This study’s purpose was not to document History but rather to evaluate policy. I examined various episodes in Israel’s History – principally the major Wars in which it was involved – as well as long-term policy issues – such as the limited use of Force, Nuclear Policy, Peace diplomacy, and covert interventions. Several common findings emerge from this investigation. The following section outlines the most significant ones. The last section draws some policy recommendations on the basis of these findings. These findings and recommendations serve as a basis for the outline of some future scenarios in chapter 14.
2. Principal findings
i) Several of the principal assumptions on which Israel’s national Security doctrine was built are based on flawed empirical foundations. Despite the fundamental flaws in these assumptions the Security and Foreign Policy elite in Israel never revised the basic building blocks of its doctrines.
Israel’s Security and Foreign Policy has rested since its inception on the premise that it was under a constant and severe existential threat: that the Arab States and the Palestinians were bent on the destruction of the Jewish State. The perceived severity and magnitude of this threat were due to two fundamental sets of evidence. Arab Rhetoric indicated the intent to carry out this threat. It suggested – as Harkabi (1972) points out – the totalism of the Arab aims. The material and human asymmetry between Israel and the Arab world indicated that the Arabs had the potential capabilities for annihilating the State of Israel.
This threat perception was shared by Israeli practitioners and by many scholars who studied Israel’s Politics and Society in general and its Security and Foreign Policy in particular. There is no question that this was and to some extent still is a genuine perception at both the elite and mass levels. (1) But what is the validity of these perceptions?
Because this book is not about Arab intentions and policies, we cannot go into a detailed analysis of the extent to which Israel’s threat perception matched the actual intentions and policies of the Arab States and of the Palestinians. I did discuss previously, however, three important aspects of Arab intentions and policies. First, the analysis of official and unofficial writings and speeches of Arab leaders, opinion makers, and others suggest very clearly that Arab Rhetoric was extremely hostile and still tends to be so. It was and still is considerably anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic. So there is more than a grain of truth to the Israeli threat perception. Yet, from the late 1960s on, there has been an increasing trend in Arab Rhetoric that suggests a willingness to accept the State of Israel and to live in Peace with it. There has also been a growing wave of self-criticism in parts of the Arab world and among the Palestinians regarding the adverse effects that the Arab-Israeli conflict has has on the Arab world. This trend, which for the lack of a better term I will label “Arab Liberalisme,” is more than offset by the growing Radicalisme among Islamic groups that is both anti-Western and anti-Semitic. But Arab Liberalisme is a new trend; the link of Arab-Israeli Peace to progress and Democracy in the Arab world is a new brand of Liberalisme, one that did not exist before. (2)
Second, there is a huge gap between the hostility to Israel in Arab Rhetoric and the actual efforts invested in fighting it. In fact, for a long time there may well have been an inverse correlation between Rhetoric and effort in the Arab-Israeli conflict: those States and groups that made the most noise did the least action. Moreover, the States that suffered the most casualties in the conflict were – for the most part – the first to engage in de facto or de jure Peace with Israel. And given the stability of the Egyptian-Israeli and Jordanian-Israeli Peace agreements, and even the Syrian-Israeli disengagement agreement in the Golan Height, it is fair to say that the existential threat from the immediate circle of enemies was remouved to a considerable degree.
Third, at no time – including during the 1948 War of Independence – did the Arab world invest in the kind of human and material resources that would have been required to carry out a military or economic campaign capable of bringing about the destruction of Israel. Only a very small proportion of the population in the Arab States serves in the armed Forces. Only a relatively small proportion of the GDP in most Arab States goes to military expenditures. Moreover, most of the States in the region – even those that had suffered greatly from Israeli military actions and the Occupation of their territories – did not engage in developing WMDs that would allow them to destroy Israel. As we saw in Chapter 8, most programs aimed at developing WMDs and delivery systems in the Arab world emerged largely in response to Israel’s Nuclear Policy. In each and every War – including the 1948 War of Independence – Israel enjoyed an overwhelming superiority in terms of both quantitative and qualitative capabilities to the Arab Forces that actually confronted it. Israel was never the David in this conflict, and the Arab never played the role of Goliath. As we shall see in chapter 13, the qualitative and quantitative edge that Israel enjoys over any plausible Arab coalition is substantial and is widening as time goes by.
As we saw in chapter 8, the notion of an all-encompassing Arab coalition was always a myth rather than an empirical Reality. Even when there seemed to be an Arab effort to pool resources in order to attack Israel – in 1948, in 1967, and in 1973 – the instances of deceit and the failure to fulfill actual pledges by various Arab States to others were far more numerous and far more severe than the cases of mutual help and joint efforts by several Arab States dedicated to the purpose of fighting Israel. The Palestinian issue may have captured much of that Arab Rhetoric. But the actual effort that the Arab States invested in defending and supporting the Palestinians or in actually helping them realise their dreams (whatever these may have been) was minimal. Both in Peace and in War, the Arab States were far more likely to betray and deceive each other than to act in concert.
