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Current and Future Challenges Facing Israel

(Hamzeh Mustafa Al-Mustafa | )

Results of the studies and discussions of Herzliya Conference, which is held annually, are considered among the pillars on which Israeli decision-making depends. The Conference presents insights as well as strategic and futuristic recommendations over issues related organically and structurally to Israel according to specialists in research and study centers and to participants who have the expertise in the political action from around the world.

Herzliya Conference 2010, which raised the slogan "Security and Invincibility", discussed distinct topics that differed from the previous conferences in terms of characteristics and the studies presented. These topics can be divided to four axes as follows:


First: The American presence in the Middle East (Different Approaches and Scenarios)
Under this slogan, Cmwiil Bachar and Rachel Majtigair have presented a paper containing their vision of the regional repercussions of the five core themes underlying American policy in the Middle East, and they are as follows:
• Iraqi issue: and its effects on the future of Shiite - Sunni relations in the region, and on the future of Iran's influence and the Islamic jihadist ideology.
• Afghani issue : and its repercussions on Pakistan and the potential spread of nuclear weapons.
• Iranian issue and the possibility of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.
• Al Qaeda.
• Peace process between Israel and Arabs.
It is expected that options of American action toward these topics as well as expectations and local views of relevant states over the nature of the American action, would have a far-reaching influence on the local players’ behavior.


Iraq
it’s likely that Washington pulls out its troops from Iraq by the end of 2011, yet it will not be able to disengage from the Iraqi scene as it has interests in energy sources as well as other geostrategic interests. Washington’s decision over the possibility of keeping some of its troops in Iraq after August 2011 will be affected by many developments, including those on the local level, especially related to parliamentary general elections scheduled in March 2011.
It seems now that election results may strengthen the pro-Iran camp, which can create more complexities on disengaging the US from Iraq because the rise of pro-Iran powers would force Washington to woo Tehran in order to ensure its cooperation in its military withdrawal from Iraq. However, such an American convergence may influence the willingness of other parties in the region taking into account Washington will provide to contain Iran's regional ambitions, especially the Iranian nuclear program.

Afghanistan and Pakistan
Obviously, the American involvement in Afghanistan does not affect Kabul alone; it also influences the future of Pakistan as well as the future of stability in Southern Asia in general.
If no additional significant resources were invested in this regard, the US will be unable to strategically defeat Taliban and those who support it or to liquidate al Qaeda’s strongholds in Afghanistan, not to mention the extreme difficulty that will be facing forces or any additional resources in achieving these goals.
Furthermore, the continued US military involvement in Afghanistan with no real solution in vision (especially if the American deaths increase) can change the attitude of the American public opinion of this war especially that it has expanded and reached Pakistan. When Washington had to rely on Pakistan in the war against al-Qaeda, a genuine possibility for Taliban to expand its influence began to emerge. This expansion is to include the geographic level in Waziristan and along the borders with Afghanistan and the institutional level in Pakistani religious institutions and the Pakistani political system.
There is no doubt that such a progress will impact the stability of Pakistan and its willingness to cooperate with the United States.

Iran
Any success or failure in Obama’s administration’s policy towards Iran would affect the position of Washington in the region and other regions as well. If Iran did not cross the nuclear threshold i.e. if it did not possess nuclear weapons, this will mean that Washington’s policy has paid off. The common vision in the region shows the belief that the United States is not interested in a confrontation with Iran because of the need to cooperate with it in finding practical solutions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Therefore, Washington’s pressure on Israel preventing it from any action against Iran that may damage its diplomatic efforts toward Tehran, is further evidence that Washington had accepted Iran’s demand to recognize it as a hegemonic power in the region. Obama’s administration has not reached a decision yet regarding this Iranian issue, and it clearly believes that a nuclear Iran would have devastating effects on U.S. influence on the one hand and on the possibility of creating a competition to acquire nuclear weapons in the region on the other hand.

