Key Issues of National Security Facing Israel – Dr Eran Lerman, May 31, 2019
Key Issues of National Security Facing Israel
Dr Eran Lerman
The Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS)
May 31, 2019
As you may know the Jerusalem Institute of Strategy and Security is a relatively new conservative think-tank, some of us came over from the Begin-Sadat Center at Bar-Ilan University others have joined us since we established the Institute. More recently we’ve been joined by the outgoing deputy chief of staff of the IDF general Yair Golan, and we already have among the ranks the former National Security Advisor General Yaakov Amidror, and several others. We felt obliged to put together for what we all assumed, or hoped, would be a newly elected government, an outline of key issues key policy recommendations in the field of national security foreign policy grand strategy.
As you may all know the Prime Minister has failed to put together a working coalition despite what was clearly an election victory on the 9th of April, and as of yesterday we are once again going to an election for the next Knesset, because this one has dispersed itself after this failure and we are scheduled to be to have a new election on September 17, and hopefully by then there will be a new government. But the challenges do not stay put the challenges require response anyway, and so we’ve listed them and put our recommendations in the public domain.
At the core of our concerns the where we felt obliged to make very clear take a very clear position is the sense that the regional situation remains unstable Iran’s plans, and designs and the possibility of a major confrontation, and of major conflict, still looms very large particularly on our northern frontier where the Iranians have full control of Lebanon and share control of Syria with the Russians, and they also have proxies with in the Gaza Strip, and of course elsewhere in the region with the Houthi uprising in Yemen elements of the Iraqi militias and so on.
So, the possibility of conflict requires we believe, a very robust effort by the government of Israel, and in the future the next government, first of all to sustain national cohesion, to limit and control the harm done by very abrasive election campaign, and here’s some of the wounds and keep the people United around the purpose of confronting and prospering against very determined enemies. We also suggest in the years I think I believe that’s the imprint of some of our former senior soldiers, we also suggests that the old spirit of the IDF taking the conflict to enemy territory, once again asserting the importance of maneuver in the battlefield is also part of what we would recommend to the incoming government or to the present government as its considers and reconsider its options.
We put a very strong emphasis on Jerusalem we are a Jerusalem Institute, we believe that Israel’s duty is to keep Jerusalem united functional and govern fairly, and firmly in united Jerusalem not only because of its historic and religious and moral value for the Jewish, people and for Israel as a state but also because of its absolute strategic centrality in in the balance of strategic factors for the future of Israeli security which also calls for sophisticated policy towards the 1/3, more or less, of the population in Greater Jerusalem who are Palestinian Arabs.
We also and I know this is a delicate proposition we also believe that Israel, for the time being, given the very limited prospects of a breakthrough in the peace process if that’s even the proper word we need to focus on effective conflict management with the Palestinians on one hand and we need to extend a welcome to president Trump’s initiative, and to his efforts to change the dynamics to break the logjam to walk away from what I call the EKP, it’s almost as bad as the AKP, the EKP is the initial for “Everybody Knows Paradigm”, the assumption that everybody knows what a Palestinian Israeli permanent status agreement would and should look like there’s one problem with this EKP with this very common wisdom around the world, which is that Israeli politics and Israeli people do not accept some of its basic premises for example the interpretation that a resolution of the conflict requires a withdrawal to more or less than 67 lines that’s not our position, it’s never been our position, this has not been the position of most American administration’s over the years and if the present administration would move the goalposts who change the dynamics that would actually make a future agreement of future solution more likely right now we’ve had very long logjam a very long failure to move forward precisely because of unrealistic expectation. So we need to manage the conflict while extending a welcome to Trump’s initiative we also need to be very careful in managing our relations with elements foreign elements who are now trying to penetrate Jerusalem, and not only Jerusalem with a special emphasis on what the regime of government of Erdoğan, and in Turkey is trying to do to do incite organize push for destabilization of the situation in in Jerusalem, and elsewhere that requires close attention and countermeasures, and this also extends more to stand together with others in the eastern Mediterranean in building up a capacity to contain and to limit the impact of other ones ambitious here we point to the emergence of the Secretariat’s tripartite Secretariat’s the Israeli-Greek Cypriot, the Egyptian-Greek Cypriot add to this the creation of the EMGF, the East Mediterranean Gas Forum, in January this year. These are all very important developments and they are closely related to this question to this challenge posed by the present trajectory of Turkish policy of AKP policies.
Beyond that we look at broader agenda of Israeli foreign policy trying to build new patterns of cooperation with more and more elements in Europe who find it useful and beneficial to work with Israel step carefully in Asia so as not to find ourselves on so to speak on the elephant path between the People’s Republic of China and our close and dear friends in the Indian government and more generally and of course to sustain a relationship with the United States and do under increasingly polarized political conditions in America, to sustain the bipartisan base of support for the Israeli American special relationship, and ultimately to build and I would say to rebuild because a lot of damage was done to the professional capacities of the Israeli Foreign Ministry in recent years for various reasons, that’s that beyond the point here, but we need robust capacity not only to make remarkable breakthroughs in in bilateral and multilateral relations and I think the Prime Minister deserves credit for what happened in this respect over the last few years, but also to follow up in with a wide variety of policies and operational relations with more and more countries in the world which find Israel an important and useful partner this is in in in a nutshell what we a what we are recommending to the government and of course we drill down to details on this whole range of issues.
For me, as you may know the eastern Mediterranean is one of the highest priorities, and I find the developments of the last seven/eight months since the Egyptian-Greek-Cypriot tripartite in Elounda to be of extremely positive and promising nature. Insofar, as we now have the beginning of institutionalization with the Secretariat’s with the EMGF, joint military exercises and more just recently and very sad circumstances major fires in Israel luckily no loss of life and like previous occasions but still quite a lot of damage done and it was very gratifying to see essentially the entire what I call the 3+4, that to say Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinians, I don’t think the Jordanians didn’t manage to send any help, but that they were if everyone else came and participated, so did the Croatians because there is a quadripartite emergency response arrangement or agreement between Israel, Greece, Cyprus, and Croatia countries of the eastern Mediterranean which know what forest fires are like, unfortunately, and so this is another opportunity for Israelis to be reminded of the benefit of eastern Mediterranean integration.