Another foundational assumption of Israel’s Security Policy was the debilitating constraints of Israel’s geographic features on its war-fighting strategy. The upshot – which applied to a large extent to Israel’s Geography prior to 1967 – was that Israel could not afford to fight defensive Wars due to its small size and narrow “waist.” This idea was an important incentive for the “second round” Rhetoric in the early 1950s, for the Sinai Campaign, and for the preemptive strike in 1967. While this axiom had some plausibility in the 1950s and 1960s, it certainly was not true after 1967. The opposite assumption shared by many Israeli strategists after the Six Day War – that territorial depth would give Israel strategic breathing space – also does not hold water. First, the War of Attrition and the Yom Kippur War suggest that the territories were not much help; in many ways they became a trap. Second, Technology – especially Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA)-related Technologies such as precision-guided munitions (PGMs) – enables a defensive strategy that is capable of stopping large enemy formations much before they reach the battlefield. Third, contrary to Israeli strategic thinking, the possession of territories damaged Israeli conventional deterrence because it increased Arab motivation to challenge it (Maoz 1990b, 90-96) and because it imposed constraints on Israel’s ability to use offensive Force in a preemptive manner, as evidenced by the Israeli decision to refrain frmo a preemptive strike on 06 October 1973. Finally, Israel’s Geography may well be a diplomatic asset. It legitimises the demand for Security arrangements in the context of Peace agreements, such as the demilitarisation of border areas, international buffer Forces, and reduced Force zones in adjacent areas. These Security arrangements not only increase Israel’s Security – possibly more than territorial depth and so-called defensible borders – but also serve as confidence and Security building measures (CSBMs), which reduce the risk of inadvertent War. And as we have seen in the study of the origins of the Six Day War, inadvertent Wars can happen.
It is particularly important to examine the “Iron Wall” axiom. Jabotinsky’s conception of an Iron Wall – a Spartan State living on its sword – that would ultimately convince the Arabs to make Peace became an implicit foundation of Israel’s Security conception. Did Israeli Security benefit from following this Logic? This study argues that it did not. On the contrary, Israel’s success in fighting Wars did not result in a greater degree of acceptance by its enemies. Its greatest military victory only served to increase Arab motivation to fight. Rather, it was only when Israel’s leaders reached the conclusion that the sword cannot “devour forever” – to use Dayan’s phrase – and realised the need for concessions that Israel got its Peace. Technological and military superiority did not save Israeli Society from paying a high price due to Palestinian Terrorism and Hizballah guerilla Warfare. It was only its unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon that cut its losses in that unfortunate War (also driven by the Iron Wall conception). And it may well be that its decision to build a wall around the West Bank and Gaza – which is an actual admission of defeat of military strategy in the Al Aqsa Intifada – will serve to cut down on its casualties in this unfortunate and prolonged fiasco.
Because many of the basic axioms of Israel’s Security conception appear to be flawed, quite a few of the principles of Israel’s strategic doctrine discussed in chapter 1 are in need of revision. This need stems both from discrepancies between the abstract principles and their practical implementation and from basic problems with the principles themselves. I discuss briefly how the major principles of Israel’s Security doctrine match with the findings of the present study.
ii) Quite a few of the basic principles of Israel’s Security doctrine either have not been applied in accordance with the doctrine or have not been adhered to at all. Consequently, it is imperative to reassess these principles and to revise at least some of them.
I review here very briefly each of the basic principles of Israel’s Security doctrine, discuss their inherent theoretical problems of the problems related to their application, and suggest ways in which they should be reassessed and revised.
a) The principle of qualitative edge.
This principle was and remains one of the few valid principles of Israel’s Security doctrine. It accounted to a large extent for Israel’s overwhelming military superiority since 1948. At the same time, the qualitative technological and human superiority has its limits and sometimes (e.g., in the Yom Kippur War) was also a source of complacency and entrapment. Israel’s qualitative edge was not an important factor in its LIC-related performance and in its struggle against Terrorism. Israel needs to increase the weight of motivation and resolve in the assessment of qualitative components of military Power. Qualitative technological superiority cannot be deployed to compensate for low morale and Wars of choice.
b) A nation at arms.
This principle was followed rather closely by the architects of Israel’s Security Policy over its entire History. As we will see in chapter 13, it had some important benefits in terms of nation-building processes. Yet, as I have pointed out in several places throughout the book, the mobilisation of Israeli Society carried a heavy cost. It served to prevent real treatment of some fundamental social problems in Israeli Society. And over the long run, it had an indirect effect on Israel’s economic, technological, and social performance relative to the Western industrialised world, which serves as Israel’s reference group in these areas. Some observers of Israel’s Security have advocated (e.g., Shelah 2003; S. Cohen 2003) a consideration of a new mobilisation scheme – a professional standing Army and a ready reserve system that is mobilised on a regular basis only for training purposes and is activated in acute emergencies. These observers also recommend a general conscription system, which includes the ultra-orthodox religious and the Israeli-Arab communities, in addition to people who have physical liabilities that exclude them from military service. The idea is that those who are not drafted into military service can engage in social projects (e.g., social and community work). These ideas merit close consideration, given that the IDF was never a melting pot of Israelis but rather served a significant factor enhancing and sustaining social stratification and increasing rather than reducing social and economic inequalities.
c) The principle of strategic defensive and operational offensive.
