Israel's National Security: Issues and Challenges Since the Yom Kippur War

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Israel's National Security: Issues and Challenges Since the Yom Kippur War

Israel’s National Security This volume presents a comprehensive analysis of Israel’s security challenges since the 1973

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Israel’s National Security

This volume presents a comprehensive analysis of Israel’s security challenges since the 1973 October War. Efraim Inbar takes the reader on a historical journey through Israel’s relations in the Middle East that begins with an analysis of Israel’s strategic thinking after 1973 and ends with an important look at the recent Second Lebanese War and the Iranian nuclear challenge. Israel’s National Security delves not only into Israel’s responses, but also its relationships in the international community, providing a complete picture of how Israel’s strategic environment has evolved over time. The book is divided into six sections: the aftermath of the 1973 War, limited wars, the post-Cold War period, the peace process, new strategic partners, and twenty-first-century challenges. Inbar addresses important topics such as the implications of the American arms transfer to Israel, the Israeli public debate over the 1982 Lebanese War, Israel’s responses to the Intifada and the limits of Arab–Israeli coexistence after the peace process, and Israel’s behavior during the 1991 Gulf War. After the 1990s, Israel’s strategic environment improved, with a noticeable growing acceptance of Israel in the region. Relevant to today’s current political atmosphere, the volume dissects the influences of the growing appeal of Islamic extremism on the peace process, Israel strategic partnerships with India and Turkey, and Israel’s relations with the Palestinians. This important study will be of interest to students and researchers of Security Studies, Middle East and Israeli Politics. Efraim Inbar is a Professor in Political Studies at Bar-Ilan University and the Director of its Begin–Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies. His area of specialization is Middle Eastern strategic issues with a special interest in the politics and strategy of Israeli national security. He has written over fifty articles in professional journals. He has authored four books: Outcast Countries in the World Community (1985), War and Peace in Israeli Politics: Labor Party Positions on National Security (1991), Rabin and Israel’s National Security (1999), and The Israeli–Turkish Entente (2001), and has edited seven collections of articles.

Israeli history, politics and society Series Editor: Efraim Karsh King’s College London

This series provides a multidisciplinary examination of all aspects of Israeli history, politics and society, and serves as a means of communication between the various communities interested in Israel: academics; policy-makers; practitioners; journalists and the informed public. 1 Peace in the Middle East The challenge for Israel Edited by Efraim Karsh

7 In Search of Identity Jewish aspects in Israeli culture Edited by Dan Urian and Efraim Karsh

2 The Shaping of Israeli Identity Myth, memory and trauma Edited by Robert Wistrich and David Ohana

8 Israel at the Polls, 1996 Edited by Daniel J. Elazar and Shmuel Sandler

3 Between War and Peace Dilemmas of Israeli security Edited by Efraim Karsh

9 From Rabin to Netanyahu Israel’s troubled agenda Edited by Efraim Karsh

4 US–Israeli Relations at the Crossroads Edited by Gabriel Sheffer

10 Fabricating Israeli History The ‘new historians’, second revised edition Efraim Karsh

5 Revisiting the Yom Kippur War Edited by P. R. Kumaraswamy 6 Israel The dynamics of change and continuity Edited by David Levi-Faur, Gabriel Sheffer and David Vogel

11 Divided against Zion Anti-Zionist opposition in Britain to a Jewish State in Palestine, 1945–1948 Rory Miller 12 Peacemaking in a Divided Society Israel after Rabin Edited by Sasson Sofer

13 A Twenty-year Retrospective of Egyptian–Israeli Relations Peace in spite of everything Ephraim Dowek 14 Global Politics Essays in honor of David Vital Edited by Abraham Ben-Zvi and Aharon Klieman 15 Parties, Elections and Cleavages Israel in comparative and theoretical perspective Edited by Reuven Y. Hazan and Moshe Maor 16 Israel and the Polls 1999 Edited by Daniel J. Elazar and M. Ben Mollov 17 Public Policy in Israel Edited by David Nachmias and Gila Menahem 18 Developments in Israeli Public Administration Edited by Moshe Maor 19 Israeli Diplomacy and the Quest for Peace Mordechai Gazit 20 Israeli–Romanian Relations at the End of Ceaucs¸cu’s Era Yosef Govrin 21 John F. Kennedy and the Politics of Arms Sales to Israel Abraham Ben-Zvi 22 Green Crescent over Nazareth The displacement of Christians by Muslims in the Holy Land Raphael Israeli

23 Jerusalem Divided The armistice region, 1947–1967 Raphael Israeli 24 Decision on Palestine Deferred America, Britain and wartime diplomacy, 1939–1945 Monty Noam Penkower 25 A Dissenting Democracy The case of ‘peace now’, an Israeli peace movement Magnus Norell 26 British, Israel and Anglo-Jewry 1947–1957 Natan Aridan 27 Israeli Identity In search of a successor to the pioneer, tsabar and settler Lilly Weissbrod 28 The Israeli Palestinians An Arab minority in the Jewish State Edited by Alexander Bligh 29 Israel, the Hashemites and the Palestinians The fateful triangle Edited by Efraim Karsh and P. R. Kumaraswamy 30 Last Days in Israel Abraham Diskin 31 War in Palestine, 1948 Strategy and diplomacy David Tal 32 Rethinking the Middle East Efraim Karsh

33 Ben-Gurion against the Knesset Giora Goldberg

42 Israeli Democracy at Crossroads Raphael Cohen-Almagor

34 Trapped Fools Thirty years of Israeli policy in the territories Schlomo Gazit

43 Israeli Institutions at Crossroads Raphael Cohen-Almagor

35 Israel’s Quest for Recognition and Acceptance in Asia Garrison state diplomacy Jacob Abadi

44 The Israeli–Palestine Peace Process Negotiations, 1999–2001 Within reach Gilead Sher

36 The Harp and Shield of David Ireland, Zionism and the State of Israel, 1937–1963 Eliash Shulamit

45 Ben-Gurion’s Political Struggles, 1963–67 A lion in winter Zaki Shalom

37 H. V. Evatt and the Establishment of Israel The undercover Zionist Daniel Mandel

46 Ben-Gurion, Zionism and American Jewry 1948–1963 Ariel Feldestein

38 Navigating Perilous Waters An Israeli strategy for peace and security Ephraim Sneh

47 The Origins of the AmericanIsraeli Alliance The Jordanian factor Abraham Ben-Zvi

39 Lyndon B. Johnson and the Politics of Arms Sales to Israel In the shadow of the hawk Abraham Ben-Zvi

48 The Harp and the Shield of David Ireland, Zionism and the State of Israel Shulamit Eliash

40 Israel at the Polls 2003 Edited by Shmeul Sandler, Ben M. Mollov and Jonathan Rynhold 41 Between Capital and Land The Jewish national fund’s finances and land-purchase priorities in Palestine, 1939–1945 Eric Engel Tuten

49 Israel’s National Security Issues and challenges since the Yom Kippur War Efraim Inbar

Israel: The First Hundred Years (Mini Series) Edited by Efraim Karsh 1

Israel’s Transition from Community to State Edited by Efraim Karsh


From War to Peace? Edited by Efraim Karsh


Politics and Society since 1948 Edited by Efraim Karsh


Israel in the International Arena Edited by Efraim Karsh


Israel in the Next Century Edited by Efraim Karsh

Israel’s National Security Issues and challenges since the Yom Kippur War

Efraim Inbar

First published 2008 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada by Routledge 270 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10016 This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2007. “To purchase your own copy of this or any of Taylor & Francis or Routledge’s collection of thousands of eBooks please go to” Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2008 Efraim Inbar All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilized in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data A catalog record for this book has been requested ISBN 0-203-93829-1 Master e-book ISBN ISBN10: 0-415-44955-3 (hbk) ISBN10: 0-203-93829-1 (ebk) ISBN13: 978-0-415-44955-7 (hbk) ISBN13: 978-0-203-93829-4 (ebk)

To Rivkale and to our children


Preface Chapter sources

xiii xvi


The aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War 1 Israeli strategic thinking after 1973 2 The American arms transfer to Israel

1 3 24


The use of force


3 Israel’s small war: the military response to the Intifada


4 The ‘no choice war’ debate in Israel



The post-Cold War period


5 Israel and the Gulf War


6 Contours of Israel’s new strategic thinking


7 Israel’s strategic environment in the 1990s



The peace process 8 Israeli negotiations with Syria

117 119



9 Islamic extremism and the peace process 10 Arab–Israeli coexistence: causes, achievements and limitations

129 142


The new strategic partners


11 Israel’s new strategic partner: Turkey


12 The Indian–Israeli entente



The twenty-first-century challenges


13 Israel’s Palestinian challenge


14 The need to block a nuclear Iran


15 Israel’s strategic mistakes in the 2006 Lebanon War


Notes Index

236 277


I am a lucky person because I have been blessed with a career that I enjoy. Politics of all kinds interested me and I therefore took to writing about security issues. My academic career was unplanned; I fell into the discipline when continuing graduate studies seemed more appealing and prestigious than entering the job market. I finished my graduate studies at the University of Chicago. There, over thirty years ago, during my second year of graduate studies, I enrolled in a course with Albert Wohlstetter on nuclear terrorism. I had never heard of Wohlstetter prior to the course, and this course was my first encounter with strategic thinking and to a scholarly approach of national security problems. The intimate class met at his residence, and the workshop also benefited from the presence of Roberta Wohlstetter. The exposure to such luminaries was a formative experience that changed my academic interests and much of my professional inclinations. Since that time, I have become attracted to the study of international relations, particularly to national security issues in the Middle East. My Israeli nationality, my service in a combat unit for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and my interest in Jewish survival was also conducive to pursuing a Ph.D. in strategic studies. My dissertation on the ‘National Security Problems of Pariah States’, which focused on the policies of the first Israeli government led by Yitzhak Rabin (1974–77), led to continuous research on Rabin, whose thinking was extremely influential on Israeli policies and debates over national security issues for three decades. After his assassination, I published a book on Rabin and Israel’s national security, which was a tribute to the man and the conclusion of a chapter in my academic career. After receiving a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, I returned to my homeland. I was lucky to find a full-time job at Bar-Ilan University, which allowed me to continue writing on Israel’s national security issues. Later, my appointment to the position of Director of the Begin–Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies constituted yet another milestone in my professional career, reflecting a strange concatenation of circumstances. This book reflects my lifelong interest in the survival of the state of Israel, which is located in the heart of a rough Middle Eastern neighborhood. The 1973 Yom Kippur War was a turning point in Israel’s history and the beginning of the



historic period on which I focused my attention, primarily because my work tended to be policy oriented and dealt with contemporary issues. This volume comprises a selection of articles from my literary yield since the early 1980s, when I became active in the field of strategic studies. The fifteen chapters of the volume evolve chronologically and are divided thematically into six parts. The first part deals with the aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, focusing on Israel’s strategic thinking and the American arms transfer to Israel, which was greatly needed for rebuilding the IDF during that period. Part II, ‘The use of force’, examines the Israeli public debate over the 1982 Lebanese War and analyzes Israel’s responses to the Intifada. Part III, ‘The Post-Cold War period’, includes three chapters that look at various aspects of Israel’s predicament in a new international system. Chapter 5 offers an analysis of Israel’s surprising behavior during the 1991 Gulf War. Chapters 6 and 7 present the reader with Israel’s new strategic thinking and Israel’s improved strategic environment in the 1990s. Part IV of the volume, ‘The peace process’, revolves around several facets of the renewed peace process following the 1991 Madrid conference. Chapter 8 deals with the early negotiations conducted with Syria, while Chapter 9 looks at the influences of the growing appeal of Islamic extremism and the peace process. Chapter 10 inquires into the domestic, regional and systemic factors that led to a growing acceptance of Israel and outlines the limits of Arab–Israeli coexistence. Part V, ‘The new strategic partners’, looks at the special relationships Israel developed with two important international actors: India and Turkey. The three chapters in the final part of this collection, ‘The twenty-first century challenges’, deal respectively with the significance of the deterioration of relations with the Palestinians, the need to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and the strategic errors displayed by Israel during the 2006 Second Lebanese War. Unfortunately, the chances for peace, in the sense most Westerners understand this notion, are not bright. The Middle East is not changing rapidly and will continue to be a zone of turmoil for the foreseeable future. While the intensity of the current conflicts in the region may vary over time and new alliances among past rivals may emerge, the old enmities and suspicions will not easily fade. Therefore, writings on war and the transition to peace do not lose their relevancy. Moreover, much can be learned from history despite the contemporary obsession with fresh news. Hopefully, my writings will be a modest contribution to better understand the strategic complexities facing Israel, as well as other Middle Eastern actors. I always tell fellow conservatives to be sensitive to discontinuities, whose likelihood we are inclined by nature to dismiss. In my own life, a few unplanned and unexpected events turned out to be positive. Over the years the BESA Center has provided a wonderful intellectual climate. My colleagues have read and offered invaluable comments on many

Preface xv of the chapters in this collection. Special thanks are due to the BESA administrative team who worked hard to produce this volume. I also wish to express appreciation to Ian Bomberg, Rebecca Goldberg and Sara Krulewich for their assistance in editing the book. Finally, my deep gratitude goes my family who adapted to my lifestyle and to the many hours I was ‘hooked’ to the word processor.

Chapter sources

1 2 3 4 5

6 7 8 9 10 11

12 13 14 15

This is a version of the article that originally appeared in the Journal of Strategic Studies, March 1983, vol. 6. This is a version of the article that originally appeared in the Middle East Review, winter 1982–83, vol. 15. This is a version of the article that originally appeared in the Armed Forces and Society, fall 1991, vol. 18. This is a version of the article that originally appeared in the Journal of Strategic Studies, March 1989, vol. 11. This is a version of the article that originally appeared in A. Bacevich and E. Inbar (eds) The Gulf War of 1991 Reconsidered, Frank Cass Publishers, 2002. This is a version of the article that originally appeared in Political Science Quarterly, spring 1996, vol. 111. This is a version of the article that originally appeared in the Journal of Strategic Studies, March 2002, vol. 25. This is a version of an article that originally appeared in Israel Affairs, summer 1995, vol. 1. This is a version of the article that originally appeared in Terrorism and Political Violence, summer 1996, vol. 8. This is a version of the article that originally appeared in Israel Affairs, summer 2000, vol. 6. This article is an abridged and revised version of parts of my book, The Israeli–Turkish Entente, London: King’s College London Mediterranean Studies, 2001. This is a version of the article that originally appeared in Orbis, winter 2004, vol. 48. This is a version of the article that originally appeared in Israel Affairs, October 2006, vol. 12. This is a version of the article that originally appeared in the Middle East Review of International Affairs, spring 2006, vol. 10. This chapter is a revised and expanded version of ‘How Israel Bungled the Second Lebanon War’, Middle East Quarterly, summer 2007, vol. 14, no. 3.

3 24 39 55

71 85 103 119 129 142

157 174 191 207


Part I

The aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War


Israeli strategic thinking after 1973

The October 1973 War was a turning point for Israel. Although the Israeli army finally overcame the Arab forces, Israel did not feel victorious. At the war’s end it appeared politically isolated and more dependent than ever on US diplomatic, economic and military support. Moreover, in the period since the war the differences between Israel and its sole supporter, the US, regarding the Middle East grew considerably.1 Although American influence in the region seemed to be on the rise following the 1973 War, the US has in fact been more susceptible to Arab pressure. America valued the Arab oil states, wished to preserve Egypt’s pro-Western turn, and even hoped to attract Syria or Iraq into its fold. Israel, America’s embattled ally, which by then was often considered a pariah, had become less important to America’s interests. In contrast to Israel, Arab political power was greater than before the war. The Arabs believed that they had ended the war victoriously, and that Israel had become militarily assailable. Its very survival was once again an issue. Further, the American support for Israel in the future no longer seemed so secure, and a first strike against Israel, which would be militarily advantageous, would not be so costly from the political point of view.2 After 1973, Israel was less confident and much more vulnerable to American pressures. Those pressures led to agreements in 1974 and 1975 with Syria and Egypt which were not entirely to Israel’s liking. These agreements were not perceived in Israel at the time of signing as significantly reducing Arab hostility or Israel’s need for modern weaponry. Both sides continued to engage in a costly arms race, which further increased Israel’s dependence on the US. The 1979 Egyptian–Israeli Peace Treaty, which was also reached after heavy American prodding, has in the short run alleviated Israel’s military and political situation, but has not drastically changed its strategic dilemma. The treaty is currently being subjected to growing strain, and its future is uncertain. The treaty also challenges Israeli control of the West Bank, the area which is most difficult to relinquish due to its proximity to Israel’s population centers. Moreover, the main threat to Israel in recent years has been the potential Arab alliance on its eastern front, not Egypt. The combined forces of Syria, Jordan and Iraq outdistance the Egyptians in every type of weapon; they are also closer to Israel’s heartland. Israel’s threat perception, therefore, has not changed, even after 1979. The need


The aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War

to upgrade the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) was accentuated by the immense Arab military buildup – in both qualitative and quantitative terms – since 1973. This chapter examines Israel’s strategic thinking since the 1973 October War. We can distinguish two stages in the development of Israeli strategic thinking since the 1973 War: the first in the 1970s and the second starting in 1980. The first period was dedicated largely to rebuilding the IDF and regaining the confidence which had been shattered in the 1973 War. An unprecedented growth of the military forces took place. This period was characterized by an emphasis on the strengthening of Israel’s defensive posture, i.e., the ability to absorb an Arab first attack to be followed by an Israeli counter-attack. In the second period we can discern a shift from the quantitative aspect of Israel’s arms competition with her Arab opponents in favor of the qualitative aspect. In addition, a system of casus belli was reintroduced and a greater predilection for pre-emptive strikes was adopted. The two periods are indeed distinguishable not only by the content of their military thinking but also by differing leaders, ideologies and temperaments. Israel was ruled during most of the first period by Rabin’s Labour-dominated government (June 1974 to June 1977), while the Chief of Staff for most of the period was the Labour-picked Lt. Gen. Mordechai Gur (April 1974 to April 1978).3 In 1977, Labour was succeeded by Begin’s Likud-dominated government. In 1978, Gur was replaced by Lt. Gen. Rafael Eitan, who is ideologically closer to the Likud. The main changes in Israeli strategic thinking in the second period are connected however to Ariel Sharon’s ascendance in security affairs. After Moshe Dayan resigned from his post as foreign minister in October 1979 and Ezer Weizman, the defense minister, did the same in May 1980, Sharon became the dominant figure in Israel’s defense policy. Indeed, after the 1981 election, he was elevated from the Ministry of Agriculture to the Defence Ministry. Under Rabin, Israel’s immediate goals were to rebuild an adequate and confident military force and to delay a war with the Arabs until political circumstances improved and until the IDF was militarily ready for such an encounter.4 Washington was needed for both objectives. The US was Israel’s sole military supplier and the only country capable of giving massive support, and, moreover, was regarded by Israel as sensitive enough to its security needs to be relied on as a mediator. Therefore, Israel made the necessary concessions to reach the September 1975 agreement. Yet Israel succeeded in greatly reducing Egypt’s incentive to go to war in the near future, thus weakening the Arab coalition, and managed to secure its arms supply. Indeed, Begin inherited a well-armed Israel with greater freedom of action than it had enjoyed earlier. The Begin government continued the strong American orientation and succeeded in further reducing the likelihood of Egypt joining a war against Israel. Yet, due to Begin’s nationalistic ideology, temperament and belief that Israel is an indispensable ally of the US, and due to his greater ability to withstand American pressure, Israel displayed fewer inhibitions in carrying out policies causing tension between Jerusalem and Washington. Furthermore, its tendency to threaten the use of military force increased. By the time Begin came

Israeli strategic thinking after 1973


to power, Israel had overcome the material and psychological problems of waging war which had existed in the first years following the October War.

The first period The defensive strategy Israel is a status quo power in that it has no further territorial claims, while its Arab neighbors aim for land and entertain dark dreams of politicide. Before 1967, Israel, although defensive from the strategic point of view, adopted military doctrine based upon a system of casus belli, according to which preventive or pre-emptive attacks would transfer the battle to enemy territory.5 After June 1967, Israel altered this approach in the belief that the strategic depth its new borders provided had eliminated the threat to its existence, and enabled it to absorb an Arab first strike.6 This reasoning was based on the theory of the ‘superiority of the defense’ – that the defender enjoys an advantage since the attacker had to expose himself and, ceteris paribus, requires several times as many men and resources.7 In light of the October War, some analysts advocated that the IDF relied on the attack, and renewed its predilection for pre-emptive strikes of the kind seen in 1956 and 1967.8 Chief of Staff Gur seemed, at first glance, to confirm a change. He said, ‘It is important that the world and our neighbours know that, under certain conditions, we leave open the option of starting the next war.’9 Nevertheless, contrary to general interpretations, Israel did not revert to its pre-1967 doctrine immediately following the Yom Kippur War. In fact, it continued to maintain that it could afford to absorb an Arab first strike. Yigal Allon emphasized that only with secure borders could Israel adopt a defensive posture which would enable the small standing army units of Israel’s Defense Force to hold back the invading Arab armies until most of the country’s reserves could be mobilized. These security zones would thus guarantee enough time to launch the counter-offensive needed to defeat any such aggression.10 Allon also specifically rejected any Israeli plan for preventive war: ‘Israel will never launch a preventive war because of practical considerations and matters of principle alike.’11 Because of his greater sensitivity to Israel’s image abroad, Allon as Minister of Foreign Affairs was probably a little over-zealous in this statement. In fact, Allon did not preclude a preventive air strike in the case of repeated threatening concentrations of Arab forces at Israel’s borders.12 However, he preferred that his better judgment did not attract publicity. Shimon Peres, the Defense Minister, also believed that talking about the possibility of a pre-emptive strike was politically unwise. Peres actually believed that, for political reasons, Israel should, as far as possible, avoid pre-emptive strikes, even in case of clear signs of imminent Arab attack.13 Rabin also diminished the importance of a pre-emptive war as long as Israel was deployed in the post-1967 lines. He added another condition however: an adequate supply of arms from American or Israeli sources.14 The government was obviously not interested in fostering an image of an ‘aggressive’ Israel. This


The aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War

position suited the perceived growing isolation of Israel and the foreseeable diplomatic repercussions an Israeli-initiated attack could induce. Therefore, Rabin expressed the government’s displeasure with Chief of Staff Gur’s declarations.15 Nevertheless, Rabin’s two conditions constituted a veiled threat, particularly against the US, to the effect that Israel could initiate the destabilization of the region if weapons became unavailable and if it were pushed into an untenable geopolitical position. Rabin’s American orientation required him to accommodate Israeli policies to those of the US, but without entirely giving up Israel’s potential for non-cooperation. Indeed, the primary consideration against a renewed emphasis on a preemptive strike was the American position against it. Before October 1973, Kissinger had for months warned the Israelis not to launch a pre-emptive strike. The warnings were accompanied by forecasts of doom if Israel were to ignore his counsel.16 Rabin was the courier for many of those messages. No doubt this experience reinforced his inclination not to recommend military action against Washington’s wishes.17 Kissinger continued to signal his opposition to an Israeli pre-emptive posture in the post-October War period.18 His close relations with the Israeli high policy elite left no doubt as to the American preference. The Israeli government was obviously aware that an ‘aggressive’ Israel might stand alone. Not only politicians sensitive to international considerations advocated a strategic defensive posture. The Israeli military shared this thinking in spite of the Yom Kippur War shock. Gur, in an interview with Bamahane, the IDF organ, said, After the Six Day War, having more comfortable land borders, more distant from centres of population, Israel added the option of absorbing a first strike by the enemy. After the Yom Kippur War we in the government and in the General Staff continued to hold the same view.19 Lt. Gen. Rafael Eitan, the present Chief of Staff, a paratrooper officer of great repute and of unquestionable offensive-minded credentials, confirmed, when in charge of the Northern Command, all that Gur had claimed. He said, There is no need to describe as constraining a situation in which Israel is forced to fight a defensive war. Most of the Syrian army was destroyed in the Yom Kippur War in the defensive battle. When an army is well prepared and ready for the coming attack, it is much easier to annihilate the enemy when on the defensive.20 The uselessness of a defensive posture was not one of the lessons learned by the IDF following its initial failures in the October 1973 War.21 Rather, it concluded that the defensive posture had to be augmented with several elements found wanting in 1973. In the post-October War period Israel, as elabourated below, enhanced its strategic defensive posture and lowered the public profile of its offensive capacity

Israeli strategic thinking after 1973


due to growing international constraints and military factors. Yet it was argued that Israel did not have the resources to win a war by defense alone. The Arabs, richer in manpower and material, could outlast Israel in such a war. Moreover, if Israel gave up offensive measures the Arabs could divert resources from protecting areas from possible attack to offensive uses. In addition, Israel needed a quick and decisive victory in order to pre-empt superpower intervention.22 The Israelis had been aware of a time limitation to their military operations in previous wars, but since they perceived greater international constraints after 1973, the need to attain fast achievements grew. Therefore, Israel’s military thought not only advocated thwarting an Arab attack and inflicting, when on the defensive, unbearable damage on the enemy; the defence was to be only the first stage of the next Middle East war. Israel envisaged three main objectives in the next encounter: (1) the destruction of enemy forces before the intrusion of the extra-regional powers; (2) the attainment of territorial achievements to gain a better negotiating stand; and (3) the breaking of the Arab will and ability to wage war through the destruction of Arab forces and infrastructures.23 A decisive victory could be achieved only by quickly invading previously Arab-held positions in order to destroy the retreating Arab armies and end the war with a territorial position which would aid the bargaining process. Gur said, I do not believe there is any possibility of achieving a decisive victory by defense alone. A certain measure of victory may be achieved, for a time, but it cannot be decisive. A clear decision can only be achieved through offensive measures. Of course, this does not preclude the use of defensive tactics for some time.24 It was also expected that the international climate following Arab aggression would be more comfortable, allowing Israel to conduct the desired military operations. Further, in light of the American involvement in achieving the Middle East agreements, an Arab attack might provoke some American opposition. This might mean a measure of political support for an Israeli counter-offensive. Diminished deterrence In the first period, Israel’s growing reliance on its ability to absorb an Arab first strike also derived from its realization that its deterrent power had been weakened. The Arabs viewed the October 1973 War as a victory, and their initial successes had destroyed the myth of Israeli invincibility. In addition, in spite of the American airlift in 1973, a similar demonstration of US support, such an important element in Israel’s power to deter was less likely in the future due to the growing tensions between Israel and its extra-regional ally, the US. Moreover, as mentioned, the Arabs learned that because of their increased international power their battlefield results were not necessarily directly correlated with the diplomatic results. Therefore, the possibility of military defeat lost


The aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War

some of its deterrent value, and the probability of Arab military operations against Israel increased. Rabin correctly observed, Because the Arabs no longer fear a military defeat, it seems to me that it is necessary for us to change our military doctrine so as to build the IDF with the aim of decisively subduing the enemy, rather than deterring him.25 To some extent, Israel tried to enhance its deterrent power by announcing that in any future encounter it would no longer concentrate only on destroying the Arab armies involved, but would also seek to destroy its opponents’ economic infrastructure. Peres said, ‘We shall also have to make it clear that any Arab country which decides to go to war will have to expend some of her resources in protecting its rear.’26 The Israeli bombing and shelling (from the sea) of Syrian economic targets in 1973 lent credibility to the Israeli threat. The Israeli emphasis on a defensive strategic posture did not preclude, however, the possibility of initiating military operations. Eitan, when discussing the advantages of the defense, added, ‘I do not mean that Israel should not take the initial offensive if and when the circumstances warrant it.’27 Eitan was obviously aware of the political factors at work. Yet, the cautious Eitan did not refrain from counting pre-emption among Israel’s options; it would have been politically and militarily unwise not to do so. There was no need to reduce further the Arab uncertainty regarding Israel’s intentions. Gur’s declarations on pre-emption should be viewed in the same light.28 Categorically ruling out pre-emption as one of the scenarios in Israel’s repertoire could also reduce Israel’s leverage on the US. The latent threat to destabilize the region was one of the few levers Israel could use to secure adequate American support. The Rabin government preferred to underplay the preemption possibility. Canceling it was not opportune. Enhancement of the defensive strategy Israel prepared for the possibility of an Arab military offensive and gave less priority to increasing its deterrent power. Israel took several measures to improve its capacity to recover successfully from an Arab first strike to prevent the recurrence of what happened in the first days of the 1973 War. Israel became interested in demilitarization and tripwire arrangements, dramatically expanded its armed forces, relied on new defensive weapon systems and re-adopted the territorial defense. Demilitarization and tripwire arrangements In the period of 1967 to 1973, a crucial weak point in Israel’s forces deployment had been the lack of warning space on land; Egypt and Syria took advantage of this to surprise Israel on 6 October.29 The Israeli Security Establishment was very concerned about being surprised a second time. It understood very well that

Israeli strategic thinking after 1973


the political environment would hardly condone an Israeli pre-emptive attack, while it would be less severe toward an Arab surprise attack. Being sensitized to the political elements of the strategic equation, Israel realized that the first stage of the war was likely to determine its political outcome.30 For an isolated and dependent state which loses the first round on the battlefield, political recovery is more difficult than military recuperation. To rectify the situation, Israel envisaged measures to slow the transition to a full-scale confrontation, or to give Israel warning of impending attack. This was to enable the IDF to mobilize its reserves. For example, Israel came to regard the establishment of demilitarized areas between the IDF and Arab forces in such a light. The demilitarized areas gave Israel some warning space and added a political burden on violating the demilitarization agreement. An additional political obstacle to a surprise attack was the presence of UN forces on the Egyptian and Syrian fronts.31 The UN forces could be largely ignored by the military planners of an Arab attack, since they were not expected to fight. Moreover, a unilateral Arab decision to dispense with the UN contingent would not necessarily lead to a greater international understanding of Israel’s subsequent military action. Yet the fact that its removal was considered politically necessary could serve as a warning to Israel. Israel’s willingness to withdraw from the conquered territories due to be demilitarized, and its readiness to accept a UN presence, which had been absent before 1973, was also closely linked to its isolation. The pressure for relinquishing the territories had grown, particularly from the US. After agreeing to withdraw, the demand for some form of demilitarization of the evacuated area seemed reasonable. More important in Israeli eyes was the American role in achieving the agreements with Syria and Egypt. The US lent its prestige to the stability of the agreements, even going so far as to commit its own personnel. In fact, the United States constituted the greatest political obstacle to an Arab violation of the accords. Washington was not expected to be overly strict about exactly carrying out the demilitarization articles, but a pre-emptive attack would be considered a serious blow to its stabilization efforts. The Israeli insistence on the American tripwire and on early warning arrangements also ensured the unlikelihood of a pre-emptive attack. Israel’s efforts at erecting demilitarized zones and political hurdles, which could also hinder an Israeli surprise attack, suggest, therefore, a much greater concern with a possible Arab-initiated assault than with any pre-emptive planning. Demilitarization also had another advantage: it could reconcile the continued emphasis on mobile offensive weapon systems and tactics with the defensive strategy. The post-1967 strategic thinking was ambiguous with regard to the proper role to be played by the Sinai defense system. The lack of doctrinal integration between the defensive strategy and the favored offensive tactics was a weak point which the 1973 War revealed.32 Many in the Israeli Defense Establishment still preferred to hold as much as possible of the Sinai Desert. Rabin and Gur had a hard time convincing the experts of the advantages of demilitarization, before the conclusion of the


The aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War

September 1975 Sinai II Agreement.33 In the Sinai II Agreement, Israel made sure that no Egyptian land attack could be launched under the umbrella of an anti-aircraft missile system. Moreover, the wide demilitarized zones could enable the IDF to put its predilection for offensive tactics to good use against a charging Egyptian army lacking aerial support. The demilitarized area contributed, therefore, not only by adding warning time, but also by bridging the gap between the strategic defensive posture and the Israeli preference for mobile tactics. The quantitative emphasis A major departure from previous military thinking was the determination to establish, as fast as possible, an army much larger than before the 1973 War. Indeed, following the war, Israel presented the US with an impressive shopping list.34 There were several reasons for this new quantitative emphasis. First, Israel wanted a larger army with a greater firepower to avoid collapse if surprised again. A small state has more to fear from strategic surprise than a large one, since it has little strategic depth. It has to stop the enemy at the outer limits of its vital centers. Therefore, what matters is not military potential, but immediately available military power.35 Before 1973, Israel believed it could detect in advance any impending Arab attack, but afterwards it realized that an Arab surprise attack could not be ruled out in the future. Second, as mentioned already, Israel’s weakened deterrence increased the probability of an Arab military initiative. The operational implication of the reduced deterrence was the need to have greater forces to hold the border lines, as well as the need to have more units on alert. This required a larger army. Third, the October War highlighted the neglect in firepower capacity, which had resulted from the Israeli emphasis on mobility. The Arab quantitative advantage, therefore, had to be matched by an addition to the IDF’s firepower.36 Fourth, Israel hoped to establish a force large enough to enable her to mount a counter-offensive on two fronts simultaneously.37 Israel desired to accumulate enough military muscle to smash the Arab armies before the superpowers could intervene. Fifth, Israel calculated that in the next Arab-Israeli round the Arabs would field larger armies. The neighboring Arab countries’ armies were expected to grow and to be joined by significant contingents from more distant Arab countries. The Israeli requirements were also a response to a massive weapons transfer from the US to Arab countries. Sixth, Israel expected a higher attrition rate in the next military encounter than that in 1973. The greater destructive power and accuracy of weapons, as well as the expected increase in the size of the opponents’ armies, led Israel to this conclusion. Therefore it wanted to have enough stocks of weapons, spare parts and ammunition to last through a war without needing an American airlift. The 1973 American airlift epitomized the political constraints that prevented an unequivocal victory over Egypt in the October War. Any airlift also underscored Israel’s dependence, which of course damaged Israeli interests. Further, Israel

Israeli strategic thinking after 1973


did not expect a recurrence of the political circumstances that had led to the American decision to aid Israel so conspicuously in 1973. Indeed, in the first period the total size of the military establishment was expanded. Close to 50,000 men and women were added by tightening service regulations and by drawing upon categories that previously had been exempted. In addition, many areas previously limited to men were opened to women. The IDF also attempted to raise the level of military skills, reducing the differential between second and first line units.38 The Rabin government was also quite successful in its weapon procurement plan and in its attempt to significantly enlarge the IDF. By June 1977, Israel had replaced all its losses in material. Moreover, the tank force increased by 50 percent; the artillery by 100 percent; armored personnel carriers by 800 percent; and aircraft by 30 percent. The qualitative changes in the Israeli arsenal were just as impressive.39 Technological improvements Improvements in weapons systems also enhanced defensive capacity. Qualitative changes apparently tipped the balance between defensive systems and offensive systems, making an invasion a costlier enterprise.40 New technologies exerted their greatest effect on battlefield dynamics by increasing the effectiveness of firepower. Weapons such as Precision-Guided Munitions can slow an invading force and extract a heavier toll than before. Israel was well aware that the recent developments made attacks costlier and more complicated.41 The IDF also equipped itself with the latest weapons, for example, developing, according to Gur, a defensive concept which made use of mobile anti-tank units.42 The IDF was attracted to the possibility of erecting instant barriers (e.g., rapidly laid minefields) and using area munitions to block the penetration of invading forces. Fortifications An intensive fortification effort designed to improve the capability of absorbing a first Arab strike was implemented after the 1973 War. Peres included the fortification of the Israeli borders as one of the three main goals of the Defense Ministry during his tenure there. The fortifications were concentrated in the Golan, the Jordan Valley, the Lebanese border and the lines in Sinai. Wherever possible, the fortifications were incorporated into the territorial defense infrastructure.43 The territorial defense Another striking change in Israeli military thinking was the renewed emphasis on territorial defense, which had been neglected in the 1967 to 1973 period. The territorial defense44 was a system of fortified settlements located on possible invasion routes, meant to stop or delay the enemy until the IDF completed the


The aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War

mobilization of reserves and the concentration of forces for the counter-attack. This system provided an artificial strategic depth and allowed the bulk of the IDF to transfer the war into the enemy’s territory. Defense in depth also freed up first-grade manpower, since it made optimum use of manpower with no alternative battle use such as teenagers, women and older people. In the light of the October War experience, in the course of which the Golan settlements had to be evacuated, it was argued that in conditions of modern warfare (characterized by great firepower and speed) such settlements were not a strategic asset, but rather a military liability. In 1973, the Northern Command was forced to divert some of its scarce forces from the desperate effort to slow the Syrian advance in order to evacuate those settlements. The supporters of defense in depth claimed, with justice, that the defense network did not stand up in 1973 because the settlements had simply been unprepared for a Syrian attack. Allon, a fervent advocate of defence in depth, said, ‘a settlement that is not fortified and not equipped with sophisticated weapons can become a liability. But the same settlement, equipped with well trained settlers, can be very effective in checking the enemy advance.’45 In spite of the ethos of settlements being a security asset, little had been done until 1973 on the Golan or elsewhere to incorporate them into a defense system. This was another contradiction between the strategic defensive posture and the operative offensive tactics. Following the October War, the vigorous discussion in the IDF General Staff resulted in the formulation of a revised territorial defense concept in July 1974.46 The plan called for the preparation of each settlement to withstand massive tank, artillery, infantry and commando assaults. The settlements were to be fortified (by a system of linked strongholds) and supplied with tanks, anti-tank guns and missiles, recoilless guns and mortars, as well as modern communication equipment. The manpower, to include local men above reserve age, 17-to-18-year-olds, and women – complemented if necessary by outside troops – was to be trained periodically in the use of the various weapons, and maneuvers were to be held to ensure fast mobilization and posting in case of emergency. The plan has been gradually implemented, although at a slower rate than the settlers had desired, due to financial constraints. Since 1974, the Rabin government has planned and built new settlements in accordance with the territorial defense doctrinal requirements and in consonance with the tentative map of the future borders. As early as the pre-state period, the settlement policy displayed an intertwining of political and security considerations. The renewed emphasis on defense in depth served transient political needs as well: it strengthened the arguments for holding a defensive strategic posture which fitted the growing political constraints on Israeli military action, but also provided ammunition to answer the increased criticism, both internal and from abroad, of the Israeli settlement policy in the administered territories. The territorial defense was nevertheless primarily an additional measure taken by the Rabin government to improve the

Israeli strategic thinking after 1973


IDF capacity to withstand an Arab attack, to be followed by a decisive counteroffensive as its defensive strategy required. To sum up the first period: following the October 1973 War, Israel retained its defensive strategic posture for political and military reasons. It attempted, however, primarily by political means, to reduce the chances of an Arab surprise attack, and hoped to slow the transition to a full-scale war. In addition, doctrinal and technological changes were adopted to strengthen Israel’s defensive posture.

