Guest Post: What is Israel’s Grand Strategy?

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Amir Farshad Ebrahimi / Flickr

Amir Farshad Ebrahimi / Flickr

This is a guest note by Edward Delman, content coordinator at AtlanticLIVE, the events division of The Atlantic.

For over three weeks now, the third iteration of the Israeli-Hamas conflict has played out in the bomb shelters of Tel Aviv, in the rubble of Gaza, and on the television screens and Facebook newsfeeds of the world. As of this writing, the 72-hour ceasefire has ended without a long-term deal being reached in Cairo, and limited hostilities have resumed. The apparent lack of an overriding Israeli grand strategy – the primary objective continues to be merely “achieving quiet” and a return to the status quo ante – means that the future remains dangerously uncertain.

What is certain, though, is the extent to which this conflict has forced policymakers and Middle-East watchers to question long-held assumptions. For one, the discovery of an extensive tunnel network between Gaza and Israel, built by Hamas, has severely shaken the credibility of Israeli military intelligence. Even more shocking is a potential link between the tunnels and a terrorist attack that would have devastated southern Israel later this year. Israel’s failure to either recognize or appropriately address this danger casts serious doubt on Israeli capabilities to combat far more existential threats – an Iranian nuclear threat chief among them.

Equally significant is the dramatic shift that has taken place in the alliance structure of the Middle East since the Arab Spring. Saudi Arabia, for instance, has been the Palestinians’ most influential interlocutor since the Mandate period. The combination of the Arab Spring and the potential resurgence of Iran, though, has pushed the Sunni Arab nations into a tacit alliance with Israel. Hence, as noted by The New York Times, the deafening silence from much of the Arab world about the current conflict. Egypt’s inability to play the honest broker and Saudi Arabia’s silence on Israel’s assault are crucial elements in the present conflict’s longevity, and they make the political calculus in the region even more complicated than before.

The past three weeks have prompted longer-term reevaluations as well. In a recent post from this past week, George Friedman of Stratfor argued that Israel is more secure at present than it has ever been. He connects this to the Palestinian conflict by stating, “Israel does not think that it can reach an accommodation with the Palestinians that would guarantee Israeli national security…the Israeli strategy is to maintain its power at a maximum level and use what influence it has to prevent the emergence of new threats.”

If this is truly Israel’s grand strategy, it is a flawed one. Israel is safer than it has ever been, but not due to any action on its own part. As Friedman notes, Israel’s usually hostile neighbors are either in turmoil or are on the defensive against the wave of political Islam that was unleashed in the Arab Spring. These circumstances can, and will, change, though, and Israel will no more have the ability to influence them than it has had over the past seven decades of its existence. Instead, it is imperative that the Israeli government have the wisdom to understand which security conditions are in its control, and have the courage and foresight to act upon that wisdom. I write primarily about two courses of action – a mutual defense treaty with the United States, and the two-state solution.

A U.S.-Israeli mutual defense treaty is a tough sell in both countries. For the United States, it would entail a permanent commitment to defense in a region that it is desperately attempting to retreat from. For Israel, it would mean far less freedom of action and, most likely, the end of U.S. aid. Despite these mutual disadvantages, the benefits of such a treaty – increased coordination, a permanent security guarantee, decreased taxpayer spending on foreign aid – would make the U.S.-Israel security relationship far more sustainable than at present.

An equally tough sell for the Israelis is the long-sought two-state solution. Plenty of idealism surrounds the idea of the two-state solution – so much so, in fact, that a bifurcation has begun to emerge between those who advocate for that course without considering the immense difficulties associated with the implementation of Palestinian sovereignty, and those who disregard the peace process and its resolution as a fool’s errand. However, the necessity of establishing a Palestinian state becomes apparent once one considers the alternatives.

The first alternative is the maintenance of the status quo. As Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has already said himself, that option is untenable. Lieberman also mentions as an option the defeat of Hamas. Regardless of the logistical difficulties of such a feat, which would necessitate a reoccupation of Gaza and vast amounts of blood and treasure on both sides, destroying Hamas would neither address the legitimate grievances of the Palestinian population nor prevent the emergence of an even more radical group to fill the power vacuum.

The third alternative, which I’ve mentioned in previous writings, is the gradual annexation of the West Bank and the Palestinian population and the transformation of Israel into either a binational democratic state or a Jewish non-democratic state. The former would lack the essential Jewish character that is the bedrock of the Zionist dream, and the latter would be the apartheid state that many already, albeit incorrectly, accuse Israel of being. Neither is a future that either Israelis or Palestinians would welcome, barring those on the fringe of society.