This principle was nice in theory but was not applied in any systematic manner. In practice – as we saw in parts II-IV of the book – Israel was not really a status quo State. Almost from its inception it sought to alter the territorial, political, and strategic environment in which it lived. We have not discussed the War of Independence but during the period of November 1947-January 1949, Israel acted to create a fait accompli that would alter fundamentally the very same partition resolution it had accepted. (3) It initiated two aggressive Wars that were designed to change the political structure of its region through regime change. It engaged in multiple covert ventures designed to affect domestic political processes in Arab States and the Palestinians. And it relied on escalation dominance strategies both in its LIC-related Warfare and in its high-intensity Wars. Paradoxically, the only area where Israel was strategically defensive was its Peace diplomacy. In this field it seldom launched Peace initiatives, generally displaying risk-averse behaviour. This principle requires fundamental reassessment not only due to its weak empirical foundations but also due to its questionable strategic value.
d) Short wars aimed at quick military decision.
This is a nice principle in theory, except that it does not work in practice. Israel can determine sometimes when a War will start, especially if it is the initiator of this War. It can almost never determine, however, when a War will end. Even when it reaches a conventional military decision, the adversary can shift to a different strategy. The only War in which this principle seems to apply was the Sinai War. The quick victory in the Six Day War soon turned into the three-year War of Attrition. In the Yom Kippur War, after Henry Kissinger talked Israeli decision makers out of a cease-fire in place, Israel actually sought to prolong the War in order to complete its military operations against the Egyptians and Syrians. The Lebanon War illustrates more than any other case the inapplicability of the short War principle. The Al Aqsa Intifada corroborates this finding. In fact, Israeli Society has shown a surprising degree of resilience and staying Power even when the Wars were not consensual and even when they were seen by most of the public as “Wars of choice.” Israel’s strategic History suggests, as a matter of fact, an entirely different principle: the wider the territorial margins of Israel, the higher the need to fight long Wars.
e) Major power support for war.
Israel has generally adhered to this principle, but its operational interpretation in specific cases has been rather loose. In the Sinai War, this entailed a contractual treaty with two declining colonial powers, but Israel failed to secure the support of the United States, and this turned out to be a crucial flaw in the plan. In the Six Day War Israel worked hard at obtaining U.S. support for a first strike, but all it got was some vague statement. Nevertheless, this consultation prouved useful because the United States ended up backing up Israel’s actions. In the War of Attrition Israel escalated despite U.S. reservations and had to reluctantly accept the American-initiated cease-fire proposal. In 1973, U.S. opposition to a preemptive strike served to kill this option. This prouved to be a crucial decision, as it was instrumental in securing U.S. diplomatic and military support during the War and immediately following it (to the point of a declaration of a nuclear alert by the United States on 23-24 October). In Lebanon Israel again invested a great deal of effort in attempting to secure U.S. support and got some equivocal statement. However, during the War it acted in total defiance of American demands. Surprisingly, it was not punished for this. In the Gulf War of 1991, American opposition to an Israeli strike on Iraq was the principal factor that determined Israeli restraint. And Israel benefited from this in the long run. During the Al Aqsa Intifada, the relations between the two States fluctuated between tension and close cooperation. In general, however, both States saw eye to eye on most political and military issues, and Israel did make an effort to coordinate with the United States the principal moves. Of all the basic principles of Israel’s Security doctrine, this was by far the most useful and beneficial one.
f) Autonomy of action before alliance.
The principle is difficult to evaluate because Reality forced Israel to adhere to it; it did not have much of an option. Israel was never offered a long-term defence alliance with anybody. At best it engaged in secret collaboration (e.g., the Sinai War) or in less than full-fledged strategic collaboration (e.g., the Memorandum of Agreement [MOA] with the United States since 1981). In the few instances where Israel acted autonomously and in defiance of friends of allies, the diplomatic results were mixed. In some areas, however, Israel may consider rethinking this principle. This may apply to Israel’s future reliance on nuclear weapons for security instead of a binding defence pact.
g) Cumulative deterrence.
The performance Israel’s cumulative deterrence concept is mixed at best. Almog (2004, 1995), Bar Joseph (1998), and Lieberman (1995) may be correct in arguiing that cumulative deterrence was effective in reducing Arab propensity to attack Israel. Cumulative deterrence may have even played a role in bringing the Arab States to the negotiation table. That said, however, cumulative deterrence did not free Israel from the need to make territorial concessions to ensure Peace. Nor was it effective against guerrilla and terrorist attacks. When Israel relied exclusively on cumulative deterrence, it ended up engaging in additional Wars and conflicts. It was only when its deterrence policy was supplemented by political flexibility that deterrence had its maximal effect.
h) The Samson Option.