It seems, however, that Obama’s administration senses the importance of avoiding a military action against Iran at any cost. No doubt, attitudes taken by Russia, China and some European countries are limiting the extent of penalties that could be collectively proposed against Iran, knowing that a procedure as such i.e. limited sanctions will not be enough to change the position of the Iranian regime.


There are increasing indicators that Obama’s administration will be forced to accept a nuclear Iran in the region, while trying to reach an understanding with Iran that ensures it remains in this context.
There is no doubt that Washington's desire to assure countries in the region of expanding the capacity of deterrence if Iran acquires nuclear weapons is another proof of its approval of Iran as a nuclear state. And as America has failed to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear state, it is doubtful that the American assurances to countries in the region could contribute to persuading regional powers not to develop similar nuclear deterrence capabilities.
Anyways, it would be difficult for the United States to provide the necessary military deployment to support the guarantees it made to the countries of the region from the American domestic viewpoint and in terms of the desire of countries in the region to increase its complete reliance on the United States especially with the rise of extremism in the Middle East.


Al Qaida
The US has a little chance of beating Al Qaeda. The American position in the region will be affected by the successful terrorist operations that jihadist movements might carry out against the United States especially those against targets of key importance.
If the US did not face such operations by a massive military response, this will enhance pro-jihadist movements in the region and will threaten the stability of moderate states especially that the conflict with Al Qaida might draw Washington into new battlefields such as Yemen

The Arab – Israeli Peace Process
The American administration perceives the peace process between Israel and Arabs as a tool to win the Arab and Islamic sympathy and compassion. Efforts exerted to reach an agreement between Israelis and Palestinians are one important element on the American agenda in the region, but opportunities to move towards the Syrian track seem to be an alternative to the impasse on the Palestinian track. Notwithstanding, Americans did not present in the current stage a vision of this issue and they are also incapable of finding solutions to the Israeli – Palestinian conflict.

Regional Vision of the United States
Taking into consideration the regional policy taken by the Obama’s administration since it came to office, countries in the Middle East have started to perceive Obama as a mystery. His administration’s policy has began to raise serious questions among Washington's allies about whether his administration would strengthen the traditional American commitment to secure its allies or not. The withdrawal from Iraq, whether in 2010 or after that, started showing the risks of strengthening Iran’s power on the one hand and strengthening al Qaeda on the other hand.

Arab Sunni countries believe that the Iranian growing influence in the Shii government in Iraq is a bad clue; much worse than they expected. Moreover, the Gulf’s growing concern of "the Shiite threat" in Iran would push it to enhance its alliance with Islamic extremist parties on the basis of a joint anti- Shiites program. In such case, the Gulf states will not be able to curb these extremist parties and to restrict their activities in the direction of opposing the Shii and avoiding the action against the "Israeli infidels" who are supported by the West.

The American presence in the region and its support and strategic understanding with Israel must affect the ability of Israeli deterrence against these countries. No one questions the strength of the American military capabilities in the region, but doubts come to the surface with regard to its desire to use these capabilities. Obama’s administration may try to achieve a balance in this scene through the sale of advanced weapons to some Arab countries threatened by Iran. This is what Washington began to do with Saudi Arabia and Egypt and some Gulf states. Therefore, with regard to Israel's interest, it’s believe that strengthening the strategic capabilities of countries who seemingly stand against Iran will negatively affect the Israeli military interest.
Notwithstanding, as these countries sense the danger on their existence, this draw nearer their interests along with Israel’s. However, this will not result in public alliances with Israel, but it can enhance Israel's freedom in taking action against the Iranian threat.


Second: Israel and NATO… Between Partnership and Membership

Shlomo Ben-Ami, the executive chief of the Toledo Centre for Peace has presented a paper in English on the relationship between Israel and NATO suggesting one of the scenarios for the future of Israel. This paper raises many questions because of its strategic importance as a result of its new presentation. The paper can be summarized as follows:
• The NATO has witnessed in recent years significant changes in goals and expansion as a result of abandoning its former defensive strategy during the Cold War, and due to the 9/11/2001 attacks in the United States of America which led to the moving the battlefield and attention from Europe to the Middle East and the Mediterranean, which in turn gave friendly countries of NATO in this region a geopolitical significance.