The second period Gradual changes In the first period the Israeli strategic thinking was primarily latent; in contrast, the second has seen the articulated presentation of Sharon’s ideas, which have perhaps taken the form of an incipient doctrine. Sharon’s views, which had been aired piecemeal, were brought together for the first time in the speech he delivered at an international symposium on strategic problems, held at Tel Aviv University.47 This speech marked a clear departure from the first period of thinking. After Labour was ousted from power the process by which Israel changed its basically defensive posture was quite gradual. There were several reasons why the Begin government held back from the immediate introduction of substantial changes. The first two are of an institutional character. First, it took time for Begin’s people, most of whom had been in the opposition for years and were novices to government, to adapt to their new position and assert their hawkish views. Second, the West greeted the new government with great concern and even alarm, which led Begin to prefer to emphasize continuity rather than change. Yet the Begin government nonetheless proved less apprehensive about international constraints on its defense policies than had the previous government of the cautious Rabin. This eventually led to several changes in Israel’s strategic thinking, despite the initial target of respectability. This quest for Western acceptance delayed personal and doctrinal changes in the security establishment. Third, in the late 1970s the IDF and the defense establishment were still mainly concerned with growth and the digestion of the huge quantities of military hardware that were procured. Israel continued to make efforts not to fall too much behind the Arabs in the quantitative arms competition. Fourth, after Sadat came to Jerusalem in October 1977, and until the Peace Treaty was concluded in March 1979, Israel’s high policy elite was almost solely preoccupied with the negotiations with Egypt. It was only after the Treaty had been signed that Israel realized that it had returned practically to the 1967 borders. Israel felt it had actually lost strategic depth, even though the Sinai Desert was to be largely demilitarized. Fifth, Israelis came to perceive that an effective loss of strategic depth had gradually taken place on Israel’s eastern border. The size and quality of the arsenals of Jordan, Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia were perceived as gradually neutralizing the territorial advantages


The aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War

conferred on Israel by its control of Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights. Sharon said: What should be realized is that, because of the nature of military forces, which are highly mobile, armored and mechanized, instead of consisting mainly of infantry, as in the past, and because of the range of weapon systems in the Arab order of battle including missiles and intelligence means which cover the whole of the Israeli territory, we face on our present borders the very same defense problems we had on our 1967 lines.48 Sixth, the changes in the Israeli military doctrine are connected to Sharon’s impact on strategic thinking. As mentioned, his ascendance in national security affairs became of consequence only in 1980. Changes were not immediate, but they were drastic when they were finally made. In the past Israel considered the Arab refusal to accept Israel’s existence to be the main external threat. The Begin government added, however, an additional source of threat – the Soviet Union. Sharon, for example, said, Our main security problems during the 1980s will stem from external threats . . . from two sources, namely: One – the Arab confrontation; second – the Soviet expansion which both builds on the Arab confrontation and at the same time provides it with its main political and military tools.49 Since the beginning of the Soviet penetration in the Middle East, Israel has always feared the consequences of Soviet support to Arab countries. There were also occasionally considerable apprehensions about a possible Soviet-Israeli clash. Labour governments in the past had been careful, however, to minimize the tensions with the Soviet Union, since it was considered that a confrontation with a superpower promised to bring no benefits, and threatened to increase Israel’s risks. Past governments have never defined the Soviet Union as an external threat to Israel. The greater anti-Soviet emphasis in the Israeli defense and foreign policy has two causes: Begin and many of his entourage have always been vehement anti-communists. Ideology and past personal experiences making Begin an ardent anti-Soviet;50 and Soviet expansion in the Middle East, particularly after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the fall of the Shah in Iran, was indeed threatening all pro-Western countries. Many countries in the Middle East and elsewhere expressed a similar concern. As a result of these anxieties, Israel extended its security concerns far beyond its immediate Arab neighbors and the more distant hostile Arab countries. As Sharon said, ‘Israel’s sphere of strategic and security interests must be broadened in the 1980s to countries such as Turkey, Iran and Pakistan, and regions such as the Persian Gulf and Africa, particularly in the countries of North and Central Africa.’51 Israel has in the past shown interest in the countries of the periphery of the core Middle East region (e.g., Turkey, Iran and Ethiopia),52 but its military doctrine has not defined Israel’s security interests on such a global scale.

Israeli strategic thinking after 1973


Under Begin, Israel viewed itself as an anti-communist agent and as an obvious ally of the US. The anti-Soviet rhetoric of the Reagan Administration was welcomed in Jerusalem, as the Israeli government held similar views. Indeed, Israel convinced Washington to sign a Memorandum of Understanding on Strategic Cooperation, which was directed against the Soviet Union and its regional allies.53 The extent of Israel’s commitment to participate in action beyond its borders against Soviet or proxy forces was not entirely clear, or how legally binding the Memorandum was on both parties. Yet it was the first time that Israel had signed a document which identified the Soviet Union as its enemy. The anti-Soviet tone in Israel’s foreign policy fitted well the overall ‘American orientation’ of Israel’s foreign policy. In spite of the fact that such orientation led to a greater sensitivity to American desires, Israel under Begin did not hesitate to undertake actions not coordinated with Washington and which caused uneasiness to its extra-regional ally. The striking examples are the destruction of the Iraqi nuclear reactor and the annexation of the Golan Heights. The relations with the US were obviously seen by Israel as one of the most important components of Israel’s national security. A discussion of these relations is beyond the scope of this chapter, but it should be made clear that the Begin government believed that Israel had greater freedom of action than previous governments precisely because it saw Israel as indispensable to the American struggle to contain Soviet expansionism. Furthermore, Israel’s freedom of action in the short run was guaranteed by the time Begin came to power because the IDF was well equipped, and its stores were full enough to wage war without needing an American airlift, or to withstand temporary suspensions in the delivery of arms, or other sanctions on the part of the United States. The Reagan Administration took actions against Israel without precedent in the history of the relations between the two countries. It suspended the delivery of aircraft after contracts were signed, and suspended the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding on Strategic Cooperation, also a signed document. Those sanctions had little impact on Israeli policies. Israel under Begin has gradually come to see itself as an anti-Soviet agent. As such it believed it had greater latitude because of the tacit mutual interests of many countries in the Middle East and outside of which shared its anti-Soviet tone. All this notwithstanding, Israel’s military was preoccupied with meeting regional threats stemming from developments in the Arab armies. Since 1973 these included the growing military capabilities of the more distant Arab countries. It was feared that those countries could threaten Israel, as Sharon said, ‘Either by means of sending expeditionary forces to the confrontation area, or even by direct air and naval action against our naval lanes of communication.’54 Early on, the IDF acquired a greater capability to act further away from home bases, as the Entebbe rescue operation indicated. Yet this enhanced capability to project force, especially by sea and by air, was given greater emphasis under Sharon. As the IDF recuperated from the 1973 War and as Israel asserted its


The aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War

greater capability and freedom to act, its deterrent power, as analysed below, increased. The Soviet Union was added as an enemy to the growing Arab armies. The possibility of facing Russian troops became more tangible to the Israeli decision-makers. The belief that Israel enjoyed considerably greater freedom of action, enhanced deterrence coupled with a feeling of acute security problems, all new characteristics of the second period, led Israel to abandon its defensive posture to adopt a system of casus belli. Enhanced deterrence The defensive posture in the 1970s was also adopted because Israel’s deterring power diminished following the initial Arab military successes in 1973, and their subsequent political achievements. Yet, in the second period, it seems that Israel’s deterring power was enhanced. Deterrence is primarily a function of the military capability and the estimated intentions of a nation’s leadership to use the military potential at its disposal.55 As mentioned already, by the end of the previous decade Israel’s arsenal was quite impressive. Israel succeeded in maintaining an acceptable quantitative ratio of 1:3 with respect to the combined Arab arsenals. In terms of the quality of its weapons and its manpower Israel continued to hold an advantage. Military analysts judged that Israel had corrected most of the deficiencies revealed in 1973, and that the IDF had been transformed into a first-class war machine. The IDF also managed to attain several spectacular achievements, such as the Entebbe rescue operation in July 1976, and the destruction of the Iraqi nuclear reactor in June 1981, which seemed to confirm Israel’s military superiority. The intention to use force is, however, just as important as the capacity to act in order to maintain deterrence. The credibility of Israel’s determination to use its military power increased considerably after Begin came to power. Begin’s hawkish image abroad obviously enhanced Israel’s deterrence. His current defense minister, Sharon, also seems quite effective in propagating the image of an Israel ready to fight for its interests. The more aggressive and reckless image fostered by Soviet and Arab propaganda is generally harmful to Israel, but, in the sphere of deterrence, it is of service to the country. Israel under Begin is perceived as a country which can be easily pushed into a ‘crazy state’ posture.56 Further, Begin and Sharon seem more willing to use force than their Labour predecessors to achieve political ends beyond Israel’s borders. Those images are reinforced by Israeli declarations and actions. Begin and several of his ministers savor the feeling of power. In public statements there is a greater tendency to emphasize Israel’s might and to threaten Israel’s neighbors with military action. The Begin government seems also to be less versed than its Labour predecessor in the art of applying measured force. The government threatens to use massive force and uses it, at a higher public profile than before. For example, Israel was the first to announce the destruction of the Iraqi reactor. Greater discretion could have been less embarrassing for the Arabs and probably for the West. Another example is Israel’s use of force in Lebanon. Begin was less

Israeli strategic thinking after 1973


reluctant than his predecessor to use air strikes there, in spite of the greater publicity such raids receive and in spite of the potential for greater collateral damage.57 Begin and Sharon did not hesitate to engage Syrian forces in Lebanon, in spite of the possibility of escalation. Israel conducted sweeping land operations in Lebanon in March 1978 and in June 1982. This last incursion had political goals previously uncontemplated.58 Thus, the hawkish image of Begin and Sharon coupled with declarative aggressiveness and occasional military action lent greater credibility to Israel’s declared resolution to fight under certain circumstances. Another factor that contributed to Israel’s enhanced deterrence is the Peace Treaty with Egypt, which to a great extent severs Egypt from other layers of the Arab–Israeli conflict. Egypt is the most powerful opponent of Israel. Egyptian policy toward Israel following the completion of the withdrawal from Sinai might become cooler, but so long as it continues its American orientation it would be hesitant to join in a military enterprise against Israel. The US is a partner to the Peace Treaty, and would hardly condone an Egyptian military adventure against Israel. Further, Egypt is in the middle of the process of converting its military forces to American equipment, the successful completion of which could take some years. The American weapon production capacity is relatively limited and the supply schedule of the Egyptians is stretched over several years. A greater difficulty in the conversion process proves to be the limited technical capability of the Egyptians to maintain sophisticated weapon systems. Therefore, Egypt’s contractual obligations stemming from the Peace Treaty with Israel, its American orientation and its weapon procurement program from the West neutralize it to a great extent for some period from taking an active role in a military encounter with Israel. This enables Israel to avoid fighting on two fronts and significantly diminishes the forces at the disposal of the Arab military effort. This situation enhances Israel’s deterrence on the Eastern Front. The Peace Treaty, however, has become an additional political constraint on Israel’s freedom of actions. One consequence of the Treaty is a greater Israeli consideration for Egyptian sensitivities to Israeli-initiated regional moves. The reintroduction of casus belli Sharon’s tenure as defense minister has been characterized by the reintroduction of a system of casus belli in Israel’s military doctrine which had been absent since 1967. Several reasons, including personal factors, can be mentioned to explain this change. Sharon’s personal convictions contributed to the reformation of Israel’s strategic thinking. In addition, Gur, who ardently opposed the concept of casus belli, was no longer chief of staff and had no influence over doctrine. Apart from personal considerations, several substantive developments led Israel to display a greater tendency in the 1980s than in the previous decade to threaten pre-emptive strikes. As mentioned, the dimensions and the quality of the arms transfer to the Arab countries, which had taken place in the 1970s and


The aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War

which had continued in the 1980s, as well as the withdrawal from Sinai, made Israel feel vulnerable and in a position that was essentially the same as that before the 1967 War. Furthermore, Israel realized that it had reached the limit of quantitative growth in its military forces. The main constraint is manpower. In an interview with Israeli television, Sharon emphasized, Israel has stopped participating in the arms race. We are not going to make any effort to compete with the Arabs in the numbers of weapons. In this we have reached the end of the road. New arms are developed, and we also have to replace weapons of earlier generations, but in terms of numbers, we have no intention to add even one tank or airplane in the coming years.59 Israel seemed to have decided unilaterally not to take part in the regional actors’ attempts to enlarge their armies. Yet, as the Arab armies continue their massive weapon procurement programs, the ratio of the quantity of Israeli weapons versus those in the hands of the Arabs will deteriorate. Lacking strategic depth and facing more numerous and better armed forces on its borders, Israel is less confident that it could successfully absorb a first Arab strike and then proceed to a decisive counter-offensive. Therefore, such an Arab attack must be pre-empted. The successful massive weapons procurement program conducted by Begin’s predecessor facilitated the change to a system of casus belli. By the end of the 1970s, the Israeli defense establishment felt that Israel had recuperated militarily from the October War and was again militarily ready to fight a war if necessary. Further, a well-equipped Israel granted the Israeli leadership greater freedom of action than it had earlier. The Israeli government could be less concerned with the American reaction to its actions when its arsenal was full. Furthermore, a system of casus belli can be more easily adopted when the state announcing it enjoys great credibility. As mentioned, threats by Israel under Begin and Sharon definitely enjoyed a greater credibility in the Arab world and in the West too. According to Sharon, ‘Israel intends to prevent any deterioration in the geographic and military status quo in the neighbouring countries.’60 Specifically, Sharon had in mind the following contingencies which would require an Israeli response: 1

2 3 4 5

Any violation of the clauses concerning the demilitarization of Sinai in the 1979 Peace Treaty with Egypt, or the demilitarization of the Golan in the 1974 Agreement on the Disengagement of Forces with Syria. A massive introduction of Iraqi forces to South Syria or Jordan or of Syrian forces to Jordan. The deployment of a SAM system along the Jordan river. The movement of Syrian forces south of the line along which they were stationed in Lebanon. The presence of nuclear weapons in an enemy Arab country or the capacity to produce nuclear devices.

Israeli strategic thinking after 1973


It should be noted that even after enunciating a clear set of contingencies which would be intolerable for Israel, the Israeli reaction was not specified. Actually, Sharon refused to commit Israel to any specific action in advance, in case the Arabs crossed what Sharon called a ‘safety valve’. In a policy review before the Parliamentary Committee for Foreign and Security Affairs, Sharon emphasized that Israel’s response to a violation of a declared casus belli would not necessarily be a pre-emptive strike. He mentioned that a variety of possible actions was available.61 In the past such a violation was also not considered a trigger for war, but rather a warning signal that deterrence had failed.62 Israel retained additional flexibility by not always clearly defining its casus belli. For example, ‘a massive introduction of forces’ leaves Israel the liberty to determine whether a concentration of forces is ‘massive’ or not. A concentration of forces along its borders has always warranted Israeli action or preparations. Yet, since 1981, as it was until 1967, such a concentration of forces is perceived to be more threatening as is defined as a casus belli, which is publicly announced. The failure to mention a Syrian SAM system in Lebanon was a significant omission. Obviously Israel did not reconcile itself to the introduction of Syrian SAM batteries in Lebanon, which was cause for an international crisis in spring 1981. Israel has been militarily and psychologically quite sensitive to the presence of SAM systems along its borders ever since the advancement of the Egyptian SAM systems toward the Suez Canal in summer 1970, in violation of the Cease Fire Agreement, made possible by the early Egyptian successes in 1973. Indeed, Israel views a SAM system along the Jordan as a casus belli and it therefore opposes the American plans to supply Jordan with mobile improved Hawk missiles. In addition, one of the demilitarization clauses of Sinai makes sure of the absence of SAM batteries there. Already in 1974, Gur stated that SAMs stationed in Lebanon would become areas of military struggle.63 In Lebanon, Israel simply waited for an opportunity to restore the status quo ante. The June 1982 incursion into Lebanon provided such an opportunity. However, an earlier public announcement of the Syrian missiles being a casus belli, followed by inaction due to American constraints, was politically embarrassing. The enunciation of a system of casus belli was a departure from the thinking in the 1970s, with one exception: the Syrian presence in Lebanon. The Rabin government reluctantly accepted the Syrian military involvement in the Lebanese Civil War since it was coordinated with the US.64 Yet, it announced that there were ‘red lines’ which, if crossed by the Syrians, would evoke Israeli reaction. The ‘red line’ was primarily the east–west line from Jazin to Zahrani, 25 km north of the Litani River, but south of Sidon.65 In addition, the ‘red line’ banned Syrian naval operations on the Lebanese coast, air activity against Syrian opponents and the deployment of missiles in Lebanon.66 The Chief of Staff, Gur, refused however to commit Israel to any future action by defining the ‘red line’ and called it ‘a dynamic system of military and political considerations that changed over time’.67 The Rabin government refrained, however, from using the term casus belli. Changing the weak notion of ‘red line’ into the official casus


The aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War

belli is the outcome of the general reversal to a system of casus belli. In addition, this development is also a result of the change in the American perception of Syria and its role in Lebanon. The Reagan Administration was less inclined to court Syria, hoping to bring it in to its fold. This enabled Israel to adopt a harsher position against what was perceived in Jerusalem and in Washington as a Soviet regional ally. A new element in Israel’s strategic thinking is the resolution to prevent any Arab nuclear progress, which might lead to the construction of a nuclear device. This new aspect of Israeli doctrine is the result of the Arab efforts in the nuclear field and of the healthy mistrust of the possibility of reaching a stable balance of terror in the Middle East.68 Israel, acting in accordance with this aspect of its casus belli system, destroyed the Iraqi reactor (June 1981). This air raid also signaled to the West that Israel does not rely on Western promises for supervision of nuclear installations. Sharon’s declaration that Israel’s security interests included countries such as Pakistan seems to constitute a threat also to the Pakistani nuclear program. Militarily, Israel is hardly in a position to interfere with Pakistan nuclear plans. Yet, clandestine operations are a practical option and Israel could benefit from cooperation with countries such as India, the Soviet Union and the US in such an endeavor. In the absence of the desired Nuclear Weapon Free Zone (NWFZ),69 the nuclear casus belli could also be construed as an Israeli desire to have an effective monopoly of the nuclear option.70 After realizing that it could not participate in the regional conventional arms competition, Israel possibly decided to block the possibility of extending the arms race to the area of nuclear weapons, since such a nuclear competition is not perceived to be congenial to Israel’s security. Israel’s present posture concerning nuclear weapons or capacity in Arab hands obviously attracts international criticism, since Israel considers action even against countries party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) – an internationally binding document. Yet, in spite of such difficulties, Israel can hold such a posture only as long as the Arab civilian nuclear program is at its beginning and as long as the Arab states refuse to make peace with Israel. An advanced large civilian nuclear program producing electricity endows a country with fissionable material and the technical ability necessary to produce nuclear bombs. Military action against nuclear power reactors, particularly when supplied by Western countries, presents great political difficulties. Further, Israel could ill afford to act against a nuclear reactor in an Arab country which had concluded a peace treaty with Israel. Thus, under the umbrella of the Peace Treaty with Israel, Egypt could realize its ambitious nuclear energy program without suffering Israeli sanctions, a program which could also confer a capability to produce nuclear bombs.71 Israel’s reversal to a casus belli system also constitutes the abandonment of what was called ‘secure borders’ policy. Secure borders were defined as those ‘borders which can be defended without a pre-emptive initiative’. Within such borders Israel presumably enjoys some strategic depth. As a result of having such borders a strategy of absorption of an Arab attack followed by a counterattack could be adopted. Israel now perceives its territory as lacking strategic

Israeli strategic thinking after 1973


depth on all fronts. Secure borders are desirable, but the current border line cannot serve such a function. Therefore, pre-emptive strikes have to be reincorporated into Israel’s military doctrine. There are two main political problems in implementing the new Israeli doctrine. In order to maintain the credibility of its deterrent power, Israel has to react to any infringement of the geographic and strategic status quo, as defined by Sharon. Violations of the casus belli by means of incremental ‘salami’ tactics would leave Israel the difficult choice of ignoring small transgressions or using force to rectify the situation. In many capitals, particularly Washington, such military action might well be considered excessive. In the long run, Israel’s dependency has not changed, and Israel is still very much in need of US support. On a number of occasions even the Begin government has seemed to reconsider its wish to act in south Lebanon, in light of Washington’s displeasure at a military campaign that could escalate into a full-scale war with Syria. A preventive war in case Israel fears that its deterrence has been eroded because of the quantitative imbalance involves even greater difficulty. Israel also has to consider the situation after an initiated military campaign. The tremendously augmented firepower of modern battlefields, of the sort which would be encountered in the next war, would cause grievous losses in men and material even if Israel were victorious. Furthermore, Israel is at a marked disadvantage in replacing men and equipment. The minimization of casualties has always characterized Israeli military thinking because the closely knit Israeli society is extremely sensitive to the loss of life. Therefore, any military campaign has to be well justified in the eyes of the Israeli public. The Begin government, in contrast to its predecessor, which had operated from the center of the Israeli political map, holds positions right of center. This makes the building of consensus for military action more difficult whenever such action deviates from the national consensus.72 The Labour opposition is more sensitive to the American factor, and constantly demands greater restraint and a lower profile. For example, the Labour opposition is critical of the Israeli actions in south Lebanon and particularly those north of the Litani River, accusing the government of excessive use of force. Furthermore, a weariness of the protracted conflict may be detected in Israeli society, reducing its readiness to make sacrifices. This increases the government’s need to have a perfectly justifiable case before ordering the IDF into action. One such example is the air strike against the Iraqi reactor. In spite of some criticism, most Israelis did not object to a successful action without any casualties. On the other hand, reaching Beirut and its price in casualties evoked greater opposition, in spite of the fact that the June 1982 invasion was also given a preventive rationale.73 Defensive measures In spite of the abandonment of the defensive strategic posture, defensive measures were not neglected. Israel improved its early warning systems and its


The aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War

intelligence operations, but still viewed an Arab sudden attack as a contingency to be taken into consideration. Israel intended therefore ‘to ensure a military capability to preserve the integrity of Israel’s territory, in any war opening situation including an Arab sudden attack’.74 Israel actually continued to view the demilitarization arrangements and the political obstacles to war initiation as desirable, in spite of its greater predilection for pre-emptive strikes. The violation of the demilitarization agreements has been announced to be a casus belli. Israel under Begin even agreed to the stationing of UN forces in South Lebanon in 1978. In 1982 it wanted to substitute the UN contingent with a Multi-National Force. Territorial defense was also strengthened. The perceived lack of strategic depth made territorial defense an imperative in order to improve the situation. The program to consolidate the territorial defense started in the first period and was expanded to new areas according to the future borders envisaged by the Begin government. This government sees the return of Sinai as a territorial adjustment. It intends to hold on to Judea, Samaria, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights for ideological and strategic reasons. Those regions were considered as border areas.75 This position, which does not receive the full support of all Jews in Israel, is defended at home and abroad also on strategic grounds. Begin’s government adopted Dayan’s strategic thinking concerning Judea and Samaria. This view places greater value on the mountains’ line than the view prevalent in the Labour governments, which considered the control of Jordan Valley as strategically significant. More specifically, it was claimed that the Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria serve the same security functions as those on the Golan and along the Jordan River. Most important, the blocs of Jewish settlements divide the West Bank Arab population in several areas, breaking territorial contiguity, and helping prevent evolution of a united political entity. The settlements in the Gaza Strip, along the Egyptian border, serve a similar purpose. They constitute a Jewish wedge between Egypt and the densely populated Gaza region. All the new settlements were incorporated into the system of territorial defense. Many of the settlers were freed from their reserve units to become part of the territorial defense deployment, whose own units were adequately armed. Each settlement was also provided with some fortifications. Chief of Staff Eitan and Defense Minister Sharon have been great believers in territorial defense, a fact which has given additional impetus to the continuing rehabilitation of this defensive concept.76

Conclusion We have distinguished two distinct stages in the evolution of Israeli strategic thinking since the trauma of 1973. In the first, Israel perceived itself in political isolation and greatly dependent on the US, which reduced its freedom of action. Furthermore, Israel needed time to rebuild its army and its confidence. Israel lost some of its deterring power, but it felt that its borders still provided the country

Israeli strategic thinking after 1973


with a margin of security which could be enhanced by incorporating some military and political arrangements. Demilitarization and tripwire arrangements were sought after. Israel continued to hold a defensive strategy, i.e., the postponement of the decisive attack until the Arab first strike. Such a posture required a larger army, better equipped with defensive weapons and deployed in improved fortified lines. The defensive strategy was enhanced by the territorial defense. In the first stage the Israeli-military doctrine resembled the thinking of the period before the war. However, there was a greater emphasis on quantities and firepower, and ways were devised to improve the IDF’s ability to be well prepared to absorb an Arab onslaught. In the second stage many of the parameters that influenced the strategic thinking changed. A new government headed by Begin came to power. This government was less sensitive to the difficulties faced by Israel in the national arena. Moreover, it believed that its alliance with the US, an important component in its national security, was founded on strategic mutual interests. The American desires were not considered a serious limitation on Israel’s freedom of action in matters of great consequence for the security of the country. Militarily, in contrast to the first period, Israel regained its confidence and had a significantly greater and better equipped fighting force at its disposal. Indeed, its deterring power, as a result of Israel’s military might and the image of its leadership, improved. Yet the Begin government gradually came to the conclusion that the qualitative and quantitative developments in the Arab armies had led to a situation territorially similar to the pre-1967 borders. Israel had lost strategic depth and Arab arsenals had become more threatening. Therefore, in 1981, the Begin government abandoned its defensive strategy and adopted a military doctrine that was based on a system of casus belli. Israel actually reversed to thinking prevalent in the pre-1967 period. Obviously, such a posture draws international criticism. The Begin government cannot entirely disregard international constraints, yet Israeli public opinion is the more powerful constraint. Israel is to a great extent weary and the opposition to Begin’s policies is significant, but when attacked, Israel easily unites behind its government. Therefore a defensive strategy is politically a more comfortable position to defend internally and externally than a casus belli system. The test of the current Israeli strategic thinking may come soon; it remains to be seen how effective it will be.


The American arms transfer to Israel

The post-1973 Israeli foreign policy has been characterized by a heavy American orientation. Due to its isolation, the necessity to maintain the American commitment to Israel and to reach an understanding with Washington grew considerably. This chapter looks at one aspect of the American–Israeli relationship – the arms transfer – during the 1974 to 1977 period. During those years, a new level of American assistance was established and the trends of the Israeli long-range weapon procurement plan emerged. Most of the quantitative and qualitative arms in the Israeli arsenal were agreed upon during this period. Those were the formative years in the American–Israeli post-October 1973 relationship, as well as in the modernization of the IDF.

The main factors in the weapons relationship There were three main parameters of the Israeli–American weapons relationship: (1) a sole donor–recipient relationship; (2) American ambivalence toward Israel’s military strength; and (3) the considerably greater Israeli requirements. One of the most critical aspects of Israel’s political isolation was the dependency upon American weapons for an adequate security level. In contrast to its Arab opponents who could shop for arms practically anywhere, Israel had access to American weapons only. Other countries were reluctant to let Israel buy their military hardware, particularly items of high visibility such as tanks and aircraft. This sole donor–recipient pattern between the US and Israel was not only the result of the growing politicization of the arms market;1 Israel, even if able politically to purchase some weapons elsewhere in the West, was economically unable to do so. The US paid for or subsidized the Israeli weapons procurement program.2 Moreover, in terms of the quality desired partially to overcome Arab numerical superiority, substitutes for some American weapons systems were simply nonexistent. Israel had to buy from the US for political, economic and technical reasons. This sole donor–recipient reality underscored the political context in which the arms transfer took place. Weapons for Israel were part of American Middle East policy and their delivery was obviously contingent upon a minimum of understanding between the two parties. Indeed, Israel and the Arab world viewed

The American arms transfer to Israel


American weapons as a symbol of American support for Israel. This symbolic value was of particular importance for Israel after 1973, when its political isolation became evident. After 1973, Israel was more than ever before willing to make territorial sacrifices in order to secure American understanding of its needs. When Israel went along with the American desires in the Middle East, one of its objectives was access to American weaponry. The American interest in reaching Middle East agreements was used as a lever to secure a satisfactory supply of arms. Shimon Peres, Minister of Defence in the Rabin government (1974–77) had already made this crystal clear in 1974. In an interview, Peres expressed to the Americans that Israel would not enter into the next phase of negotiations before receiving weapons they were promised by the US.3 The famous Memorandum of Understanding between the US and Israel, which was attached to the 1975 Sinai 2 agreement, included important pledges as to the magnitude of the American military supplies and their quality. Yet, the linkage between American aid and standing political issues was problematic for Israel, because it was a double-edged sword. Israel has always argued that aid should only be considered according to its needs. Rabin, for example, was aware of this dilemma and preferred not to emphasize this linkage.4 Indeed, the detailed list of arms required by the IDF was presented to the Americans after Israel signed the Sinai 2 agreement.5 Nevertheless, Rabin could not resist taking advantage of the tight 1976 presidential race to pressure President Ford to sell Israel some sophisticated equipment that the US had refused to sell in the past.6 Rabin’s successor, Prime Minister Menachem Begin, also preferred not to emphasize this linkage. In 1978, his government unsuccessfully opposed the linking of the sale of American aircraft to Israel with similar deliveries to Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Even more indicative of this Israeli preference was the place the arms issue occupied in the American–Israeli negotiations leading to the Egyptian–Israeli peace treaty. It was a secondary issue and it was never implied that satisfaction in the weapons area was a condition for progress in other disputed subjects.7 In spite of growing Israeli needs for weapons and American reluctance to meet all Israeli requests, Rabin’s government did not view weapons procurement as the central factor in the US–Israeli relationship.8 It was an issue subordinated to what Rabin called ‘strategic coordination’ with the US. Political understanding also bred military supplies. Disagreement caused uncertainty about future military sales, as the 1975 reassessment period clearly indicated to Israeli policy makers. The delay in delivering the F-15s and F-16s by the Reagan Administration in the summer of 1981 (unprecedented in American–Israeli relations) also emphasized that political understanding was needed to ensure a regular supply of weapons. The Begin government also aimed at ‘strategic coordination’ and, due to its predecessor’s successes in securing pledges and contracts for many military items, could afford to deny, to a great extent, the link between weapons and standing political issues, this time to Israel’s advantage. Obviously, a well-armed Israel had greater freedom of action.


The aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War

A sole donor situation enhances the influence of the supplier in the bilateral relationship. Yet, as mentioned, it also creates the tendency to identify, politically, the supplier with its client. In this case, this was perceived in Washington as a disadvantage, since the US preferred not to be viewed in the Middle East as backing all Israeli policies. Moreover, Washington hoped not to be isolated in its support of Israel. Indeed, in the area of arms transfer, the US helped Israel to purchase some items on the European market9 to ‘share’ the responsibility for helping Israel and not to be isolated in this increasingly (economic and political) costly enterprise. Furthermore, American weapons manufacturers were not always inclined to deal directly with Israel in order not to disturb their Arab clients.10 Sometimes, the items for Israel were sold first to the US military, which transferred them to their destination. The Israelis did not have much choice but to buy in America. The Americans, however, had an ambivalent attitude toward the Israeli efforts to enhance their military machine. There were advantages in having a well-armed ally in the Middle East. Yet, this ally was a pariah state. On the one hand, the US did not want a well-supplied Israel. Such an Israel was less amenable to American pressure. Moreover, it allowed Israel freedom of action, diplomatically and militarily, not necessarily in unison with perceived American interests in the region. The Americans feared that a strong Israel would engage in a retaliatory policy, which could embarrass the US. Further, a low-scale activity could escalate into a major confrontation – a most undesirable development in American eyes. On the other hand, a less secure Israel, fearing a deterioration of the regional military balance, could be tempted to launch a preventive war. The US also feared that Israeli-perceived conventional inferiority could lead to an Israeli nuclear strategy. A weak Israel could also lead the Arabs into the belief that military victory was possible and American aid improbable. An Arab attack on a weakened Israel could force the US to organize an airlift to Israel. American inaction could erode US credibility. Yet such an intervention meant unequivocal support for the Jewish state in its conflict with the Arabs at a time when the US wanted to balance its initial commitment to Israel’s security with overtures toward the Arabs. The American position has oscillated between those two concerns. The praxis was determined, however, by the immediate imperatives of US Middle East policy. Until 1977, most of the weapons received and generous American funding were connected to the Israeli agreements with Egypt and Syria in 1974 and to the Sinai 2 agreement in 1975.11 Kissinger and others believed that only a well-armed Israel could make the concessions to the Arabs that the Americans wanted.12 The arms deals were seen in Washington as an inducement to Israel to follow American advice. President Carter did not use the issue of military aid as a lever to extract Israeli concessions. He even tried to capitalize on this attitude at the polls in 1980. Nevertheless, the Israeli procurement plan was regarded as too ambitious. Indeed, following the 1973 October War Israel presented the US with an impressive shopping list.13 Israel wanted to establish as fast as possible a much

The American arms transfer to Israel


larger and better equipped army than before the war. There were several strategic reasons for this new quantitative emphasis, as elaborated in the previous chapter. The desire for large stocks also reflected the high command’s desire to create a feeling of abundance to prevent lower level commanders from establishing ‘private’ stockpiles.14 These three characteristics – the sole donor–recipient relationship; the American ambivalence toward Israel’s military power; and the growing Israeli needs – were of primary influence in the American–Israeli interaction on the weapons issue.