This principle was followed closely by Israeli decision makers starting in the early 1960s, and the policy remained largely unchanged. As I argued in chapter 8, this policy brought more harm than good. I elaborate on this later, but the implication is that Israel would be better off reconsidering the substitution of nuclear deterrence by regional Security structures that entail WMD disarmament.
i) Settlements determine borders.
Israel followed this policy consistently and systematically. But this policy did not do much good. Israel had to dismantle its settlements in the Rafah area following the Camp David Accords of 1978; it had to give up Taba following the international arbitration of 1985. In both cases it benefited from doing so. Moreover, the intention of Ariel Sharon, the architect of Israel’s settlement policy since the late 1970s, to dismantle the Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip suggests that it is Politics and diplomacy that determined and will continue to determine Israel’s final boundaries, not its settlement policy. There is one thing to be said, however, for this principle. The Palestinian acceptance at Camp David in 2000 and in Taba in 2001 of the principle that Israel would annex its blocs of Jewish settlements in the West Bank does support this principle to a limited extent. Whether this acceptance is translated into a viable political agreement between Israel and the Palestinians and whether this agreement would hold remain to be seen.
Many of these arguments about the validity and adaptiveness of the basic tenets of Israel’s Security doctrine and its Foreign Policy posture will be elaborated upon in the following findings. I turn now to more general points that emerge from the analysis in the various chapters of the book.
iii) Israel’s approach to the use of Force was risk acceptant and trigger happy. Most of Israel’s wars were either due to its aggressive designs, due to miscalculations in conflict management strategies, or avoidable. Its limited Force strategies were largely ineffective.
The notion that Israel’s Wars were Wars of self-defence and that its limited military actions were primarily “retaliatory” in nature rests on shaky foundations. Many Israeli politicians and institutional historians have tried to sell the world and the Israeli public for decades the conception that Israel’s military actions were primarily actions of self-defence. Some Israeli strategists have supported this notion by arguing that Israeli strategic posture was politically defensive (i.e., status quo oriented) but militarily offensive (e.g., Yaniv 1987a, 1995; Tal 2000; Levite 1989). The second part of this observation is generally true; the first part is not. The central conclusion of the first part of this book is that most of Israel’s Wars were the result of deliberate aggressive designs or flawed conflict management strategies. At least one War (the Yom Kippur War) could have been avoided by judicious diplomacy. Israel’s War Experience is a story of folly, recklessness, and self-made traps. None of the Wars – with the possible exception of the 1948 War of Independence – was what Israelis call Milhemet Ein Brerah (“War of necessity”). They were all Wars of choice of Wars of folly.
Israel has often used LIC as a vehicle for escalating its conflict with the Arab States, thus paving the way for major military showdowns. The distinguishing feature of Israel’s limited Force strategy (as well as its strategy of high-intensity conflict) has been escalation dominance. Even when the chief objective of the limited military actions was to avoid escalation, the escalation dominance principle dominated military action. The Logic of escalation dominance got Israel into significant trouble in the mid-1960s, causing a slippery slope that led to the Six Day War. In the same vein, the policy of assassinations during the Al Aqsa Intifada provoked escalation of violence and led to the Israeli reOccupation of the West Bank and repeated incursions into the Gaza Strip.
On the whole, Israeli approach to the use of Force was risk acceptant. Israel’s decision makers tended to overwhelmingly and systematically rely on the use of Force as a favourite solution to both military and political challenges. This Culture of trigger happiness characterised all of Israel’s Governments, regardless of period and of the person or party in Power. The effectiveness of this tool has been limited at best (Bar Joseph 2004, 149-52). None of Israel’s major military encounters – those in which it won overwhelmingly, those in which its victory was a pyrrhic one (e.g., the Yom Kippur War), or those in which it lost (e.g., the Lebanon War and the Al Aqsa Intifada) – led to a political outcome that made Israel more secure than it had been before their outbreak. Israel’s limited use of Force strategies – by and large – prouved ineffective, and some of them even backfired to produce unwanted outcomes. Israel’s national Security was improuved not by the use of Force but by the willingness to give diplomacy a chance as a substitute for the use of military strategies.
iv) Israel’s Nuclear Policy did not accomplish any of its direct goals or the positive side effects attributed to it by Israeli strategists. On the contrary, the policy had significant adverse side effects. It was instrumental in fomenting a nonconventional arms race in the region, and it created an antidemocratic regime of secrecy and deceit lacking any significant civilian oversight.
Israel’s Nuclear Policy – both its nuclear weapons program and its policy of ambiguity – is considered by many to be the pinnacle of success of Israel’s national Security Policy. Zeev Schiff, the renowed Israeli military commentator, sums up some of the key points in the following argument (2001, 247):
If I had to recommend someone for the Israel Award [the most prestigious award in Israel] for Security conception, I would have awared it to whoever invented ... the conception of Nuclear ambiguity. Since we have considerable Experience extending over decades that indicates clearly the success of this conception and that it had a positive effect on our enemies. And it was effective from a deterrence perspective, and it prouved effective in terms of our relations with the United States, the administration, the Congress, and American public opinion. And I will also add that it also had a positive effect on the IDF, in the sense that the overall calculations of the IDF did not create a situation in which someone in the General Staff thought that it is possible to reduce the conventional capability of the IDF only because the entire world says and thinks that Israel had Nuclear capability. This is an unequivocal success in terms of all of the above points.