• These new circumstances forced Israel to restructure its former security doctrine that adopts self-reliance and the freedom of decision-making which posed the following question in Israel: Is it time to rely on NATO through consultation and exchanging views in decision-making so as to protect the national security of Israel?
• Despite the freeze in the peace process, the current cooperation and partnership between NATO and Israel might be a transitional stage that would turn in the near future into membership.
• Anti-terrorism and Islamic extremism are two common areas of focus to NATO, Israel and some Arab countries who suffer a serious shortfall in facing this phenomenon. This promotes bilateral cooperation between NATO and Israel that would help to strengthen Israel's relations with some Arab countries that maintain a partnership with NATO.
• NATO can benefit from the Israeli unique military experience especially that it was the first country to reach an agreement in the ICP through which a continuous dialogue can be conducted along with a strategic alliance in broad areas including counterterrorism, intelligence, nuclear proliferation, arms control and surveillance system in the Mediterranean.
• NATO today is subject to serious discussions over the subject of formulating the strategic concept and determining the nature of its new threats and on the top of which is Iran and the conflict between conservative parties and pro-Western regimes as well as direct effects this might have on the vital interests of the West in the region, in addition to strengthening regional bilateral cooperation between NATO and these states within several frameworks (Eu-Mediterranean Partnership - Istanbul Initiative for Cooperation - Barcelona Process). Thus, Israel's central role in this framework contributes to enhancing the existing partnership with NATO to become a full membership taking into consideration that NATO will face the same dilemma Israel is going through, and the most important of which is fighting Islamic extremism (Hamas - Islamic Jihad -Hezbollah) and the peace process in the Middle East. Therefore, Israel will support the NATO in formulating a peacekeeping force in the framework of any future peace agreement with its neighbors, which will make this force an Israeli force.

Third: Israeli Economy in The Face of Future Challenges
This axis focuses on the areas of power that anti-Israel parties posses that give them the power and influence. The most important of these areas is the Arab oil.

Uzi Landau, the Israeli infrastructure minister, was the first to call for inclosing the Arabs through seizing their oil and stripping them of their economic and political strength when he presented at the International Tenth Herzliya Conference a plan that, as he claimed, would not cost more than a hundred million dollars to take away Arab’ strength by possessing their oil.
Landau believes that the West and Israel should get free from being captivated by oil and from being dependent on it. He has prepared a five-year plan that would liberate the world to a large extent from the Arab oil and deny Arabs the advantages and influence of oil. Landau added: "Israel's persistence to produce 30% of alternatives for oil at the first stage reduces the demand for oil and undermines the concept of being dependent on it.”

Eugene Kandel, Chairman of the National Economic Council in Israel and the Special Adviser of Netanyahu, believes that reducing the demand for Arab oil will decrease the reliance on Arab countries producing oil and therefore, they will lose the interest of the West. He revealed that there is an Israeli and international academic committee that undertakes the task of developing a ten-year road map in which all possible technologies and inventions are invested to reduce the sources of wealth coming from Arab oil exports.
Professor Gal Luft said at the Herzliya conference, " Being dependent on oil, as the majority of it is possessed by Arabs, pose a strategic and fateful threat on the Jewish State, on Jews in the world and on the human civilization". Luft has issued a book with the title "Let us transform Arab’s oil into salt" in which he said: “ China’s foreign policy is determined by its need for Arab oil and when it’s not in need for it, its policy will change”. He called upon Israel's leaders to use all their available technological and political capabilities in order to eliminate an important source of Arabs’ power and political and economic strength which influences international relations in the world i.e. oil.

Other political analysts had warned that the present situation of Arabs and the nature of relations most Arab oil states have with Washington and the West do not pose an immediate and direct threat. But the question is: Who can guarantee that this situation will remain the same with no changes that could threaten the future of Israel on the long-term?

