Asking for budget increase, IDF general warns of new Iranian threats — report

In recording, operations chief says Tehran could try to attack Israel in same way it hit Saudi Arabia in September, scoffs at insinuation army is ‘fear-mongering’ to get funding

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva during a ceremony in June 2014. (Israel Defense Forces)
Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva during a ceremony in June 2014. (Israel Defense Forces)

An IDF general on Tuesday warned that Iran posed a growing threat to Israel through its forces throughout the region, as he asked Finance Ministry officials for a budget increase to counter this Iranian menace.

“There are Iranian Quds forces in the Golan Heights, and that’s not fear-mongering, they’re there,” the head of IDF Operations, Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva, could be heard saying in the remarks carried by the Kan public broadcaster on Tuesday night.

“All signs indicate that… 2020 has the potential to be an unfavorable year from a security perspective,” the army general said.

Haliva mentioned the attack on Saudi oil facilities in September as an example of what Iranian forces are capable of.

This image provided on Sept. 15, 2019, by the US government and DigitalGlobe and annotated by the source, shows damage to the infrastructure at at Saudi Aramco’s Kuirais oil field in Buqyaq, Saudi Arabia (US government/Digital Globe via AP)

“It was a sophisticated attack that managed to evade both US and Saudi defenses… whoever says that it can’t happen to us isn’t a professional,” he said.

In the September 14 strike, a combination of cruise missiles and attack drones were used in a devastating attack on two of Saudi Arabia’s Aramco petroleum facilities, reportedly cutting the country’s oil output in half.

Haliva made his remarks on Tuesday to the Finance Ministry’s Budget Department.

The general also noted that Iran has expanded its operations against Israel, creating a new front in Iraq and further developing its proxy Hezbollah’s capabilities in Lebanon.

“You need to know how to manage this,” he said. “Our job is to allow [a normal] lifestyle as it is, just like this.”

Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes against Iranian and Iranian-backed forces in Syria and Iraq.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu echoed these concerns later Tuesday.

‏”Iran expands its aggression everywhere. It seeks to envelop Israel. It seeks to threaten Israel. It seeks to destroy Israel,” Netanyahu said at an event in Jerusalem’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

“We fight back,” he added.

The military has been pushing for a budget increase to pay for an expansive and expensive new plan to rejuvenate the IDF, known as Momentum, or Tenufa in Hebrew.

The multi-year plan will see huge investments in developing the IDF’s arsenals, including increasing its collection of mid-sized drones, obtaining large numbers of precision-guided missiles from the United States and purchasing additional air defense batteries.

It’s projected to come with a significant price tag — a plan to provide front-line forces with improved weaponry is, alone, expected to cost hundreds of millions of shekels, according to the IDF — however a budget increase has yet to be approved by the Finance Ministry and cannot be approved until a government is formed.

In recent weeks, Israeli military officials have increasingly warned of a threat posed by Iran, which the IDF believes has been emboldened by a general withdrawal from the Middle East by the United States.

“In the northern and southern arenas the situation is tense and precarious and poised to deteriorate into a conflict despite the fact that our enemies are not interested in war. In light of this, the IDF has been in an accelerated process of preparation,” IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi said last month.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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