My findings challenge this widespread belief. Israel’s Nuclear Policy had little or no effect on the Arab design to destory the State of Israel simply because its design did not go beyond the realm of pipe dreams in terms of allocation of resources or inter-Arab military and diplomatic coordination. On the contrary, each time Israel armed its nuclear weapons in an effort to deter an Arab attack or to limit escalation, it consistently failed in effecting a desirable outcome. Moreover, the argument of Israeli strategists that its Nuclear Policy was instrumental in limiting Arab operational objectives or in bringing them to the negotiation table is not supported by empirical evidence. The limitation of Arab operational objectives was induced by limited political objectives and by conventional deterrence. The key influence that Israel exerted on Arab’s decision to make Peace was a perception of moderation in Israel rather than a perception of capability.
Israel’s ambiguous Nuclear doctrines rests on shaky theoretical and logical foundations. It cannot be logically construed as a last-resort general deterrence policy. It has built-in destabilising features in that it can be easily interpreted as an offensive strategy in which tactical nuclear weapons might be used in conventional War situations. Concomitantly, this policy has generated over the years two significant adverse side effects. First, it was instrumental in fomenting a nonconventional arms race in the region, encouraging some States to develop nuclear weapons while pushing others into developing the “poor man’s WMD” – chemical, biological, and ballistic missile capabilities. Second, the policy of ambiguity formed a regime of secrecy and deceit that allowed the technocrats in the defence industry – with the help of eager politicians – to develop capabilities that were not in line with the principal goals of general deterrence and may have even accelerated nonconventional arms races in the region. This nuclear regime operates strictly outside the bounds of the control and oversight of political institutions and public debates. Schiff’s statement contains an inherent contradiction that accentuates a key problem of Israel’s Nuclear Policy: it did not diminish the need to develop a strong conventional capability because Israel’s nuclear weapons did not lower the likelihood of conventional military challenges (and may even have increased it).
v) Israel’s Peace policy has been as reluctant and risk averse as its military policy has been daring and risk acceptant. Israel has almost never initiated any significant Peace effort. It was as responsible for the failure of Peace-related efforts as were the arab States or the Palestinians. When this pattern of hesitation, reluctance, and fear was broken and Israel made a sincere effort at Peace, this generally paid off. Israel’s Security and international standing after major Peace agreements have improuved dramatically compared to the prePeace periods.
Israel’s spokespersons often claim that Israel has always outstretched her hand for Peace, only to be greeted by hostility, animosity, and rejection. The fact suggest that Israel was the spoiler of Peace on numerous occasions. A comprehensive analysis of Israel’s Peace policy shows that Israel has been at least as responsible for missing opportunities for Peace as have its adversaries. Israel has almost never initiated a Peace plan, and it has been a reluctant partner to the Peace initiatives originating in the Arab world and elsewhere. In many cases, Israel put deliberate or unintended obstacles in the path of Peace. Its decision makers were reluctant to make the concessions required to have Peace initiatives materialise. They were often slow to respond to the other side’s overtures and have often raised petty objections and obstacles that have derailed serious efforts at transforming the conflict.
On those rare occasions when Israel made daring efforts to render Peace negotiations successful, it usually benefited. The returns of Israel’s reluctant Peace policy were far more beneficial than the returns of Israel’s daring military policies. The History of Israel’s Peace policy strongly refutes the myth of clinging to Occupied Territory as a measure of Security. Most of the cases wherein Israel was willing to apply the “land for Peace” principle helped stabilise and improuve Israel’s Security. Even the limited and problematic Expriment of the application of the “land for Peace” principle toward the Palestinians suggests that it had the potential of transforming and stabilising Israeli-Palestinian relations.
Israel’s reactive and reluctant Peace policy was embedded in deep psychological problems that plagued its political leadership and its Society. It was also affected by structural and political problems and by strategic myths that were never evaluated in terms of their actual performance. These factors continue to operate and constitute formidable barriers to Peace. Unless they can be overcome, Israel will continue to live by its sword.
vi) Israel’s overt and covert ventures designed to manipulate domestic Politics within the arab States and among the Palestinians have not only failed miserably; in many cases these ventures have backfired to the point of forming or empowering enemies that were far worse, more determined, and more dangerous than those they were designed to remove.