Fourth: Israel's Vision of Itself and Its Regional and International Strategic Status
Discussions at Herzliya Conference, in relation to “ Prospects of Regional Security Status and the Virtual and Leading Situation” have centered on the five following criteria:
1. Concerns of risks.
2. Fighting spirit.
3. National spirit.
5. Optimism.
6. Faith in public institutions: several new indicators were crystallized within the Israeli society and they can be summarized as follows:
1. A clear 18% reduction in the credibility of public institutions.
2. A 10% decrease in trusting the military's ability to achieve a decisive victory. However, this ratio has improved significantly after Operation Lead Cast.
3. A 10%decrease in the perception of the credibility and usefulness of the judicial system and the Supreme Court.
According to many social science researchers: "There is a growing gap between society and the state."
The prevailing impression among the elites and the public opinion is that, unlike the state and political and military figures, the community’s structure is healthy.
The major contrast lies between the rising economy resulting from the growth of individual spirit and competition, and the huge failure in leadership and institutional performance. This decline has began ten years ago and political and military elites were unable to overcome it.

The prevailing opinion in Israel is:
• Israel stands in a paradoxical position.
• The community deserves a better political and military leadership than the present one.
• There is a significant lack in political leadership, coupled with the Department’s poor performance. They say: "if we stay like this, we will lose our faith in ourselves"
The main strategic objectives to get out of the current situation are:
1. Building a strategic balance that is different from the current situation in order to address the situation with Iran and deny it the opportunity to take advantage of the strategic changes.
2. The military and strategic leadership should not be confused by decisions stemming from electoral needs of political leaders. Consequently, a better balance must be achieve so as the authority’s devolution do not damage the administrative and strategic balance of the institution.

Social researchers conclude that the moral essence of the crisis lies in:
• Political Corruption in what they call the “rule of law gang” that must be eliminated completely because it is detrimental to the morale and steadfastness of the public. "
• Lack of morale among the general public.
Some say: "In the early years, the state was physically weak but enjoying a strong spirit, yet the condition now is on the contrary."
They conclude by saying: "There is a crisis in the Israeli democracy, where elected politicians are becoming the main source of pressure against corruption."


Some remarks about the military situation:
There is severe criticism for adopting aviation capabilities and relying on the illusion of crushing the enemy’s capacity from the air without ground interference.
After the War in July, three areas of weakness in the Israeli army were observed:
• Lack of operational experience in the new military administrations.
• The general feeling that Israel is no longer threatened.
• The focus on preparing the Army to work in the occupied territories, which frustrated the army's morale and reduced the efficiency of its fighting capabilities. One important result is the need to separate forces in charge of civil administration and forces responsible for launching military tactical and strategic operations.

After 2006, the main focus was on the following objectives:
• Raising the morale.
• Improving individual and common fitness of the military and preparing them to reach the state of the superior fighter.
• Improving the awareness of the leadership in terms of raising its capacity to identify the vision and objectives and then to translate them into specific tasks.
• Developing the managerial and ordering structure in the direction of making it more flat and consultative in the basis.
• Strengthening the strategic capacity of decision-making process through finding research references and research centers that can absorb the strategic energies of influential workers in the civil sector and among retirees.

System of Government:
A significant improvement was perceived in the level of readiness and logistic capabilities on the civil level as the tasks of the civil defense administration were transferred completely to the civil sector.
According to the majority of Israeli strategists: "The Israeli strategic thinking lives in turmoil, raising the need for a new serious strategy to face a number of risks:
• Suicidal attacks.
• The spread of unconventional weapons.
• Risks of symmetric and asymmetric war.