A real Israeli grand strategy – one that relies on conditions within Israel’s control and which provides best for Israel’s future security – must rest on the two-state solution. As Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic wrote last week, “…moving the West Bank toward eventual independence…would not only give Palestinians hope, but it would convince Israel’s sometimes-ambivalent friends that it truly seeks peace, and that it treats extremists differently than it treats moderates.” Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and all of Israel’s other enemies derive the majority of their legitimacy from Israel’s continuing unwillingness to constructively work with the Palestinian Authority towards peace. If Israel were able to prove to its neighbors, its international partners, and the Palestinian people that there is a reward for non-violence and a light at the end of the tunnel, it would drastically reduce the effectiveness of Hamas’s narrative and help carve out a more credible platform for itself on the international stage.

In the end, Israel is a small country with few levers of influence. Its greatest strategic assets, apart from its military, are its economically and intellectually vibrant population and its strong relationship with the United States. Israel’s current path puts both assets in danger with the threat of international isolation. Both a U.S.-Israeli mutual defense treaty and a two-state solution present significant short-term risks for Israel, but they also point the way towards a future in which Israel’s strategic assets can be secured, and perhaps even expanded upon. It’s time for Israel to make that future a priority.

Comments

13 comments on “Guest Post: What is Israel’s Grand Strategy?

  1. Campbell Claret says:

    Israel’s grand strategy is to kill all the Arabs, just as Kissinger said.

    Reply

  2. lifturk says:

    Lifturk Firmamız Hakkında
    Kaldırma ve Taşıma Ekipmanları sektöründe hizmet vermek üzere kurulan firmamız, kurucuların meslek ve bilgi alanları nedeniyle ağırlıklı olarak Kaldırma ve Taşıma Ekipmanları, Çelik Halat, Zincir ve Deniz sektöründe siz değerli müşterilerimizin ihtiyaçlarını karşılamak amacıyla Tuzla ve İmes sanayi bölgelerinde kurulmuştur.

    KURULUŞ AMACIMIZ
    Ülke çapında kaldırma ve Taşıma Ekipmanları,Çelik Halat, Zincir ve Deniz sektöründe öncü olmak ve liderliği hergün daha da büyüyen bir organizasyonla sürdürmek, Siz müşterilerimizin ihtiyaçlarını, geniş ürün yelpazesine sahip stoklarımızla karşılamak , Fiyat uygunluğu ve dürüst çalışmayı kendisine ilke edinmiş olan firmamız, bölge bayisi olduğumuz, dünya çapındakendini kanıtlamış markaların sanayinin önde gelen firmaları tarafından tercih edilen üstün nitelikli, kaliteli ve sertifikalı ürünlerini tecrübeli personelimiz ile tarafınıza en hızlı şekilde ulaştırılmasında tüm enerjimiz ile çalışmaktır.
    KALİTE POLİTİKAMIZ
    Kaldırma ve Taşıma Ekipmanları,Çelik Halat, Zincir ve Deniz sektöründe müşterilerimizle uluslararası kabul görmüş standartlarda en iyi hizmeti sunarak lider firma olmak, tüm çalışan- larımızla sürekli kalite kavramını çevreci bir anlayış içinde tatbik etmek şirketimizin politikasıdır. zincirli vinçler

    Reply

  3. Tony Foresta says:

    Israel is eliminating threats. All those who decry Israel’s brutal suppression and domination of the threats born out of the freakshows and perverted beast of jihadist islam miss the glaring reality that all civilized societies face. We either evolve as humanbeings, or we devolve. jihadist islam is de-evolution. It is the return to the barbarian, perverted, mindless, ignorant, misogynistic, goathumping cancer and freakshow of jihadist islam. If these perverts and freaks imagine that civilized societies would ever stoop to the perverted cancerous freakshow of jihadist, wahabi islam, – a global jihadi caliphate, sharia, – they have another thing coming. It’s not going to happen. War is horrible. Innocents die. But until, and unless the perverted freaks of jihadi islam are burnt mercilessly from the face of the earth, – there is no hope in hell for any peace for any civilized society. jihadis are freaks. They are goathumping perverts. Rapists. Mass murderers. Sick, twisted, barbarians, and shaitans, and – every civilized society and nation should work in concert to mercilessly excoriate this malignant cancer from the face of the earth, until there are no more wahabi jihadi freaks walking. Every single wahabi jihadi freak and pervert must be mercilessly excoriated from the face of the earth. If societies look to these freaks as saviors and aid, abet, protect, fund, and cooperate with the freaks and perverts of wahabi jihadi islam, – they will all be targeted and mercilessly eliminated until there are no wahibi jihadi’s left. Burn every single wahabi jihad freak and pervert off the face of the earth. There is no other option, or choice. It’s kill or be killed. Fuck islam if there is any support for these shaitans and perverted goathumping freaks. Alll wahabi jihadit freaks and perverts must be burnt from the face of the earth, without mercy.