Israeli efforts to manipulate domestic political processes within Arab States were based on the notion of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” This notion prouved tenuous time and again. In some cases, the enemy of the enemy turned out to be an even fiercer enemy. More important, even if this notion had been true, it was true until the enemy of the enemy stayed enemies with the enemy. Politics in the Middle East not only can lead to strange bedfellows but may also lead to frequent changes in rivalries. Israel spent enormous resources to cultivate actors and groups in the region that had been engaged in conflict with Israel’s enemies. Even if such alliances worked for a while, they usually turned out to be short term and one sided. When push came to shove, Israel’s allies in the Arab world frequently betrayed or reneged on their alliance commitments. In some cases (e.g., Lebanon) the allies dragged Israel into War; in others (e.g., the Sudanese rebels, the Lebanese Phalanges, and the Kurds), they failed to meet their commitments when this alliance was put to test. In other cases (e.g., the pro-Jordan Forces in the West Bank, the village leagues, and the Shah in Iran), Israel bet on the losing horse, often provoking and strengthening the opponents of Israel’s allies. Despite repeated failures and counterproductive outcomes of the policy of intervention in intra-Arab affairs, Israel continued to attempt such efforts in the PA during the intifada.
vii) The fundamental problems in Israel’s Security and Foreign policy are due to many reasons. But perhaps the most important structural cause of these problems concern the domination of Israel’s national Security and Foreign Policy by a centralised, narrow-minded, self-serving, and self-perpetuating Security community. The most successful feature of this community is that it has managed to resist virtually every effort to reform it or to reduce its impact on both Security and nonSecurity (e.g., diplomacy) matters. It has also succeeded in concealing numerous blunders and continuous policy failures or in diverting attention from the ineffectiveness of many of the policies it supported. The cabinet, the parliament, the judiciary, and the civilian bodies that are authorised to conduct policy planning and policy evaluation (e.g., the NSC, the Foreign Ministry, the Knesset CFSA) lack the ability and the will to properly oversee policy in these areas.
The structure of the Israeli system of policy-making on national Security and Foreign Affairs is sociologically, organisationally, and culturally centralised. This system is dominated by the Security community. The IDF possesses a nearly complete monopoly over intelligence analysis and assessment both on military and on political affairs. The Security community – more specifically, the IDF – is the only body in Israel with the staff and organisation to conduct both short-term and long-term policy planning and crisis management. The Foreign Ministry’s principal task is to explain policy – even Foreign Policy – rather than to participate in making it. Other civilian bodies – such as the NSC – have little or no impact on policy planning and policy-making. The consistent absence of political oversight of these bodies by the political system is even more perplexing. The Knesset CFSA has failed to fulfill its primary responsibility for over five decades. It serves as a window dressing for almost every policy of the community and the Government. The judiciary has consistently circumvented both International Law and virtually any basic standard of Human Rights and Civil Liberties in rulings that legitimised the Security community’s violations of Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. It also denied basic Human Rights to Israelis who were charged with Security-related Crimes. As such, the judiciary – the HCJ in particular – haas served as a PIC to the policy establishment.
The Sociology of the part of the political system that deals with national Security affairs helps perpetuate the domination of the old boys’ network on the making and evaluation of policy in these matters. The extensive involvement of former military officers in policy-making and in the Legislature hampers independent analysis and evaluation of these policies. These former Generals also serve as accomplices in the efforts of the Security community to create high barriers for civilian organisations that could limit the monopoly of the existing institutions on shaping policy. Officers in uniform and former officers in the Cabinet and in the Knesset form a tight-knit group despite the diverse views of its members on key policy issues. This group tends to consistently assign priority to Security considerations over other considerations in the making of policy.
A similar Sociology characterises the judiciary. The background of many Supreme Court justices involves long Experience in shaping judicial guidelines in the IDF and the Government. Many of them served in the IDF and in the Government as Attorney Generals and prosecutors, defending the Executive’s policy on national Security matters. This creates a closed system of self-perpetuating values and ideas that are immune to criticism and oversight. Unless fundamental changes take place in this structure, the adverse patterns and follies that we have observed throughout this book are likely to persist in the future.
viii) The Psychology of War, Peace, and national Security of Israel is characterised by a seeming contradiction: frequent fluctuation between a siege mentality and an attitude of ignorance. This fluctuation from one extreme – characterised by deep paranoia – to another – characterised by contempt and condescension of others – has served to underlie a wide array of policies and behaviours in Israel’s History. A more thorough understanding of this phenomenon is needed.
This book is not a study in the political Psychology of national Security. Yet, it is impossible to avoid some observations about the psychological factors that seem to have affected various aspects of Israel’s national Security and Foreign Policy. Similar perceptions of fear and arrogance have emerged in the study of Peace and War decisions, policies of covert intervention, the policy of nuclear weapons development, and the arming of nuclear weapons in times of crisis. These perceptions characterise the writings and speeches of most Israeli leaders. They also characterise public perceptions (Arian 1995). The siege mentality has been at the root of Israel’s trigger happiness and the pursuit of escalation dominance in the use of Force. It shaped the doomsday scenario that gave birth to the notion that nuclear weapons can serve as an ultimate insurance policy. [Straight out of Von Braun.] And it also served as the underlying Logic of various efforts at affecting the domestic Politics of Arab States (e.g., the “mishap” of 1954). The feeling of arrogance was a direct outgrowth of successful Israeli performance on the battlefield, which cultivated notions that the Arabs would come to the negotiation table on Israel’s terms because they were too weak to induce Israel to make concessions. Such perceptions of paranoia, on the one hand, and a sense of arrogance, on the other, are not uncommon in enduring rivalries. However, what seems to be rather unusual in the Israeli case are the extreme and rapid shifts from one to the other.