One researcher said: “A new element must be added to the army’s security theory that consists of three elements namely: deterrence, warning, and then achieving victory, and this new element is readiness which combines fighting spirit and defensive strategy. It also allows the political and military leadership to work according to the fact that self control in itself is a mark of ability and power, and this can be achieved through the following steps:
1. Raising the capabilities of ground forces.
2. Rebuilding Reserve System in terms of infrastructure, training and preparation.
3. Ensuring the military's ability to respond to three levels of challenges:
a) Ongoing security challenges in the occupied territories.
b) Defense challenges with its closest neighbors (Lebanon and Syria).
c) Regional and international strategic challenges.
4. The urgent need to improve human intelligence at the operational level and at all levels, from leadership to field action.
5. Assigning special intelligence capabilities to combat guerilla forces (asymmetric war).
6. Raising the capacity of leadership and field commanders on the ground to move from limited operations to widespread war with a strong focus on ground operations.
7. Directing more investments towards the civil resistance.

Needed steps with regard to community:
1. Launching a campaign against corruption and the high prices of real estate, which constitute the main obstacles to the restoration of economy.
2. Improving education in terms of reaching the so-called "perfection in providing opportunities for all students, from the preparatory stage”.
3. Promoting small, medium and individual business.
4. It is clear that the prevailing belief in Israel is that Iran is a key link in the so-called tough security risks, and that all risks are derived from this one.

Changes in Israel’s concept of risks

- Development in methods of asymmetric warfare.
- The growing religious extremism.
- Morale rise in non-state players.
- The decline in moral deterrence against adversaries.

With regard to Syria, Israel has three possibilities:
1. An imminent war aimed at ending its alliance with Iran, its support for non-state organizations (Hezbollah and Hamas), and its interfering in Lebanon.
2. A Peace process, where Syria plays her above mentioned cards.
3. If Israel was forced to postpone the war with Syria, the inevitable war would be quite expensive because Syria would be ready to this option after learning the lessons from Israel’s recent war with Lebanon.

Anyways, this situation with Syria must end in a period ranging from 1 year to a maximum of 3 years.

Assessment:
After the war in July 2006, Winograd report has blamed the political parties and not the military ones for not achieving the assigned objectives. At the same time, one of the main recommendations in the report was to rebuild the Israeli army, which began as Gabi Ashkenazi became Chief of Staff in the Israeli army. He focused on the land side by re-training the army on the basis that risks facing the IDF are the tactics of the "Asymmetric war ". On this basis, the IDF was rebuild according to the following:
• Training on weapons that fit this kind of war.
• Concentrating on achieving victory on the ground and not only in the air which was expressed by Gabi Ashkenazi as he said (we will not rely on F16, but we will rely on M16).
• Rearranging the military structure of forces that will be deployed in this war, and in particular, " tanks " by providing them with new armor the most important of which is air bag.
• Create a situation of complementarity between ground and air forces so that ground forces could carry out its assigned operations successfully.
• Re-building a new missile defense system "Iron Dome"
However, during the aggression on Gaza early in the last year, the problem of ground confrontation has continued which emphasizes that the Israeli army is still raw and incapable of changing its earlier warfare strategies. This was due to the fact that Israel's superiority in all former wars was because of their technical development and specially in air force. Consequently, despite the previous recommendations of the Winograd Report, Israelis will not go far in the direction of infantry war, and if they decide to proceed with this option, they will lose three privileges: technology development, opponent’s beliefs, and human factor.
Israel is also going through a crisis in taking political decisions regarding military operations, and this was clearly manifested in the conflict between Olmert and Barak during the war on Gaza. Such a decision, moreover, was mostly taken in the recent period for electoral purposes. This is why Olmert chose to expand the time limit of his war against Gaza as he realized that it will negatively influence his electoral status to the interest of his rival Ehud Barak, the Defense Minister, in the last Knesset elections that took place in 2009.