The continuous dispute over weapons The US supplied weapons to Israel in the post-1973 period within the framework of a rather fragile political understanding reached by the two countries. Yet, even when identical interests exist between countries, there are disagreements over policy matters. This is all the more so in the relationship between Israel and its increasingly reluctant ally, the US, on an issue as delicate as arms transfer. There were several constraints on American arms sales to Israel.15 First, the Americans preferred not to sell weapons of recently developed technology. This included an array of sophisticated bombs and electronic gadgets. They wanted to prevent any information about them from falling into unfriendly hands. In addition, there was some concern about Israel possibly copying the newly developed technology and using it for developing its own arms industry.16 Second, the US was reluctant to supply ‘sensitive’ items which could affect the bipolar strategic balance if information about them reached the Russians. For example, Israel was denied certain anti-submarine devices. Third, Israel followed NATO and countries having a defense treaty with the US on the formal priority list as to the quality of the weapons and the delivery timetable of sales abroad. Fourth, the US was averse to transferring weapons of a ‘provocative’ nature, i.e., those that could irritate the Arabs. This was particularly true of items considered ‘dirty’ weapons. For example, President Carter denied Israel concussion bombs. Fifth, the US was not disposed to provide Israel with expensive systems, since Israel could not afford them and the US government obviously preferred not to be left to pay the bill. Beyond those specific constraints, there was a continuous dispute between the US and Israel over weapons. The differences of opinion revolved around three basic issues – the quantity of the weapons to be supplied, their quality and their delivery schedule. The Israeli rationale for demanding greater quantities of military equipment did not appeal in its entirety to the Americans. A simultaneous two-front counter-offensive capacity did not please the Americans. This could allow Israel a two-front victory before the US could find ways to benefit politically from the


The aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War

war, as it did in 1973. Moreover, Israel could use the counter-offensive capacity to launch what the US feared more – a preventive attack. Big Israeli stockpiles also did not suit American policy. The US preferred to keep Israel on a ‘short leash’ in order to limit its freedom of military action. The US also did not accept the Israeli forecasts as to the Arab buildup and as to the degree of participation of additional Arab states in a future conflict. Furthermore, the US has continuously argued that Israel’s qualitative superiority in manpower and hardware allowed her to be secure with a lower ratio of Arab to Israeli forces than Israel wanted.17 The Americans also claimed that by correcting some of the deficiencies exposed in the 1973 War, which the Israelis did, Israel gained an additional qualitative edge over the Arabs.18 In addition, the Americans suspected that the Israelis inflated their arms requests figures for bargaining purposes. Indeed, the Israeli requests presented in 1975 were rather ambitious. Peres defended those requests on the grounds that he wanted large margins of security.19 In addition, there was a widespread feeling, particularly in the army, immediately following the 1973 War and after the conclusion of the September 1975 Sinai 2 agreement, that the Americans were opening their warehouses to the IDF to choose whatever it desired. American lavishness was expected not only regarding quantities, but also regarding types of ultra-modern weapons.20 Yet, Rabin and others were irritated by the list of military equipment submitted to the Americans by the Ministry of Defense. Rabin was primarily concerned about Israeli credibility in Washington. He wanted to achieve an Israeli reputation for a reliable presentation of its needs. Above all, realizing the growing reluctance to allocate funds for foreign aid, Rabin did not want to irritate American sensitivities by leading the Americans to believe that the Israelis were exaggerating their demands because the bill was presented to the American taxpayer.21 Moreover, some items, such as the Pershing ground-to-ground missile, evoked American suspicions of Israeli nuclear intentions. As a result of the negative American reaction to the initial list and the re-evaluation within the Israeli camp, the Israeli weapons requests were rectified.22 The new lists were definitely more modest, but still left an area of disagreement between the two countries. Nevertheless, the Israeli adaptation indicated that Rabin’s first priority was to achieve a positive political atmosphere. Rabin was aware of the American constraints and expressed satisfaction at receiving only 70 to 80 percent of the weapons requested.23 The quantitative part of the disputed items lent itself to bargaining and acceptable compromises. The Americans were less compromising, however, in regard to the qualitative aspect of the Israeli procurement plans. The Israelis claimed that a small country facing powerful enemies needs ultra-sophisticated equipment.24 It was argued that advancing technology reduced the relative power of small states.25 This is true when facing a big power. Yet, when confronting regional opponents, a small industrialized country using advanced technology can be a match for countries richer in population, land and resources, but less developed. In addition, as Israel repeatedly pointed out, it faced three technologies: Russian,

The American arms transfer to Israel


West European and, unfortunately, also American. Israel was very concerned about the shipments of modern American weapons to Arab countries. Rabin even accused the American administration of fostering a quantitative and qualitative arms race. The qualitative aspect was more threatening.26 Israel under Begin confronted two American presidents on this aspect of US Middle East policy. It opposed Carter’s plan to sell F-15s to Saudi Arabia in 1978 and, in 1981, hoped to obstruct Reagan’s intention to provide the Saudis with AWACs and with equipment designed to upgrade the capabilities of their F-15s. Israel failed to convince the Americans of the dangers of such an arms transfer. Therefore, it was imperative to acquire the latest weapons. Advanced weapons were needed by Israel primarily to strengthen the Israel Air Force (IAF) by acquiring the ability to suppress enemy air defenses.27 The Air Force retained its first priority in the IDF. The Americans were reluctant to provide the IAF with such a capability, which could free up the IAF for tactical support, adding tremendous firepower to an advancing Israeli army. The Americans even hesitated to supply certain advanced systems which could be characterized as defensive and therefore stabilizing. Israel was interested in early warning systems to reduce the chances of a new Arab surprise attack. It emphasized that such equipment could eliminate the need for a preemptive strike. Another example of ‘defensive’ advanced technology the US was disinclined to sell was night vision equipment. Such items, the Israelis argued, could prevent infiltration and subsequent acts of retaliation. In both instances it took considerable time and effort to acquire some of the equipment desired.28 The Israelis often included, in their requests, ultra-sophisticated equipment, knowing a negative answer was forthcoming. They believed, nevertheless, that it was advisable to make the request in order to reserve a place in line for future supply of such items.29 Israel emphasized that the supply of American weapons of recent technological vintage was not a one-way affair. The Israelis provided life-and-death combat tests for the equipment received. Such a test was not only useful technically. The use of American equipment allowed the US to adapt this equipment to Soviet battle tactics. Furthermore, Israel gave the Pentagon an intact Soviet arsenal, including Mig-21, Sukhoi Su-7 planes, as well as advanced versions of Soviet SAMs, tanks, anti-aircraft guns, anti-tank weapons and armored personnel carriers.30 The dependent Israel was quite eager to point out its contribution to the American weapons program. Even when a certain item was, in principle, approved for sale to Israel after long strife, delivery was not immediate. In general, the Americans tried to stretch the supply timetable. First, the US had a limited production capability. This was the main factor in setting the delivery schedule of the M-60 tanks, for example. Second, a stepped-up supply was a greater financial burden, since the Americans ended up paying for most of the equipment bought by Israel. Third, delaying and stretching deliveries gave the US additional leverage over Israel. Deliveries could be slowed or halted at political convenience.


The aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War

On the other hand, the political timetable of an isolated state demanded a fast buildup of its arsenal. The source of weapons could dry up. Further, its needs were immediate, since a military confrontation could come soon. Israel indeed feared a new war and therefore tried to expand its forces accordingly.31 Yet, the Israelis were careful not to put forth this argument too forcefully. Such an argument could have strengthened the American perception of the Middle East as a powder keg, exposing Israel to growing pressures.32 When a mutual consensus existed, however, as to offensive Arab intentions, the US intensified its arms deliveries to Israel. In September 1974, Rabin and Kissinger expected an escalation to occur on the Golan in spring 1975. As a result, the US agreed to changes in shipment dates immediately to augment the IDF strength.33 Israel tried to place itself higher on the American priority list in order to enjoy a faster supply of the approved equipment. Rabin succeeded, in January 1976, in extracting from Kissinger a promise to move Israel to the top of the American priority list of weapons sales abroad.34 Yet, President Carter moved Israel back down the list.35 The Israelis were used to American procrastination in approving military items for sale and delays in their supply. Israel was aware of bureaucratic clogs and American production difficulties. Moreover, the existence of a linkage between arms and fluctuations in American–Israeli relations was a fact no one in the Israeli government ignored. The basic policy of the Israeli arms procurement program was, therefore, to buy as much as possible of items available immediately.36 This was due to the Israeli perceptions that war was likely and to the desire to limit dependency on the Americans in the future. The Rabin government did not fear, however, a total American arms embargo. True, during the 1975 reassessment period, the possibility of a drastically reduced level did cross Israeli minds, but even then the shipments of American equipment arrived on time. Similarly, the suspension of aircraft deliveries to Israel in the summer of 1981 raised Israeli apprehensions as to America’s credibility as a weapons supplier and as an ally, but deliveries were soon renewed before fears of an American decision to drastically limit its military sales to Israel could develop. Moreover, the Israelis realized that dependency upon American weapons was inevitable and stocking did not alleviate the problem in the long run. Therefore, the procurement plan also incorporated other considerations besides immediate buildup. The Israelis delayed purchasing certain items for financial reasons or other motives. Israel was allowed to buy 50 F-15s, but it ordered only twenty-five of the planes due to insufficient funds.37 Similarly, Israel delayed ordering the seventy-five approved F-16s (Israel originally demanded 250) to replace the aging F-4s. The Ministry of Defense hoped to use the potentially large Israeli order as a lever to achieve co-production rights of this plane.38 The dispatch of the airplanes was in any case not immediate and the Israelis did not foresee the Americans linking future aircraft sales to Israel to fulfilling Arab requests for advanced aircraft. This allowed Israel to feel it had some leeway in the procurement timetable of the planes.

The American arms transfer to Israel


The American arms transfer to Israel has been characterized by continuous bargaining between the two parties over the quality of the weapons, their number and their delivery schedule. Israel encountered growing American reluctance to meet its expanding needs. Nevertheless, the Israeli army grew faster in the 1974 to 1977 period than ever before. By June 1977, Israel had replaced all its war losses. Moreover, the tank force grew by 50 percent; artillery by 100 percent; armored personnel carriers by 800 percent; aircraft by 30 percent. The qualitative changes in the Israeli arsenal were just as impressive.39 This weapon procurement process continued after 1977, but at a slower rate.

Indigenous military production One related aspect of the American arms transfer to Israel is the indigenous military production. Locally produced weapons could free up Israel from its critical dependency on the US or alleviate the consequences of the sole donor–recipient relationship. Indeed, the main impetus for the remarkable development of the Israeli arms industry was political.40 Israel, like most countries, has been unable to develop and produce all the modern weapons it requires. Only a few countries have the technical and economic resources to invest in the R&D needed to produce the latest generation of arms. Even fewer have large enough needs to enjoy the economies of scale when producing high-cost per unit weapons. Even if technologically competent, in strictly economic terms it has been cheaper to import weapons, particularly sophisticated and expensive systems. Israel has been able and has produced two types of military items on a fairly economic basis. The first is light arms and ammunition. The Israeli product is competitive in this area because it is produced on a rather large scale for the IDF and for export. The most famous are the Uzi sub-machine-gun, the Galil assault rifle and the Soltam mortars. The second type consists of those weapons which are skilled labor-intensive, such as electronics. Since the cost and wages of skilled labor in Israel are considerably lower than in other industrial countries, Israel’s products are competitive.41 Examples of such well-known products are the Gabriel SSM and the Shafrir AAM.42 Since Israel’s existence may depend upon an adequate supply of weapons, the political considerations have often been more relevant than the economic ones. This is particularly true when projects for the production of high-cost per unit weapons, such as tanks and airplanes, were adopted. Shimon Peres, since the 1950s one of the most ardent advocates of the defense-related industries, mentioned several advantages of local military production.43 These are: 1 2

An increase in the degree of independence for a temporary period in case of a ‘reassessment’, or some other arms embargo. An industrial infrastructure is needed to have a high level of recycling of damaged equipment, which could relieve Israel of the need to buy new


3 4

The aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War items. Moreover, in times of war it is necessary to make the repairs quickly in order to overcome quantitative inferiority. Making improvements in imported weapons. The defense industry also has economic value: as an import substitute to save foreign currency; for profits of its own and as a source of employment.

Peres’ convictions were representative of the long-held, commonly accepted rationale for investing in a defense industry. The achievements of this industry were considered by many as signposts in Israel’s path toward economic independence, and the development of an arms production capability was part and parcel of the Israeli notions of self-reliance. The quest for a large arms industry has been part of the Israeli political ethos. Following the 1973 War, the dream of weapon self-sufficiency faded away, together with the aspiration for economic independence. The magnitude of the Israeli dependence upon the US was too overwhelming to entertain any such notions. This situation provided the critics of the Israeli defense industry, who preferred allocations to other goals, the opportunity to question the scope of the Israeli weapon program.44 This approach gained further strength when Rabin became Prime Minister. Rabin approached the subject in a strictly economic sense. He approved of producing items only if their price and quality were competitive with alternative products. He and circles in the IDF feared that they might find themselves in the situation where the IDF would be forced to order the Israeli product in order to justify its production in spite of its inferior quality. The IAF, for example, initially refused to equip itself with the Israeli Aircraft Industry (IAI)-made STOL Arava. Yet, after several years, it ended up with a few Aravas in its inventory. Rabin preferred to concentrate on adapting foreign weapons to the local arena, or developing systems that were unavailable or inadequate in the Western arsenals (e.g., sea-to-sea missiles, SAM suppressing systems).45 Rabin, as a senior officer in the IDF, had already introduced the distinction between preparedness – i.e., the alertness and the magnitude of the present order of forces – and preparation – i.e., the process of augmenting future capabilities. He recognized the tension between the two concepts.46 Then, and as Prime Minister, Rabin emphasized preparedness. This inclination was strengthened in the post-1973 War period, because a new war was feared. This short-range perspective meant purchasing available equipment immediately instead of diverting resources to local production with an uncertain delivery schedule. Rabin primarily opposed high unit cost projects. Ironically, during his tenure as Prime Minister, the Israeli-made Kfir was put on sale and the development of the Israeli supertank – Merkava – was completed. Yet both projects started in the late 1960s, when Rabin was no longer chief of staff, was out of the country serving as Israel’s ambassador in Washington, and had no influence over the fate of such plans. Indeed, both enterprises ran into financial trouble and Israel had to turn to the US for help. Israel asked Washington to allow her to use the money approved for purchasing 170 M-60 tanks (at over a quarter of a million dollars a piece) to be

The American arms transfer to Israel


used to produce the Merkava.47 Israel also wanted to export the Kfir to enable the IAI to benefit from the economies of scale. Yet, due to Israel’s political isolation, Israeli items of high visibility, such as planes, did not appeal to many prospective clients in spite of the enticing price. Even another ‘pariah’ state, Taiwan, refused to buy the Kfir. When a buyer was finally found, American permission was needed to market the Kfir abroad (due to its American-made engine). The sale of Kfirs to Ecuador was, however, blocked by the Carter Administration. The difficulties which beleaguered those two projects reinforced Rabin’s reluctance to approve ambitious enterprises. He used his power to prevent, delay or slow down the development of weapon systems he believed could be purchased on the American market at a better price and at an earlier time.48 For example, he succeeded in preventing a decision on the development of the Israeli combat plane for the 1980s – the Arieh – but not a $20 million allocation to the IAI for an early planning of such an aircraft.49 Yet he failed to bring about a decision to sign, immediately, the contract (without co-production rights) for an order for the F-16s (the Americans finally offered a 5 percent co-production, but it was not acceptable to Israel). The IAI expected the co-production to generate a sufficient turnover, as well as knowhow, to allow progress on the Arieh. In addition to the Arieh, plans for a larger missile boat (also a high-cost per unit system) were shelved. Interestingly, the 1975 ‘reassessment’ did not make any significant change in the Israeli plans for self-production.50 The French embargo in 1967 led to the Kfir and the British refusal to sell the Chieftain tank in 1969 (in spite of the Israeli contribution to its development) led to the Merkava. Possibly, the ‘reassessment’ period was too short to produce similar results. Moreover, both endeavors proved to be extremely costly. Yet, the main reason was Rabin’s serene attitude toward self-production. When the country was quite jubilant about the Kfir, he reacted differently: We should not have the illusion that in light of the huge quantities of sophisticated Soviet arms flowing to the Arab countries, we can free ourselves in the future from an American massive weapons supply to the IDF. We can be proud of the military industry’s achievements, but it is no less important to keep the right perspective.51 Rabin believed that the development of the Israeli defense industry was only a marginal addition to Israel’s security, which was dependent upon the US. Therefore, if the US objected to certain Israeli steps in the direction of a greater and a more diverse weapons production, it simply was not worth a fight with the Americans. For example, Rabin publicly declared his refusal to take up the Kfir matter with President Carter in March 1977. He did not want a confrontation with the President on a marginal issue at their first meeting. He preferred to deal with the basic issues, such as peace in the Middle East, Israel’s security and American financial aid to Israel.52 Strategic coordination was more important than satisfying the defense industry interest in producing airplanes.


The aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War

Yet, the defense industry interest group has always been well represented in the government. As a result, in the 1974 to 1976 period Israel invested about $400 million in defense-related R&D.53 Obviously, not all projects met Rabin’s criteria for self-production, but over-ambitious programs were not adopted. After 1977, when the Likud-led coalition headed by Prime Minister Begin came to power, Rabin’s serene attitude toward local production was replaced by the more traditional approach to this subject. For example, the Arieh project (renamed Lavi) was approved in February 1980. The deterioration of the Israeli economy and the growing pressure to cut the defense budget, however, prevented a dramatic growth in the defense industries during Begin’s tenure. The continuous development of the Israeli defense complex, like the growth of the IDF, has been contingent upon an American input. Interestingly, some of the initial knowhow used to produce arms in the 1950s was of American origin. At that time, this knowhow was transferred to Israel because the US preferred not to sell Israel weapons and offered, instead, access to arms production technology.54 In the 1970s, Israel again requested American aid for its military industry. Peres, on his first trip to Washington as Defense Minister in June 1974, asked the Americans to enable Israel to produce some of the items of the equipment ordered from the US.55 Israel wanted to divert American financial aid, intended to be used in the American weapons market, to Israel. As mentioned, Israel asked for funds to produce the Merkava and also for subcontracts for the F-16. Israel also requested access to American weapons knowhow in order to ease the economic burden of its security requirements.56 Israel also needed American approval when exporting items containing American components. Aware of the economic and political problems involved in continuing to develop the defense industry, Israel sought to solve those problems by reaching co-production agreements with American firms. This could have saved the Israeli defense complex the R&D expenses in acquiring advanced technology. Moreover, such an arrangement would have diminished the chances of an American veto on sales abroad. Israel expressed, for example, an interest in participating in the production of the Condor air-to-surface missile, a very expensive weapon (over $200,000 per unit). Israel also hoped to attract an American firm to co-produce the future Israeli airplane, the Lavi.57 When it came to producing high-cost per unit weapons systems, co-production with the Americans, rather than independent development, has been the main goal of the Israeli defense industry. Israel was attracted to its economic benefits. The political advantages in such ventures also appealed to the isolated country. The Americans were reluctant to help Israel in further expanding its burgeoning defence industry. Supply of sophisticated knowhow and machinery was restricted.58 For example, President Ford denied requests by Israel to obtain subcontracts for the F-16. President Carter refused to grant permission to sell the Kfirs to Ecuador, and it is believed that the Americans played a role in the Austrian decision not to purchase the Israeli Kfirs. Washington refused to allow any co-production in developing airplanes. The Americans also opposed

The American arms transfer to Israel


co-production in other areas of military equipment. For instance, the Pentagon prevented American firms from developing sensitive electronic equipment together with the Israeli Tadiran concern.59 The US preferred not to aid the Israeli defense industry in order not to lessen its dependency upon American weapons. Yet, even if the Israeli defense establishment could have reached its goal of 40 percent domestic arms production,60 the other 60 percent for the IDF would still have kept Israel tied to Washington’s apron strings. Moreover, the claim that the Israeli arms industry was stealing American technology and was subsequently undermining potential American markets was dubious.61 A comparison between the $456 million Israeli defense exports in 1976 and the $12 billion US arms exports in the same year makes it quite clear that attention on Israel’s export capability was out of all proportion to reality.62 Actually, Israeli exports could have been of some benefit to the US. They could have reduced the need for American aid and also have spurred on the sale of American items, components in Israeli products. The American attitude to Israel in this area, as in others, was motivated primarily by a desire to minimize or lower the profile of its ties with the isolated state. Yet, Israel gradually managed to soften some of the initial American opposition. The Americans probably understood that an expanded local military industry still left Israel very much dependent upon the US. In addition, they realized that the Israeli security requirements were indeed a heavy burden for its economy and that the development of its defense industry had an economic rationale. In June 1978, Israel managed to extract American approval to sell its Kfirs to Taiwan (Taiwan denied any interest in the plane following the public American announcement of its permission). Washington also bought some items in Israel for its forces in Europe and for its Mediterranean Sixth Fleet as a means of partially offsetting the cost of Israeli military purchases from the US. The IAI, which proved to be technically reliable and economically competitive, was also given, over the years, some subcontracts for components in the F-15 and the F-16. The IAI first manufactured components for the American planes for the use of the IAF only, but later also for export.63 Nevertheless, US-signed agreements to buy military products in Israel were not fulfilled.64 As was the case in weapon procurement, Israel was not fully satisfied with American cooperation. Over the years, however, a greater American tolerance for the development of the Israeli defense industry can be detected.

Conclusion In the post-October War period, Israel’s arms requirements grew considerably and, correspondingly, its dependence upon the US increased. The Israeli weapons procurement program is critical for its survival as a state. Since arms purchases are of a political nature, Israel’s first goal has been strategic coordination with the US. The Rabin government, as well as the Begin government, dealt first with the political issues. Receiving weapons in the framework of a sole donor-recipient relationship makes prior political understanding imperative.


The aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War

In spite of the occasional tensions in the relations between Jerusalem and Washington, Israel succeeded in establishing, following the 1973 War, a pattern of American support of great magnitude. The level of this support actually allows Israel to have the freedom of action, militarily and diplomatically, to conduct, for short periods of time, a policy in accordance with its vital interests despite the fact that this could evoke vehement American opposition. In its weapons procurement, as well as in its indigenous military production, Israel has striven for independence in what Peres called ‘uniquely decisive situations’.65 Specifically, Israel wished to fight the next war without an American airlift or American interference and hoped to develop a large enough army unequivocally to overpower its Arab opponents. Furthermore, it wanted to be able to withstand American pressures, including suspension of arms deliveries, for short periods of time. Yet, continuous strains between Jerusalem and Washington may have a cumulative impact and endanger the magnitude and the quality of the American arms transfer to Israel.

Part II

The use of force


Israel’s small war The military response to the Intifada

Until recently, most attention by students of the Arab–Israeli conflict was given to its international dimension. Yet its protracted nature also focused attention on the ethno-cultural characteristics of this conflict.1 Indeed, the Arab–Israeli conflict also has an intercommunal dimension that gives it a compound quality – that is, a structure composed of two bordering domains of violence, interstate and communal.2 The communal strife, dominant before 1948, acquired more prominence after 1967 when the Palestinian inhabitants of the territories on the West Bank and in Gaza came under Israeli rule. A conflict of this nature usually generates subconventional violence at the lower end of the spectrum of force.3 The Intifada, which erupted in December 1987, is one expression of the greater weight of the communal dimension of the conflict. At that time riots in several Palestinian refugee camps in the Gaza Strip developed into a popular uprising. The scope, intensity and duration of the evolving events surprised everybody, including the Palestinians themselves. The Intifada has been characterized by many non-violent methods of struggle such as commercial shutdowns, economic boycotts, labor strikes, demonstrative funerals, hoisting Palestinian flags, resignation of policemen and tax collectors, and the development of self-reliant educational, economic and political institutions. Such activities were accompanied by low levels of violence, such as throwing stones and petrol bombs, as well as internal terror, in which many suspected of cooperation with Israel were murdered. Only about 5 percent of Palestinian activity included the use of firearms. The Intifada is a rather unusual mixture of non-violent civil disobedience with subconventional use of force. In essence, it is neither a guerrilla war nor a terror campaign. Despite its experience with low-intensity operations, Israel has had to develop a different response and to wage what the British have termed ‘a small war’.4 Despite the fact that the Intifada is to a large extent sui generis, its analysis has wider implications for intercommunal and low-intensity conflict. Such types of encounters seem to be on the increase in the post-bipolar era. After three and a half years of the Intifada there is much less violence against Israeli targets in the territories and a drastic reduction in the participation of the Palestinian masses in such acts of violence. However, it is too early to conclude that the Intifada is over. The balance sheet for the period between December


The use of force

1989 and April 1991 shows that 756 Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces, while 375 additional Palestinian fatalities were the result of internal Palestinian terror. On the Israeli side only fifty-four people were killed (twenty soldiers and thirty-four civilians). The price tag (direct costs) for fighting the Intifada in the first three years is approximately $500 million.

The use of force in the Arab–Israeli conflict The role of the defense minister has been cardinal in devising the Israeli use of force toward its Arab neighbors and in particular the policy in the territories taken in the 1967 War. Yitzhak Rabin, the Defense Minister in the National Unity governments (1984–90), had served in the past as chief of staff in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and prime minister, and was generally accepted as an authority on security matters. The political constellation of the late 1980s allowed him to be the final arbiter in affairs pertaining to the IDF, its use in the territories and outside it, with little interference from other cabinet members. His perceptions of the situation and his prescriptions constituted the most influential input in forming the Israeli response to the Intifada. Since June 1990, Moshe Arens of the Likud has returned to the post of defense minister he held in the period between 1983 and 1984. Despite the rhetoric of some of his Likud colleagues, his outlook on the use of force in the Arab–Israeli conflict was similar to Rabin’s. Therefore, the previous policies were basically continued, though some changes were introduced. Rabin, like other Israeli politicians at the Center and Right of the political map, regarded Israel as being engaged in a protracted conflict over its very existence in the Middle East. The transition toward a more peaceful relationship with the Arabs was possible only through a lengthy transitional period. Therefore, Israeli military might was a necessary precondition for survival in a hostile environment. Yet Rabin, typical of middle-of-the-road and leftist Israeli politicians, did not believe that the Arab–Israeli conflict could be solved by military means alone. He often criticized the Likud for its tendency to rely on the use of force to determine the outcome of the Arab–Israeli conflict.5 Although not sufficient to put an end to the conflict, military superiority was regarded as a necessary condition for achieving this goal. It was seen as instrumental in diverting the resolution of conflict from the battlefield to the negotiating table under optimal conditions for maximizing Israeli gains in the process. The IDF were seen as instrumental in moderating Arab political expectations in the conflict. Military force was the means for a ‘diplomacy of violence’.6 Furthermore, occasional use of force was regarded as useful in signaling determination and in enhancing Israeli deterrence. In contrast to several other Likud leaders, Arens’ perspective was not that different from Rabin’s. In 1984, Arens had already stressed the limits on Israel’s use of force: ‘We are not capable of bringing our enemies to unconditional surrender, nor do we aspire to do so.’7 This similarity in the attitude toward the use of force is the main reason for the continuity in the Israeli approach to the Intifada.

Israel’s small war


The crystallization of the Israeli response The Intifada constituted a strategic as well as tactical surprise for Israel. It took several months to digest the significance of the new challenge and to develop the policy that began to be implemented in spring 1988. Rabin admitted that the policy was reached only after a process of trial and error, which was quite typical of Israeli national security decision making.8 Three distinct chronological stages can be identified in the process: the first from the beginning of the Intifada until early January 1988; the second lasting for two months until early March 1988; and the third from that date until a new Likud government was installed in June 1990, at which time a new, fourth stage began.

Stage one During the first weeks of the disturbances, Israel, as well as others in the region and outside it, estimated that the customary measures would again suffice to restore the status quo ante. It was regarded as a typical ‘current security’ problem (not one that challenged Israel’s very existence or territorial integrity), for which standard operational procedures existed. The guidelines for maintaining law and order, last formulated in 1976, emphasized minimizing contact with the population, along with a clear policy of ‘carrots and sticks’. This meant primarily economic benefits for ‘well-behaved’ towns and villages and punishment for those creating problems. In order to make this policy clear and to understand the needs of the local population, a continuous dialogue with the local leadership was recommended. Law and order were to be maintained by Border Police units, while the IDF were assigned a backup role. In the event of riots, there was a clear preference by the security forces to shy away from close contact with the rioters and, therefore, to impose curfews.9 This policy was implemented at the beginning of the Intifada. Yet, this time, as a result of a process of erosion in Israeli deterrence that had started a few years earlier,10 enforcing curfews required more troops. The absence of sufficient forces, their lack of suitable riot-control equipment and training, coupled with greater Palestinian willingness to challenge the military, frustrated IDF efforts to restore tranquility. Only toward the end of December 1987, after returning from a visit to the United States, did Rabin realize the seriousness of the problem. He then implemented the contingency plans, to be carried out in a manner he named ‘wise firmness’. According to the previously established guidelines, this policy included massive military presence and the arrest of the inciters.11 The military was still under orders to minimize contact with rioters and to refrain from firing live ammunition unless directly threatened. Yet there was not much else soldiers could do to defend themselves. Neither reserve nor regular units underwent any riot-control training before being sent to the territories. At the beginning of the Intifada, the IDF even lacked enough gas canisters and rubber bullets; these had to be airlifted to supply the growing need. Moreover, rubber bullets, the IDF discovered, were quite useless beyond a range of 15 m. In this


The use of force

initial stage, Chief of Staff Dan Shomron, in a letter to his soldiers in the territories, called restraint ‘a true expression of courage’ and pointed out that the policing duties imposed on the IDF required certain unspecified adaptations.12 In the meantime, a growing presence of ill-prepared and ill-equipped troops led to a growing number of casualties. This and the increased number of arrests did not deter the Palestinians. Stage two The riots spread, and by early January 1988 the Intifada and its reverberations in the international media had become a serious diplomatic problem for Israel. Furthermore, it was realized that the disturbances had far-reaching political goals. A review of leaflets published by various Palestinian groups since the beginning of the Intifada indicated that all had two common goals: first, the weakening of Israeli rule by civil disobedience in order to bring about its withdrawal, and second, the establishment of a Palestinian state.13 Rabin, who was cognizant of those objectives, pointed out to his party activists in March: This is a violent civilian activity with a clear political goal, which is no different from that of the Arab states in their wars against us. The goal is not to improve economic conditions or municipal elections. It is to push us out of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and I am not sure whether it is only these territories from which the Palestinians want to push us.14 The Intifada triggered for Rabin and others the ‘evoked set’ of the politicide campaign against the very existence of the Jewish state.15 The second stage was characterized by an increase in the Israeli threat perception. It was then decided ‘to strike the violent demonstrations off the agenda’.16 The second goal, as enunciated by Rabin, was to guarantee freedom of travel in all areas, while the third was to guarantee that those Arabs who wanted to leave to work in Israel could do so. The fourth goal was to break the commercial strikes.17 This was to be accomplished by force. An even greater number of troops, including reserve units, were sent to the territories. In addition, IDF deployment was changed and confrontation tactics adopted. IDF troops were ordered to charge demonstrators. Since methods that might lead to a bloodbath were rejected and there was clear apprehension about casualties, the regulations governing when to fire were not changed. Yet, as Rabin was impressed with the ability of the Border Police to restore order by using sticks, the troops were equipped with batons, and a policy of beatings was initiated. It was intended to restore through measured force some of the deterrence lost.18 This is what Rabin had in mind when he made his famous observation, ‘Nobody dies of a beating.’ But he added on a later occasion, ‘Each Palestinian rioter will carry a scar.’19 Physical force was to be used to disperse demonstrations, and the pain inflicted in quelling a riot would prevent additional such events. It was also believed that the physical contact was useful in terms of troop morale. Maj. Gen. Amram

Israel’s small war


Mitzna, who was serving as head of Central Command, said one month after the beatings started, ‘We have reached a situation – which I see as advantageous – in which the clash has become a physical one. The soldier is beginning to develop self-confidence, and the other side is being deterred.’20 In this second stage, Israeli authorities began mass arrests, detaining by early March over 2,500 rioters, inciters and suspected Palestinian activists. Some were deported.21 Although a reduction in casualties was achieved, the new policy failed to reach its main goal of ending the mass demonstrations. Furthermore, Rabin learned that beaten Palestinians were even hotter news than dead ones: ‘I see when Arabs are the victims of our gunfire the local and international media are much less concerned than when Arabs are beaten up. In my eyes this is a world with twisted concepts.’22 Nonetheless, the political implications of the international attention, coupled with the soldiers’ distress at beating civilians, led in March 1988 to a reassessment and to the adoption of a new policy, which remains in effect. Stage three The prelude to the third stage was the realization that Israel was facing a surprising new form of Arab struggle. At the beginning of March 1988, Rabin admitted that the method adopted by the Palestinians was difficult to cope with. According to Rabin, the Intifada had to be distinguished from conventional war and the terrorist campaign of the Palestinian organizations. It was a sui generis form of warfare, which required a response quite different from that for which the IDF were trained in the conventional and terrorist arenas.23 On a later occasion, he pointed out that the popular uprising, which utilized almost no firearms, needed no logistic system, as the Palestinians could easily supply themselves with stones, knives or petrol bombs. The motivation to challenge the Israeli military presence was widespread, and the activities engaged in by Palestinians needed little coordination from a headquarters or a communications network.24 The decentralized use of low-level violence, primarily stone throwing and roadblocks, as well as civil disobedience, posed quite a challenge to the IDF. Because of the Israeli responsibility to the civilian population in its role as the occupying power, there were legal and political limitations on what the IDF could do. Such limitations were absent in a war with the Arab armies or in Israel’s campaign against terrorists. Israeli superiority in firepower, in tanks and in airplanes, was simply irrelevant in this encounter.25 In March 1988, Rabin began to believe that ‘just by using force within the framework of what is allowed, through detentions as permitted by law, we will be unable to stop the violence’.26 He then rejected the option of mobilizing reserve soldiers on a much wider scale and for longer terms to police the territories because ‘it will hurt our economy’. Yet he raised the possibility of ‘using civilian means, such as harsh economic measures and limitations on freedom of movement’. The legal constraints on Israel’s freedom of action in the territories, which the defense minister deplored more than once, prevented more radical


The use of force

measures such as the use of deportation as a regular punishment or relaxing restrictions on opening fire on civilians. In other words, Rabin began to think in terms of an integrated policy of civilian and military means. Furthermore, Rabin related his outlook on the use of force in the Arab–Israeli conflict to the particular situation Israel faced in the territories. The Intifada was regarded as another facet of the protracted Arab struggle against Israel. As a result of such a perception, military force was no longer sufficient to solve the problem. The process would be a lengthy one: I believe that the problem cannot be resolved in one go. What will bring the violence to an end is a cumulative process of physical and economic fatigue and the disruption of the frameworks of daily life. However, the only solution to the underlying causes of the violence is a political one.27 Rabin never entertained the ideas aired in rightist circles that there was a purely military solution that would restore the status quo ante. The operative goal he had in mind was a reasonable level of tranquility in the territories and the continued operation of the Civil Administration as a symbol of Israel’s rule in the territories. His political goal was more ambitious – to force the Arabs in the territories to forgo their aspiration for a separate Palestinian state. In the third stage of the Israeli response to the Intifada, the attempt to achieve a decisive result in a single series of military engagements within a limited time span was abandoned. The IDF stopped seeking contact with the demonstrators and refrained from forcing store-owners to open their businesses. The third stage is characterized by a strategy of attrition. Such a form of warfare stresses the cumulative effect to be obtained during the course of a prolonged sequence of intermittent actions, none of which alone need be regarded as decisive in the attainment of the political objectives.28 Such a strategy has rarely been adopted by Israel. In most of its military encounters it preferred short wars and capitalized on the IDF predilection for quick and decisive action. This is what was tried unsuccessfully in the second stage. In contrast, in the third stage Rabin advocated a patient three-part approach of grinding down the Intifada; limited use of military force to prevent violence, judicial means such as incarceration, administrative arrest and selective deportation; and administrative and economic pressures to clarify that a carrot-and-stick policy is being implemented and, concomitantly, to increase the dependence of the population on the Israeli authorities.29 In short, the IDF increased their presence tenfold, introduced new types of ammunition, changed the regulations governing when to open fire, and deployed commando and crack infantry brigades. Initially, close to 10,000 Palestinians were placed under arrest (this number grew later on); and harsh economic and administrative pressure was applied to the general population. The military aspects of this integrated policy are reviewed below. Notwithstanding the harsh aspects of its new approach, Israel was not interested in pushing the population to despair. Rabin described the dilemma:

Israel’s small war


We have to strike a balance between actions that could bring on terrible economic distress and a situation in which they have nothing to lose, and measures which bind them to the Israeli administration and prevent civil disobedience.30 The third stage constituted the beginning of Israel’s small war, which is characterized by extensive political goals, a strategy of attrition and a rather limited use of force. The attritional approach, characteristic of small wars, scored several successes. By mid-1988, mass demonstrations had practically ended, and there was only minor interference on most travel routes. The attempt to organize a ‘popular army’ in the villages that declared ‘independence’ during summer 1988 also failed.31 The hunt for Intifada activists, who were often armed, ended on many occasions in their elimination or capture. The IDF was much better suited to this type of assignment than to quelling mass demonstrations. Such encounters were obviously less problematic for Israeli public opinion. Furthermore, Israel succeeded in preventing the collapse of its rule, and the local population had little choice but to use the services offered by the Civil Administration. Yet the population found itself virtually under two regimes – the Israeli regime and that of the popular committees – with no ability to disengage itself from either of them. The civil disobedience in the territories is not complete. Its goal is not to create chaos but to demonstrate Israel’s inability to rule exclusively and to establish the infrastructure for a Palestinian state. As a result, a system of dual authority emerged in the territories.32 Actually, a Palestinian structure of authority preceded the Intifada and had not been eradicated. In Israeli parlance, ‘the hard core’ continued its violent resistance. It enforced the commercial boycotts, general strikes and work stoppages, and increasingly engaged in internal terror. Furthermore, the throwing of stones at Israeli soldiers and cars – the Intifada’s symbol – has continued. Indeed, Rabin observed that ‘the blood of the Intifada is the stones’.33 By the end of the second year of the Intifada, 80 percent of all acts of violence were in stone-throwing incidents. (In 60 percent of the cases children were involved.) Petrol bombs and road-blocks were involved in 15 percent of all violent acts, while, as noted, only 5 percent of violent acts involved firearms.34 This pattern has continued, with small fluctuations, up until the present. Rabin stressed repeatedly that the Palestinian violence would be met with Israeli countermeasures and had no chance of bringing any political results. Gradually, Israel reconciled itself to a lengthy struggle. One of the assumptions of the IDF multi-year work plan, presented to the government in September 1989, was that the Intifada would continue for another five years.35 At the end of 1989, after two years of Intifada, Rabin even described it as a ‘new war of attrition’, which could last for another two years.36 In his opinion, ‘Israeli society has adjusted itself to this.’37 Rabin acknowledged that the army had not been able to bring the uprising under control, but he likened this failure to the way the IDF had failed to uproot terror from Lebanon through military operations.38 In his opinion, it was impossible to ensure a situation in the territories in which there


The use of force

would not be even one stone thrown. Therefore, the army’s assignment was ‘to bring tranquility and to reduce violence to a bearable level’.39 Furthermore, he pointed out that dealing with the Intifada consumed only 4 percent of the defense budget, in contrast to the 8 percent allocated to patrolling the borders.40 Rabin had come to see the Intifada as a manageable ‘current security’ problem. It was pointed out that an important element in low-intensity conflict strategy is the development of tolerance for ambiguous and indeterminate conflict.41 Israeli society has been successful in routinizing conflict.42 Yet, in contrast to some Likud members in the National Unity government, Rabin recognized that his policy, which emphasized Israeli determination not to give in to the Palestinian use of force, had to be complemented by political measures. The search for a political avenue to satisfy some of the Palestinian aspirations was an imperative for Rabin. Despite his emphasis on a power contest, he was committed to seeking political proposals for a resolution to the dispute: ‘We need a military and political policy that stands on two feet. Any policy that stands on just one foot will never lead to a solution.’43 After King Hussein of Jordan announced his disengagement from the territories on 31 July 1988, Rabin and his Labour Party remained without a partner for a peace process. Then, before the November 1988 elections, Rabin agreed to a change in his party’s platform, allowing negotiations with an independent Palestinian delegation for an interim agreement. This change was the result not only of Jordan’s moves but also of Rabin’s realization that the Palestinians in the territories could be a partner. Already in January 1988, he observed, ‘The special feature about what is happening here is that for the first time it is the residents of the territories that are leading the Palestinian struggle.’44 Prior to the Israeli elections, Rabin and Shimon Peres suggested an election plan in the territories. Due to Rabin’s efforts, this plan was incorporated into the National Unity government peace initiative of May 1989. Indeed, the Likud did not attempt to change the policy instituted by Rabin even after the Likud established a right-wing government in June 1990. Stage four As noted, the change in the Ministry of Defense with the establishment of a Likud-led government left most things as they were. In his first days in office, Arens stated that the IDF’s job was to reduce the level of violence and to secure the safety of the civilian population in order to facilitate a political dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians.45 Yet he was more sensitive than his predecessor to Jewish demands for better security on the roads. Therefore, a minor redeployment took place to increase the IDF presence on the major routes of travel.46 Since the IDF did not increase the total number of troops in the territories, fewer soldiers were available for policing areas further away from the main roads. This development and Arens’ order to minimize contact with the local population, as well as a stricter enforcement of the regulations governing when to open fire, all led to reduced friction and fewer Palestinian fatalities, and

Israel’s small war


furthered the process, begun earlier, of lowering the level of Palestinian violence against Israeli targets. Despite his success in bringing more tranquility to the territories, for which he was praised even by the Israeli Left, Arens had no illusion that the Intifada could be quickly eradicated.47 Like Rabin, he also seemed to indicate that Israel had to learn to live with this situation.

