TEL AVIV — Israel’s number two-ranking officer on Thursday* conferred praise on global rivals Russia and the United States with his seeming support of the so-called Obama doctrine and respect for Moscow’s “professionalism” in joint dealings in Syria.
In response to questions after an address at Israel’s Begin Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) deputy chief of staff, alluded to US President Barack Obama when he said Israel should not go to war in all cases against potential threats.
“A potential threat is not a good enough reason to go to war… We shouldn’t rush to use military force,” said Golan, in direct reference to threats from Syria, Hizbollah and Hamas.
He noted that the United States “has started to refrain from use of force in recent years” unless threats are proven to be a real and present danger to national security.
It’s time, he said, that Israel adopts similar thinking.
“So let’s think like this,” he said. “Let’s assess each threat in terms of its power [to pose direct danger to national security].”
Throughout his 36-year military career, Golan said he’s learned, “I don’t like wars.”
The former commander of Israel’s Northern Command responsible for Lebanon and Syria said a country should go to war only if it must. For the time being, he said, “I’m glad we didn’t wage war there [in Syria].”
In Lebanon, he said Israel should “wait and see” how things develop.
“We could go and destroy the entire arsenal of Hizbollah, but I don’t think we should. In this strategic reality, Hizbollah is busy in Syria. It has a few problems in Lebanon. So let’s wait and see how it develops.”
As for Russia, with whom Golan led multiple rounds of coordination talks regarding respective operations in Syria, the Israeli officer said Russian counterparts “were talented and wise… in contrast to their reputation in the movies.”
According to Golan, Israeli and Russian officers managed to conduct “very professional dialogue” in a “good spirit.”
He said bilateral deconfliction mechanisms aimed at preventing possible conflicts “were tested daily” over the skies of Syria.
“We immediately dealt with and resolved problems… They withstood threats in a very impressive way,” he said.
Despite declarations earlier this week by Russian President Vladimir Putin and significant redeployment of air assets and ground assets back to home bases, Golan said he expected a prolonged Russian presence in the region.
“The Russians are here now, even after the declarations of Putin… and I don’t necessarily think it’s to our detriment,” Golan said.
The Israeli officer said there have been and will remain “certain subjects” on which Israel and Russia share common interests. “Once it was the bad Soviet Union that supported the Arabs, but this is not exactly the world we’re in now. It’s a new world, and we need to learn to deal with it.”
He added, “Russia is a strong nation, but this is not necessarily bad.”
As for the IDF’s grand strategy, Golan said it was simple to articulate, but much more challenging to implement: “Our basic mission is to eradicate threats during combat in a way that improves the strategic situation over time.”
According to Golan, the IDF is on par with first-rate militaries in the world, including the United States.
“When I compare us to militaries around the world, the Americans, even though they are impressive, are not better than us. I think we’re getting to very nice achievements relative to the rest of the world.”
* An earlier version incorrectly stated that he spoke on Monday.