Israeli security highs and lows

FROM a security point of view in Israel, there is good news and bad news, senior correspondent on military and intelligence affairs for Yedioth Achronot Ronen Bergman said in Sydney this week.

Bergman was one of two speakers at UIA Women’s Division events, alongside Orit Adato, the first female three-star general in the IDF and first female commissioner of the Israeli Prison Service.

Speaking at the Sebel Pier One, Bergman said the good news was that in the last four to six years, “Israeli intelligence has regained the upper hand” against terrorism in the Middle East.

“After many years where the Islamic radical front had the upper hand, Israel is winning again,” he said.

Bergman cited new techniques in profiling potential suicide bombers and more advanced spy technology as essential factors in having reduced terrorism on Israeli soil, as well as slowing down Iran’s nuclear program.

“They basically recruited the already prosperous Israeli high-tech industry and have rebuilt Israeli intelligence to be high-tech intelligence agencies,” he said.

The bad news, Bergman said, was that, despite Israel’s security successes, “the situation in our neighbourhood in the Middle East continues to be very much unstable”.

“Hamas still controls Gaza, Hezbollah is still the leading political and military force in Lebanon, [in] Syria, [Bashar al] Assad continues to be the president, and last but not least, Iran’s nuclear project … it’s almost with the ability to assemble a first nuclear device,” he said.

Meanwhile, Adato recounted her rise through the IDF ranks and appointment to the Israeli Prison Service. She said at the time – just prior to the second intifada – it felt like “peace was just around the corner”.

“We know what happened really … and within less than three years I had about 4000 terrorists in my prisons,” she said.

“Not mentioning the regular ­system of [Israeli prisoners], so it was [a challenge] balancing the two ­systems.”

Adato also gave a professional insight into the Israeli government’s release of 100 Palestinian prisoners last year to kick-start peace talks.

“These terrorists are old enough, they have been in prisons for between 25 to 30 years … they will not return to terror because either some of them want to have a family, or some of them just to finish their life in a quiet way,” she said.

“They are not really risky for Israel, believe me … unfortunately I had the opportunity to know them all.”

GARETH NARUNSKY

Ronen Bergman