The adaptation of the IDF The adaptation of the IDF to the new form of warfare was a slow and gradual process. This was partly a result of the initial perception that the Intifada would fade away. In addition, organizational dynamics led the IDF, like most other armies, to prefer preparing for a conventional war.48 Resistance to specializing in small wars is widespread in many armies.49 As a matter of fact, ‘the highly socio-politically sensitive character of low-intensity conflict and force employment require a dimension that is hardly touched in standard military training.’50 Similarly, the IDF were not trained for or experienced in dealing with a popular uprising and had little appetite for such operations. Nonetheless, the IDF made efforts to adapt to the new situation in several areas. Manpower Increased military presence In the second stage the IDF had already relearned the lesson that riot control required greater numbers of personnel. Gradually, the IDF increased the number of troops deployed regularly in the territories from approximately 1,000 to between 10,000 and 12,000. On sensitive dates, when mass demonstrations were expected, additional soldiers were sent into the territories. Rabin pointed out a fact well known in the counter-insurgency literature – namely that the use of live ammunition was inversely related to the number of troops present.51 Massive presence had a deterrent effect. Increased number of permanently stationed troops Before the Intifada, the IDF had rejected the establishment of special units assigned to occupation duties. Only Border Police companies served for long periods of time beyond the Green Line (the pre-1967 border). It has been observed that an ongoing presence is very advantageous in counter-insurgency activities because familiarity with the terrain and with the people is acquired. A unit that can stay in an area for a long time is worth several times as many men who are constantly on the move from one place to another.52 Indeed, the IDF increased the quotas of draftees sent to serve in the Border Police, and the number of such units deployed in the territories was gradually doubled. Due to their police training, those units were more effective in riot control, and as a


The use of force

result there were fewer casualties on the Palestinian side. In addition, almost ten companies belonging to armored, engineering and artillery units of the regular army were stationed for eight months in the territories, while they spent the rest of the year with their organic units.53 The greater use of regulars rather than reservists also allowed the regular units to stay longer in one area. Increased proportion of regulars In the first year of the Intifada, the brunt of the struggle was carried by reservists. This changed for several reasons. First, the use of reservists is expensive. In times of budgetary cuts this factor became more influential in operational considerations. Second, the IDF, as part of a long-standing policy, wanted to ease the burden on reservists, which was increased in the first year of the Intifada to up to sixty days of reserve duty a year. It was disclosed that in 1990 and 1991 reserve duty would be reduced to forty-four days. Third, service in the territories interfered more with reservist training programs than with those of the regular army. Fourth, the older reservists were less agile in the pursuit of fleeing demonstrators or stone throwers than were the young soldiers in the regular army. Fifth, the regulars would be deployed for longer periods of time than the reservists. Finally, it appears that the IDF preferred to use regulars, who were politically more docile. They had a less-developed political consciousness and were more constrained in their political activities than were reservists. The growing numbers of draftees facilitated the transition to the use of more regulars. The increase in the number of troops regularly stationed in the territories for a long period of time also reduced the need for reservists. This effort continued when it was decided at the beginning of 1990 to send regulars stationed in Israel to the territories for guard duty, for limited periods of time, instead of calling up reservists.54 An upgrading of the command level In contrast to the pre-Intifada period, the IDF made efforts to send into the territories the more promising commanding officers who had once shied away from such service. The number of posts to be filled by senior officers was increased following the changes in IDF deployment in the Israeli-ruled territories. The chief of staff ordered first-class field officers to be posted in the headquarters in the territories.55 Gradually, fighting the Intifada was perceived as a respectable battle assignment and not an unimportant policing duty. An additional measure to upgrade the command level in the territories was the recruitment of senior reserve officers to regular service. Many were approached personally and asked to sign a long-term contract with the army.56 The change in the attitude of the IDF toward the struggle against the Intifada is very important because this then extends down through the ranks. The realization that the campaign against the Intifada will be part of the IDF assignment for a long time to

Israel’s small war


come and that it is important has an impact on the reserves, and it also influences the public at large. Intelligence The surprise outbreak of the Intifada led to an intelligence reorganization. The General Security Services (GSS) were given the responsibility for all types of intelligence in the territories, including research and general evaluation of the Palestinians there. The IDF Intelligence Branch was also assigned certain new duties concerning the territories. Mechanisms for better coordination between the two services were established. IDF units in the territories were assigned GSS liaison officers. This improved coordination since mid-1989 enabled the IDF to display more initiative in contrast to the reactive behavioral characteristics of the beginning of the Intifada. This better flow of intelligence facilitated the transition from imposing collective punishment to treating selected targets. Scouting units were equipped with sophisticated optical equipment for seeing and photographing Intifada participants from great distances.57 The army also used gliders, remote-piloted vehicles and helicopters for supplying real-time intelligence. Training Eventually the IDF realized that the Intifada was a very specific form of warfare. Rabin admitted that the IDF had not been ready for such an encounter and accepted responsibility for this failure.58 As noted, armies have inhibitions in preparing for small wars. The IDF have learned to cope, however. The organizational knowledge accumulated has been slowly digested and propagated. For example, only recently the IDF have learned that there is a need to standardize reporting of events.59 The IDF issued many publications to educate their personnel. Doctrine on various tactical aspects has been developed. As in other areas of activity, a rich literature of instruction dealing with many operational aspects of combating the Intifada has been made available to IDF units.60 At the Command and Staff College, however, this subject is hardly treated as yet. However, riot control has been included as one of the subjects to be learned by the IDF’s new draftees. Currently, units destined to serve in the territories undergo several days of training at a training site suited for this purpose. This training is, however, of much shorter duration than the process of readying a British unit to serve in Ulster, for example.61 In general, the army has a much better knowledge of how to deal with hostile civilians. It is not clear to what extent the IDF sensitize officers to the operational value of non-violent ways in a small war. Commanders need to develop negotiating skills to forestall or terminate disturbances. There is little evidence that the IDF use their psychological-warfare specialists. It is quite clear that more Arab speakers at the officer and non-commissioned officer level could be valuable in preventing misunderstandings.


The use of force

Operations Deployment The massive presence of the IDF in the territories allowed for a more widespread deployment. Soldiers were positioned in hundreds of sites to secure travel routes and deter stone throwing and petrol bombs. The number of patrols, by foot or vehicle, was increased. In general, the IDF preferred to operate in larger formations, particularly in populated areas, in order to deter disturbances. Problematic villages were subjected to large-scale raids. The use of special units The IDF decided to use some of their commando units in the territories for special assignments. The foreign press mentioned the names of two such units: Duvdvan and Shimshon. Such units, usually in disguise, abduct or kill leading members of the ‘hard core’ or the ‘shock committees’. In addition, sniper units were deployed to eliminate the leading elements (the masked activists). The latitude such units have, particularly in the area of firing live ammunition, seems to be much wider than that given to the rest of the army. The IDF also employed crack infantry units in the territories. The villages that declared ‘independence’ were often targets of those units. Sometimes such units were used in conjunction with helicopter-borne operations. A greater use of helicopters was needed to achieve flexible and rapid deployment. Such crack units are obviously better suited to the type of warfare the Intifada dictates. Indeed, Intifada gangs such as the Black Panther and the Red Eagle in Nablus were effectively eliminated. In other, less prestigious units, officers for special operations were signed up in order to raise the quality of counter-insurgency activities. Changes in regulations governing opening fire From the beginning of the Intifada there were stringent restrictions on the use of live ammunition against civilians. The rubber bullets were, as noted, inadequate, which left the IDF with no long-range weapon against the Palestinians. The introduction of plastic bullets at the end of July 1988 changed that. This bullet, not lethal at a range of over 70 m, gave IDF soldiers a tactical advantage over stone throwers and demonstration inciters. Initially, only officers and specially trained soldiers were allowed to shoot this type of ammunition, at legs below the knee and at a range of over 70 m. In January 1989, non-commissioned officers were also allowed to use plastic bullets, and the mandate was enlarged to include fleeing demonstrators. Lax enforcement of the regulations initially resulted in an increase in casualties, but also in deterrence. In summer 1988, the IDF again allowed (after a few months, ban) the use of live ammunition against persons throwing petrol bombs. In September 1989, after a testing period in Gaza, the license to use live ammunition was widened against unarmed masked Palestinians who refused to

Israel’s small war


stop for arrest. By the end of the following year (1990), IDF snipers were allowed to fire at stone throwers. At the beginning of 1990, a new rubber bullet with greater range and impact was introduced. Not defined as lethal ammunition, its use is more widespread and less discriminate, which also increases the casualties.62 All these measures did not lead to a rise in the number of casualties, due to an increasingly strict enforcement of the firing regulations. Equipment The provision of equipment for the anti-Intifada campaign was rather slow and was hindered by financial constraints. Eventually, the troops were equipped with helmets to protect them from stones. Protective gear against stones and petrol bombs was installed in the army’s vehicles. As noted, plastic and improved rubber bullets were introduced. Higher quality batons and gas canisters were also added to the IDF arsenal. Similarly, many soldiers were issued with sharpshooter equipment to provide for a more discriminate firepower. The army also experimented with gravel throwers and gas rockets as non-lethal means to disperse demonstrations. The number of jeeps was gradually increased to provide greater mobility. The use of dogs in dispersing demonstrations was considered but rejected. Similarly, the idea of using arrows with anesthetics in order to capture demonstrators was discarded.

Is victory within reach? The IDF gradually developed a small war strategy and adjusted itself in several ways to meet the new challenge. But armies fight to win wars. Is the Intifada a war that can be won? The answer to this question depends on the military and political objectives set by the political leadership and on the goals of the Palestinians. The extent to which the goals of the two sides are a zero-sum game is pertinent to what may be termed an Israeli victory. Finally, the price for achieving the goals must be considered. The IDF was initially given the task of restoring the status quo ante. This it was unable to do. Later, reducing violence to a bearable level became the goal. It is not clear what ‘bearable’ means. Israeli society, which has succeeded in routinizing conflict, seems to have adjusted to a certain level of violence in the territories. We should not forget, however, that this adjustment was not only the achievement of Israel’s small war. The Intifada also seems to be fading away from the Israeli and international consciousness due to the diversion of international attention to other areas, unfortunately for the Palestinians. This could change, of course. In the meantime, the Israeli level of indifference is not conducive to the achievement of Palestinian goals. Israel has also attempted to forestall the challenge to its governing role. As noted earlier, it was only partially successful, as a parallel structure of authority was in operation. As a matter of fact, Israel attempted primarily to isolate the ‘hard nucleus’ that was engaging in terror and was enforcing the Intifada rules.


The use of force

The elimination of the whole Palestinian structure of authority was really not an Israeli goal. Israeli authorities have been ambivalent toward the emergence of a Palestinian leadership in the territories and toward the political institutionalization of the Palestinian national movement, which was accelerated by the Intifada. On one hand, this process of building a national authority structure made the Palestinians less docile, leading some of the Palestinian leadership to Israeli jails. On the other hand, it created an alternative Palestinian partner to the unacceptable PLO for a dialogue with Israel. As noted, Rabin was pleased to observe that since 1987, for the first time, local Palestinians led the struggle. He and others hoped that they could be partners to an agreement, particularly after Jordan’s King Hussein disengaged from the West Bank. A similar Israeli ambivalence may be found with regard to the long-term policy toward the territories, which was confusing to their inhabitants. The lack of clarity was primarily due to the stalemate in Israeli politics. Labour was willing to relinquish part of the territories and even the Likud leaders spoke about taking the IDF out of the cities in an autonomy arrangement. An inevitable result was growing Palestinian unrest. It is impossible to secure the cooperation of the population in an insurgency if the government states its intention to withdraw.63 Finally, in the competition to coerce the population into cooperation, the IDF has little chance to win vis-à-vis the brutality of the internal terror conducted by the Intifada leaders. Israeli withdrawal from the territories, one goal of the Intifada, is still far from imminent. True, polls show a slightly greater inclination on the part of Israelis to relinguish some of the territories. Yet a Palestinian state, another Intifada goal, is still rejected by most of the Israeli political elite and public. Palestinian behavior during the uprising did not project an image of them as good neighbors. The support for Iraq of the Palestinian masses and their leadership during the 1990 to 1991 Gulf crisis and the disheartening effects of the fact that Palestinians were cheering as Scud missiles landed in Israeli neighborhoods further estranged them even from Israelis who had been sympathetic to their cause. The previously noted adjustment of Israeli society to the new state of affairs does not bring the Palestinians much closer to their goals. Possibly, the suffering on both sides will have educational value in lowering expectations and redefining the meaning of victory. Protracted conflicts in other parts of the world seem to indicate, however, that collectives are not fast learners and that collective aspirations legitimize the investment of heavy societal costs. The cost to Israel in human and material losses is also not exorbitant. It parallels the effort invested in combating terror, though the psychological price is higher. An indirect price is interference with preparations for the next conventional war. The troops are chasing children in the territories instead of training, and funds are diverted from research and development and weapons procurement. Yet an army has to prepare for the most likely encounter. Before and particularly after the Gulf War, the main threats to Israel appear to lie in the subconventional and non-conventional areas in the spectrum of violence. The

Israel’s small war


Intifada and missile-launched chemical weapons are more of a problem in the near future than are the conventional armies of Israel’s Arab rivals. It is also not clear that possible failures in a future conventional war are more potentially damaging to Israel than a setback in the struggle against the Intifada. Taking into consideration that the Intifada could influence the drawing of Israel’s future eastern border, this confrontation probably constitutes the most critical front. Low-intensity conflict could well be the decisive form of warfare in the near future. The Israeli preoccupation with the Intifada has undoubtedly affected its preparedness for the next conventional war. Yet the degree of erosion in warwaging capability is probably marginal for the time being. A main component in Israel’s deterrent capability, its air force, was unaffected by the Intifada. Internal political divisions over the suppression of the Palestinian uprising will also have little impact in the event that Israel is attacked by an Arab state. The growing limitations on the political elite’s freedom to use military force due to the need for a broad consensus have little relevance for deterring an Arab-initiated war. However, a failure to stand up to the Intifada can signal to its Arab rivals an Israeli loss of nerve. From the Arab states’ reactions to the fortunes of the Palestinians in the past decade, whether in Lebanon or in the Israeli-ruled territories, there is little evidence for believing that Israel’s small war in the territories could trigger an escalation. The ongoing Intifada seems to have little effect on the Arab states’ relations with Israel. Yet an escalation in the Palestinian level of violence and a transition to a successful form of country or urban guerrilla warfare could, under certain international circumstances, precipitate greater readiness on the part of Arab actors to become involved in a war with Israel. Indeed, the IDF is preparing itself for a transition to the greater use of firearms by the Palestinians and an escalation in the Intifada.64 Finally, in case of war – not necessarily in connection with the Intifada – it is argued that the occupation forces needed to police the territories would be missing on the front. In 1989 the chief of staff disputed such a scenario: During war some of the limits which we imposed on ourselves in the use of force will be lifted. Then we will be under a real existential threat and we will be able with a much lesser force to guarantee what we need for the conduct of war . . . I cannot enter into details.65 The Palestinians would no doubt understand that the rules of the game in the event of war are different. The question is to what extent they will be willing to pay the price, heavy as it may be. Moreover, in case war breaks out in the course of an Israeli campaign to vanquish stepped-up guerrilla warfare, not all troops engaged in such a campaign could be diverted to the border. This could well be the case if some Israeli Arabs, as feared, join in Intifada-type activities.66 The cautious Palestinian behavior during the Gulf War is evidence of an unwillingness to provoke harsh Israeli countermeasures during a crisis. This may change.


The use of force

These observations lead to the conclusion that a great effort should be made to lower the level of violence as much as possible and to localize the conflict. This would enable the political level to pursue a dialogue with the Palestinians under better conditions. Establishing greater specific deterrence in the Palestinian streets is also extremely important; this would involve a greater military effort. The limits of Israeli society’s tolerance for the use of force against the Palestinians is not clear. While victory in a conventional sense may be impossible in the immediate future – and this is in the nature of small wars – reducing violence to prevent an escalation is within reach. The IDF’s true victory has been their ability to fight a somewhat controversial war with few scars. Despite the unpopularity of the small war it has been engaged in, and despite the dark prophecies that the IDF would disintegrate, the army has succeeded for now in adapting to the new situation and has managed to survive the turmoil in Israel over the question of the destiny of the territories. This is unquestionably partly the result of Israeli society’s ability to routinize conflict. Furthermore, the political leadership understood that the use of force would have to be accompanied by a peace plan. The existence of a National Unity government minimized the tensions to some extent. Finally, the High Command succeeded in creating an atmosphere in the army that tolerated a certain degree of dissension, coupled with an insistence on strictly following orders within a framework of accepted legality.


The ‘no choice war’ debate in Israel

The Likud-led government decided on 5 June 1982 to order the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to enter south Lebanon. The official goal was to eliminate the Palestinian military threat to the Israeli settlements in the northern part of the country.1 The cabinet decision was approved the following day by a great majority in the Knesset, including most opposition parties. But the national consensus in favor of the war in Lebanon gradually disintegrated. The realization that Operation Peace for Galilee, the official name for the war, had actually expanded beyond the initially stated goals and the discontent with the growing number of Israeli casualties, lessened support for the military intervention in Lebanon. The continued fighting, however, muted some of the criticism. At the beginning, most politicians preferred to express their doubts or criticism in closed forums, in spite of the fact that the media was voicing increased criticism of the war. Yet, following the August 1982 bombings of Beirut and particularly in the aftermath of the massacres of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps that were perpetrated by the Phalangist forces – Israel’s allies – opposition to the war became vocal and widespread.2 The discontent was visible not only among the politicians of the opposition, but also in the high echelons of the army, and even at the cabinet level. The war, its goals and the way it was run became the center of a bitter political debate that has not yet ended. The acrimonious debate in Israel over the invasion of Lebanon unquestionably reflects a rise in widespread tension and deep cleavage in Israeli society.3 Indeed, foreign policy issues constitute the most important factor in the Right–Left cleavage in Israel.4 Much political energy was directed to mere polemics in order to score points in the struggle for the hearts of the electorate. Yet the political quarrels over the war forced many of the politicians to clarify their position concerning the issue of war. This aspect of the controversy, the thinking about war in the Israeli political elite, is the focus of this chapter.5 The popular expression ‘no choice war’ focused most of the attention of the debaters. The various ways this concept was understood are investigated here. The debate around this term also disclosed the attitudes toward the use of force – the last issue addressed in this work. First, however, the general tendency to view war as a phenomenon over which Israel has little control is examined.


The use of force

War – a phenonemon forced upon Israel Since its establishment in 1948, Israel has fought six wars: the 1948 Independence War, the 1956 Sinai Campaign, the 1967 Six Day War, the 1969–70 War of Attrition, the 1973 Yom Kippur War and the 1982 Lebanon War. In addition, the IDF have been used on many occasions at lower levels of violence in the ladder of the use of force.6 The question who started the wars is obviously an emotional and highly charged political issue. Conventional academic knowledge, which I subscribe to in this case, views the wars of 1948, of 1969 to 1970 and of 1973 as purely defensive, while the wars of 1956 and of 1967 are classified, respectively, as preventive and pre-emptive.7 The classification of the 1982 War became the bone of contention in the ongoing debate. The arguments used in this political dialogue, though couched in different terms, are treated in the next section. Indeed, most Israeli politicians seem to be unaware of the niceties of war typologies. The general tendency is to regard all wars, with the exception of the 1982 War, as forced upon Israel. A seemingly fatalistic attitude that Israel was destined to be engaged in wars is widespread. Rafael Eitan, Chief of Staff in 1982 and later on one of the rightwing Techia and Tzomet party leaders, recalled in his memoirs an incident when he was called home from abroad to participate in a military operation. His reaction was, ‘I know I am back home . . . there is war. I do not complain; each people with its destiny.’8 Moshe Arens, a prominent Likud leader, related the existence of the endemic state of war in the Middle East to systemic factors.9 Such a perception of war as a phenomenon beyond human control was common not only in the circles of the Right. Amnon Rubinstein, leader of the center Shinui Party, wrote in one of his books, ‘Israel was destined to live in a hostile world that refuses to accept it and to see it as a part of the Middle Eastern reality.’10 This hostility created, in Rubinstein’s opinion, a constant danger of war and annihilation.11 Shimon Peres, the Labour leader, explained the inevitability of war in the past in historiosophic terms. He viewed the Middle East as being in a transition period between a war era and a post-war era in a world divided into pre-war, war and post-war regions. In his opinion, this historic process has advanced deterministically ‘according to proven dialectics’.12 He was optimistic about the chances of a peaceful relationship in the region, but the role played by the forces of history was emphasized, rather than the deeds of human beings. In the past, according to Peres, Israel was doomed to live in a war era. The Jewish attitudinal prism to foreign affairs is also conducive to the view that the wars waged by Israel are a continuation of a typical pattern of Jewish existence. Jewish history is seen as a unique struggle for survival in a hostile environment. Many Israelis, and among them politicians, even hold a Manichean Weltanschauung in which Jews face alone the hostile and/or untrustworthy gentiles.13 Such a perspective accentuates the feeling that wars are inflicted on the Jewish nation and very little can be done about it. There is a widespread belief in Israel in the inevitability of war.14

The ‘no choice war’ debate in Israel


The historic experience of the Jews in the Land of Israel in the twentieth century, or its accepted interpretation, also reinforced such a view. The Zionist endeavor faced a hostile welcome, and the use of force became a regular pattern in the interaction with the Arab environment. Tremendous energy went into building one of the best war machines in the post-Second World War period. This machine was also tested quite often in battle. Indeed, the most commonly used words in reference to the wars in which Israel was involved are ‘forced upon’, ‘unwillingly’, ‘necessity’ or ‘inevitably’. Israeli wars are usually regarded as ‘no choice wars’, a term discussed in the next section. For example, Moshe Katzav, one of the younger generation Likud leaders, said, ‘Israel has unfortunately experienced unwillingly many wars since its establishment.’15 Dov Shilansky, a Likud MK, announced that ‘the war in the north was forced upon us . . . and we had no choice but to act’.16 Similarly, his party colleague, MK Meir Cohen-Avidov, had no hesitation in declaring that ‘The war in Lebanon, like the other wars of Israel, was forced upon us’.17 Even Ariel Sharon, the architect of the war in Lebanon, stated, ‘. . . two weeks before the Operation Peace for Galilee . . . I did not think this war would be forced upon us so soon.’18 The clear preference for seeing participation in a war as being the result of processes beyond the control of Israel is not a mere expression of insincerity. Michael Waltzer aptly points out that ‘Wherever we find hypocrisy, we find also moral knowledge’.19 War is obviously not a desirable act. Therefore, it is preferable to place the responsibility for its beginning and its results on the other side, on systemic factors, or on the Jewish fate. To some extent, the language used by Israeli politicians allows them to escape some of the responsibility for the decisions leading to war. This tendency to view war as the outcome of events for which Israel has no responsibility is, as mentioned above, typical not only of the politicians on the Right who supported the war in Lebanon. Shulamit Aloni, leader of the Movement for Civil Rights, a party toward the left of the Israeli political spectrum, warned against the tendency to become involved in the Lebanese morass before the war. She emphasized that with the exception of the Litani Operation (a limited military incursion into Lebanon in March 1978), ‘All our previous wars were wars of necessity.’20 Aaron Nachmias, a Labour MK, demanded that an authority be established in May 1982 to take care of shelter building in Israel. His explanation for his suggestion included, ‘We do not know when a war will be forced on us by our enemies.’21 Similarly, his party colleague, MK Avraham Katz-Oz, claimed before the war in Lebanon that all wars in which Israel had participated were ‘forced upon us by outside factors’.22 Chaim Bar-Lev, a former chief of staff and one of the Labour leaders, justified the first phase of the war in 1982 because ‘military action was inevitable in order to free the settlements from the artillery threat’.23 In this speech he maintained that ‘such a military step was necessary and justified’. He continued by criticizing the expansion of the war, but quite interestingly he spoke of Israel as ‘sliding’ into the second phase. Such an expression evokes connotations of an involuntary process.


The use of force

It seems that in Israeli political culture it is difficult to view war as an instrument of policy in the Clausewitzian tradition. Politicians prefer to regard warlike activity in which Israel engages as something forced from outside upon the Israeli political system. This characteristic also explains the reluctance of the politicians to discuss the war aims of Israel.24 The political level has refrained from delving into the important issue of the objectives of war, in spite of the fact that continuous preparations for war consume a significant part of the national energy. Under circumstances where survival seems to be at stake and where the political culture displays a rather fatalistic attitude toward war, little intellectual energy is left to think about the goals of the coming war.

The ‘no choice war’ Military power is regarded by most in Israel as the best guarantee for the existence of the state. The use of it has been, since 1982, the subject of national disagreement. This public debate, following the breakdown of the national consensus regarding the objectives of the war and the way it was conducted by the government, revolved around the distinction between a ‘no choice war’ and a ‘war by choice’. The use of these terms, idiosyncratic of the Israeli political culture, served to justify or to criticize the government. As a matter of fact, this distinction is unreal. There is no such thing as a ‘no choice war’. There are always other choices to make in reaction to an act of aggression or provocation, including surrender. The use of the notion of a ‘no choice war’ actually denies the freedom of action the decision makers have. The decision to go to war is never adopted in the absence of other options. In practice, other courses of action or inaction are rejected by the deciding level. All this having been said, a ‘no choice war’ is a widely used term in Israel.25 Moreover, it carries great political attraction. It is, therefore, instructive to learn the meanings attached to this term. The most common meaning is normative – a just war.26 The war is not willed by Israel, but is forced upon the nation by its opponents. Therefore, the moral responsibility for its results is transferred to the adversary whose acts caused the war. Psychologically, as well as politically, this is a comfortable mechanism to avoid responsibility connected with the decision to use military force. Such a usage is reinforced by the tendency of the Israeli political elite to regard war as a phenomenon forced upon Israel. The necessity to go to war constitutes its justification, in spite of the fact that current necessities might be the result of choices made in the past. The charges, primarily from the Left, that the war in Lebanon was not a ‘no choice war’ challenged the moral right of the government to wage this war. Initially, the Right made efforts to prove the ‘no choice’ quality of the 1982 military campaign. It pointed out the Palestinian military buildup in Lebanon and particularly the artillery threat to the Israeli settlements along the northern border, which had already paralysed civilian life in that area in July 1981. The developing public debate forced some of its participants to refine their arguments.

The ‘no choice war’ debate in Israel


Victor Shem-Tov, leader of the leftist Mapam, examined the justness of a war in relation to the nature of the threat the state faces. He criticized the war in Lebanon because ‘only an existential threat to Israel warrants going to war’.27 Since the PLO did not pose, in his opinion, an existential threat, the war cannot be categorized as a ‘no choice’ one. Similarly the Peace Now movement opposed the war because ‘war is permissible only in order to assure existence’.28 The perception of threat is, however, to some extent subjective. So is the timing and scope of the prescribed reaction. Yaakov Tzur, a Labour leader, qualified this argument. Military force was to be used ‘only for the real and urgent security needs of Israel’.29 The immediateness of the threat was added as a criterion for evaluating the normative character of the war. In spite of the additional criterion, Tzur’s list of just wars was quite extensive. He professed to support defensive wars only, but he also included in this category pre-emptive strikes.30 He probably did not accept a preventive war as a justifiable action because of the distant nature of the threat. (He refrained, however, from criticizing the 1956 War.) Indeed, some of the Likud members described the 1982 War as preventive, particularly the attack on the Syrian army. Yet the gravity of the Palestinian threat and its immediateness were beyond doubt in the Likud circles. Some, including Begin, although regarding the PLO as an existential threat, admitted that the existence of the State of Israel was not at stake in 1982. Nevertheless, the potential for massive disruption of normal life in the north was deemed unbearable. Tzur and others seemed to view such a perception as incorrect or insincere. This, however, turns the focus of the debate upon the clarity of the government’s perception, rather than upon the issue of jus ad bellum. Another mentioned criterion for lending justification to war was the demonstrated diplomatic effort to prevent it. The Peace Now movement demanded that all other options be exhausted before using force to eliminate the existential threat.31 Abba Eban differentiated between the 1967 War and the one in 1982 precisely on this account. In his opinion, the waiting period before the war in 1967 placed it in the ‘no choice war’ category.32 Cumulatively, a quite coherent argument for assessing the normative character of a ‘no choice war’ was presented to the Israeli public. In addition, it became increasingly clear that the war had goals beyond the elimination of the artillery threat to the northern settlements. Ousting Arafat from Beirut and the Syrians from Lebanon, where a friendly government was to be established, did not command the support of all Israelis. The government spokesmen had an increasingly difficult time portraying the war as a defensive ‘no choice’ campaign. Then a bold attempt was made to give a new interpretation to the popular term. This second sense was merely descriptive and not normative. It described a situation in which the enemy initiates military steps that leave Israel ‘no choice’ but to react militarily. The commitment to a certain line of action is, however, a voluntary psycho-political process.33 In the heat of the debate, this fact remained unrecognized. Begin decided to adopt the narrowest descriptive meaning of the popular expression – Israeli action following an Arab attack. As


The use of force

far as he was concerned, only the Independence War, the War of Attrition and the Yom Kippur War qualify for the ‘no choice’ epithet. The 1956 Suez Campaign, the 1967 Six Day War and the 1982 Operation Peace for Galilee fall into a different type of military action which he called ‘war by choice’.34 Under the assumption that aggression is not to be tolerated and that it demands military reaction, Begin’s narrow definition of the term was quite close to its spirit. Philology was not Begin’s goal. He actually attempted to empty the ‘no choice war’ expression of its normative connotations. With his keen political antennae, Begin sensed that in the absence of the possibility of portraying the war in Lebanon as a ‘no choice war’, while this term had clear connotations of a just war, a frontal attack on the term was needed. He attempted to supplant it with a new term – ‘war by choice’ – which was to indicate a just and wise policy. This was a daring and radical attempt to change a part of the Israeli political dictionary. At the same time, Begin claimed that by pursuing a ‘war by choice’ policy he was simply following in the footsteps of his Labour predecessor governments. The war in Lebanon was presented as a version of the 1956 and the 1967 wars. Their distinct common feature was, in Begin’s opinion, the Israeli initiative to open hostilities. In contrast, the ‘no choice war’ was described as one in which the Arabs have the initiative. Furthermore, such a war ‘could bring upon any nation a catastrophe, if not a holocaust, and it causes terrible losses in life’.35 The dangers involved in such a war are great and the casualty level is very high. Begin pointed out that Israel suffered many casualties in 1948, in 1969 to 1970 and in 1973. In contrast, the wars initiated by the Labour-led governments in 1956 and 1967 ended with relatively light casualties. Begin mobilized the history of the Second World War to strengthen his case. He argued that an early military initiative against Germany could have shortened the war and significantly reduced the casualties. (He conveniently ignored the failure of the German ‘war by choice’.) Therefore, Israel would be wrong in aspiring to wage ‘no choice wars’. It is not wise to wait until a ‘no choice war’ situation develops. Menachem Begin, the activist, was also attracted to the concept of ‘choice’ – the Jewish initiative.36 The moral ground for using force was self-defense. The war against the PLO was considered by Begin, as well as by most Israelis, as a clear case of self-defense. Begin preferred this term in justifying the use of force.37 Selfdefense is obviously a large enough category with which Begin and others can feel comfortable. Rafael Eitan, the Chief of Staff in 1982, also rejected the normative use of the ‘no choice war’ expression. He accepted Begin’s descriptive usage, but pointed out the psychological element in it. According to his definition, a ‘no choice war’ was one that commanded national consensus. Yet such a war was according to Eitan a most dangerous one. He asked rhetorically whether the 1973 War was the ideal example: That was a classic ‘no choice war’. National consensus was reached and there was no cleavage. There was a festival of unity. The government

The ‘no choice war’ debate in Israel


‘succeeded’ with a great effort in bringing the IDF and the state to a ‘no choice’ situation. Now let us fight together, in exemplary unity, for Israel’s existence.38 The assumption that war was permissible only when the general public shares the feeling that war remained the only option available was unacceptable to Eitan from a moral, as well as a practical perspective. One Labour leader seemed to share the reluctance to use the ‘no choice war’ term. It was little used by Rabin. He was aware of the need to have broad national support in case of an initiated military campaign. Lack of consensus has little effect on the normative character of the war, but negatively influences the national stamina required to endure the difficulties of war. According to Rabin, the feeling of ‘no choice’ was an important asset in waging war, but not a normative precondition.39 Begin’s challenge of the popular notion of ‘no choice war’ was not successful. For the first time a war was presented in Israel not in the well-rooted political terminology. As the war became less popular, as the massive involvement in Lebanon was prolonged and as the casualty numbers increased almost daily, Begin’s attempt failed. Moreover, this attempt to redefine the well-rooted expression conflicted with the prevalent tendency to see war as something forced upon Israel, rather than chosen.