    Reply

  4. Tony Foresta says:

    Israel, like any nation’s “grand strategy” is self preservation. In order for Israel to succeed in this universal paradigm of self preservation, – it is necessary, because of the circumstances surrounding it, to contain and eventually exterminate threats. The most obvious threat to the nation of Israel as well as any civilized nation is the malignant cancer of the freaks and primitive barbarian perverts of wahabism, and jihadist islam. These monsters are a cancer, a malignancy, a toxic, putrid, perverted, freakshow threat to any civilized society or nation, and in Israel’s peculiar circumstance, these malignant perverts press upon their immediate borders, and so must be exterminated completely for there to be any hope in hell of self preservation. jihadis – all of them must be burnt from the face of the earth. Just as any cancer or malignant toxic perverted disease must be excoriated from the body of any healthy organism, so must the freakshow and malignancy of jihadist islam be excoriated from the body human and the face of the earth – without mercy, with no moral concern, or judgement, or any hint of trepidation. Every jihadi freak and perverted barbarian must be mercilessly burnt from the face of the earth, along with all those who aid, abet, and fund this cancer, including the bushcrimefamily goodfriends in the House of Saud, and all the wahabi practictioners, proselytizers, and apologists. All jihadis must be mercilessly burnt from the face of the earth until their freakish, perverted, goathumping, barbarian seed is entirely extinguished. Israel is prosecuting this very endeavor in local ways as a “grand strategy” for self preservation. All civilized societies and nations should applaud, support, and conduct the exact same operations until the twisted, freakish, perverted, barbarian, horrorshow of wahabist, jihadi islam is mercilessly excoriated from the face of the earth. There will be no peace for anyone, for any nation, or civilized society until and unless, the freakshow, perversion, barbarism, and rank evil of wahabi, jihadi, islam is burnt from the face of the earth. Other socalled peaceful muslims have a simple choice to make. Side with jihadi’s and suffer the fiery consequences or divide with these goathumping freaks, renounce wahabism and jihadist islam, and join the 21st Century, or be ruthlessly and mercilessly burnt from the face of the earth with their freakshow jihadi spawn. There is no other way forward, and no hope for peace on earth until and unless the freaks, perverts, and goathumping barbarians of wahabi and jihadi islam are burnt from the face of the earth.

    Israel, like any modern nation is far from perfect, and full of flaws, but mercilessly exterminating every single wababi jihadi on the planet is the only and best way forward for any civilized society or nation.

    Reply

  5. Jack bender says:

    The only way …a loose federation,including all territory…both parties run their own affairs..and voters…Israel runs the military…Palestine no military no offensive weapons…mutual cooperation on gas fields taxes and such….settlers stay in place….only famliy allowed in from outside of Palestine….that is the only way to go

    Reply

  6. Jack bender says:

    The best one can hope for is a federation albeit a loose one..the Arabs with their own state..voters and such ..run their own affairs …no arms at all…Israel runs its own affairs…mutual land and taxes..Israel runs the military…there it is

    Reply

  7. ChasMark says:

    Regarding Mr. Delman’s suggested “mutual defense pact” and Israel’s nuclear status:

    Before a mutual defense treaty could even be considered Israel would have to surrender its nuclear weapons; sign on to NPT; open its nuclear — and BCW — facilities to rigorous inspection.

    Further, in 1995 when they agreed to the permanent extension of the NPT, Middle East states (including Iran and Egypt) did so in exchange for the promise that a conference to create of the Middle East a nuclear weapons-free zone, with Israel at the table, would be convened in the very near future.

    That conference has yet to be held.

    Israel has got to de-nuclearize, for the sake of its own security and for the security of the entire region.

    Reply

  8. ChasMark says:

    Delman wrote: “Saudi Arabia, for instance, has been the Palestinians’ most influential interlocutor since the Mandate period. The combination of the Arab Spring and the potential resurgence of Iran, though, has pushed the Sunni Arab nations into a tacit alliance with Israel. ”

    But Bruce Reidel of Brookings Institute wrote in Al Monitor recently:

    “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has assumed a very low profile so far during the third Gaza war, speaking publicly rarely and primarily backing its Egyptian ally behind the scenes. Some have confused this quiet as a tacit entente with Israel against Hamas misreading the Saudi position; the kingdom increasingly regards the Netanyahu government as a criminal state. ”

    Nota bene: “the kingdom increasingly regards the Netanyahu government as a criminal state.”

    not a “tacit ally.”

    Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/ru/originals/2014/08/saudi-arabia-gaza-war-egypt-quiet.html##ixzz39qXCQXhk

    Reply

  9. ChasMark says:

    ” I write primarily about two courses of action: a mutual defense treaty with the United States, and the two-state solution.”

    The United States may NOT commit itself to such an alliance — in fact, the US and Israel are not allies, because the US may not ally with a state that is not a member of Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

    A “mutual defense treaty” between US and Israel is unacceptable for two more reasons:
    1. Israel has never assisted the US when the US was under threat. To the contrary, the US was required to pay Israel, and to provide Patriot missile protection to Israel in Gulf War I in order to keep Israel out of the conflict since its presence would have shattered the coalition.
    With respect to the US invasion of Iraq, on the same day that Netanyahu urged a US Congressional committee to wage that war — Sept 12, 2002 — he also demanded that the US supply “every Israeli citizen with a gas mask” to protect Israeli Jews from possible chemical weapons attack. The US complied w/ Bibi’s request.

    2. Israel is engaged in aggressive and indeed criminal actions against civilians that would make the United States even further in Israel’s crimes against humanity.

    In short, No thank you, Israel.
    The USA does not need your “mutual” defense, we can take care of ourselves; and the USA does not intend to provide military cover for Israeli acts of aggression. You wanna pick a fight, shed your own blood and spend your own treasure.

    The best defense Israel could mount would be to get along with its neighbors rather than provoke and attack them.

    Reply

  10. Chu says:

    Israel’s strategy is to incorporate Gaza Strip and the West Bank into Israel. Gaza is proving too difficult and will expose the Israelis as the war criminals they are and have been since 1948~ and earlier. They aim to eradicate a cluster of refugees in Gaza – those that were expelled from their old Palestinian towns. A great list of massive war crimes, but it’s supported by the USA (the crumbling immoral superpower)- its politicians laden with heavy guilt doses from Jews who say they are the ultimate victims of WWII (70 years ago) and large sums of ‘hush’ money to keep their political futures glowing.

    Ruining the water supply of Gaza, blowing up their main power plant, targeting 6 schools with civilians, is enough proof to take the ‘special ally’ to the criminal court. The death toll in Gaza will surely continue to escalate now that Gazans will be starved, lack medical supplies, have contaminated water, etc. All because the Jewish State wants them gone – their solution seemingly is a slow genocide (putting them on a diet).

    Americans needs to wake up to the reality that they are a messianic cult with delusions of grandeur (their overt racism is undeniable) and clearly need to rally against this domestic scourge called Zionism that funds this depraved cult.

    Will Americans support a racist ethnocracy, funding it for decades to come? You bet they will, unless people stand up to this problem.

    Reply

  11. American says:

    Speaking also as an American I think it is time for all US press, media and public publications like the Atlantic to do less presenting of those like Delman who are speaking in behalf of what they want to see for Israel–and less,even though there is little, of Palestine partisanship also.

    We need non ethnically/religiously/tribally involved American ‘realist’ to dominate the P/I-Isr-USA issue and do what we realist know will have to be done in the end to get any permanent peace resolution—-and that is for outside powers to enforce
    a plan as close to ‘justice’ as possible for Palestine while allowing Israel to continue to exist within the original plan set forth in UN Res 181.
    Any UN 181 alterations or agreements thereafter would have to be mutual between Israel and Palestine and not then decided by outsiders.

    Reply

  12. American says:

    Speaking also as an American I think it is time for all US press, media and public publications like the Atlantic to do less presenting of those like Delman who are speaking in behalf of what they want to see for Israel–and less,even though there is little, of Palestine partisanship also.

    We need non ethnically/religiously/tribally involved American ‘realist’ to dominate the P/I-Isr-USA issue and do what we realist know will have to be done in the end to get any permanent peace resolution—-and that is for outside powers to enforce
    a plan as close to ‘justice’ as possible for Palestine while allowing Israel to continue to exist within the original plan set forth in UN Res 181.

    Reply

  13. American says:

    The Grand ‘Plan’—I would guess in following Israel’s repeated provoke and attack ‘strategy over the years’—is the same as always, the Greater Israel on all Palestine land with so mo genocides to crush any resistence.

    Reply

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