Thus, the objective of the Gaza war, which was to break the "weak" backbone of Hamas, made the political cost of such a target a very high cost that they cannot easily claim achieving victory. Consequently, Israel will continue its military strategy; that is "to achieve a quick victory," which is still considered one of the most important weaknesses in the Israeli army, especially with the growing capabilities of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Syria. This was very clear during the war in July 2006 against Lebanon and Gaza. Israel’s strategy did not succeed in painfully hitting the "grass-roots " of resistance in order to cause a negative reaction that could help in achieving a quick victory. Also, with regard to other parties hostile to Israel, who do not support asymmetric war, it’s not possible to achieve a quick success as they have developed deterrence capacities that would enable them to endure the first military strike and respond with a painful deterring military strike. Therefore, the Israeli army still lacks the compass in its fighting strategy, and this is why Israel will deeply consider possibilities of failure and success when starting a second round of action.

Military action is normally affected by political vision; when this vision is clear, the military action would have a greater chance to succeed. During the war against Gaza, Israel's political vision (the objective) regarding getting rid of Hamas was not clear enough. This was combined with misjudgments and miscalculations to the situation, and this resulted in a military action that was not capable of achieving its vision within this framework. However, other political objectives, that were used as alternatives to the primary goal, were achieved. With the absence of an Israeli victory in Gaza, the political aim has retired from "getting rid of Hamas" to turning Hamas into an authority similar to that of President Abbas, and this is the same scenario that Israel resorted to after the war in July i.e. neutralizing Hezbollah. In both cases, Israel has achieved a political success after the cease fire. After the end of the aggression on Gaza, Hamas has become more restricted with respect to firing rockets toward Israeli settlements, which made the Israelis believe that 2009 was the most secure year to Israel. This calm atmosphere is what actually made Israel continue expanding settlements and spreading out its influence on areas in the West Bank in order to create a state of regional hostility against Gaza Strip. In July 2006, the Resolution 1701, which took Hezbollah’s threat 40 km away, is considered one of the landmarks of the Israeli "political victory" as it removed Hezbollah’s freedom regarding actions directed against Israel in order to embarrass it in front of its audience.

Thus, the basic problem in Israel lies in military institution which is turning into a political crisis. However, one issue that should be highlighted is the fact that if the situation continues as it is, it would be a comfortable situation for Israel especially that Hezbollah is now incapable of doing anything from the Lebanese front, Hamas is not capable of confronting Israel in Gaza Strip with Egypt in the scene, and Israel continues to expand settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

This tactical situation is now in the interest of Israel, yet in the strategic framework it will be for the good of anti-Israel forces on both medium and long terms. A new regional system will take shape in contrast with the Israeli wish, and the main pillars of this new system are Turkey and Iran who are starting to take their roles as delegated states aspiring for a strategic role in the region. Thus, any extra roles given to these emerging powers in the region, will be at the expense of Israel who will lose its own especially that it is now lost with no compass to help it out.
This has pushed Israel to think of new geopolitical circles such as NATO, India, and China in order to activate its role in contrast to its previous orientation limiting itself in the Middle East.

Notes and Conclusions:

• Israel believes that its functional role is declining; therefore, it wants to go back into the regional game by redefining its position in it.
• The crisis of Israeli deterrence is still hanging unsolved.
• Israel has started to adopt a complex and multi-directional policy to cope with the multi-polar world.
• New facts in Israel have created a state of recovery by focusing on the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his ability to pressure the United States.

• Oil crisis will be back, and oil prices will shortly rise due to the global increasing demand. China, for example, is increasingly consuming oil reaching one million barrels every 6 to 8 months. Humanity has reached the top of oil production in 1979, and therefore the share of each individual in the world of oil is shrinking. Moreover, alternative energy does not meet the needs of the individual especially that it will constitute 12% of energy resources within the next 32 years. Thus, oil crisis is essential to Israel, and Israeli talk of oil is only to raise the morale.
• On the short term, circumstances are going for the good of Israel, yet on the long term and taking into consideration the new regional system, Israel will not be in a favored status.
• Arabs’ weakness exceeds Israel’s strength.

Visitors Comments          Number of Comments (1)
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tfrju
jtfrt            3/14/2013 6:40:40 PM
thanks
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