Israel’s Security Strategy in the Middle East

1. Executive Summary

  • Israel ́s security strategy in the Middle East is predominantly influenced by the Prime Minister, the Israeli government and the Ministry of Defence as the main actors. These domestic players are sensitive to the country’s public opinion.[1] Foreign actors with a direct impact on the state ́s security strategy are both its allies (USA, Russia) and its adversaries (Iran, Syria, Lebanon and their proxies).
  • Among the top Israeli strengths are: 1) Military capacities and capabilities, 2) Strategic alliance with the US, and 3) Innovation status. Main weaknesses are: 1) Geolocation, 2) Domestic political stalemate, and 3) Dependency on the US.
  • Iran remains an arch-foe of the State of Israel. However, the entire Shia axis is currently a bigger threat to Israel than the rather distant Iranian effort to develop nuclear weapons. Hezbollah is identified as a direct threat with possible access to precision-guided missiles. Furthermore, the Russian ambiguity and the possible Middle East disengagement of Israel’s number one proxy, the US, are expected to have a major impact on the future of the Israeli security strategy in the Middle East.
  • Israel ́s goals and actions are primarily focuses on the deterrence of distant and direct threats by both state and non-state actors. Furthermore, they aim to keep old alliances alive while also creating new ones (such as with the Gulf states).
  • The US disengagement from the region could lead to the change in Middle East architecture. With regard to Israel, unless the US abandons the alliance, there should be no significant strategic changes in the Israeli security strategy in the Middle East. If it did so, Israel may opt for the enhancement of new alliances (Sunni Gulf states) and a new great power backer (Russia, China). 
  • EU relations with Israel should focus not only on the greater political cooperation and peace promotion but also on the better understanding of the Israeli culture of survival.
Photo: Israeli relations with Arab countries
Source: Israelandstuff.com, “Israeli relations with Arab countries”, Accessed on 30 January, 2020, https://www.israelandstuff.com/hundreds-of-moroccans-protest-against-israels-flag-flying-in-marrakesh/israeli-relations-with-arab-countries

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[1]  Even, Shmuel. 2015. “The IDF Strategy And The Responsibility Of The Political Leadership”. Online. In INSS. https://www.inss.org.il/publication/the-idf-strategy-and-the-responsibility-of-the-political-leadership/.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Lapin, Yaakov. 2018. “How The Idf Is Preparing For Multi-Front War”. Online. In Besa Center. https://besacenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/746-How-IDF-Prepares-for-Multi-Front-Warfare-Lappin-final.pdf.

[4]“Deterring Terror: How Israel Confronts The Next Generation Of Threats”. 2016. Online. In Belfer Center. belfercenter.org/sites/default/files/legacy/files/IDFDoctrineTranslation.pdf.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Efron, Shira, Howard J. Shatz, Arthur Chan, Emily Haskel, Lyle J. Morris, and Andrew Scobell, The Evolving Israel-China Relationship. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2019. https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR2641.html.

[7] “Israel Military Strength”. 2019. Online. In Global Firepower. https://www.globalfirepower.com/country-military-strength-detail.asp?country_id=israel.

[8] “U.S. Foreign Aid To Israel”. 2019. Online. In FAS. https://fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/RL33222.pdf.

[9] “The Mossad Is Like A Startup, Says Former Mossad Chief”. 2017. Online. In Calcalist. https://www.calcalistech.com/ctech/articles/0,7340,L-3726014,00.html.

[10]  Israel is not an ICC member.

[11] “ICC Wants to Open ‘War Crimes’ Investigation In West Bank And Gaza”. 2019. Online. In BBC News: Middle East. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-50871337.

[12] Rahman, Omar H. 2019. “What’s Behind The Relationship Between Israel And Arab Gulf States?: Order From Chaos”. Online. In Brookings. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2019/01/28/whats-behind-the-relationship-between-israel-and-arab-gulf-states/.

[13] Silverstein, Ken. 2019. “Israel’s Natural Gas Discoveries Are Bridging Political Divides And Are Forging Economic Ties”. Online. In Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/kensilverstein/2019/04/18/israels-natural-gas-discoveries-are-bridging-political-divides-and-are-forging-economic-ties/#42e8bb4015aa

[14] Russia’s Return To The Middle East: Building Sandcastles?”. 2018. Online. In , 65-70. Institute for Security Studies. https://doi.org/10.2815/639920.

[15] Promoting peace in the Middle East is marked as one of the areas for greater cooperation under the ENP Action Plan. (“Israel”. Online. In European Commission: European Neighbourhood Policy And Enlargement Negotiations. https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/neighbourhood/countries/israel_en.)

[16] Safi, Michael. “European Troops May Be At Risk After Dispute Process Triggered – Iran”. Online. In The Guardian. Beirut. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/15/european-troops-may-be-at-risk-after-dispute-process-triggered-iran.

[17] Greece, Cyprus, Israel deal signed January 2nd, 2020. (Koutantou, Angeliki. “Greece, Israel, Cyprus Sign Eastmed Gas Pipeline Deal”. Online. In Reuters. reuters.com/article/us-greece-cyprus-israel-pipeline/greece-israel-cyprus-sign-eastmed-gas-pipeline-deal-idUSKBN1Z10R5.)

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