Clearly, these elite and public perceptions were genuine to a large extent. There is, however, reason to believe that quite a few Israeli politicians have manipulated the shift from one type of belief to another to advance both their perception of national goals and their narrow political interests. A thorough and detailed study of the political Psychology of Israel’s national Security and Foreign Policy is urgently needed. If we are to help Israel alter its fundamental behaviour, it needs to be put on the couch; the psychological problems of both its leaders and its public opinion need to be identified in order to be cured. Having another Anwar Sadat serve as Israel’s national psychiatrist by coming to Jerusalem is not likely to happen. It is not clear that it is advisable either. It is incumbent upon Israelis to face up to their fears and superiority complexes and to deal with them.
3. An Alternative Security posture
The notion that Israel has no short-term way of affecting regional developments has long characterised Israeli thinking. On the one hand, Israel’s strategic and political Ideology was based on the notion that its staying Power and deterrence policy will ultimately determine its acceptance into the region. Its diplomacy, however, was assumed to have little effect on the fundamental attitudes of the Arab States. Thus its military strategy was generally proactive and relied on initiatives and on excessive Force. Its diplomacy was generally reactive and hesitant. The notion of an “Iron Wall” is still a fundamental maxim in Israeli thinking.
On the other hand, Israel did try to manipulate regional developments through its policy of the periphery. Its semisecret ties with Iran in the 1950-79 period and with Turkey in the 1960-90 period (and the open relations with Turkey afterward) represent one aspect of this proactive regional diplomacy. The cases of intervention in intra-Arab affairs that I discussed in chapter 9 represent another facet of this kind of diplomacy. When there was a sense in the early 1990s that many States in the region were finally willing to accept Israel into the region, Israeli diplomacy was converted almost instantly into a proactive regional cooperation mode. This was guided by Peres’s vision of a new Middle East. And it invoked a great deal of suspicion and resistance in the Arab world long before the Oslo process collapsed. Many argued that it was not so much the pushy Israeli diplomacy that provoked this reaction. Rather, any major regional arrangement in which Israel was a major player challenged the national identity notions of other regional actors, such as Egypt (Landau 2001; Landau and Malz 2003; Krause 2003). This is mentioned as an important reason for the failure of the multilateral talks, especially in the ACRS context.
Israel must abandon the assumption that only steadfastness and deterrence on its side would affect the Arab attitudes toward Peace. A deterrence posture is effective only if it is accompanied by reassurances, and even then it may fail. In order to reach a fundamental transformation of the relations in the region, Israel needs to examine the possibility that true cooperative gestures have long-term impact on Israel’s environment no less – and perhaps more – than deterrent or compellent moves. Israel was able to effect large-scale regional developments not by trying to manipulate the domestic setup or international orientations of actors in the Middle East but rather by changing its relations with regional actors in an overt and explicit manner. Israel’s deterrence may have had a cumulative effect on Sadat’s decision to visit Jerusalem, but it was only the Israeli willingness to withdraw from the Sinai and to offer concessions on the Palestinian issue that sealed the Peace treaty. Once the Peace with Egypt was signed, it has been primarily the redefinition of Egyptian interests that has held it stable.
The Israeli-Egyptian Peace treaty had a watershed effect on regional developments. The isolation of Egypt in the Arab world over the 1979-88 period turned into a general acceptance of Sadat’s strategy by all Arab States. The Oslo Accords and the Israeli-Jordanian Peace treaty converted regional Politics into a far more cooperative mode than they had been in the past – even in an inter-Arab context. Israel may have little effect on the political and social liberties within Arab States, but Arab States are not oblivious to the relationship between Democracy, economic liberalisation, and development that Israel signifies.
Israel’s Peace diplomacy may have a major impact on the turn of events in the Middle East. As long as the conflict with the Palestinians continues, and as long as the relations with Syria and Lebanon are fundamentally hostile – even if not violent – the impact of liberal Forces on States in the region is apt to be marginal. On the other hand, the impact of radical Forces is likely to increase. Even if most Governments in the region have shown a great deal of prudence and levelheadedness in terms of Foreign Policy, the need to pay lip service to the radical Forces has limited their willingness and ability to engage in joint problem solving of regional problems.
But even if Israel changes its policies vis-à-vis the Palestinians and Syria, the militarisation of the region is unlikely to change if it does not make serious efforts at reaching comprehensive arms reduction agreements. I tried to show in chapter 8 that such agreements would be in Israel’s best strategic interests. An agressive arms reduction initiative – especially in the realm of WMDs – by Israel would have tremendous impact on regional armaments, and it would go a long way toward establishing confidence in the region. This kind of process may well help spill over to other issue areas such as Economics, environmental affairs, and civil Society and regional institutions.