The use of force and its goals The fierce debate about how just the war in Lebanon was also revealed disagreements over the proper goals for the use of force in general. As mentioned, most Israeli parties supported the beginning of the war without reservation. Only its expansion beyond the 45 km range and the increase in the number of the casualties precipitated the bitter public debate. The establishment of a friendly Christian-dominated government in Lebanon and the full withdrawal of the Syrian occupation forces from that country were not regarded by all in Israel as goals warranting going to war. The prevalent attitude in the Israeli political elite considered war as useful and permissible only to prevent the fulfillment of the enemy’s manifest hostile intentions. According to the preventive approach, Israel has nothing to gain from a war, and its interest is therefore to delay a military encounter for as long as possible. Such an approach may be the result of a normative stand concerning war, or a utilitarian evaluation of what can be attained through force, or both. In contrast, a Clausewitzian approach might advocate the use of force under some circumstances in order to enhance deterrence so as to prevent a war at an inopportune time, or to promote certain political goals. This mode of thinking, although not indifferent to moral factors, emphasizes a utilitarian cost–benefit analysis. Such Clausewitzian thinking became more apparent particularly after the rise to power of the Likud in 1977.40 Indeed, the Likud governments displayed a greater propensity to use force than their immediate Labour


The use of force

predecessor.41 This expanded activity, directed primarily against Palestinian military targets in Lebanon, did not drastically diverge from policies implemented by previous governments. Moreover, until 1982, a large-scale reserves mobilization was not necessary to pursue the goals entertained. Only the objectives of the war in Lebanon became a source of dissent. The language used by Israeli politicians does not always allow the observer to deduce clearly the approach adopted. Since the debate in Israel revolved to a great extend around the issue of jus ad bellum, the normative dimension captured most of the attention. To some extent, this blurred the distinction between the two approaches mentioned. Clausewitzians seemed less inclined to use a normative language. Rabin, one of the more lucid Israeli leaders on the subject of war, distinguished between two types of goals: one group of goals relates to the direct security of Israel’s citizens, its interests and borders, while the second group of goals, though desirable, is neither directly related to, nor does it have a direct influence on the security of the state.42 An example of the second type of goals is the establishment of a friendly government in Lebanon. The Labourite MK Yaakov Tzur made a similar distinction between urgent and limited goals, and war aims of a larger scope and longer range.43 Tzur, like others, was unwilling to justify a war waged for the second type of objectives. In contrast, Rabin refused to deny legitimacy to the second group of war objectives, although he expressed reservation concerning the effectiveness of the use of force in order to attain them. In Rabin’s opinion, the issue has never been how just Israel’s wars are; they are so in any case. The cardinal question concerning wars is whether they are ‘worthwhile, necessary or desirable’.44 Indeed, some members of the Israeli political elite expressed their disagreement with the government goals in Lebanon in normative language, while others were less concerned with the normative aspects of the war. Peres, like Rabin, found no moral fault with any military action against an Arab country as long as it was in a state of war with Israel.45 Formally, Israel had the right to attack the PLO or the Syrians. But it was the feasibility of achieving the goals in Lebanon and their price that was at issue. Their criticism of the war, shared by others, mainly reflected a calculus of utility, rather than normative deliberations. Peres, for example, pointed out the negative results: Israel’s deterrent power was reduced, the regional arms race was fueled and the Soviet presence was enhanced.46 The criticism of the war could stem, therefore, from a normative negation of its expanded goals, or from a Clausewitzian perspective that emphasized a cost–benefit analysis. The war in Lebanon clearly underscored the limits of military power, a fact that had been realized by many Israeli leaders before 1982. Some goals were clearly not attainable through force. Shimon Peres wrote, ‘The military balance and the differential in the potential military power do not enable Israel a decisive military victory to achieve a peace treaty with the Arabs – on Israel’s terms.’47 Similarly, his Labour colleague, Chaim Bar-Lev stated that, ‘The special geostrategic situation of Israel does not allow solving the Arab–Israeli conflict on the battle field . . . under such geo-strategic circumstances Israel cannot force the

The ‘no choice war’ debate in Israel


Arab world to accept unconditional surrender.’48 Yitzhak Rabin also expressed his strong reservation toward the idea that a military solution to the conflict with the Arab countries is possible and warned that a ‘knock-out war’ to put an end to all wars was an illusion.49 Therefore, forcing a peace treaty on Lebanon was viewed by him as a totally unrealistic goal. Israel had indeed used force in the past for goals other than immediate security concerns. In the Sinai Campaign, as well as in the War of Attrition, the destabilization of the Nasserite regime in Egypt was attempted. In 1970 Israel threatened the use of force against Syria, at America’s request, to help the Hashemite regime in Jordan. Various political goals, including internal politics, motivated some of Israel’s reprisals against its Arab neighbors.50 Those opposing the war, challenged by Begin’s insistence of not behaving differently in 1982 from his Labour predecessors, could deny such an assertion, or could claim that only in a few instances had previous Labour governments digressed from the accepted norm of preferring rather limited goals. Rabin saw the resemblance between 1956 and 1982. He did, however, praise Ben Gurion for withdrawing from the far-reaching goals of the Sinai Campaign.51 Rabin, the realist, was skeptical about the feasibility of achieving such goals in the Middle East. This position was the result of ‘the awareness that there is neither moral right nor practical use in holding to the illusion that force can achieve basic political goals or final solutions to the Arab–Israeli conflict’.52 Political goals are acceptable, but radical ones are not attainable, in his opinion. The normative reservation in his statement stemmed from a utilitarian estimate that certain goals were not within reach. The moral quality of the realist is, as Morgenthau put it, prudence.53 Rabin has had a reputation for extreme caution, in spite of the fact that on several occasions he did not hesitate to recommend the massive use of force for political goals. For example, he played a key role in the decisions leading to the long-range air raids against Egypt in 1970 to undermine Nasser’s regime. Rabin, then Israel’s ambassador in Washington, evaluated that the Americans were interested in an escalation along the Suez Canal and that a hesitating Israeli position could negatively influence US Middle East policy.54 Bar-Lev, in contrast to Rabin, singled out the 1982 War among the wars Israel fought. He, like his party colleague Tzur, refused to lend it legitimacy because the fulfillment of its goals was not ‘a vital need for the existence of Israel’.55 This was a preventive approach position. Later in his speech, he described freedom of navigation to Eilat – one of the goals in 1956 – as a vital Israeli interest. This allowed some flexibility to the notion of vital security needs. In any case, ‘Goals like the establishment of a strong government in Lebanon and ousting the Syrians and the last of the Palestinian terrorists from there are desirable, but do not justify the use of force.’56 Interestingly, in 1981 he had refused to dismiss the possibility of an Israeli intervention in Lebanon to help the Christians. Then, he had some misgivings only about the timing of the operation.57 Furthermore, he never criticized the Six Day War, in spite of the fact that he did not share the conventional view that Israel’s existence was at stake in 1967. Possibly, Bar-Lev was forced into such a seeming inconsistency in the heat of the debate.


The use of force

Far more consistent views may be found in the formulations of the archsupporter of the war in Lebanon, the Techia leader Yuval Neeman. He even demanded changes in the international border with Lebanon to allow Israel the use of the Litani River waters.58 He was one of the few leaders who openly dealt with the Israeli goals in a future war. He envisioned far-reaching objectives in order to drastically change the political reality in the Middle East. He considered the destruction of the Syrian state in order to allow political independence to the Druze. Similarly, in the case of a general war with the Arabs, he suggested establishing a Kurdish state in northern Iraq. He advocated the ‘strengthening of the demographic heterogeneity of the Middle East and the prevention of the full Arabization of the area’.59 A large-scale war should, in his opinion, be the opportunity to annex southern Lebanon, as well as southern Jordan, ‘a rather unpopulated region of great importance to the development of southern Israel’.60 This area could also serve, in his opinion, as an effective threat against Saudi Arabia. Those goals were to be achieved only in a case where Israel was attacked by its neighbors. This qualification is actually no more than lip-service to the Israeli preference for regarding wars as something forced on it. Indeed, he criticized the lack of Israeli military initiatives before 1973. The governments of Levi Eshkol and Golda Meir would be ill remembered for ‘giving up an activist policy in an era of strength’.61 Neeman displayed no qualms about using the IDF to introduce far-reaching political changes in the Middle East. He belongs unquestionably to the Clausewitzian approach. Another Clausewitzian was Ariel Sharon. He was the main force in the formulation of the conceptual framework behind the war in Lebanon. The goals he entertained included not only the weakening of the PLO but also the elimination of the military threat to the north of the country. Sharon wanted to draw a new political map in Lebanon and hoped that the war in Lebanon would divert international attention from Israeli control of Judea and Samaria. Furthermore, during his tenure as Defense Minister, Israel extended its security concerns far beyond its immediate Arab neighbors. As Sharon said, ‘Israel’s sphere of strategic and security interests must be broadened in the 1980s to countries such as Turkey, Iran and Pakistan, and regions such as the Persian Gulf and Africa, particularly the countries of North and Central Africa.’62 In Sharon’s global perspective Israel was also a full partner in the American attempt to stop Soviet encroachment.63 Indeed, the December 1981 Memorandum of Understanding between Israel and the US, which was the product of Sharon’s diplomatic efforts, may be understood as allowing the possibility of Israeli troops being engaged in such an endeavor. Under heavy criticism Sharon denied such an intention. Sharon also flirted with the idea of using the IDF to topple Hussein in order to facilitate the establishment of a Palestinian state on the east bank of the Jordan River to ease the continuation of Israeli control of its west bank. Sharon viewed the IDF as a legitimate instrument for a daring Israeli foreign policy. Some supporters of the war in Lebanon probably felt uncomfortable defending it in outspoken Clausewitzian language. Rafael Eitan, Chief of Staff in 1982, was one of them. He, like Neeman and Sharon, rejected any criticism of the

The ‘no choice war’ debate in Israel


political goals associated with the campaign in Lebanon. He reacted in typical Clausewitzian fashion: ‘The army was created and exists as an instrument for the political level.’64 Nevertheless, he preferred to present the intended internal changes in the Lebanese political system, as well as the diversion of attention from the issue of Israeli control of Judea and Samaria and the weakening of the PLO’s influence there as ancillary goals. The main goal was to destroy the PLO infrastructure in Lebanon.65 Moreover, in Eitan’s opinion, the war in Lebanon was simply inevitable. The only question left open was its timing.66 The truth of the matter was that Eitan preferred to fight the Palestinians only, and the expansion of the arena of encounter to the Syrian-controlled zone was not his initiative. Yitzhak Shamir, the Foreign Affairs Minister in 1982 and Begin’s successor to the premiership in 1983, also maintained that the Operation Peace for Galilee had only one objective – the security of Israel’s citizens in the north of the country. He welcomed, however, the fact that ‘the campaign opened a real chance to rehabilitate Lebanon, to restore its sovereignty to its land by removing the elements that established on its land terrorist bases against Israel and the whole world’.67 Since the prospect of securing approval for the political goals in Lebanon as warranting war was small, those goals were presented as a welcome by-product of an Israeli military initiative against Palestinian terrorists. In a political culture that is not conducive to a discussion of war aims, secondary goals of this sort commanded little support. Such goals were present, mostly tacitly, in past Israeli military actions. Transforming them into declared goals, particularly when their attainment seemed very costly or improbable, was met with resistance. The use for the term ‘ancillary goals’ was another attempt by the Likud not only to defend the war, but also to introduce a new term into Israeli political jargon, possibly to erode the support for the preventive approach. Interestingly, Begin, in spite of his support for the war in Lebanon, cannot be classified as belonging to the Clausewitzian school of thought. Although one of the few Israeli politicians to mention Clausewitz by name, Begin disassociated himself from Clausewitzian thinking. In a speech to senior officers of the IDF he said: Clausewitz is a bit outdated. His famous quote that war is the continuation of policy by other means has no place in today’s reality. War does not continue anything. It is a break from everything; it is a world in itself, primarily because it is associated with killings; politically it is also an entirely different issue.68 His support for the 1982 War as a ‘war by choice’ was not formulated in Clausewitzian terms. Begin wanted to save casualties. As far as he was concerned, the 1982 War was directed against the Palestinian terrorist organizations. Begin realized that those organizations did not constitute a threat to the mere existence of the State of Israel.69 Yet any challenge to the security of Israelis or Jews had to be met with a forceful reaction. According to his Zionist conviction, the State


The use of force

of Israel constituted a change in Jewish history from passivity to activism, particularly in the area of the use of military force. This was a matter of honor rather than an instrumental use of force.70 Furthermore, the PLO was seen as an existential ontological enemy.71 Begin’s inclination to think in legalistic terms also did not sit well with a Clausewitzian approach. Begin was unquestionably attracted to the idea of changing the political map of the Middle East in one military stroke. The revisionist school of thought envisioned dramatic events of drastic historical significance, in contrast to the evolutionary thinking in other Zionist quarters. Force could bring about such events.72 Yet it is not clear to what extent he was a full partner to the formulation of the ambitious war aims.73 In general, the right-wing parties in Israel seemed more inclined to utilize force to further state interests. Some, however, although Clausewitzian in their thinking, were more realistic about what was attainable through force. Mordechai Tzipori, a Likud cabinet member in 1982, was known for his opposition to the expansion of the war. As mentioned, he was the one cabinet member who seemed to be dissatisfied with the minimalist preventive approach and demanded to put on the political agenda the issue of war objectives. Nevertheless, he preferred rather limited goals, ‘The State of Israel should go to war only to defend itself – to defend its borders, to prevent hostile threats against the state, its citizens and their property.’74 Similarly, Moshe Arens, Sharon’s successor as Defense Minister, realized the limitations of military force. He emphasized Israel’s inability to coerce its Arab opponents to make peace with it.75 The Clausewitzian approach was not very popular in Israel. The general attitudes toward war created a reluctance to regard the use of force as a policy instrument. Furthermore, such thinking was discredited by the fact that perceived extremist politicians of the Right, such as Neeman and Sharon, were associated with it.

Conclusion In the Israeli political culture there is a clear tendency to regard war as a phenomenon forced upon the political system. This is obviously rooted in the accepted interpretation of past and recent Jewish history. However, such an inclination allows the politicians to evade the responsibility for its outbreak. Furthermore, it has a paralyzing intellectual effect. The clearest example is the reluctance to address the issue of war objectives. The rooted political terminology associated the notion of a ‘no choice war’ with a just war. Because all past wars were considered to be of ‘no choice’ quality, the array of possible ‘no choice wars’ was flexible and it could also include preventive wars. The goals permissible were directly linked with security concerns. Such concerns were narrowly defined by most Israeli politicians. The attempt to introduce into the political language new terms such as ‘war by choice’ or ‘ancillary goals’ was hardly successful, in spite of the fact that a preventive approach could accommodate such terms. At the declarative level,

The ‘no choice war’ debate in Israel


most politicians were identified with the preventive approach. Indeed, the Clausewitzian mode of thinking on war was not often reflected in what the Israeli politicians had to say. The approach to the use of force is not necessarily indicative of policy advocacy. Rabin was a cautious Clausewitzian who questioned the wisdom of the war in Lebanon, while Begin, who rejected Clausewitz’s teachings, was morally committed to destroying the PLO in that country. Furthermore, Begin’s greatest support for the war came from Neeman, an ardent Clausewitzian. The failure of the 1982 War, associated as it was with a change in Israeli security thinking during the Likud period, prevented the possibility of rooting a more Clausewitzian attitude toward war in Israeli political culture.

Part III

The post-Cold War period


Israel and the Gulf War

Iraq, under the leadership of Saddam Hussein, invaded Kuwait on 2 August 1990. It was a bold attempt on the part of Saddam Hussein to challenge the regional order and to assert his hegemony over the Middle East. Iraq’s military power (whose army ranked at that time as the fifth largest in the world), in combination with the newly acquired riches of oil-producing Kuwait, could have catapulted Iraq to the leadership position in the Arab world. Moreover, the Iraqi control of its own oil reserves and Kuwait’s, as well as its ability to threaten Saudi Arabian oilfields, could have granted Baghdad a major role in the world oil market (56 percent of world proved reserves), further enhancing its regional aspirations and importance.1 Iraq’s conquest of Kuwait, with the potential upgrading of its national might and of its regional status, also constituted a significant security challenge for Israel. Iraq has always been a bitter enemy of Israel and had even sent expeditionary forces to fight in all Arab wars against Israel (1948, 1967 and 1973). In contrast to Israel’s immediate neighbors, it never signed any type of armistice agreement and continued to consider itself in a state of war with the ‘Zionist State’. Iraq’s leader was notorious for his vitriolic statements against Israel.2 As recently as April 1990, Saddam Hussein had threatened ‘to burn half of Israel’ with chemical weapons.3 His threats had a ring of credibility because prior to the August invasion he had deployed launchers of Scud-C missiles to western Iraq, capable of carrying warheads to Israel. Moreover, Saddam was widely believed to be waiting for an appropriate opportunity to take revenge on Israel for its successful destruction of the Iraqi nuclear research reactor near Baghdad in June 1981, which was instrumental in delaying for a considerable time the fruition of the Iraqi nuclear program. This chapter analyzes the Israeli responses to the new Iraqi challenge. The following pages review Israel’s behavior during the crisis and analyze how Jerusalem coped with the dilemmas presented by the subsequent US-led Desert Storm Operation, which started on 17 January 1991. The final section deals with several strategic implications of the 1990 to 1991 events for Israel.

The prewar period The invasion of Kuwait gave rise to grave concern in Jerusalem, as it could constitute a substantial change in Israel’s geostrategic envelope and confirmed the


The post-Cold War period

Israeli prognosis of the harsh Middle Eastern realities, which are not easily conducive to peaceful coexistence. It definitely reinforced the high threat perceptions of the Yitzhak Shamir-led right-wing government, the most hawkish in Israel’s political history (installed in June 1990). Initial reaction Initially, the occupation of Kuwait was seen as a fait accompli, which the international community would hardly be prepared to challenge. Skepticism about the power of the economic sanctions to move Saddam into surrendering Kuwait was widespread. Israelis perceived the deployment of American troops to Saudi Arabia primarily as a defensive move intended to deter Iraq from invading Saudi Arabia and its oilfields in the northeast. At the end of August, Shamir was pessimistic about the outcome of the efforts to resolve the Gulf crisis by diplomatic means.4 The initially strong American stand against Saddam’s aggression was somewhat of a pleasant surprise for the Israeli government. Yet, the American commitment to use force to liberate Kuwait was questioned throughout the crisis. In the last days of 1990, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens still believed that even the slightest gesture on the part of Saddam toward a partial withdrawal would cause President George Bush to delay any military action.5 Within a short time of the Iraqi invasion, Israelis realized that their country might also become a target in the framework of the ambitious Iraqi hegemonic quest, or in response to an American attack on Iraqi targets. Iraqi aggression against Israel became more likely as the crisis evolved. President Bush was successful in creating international consensus against Iraqi occupation of Kuwait during the autumn of 1990; he imposed economic sanctions on Iraq and mustered legitimacy for an increased American military presence in the Gulf and for the possible use of military force to evict the Iraqi troops from Kuwait. Initially, the diversion of attention from the intractable Israeli–Palestinian conflict was a relief for Israel. However, it was short-lived. While the US assembled an international coalition, Iraq attempted to weaken it, by linking the solution to the occupation of Kuwait to a resolution of the disputed territories in the Israeli–Syrian and Israeli–Palestinian conflicts. Championing the Palestinian cause gained support in the streets of the Arab world, as did additional Iraqi threats against Israel. The Iraqi threats gradually became more strident and were accompanied by missile tests, which were supposed to demonstrate not only intentions to harm Israel, but also capabilities. The great popularity of Saddam in the streets of Arab cities all over the Arab world further heightened Israeli threat perception. The general acclaim to Saddam’s anti-Israeli rhetoric, in contrast to his brutal dictatorship and poor governance record, triggered among Israelis the ‘evoked set’ concept that the Arabs are basically intent on destroying the Jewish state.6 Yet, the Israeli perceptions of grave danger as a result of the emergence of a mighty Iraq capable of manipulating Gulf oil and petrodollars for imperial schemes were shared by its Arab neighbors. The fears that the Iraqi army might march into Saudi Arabia

Israel and the Gulf War


existed also in Washington.7 Israel hoped that the convergence of many national interests inside and outside the Arab world would prevent Iraqi hegemony in the Gulf region, which had wider implications for future Middle East politics and alignments.8 Yet, the determination of the US to check Iraqi revisionism, which is now a known fact, was then often doubted until the war broke out on 17 January 1991. Israel also harbored suspicions that it would have to foot the bill for the building and maintaining of the coalition, by being pressured by the US to make concessions to the Arabs after the crisis ended. In addition, it feared that the American arms sales to Arab states would erode the balance of power. When the US announced its intention to sell advanced weapons to Saudi Arabia, a country not at peace with Israel, the Israeli government faced the dilemma of opposing Washington on the US arms deals or accepting them and settling for compensation, thereby minimizing tensions with the Bush Administration. Israeli policies The day after the conquest of Kuwait, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir convened a small informal group for consultations (including Arens, the IDF Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Dan Shomron, and a few ministers close to the Prime Minister), which revolved around the question of the inevitability of an Iraqi–Israeli clash. Shamir believed that Saddam sought to engage Israel in hostilities in order to break out of his isolation and score points in the inter-Arab competition for a leadership role. Therefore, Shamir preferred a low-profile policy in order not to provide an easy pretext for Iraqi aggression and not to complicate the American efforts to defend Saudi Arabia. This preference became the dominant feature of the Israeli policy until after the end of the Gulf War.9 Israel favored a wide American military attack to devastate Iraqi conventional might, as well as its chemical capabilities and nuclear program, believed at the time to be anywhere between two and five years from completion. Therefore, Jerusalem went along with the American preferences for keeping Israel uninvolved and promised Washington not to use the crisis for pre-emptive measures against Iraqi facilities. Shamir reiterated his complete endorsement of US policy on the Gulf crisis and expressed readiness to help militarily, if necessary, although he was content to maintain the low-profile policy.10 From mid-August, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) and its air defense system were put on increasing levels of alert to intercept Iraqi planes as the war drew nearer.11 Throughout the crisis, the IDF started planning and training for complicated missions to deal with Iraqi missile launchers. However, it became very clear that carrying out such missions required coordination with the American Air Force, needed because Israel preferred not to cross Jordanian airspace and fight the Jordanians in order to attain air superiority, which would jeopardize the coalition’s cohesion and the stability of the Hashemite regime.12 Instead, Israel wanted to fly through Saudi airspace, whose tacit permission for transit could be secured only through Washington.


The post-Cold War period

The Israeli military intelligence also set up a special group of psychologists to prepare a psychological profile of Saddam in order to predict whether he would attack Israel. The classified report, which came to the conclusion that Saddam was just waiting for a pretext to attack Israel and that he had no restraints whatsoever, except considerations relating to his own survival, was challenged within the intelligence community and also by the CIA, and was therefore not accepted as a working assumption.13 Parallel to the preparations for retaliation, Israel deliberately attempted to enhance its deterrence by issuing several public warnings by senior ministers.14 In August, Yitzhak Shamir warned, ‘Anybody that will attempt to attack Israel will bring upon himself a terrible catastrophe.’15 A month later, he said that Israel took Iraq’s threats seriously, and warned that it would strike back.16 Similarly, Arens declared in November that Israel’s reaction to an Iraqi attack would not be ‘low profile’.17 In December, Foreign Minister David Levy warned Iraq that, in case of aggression against Israel, the response would be very determined,18 while Arens stated in January 1991 that, if attacked, ‘Israel will not hesitate to respond.’19 The Iraqi chemical weapons’ potential was of particular concern to Israel, although it had no conclusive evidence that Iraq had chemical warheads for its missiles. Despite the realization that Saddam had used chemical weapons against adversaries during the Iran–Iraq War (1980–88), on several occasions Arens offered evaluations stating that Iraq did not have the chemical warheads for missiles; that its ability to cause great damage to Israel was limited; and that there was only a small likelihood of an Iraqi chemical attack on Israel. Arens decided initially against giving out gas masks to the civilian population in order to prevent the creation of panic and not to signal to Saddam that Israel took chemical attacks into consideration. Yet, on 19 August, David Levy demanded that the Ministry of Defense hand out gas masks, a task which was complicated by the inadequate availability of gas masks, particularly for children. Israel hurriedly purchased such items in Europe. The government gave in to popular pressure and, on 7 October, started providing masks to citizens living in the urban centers. Later on, the Ministry of Defense responded to public demands and distributed masks also to the rural areas.20 In general, by the end of the five-month interval until war broke out, the civil population was better prepared for chemical warfare.21 Following the failure of the meeting between US Secretary of State James Baker and Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz on 9 January 1991, Israel upgraded its preparations for chemical warfare. It mobilized reserve civil defense units and launched a multi-language public educational campaign (in Hebrew, Arabic, Russian and Amharic). The government instructed citizens to carry their gas masks at all times and to prepare a sealed room in their homes in case of a chemical attack. As the 15 January deadline approached and war became increasingly likely, Israeli concerns about Iraqi aggression increased correspondingly. The premise of Arens was that the prospects for missile attacks on Israel would grow following an American attack on Iraq.22 Indeed, when the Iraqi Foreign Minister was

Israel and the Gulf War


asked whether US military action against his country would lead to an attack on Israel, he replied, ‘Yes. Absolutely yes.’23 On 15 January, the government decided to close the schools from the next day onward as a precautionary measure. The Jordanian angle Jordan’s relations with Israel were generally characterized by tacit strategic cooperation against Palestinian nationalism and the hegemonic impulses emanating from Cairo, Damascus or Baghdad. Yet weak Jordan had to play a finetuned balancing act in the intra-Arab arena.24 From the outset of the 1990 crisis, Israel feared that Iraqi–Jordanian military cooperation would expand and Jordan would not be able to resist the pressure to become the staging area for a land and/or artillery attack on Israel. Jordan allowed Iraqi war planes, painted with Jordanian colors, to conduct reconnaissance and photographing missions along the Israeli border. Iraqi planes took pictures of the Israeli nuclear reactor at Dimona. Moreover, high-level Iraqi field officers toured the border and the possible invasion routes into Israel. Jordan’s proximity to Israel’s population centers turned the Hashemite Kingdom into a key component of a putative eastern front. The possibility of deployment of Iraqi forces along the Jordan River became a serious Israeli concern following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Arens had already conveyed such apprehensions to the US in July 1990. Arens and others within the Israeli security establishment also feared that King Hussein would not be able to withstand popular pressures, as had happened prior to the June 1967 War, and would actively side with Saddam Hussein in operations against Israel.25 Moreover, Shamir believed that the Jordanian involvement in a war on Iraq’s side would put an end to the Hashemite Kingdom.26 Therefore, Shamir instructed Arens to state that the entrance of Iraqi troops into Jordan would constitute a ‘red line’, which in Israeli strategic parlance meant a casus belli. From the Knesset podium on 6 August, Arens unequivocally warned against Iraqi military presence in Jordan. Moreover, the Israeli Prime Minister conveyed the same message to President Bush and to the Jordanians.27 As Jordan’s alignment with Iraq became clearer during the first months following the invasion and as it helped Iraq overcome the American-led economic boycott, Israel’s concerns grew. Indeed, in December 1990, David Levy warned Jordan once more against allowing its territory or airspace to be used for launching an Iraqi assault on Israel.28 In response to the Israeli concerns and because of fears of an Israeli attempt to destabilize his kingdom, King Hussein called for a secret meeting with Shamir in London on 5 January 1991.29 He wanted an Israeli promise to refrain from using Jordanian territory and airspace in its struggle against Iraq. Shamir agreed, on condition that the Jordanian army would prevent Iraqi flights in its airspace and that all military cooperation between Amman and Baghdad would end. Shamir’s only caveat to Hussein was that Israel would not be bound by their agreement in the event of an Iraqi invasion of Jordan.30


The post-Cold War period

US–Israeli relations Prior to the Kuwait invasion, relations between Jerusalem and Washington were marred by the reluctance of Israel’s government to go along with the American suggestions for negotiating an agreement with the Palestinians, which would bring an end to the Palestinian uprising (Intifada). The Bush Administration attempted to pressure Israel to change its settlement policy in Judea and Samaria by withholding the grant of US-guaranteed loans for the absorption of Soviet immigrants, who were arriving by the hundreds of thousands, most practically destitute. In July, it also delayed talks on strategic cooperation between the two countries.31 The crisis, however, brought about an amelioration in US–Israeli relations as the issues of dispute became secondary. Moreover, the US wanted Israel to stay out of the crisis so as not to disrupt its fragile multinational diplomatic and military effort with other Arab states in confronting Saddam. From the beginning of the crisis the US urged Israel to refrain from action, which could complicate the US attempts to build a large coalition to back its diplomatic and, if necessary, military efforts, to restore the status quo ante in Kuwait. Washington wanted to decouple the Gulf crisis from the Arab–Israeli nexus, which suited Israeli interests. This American preference assumed that Israeli involvement in the conflict might increase Arab support for Iraq and even lead to desertion of the US-led coalition by several Arab states (Syria most likely). Baker wrote, ‘Throughout the prewar period, keeping Israel out of the conflict had been a central strategic concern of our diplomacy.’32 The US was afraid that an Iraqi attack on Israel would weaken the Arabs’ willingness to ally themselves with the US, despite their interest in seeing Iraq crushed. The US continuously demanded reassurances from the Israeli leadership that it would not pre-empt. Shamir, during his December visit to Washington, repeated personally Israel’s pledge to Bush not to make pre-emptive moves. When asked of the Israeli response to an attack, Shamir responded that Israel would defend itself and would consult with the US, but was careful not to promise that he would seek permission to use force.33 Israel, which had marketed itself as a strategic asset, found itself outside the military contingency plans of the US. Bush and Baker visited the Middle East and met with Arab leaders, but omitted Israel from their itinerary. Israel felt it was not being treated as an ally.34 Israel wanted access to American intelligence on Iraq, and operational coordination between the US military and the IDF to deal effectively with various contingencies.35 Coordination with the American Air Force was sought in particular, because Israel feared that before the coalition acted, Saddam would hit Israel, or the coalition would fail in eliminating the Scud missiles’ threat. Israel believed that it could do a good job fighting the missiles with the Americans or alone. Moreover, Israel wanted to prove its value as an ally. The US continuously reassured Israel that the coalition would deal effectively with the targets in western Iraq that threatened Israel and refused to establish a coordination mechanism.36 Israel made several requests for access to real-time intelligence from US satellites, but was turned down.37 Israel was also originally left out of the Operation

Israel and the Gulf War


Desert Storm supplemental foreign aid package. It was additionally disappointed because it was not included among the ‘front line’ states, which became eligible for compensation by the Gulf Crisis Financial Coordination Group (chaired by the US). In September, Arens requested money and weapons from a reluctant administration that agreed to offer two batteries of Patriot surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), twelve to fifteen surplus F-15s and ammunition for artillery and tanks in order to secure Israeli cooperation.38 In December, Shamir requested mechanisms for better communication and only in January was a special secure telephone line, code-named ‘Hammer Rick’, established between Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney and Arens to allow better warning of incoming missiles. In January, the US also offered to deploy in Israel US-manned Patriots, but Arens refused because he did not want a precedent of foreign forces participating in the defense of Israel, although this is ultimately what happened.39 Public warnings by David Levy in early January that an Iraqi attack would be considered an act of war and would prompt terrible retribution elicited concerns in Washington, and the President sent to Israel two top officials who were particularly trusted by the Israelis – Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger and Under-Secretary of Defense for Policy Paul Wolfowitz – to urge restraint.40 As Shamir was not ready to commit himself to refrain from reaction to Iraqi aggression and continued to demand coordination with the US, Eagleburger suggested that in case Israel was determined to proceed with an attack it would consult with the US so that a certain area in Iraq would be cleared of US military presence (‘deconflicting’), to prevent any collision of forces, an idea to which Shamir agreed. Eagleburger clarified that the US was not ready to cooperate militarily with Israel and would not transfer information on targets, or secure flight rights over Arab countries, but was ready to vacate an agreed area in accordance with Israel.41 This understanding would have allowed the US additional time to exert influence on Israel to refrain in case it decided to act unilaterally.

Israel’s behavior during the Gulf War On 18 January, at 2 a.m., sirens woke Israel’s citizens following an Iraqi missile attack. Throughout the war, Israel was subjected to thirty-nine missiles, causing two fatalities, plus a few hundred wounded. Most damage was done to property, with thousands of buildings damaged. The economy was paralyzed for the duration of the war. Israel, for the first time, was at war only with a faraway country, with which it did not share a border. It was also the first time that its population centers were the main target of the enemy. Another first was Israel’s decision to refrain from reacting to attacks on its soil and citizens. Maintaining the military option The day after the first missiles hit Israel, Prime Minister Shamir called for a cabinet meeting, at which the IDF presented several options for military reaction. During the discussion, Arens pointed out two main constraints on any


The post-Cold War period

Israeli military initiative: the great distance to the chosen targets and the lack of adequate intelligence. Arens also feared that an Israeli raid without American coordination would be risky and would increase casualties.42 As noted, no photographs were supplied by the US and the IAF did not carry out any aerial reconnaissance flights over western Iraq. Ariel Sharon suggested sending planes to take pictures and informing the US of the mission. Shamir obtained the approval of the cabinet for the plans to attack targets in western Iraq and to collect more intelligence, contingent upon coordination with Washington.43 As more Scuds fell on Israel, the pressure from the senior military echelons, particularly the air force, on the political level to approve action in western Iraq increased.44 Dan Shomron advocated restraint, however.45 Shamir used Shomron’s advocacy to balance the more hawkish elements in his coalition government. However, the main factor in deciding between Israeli action and restraint was probably the American diplomacy.46 Looking back at the crisis, Shamir admitted in his memoirs that the decision to refrain from action in response to Iraq’s missile attacks was the most difficult in his life and the one most opposed to his principles and ideology.47 According to Shamir’s analysis, Israel had three options: unilateral use of the IAF to search for missiles and to destroy them; reliance on the US to do the job; and the preferred one of a military reaction in cooperation with the US. The US conveyed its opposition to the first and last options. Unilateral action would have involved the violation of Jordanian airspace. The likely Jordanian opposition could have been easily overcome militarily, but the diplomatic significance of Israeli–Jordanian exchanges could have brought about a breakup of the coalition. Shamir did not want to be blamed for that and for missing an opportunity to put an end to Saddam’s regime. Moreover, Shamir’s promise to King Hussein in January 1991 was an additional constraint on Israel’s desire for action during the Gulf War. Finally, Shamir’s personality, which seemed averse to making bold decisions, blended well with the policy of restraint. The Israeli calculus of the use of force during the crisis was influenced primarily by two main factors: the way the Americans dealt with the Iraqi threat and the extent of the threat for Israel.48 Although there was dissatisfaction with the way in which the coalition dealt with the missile threat, the Israelis were pleased to see the Iraqi army quashed. Moreover, despite the political and strategic inconvenience of not reacting to missile attacks, the limited number of casualties did not constitute enough of an incentive to order a high-risk punitive mission to Iraq. Shamir did not see even the possibility of attacks with chemical warheads as an existential threat, although, as was conveyed to the Americans, it would have triggered an Israeli military response.49 The military risks also dissuaded the Israelis from retaliation. Nevertheless, Israel was very close to retaliation. Arens approached Washington for satellite pictures of western Iraq, as well as to arrange an air corridor above Saudi Arabia. While his wishes were not granted, by 1 February, the IDF had prepared a plan for an air and commando raid in western Iraq, commencing the training of several units for this particular mission. On several occasions,

Israel and the Gulf War


Israeli pilots sat in their cockpits on the runways waiting for a ‘green light’ from the political level, which failed to come. Technical problems also delayed the decision to act. For example, at one cabinet meeting Maj. Gen. Avihu Bin-Nun, Chief of the IAF, reported that weather conditions in western Iraq did not permit the use of the IAF for at least two to three days.50 In mid-February, Arens made further inquiries with the intelligence as to the likely Jordanian response to the use of its airspace by Israeli jetfighters and was told that the Jordanians would definitely try to intercept them. The IDF intelligence officers also discouraged Arens from the idea of testing the Jordanians by sending an airplane or a helicopter. However, Arens believed that, at that stage in the war, King Hussein had become more reluctant to identify Jordan as an Iraqi ally and would tolerate Israeli activity in its skies.51 The IAF submitted to Arens on 26 February an acceptable profile of a test flight over Jordanian airspace, but Shamir refused to approve it because he thought the war would soon be over and such a flight would only create unnecessary risks. Arens tried again the following day with Shamir, this time successfully. He also contacted Cheney to secure US approval for a larger raid, but was told that such a matter had to be discussed at the highest level, between the President and the Prime Minister. The planned flight was delayed by weather conditions and on 28 February the war ended, without any action, which struck Arens as a terrible blow for Israel’s deterrence.52 It is quite possible that, had the war continued for a few days longer, resulting in a higher casualty count of Israelis, we might have seen Israeli soldiers hunting missile launchers in Iraq. Actually, on counterfactual inquiry, had events developed slightly differently, Israeli lack of retaliation strikes was still not a foregone conclusion.53 In other words, pure luck played an important role in Israeli restraint.54 The US and Israel Throughout the war, the US used the ‘secure line’ to provide Israel with information about incoming missiles, as its satellite picked up the Iraqi launches. This prompted Israel to activate its civil warning system, which allowed Israel’s citizens a few minutes to prepare for the worst. Immediately after the first missile attack, Arens conveyed to Baker, as well as to Cheney, Israel’s desire to react militarily. In his autobiography, Arens quotes his words to Baker: ‘We don’t have a choice . . . they have hit us. We have to hit them back. Israel can’t sit here and be hit with missiles and do nothing.’55 On the same day, Shamir cautioned Baker in a similar vein: ‘This is a terrible problem for us, which we have to face up to . . . Israel has never failed to respond.’56 After the war started, the US decision-making process operated under the assumption that Israeli restraint was reversible. Indeed, ‘there were few things the President and his top aides worried about more’ than the problem of keeping Israel out of the war.57 Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Colin Powell referred to the issue as ‘the supersensitive need to keep Israel out of the fight’.58 Yet, the US had reason to believe that Israel would hesitate to retaliate.


