UMD doctoral candidate gives insight into Israel’s evolving threat landscape during lecture

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By David Jahng
For Mitzpeh
@DavidJahng

Following the Arab Spring revolutions across the Middle East, the State of Israel has been forced to evolve its strategies in defending and responding to threats from all borders.

Moran Stern, a PhD candidate in government and politics at this university, discussed these threats and how Israel is combating them March 14.

“The complexity of the region, the multiplicity of actors, clashing interests […] In order to craft good policy, you need to understand the actors you deal with,” Stern said.

He focused on independent non-state actors, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, political and military organizations that seek to harm Israel.

Hamas is a Palestinian Islamist group founded in 1987 which actively worked to take over Israel in an effort to create one unified Palestinian state until 2017, when it settled for obtaining land in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Stern said.

Ilana Gorod, a member of Terps for Israel, said she knew of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but was not aware of the complexity beyond Israel’s borders.

“Even though they are all mostly Muslim countries, all the leaders have different opinions that spark different interests and movements,” Gorod said.

Iran is committed to the destruction of Israel and has used Hezbollah in a proxy effort to control the Middle East without colonizing it, Stern said. He explained Hezbollah was founded in an Iranian effort to group scattered Lebanese Shi’a militants together.

Iran has forced itself into the Middle East, backing the spread of Shi’a Islam militant groups through Iraq and into Syria and Lebanon, creating what Stern called the “Shi’a Crescent.”

He explained that Iran takes advantage of conflict already occurring on the Syrian and Lebanese-Israel borders to expand its influence the region.  Jordan and Egypt have both been targeted by terror attacks from Hezbollah, Stern said.

Tomer Lagziel, a senior biology major, said he experienced Israel’s conflict first hand while voluntarily serving in the Israel Defense Forces for three years.

“It was very exciting, it was tough physically and mentally,” Lagziel said.  “It was a learning experience in that sense, so it shaped a lot of who I am, definitely matured me significantly in many aspects, prepared me for a lot of different things in life.”

Stern said Israel was forced to take a mobilized approach and drive back hostile militants from its borders.  After gaining control and successfully preventing the transfer of weapons and supplies, Iran has changed its strategy and begun building factories in Syria and Lebanon, he explained.

By creating infrastructure, Iran is beginning to “plant the seeds to sustain warfare,” Stern said.  He stressed Israel’s policy must be focused on the destruction of Iran’s construction.

Stern wanted to share his expertise with students and hoped his engagement would encourage them to inform themselves of conflict in the Middle East by reading the news daily.

The discussion was one of many events Terps for Israel and Michelanu, a pro-Israel campus program, have planned for the semester.

Lee Kirshenboim, co-president of Michelanu, said the goal of this and other events is to spread religious, political and cultural Jewish awareness.

“We wanted to educate people, this is a very cultural event […] that’s opening them to a new set of Jewish outlooks,” Kirshenboim said.

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