One on One with Yossi Kupperwasser


Kuperwasser: The Hizbullah tunnels are a very interesting story. Israel, once again shows its intelligence dominance, its ability to know exactly what’s going on in places where nobody would expect it to know what’s happening. Just like with the trove of documents that comprised the nuclear archive of Iran, bringing them from Tehran. Just like here, finding all these tunnels, already four tunnels that were discovered in the depths of the mountain. It tells everybody that they should take us seriously. We not only exposed the tunnels themselves and deprived Hizbullah and Iran of one of the jewels in their crown in fighting against Israel in the future in the way they planned it, but we also exposed the fact that actually Hizbullah operates under Iranian dictate instead of being committed to its Lebanese identity. Actually, Hizbullah, for the sake of Iran, puts the entirety of Lebanon in danger to serve Iran’s interests.

We should now try to convince the international community to do two things: First of all, condemn Hizbullah and Iran, and Lebanon, for letting this happen, and secondly, designate Hizbullah as a terror organization because until now, with the exception of the United States, and the Arab countries, the Europeans and the UN have not decided to look at Hizbullah as a terror organization. Now, it’s so clear that they are, and all these ideas of separating between the political wing and the military wing – Do you think that a couple of operatives of Hizbullah didn’t have what to do in the evening, so they dug a tunnel into Israel? That’s obviously something that was decided upon in Iran, and executed by Hizbullah, and something has to be done about it, and the international community has to come to grips with it.

Question about PA payments to terrorists.

Kuperwasser: The amount of money the PA spends on paying salaries to terrorists, and for the families of deceased terrorists, is 7 percent of their budget. It’s NIS 1.27 billion, like $335 million a year. About 45 percent of the foreign aid they get goes to pay salaries to terrorists. That’s something that is in total breach of their commitments under the Oslo agreements. They were supposed to fight terrorism. Instead, they incite for terror. As a matter of fact, this is a situation where they actually solicit for terror because they promise this aid in advance. Anybody who goes to carry out an attack knows that he’s going to get this money. We have a lot of testimonies from terrorists who say that was one of our considerations.

The special envoy of the United States government, Jason Greenblatt, actually tweeted, asking the Palestinian Authority, you have to decide whether you want to be a political entity or a terror organization, and as long as you decide that you want to pay the salaries to terrorists, we understand what your decision is.  Mahmoud Abbas repeatedly says, “Even if I have only one penny, I’m going to continue using it to keep paying the salaries to terrorists.”

So finally the United States adopted the Taylor Force Act, and they have stopped paying or giving aid to the Palestinian Authority budget, and Israel has adopted the Stern Law, after the member of Knesset Elazar Stern, that says beginning this coming January, next month, Israel is going to deduct from the money it collects and delivers to the Palestinian Authority one-twelfth of the money that the Palestinians paid to terrorists in 2018. So for the first time, the Palestinians understand that there’s a price for this policy. Now we want to see more people joining in in order to send this message to the Palestinians.

I want to say one word about the importance of this. The entire situation that we are fighting now is about the attempt to convince the Palestinians to change their strange, fraudulent narrative, that paying salaries to terrorists is part of it, this idea that terrorists are heroes. The international community has to join forces in order to convince the Palestinians to change this narrative. The Americans did a big and important step in this direction. Israel is finally doing some steps, but the messages coming from Europe are not helpful. We have to see a change over there, too.

Question: At the recent Qatar forum in Doha, the Iranian foreign minister a-Zarif reportedly bragged about supposedly sidestepping American sanctions.

Kuperwasser: First of all, I think that it’s shameful for the Iranians to brag about that. The real issue is that they are not that successful. That’s the truth. The current sanctions that were re-imposed by the United States over Iran are working, and there are a lot of difficulties. The fact is that a year after this unrest in Iran started, it still goes on. And with the new sanctions, it’s going to be more and more difficult for the Iranians to manage the public, and the public is gradually losing the fear of the government because everybody understands that this regime leads Iran nowhere. So that’s what Zarif should really worry about. Now of course, he is trying to create a different impression, but this impression is wrong. And the truth is that whereas until six months ago, the feeling in Iran was that they may, somehow, manage to keep this arsenal of nuclear weapons, away from the JCPOA, the Iran nuclear deal, now they understand that it’s going to be extremely difficult. Of course, even the coming years are going to be difficult. Right now they are trying to see if this policy is going to last beyond 2020.

Question about the boycott by Airbnb against Israeli clients who live over the Green Line.

Kuperwasser: I think it’s another example of how good intentions may lead you to Hell. I’m sure that Airbnb is not… as they say, they opposed BDS. But what have they done? It’s crazy. They single out Israel and a part of Israel as a victim of their activities. Only Israel and Nazis are sanctioned by Airbnb. That is so crazy, and they don’t understand what is really the purpose of BDS. BDS is against the existence of the State of Israel. That’s what they are trying to do. They try to hide it in nice words, but actually what they mean is to bring the existence of the state of the Jewish people to an end.

About Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser

Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser is Director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center. He was formerly Director General of the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs and head of the Research Division of IDF Military Intelligence.