The post-Cold War period

According to Baker’s memoirs, he evaluated that Israel would have insurmountable difficulties in acting without the coalition forces ‘deconflicting’, i.e., halting flying missions in a certain area, thus allowing Israel a corridor for its airplanes. Alternatively, Israel could act if it acquired from the US the electronic identification codes of the coalition warplanes, to prevent inadvertent clashes between Israeli and coalition pilots. The US had no intention of doing either.59 The US refused also to comply with Israel’s demands for an electronic downlink to US intelligence satellites (to have real-time information on Iraqi deployments), a direct communications channel to General Norman Schwartzkopf’s headquarters or a liaison officer dispatched to the Central Command staff. The general feeling that Israel was not treated as an ally and that the US was not sensitive enough to its security needs was reinforced during the war.60 Arens, when briefed by the US at the beginning of the war, was not convinced of the seriousness of the American efforts in dealing with the Scud missiles. He came to the conclusion that the US would definitely fail to meet the challenge in twenty-four hours as promised. Senior IDF officers complained that the US gave only sketchy information about its anti-Scud activities in western Iraq and refused to detail the ways of its operational aspects.61 During the war, Lt. Gen. Shomron expressed disappointment at the American achievements in this area.62 Maj. Gen. Bin-Nun was less diplomatic when he said that the US did not even try to stop the launching of Scuds toward Israel and claimed that his forces could have done a much better job of disabling the Scuds.63 After being attacked by missiles armed with conventional warheads there was growing concern in Jerusalem that Iraq might use chemical warheads as well. The Iraqi threat to use ‘as yet unused weapons’ increased the Israeli threat perception. The remark made by John Sununu, Chief of Staff at the White House, that such a contingency would not necessarily lead to nuclear retaliation was not well received in Jerusalem. Arens called Cheney and lodged a complaint.64 Moreover, the US rejected the initial Israeli plea for emergency assistance in loans and grants presented by Arens to Baker in the course of their 11 February meeting. Washington believed that it was doing Israel a favor by destroying the Iraqi army and that Israel should therefore not be compensated for its restraint. Nevertheless, Washington tried to impress Israel with its awareness of its dilemma and communicated much sympathy and appreciation for the Israeli stand. US-manned batteries of Patriot surface-to-air missiles were deployed in Israel, following Arens’ request, in the false belief of the Americans and the Israelis that the Patriot missiles had a limited capability to intercept missiles (they failed to intercept even one Scud missile). The US also decided to send Eagleburger once again to calm the Israelis; to convey agreement to increase the combat sorties to western Iraq against the Scuds; to approve limited operations by its special forces; to supply Israel with more intelligence information; and to allow Israeli intelligence officers to assist American officers with target identification.65 The Administration upgraded the intelligence sharing and was willing to incorporate Israeli suggestions for targeting. The quiet cooperation in the area of intelligence also allowed Israel to feel it had made a contribution to the war

Israel and the Gulf War


effort.66 Dick Cheney even tried to bolster the Israeli faltering deterrence. On 2 February, in response to a planted question at a press conference about Israeli possible response to Iraqi chemical attacks, he did not rule out an Israeli nuclear response, hoping such a statement would enhance Israeli deterrence. The attempt to make American measures conditional on Jerusalem’s restraint met with Israeli resistance and eventually the US understood that American unconditional support measures helped Shamir resist his hawkish colleagues’ pressure to retaliate.67 Indeed, cabinet members such as Ariel Sharon, Yitzhak Modai and Rafael Eitan believed that Israel needed no coordination with the US. Announcing Israel’s resolution to act would force the US de facto to create deconflicting. Arens was also surprised at Shamir’s great reluctance to order an attack and to risk a confrontation with the Americans.68 Yet, even Shamir’s patience eventually ended and only a call from the President brought about the order to delay attack. Indeed, the constant American diplomatic contacts and pressure were effective. Shamir was able to give in to American pressure also because the Israelis generally supported the policy of restraint of their government. In fact, about 94 percent of the public felt that the government was handling the security situation either ‘well’ or ‘very well’.69 Even groups like ‘Peace Now’, as well as leftist intellectuals, who were usually critical of the government policies, issued calls to peace movements throughout the world to support Israel during the crisis.70 This occurrence is in accordance with the findings of sociologists of war, such as George Simmel, who claim that external threat produces consensus.71 Another reason for Shamir’s behavior was the international sympathy poured on Israel and its government. There were even examples of substantive benefits for Israel. Germany decided to give Israel large-scale aid, including the building of two submarines, whose procurement had been previously canceled for lack of funds. Germany also paid for one Patriot battery. Economic sanctions imposed by the European Union (EU) were also removed. Because he was seen as intransigent on the peace process, Shamir wished to enhance Israel’s image abroad and improve relations particularly with the American administration, hoping that Israel would be owed something for its forbearance. Basically, the Israeli government tried to make the best of a very awkward situation.

Strategic implications for Israel While the strategic significance of the 1991 Gulf War for Israel was greatly exaggerated,72 it highlighted several components in Israel’s strategic environment of the 1990s.73 The 1990 to 1991 crisis demonstrated once more the importance of systemic factors for the regional balance of power. The loosening of bipolarity in the international system, which was heralded in many quarters as the beginning of a new, more peaceful world order, had mixed effects on the Middle East. Unlike the European subsystem, this region had never been under rigid bipolar control by the two superpowers. The Soviet decline by 1990 further decreased


The post-Cold War period

Moscow’s ability to constrain its Arab allies, thereby allowing countries like Syria and Iraq greater freedom of action. One factor accounting for the timing of the Iraqi military action in Kuwait was Gorbachev’s reluctance to be drawn into Middle Eastern affairs.74 Another systemic factor explaining the Iraqi move was the deterioration in the local balance of power in the Gulf. In the aftermath of the long Iran–Iraq War (1980–88), a weakened Iran was no longer capable of deterring an Iraqi conquest of Kuwait. The Gulf War was an additional reminder to Arab elites that Israel was not necessarily the most dangerous enemy in the region. Moreover, it was a vivid example of a situation in which several Arab countries were de facto allied with Israel, this time against the hegemonic aspirations from Baghdad. Earlier, in the 1980s, the radical Islamic fervor from Tehran was seen in most Arab capitals as a dangerous development of greater security risk than the existence of Israel. Jerusalem shared the threat perception of the secular Arab elites. This perception of occasionally being in the same strategic boat is one component in the gradual acceptance of Israel as a fait accompli in the region.75 This is one of the factors that facilitated the convening of the October 1991 Madrid Peace Conference. At this conference, for the first time, the majority of the Arab states, including Saudi Arabia and the Gulf sheikhdoms, were ready to participate in bilateral and/or multilateral dealings with Israel. Indeed, the Gulf crisis showed once again that the Arab–Israeli conflict was just one among many in the conflict-ridden Middle East and that the Palestinian issue was not the most threatening to regional stability. Moreover, it indicated that the use of force was part and parcel of the Middle Eastern rules of the game. It also vividly demonstrated the dangers of the spread of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, which constituted an existential threat for Israel. The seizure of Kuwait by Iraq and the subsequent events served as a test to US–Israeli relations. It showed the possible divergence of interests and questioned the assumption of Israel being a strategic asset in a changed international system. While the utility of allies in a unipolar world has declined somewhat, we know, in retrospect, that bilateral relations remained very strong. For Israel, the Gulf War constituted a painful reminder of the limitations to the freedom of action of small states in the international arena. Even if they have the capacity to act, as Israel did in the winter of 1991, quite often they must take into consideration the wishes of the great powers. This is particularly true in a situation where there is only one hegemonic power in the international system, which further curtails the freedom of action of small states. The Gulf War was an additional reminder of the limitations of the Israeli intelligence apparatus and the possibility of a strategic surprise. Despite the fact that Israel’s security establishment and its right-wing government had no illusions as to the aggressive nature of Saddam Hussein’s regime, the move to take Kuwait surprised Jerusalem. The large investments in intelligence in place since the 1973 October War still did not prevent Israel from being caught by surprise. US Secretary of State James Baker wrote in his memoirs that even the Israelis believed that Saddam’s threats and military concentrations along the Kuwaiti

Israel and the Gulf War


border were designed only to secure economic concessions from the Kuwaitis.76 Moreover, Israel was surprised that Saddam was serious about hitting Israeli targets. Israel’s intelligence service, the Mossad, told US intelligence counterparts that Saddam’s rhetoric was designed to deter an Israeli attack, not to threaten one of his own.77 Likewise, the Iraqi nuclear progress was unforeseen in Jerusalem.78 The crisis in the Gulf was a sobering experience for the supporters of the idea that ‘Jordan is Palestine’, which was held by several people in key positions in Israel, including Ariel Sharon. According to this concept, Jordan, whose majority was of Palestinian origin, should be turned into a Palestinian state. Enthroning Yasser Arafat, instead of Hashemite Hussein in Jordan, would in turn relieve much of the pressure from Israel to solve the Palestinian problem. The apprehension during the crisis about the weakness of the Hashemite regime taught the Israelis the importance of having a friendly buffer state to the east. It was widely recognized that Jordan’s territory became Israel’s strategic depth. The war renewed the Jordanian–Israeli understandings of mutual interest. Moreover, several months after the war ended Shamir made a point of impressing upon Baker the need for the generous support of the Hashemite Kingdom because of its importance for regional stability, despite King Hussein’s alignment with Saddam during the war.79 This eventually facilitated the signing of the October 1994 peace treaty between Jerusalem and Amman. Many concluded that the Gulf War with its display of technological superiority was a good omen for Israel. They argued that Israel’s highly advanced military force has a better chance to deter and/or overcome an Arab conventional onslaught. The so-called ‘Revolution in Military Affairs’ (RMA) was seen as assuring Israel’s military superiority, justifying a lower Israeli threat perception. However, Israelis were usually more cautious in learning such a lesson. Their view of the RMA was more conservative. Israel has for years emphasized the importance of airpower and smart weapons, and has developed an evolutionary approach to strategy and tactics. Moreover, Israel realized that its military arsenal was severely limited in size in comparison to the coalition’s. Furthermore, Israel will probably not have at its disposal the time the allies had to operate freely in Iraq. Israeli strategists have been for years sensitized to the ‘political clock’ involved in military operation, which meant that their expectation was that there would be international pressure to stop their activities, particularly if they were on the winning side. The Gulf War was a severe test to Israeli deterrence and it was only partially successful. While Israel seemed to deter an Iraqi missile attack armed with chemical weapons, it failed regarding conventional attacks on its population centers. Iraqi behavior demonstrated that, under certain – not necessarily unique – circumstances, Israeli threats might be ineffective.80 Surprisingly, the missile attacks are not universally accepted as a deterrence failure, although they were preceded by a series of explicit Israeli threats to retaliate against Iraq if the latter attacked Israel.81 The deterrence failure was amplified by the Arab expectations that Israel would respond. According to


The post-Cold War period

General Schwartzkopf, King Fahd of Saudi Arabia in a conversation with Baker in November 1990 said, ‘he could not expect Israel to stand idly if attacked’.82 Baker said in return, ‘I had been able to secure agreements from all our Arab coalition partners that if Saddam attacked Israel first, and Israel struck back, they would remain firm.’83 President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and President Hafiz al-Assad of Syria made similar statements. Ex post facto the Israeli decision to refrain from a military response received different interpretations in the Arab world. One major view was that Israel was weak militarily and/or its freedom of action was seriously hampered by American pressure.84 Such a view could hardly reinforce Israeli deterrence. The Iraqi missile attacks (with conventional warheads) resulted in only minimal casualties, but the economic damage was considerable as the country was paralyzed for several weeks. The Arabs observed that long-range surface-tosurface missiles (SSMs), such as the Scuds fired on Israel, were very useful politically and that their operation was not dependent upon having a modern military force. Even militarily strong countries such as Israel were vulnerable. Moreover, the allied air campaign to suppress Iraqi launches of Scud missiles against Israel, Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf nations during Desert Storm ran into many problems. While the launch rates generally declined over the course of the Gulf War, the intense efforts to find and destroy the missiles, particularly the mobile launchers, seem to have been unsuccessful, since they remained remarkably elusive and survivable.85 The trend of acquiring SSMs by the Middle Eastern armies has indeed accelerated since the Gulf War. The Israeli vulnerability was very obvious as thousands of Tel Aviv residents chose to move away to more peripheral areas of the country. The mayor of Tel Aviv at that time, Maj. Gen. (ret.) Shlomo Lahat, attacked them publicly and called them ‘deserters’. This display of weakness led Israeli leaders, such as Yitzhak Rabin, to believe that there was great urgency in reaching peace with Israel’s neighbors even with greater concessions than had been planned.86

Conclusion The 1991 Gulf War was a reminder of the vicissitudes of Middle Eastern politics, the vulnerability of Israel to missile attacks and the limits of Israeli military power and freedom of action. Israel’s rational choice to act with much restraint during the war was mainly the product of auspicious coincidence and much luck. Following the war there were hopes, in Israel and elsewhere, for a new order in the Middle East, which, years later, we can testify as having remained unfulfilled. While the Gulf War was indeed an important event in international relations in the Middle East, the US failed to impose a Pax Americana on the region for a variety of reasons, which are beyond the scope of this chapter. The Middle East remained a tough neighborhood.


Contours of Israel’s new strategic thinking

As Kenneth Waltz put it, states operate in a ‘self-help’ system in which threats to national security are omnipresent. Small states, in particular, have difficulties meeting challenges from powerful aggressors, since such states are by definition limited in their ability to build sizable and well-equipped military machines.1 Generally, small states have little leeway; their military and diplomatic margins are thin. A few small states reconcile themselves to ‘defensive nihilism’, the abandonment of hope to establish an effective defense.2 A few others, such as Switzerland and Sweden, adopt postures of self-reliance, attempting to meet security challenges without outside help. This is also known as internal balancing; it describes the way a state aggregates power. Other small states augment their military capability by allying themselves with other countries. The mobilization of other countries’ resources in confronting external threats is termed external balancing.3 Alliances, however, can constrain a state’s freedom of action. In many cases, a small state’s room for maneuver is also constricted by the prevailing structure of the international system and its regional subsystem. Most small states attempt to devise strategic doctrines based on a mix of external and internal balancing in order to maximize military power and the freedom to use it. Israel is an example of such a small state. This chapter analyzes the ways in which the international and regional environments, and internal developments within Israel, have influenced Israel’s recent strategic thinking. Yossi Sarid, a left-wing Meretz party cabinet member (an ex-Labourite) in the present Labourled government, described Yitzhak Rabin’s government as the most ‘Sharetist’ in Israel’s history.4 In Israeli political parlance this means that it had a most dovish orientation. Indeed, we see a redefined and reduced threat perception, change of emphasis in the concept of national power, a greater reluctance to use force, and an erosion in the centrality of the concept of self-reliance.

Israel’s traditional national security concept5 Since Israel’s establishment, its leaders felt that their country faced an existential threat from the Arab states’ desire to eradicate the Jewish state. They similarly understood that military power was critical to the country’s ability to survive,


The post-Cold War period

and as a result Israel invested heavily in developing a strong military machine. Realizing that it was a small state surrounded by numerous Arab countries, the help of extra-regional powers has also been sought to offset asymmetries in resources with the Arab world. David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, knew that building a militarily strong country was extremely important to survive in the Middle East: ‘Israel stood up by its own strength and will stand firm only if it trusts first and foremost in itself as a power of growing greatness.’6 Furthermore, he felt that allies cannot be totally relied upon, which led to a great emphasis on self-reliance. This concept meant two things: the freedom to act when challenged and the military ability to do so effectively. Although cognizant of the limitations inherent in a small state predicament, Israel hoped to achieve a capacity to respond unilaterally to any emerging security challenges and to establish a deterrent power. Israel’s goal was ‘independence’ in what Shimon Peres called in 1975 ‘uniquely decisive situations’.7 In the past, Israel’s political elite displayed skepticism about the benign nature of international relations. Many of its political leaders believed that the Jews faced a world of hostile and/or untrustworthy gentiles. The Jewish historic experience of previous centuries and the Holocaust perpetrated in this century reinforced a realpolitik outlook and amplified the sense of insecurity and isolation of many Israelis.8 Conflict with the Arab world only strengthened Israel’s perception of insecurity. Precisely because of this sense of insecurity and isolation, Israel was always preoccupied with securing a patron among the major international powers.9 Alliances with great powers were perceived by the Israeli leadership as an important element in securing political and economic support, and, above all, in securing access to modern weaponry. It was felt that alignment with a major power would improve Israel’s capacity for action through external balancing and would also provide some measure of extended deterrence, a commitment to defend another party. The help of a world power – the United States – was sought since the 1950s to neutralize perceived threats from the Soviet Union and to increase Israel’s potential for action against regional Soviet allies. In its early years, Israel adopted a policy of non-alignment; it avoided taking sides in the global conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union.10 Later in the 1950s, Israel gradually came to the conclusion that an alliance with the Western powers would be useful in contending with the hostile Arab world. But Israel was denied access to the treaties established by the West in the Middle East, and NATO also declined to accept it.11 Israel’s enthusiasm for a formal alliance evaporated as it realized that an alliance could curb its freedom of action. It settled for access to weaponry from European powers, France in particular. Yet before 1967, as later on, Israel was willing to trade some of its freedom of action for nurturing good relations with potential weapon suppliers in order to enhance its military capacity. After 1967, proposals for an American–Israeli Defense Treaty were usually conditional on full Israeli withdrawal from the territories captured in the Six Day

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War, a condition not well received in Israel.12 After 1973, at a time when its security challenges escalated sharply, Israel found itself greatly isolated in world politics. Then Israeli leaders invested even greater effort in maintaining good relations with the United States.13 In the early 1980s, the two countries came very close to formalizing a strategic partnership in response to fears of Soviet expansionism and influence. But as broad and deep strategic cooperation became closer in the late 1980s and early 1990s, both sides refrained from aspiring to a formal alliance. At the same time, Israel always emphasized that it did not expect others to fight its battles or to participate directly in its defense. This was helpful in asking for Western assistance with no diplomatic strings attached. In orienting Israel in this manner, its leaders aspired to increase their freedom of action. Israeli strategists knew that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) must plan for quick wars because of asymmetries between Israel and Arab states. This could be achieved with offensive operations. Offensive tactics helped avoid a situation that might compel Israel to deal with two or more fronts simultaneously. Offensive, surprise operations also enhanced Israel’s freedom of action by allowing Israel to choose a convenient diplomatic moment, while minimizing the chances for effective outside intervention on the part of Arab expeditionary forces or the superpowers. Furthermore, when on attack, the IDF could better utilize its qualitative edge in manpower and in tactics against the Arab armies. Offensive operations were also believed to be less costly in terms of casualties. Israeli strategic thinking also required building a military force that would enable it to stand alone versus regional threats. After the 1973 War, Israel greatly expanded the IDF and increased its stocks of military equipment to minimize the need for extra-regional support and to exclude outside intervention.14 Israel also developed a sizable military industry. The main motivation behind the large defense industry was the fear that weapons needed for Israel’s security could become unavailable, for political reasons, on the world market. Israel sought and established an ability to produce a main battle platform for each branch of the IDF – air, ground and naval. Israel began production of the Kfir fighter following the French embargo in 1967. The British refusal to sell Chieftain tanks led Israel to build the Merkava tank. Similarly, the difficulties purchasing fast patrol boats in the 1960s resulted in indigenous production of Saar class missile boats. Following the 1973 War, however, the dream of weapon self-sufficiency faded away as the IDF’s needs increased drastically, and Israel’s military, economic and diplomatic dependence upon the United States grew. Nevertheless, the military industries expanded and developed maintenance and repair services to reduce the dependence upon foreign arms suppliers. Israel’s industries also produced many military products and adapted imported weapons to the specific needs of the IDF, which thereby acquired a technological edge over its regional opponents. The development of an infrastructure to produce modern weaponry included the Israeli nuclear option. The Israeli nuclear program, started in the late 1950s,


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was also motivated by existential fears and by the assessment that in the event of military defeat in a conventional war, little help was to be expected from friendly governments. The nuclear option was perceived as an insurance policy in case Israel lost its conventional defense capacity or if Arab countries acquired nuclear weapons. Israel, therefore, refused to join the Nonproliferation Treaty of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), but has maintained since 1965 that it will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the region, a somewhat ambiguous statement. Israel’s policy of opaqueness in nuclear matters was also useful in facilitating access to conventional hardware.15 Israel’s nuclear program, more than other efforts in the security sphere, embodies Israel’s preference to maximize power and freedom of action.

A new Israeli strategic outlook Recent developments in Israel’s environment – global realignment, the Middle East peace process, as well as changes within Israel – have led to the emergence of a new strategic thinking. The departure from past thinking started in the 1980s. Its present prevalence is linked to Labour’s return to power and to the dominance of its dovish wing’s thinking.16 Four key features characterize this transformation: new perceptions among Israeli leadership regarding the international and regional systems; a re-evaluation of the nature of national power; a greater aversion on the part of the Israeli leadership to use force; and a deprioritizing of the concept of self-reliance. New perceptions of the external environment The collapse of the Soviet Empire is seen by the Israeli leadership as creating a new international atmosphere and is often credited for opening the door to Mideast peacemaking. Israel’s adversaries lost their Soviet umbrella, a politico–military relationship that was an important factor in the Arab ability to confront Israel. Even the late prime minister and defense minister Yitzhak Rabin, known for his realpolitik approach to regional and world politics, came to believe that a ‘new world’ was emerging. Rabin, as well as his deputy in the Defense Ministry, Mordechai Gur, identified another important international event as having positive security results for Israel – the defeat of Iraq by an American-led international coalition.17 These developments seem to have led to the Arab–Israeli negotiations following the 1991 Madrid Conference, the September 1993 Israel–PLO accord and the October 1994 Peace Treaty with Jordan. The 1979 Peace Treaty with Egypt added to these events indicated to many Israeli leaders that an historic process of Arab acceptance of Israel was underway. This process has significantly reduced the military threat emanating from Egypt, the largest Arab state, and has further diminished the likelihood of a hostile coalition coalescing on Israel’s eastern border. Indeed, Rabin concluded his overall assessment of the

Contours of Israel’s new strategic thinking


regional environment in 1992 with: ‘We live today in a period in which the threat to the very existence of Israel has been reduced.’18 The most optimistic within the Israeli political leadership was Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, who became prime minister after Rabin’s assassination. He believes that the Middle East is very close to peace and prosperity and heralded the birth of a new Middle East. ‘Instead of visions of blood and tears, there will rise visions of happiness and beauty, life and peace’, he wrote recently.19 Nowadays, fewer Israeli leaders share the basic sense of insecurity felt by most Israeli leaders of the past, which was partly rooted in a Jewish perspective of world affairs. The cultural baggage of most Israeli-born politicians, unless exposed to traditional education, is usually poorer in Jewish content than their predecessors who were born abroad. They are, therefore, less likely to be influenced by the Jewish psycho-cultural dimension. Actually, this Jewish prism has been increasingly attacked by some, primarily on the Left, as a negative Jewish and Diaspora heritage and a hang-up that Israelis must shed. For example, Ezer Weizman, Israel’s President, regards Israeli fears as a ‘ghetto mentality’, which hinders the peace process.20 In his opinion, Israel has never been as secure as it was in the 1990s.21 Rabin also noted that attitudes toward the Jewish state have changed and abandoned the traditional fear and suspicion of the gentile world. ‘Israel is no longer “a people that dwells alone” . . . and has to join the global journey toward peace, reconciliation and international cooperation’.22 Rabin even lectured the IDF’s highest echelons about his conviction that Israel must adapt to changing realities: The world is no longer against us . . . States which never stretched their hand out to us, states which condemned us, which fought us, which assisted our bitterest enemies . . . regard us today as a worthy and respectable address . . . . This is a new reality . . . . Peace requires a world of new concepts.23 Threat perception is particularly low in dovish circles, which are more prominent in the Labour-led government which has been in power since 1992. For example, Minister Yossi Beilin even believes that Israel can now afford to concentrate on domestic problems, because the Arab–Israeli conflict is reaching an end.24 The global and regional developments were seen as providing a window of opportunity to create a much safer environment for Israel. This new, Americanimported term in Israeli political language implied that there was a certain urgency in taking advantage of the propitious conditions, otherwise the window might close. Indeed, the attainment of comprehensive peace – an end to the Arab–Israeli armed conflict – was regarded by the Labour government to be within reach, and it was therefore worthwhile to take risks. Rabin asked the Golan settlers from the Knesset rostrum, ‘Shouldn’t we try to make an effort to reach peace? Reject out of hand the possibility of putting an end to all wars?’25 This rhetorical question, more than any other quotation, depicts the change in Rabin’s perceptions of the external environment.


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Yet, despite Rabin’s overall assessment that the probability of war is low for the near future and that the existential threat has been reduced, he believed that Israel continues to face serious military challenges. The nature of the threats and the sources changed, however. According to Rabin, the peace process only influenced the probability of the use of force, not the Arab capability to harm Israel, which has actually been augmented.26 Because of missiles, chemical and biological weapons, and because of efforts in the region to acquire nuclear weapons, Rabin warned that a future war could entail a large number of Israeli civilian casualties.27 Similarly threatening is the fear of a surge in the power of Islamic radicalism.28 The radical Muslims could take over Arab countries and engage in terror, which could become an increasingly politically difficult problem for the Labour-led government. Foreign Minister Peres has also identified the main threats to Israel as coming from a combination of nuclear weapons and extremist Islam.29 Therefore, the major enemy of the Rabin government became Islamic Iran, which sponsored subversion and terror and was engaged in acquiring a nuclear option. Yet the threats are perceived as having a redeeming value: they are beneficial to the peace process because Arab secular elites share Israeli apprehensions about the Islamic fundamentalist groups’ challenge to the stability of Arab regimes and the emergence of an Iranian nuclear arsenal.30 Furthermore, the peace process and its expected political and economic offshoots have been regarded by Rabin and others as a panacea for healing most regional problems.31 Peres believes that the peace accords ‘will lay the groundwork for the superstructure that will provide security for all people and all nations of the Middle East’.32 His protégé, Yossi Beilin, shares such a view and points out that only hastening the peace process could have a positive effect on the struggle against terror.33 The general feeling of the current Israeli leadership is that the main threats are concentrated in the more distant countries, while relations with Israel’s Arab neighbors are improving. In short, the Labour-led government perceives the peace process as an important window of opportunity to prevent a war with Israel’s immediate neighbors, but also as a way of contributing to a regional atmosphere more suited to neutralization of long-range missiles and nonconventional weapons. The optimism about the prospects of peace and stability in the Middle East are connected to the assessment of a benign international environment. With the Soviet Union no longer around, the need for a world power ally to counter Soviet presence in the region has dissipated. Rabin believed that as long as Israel negotiates in good faith with the Arabs and displays a willingness to compromise and to accept risks in the peace process, American general support is secure. Furthermore, the looming threat to the West of Islamic radicalism was considered by many in the Israeli political elite as a cementing factor in the American–Israeli alliance. In contrast to the past, Israel no longer feels isolated, which has always been a burden for its extra-regional patron. Actually, many new and older countries regard Israel as a good conduit to improving relations with the world

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hegemon – the United States. Therefore, the general feeling among Israeli decision-makers in the mid-1990s has been that the American–Israeli relationship is on a stable course. This is in contrast to the fears of abandonment characteristic of Israeli–great power relations in the past. A re-evaluation of the nature of national power Along with these new perceptions of the global and Middle East environments, Labour leaders appear to have developed an altered concept of national power and security. Peres has actually belittled the importance of military prowess. In a speech to a group of scientists in 1989, he claimed that it is not the size or the strength of its army that determines a country’s power, but rather its scientific and technological achievements, stressing that in the present world, economy is more important than strategy.34 At the end of that year, in reaction to the developments in Eastern Europe, Peres was more explicit about the depreciation of military power. He observed that weapons had become so expensive that their purchase could be economically destructive, while those things that are truly important cannot be attained through military force.35 His book, which analyzes the prospects for the emergence of a new Middle East, regards war as futile and obsolete and questions the advantage of tanks, cannons and jets ‘in the face of nuclear, chemical and biological warfare’.36 For him, these challenges to security must be met with political answers: the peace process, rather than military means.37 Changes in Rabin’s thinking were more recent, but even more striking. In his first address to the Knesset as Prime Minister, he said that security is not only embodied in the number of tanks, airplanes and missile boats, but that ‘Security is also, and may be first-of-all the human being: the Israeli citizen, . . . his education, his home, his school, his street, his neighbourhood, the society in which he grows’.38 In his mid-term report, published in June 1994, Rabin, like Peres, underscored the importance of economic factors: ‘Steps toward a rapprochement between Israel and the Arab states create a process that turns economics into the moving force that shapes the regional relations instead of nationalist interests that were dominant in the past.’39 Addressing the dangerous Islamic threat, Rabin pointed out ‘that practically the only way to dry the swamp of radical Islam is through economic development and an improved standard of living’.40 The emphasis on the importance of economic factors in dealing with national security problems is the result of two intellectual influences – socialism and liberalism. The current Israeli leadership, Peres in particular, has socialist ideological baggage, which is gradually replaced or complemented by liberal ideas coming from the United States. Both ideologies attach great importance to the economic dimension in the international equation.41 Technology was always regarded by the Israeli political elite as an important component in national power, and the IDF has always aspired to a high-tech edge over its rivals. The American use of smart weapons during the second Gulf War in 1991 left a strong impression on Israel as well as on others. As a result,


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the Israeli high regard for smart weapons and technologically advanced support systems has intensified.42 For many, modern military technology diminished the strategic value of land. Peres voiced the standard dovish argument against holding on to territories: physical barriers are no longer significant when missiles fly.43 This was in sharp contrast to his and others’ views in the past. After 1967, secure or defensible borders became the goal of Israel’s foreign policy, while after 1973 there was a willingness to experiment with buffer and demilitarized zones in the Sinai.44 The Camp David accord with Egypt of 1978 deviated from this thinking as it stipulated Israeli withdrawal to the international border, with the Sinai Peninsula practically demilitarized. At that time, almost a quarter of the Labour contingent to the Knesset refrained from supporting the agreement because it did not insist on defensible borders. Nowadays, among the Labour Knesset members there is only limited opposition to the Rabin government’s intent to fully withdraw from the Golan Heights, despite the party’s promise before the 1992 elections to maintain an Israeli presence there. Gur implied in the Knesset that the government was considering giving up the entire Golan and pointed out that the key to winning a war was military technology, not territory. Furthermore, he quoted approvingly Sadat’s comments about the irrelevance of defensible borders.45 Beilin, a Labourite, also deviated from his party platform and demanded that the Jordan River no longer be considered Israel’s eastern security border.46 According to the new prevalent thinking, strategic depth and defensible borders – articles of faith in the past – are a strategic anachronism. The notion of defensible borders, which in the past emphasized topography and geography, has acquired a new meaning. Nowadays its main elements are political. It is argued that only those borders that are mutually agreed upon by Israelis and Arabs are secure. Arab acquiescence is therefore more important than the military potential of a particular line drawn on a map. This perspective is found in Gur’s faith in the durability of an agreement with Syria, which implies territorial withdrawal because it will be acceptable to Damascus.47 Similarly, Peres downplayed the importance of strategic depth. At least part of the current military elite seems to go along with the political leadership’s emphasis on political components in drawing borders. In the opinion of the Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Amnon Shahak, a Syrian embassy in Israel is more important than an early warning station,48 while Maj. Gen. Zeev Livneh stated that ‘peace is the best security’.49 A corollary development is an erosion in the belief that settlements can provide security functions. Rabin once distinguished between security and political settlements. Settlements located on possible invasion routes along the border belonged to the first category. In accordance with Israel’s traditional security thinking, they were incorporated into the ‘territorial defense’, which was geared to slow the advancement of enemy forces and to substitute for a lack of strategic depth. More recently, however, Rabin announced that peace with Syria would provide more security than a few settlements on the Golan Heights.50 His statement expressed the view of most of his cabinet members. The devaluation of the security contribution of settlements is also connected to

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an erosion in the Israeli attachment to the Land of Israel. The younger generation of Israeli leaders was socialized into the notion of the State of Israel, rather than the Land of Israel; and the Zionist ethos of settling in the ancient homeland is no longer as strongly adhered to as before.51 The new emphasis on the importance of economic and technological factors in the evaluation of national power leads to a reassessment of Israel’s might and the balance of power with its neighbors. Israeli technological superiority in the Middle East and the fact that its GNP is larger than all of its immediate Arab neighbors combined undermined the traditional assumption regarding Israel’s inferiority in resources with the Arab foes. Such an analysis reinforces the reduction in threat perception. Aversion to use of force In addition to the depreciation of the importance of military power, one can discern a clear trend among Israeli leaders toward a greater reluctance to use force. Early signs appeared following the 1973 War and became more pronounced after the 1982 War in Lebanon. Widespread reluctance among the current Israeli political leadership to approve of pre-emptive and preventive strikes transpires from the public debate about Israeli military involvement in Lebanon from 1982 to 1985.52 Following the 1982 invasion, the Labour Party included in its platform a clause requiring a large consensus if force was to be exercised. This unprecedented stance is another indicator of a growing unwillingness among the Labour leadership to use force and an accompanying restraint on Israel’s freedom of action. The ill-fated Lebanese campaign also served as a clear lesson on the limits of Israel’s military power. The Israeli army was in Beirut, but Israel could not translate its military superiority into the achievement of political goals; peace with Lebanon proved elusive. Similarly, the Palestinian Intifada, which started in 1987, educated the Israeli leadership about how difficult it is to capitalize on superior military power versus a civilian uprising. Although Israel succeeded in persuading the PLO to accept a two-state solution and a phased settlement, the Palestinians made progress toward establishing statehood. Israeli reluctance to police the territories increased, as did the willingness to part with some of the land.53 The Israeli military reaction to Palestinian violence was a conscious policy of moderate use of force in order not to evoke too much domestic opposition, as well as to prevent the bulk of the Arab population from feeling they had nothing to lose.54 Yet, Labourite doves such as Uzi Baram, David Libay and Ora Namir, all ministers in the Rabin government, criticized the Intifada policy as too harsh. Rabin served at that time as defense minister. In January 1993, Baram even suggested taking away the rifles from the IDF soldiers before they entered refugee camps.55 Restraint in the use of force is not a feature exclusive to Labour. During the 1990 to 1992 period, the Likud leader, Yitzhak Shamir, reigned over the most


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right-wing government in Israeli annals. Yet, the policy toward the Intifada remained as it was devised by Rabin, while several security challenges remained unanswered. In October 1990 the Syrians used their air force to depose General Michel Aoun in Lebanon, in clear violation of the ‘red lines’ between Israel and Syria – the understandings concerning the limits on Syrian military presence and activities in Lebanon. Even unequivocal Arab aggression against Israel’s population centers did not evoke a military response. Shamir’s government refrained from retaliating against the 1991 Iraqi missile attacks, despite explicit threats to do so. The international circumstances were such that they dictated great caution and restraint. The peace process has also constrained Israel’s freedom to use force, as Israeli governments now have to consider the reaction of Arab moderates to any Israeli attacks against Arab targets. The greater acceptance of Israel in the region makes it more difficult for Israel to apply its traditional security doctrine, which emphasizes the use of force to enhance deterrence. Specifically, there is an inherent tension between maintaining a deterrent posture and pursuing a policy of conciliation meant to lower tensions and facilitate peace talks.56 For example, preparations for dealing with missile attacks from neighboring or distant countries has a threatening element. Israel, particularly under Rabin, adopted a strategy of reassurance to Arab neighbors that Israel’s intentions and desires were peaceful, signaling that the use of diplomacy could be more productive than the use of force.57 The Rabin government limited its response to Hizballah attacks from Lebanon in order to minimize tensions that could interfere with the peace negotiations with Syria. In the context of the problems along Israel’s northern border, Gur stated that ‘Israel will use all available political avenues before taking military action in order not to harm the peace process’.58 Only after many months of restraint did the Rabin government react with massive firepower in July 1993, following repeated Katyusha attacks on Israeli settlements along Israel’s northern border, making clear its intent to refrain from any escalation. In December 1994, Rabin criticized the new Northern Command CO, Maj. Gen. Amiram Levin, for calling for a more offensive mindset in dealing with the increase in Hizballah attacks in southern Lebanon.59 Moreover, IDF officers continue to complain that the political echelon is tying their hands in their struggle with the Hizballah.60 Limiting IDF initiative in regard to the Palestinians was also advocated by several ministers. Communication Minister Shulamit Aloni of the left-wing Meretz party even demanded that Israel stop hunting Hamas and PLO activists in Israeli-ruled territories, because such searching interferes with the negotiations over the interim agreement with the Palestinians. Restraint has been most prominent within Labour and dovish circles, where it is argued that the use of force can arouse traditional Arab fears of Israeli aggression and expansionism. In short, Israeli military actions have become tied to a set of political considerations more complex than those that had been prevalent in the past – when there was a united hostile Arab front against Israel.