Israel’s long-term Security posture can continue to rely on some of the fundamental elements that have characterised it in the past. In particular are the following elements:
1. A strong, mobile standing Army that relies on RMA Technologies in all four dimensions (air, sea, ground, information). This size of the standing Army may be reduced due to changes in missions once the policing duties due to the Occupation are no longer part of the duties of the IDF.
2. An active reserve Force that could be quickly mobilised during national emergence. Such a Force should be kept ready by annual training of its units. Its principal Peacetime missions should be training, and its units should be used for border guarding missions only under limited circumstances to relieve standing Army units.
3. A versatile doctrine that relies on both offensive and defensive postures, as well as training processes and weapons systems that allow quick shifts from one mode of combat to another.
4. A long-range Force projection capacity with air, naval, and ground Forces for threats beyond the contiguous borders.
5. An effective intelligence using a wide range of sources and methods for information collection and dissemination.
These elements of the Security posture can be accomplished through a significantly reduced budget and a significantly smaller standing Army. On the other hand, other elements of the current Security posture require fundamental change.
1. Significantly enhanced political control of the Security establishment by the Government, the Knesset, the judiciary, and civilian Bureaucracies. The institutions that are constitutionally responsible for overseeing the Security establishment should be assigned a significantly more active role. Knesset CFSA needs support staff of professionals who will aid committee members in performing their oversight functions. Legislation allowing the CFSA and its subcommittee more “teeth” in questioning Security officials may also enhance its capacity to perform its oversight duties.
2. Intelligence collections needs to be separated from intelligence analysis. The analysis and net assessment functions of intelligence should be taken out of AMAN and handed over to a civilian institution such as the NSC or a specially designed national intelligence council. This civilian administration should have the capability to engage in long-range research and forecasts, as well as in ad hoc and current intelligence assessment. It should have the capability to conduct analyses of general issues that affect national behaviour and international processes such as economic patterns, technological patterns, and social and political issues. The personnel of this institution should be diversified in terms of its training and should be exposed to considerably more disciplines and Methodologies – specifically social scientific ones.
3. Israel should return to a strictly conventional doctrine and posture and offer to trade its nuclear weapons for an effective regional Security regime that includes both institutions for conflict resolution and conflict management and effective monitoring structures and organisations that could verify compliance with the arms control and disarmament treaties.
4. Israel needs to increasingly rely on a professional Army with longer career horizons for both noncommissioned and commissioned officers. This will increase the Professionalism of the standing Army and will reduce the burden of pensions and grants to IDF retirees who then go on to second civilian careers. It will also reduce the involvement of retired Generals in Politics.
5. Israel needs to revise and rejuvenate its LIC doctrine and practices. It must increasingly rely on a strategy that combines defensive measures with preventive and offensive ones. While Israel’s defensive and preventive (through a combination of good field intelligence – both HumInt and ElInt) measures were relatively effective, its offensive strategies were, in general, counterproductive. Israel must rely increasingly on mobile LIC Warfare conducted by small units with an ability to identify targets and hit or capture perpetrators. Israel’s LIC strategy must emphasise minimum levels of collateral damage and civilian casualties. Israel must abandon its reliance on collective punishment and blanket escalation, as well as its tendency to rely on static military outposts, roadblocks, and barracks in Occupied Territories.
6. Israel must reduce its spending on defence industries. Defence industries need to be economically viable organisations with minimum Government support. Government spending on the defence industries must be restricted to R&D projects that are essential for continued technological edge as long as regional Security arrangements are not up and running. Defence industries need to be streamlined or become economically viable through trade. Since arms trade is likely to decline, some of these industries will have to be transformed to highTech civilian production.
7. Israel should seriously consider entering into a defence pact with the United States, but not at the expense of an effective regional Security regime. If States in the region are willing to move toward the establishment of regional institutions – especially in the Security realm – Israel’s Security needs will be better served by an effective regional Security system. However, if such an alliance does not contradict regional Security arrangements, or if regional Security structures do not appear to emerge, Israel’s Security may be better served by an alliance with the United States than by continued possession and development of nuclear weapons.
Each of these elements of Israel’s future Security posture needs to be evaluated first and foremost in terms of its own interests. But the guiding principle is that Israel’s national interests are not incompatible with a stable and cooperative Middle East. The old notion that a divided and factionalised Arab world serves Israel’s Security has long been refuted by History. A divided Arab world can quickly converge into a unified front if Israel misbehaves, as was the case on the eve of the Six Day War. A unified Arab world can be open minded and receptive toward Israel., as was the case in much of the 1990s. Israel strategies need to reassess the basic tenets of Israel’s Security conception and revise many of them. If they do, and if israel’s national Security posture changes and so does its diplomatic activity, its overall level of Security will improuve, and its proclivity for solving problems through repeated use of Force will decline substantially. These changes will also have broader regional implications, as I will argue in chapter 14.