador to China from 2012 to 2017.

Tamir Pardo is a member of the leadership of Commanders for Israel’s Security and the most recent director of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency from 2011 to 2016.

Al-Monitor: Former Israeli security officials call on Netanyahu to dialogue with US on Iran deal

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said today that Israel will not rely on efforts to return to a nuclear deal with Iran, stating “Israel isn’t pinning its hopes on an agreement with an extremist regime like [Iran]. We already saw what these agreements are worth … with North Korea.”

Still, as Netanyahu was busy formulating the Israeli strategy on the expected resumption of Iran-US negotiations, hundreds of the country’s former generals, spies and defense experts were urging him to back the approach adopted by US President Joe Biden.

The group, known as Commanders for Israel’s Security, called on Netanyahu to support Biden’s approach for returning to the nuclear deal with Iran — but on condition that Iran resumes all its commitments under its 2015 agreement with world powers.

JPOST: Ex-IDF generals, top Mossad officials urge Biden's return to Iran deal

A group of former top officials from Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission, the IDF and the Mossad sent a letter on Monday to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressing support for a US return to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.
Led by former IDF deputy chief of staff Matan Vilnai, Commanders for Israel’s Security said in the letter that it “welcomes the American initiative to get Iran to again transparently follow the guidelines in the JCPOA as long as it includes an Iranian commitment to abide by UN Security Council Resolution 2231” regarding development of ballistic missiles.

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