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It is not just political calculations that inhibit the use of force; social forces are also at work. The first phenomenon is the changed status of the IDF in Israeli society.61 The army was once a revered national institution with many auxiliary roles. Nowadays it has lost some of its luster, and service in the IDF is no longer considered a necessary entrance card into Israeli society. The IDF is becoming more of a professional interest group, subject to increasing public criticism. Debates over the IDF performance in the Lebanese campaign and the Intifada contributed to the decline in the standing of the IDF as the embodiment of national consensus.62 Consequently, this decline in IDF prestige has negatively influenced the attitudes toward its modus operandi – the use of force.63 Furthermore, the public is nowadays much less tolerant of military miscalculations, which make politicians more careful in deciding on the use of force. Although avoiding losses in battle has always been part of military planning, there is now in Israel an unprecedented high sensitivity to casualties. Their number has become an important criterion for judging the success of military actions. For example, a major factor in the refusal of the political leadership to approve military action in southern Lebanon in recent years is the fear of casualties. According to a senior officer, Rabin instructed the IDF commanders in the north to limit activities even at the expense of achieving military goals in order to prevent casualties.64 In addition, the new phenomenon of IDF openness to the involvement of the conscripts’ parents in daily military routine (believed to make transition to military life easier, as well as to provide for good public relations) is beginning to have negative effects on the operational aspects of the army activities.65 Another constraint on using force, particularly in the territories, involves the greater consideration given to legal factors by the political leadership. Since 1973, a complex of quasi-judicial and judicial controls gradually emerged that limited the freedom of action of the government in the security sphere.66 Security decisions such as the rules of engagement in the territories and in southern Lebanon are increasingly subject to legal scrutiny. Rabin often complained that the struggle against the Intifada was hindered by the insistence of the Justice Ministry on a proper legal basis for Israel’s military actions in the territories; his statement that he was looking for a partner to take care of internal security in Gaza without the High Court of Justice and human rights watchdog organizations is well known.67 The strongest social force restricting the use of force is a general fatigue due to the protracted conflict. In recent years, Israeli society has shown signs of becoming increasingly beleaguered, war weary, and impatient for a ‘solution’ to the Arab–Israeli conflict. Israeli society has paid dearly in material and casualties over the course of six wars, creating a natural thirst for an end to the violence. Studies have shown that wars have a psychological toll not only on the Israeli soldiers who participated in battle, but on their families as well. Veteran soldiers are increasingly sensitized to the price of protracted conflict as a result of their war experiences. Such awareness leads to a greater desire for peace.68 Another indication of conflict fatigue is the decline in the enthusiasm of Israeli


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teenagers to serve in the IDF.69 In March 1995, the IDF released new findings showing a gradual decline in the percentage of volunteers for combat units.70 Public polls show a consistent dovish trend over time. Concretely, it means a greater willingness to part with the territories taken in 1967 and a somewhat greater reluctance to use force.71 The social factor has been properly termed ‘the forgotten dimension of strategy’.72 In many instances of protracted conflict, the protagonists have been worn out by their dispute, and the outcome of conflict is thus determined not only by superior military strength but also by perseverance and ability to suffer pain.73 Fatigue from policing the territories and confronting hostile civilians played a factor in the Israeli acceptance of the 1993 Israeli–Palestinian accord, which entailed relinquishing control of Gaza and Jericho. Exhaustion in a protracted conflict leads the protagonists to redefine their goals. As a result, Israeli nationalism is undergoing changes with clear foreign policy implications.74 The legitimacy of the past Israeli use of force is being questioned. The ethos of Greater Israel has become less popular in Israel. The pioneer settlers of yesterday are increasingly viewed by many Israelis as an obstacle to peace. The strategic advantages of topography and settlement are currently debated more than ever before, as are, of course, the human and economic price to keep the settlements. Leaders such as Rabin and Gur realized that Israeli society displays signs of fatigue and is more reluctant to pay the price for the protracted conflict with the Arabs. Rabin compared the behavior of the Israelis when bombed from the air by the Egyptians in 1948 to what happened during the missile attacks in 1991. In 1948, over thirty civilian casualties left no imprint on daily life in Tel Aviv, while in 1991 the city and its suburbs were deserted by tens of thousands. His conclusion was that Israelis lost some of their perseverance and determination.75 Lt. Gen. Ehud Barak, the former chief of staff (1991–94), often expressed concern about Israel’s social fiber. For example, he described the changes in Israeli society as: accumulated weariness and cynicism, accompanied by an aggressive and intrusive media, depreciation of the Zionist deeds, the development of a cleavage in the consensus over Israel’s political goals, even over the objectives of the use of force (we have seen it in Lebanon and in the Intifada) – all these create a perception, as well as reality of weakness.76 Barak’s evaluation was widespread among the higher echelons of the army. Finally, there is a new phenomenon in the Israeli political elite: the criticism of military operations in cost-effective policy terms is complemented by a growing normative criticism of Israeli use of force. There is talk of how the constant fighting is corrupting the youth and making them intolerant, that being a society at war has a price. There is a greater fear now about the psychological brutalization of Israeli society, a concern not expressed before the 1980s.77 Current cabinet member, Labourite Yaakov Tzur listed among other bad features of the Lebanon imbroglio the ‘distortion of our moral image’.78 He feared

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moral corruption as a side effect of the constant preoccupation with war. Since the beginning of the Intifada in December 1987, more voices have been heard expressing the negative impact on Israeli society of the use of force against civilians. Gur and Namir expressed their concerns that this type of engagement is a breeding ground for racism and a cult of force.79 Peres quoted Sir Thomas Moore’s Utopia in discussing the moral effects of the Intifada: ‘The war corrupted their own citizens by encouraging lust for robbery and murder; and the laws fell into contempt.’80 Aloni directed her criticism not only at engagements with the Palestinians, but also at the Israeli strategy in southern Lebanon because Israeli forces were ‘occupying land in a foreign country’.81 The moral reservations about specific military actions were an additional layer in the growing aversion to the use of force within the Israeli political elite. Erosion of self-reliance Greater Israeli reluctance to use force in order to meet regional challenges blends well with the changes in threat perceptions and the re-evaluation of national power. These developments also undermine the self-reliance doctrine and encourage Israeli leaders to entertain notions of cooperative security. Indeed, Israelis have come to the conclusion that some of the impending regional threats cannot be dealt with unilaterally. This contradicts Israel’s basic self-reliance strategy. One might have expected an intensified search for selfreliance given the relative freedom of action and the easy access to sophisticated weaponry that characterize the post-Cold War world from a small state perspective.82 But Israel is moving in the opposite direction. Israeli leaders are not prepared to entrust the country’s security to others. Yet, in light of the new threats, senior political and military officials appear to have accepted a revised paradigm of national security, in which self-reliance has become less central. Following the missile attacks in 1991, Israel realized that its population centers were vulnerable to enemy attack, and distant foes have such a capability. Actually, Israeli leadership was alerted to this possibility in 1988, as extendedrange Scud-C missiles were used by Iraq against Iran during the first Gulf War. The missile threat meant primarily that in contrast to the past, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) could no longer protect the rear, and, consequently, that Israel lost its escalation dominance. The emerging symmetry in the capacity of Israel and the Arabs armed with missiles to inflict considerable damage on each other’s population centers allows for greater Arab freedom of action in limited war (a limited invasion, or a war of attrition, or a limited missile attack) because Israel might hesitate to escalate. Previously, the threat of escalation was considered an effective way to force the rival to halt an armed conflict. Also new was the realization that it is very difficult to confront challenges that emanate far from Israel’s borders. The Israeli decision not to retaliate to the 1991 Iraqi missile attacks was primarily due to American pressure, but it included an element of skepticism about Israeli ability to take care of distant targets at little cost. The American failure to destroy even one mobile missile


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launcher in 1991 was not very encouraging, although the Israeli military believed it could have done a better job than the Americans. Similarly, the new threat of proliferation of nuclear weapons poses a problem for self-reliance. In 1981, Israel eliminated the Iraqi nuclear threat for some time, but it is now questionable whether Israel can repeat such a feat singlehandedly. The new Middle Eastern nuclear aspirant, Iran, is even further away than Iraq. The limited success of the American air strikes against Iraqi nuclear installations and its hesitation to use force against North Korea show that in the 1990s, even a superpower had difficulties destroying key components of a country’s nuclear infrastructure. There are significant operational difficulties in such endeavors, in addition to a critical lack of sufficient intelligence. Israel is fully aware of its limitations in this regard and is looking for international cooperation to meet the new challenge. The government feels that Iranian nuclear efforts trouble not only Israel, but also the West. Beilin announced from the Knesset rostrum that Israel has lobbied Western Europe and other countries, such as China, to restrain the Iranian nuclear effort.83 The former Chief of Staff, Barak, said that the Iranians: threaten the flow of oil to the free world, the stability of pragmatic regimes and the internal balance in the Arab world, and the economic growth of Europe and Japan. In this sense they deserve a worldwide preventive effort. What is needed is an international front.84 According to Rabin, only the United States can lead an international effort to stop nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.85 Even Ariel Sharon and Benyamin Natanyahu, both reputed hawks, have expressed similar views.86 Israel also relied on the United States in the attempt to prevent the sale of North Korean Nodong missiles to Iran, for which Israel is in range.87 Rabin declared that Israel prefers to exhaust every diplomatic avenue before considering the use of force to prevent other parties from ‘preceding it in the acquisition of nuclear weapons’.88 Despite a willingness to wait for action on the part of the international community in dealing with this nuclear threat, Israel has not entirely relinquished the option to ‘solve’ the problem on its own. Israel’s 1994 decision to purchase F-15I fighter planes was clearly designed to allow the IAF the capability to deliver in all weather conditions a large payload of explosives at ranges of over a thousand miles. As long as Iran is an international pariah, there is some political latitude for a pre-emptive attack. However, the effectiveness of such an attack remains in question. Similarly problematic are the prospects of an effective defense against missiles, which could strengthen self-reliance. Israeli political leadership is attracted to an active defense posture. It can hardly refuse to pursue an option that offers protection to the civilian population, while minimizing the need for pre-emption. But the attitude of many within the military toward proposed active defense measures against missiles, such as the Arrow anti-missile defense system, is very ambivalent.89 The Arrow arouses little enthusiasm within the military due

Contours of Israel’s new strategic thinking


to the technological uncertainty surrounding its development and deployment, and the system’s projected cost of $3 billion to $5 billion.90 Rabin said in the Knesset that Israel is ‘still far away from technological and financial solutions to fully realize (the Arrow program)’.91 In general, he accepted the IDF point of view on the Arrow and assigned the antiballistic missile (ATBM) system a lower budgetary priority than it occupied during the tenure of the previous minister of defense, Moshe Arens. He also decided to halt the development of an Israeli warning system, which also undermines self-reliance.92 Therefore, even if the ATBM system is deployed, Israel will still depend on American satellites for early warning, which is critically important for the movement of Israel’s population into sheltered areas in the event of missile attacks. The dangers of missile and nuclear proliferation have generated greater openness to exploration of alternative cooperative and regional security arrangements. The security establishment is uneasy; military technology that would allow Israel unilaterally to defend itself against long-range weapons and enemies is not truly available. Furthermore, the technology that can deal with ballistic missile threats is so complex and expensive that Israel has little chance of doing it alone.93 Foreign Minister Peres commented on the threat Israel faces from the potential combination of nuclear weapons and Islamic fundamentalism, and concluded ‘that the modern era offers no foolproof means of national defence other than a wide-ranging regional arrangement’.94 Even the more conservative Deputy Minister of Defence Gur suggested some international organization along the lines of the anti-Iraq coalition ‘that can stop belligerency . . . or better yet, prevent [it] ahead of time’.95 A result of the erosion in self-reliance is a marked increase in Israeli willingness to trust and support the involvement of international actors and forces in the Middle East and to experiment with collaborative security arrangements. Indeed, Peres claimed that the traditional approach to security that emphasizes selfreliance is no longer relevant and that it has to be substituted with a regional approach.96 He articulated a comprehensive security vision for Israel by proposing a Mideast security and development ‘super-structure’ covering such issues as arms control, non-aggression, economic cooperation and human rights. His concept, which was initially aired in Washington in May 1994, is modeled after the 1975 Helsinky accord and the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE).97 Peres believes that the CSCE process was successful in Europe and should be emulated in the Middle East. This conviction stems from his emphasis on the importance of economic factors at the expense of politicomilitary developments. In short, new perceptions of the environment and of national power substitute to some extent for the rooted realpolitik approach that emphasized self-reliance. Another example of the shift in Israeli doctrine away from self-reliance is its attitude toward arms control, once an issue of little importance to Israeli leaders. In the 1990s, Peres believed that the Middle East actors should imitate the approach of the superpowers and realize that ‘cooperation was essential and arms control has to become the call of the day’.98 In October 1991, Israel


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accepted the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) in response to American pressure. This move reflected Israeli interest in pursuing limitations on missile proliferation in the Middle East. Further thought on the issue was given throughout 1992 by the Defense and Foreign Affairs Ministries, formulating by the end of the year Israel’s arms control policy. In September 1992, the Israeli cabinet decided to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), relinquishing Israel’s previous insistence on prior Arab signature.99 Israel preferred to focus on control of conventional forces and chemical weapons, and to broach the question of nuclear weapons only toward the end of the peace process. By the end of 1993, Israel had also begun to comply with international demands to report its arms sales to the United Nations arms registrar. This stands in contrast to its previous arms sales policy of total secrecy.100 In May 1994, Israel agreed to an American request to ban the export of anti-personnel mines. Israel still prefers a regional approach to arms control, as opposed to a global regime with the involvement of international agencies.101 It advocates a Middle East Nuclear Weapon Free Zone with a regional mechanism for monitoring and inspection, rather than just joining the NPT. Israel took seriously, for example, the multilateral Working Group on Arms Control and Regional Security.102 The reduced threat perceptions and the expected regional detente could facilitate the emergence of effective verification procedures, which are a common barrier in establishing an arms control regime. Yet, Israel has firmly resisted pressure by Arab countries and others to sign the NPT. Although pressure mounted before the Review and Extension of the NPT conference in the spring of 1995, Israel refused to give up its nuclear option. But it did announce in February 1995 that it would enter negotiations to join the NPT and to establish a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone two years after a comprehensive peace was established. Presenting a deadline, even if not a very definite one, is a slight departure from previous positions. Furthermore, the Clinton initiative on arms control in August 1993, which envisions a freeze on the production of fissionable materials, was considered at the highest Israel echelons.103 The formulation of an international treaty to cut off production and storing of fissionable materials will put further pressure on Israel to reconsider its nuclear stance. Accepting a freeze would be a major change of policy, reinforcing the move away from self-reliance. Another indication of such a move is a greater interest in involving the United States in providing security services for Israel. During the Gulf War, Likud-led Israel accepted the presence of Patriot SAMs manned by American soldiers. In 1993, Rabin explicitly expressed his desire for ‘active American participation in the security of Israel’.104 Specifically, he asked the Americans to station Patriot batteries in Israel and for bilateral cooperation in deploying ATBMs.105 Moreover, Israel made several requests to be incorporated into the Global Protection System against missiles, which the Americans have considered establishing. Israel is also interested in the stationing of American troops on the Golan Heights as part of an Israeli–Syrian peace treaty involving an Israeli withdrawal.

Contours of Israel’s new strategic thinking


This corresponds to greater Israeli willingness, evident since 1973, to accept the presence of foreign troops along its borders in the context of security arrangements between Israel and its neighbors. Monitoring forces are viewed as useful tripwire arrangements, warning of hostile moves and somewhat slowing down the transition to war. They also raise the political cost of violating the status quo. An American role on the Golan Heights, Israeli doves believe, will make full withdrawal on the Golan more palatable and easier to sell to the Israeli public. In December 1995, Peres even suggested a US–Israeli Defense Treaty, which had previously been discarded as limiting Israel’s freedom of action. An additional impetus in the Israeli search for alternatives to self-reliance is exhaustion with the protracted conflict, which influences the willingness to divert necessary economic resources to sustain a self-reliant posture. Israel’s economy has shown consistent growth in the 1990s. This economic performance enhances Israel’s ability to become militarily and politically self-reliant. But economic gains are translated into a self-reliant posture only if the political leadership chooses to act accordingly. In Israel’s case, economic resources have been diverted to domestic needs and consumer consumption. The Rabin government came to power in 1992 with a clear commitment to rearrange Israeli priorities, giving precedence to neglected domestic issues such as unemployment, education and transportation infrastructure. Instead, Defense Minister Rabin cut the defense budget and rejected IDF’s requests for a budget allocation equivalent to a fixed proportion of the GNP. Defending his government record on dealing with poverty, Rabin stated that he had closed an air base and two squadrons of fighter planes.106 The trend of lowering defense expenditures in the Middle East in the latter part of the 1980s ended with the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and has been replaced with a renewed arms race. The reluctance to engage in expensive military buildup is an incentive for reaching understandings on the establishment of an arms control regime for the region, particularly in respect of conventional capabilities. Peres pointed out that continuing the arms race and maintaining a modern army will destroy the economy.107 The IDF is fully aware of the high cost of maintaining an advanced army.108 Furthermore, the use of sophisticated force with great and accurate firepower is increasingly expensive. Economic constraints are predominant in one area where Israel has given up the quest for selective self-sufficiency – weapons development. In 1987 pressure from the United States and from several domestic circles led Israel to reconsider building the Lavi advanced aircraft and canceling the project. The contract for building the new Israel Saar-5 corvettes was awarded to an American company, rather than to Israel Shipyards, due to of lack of funds. The American company is paid through military assistance funds, which have to be spent in the United States. The troubles of Israeli military industries were a result of the shrinking world market for weapons following the demise of the Soviet Union and the greater dependency on exports by small state industries all over the world. With the change of government in Israel in 1992, the military industries lost a valuable patron, Likud Defense Minister Moshe Arens. Rabin, by comparison, held a


The post-Cold War period

more minimalist view of the role of these industries for Israel’s national security. For him, ‘the military industries are too big for Israel’.109 During Rabin’s recent tenure as defence minister the military industries contracted even further. In recent years, Israel has also lowered its allocations for weapons R&D in its defense budget. According to a report by Israel’s state comptroller, allocations for R&D were reduced by 43 percent from 1986 to 1994. Such cutbacks threaten to waste accumulated technological gains and highly professional manpower, in addition to increasing Israel’s dependence on foreign suppliers.110 Financial stringencies have already affected the Arrow ATBM system, and similar cuts in high-tech Israeli projects may negatively influence Israel’s ability to maintain a technological edge over its rivals. In general, this economic factor is the result of the priorities in Israeli society, which is less willing to divert resources to national security at the expense of its standard of living. This preference undermines the effort for military self-reliance.

Conclusion Israel’s Labour-led government has adopted new perceptions of the external environment and embraced a changed concept of national power. These amount to a proclivity for greater trust in and cooperation with other regional states and international actors. Israel’s political leadership is also less willing to use force. Israeli society displays battle fatigue and clearly prefers butter to guns. It is less likely than ever before to support sacrifices needed to attain greater measures of self-reliance. Israeli attitudes toward the use of force have become more congruent with the prevalent mood in the West, where there is a high sensitivity to casualties, increased apprehension about the high economic cost of building and using military force, and declining belief in the legitimacy of its use. All these factors push Israel into a search for alternative security measures. This is very obvious in its policy on arms control and the emerging nuclear threat. More ambiguous signs are the weakening of the indigenous capability to produce weapons and considerations on limiting nuclear options. Although Israel has not yet changed its national security doctrine, there is a noticeable departure from past premises and policies. Rabin’s death may well intensify this shift. He was the least dovish member of his government, and he served as a brake on the attempts of Peres to implement policies according to his visionary ideas. The new thinking, which is predicated on an optimistic evaluation of the environment, leads to a greater dependence upon the goodwill of other international actors. This is very problematic in terms of national security if the Middle East remains a volatile region, where the use of force is part and parcel of the rule of the game. But considering the limitations upon a small state, Israel may have no choice but to engage in an historical gamble and rely on others to deal with some of the threats that it faces. Israel must remember, however, that even gamblers should use caution.


Israel’s strategic environment in the 1990s

The 1990s were of particular importance in Israel’s history. After being a regional outcast for several decades since its establishment, Israel became an acceptable partner in regional interactions during the last decade of the twentieth century. The 1990s were characterized by drastic changes in the international system and by significant regional developments, which were of great importance in terms of Israeli national security. During this time, Israel’s international status improved. This chapter reviews the changes in Israel’s strategic environment in the 1990s at two levels of analysis. The first deals with the changes in the global international system and their impact on Israel’s position, while the second focuses on the interactions between the regional, political and military dynamics of Israel’s national security. This decade was strategically very beneficial to Israel. Israel has remained a good ally of the US in an American-dominated world. The systemic changes in the international arena were helpful to Israel in becoming a respected international actor. Moreover, they allowed for much progress in the peace process; that is, Israel’s acceptance in the region. This process has been rooted in international developments and in regional trends, which are only partly relevant to the subject of this chapter and are treated elsewhere.1 Regarding Israel’s national security, while the chances for a large-scale conventional war were lower than in the past, Israel still faced existential threats, stemming particularly from the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East. In addition, it continued to face low-intensity conflict challenges.

The international arena The end of bipolarity in international affairs was the most important systemic change of the 1990s. The end of the Cold War was generally beneficial in strategic terms to Israel. The informal alliance with the US since the end of the 1960s was an important component of Israel’s deterrent power in regional politics. One important Arab strategic goal has for years been to weaken the link between Israel and its superpower ally and to deny the Jewish state international legitimacy.2 The overall robustness of Jerusalem–Washington relations and particularly the increased strategic cooperation between the two sides since the


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1980s made the Arab goal of putting a wedge between the two unrealistic. The campaign to isolate Israel from the international community also failed. The emergence of the US as the hegemonic power in international relations in the early 1990s benefited several of its allies. Although in the new era the US is patently less in need of allies, Israel has continued to be identified as a close ally. United States–Israel strategic relations in the 1990s were barely affected by the American international preponderance.3 The level of American military aid to Israel actually increased in the latter part of the decade, albeit at the expense of a reduction in the amount of the rendered economic aid. Moreover, the US has continued its financial support for the development of high-tech weapon systems, such as the anti-ballistic missile Arrow, the anti-ballistic interception missile at the boost phase, Moab, and the laser weapon against Katyushas, Nautilus. The US also agreed to shorten the warning time of incoming missile attacks provided by its satellites to the Israeli early warning system. The US has remained committed to maintaining the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) qualitative edge over its Arab opponents. For example, Washington agreed to sell longrange (over 1,500 km) F-15I aircraft in 1994 and the latest F-16 models in 1999. The September 1999 deal, including fifty aircraft, mission equipment and support package, was worth about $2.5 billion. The purchase agreement left open the option for sixty additional aircraft.4 Throughout the 1990s, the weapon procurement of the IDF enjoyed relatively free access to the American conventional arms arsenal. Its main constraint was insufficient financial resources rather than politically inspired restrictions. In contrast to the 1980s, the US was less reluctant in the following decade to publicize the American military exercises that took place in Israel. Even when the tensions in bilateral relations were noticeable, as during the tenure of Israel’s premiers Yitzhak Shamir (1988–92) and Binyamin Netanyahu (1996–99), when the divergent views on peace process issues were accentuated, the level of strategic cooperation between the two countries remained stable. For example, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two countries from October 1998 highlights the ‘developing regional threats emanating from the acquisition of ballistic missiles and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction’, and commits the US in an unprecedented way to ‘enhancing Israel’s defensive and deterrent capabilities’ – an allusion to Israel’s nuclear potential. However, despite the expanded American role in international affairs, Jerusalem could not count on Washington’s capability to eliminate or lower considerably the threats to its security by imposing a Pax Americana in the region. There were clear limitations to American power. Actually, the cutbacks in the American defense budget and the ensuing force reductions have hampered the ability of the US to project long-distance force. For example, the American plan for a Global Protection System, an ambitious attempt to protect US allies from hostile ballistic missiles, that was aired at the beginning of the decade and was attractive to Israeli security planners, did not move much beyond the design stage. Its influence has increasingly been resisted all over the world.5 In addition,

Israel’s strategic environment in the 1990s


its imperial impulse and political will to serve as the global policeman was questioned, particularly in the Middle East. The US-dominant role in world politics was initially seen, however, as beneficial in curbing the spread of long-range missile technology and nuclear proliferation. Israel was pleased with the imposition of the US-inspired United Nations Special Commission on Disarmament (UNSCOM) inspection regime on Iraq. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin also relied on American diplomacy, rather than Israeli diplomatic efforts, to prevent the sale of the North Korean longrange Nodong missile to Iran.6 Furthermore, since the mid-1990s, Israel has asked Washington (the administration and Congress) to pressure Russia to refrain from selling sensitive technologies in the area of missilery and nuclear weapons to Iran. Israel was even ready to experiment with US-backed international arms control regimes, a change from its traditional suspicions of arms control efforts and international institutions.7 In October 1991, Israel accepted, at US prodding, the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). In September 1992, the Israeli cabinet decided to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), relinquishing its previous insistence on prior Arab signature. Rabin’s government (1992–95) also indicated Israel’s willingness to adhere to a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which was put on the international arms control agenda in 1993. By the end of 1993, Israel had also begun to comply with international demands to report its arms sales to the UN arms registrar. In May 1994, Israel agreed to an American request to ban the export of anti-personnel mines. The Israeli government also took very seriously the Arms Control and Regional Security (ACRS) multilateral talks, which petered out by the beginning of 1996. In 1998, the Netanyahu government even agreed to move on the Fissile Cut-off Treaty in order not to strain further relations with the US. Israel refused, however, to sign the NPT, and in 1995, when this treaty was extended, the US tacitly accepted Israel’s claim for receiving an exceptional exemption. The Rabin government even toyed with the idea of stationing American forces on the Golan Heights in the framework of an Israeli–Syrian peace treaty, and with some form of American military presence in Israel, but the Israeli defense establishment was not keen on the notion of formalizing the bilateral strategic ties through a defense treaty. Such a treaty continued to be seen in Jerusalem as problematic in terms of Israel’s freedom of military action and its nuclear option. Indeed, toward the end of the decade a more sober attitude developed as well as a greater appreciation of the limits of what even a dominant US can attain. ACRS talks collapsed early in 1996 against American wishes. North Korea seemed to continue almost unabated its nuclear program and its sales of missile technology to the Middle East.8 According to Israeli intelligence, Russia did not fully cooperate in the efforts to curb Iranian progress in its missile and nuclear programs. It gradually became clear, over the decade, that the loosening of bipolarity facilitated the seepage of sensitive technologies to Third World countries’ WMD programs. Moreover, the Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests in the spring


The post-Cold War period

of 1998 underscored the American failure to expand the scope of its sponsored international arms control regimes. Nevertheless, the end of bipolarity was helpful in buttressing Israel’s regional position. Israel’s regional rivals, the Arab countries, were weakened by the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Arabs no longer had the backing of a superpower, which thus limited their military and diplomatic options versus Israel. The two most viciously anti-Israel countries in the Middle East, Iraq and Iran, became the enemies of the US and subject to American sanctions. Despite the growing criticism of the dual containment policy, by the end of the decade, Washington did not change course.9 The fact that the US emerged as the only global superpower has made Arab countries more responsive to American preferences, including the acceptance of Israel in the region. The breakdown of the Soviet Empire allowed close to one million Jews from the former Soviet Union to immigrate to Israel during the 1990s, which strengthened the Jewish state in demographic and economic terms. This mass immigration of generally highquality manpower to Israel was an important contribution to the development of a demographic critical mass required for Jewish survival in the Middle East. The waves of immigration initially drew much Arab opposition, but to no avail. The Arab bloc was further weakened politically by another systemic change – the emergence of a buyers’ market in the world oil economy. Arab oil-producing countries, in particular, lost much political clout due to low oil prices. The growing awareness of new oil vistas, particularly the high expectations for quick access to the untapped oil riches in Central Asia in the early 1990s, increased the pressures on oil prices downward.10 The combination of low oil prices, high population growth rates, a failure to modernize and diversify the overall economy, and mere economic mismanagement in most Arab countries, further deteriorated their economic situation and their international standing.11 This also weakened their opposition to Israel. With the emergence of a unipolar system, Israel became sought after by many countries because of Jerusalem’s good relations with Washington and its reputation for considerable clout on Capitol Hill. Its image as a powerful high-tech country also contributed to its new popularity in the international arena. All the East European states, previously in the Soviet orbit, resumed relations with Israel. Significantly, the new Muslim Central Asian states, once relieved of the Soviet yoke, sought diplomatic ties with the Jewish state. In addition, it was the 1991 Madrid conference, at which almost all Arab countries participated and indirectly legitimized interactions with Israel that eliminated many of the inhibitions countries had when considering the upgrading of relations with Israel. Indeed, leading Asian powers such as China and India, Turkey in the Middle East, and Nigeria in Africa, decided in the first months of 1992 to establish fullrank ambassadorial ties with Israel. These decisions obviously reflected earlier assessments on the need to improve relations with Jerusalem. The new Indian–Israeli relationship deserves particular attention, as close connections have developed between the two countries’ defense establishments, and a series of deals have been signed to sell Israeli arms, defense equipment

Israel’s strategic environment in the 1990s


and military technology to India. Moreover, India of the 1990s, which is less burdened than before with its Russian connection, realized that the two countries share a similar strategic outlook on several international issues, such as nuclear proliferation, radical Islam and state-sponsored terrorism, which facilitates highlevel coordination and cooperation.12 The opening to India, a huge market, has also had many economic benefits for Israel, and indeed the civilian trade has been booming as well (it quadrupled during 1992–99). Following the January 1999 American decision to discontinue the sanctions against India, imposed because of the May 1998 nuclear tests, a serious snag in Jerusalem’s relations with Delhi was removed, paving the way for the potential for even closer ties. The upgraded relations with Turkey, an important Muslim country, have acquired a similar strategic dimension, as elaborated below in the section analyzing the regional setting. Systemic changes were, to a great extent, responsible for creating the environment conducive to the development of these new strategic relationships, and by the end of the decade, most countries felt that their relations with Israel were no longer hostage to the oscillations in Arab–Israeli talks. Israelis, conditioned in international isolation, noted with pleasure the changes in international attitudes toward the Jewish state. Prime Minister Rabin, a well-known pessimist who experienced the diplomatic isolation of the postl973 period, said in 1992, ‘Israel is no longer “a people that dwells alone” ’.13 Rabin stressed his conviction that Israel lives in a new environment: ‘The world is no longer against us. . . . States which never stretched their hand to us, states which condemned us, which fought us . . . regard us today as a worthy and respectable address.’14

The regional setting In the 1990s Israeli security planners have stressed a concentric perspective, an inner and an outer ring, in assessing the security risks and challenges emanating from their surroundings. The ‘first ring’ included the neighboring countries that shared a common border with Israel. In contrast, ‘the outer ring’ (often termed in Israeli strategic parlance as the ‘second ring’) referred to the more distant countries in the Middle East. The 1990s were characterized by a reduction of threat from the ‘first ring’ countries and a considerable rise in Israeli concerns about security challenges from countries in the ‘outer ring’. The developments in the two ‘rings’ are, of course, interrelated. The outer ring The decade started with an Iraqi threat ‘to burn half of Israel’ with chemical weapons (April 1990), followed by an attempt by Saddam Hussein to gain regional hegemony by conquering Kuwait and its riches in August 1990. Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, after the end of the Cold War, elicited a strong American response. Under the leadership of President George H. W. Bush, an international


The post-Cold War period

coalition was forged to fight aggression and the Iraqi forces were evicted by force from Kuwait. A large part of the Iraqi army, at that time the fifth largest in the world, was destroyed. Furthermore, the alarming extent of Iraqi progress on various programs to develop WMDs became clear. Subsequently, Saddam Hussein’s defeated country became an international pariah, subjected to UN inspections. The UN teams engaged in demolishing Scud-3 missiles and a large part of the WMD arsenal and infrastructure. The 1991 Iraqi military defeat by the American-led coalition had positive security results for Israel, particularly in light of the fact that the havoc inflicted on Iraq and its forces occurred without IDF participation. Yet the 1991 Gulf War was also a reminder of the vicissitudes of Middle East politics, the vulnerability of Israel to long-range missile attacks and the limits of Israeli military power. The Iraqi missile attacks (fitted with conventional warheads) resulted in only minimal casualties, but the economic damage was considerable as the country was paralyzed for several weeks. Moreover, the unprecedented Israeli restraint in the face of Iraqi missile attacks at a time when Israel was governed by the most right-wing government in its history, a result of the reluctance to react without coordination with Washington, emphasized the limits on Israel’s freedom of action. Prime Minister Shamir and Moshe Arens, his Defense Minister, rejected the option of unilateral action.15 Israeli behavior was construed in several Arab quarters as weakness.16 The perception that Israel’s inaction was a sign of growing dependence upon the US and that it lacked the determination to act forcefully in defense of its interests was conducive to erosion in Israel’s deterrence.17 Of great importance, from an Israeli perspective, was the effect of the Gulf War on the political mood in the region. It emphasized the American dominance and allowed for the evolving peace process between Israel and its neighbors, which significantly ameliorated the international circumstances in which Israel operated. In 1991, in the aftermath of the Cold War, the US capitalized on its victory in the Gulf War over Iraq by promoting another attempt at continuing the peace process with the 1979 Egyptian–Israeli peace treaty – the October 1991 Madrid conference. This conference initiated a process of bilateral negotiations, as well as the participation of an unprecedented number of Arab countries (belonging to the ‘second ring’) to discuss Middle East problems together with Israel in a multilateral setting. As a result of the new atmosphere, in the aftermath of the 1991 Madrid conference, ‘outer-ring’ countries, such as Morocco, Mauritania, Tunisia, Oman and Qatar, established formal diplomatic relations with the Jewish state. Among the ‘second-ring’ countries, Iraq stands out in its enmity to Israel. Virulent anti-Israeli propaganda and threats continued to serve Saddam Hussein as a legitimizing device for his regime and its hegemonic ambitions. At the end of the decade, Saddam, with a record of aggressive behavior, still ruled the country and still had a large conventional army at his disposal. Iraq was successful in defying the UNSCOM regime and maintained a formidable stockpile of weapons, which threatened its neighbors and Israel.18 This arsenal included

Israel’s strategic environment in the 1990s


long-range missiles, chemical weapons, biological agents and components for nuclear weapons. Another ‘second-ring’ country with a potential to harm Israel was the Islamic Republic of Iran. A portion of the religious zeal was directed against ‘the Zionist entity’ by declaring an unequivocal theological opposition to the mere existence of the Jewish state and by supporting terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hizballah. Overall, the feared Islamic wave had passed the crest and was unable to take a hold beyond Iran and Sudan. Despite the inflammatory Islamic rhetoric, Iran conducted a pragmatic foreign policy.19 Moreover, the Arab regimes displayed a remarkable ability to deal successfully (usually a euphemism for ruthlessness) with the indigenous radical Islamic opposition groups and maintain the reins of power. While Iranian ideology gradually constituted less of a threat to regional stability, its missile and WMD programs have become more feared than before. By the end of 1999, Iran reached a very advanced stage in the development of the surface-to-surface Shehab-3 missile. The two-stage missile, tested in July 1998, was based on the North Korean Nodong, but Russian contractors changed its design and sub-systems. It has a 1,300 km range, putting Israel into its striking distance. This long-range capability made the Iranian nuclear program even more threatening.20 Indeed, for Rabin, the major enemy in the 1990s was Islamic Iran, which was engaged in acquiring a nuclear capability and in sponsoring terror.21 In Rabin’s eyes, terror was no longer a military nuisance but a strategic threat which could derail the peace process. While Israel was pleased with the change of tone in Tehran toward the US, after Khattami was elected as President in 1997, and despite the moderation in Israel’s statements against Iran in the latter part of the decade, Tehran continued to retain the ‘Small Satan’ epitaph in references to Israel. Therefore, Iran was still considered a serious potential existential threat for Israel throughout the 1990s. One important extremely positive development in the ‘outer ring’ was the upgrading in Israeli–Turkish relations.22 For Israel, this has been the most beneficial regional development since President Anwar Sadat of Egypt came to Jerusalem in 1977, thereby changing the parameters of the Arab–Israeli conflict. Israeli–Turkish ties constitute a most important international development in the Middle East. They bring together the two staunchest and strongest allies of the West in the region. After many years of being preoccupied with the Soviet threat and with the quest of becoming part of Europe, Turkey is paying greater attention to the Middle East, particularly to its radical neighbors Iran, Syria and Iraq. Moreover, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Central Asia – a region of great interest to Turkey – has become part of a greater Middle East. This is also a reason for Turkey’s greater involvement in the international politics of the Middle East.23 Fortunately for Israel, there is a convergence of the two countries’ national interests.24 The two countries fear abandonment by the West, particularly in an international system where their contribution to the containment of Soviet


The post-Cold War period

expansionism is no longer needed. Israel seems to be in a better position than Turkey in Washington, but both are interested in strengthening their ties with the US. For various reasons the US has not shown sufficient sensitivity to Turkey’s security needs. Because of the influence of the Greek and Armenian lobbies, Washington placed an informal embargo on arms sales to Turkey. Its territorial prognosis for the Arab–Israeli conflict has always favored Arab preferences. Nevertheless, a continuous American presence in the region was viewed as beneficial in Jerusalem and Ankara, as it brings about stability in the region, and assists its two pro-Western and democratic allies. Both countries wish to curb the influence of radical Islam emanating primarily from Iran. Islamic extremism calls for the destruction of Israel and threatens the secular nature of the Turkish polity. In addition, radical Islamists attempt to destabilize pro-Western Arab regimes, such as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Israel and Turkey also face a common enemy – Syria. The two countries have similar disputes with Syria – over water and territory – and face similar challenges. Until October 1998, Syria hosted Abdullah Ocalan, the head of the Kurdish anti-Turkish PKK terrorist group. It also hosts Palestinian organizations such as the Hamas and the Palestinian Popular Fronts, which are intent on wrecking the peace process. Damascus also conducted a war by proxy – the Hizballah – against Israel in southern Lebanon. An Israeli–Turkish partnership, however, forced Hafez Assad into a more cautious and moderate posture. Another common strategic interest is to minimize the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and long-range ballistic missiles to the rogue states in the region, primarily Iran, Iraq and Syria. Turkey borders all three. Israel was already subjected to missile attacks from Syria (1973) and Iraq (1991), and feared that Iran would extend the range of its missiles to reach targets within its territory. They both feared that the West would not address this threat seriously, leaving them alone to cope with this security challenge. Finally, following the 1996 military agreements between the two countries, much cooperation has taken place in the security domain to enhance the military capabilities of each side. Access to Turkish airspace allowed the Israeli Air Force to train better, as well as providing new routes to enemy territory, and enhanced efforts to collect valuable intelligence due to Turkey’s proximity to the radical states. In turn, Jerusalem assists Ankara in upgrading its military forces with its technological and operational knowhow. Israel is already retrofitting Turkish fighter jets (F-4s and F-5s) and is ready to transfer other military technologies to the Turkish defense industries. Israel also markets a variety of military equipment and the Turks expressed interest also in the anti-ballistic missile Arrow system. In January 1998, the two countries held together with the US a naval exercise in the eastern Mediterranean, to which Jordan sent an observer. Such an exercise took place again in December 1999 and January 2001. Despite the fact that the ‘Reliant Mermaid’ maneuvers were defined as a naval rescue exercise with no offensive character, they attracted huge attention in the Arab world. The strategic partnership between the two countries is of tremendous importance because it creates a new balance of power in the Middle East. The alliance

Israel’s strategic environment in the 1990s


with Turkey is also critical for progress in the peace process, which is predicated on a strong Israel. The inner ring In 1991, the Americans brought Israel’s neighbors, the Syrians, the Palestinians and the Jordanians, to the negotiating table in Madrid, primarily according to Israeli terms. No preconditions insisted on in the past by Syria were met (an Israeli commitment to withdraw from the Golan Heights and negotiations under the umbrella of a binding international conference). President Hafez Assad of Syria was dragged into the peace process out of weakness, following the loss of his Soviet patron and the US demonstration of military might and resolve in 1991. Participation in the peace process was a Syrian adjustment to a new international reality.25 Similarly, a weakened PLO finally accepted the Americansponsored 1978 Camp David Accords’ framework for progress on the Palestinian track; that is, an incremental approach, leaving the difficult issues to be discussed in a second phase of negotiations, without Israel making any upfront concessions in these matters.26 The evolving peace process led to important agreements that made Israel a more acceptable actor in the region and reduced the chances of an additional large-scale Arab–Israeli war. The PLO and Israel signed an agreement in September 1993 (Oslo 1) and in September 1995 (Oslo 2), amounting to a renewed partition of the Land of Israel, indicating the possibility of a precarious coexistence between the two national entities. The agreements with the Palestinians, who over the years succeeded in their campaign to impress the world in regard to the importance of resolving their problems, further improved Israel’s international status. Additional interim agreements were signed in January 1997 (Hebron), in October 1998 (Wye), in September 1999 (Sharm el-Sheikh), while the difficult issues – borders, settlements, Jerusalem and the nature of the Palestinian entity – were to be dealt with at a later stage in the final status talks. As part of the same historic process, Israel signed a peace treaty with Jordan in October 1994, which formalized the good strategic relations between the two countries. Syria, despite propagating the image that it made a strategic decision to make peace with Israel, seemed unable to capitalize on Israel’s unexpected territorial generosity. Assad refused to accept the Golan Heights in exchange for a peace treaty, which would require of him to open up Syria’s closed society to outside influence. This has been the American evaluation, and even Arab capitals recognize, unofficially, that Assad missed a historic opportunity to make a very favorable deal with Israel.27 Indeed, Rabin offered him the Golan Heights in August 1993 and Shimon Peres repeated the offer in January 1996. Even Netanyahu suggested a similar deal in 1998, but Assad still refused. The unprecedented territorial generosity of Prime Minister Ehud Barak (elected in May 1999) was also not sufficient to induce Assad into an agreement. In any case, the agreements with the Palestinians and Jordan clearly demonstrated that Syria did not have a


The post-Cold War period

veto power on the process and that it was increasingly isolated by its refusal to make a deal with Israel. Syria’s attempts to mobilize Arab states into a more radical position versus Israel during the Netanyahu years were unsuccessful, too. The peace process drastically lowered the chances for large-scale war with the neighboring countries – the ‘first-ring’ countries. Already since 1979, following the Egyptian–Israeli peace treaty, the Arabs lost the participation of Egypt, the strongest Arab country, as well as the two-front option. The renewed peace process since Madrid legitimized retroactively Egypt’s decision to opt for diplomacy, which included a pro-American orientation in its foreign policy, in achieving its goals versus Israel. It also made it more difficult for Cairo to revert to pre-1979 policies, particularly in the American-dominated world of the 1990s. Yet, despite its twenty-year peace treaty with Israel, Egypt continued to arm itself and has developed a large and modern US-equipped army. According to some of its generals, Egypt continued to see Israel as a potential military rival.28 It even conducted large-scale military exercises against an ‘enemy to the West’. From 1993, Israeli intelligence focused greater attention on Egyptian weapon procurement, particularly the items purchased for its air force.29 Since the mid1990s, Egypt has gradually become a source of concern, although it was not defined by the IDF as a threat. From the mid-1990s, its demands for putting an end to the international force monitoring the demilitarization of the Sinai Peninsula struck a sensitive Israeli chord. Moreover, President Hosni Mubarak refrained from visiting Israel even during the tenure of Rabin as Prime Minister and Egypt occasionally played an obstructive role in the peace negotiations with the Palestinians. Particularly annoying was Egypt’s high-profile policy, in contrast to the 1980s, designed to bring Israel under the NPT umbrella. This was the main cause for the collapse of the ACRS talks early in 1996.30 In 1999, Osama el-Baz, advisor to President Mubarak, even threatened that unless Israel joined the NPT within five to seven years, his country would consider arming itself with chemical and biological warheads.31 Egypt’s imports of North Korean Scud-C longrange missiles, as recent as 1997, further increased Israeli concerns. Egypt has also begun developing a full-scale space reconnaissance program meant to compete with Israel.32 In light of Egypt’s behavior toward Israel, IDF military planners started thinking about the possibility of an armed conventional encounter with Egyptian armored units crossing into the Sinai Desert in violation of the demilitarization clauses of the Peace Treaty.33 Jordan, another ‘first-ring’ country, formalized its good strategic relationship with Israel by signing the peace treaty of 1994. Jordan has the longest border with Israel and is located very close to the strategic heartland of the Jewish state (the Jerusalem–Tel Aviv–Haifa triangle). Therefore, the peace treaty removed the most important block in what Israelis termed ‘the Eastern Front’ – a multipronged Syrian–Iraqi–Jordanian–Saudi Arabian coordinated attack from the East. The expectations that relations with Jordan will embrace most sectors of Jordanian economy and society and outdo the ‘cold peace’ with Egypt have remained unfulfilled. The peace treaty facilitated, however, greater cooperation between the

Israel’s strategic environment in the 1990s


two military establishments. Jordan even became interested in the deployment of the Arrow system in its territory as part of a regional BMD system. The death of King Hussein in February 1999 was an important test of the strength of the Hashemite regime and the resilience of the peace treaty. The smooth transition of power to his son, Abdullah, and the continuity in foreign policy orientation were accepted with relief in Jerusalem as in many other capitals of the world. Among the ‘first-ring’ countries, Syria has persisted in its refusal to reach a deal with Israel and has blocked any progress on the Israeli–Lebanese track (it gained full control of Lebanon in October 1990 as a result of its aligning itself with the US during the Gulf crisis). Nevertheless, since spring 1991, voices in Israeli military intelligence have been heard to say that President Assad of Syria changed course, and preferred a diplomatic avenue rather than a military path, to attain his political goals versus Israel.34 While Assad failed to sign a deal, his participation in the American-sponsored peace process has limited his military options. Within the ‘first-ring’ range countries, Syria has remained the only military threat to Israel, albeit one with decreasing offensive capabilities. In the 1990s, the Syrian goal of ‘strategic parity’ with the IDF became even more elusive than in the 1980s.35 Nevertheless, it was the only army in Israel’s immediate vicinity trained to carry out surprise attacks. Despite its shopping spree immediately after the Gulf War, Damascus has suffered from lack of funds to modernize its army throughout the decade.36 Only in missilery capabilities progress was steady. During 1991 to 1993, Syria acquired with Iranian funding North Korean technology to produce Scud-C missiles, whose 500 km range cover most of Israel. Syria test-fired its first locally made Scud-C in mid-1996. Moreover, it gradually hardened its missile silos and took additional steps to protect them from air strikes. At the end of 1999, Israeli intelligence sources reported that due to Russian and Iranian help the development of a derivative of the Scud-C with a longer range was expected to be completed within six to twelve months, which would allow Syria to deploy the missiles deeper into its territory – further away from Israel’s reach.37 Throughout the decade, Syria allowed the extreme Islamic Hizballah organization to receive support from Iran in order to wage a guerrilla campaign against the Israeli military presence in southern Lebanon. This war was occasionally punctuated by Katyusha missile attacks on Israeli towns and villages close to the border. Conceivably, this was considered in Damascus as an incentive for Israel to sweeten the deal it proposed to Syria. In this low-intensity conflict, Israel lost twenty to thirty soldiers each year, which gradually became a political issue and created growing public pressure for unilateral withdrawal. By the end of the decade, those within the political elite who recommended withdrawal only within the framework of a formal agreement with Lebanon and/or Syria, which also reflected the IDF preference, had the upper hand. Yet, Barak made a vague promise for unilateral withdrawal in the spring of 1999 during the election campaign, which reflected the growing weariness with this engagement within Israeli society. The unilateral withdrawal was implemented in May 2000.


The post-Cold War period

The armed conflict in southern Lebanon represented the type of military challenge for which the IDF was preparing itself in a more serious manner than before. Another potential arena for low-intensity conflict (LIC) was the Palestinian-ruled territory, particularly after the violent events of September 1996 when the security personnel of the Palestinian Authority (PA) attacked IDF posts and units. The emergence of the PA as a quasi-independent political entity with a large number of soldiers at its disposal (c. 40,000) very close to Israel’s heartland, its transportation arteries, airports and emergency depots created a new problem.38 The smuggling of weapons, including mortars and anti-tank missiles, into a revisionist PA, and its tolerance of the existence of an extreme Islamic terrorist infrastructure (Hamas and Islamic Jihad), only accentuated the new LIC challenges Israel has faced in the 1990s. The continuity of the region’s rules of the game The Middle East was affected by the systemic changes in the distribution of world power and by the developments in the political economy of energy sources. The changes of the 1990s in the regional balance of power and the agreements reached by the parties in the Arab–Israeli arena failed, however, to elicit new rules for the game played by the various international actors. Basically, the old patterns of regional interaction – power politics – have remained unchanged, despite the removal of the superpower competition in the area.39 The region remained conflict prone and a source of instability.40 Indeed, the dominant prism to international relations among the political leaders of the Middle East, with the exception of a few in Jerusalem, has remained power politics. This is precisely why Cairo, Damascus and Baghdad fear the new Israeli–Turkish entente.41 Moreover, in the Middle East the use of force is still considered an acceptable and useful tool of foreign policy. ‘The region’s zeitgeist also favors violence, where guerrillas are lauded and peacemakers ridiculed’.42 Even peace negotiations are accompanied by violence. For example, Syria did not desist from using the Hizballah in bleeding Israel while it engaged in peace negotiations with the Israeli governments. The PA has been turning a blind eye to the activities of Islamic terrorists on its controlled territory when it believes it suits its interests. In September 1996, the PA allowed its soldiers to shoot at the Israeli army, while Yasser Arafat has often threatened Israel with a new Intifada should his claims be unsatisfied. The emerging Palestinian entity has great potential for developing into a revisionist and predatory state.43 President Mubarak and other Arab leaders have repeatedly warned that in the absence of ‘progress’ there might be a violent eruption. Significantly, Arab strategists discovered that long-range missiles can overcome several aspects of Israeli conventional superiority, primarily its air supremacy. Arab states, even those not bordering Israel, could damage the Israeli civilian home front, and obstruct Israeli efforts to prepare for a large-scale attack by missile strikes on airfields and staging areas of the ground forces.

Israel’s strategic environment in the 1990s


Moreover, a new form of attrition war became available. The American failure to hunt down Iraqi missile launchers in 1991 underscored the difficulties in suppressing such offensive capability. Since 1991, the missile threat has become a major security challenge for Israel.44 The spread of long-range capabilities in the Middle East became even more dangerous to Israel when coupled with the proliferation of WMDs. Some missiles can be armed with WMD warheads. The small size of Israel, geographically and demographically, transforms the option of a WMD attack on its home front, particularly from ‘second-ring’ countries such as Iraq or Iran, into a strategic nightmare. In general, the borders in the Middle East, which were drawn by colonialist powers, still lack legitimacy. This, as well as the residuals of Pan-Arab ideology, allows for revisionist policies. Syria never recognized Lebanon as an independent state and was successful in turning it into its satellite. Iraq still has ambitions to annex Kuwait. South Yemen disappeared as an independent state in May 1990 as it was ‘united’ by force with its neighbor – North Yemen. A dissatisfied Palestine could become the source for irredentist claims East and West. Indeed, Arafat’s willingness ‘to sacrifice even the last Palestinian child for placing the Palestinian flag on the walls of Jerusalem’ and his repeated calls for jihad indicated the potential for additional demands and tensions. Thus a comprehensive termination of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict is, unfortunately, simply an unattainable goal for the foreseeable future. The violent campaign started by the Palestinians in September 2000 reinforces such a conclusion. The best we can expect in the region is an armed peace. Neither Egypt nor Jordan capitalized on their peace treaty with Israel to reduce defense spending. Syria used the money received from the Saudis for good behavior in 1991, over $1 billion, to buy arms, despite the Madrid peace process.45 Armed peace also characterizes inter-Arab relations. No Arab state feels that all of its borders are safe and each harbors suspicions of its neighbors. Indeed, all of Israel’s Arab neighbors have legitimate security concerns in regard to their other neighbors. Israel, too, despite the reduction in threat perception, continues to arm itself. Even Israeli left-of-center leaders see Israel’s army as the final guarantee for peaceful relations with its neighbors. In September 1995, Rabin said that for at least the next thirty years, Israel would have to maintain its military strength.46 Similarly, Barak, who claimed to be a disciple of Rabin, made his general evaluation clear in a speech, well covered by the media, at the National Defense College in August 1999: The might of the IDF is the true guarantee to the peace agreements, to our partners’ abiding by them, and to Israel’s security after attaining peace treaties. We live in a difficult region and environment, which resemble neither North America, nor Western Europe. In the Middle East there is no pity or esteem towards the weak: He who is unable to defend himself does not get a second chance.47


The post-Cold War period

Conclusion Israel’s strategic assessment in the 1990s was dominated by several important events: the end of the Cold War; the 1991 Gulf War and the missile attacks on Israel; and the reinvigorated peace process with the Arab world embodied in the Madrid conference (October 1991), which started a series of bilateral and multilateral negotiations between Israel and Arab countries. The last decade of the twentieth century was generally beneficial for Israel. It continued to enjoy the friendship of the US and developed good relations with countries that once were at best lukewarm. In the region, the alliance with Turkey buttressed Israel’s position. While the probability of large-scale conventional war was low, existential threats to Israel continued to loom on the horizon. The nature of the threats and the sources had changed in comparison to the preceding decade. While the probability of war with the ‘inner-ring’ countries was reduced as a result of the peace process, their capability to damage Israel was enhanced, primarily as a result of the presence of missiles and unconventional warheads. Long-range missiles allowed the more distant ‘outer-ring’ countries to be more active in their dispute with Israel. The main dangers were not conventional military defeats, but attacks on its home front with conventional or WMD warheads. As they face the beginning of a new millennium, Israeli leaders must maintain a vigilant eye on persistent dangers to Israeli security, which despite the peace process continue to threaten its very existence. Islamic radicalism, Palestinian irredentism, impressive conventional military capabilities in the Middle East, and nuclearization, in particular, must occupy their thoughts. Therefore, Israel should continue to ready itself for serious military challenges in the future.

Part IV

The peace process


Israeli negotiations with Syria

In June 1967, Israel responded to Syrian ground and artillery attacks on its military posts and civilian settlements by forcibly capturing the Golan Heights – the plateau from which the Syrians had for years harassed Israeli settlements in the valleys below. In December 1981, the Menachem Begin government passed a law in the Knesset extending Israeli law to the Golan Heights. This law reflected a substantial Israeli consensus on keeping the Golan, primarily for security reasons, though history also played a role. By 1995, the thirty-three Golan settlements were inhabited by some 15,000 people. Their destiny has become a recent issue in Israeli politics as a result of the American-sponsored peace process initiated in 1991. Following the Israel–PLO agreements (1993–94) and the Jordanian–Israeli Peace Treaty (October 1994), American and Israeli officials continue the search for ‘comprehensive peace’ for the Arab–Israeli conflict. Syria has been next on the peacemakers’ agenda, and will attract more attention if the difficulties facing the Palestinian track increase. The contours of an Israeli–Syrian agreement are already clear and by the time this chapter is published a deal may have been finalized. Such an accord would follow the Egyptian precedent: full but staged Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights in exchange for diplomatic relations, a Syrian promise of normalization, and a limited American military presence on the Heights complemented by other security arrangements, still to be negotiated. It is an illusion to believe that any other package is currently available. A take-it-or-leave-it situation awaits the Israeli public. Yet, a careful evaluation of this proposed peace package – an endeavor most Israelis will hardly engage in – leads to the conclusion that on such terms Israel cannot afford a peace treaty with Syria. Full withdrawal is simply too dangerous an option for Israel. A realpolitik perspective indicates that in the absence of Syrian willingness to reach a territorial compromise over the Golan Heights, the status quo is preferable. This chapter reviews the evolution of Israel’s official position on the Golan and critically analyzes several assumptions which have become the common wisdom of the prevalent dovish argumentation in Israel. After many years of militant rejectionism, including refusal to participate in the 1973 Geneva peace conference, Syria finally agreed to sit down with Israel at the historic Madrid peace conference in October to November 1991. This


The peace process

decision reflected President Hafiz Assad’s accommodation to changing international realities. Syria had just lost its Soviet patron and feared, more than ever, the new hegemonic power of the United States.1 Following the crushing American defeat of Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War, Syria entered into bilateral negotiations with Israel without insisting on the fulfillment of its long-established preconditions: the framework of a binding international conference and an Israeli prior commitment to withdraw from the territories captured in 1967. These tactical concessions were made to please the Americans, but on substantive issues Syria remained as adamant as before. Furthermore, it refused to participate in the multilateral track of the negotiations initiated at Madrid.2 Israel’s unwillingness to discuss any withdrawal before Damascus specified the substance of peace; Syria’s refusal to do so and its insistence on dealing with the territorial issue first; and the American evaluation that any intervention at this stage of the negotiations was premature, led to an impasse in the bilateral talks. A change occurred, however, following the Israeli elections of June 1992 when the Yitzhak Shamir-led Likud lost out to the Yitzhak Rabin-led Labour.3 The newly elected government was better inclined to make concessions and more eager to reach an agreement with the Arabs, the Palestinians in particular, than was its predecessor. The dovish wing of Labour and its allies in the Israeli Left – an alliance that dominated the new government – regarded the Palestinian issue as the most important and urgent to solve.4 Even Rabin, not a part of the dovish circles, seemed to give priority to the Palestinian track and pledged during the election campaign that his government would reach an agreement with the Palestinians within six to nine months. Nevertheless, during the rest of the year a certain amount of progress was made in the talks between Israel and Syria. Israel appointed a new head to its delegation dealing with Syria, Professor Itamar Rabinovich, and for the first time since Madrid accepted the principle of applying UN Security Council Resolution 242 (which included a withdrawal clause) to the Golan. Taking into consideration Labour’s platform, which also advocated a ‘territorial compromise’ with Syria, Israel’s new flexibility was not surprising.5 Presumably in exchange, Assad began discussing the possibility of peace with Israel, though he remained reluctant to clarify what he meant by the term. These developments caused a stir, with Israel’s Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, commenting that progress was ‘almost sensational’.6 Indeed, in October 1992 Israel even used the word ‘withdrawal’ in that context, a clear departure from the Shamir government position. Cabinet members, such a Shulamit Aloni, Yossi Sarid and Uzi Baram, expressed territorial generosity and a great proclivity to accommodate Assad, although Rabin refused to specify the extent of a possible Israeli withdrawal, or to enter into discussions on security arrangements without prior knowledge of the kind of peace Syria had in mind. He also insisted that an agreement with Syria not be linked to other issues. His assessment in December 1992 was that the Syrians were reluctant to make peace in the Israeli sense of the term (with full diplomatic relations and normalization, for instance), and were also unwilling to decouple the issue of bilateral relations from other issues

Israeli negotiations with Syria


in the Arab–Israeli conflict.7 Despite the improved atmosphere at the negotiations, the Israeli and the Syrian position reached a deadlock, with each side expecting the other to make a conciliatory move. Israel’s expulsion of the Hamas activists to Lebanon in December 1992 provided an excuse for slowing down the peace process. Furthermore, all sides looked to the new US administration to provide a renewed impetus once it had shaped its Middle East policy. Not much happened during 1993. Syria remained reluctant to show greater flexibility on the peace issue, while Israel zigzagged between prioritizing the Palestinian and Syrian tracks. Eventually, the deal with the PLO materialized with the Oslo Agreement and the Washington Declaration of Principles (DOP) in September 1993, taking Americans, Israelis, Palestinians and other regional actors by surprise. The PLO decision, the analysis of which is beyond the scope of this chapter, weakened the Syrian bargaining position and catalyzed the Jordanian–Israeli formal rapprochement. This development also made Israel’s insistence on no linkage between the Israeli–Syrian negotiations and other tracks less relevant, eliminating an important issue of dispute. Yet the Syrians suspended bilateral talks following the Israeli–Palestinian DOP. The Americans, undaunted, continued to play the mediator role: Secretary of State Warren Christopher convinced Assad in December 1993 to renew the dialogue with the Israelis; and even helped to open up a new channel of communications – secret talks between the ambassadors of the protagonists in Washington.8 In January 1994 the Assad–Clinton summit took place. The Americans were greatly satisfied as they were led to believe that Assad was ready for peace, Israeli-style, and the Syrian leader publicly announced his commitment to peace in terms of a strategic decision. The Israelis were less impressed, but Rabin immediately announced his intention to hold a referendum in case a significant withdrawal on the Golan would be needed to clinch a deal with Syria. This unexpected move seemed to extend his freedom of maneuver both vis-à-vis Syria and at home. If concessions were to be offered, the referendum was a good device to overcome parliamentary opposition and to parry criticism in his own party. By then, Peres and his deputy, Yossi Beilin, were openly advocating a withdrawal from the Golan.9 Rabin gradually edged toward a similar position. Despite the Syrian resuspension of its talks with Israel in February 1994 (following the Hebron massacre) and its persistent rejection of Israeli requests to upgrade the political level of the negotiations, Israel continued to try to induce it to an agreement. In April 1994, at the TAKAM kibbutz movement convention (including representatives of the Golan kibbutzim), Rabin declared that he favored evacuation of settlements from the Golan due to the supremacy of peace over a few settlements and the urgency to reach peace with Syria within a year.10 In May, the New York Times reported that Israel had offered to withdraw from the Golan Heights in three phases, over five to eight years in return for peace with Syria and normal relations. Israel also demanded the stationing of international monitors on and the demilitarization of the Golan and neighboring parts of Syria.11 During the summer of 1994 the Israeli offer of full withdrawal became more explicit. Peres declared that ‘Israel has accepted the Syrian


The peace process

sovereignty on the Golan Heights on many occasions’.12 No denial or rebuttal came from the Prime Minister’s office. It was leaked a few days later, however, that the Egyptian–Israeli peace treaty was to be the model for the Syrian track.13 This meant, inter alia, that the full withdrawal could take place within three years. Indeed, the Chief of IDF Intelligence, Maj. Gen. Uri Sagie, told the Knesset Committee for Foreign and Security Affairs on 9 August 1994, following one of the visits to the region by Secretary of State Christopher, that if he were the Syrian Intelligence Chief he would have concluded on the basis of the statements coming from Israel that the Israeli government was ready to give up all of the Golan Heights.14 It remains to be seen whether Assad will accept the notion of peace, as understood by Israel and the United States, though there are indications that he is grudgingly edging in this direction. Other issues that have yet to be negotiated are the demarcation of the final border (Israel wants the international border while Syria insists on the pre-June 1967 border); the scope of the security arrangements; the depth and timing of the withdrawal stages; and the linkage between these and the normalization of relations. The Israeli government no longer demands demilitarization of areas close to Damascus, a reduction of the Syrian regular forces and the evacuation of Syrian forces from Lebanon. Instead it insists on a Syrian guarantee to prevent a war of attrition from southern Lebanon, which implies an Israeli acquiescence in the Syrian occupation of that country. The November 1994 mid-term congressional elections in the United States, in which the Republican Party gained a majority in both Houses, caused a temporary setback in the negotiations. Both Israelis and Syrians had second thoughts about the wisdom of a deal: a Republican Congress seemed reluctant to compensate Syria, as well as Israel, for the risks undertaken in a peace treaty, and less willing to station American peacekeepers on the Golan. Christopher’s December 1994 visit to the Middle East seemed to have brought the two sides back to the negotiating table. They decided to send military experts to Washington to deal in detail with the security arrangements, and the two Chiefs of Staff even met there, though there were no reports of any significant progress.15 Furthermore, Rabin, with an eye on the polls and engaged in an electoral calculus, could conclude that a withdrawal from the Golan would cost Labour too many votes and decrease its chances to retain power in the 1996 elections.16 In addition, the rise in Palestinian radical Islamic terrorism has increased disenchantment among Israelis with the Palestinian track. The American and Israeli domestic factors will continue to influence the process. Yet, the most reluctant player remains Assad, who seems to be in no hurry to regain the Golan Heights in exchange for normal relations with Israel.

The faulty rationale The Israeli decision to part with the Golan Heights in exchange for diplomatic relations and security arrangements is based on several assumptions, none of

Israeli negotiations with Syria


which are very convincing. To a great extent they form the new strategic vision of the current Israeli leadership and a departure from traditional Israeli strategic thinking.17 Comprehensive peace is within reach The attainment of comprehensive Middle East peace – a resolution of all regional disputes and the ending of the Arab–Israel armed conflict – is the justification proffered for painful compromise with Syria.18 Rabin rhetorically asked the Golan settlers from the Knesset rostrum, ‘Shouldn’t we try to reach peace? Should we reject the chance to put an end to all wars!?’19 Yet the notion of a ‘comprehensive peace’ in this region is a mirage. The Middle East lives in a different sociopolitical time zone from the West, even after the end of the Cold War. The visions of peaceful coexistence in the new international system, which would seem to be in the offing in North America and Western Europe, are divorced from the international reality elsewhere, as demonstrated by the violence attending the disintegrating Yugoslavia and the bloody wars conducted in areas of the former Soviet Union. The visions of comprehensive peace are distant messianic dreams in the region surrounding the Holy Land.20 At best, Israel can hope to reach accommodation with its Arab neighbors along the pattern of relations that characterizes the Arab world and the wider Middle East. No Arab state enjoys comprehensive peace with all its neighbors. All Arab countries harbor suspicions about the intentions of rulers beyond their immediate borders and all have legitimate security concerns of some sort. Indeed, the use of force is still a policy option for many regimes in this region, Arab and non-Arab alike.21 The conflicts of the past – the Syrian invasions of Jordan (1970) and Lebanon (1976), the Iran–Iraq war (1980–88) and the Libya–Chad dispute of the 1980s – provide no historic precedent for a regionwide, peaceful outcome of international conflicts; and the more recent conflagrations, such as the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait (1990), the forced unification of Yemen by the North (1994), and the continuing Saudi and Egyptian border skirmishes with their neighbors further belie the feasibility of a Middle East European-like environment. Furthermore, the Algiers 1975 agreement between Iran and Iraq did not prevent the outbreak of war between the two countries, just as the 1989 Taif agreement did not prevent Syria from subjugating Lebanon. Moreover, several political leaders adopt far-reaching goals such as the dismantling of a state (‘politicide’). Lebanon, Kuwait and Israel have been the objects of politicide campaigns, while Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen are also candidates for dismemberment. Given the features of Middle Eastern international politics, leaders in this part of the world manage state security by developing and maintaining military capabilities and by manipulating shifting diplomatic and military alliances. Thus, any Israeli–Arab agreement that fails to take into account the possibility of future use of force is strategically flawed and hence dangerous. The emerging Israeli–Syrian deal involving full withdrawal from the Golan is most alarming precisely because it appears to ignore this


The peace process

reality. The Middle East might change. However, a region-wide relaxation of tensions will evolve only when Arab regimes and societies are ripe for comprehensive peace. This may take considerably more time than promised by the popular pundits. Territory has become less important The prevalent dovish thinking in Israel deems territory as having a diminished strategic value. It points out that long-range missiles have rendered the desire for strategic depth and secure borders a strategic anachronism. According to this logic, the Israeli notion of defensible borders, which in the past emphasized topography and geography, has acquired a new meaning. Nowadays its main elements are political: only borders that are mutually agreed upon by Israelis and Arabs are secure. Hence, Arab acquiescence becomes more important for Israeli security than the military potential of a particular frontier line drawn on a map. In such thinking, an Israeli embassy in Damascus would have great political and symbolic value, and the border agreed upon between Israel and Syria would by definition be secure. This is a faulty argument. Germany subjected London during the Second World War to a ferocious missile campaign and Iraqi missiles poured on Iran during the first Gulf War. In both cases, missiles extracted a painful cost but failed to determine the outcome of the armed conflict. Similarly, the Iraqi missile attacks on Israel and Saudi Arabia in the 1991 Gulf War did not bring the two countries to their knees. If anything, the latter war demonstrates the importance of territory in modern warfare. Whatever may be learned from Desert Storm, it must include the lesson that the tremendous American superiority in air power, which was put into effect for over a month, did not suffice to dislodge Iraq from Kuwait; an armored ground campaign was necessary to reverse the results of the Iraqi invasion. Considering the volatility of the Middle East, the gain of an embassy is not worth the loss of the Golan Heights and its three military advantages: deterrence, defense and early warning. The proximity of Israeli forces on the Golan to Damascus provides for deterrence as the Israeli forces can move eastward and threaten the Syrian capital. Furthermore, the topography of the Golan allows for the best defense against an armored Syrian thrust toward Israel. The IDF is currently deployed along the highest points of the Golan plateau. The width of the Golan Heights, some 24 km, is not particularly impressive, but it still allows for a defensive line that cannot be easily breached, and provides Israel with an invaluable breathing space to mobilize its reserves in the event of a surprise attack. This is the most feared scenario as vital areas within Israel in its pre-1967 borders lie in immediate proximity to the Golan and their conquest would be a terrible blow to Israel. Last but not least, Israeli intelligence facilities stationed on the Hermon Mountain and several Golan cliff tops peer deep into Syria and provide important information on the Syrian military modus operandi and strategic early warning of Syrian military movements. The strategic advantages

Israeli negotiations with Syria


conferred on Israel by its presence on the Golan explain best the lack of hostilities on this front since 1974. Security arrangements are unsatisfactory substitutes It is obvious that the Sinai Desert security arrangements, a 200 km-long demilitarized buffer zone, cannot be emulated on the Golan, which is 24 km wide and can be traversed by tank in a matter of hours. This is precisely why Israeli negotiators propose additional security measures, such as drastic cuts in the Syrian order of battle, demilitarized zones deep into Syrian territory up to Damascus, and an American force on the Golan. But these Israeli demands are for the time being totally unacceptable to Syria.22 For one thing, Syria has serious security concerns beyond its confrontation with Israel, notably Turkey and Iraq. For another, its leadership depends on the considerable military forces stationed around Damascus to preserve the regime, not to speak of the perceived national humiliation in demilitarizing the Syrian heartland. But, even if some of the security arrangements were to be implemented, Israel would lose in terms of defensive capacity and deterrence power. Although some of the present intelligence assets on the Golan could be partly replaced by reconnaissance aircraft and tethered balloons, these will be far more expensive, complex, vulnerable and difficult to operate. Moreover, the deployment of US troops in the area or the imposition of restrictions on the Syrian military are poor substitutes for Israeli defenses on the Golan because they require Israel to rely on the goodwill of others. American presence may indeed reduce the likelihood of infringements of the security arrangements, but it is not likely to ensure a return to the status quo ante following a violation of these arrangements. Past American behavior suggests an adaptation to the new situation by an attempt to minimize the consequences of the infringement, in order to prevent an escalation to a crisis. The permanence of the military presence is also doubtful, particularly if American soldiers were to come under attack during their peace missions. Stationing American troops in the context of a peacekeeping force could initially cost over $100 million and millions of dollars per year afterwards, which will not endear Israel to the American taxpayer. Furthermore, American troops on the Golan can curtail Israel’s freedom of action, and constitute a source of friction with the US. The presence of UNIFIL units in south Lebanon has had precisely such effects on Israeli latitude in Lebanon and on the relations with the countries that contributed to the UN force. Assad is a man who keeps his word An evacuation of the Golan by Israel might create a situation of strategic vulnerability which invites aggression. Indeed, the assumption that Assad will keep his part of the bargain under any circumstances is naive and ignores the long record of broken Arab promises to each other and to Israel, as well as the fact that Syria has been the most militant and vitriolic enemy of Israel. The Turks and the


The peace process

Lebanese often complain about Assad’s violations of agreements. Even without paying attention to the particulars of Arabs’ political culture, everlasting commitment is a dubious proposition in the Hobbesian world we live in, where states keep their commitments only as long as these serve their interests. Finally, Assad does not strike any of the seasoned observers of Middle Eastern politics as embodying the stereotype of a British gentleman who keeps his word at any cost and pursues his interests in accordance with the rules of fair play. Syrian modus operandi in Lebanon has included assassinations, blackmail, bribery and lying. Above all, one should remember that peace with Israel is only one option in Assad’s strategic menu. As a matter of fact, in light of Assad’s ideological predispositions, it is the least palatable.23 Assad has always seen the conflict with Israel in far broader terms than a question of territory. For him, it involves the destiny of the Arab nation and its very existence. Moreover, he regards the conflict in long historic terms and is prepared for protracted struggle.24 Therefore, the commitment to a peace treaty is susceptible to regional vicissitudes (for instance, Israeli–Palestinian relations) and is questionable if international circumstances change. A violation of a treaty is possible particularly if authoritarian Syria, currently ruled by an Alawite minority, reverts to the unstable pre-Assad period, when military coups were frequent and confrontation with Israel was a handy tool for legitimizing the regime. One of the main weaknesses of such regimes is the lack of an accepted mechanism for leadership succession.25 Hence the political stability Syria enjoyed during the past twenty-five years – a tribute to Assad’s political astuteness and cruelty – is not to be taken for granted in the future. Syria cannot afford to lose the economic peace dividend As for the economic dividend promised by Israeli leaders in the wake of a comprehensive peace involving Syria, the benefits appear to have been exaggerated.26 Many economists point out that the state of Arab economies does not provide an appropriate outlet for Israeli exports. In addition, an improvement in the political atmosphere is only one of the necessary conditions for large-scale foreign investments: these flow to areas that provide for hefty returns. In the absence of better market opportunities, a drastic increase in foreign investment is unlikely. Equally dubious is the proposition that the rich Arab oil states will bankroll the Arab participants in the peace process. They have not been outstanding contributors to the nascent Palestinian authority thus far. Their economic situation is far from rosy, and they are unlikely to bribe Syria into a peace treaty with Israel. In fact, the Syrian economy has been performing better during the past few years as a result of oil discoveries and some liberalization measures. This allows Syria a greater latitude than some Arab states more needy of Western aid. Nor are the expectations for serious cuts in defense expenditures corollary to the peace process well founded. The peace treaty between Egypt and Israel did not lead to such an outcome. The Jordanian–Israeli peace treaty is accompanied

Israeli negotiations with Syria


by the sale of American F-16 aircraft to the Jordanian Air Force. The continuous security concerns of Arab states stemming from threats outside the Arab–Israeli arena have led Middle Eastern governments to preserve high defense budgets. Israel needs to stop the attrition war in south Lebanon Israeli politicians, including Rabin, also justify the proposed deal with Syria on the grounds of its assured elimination of the bloodshed attending the defense of Israel’s northern border. Indeed, Syria can curtail to a minimum the activities of the Hizballah and the rejectionist Palestinian groups against Israel because it controls large parts of Lebanon and allows the transfer of financial and material support through its territory to these organizations. Yet the low-intensity warfare waged against Israel from south Lebanon does not constitute an existential threat to Israel. It is an irritant which becomes a political problem for politicians in a society that displays a high sensitivity to loss of life. Eliminating a minor threat such as that posed by the Hizballah in exchange for the Golan Heights, the loss of which might develop into an existential threat considering the quantity of Syrian armor and firepower, makes little strategic sense. Formal acquiescence in Syria’s control of Lebanon and possibly in a Syrian military presence close to the Israeli–Lebanese border (to prevent terrorist attacks) is a strategic folly, for no other reason than that it allows Syria a two-pronged attack option against Israel in the future. Israel’s goal should be the demilitarization of the Lebanese territory and the removal of surface-to-air missiles from that country, a move which requires the evacuation of Syrian forces. This goal is worth pursuing even if it entails increased terrorism from this weak and uncontrollable country. The status quo is dangerous If the price of a peace treaty with Syria is too high, maintenance of the status quo may prove less costly than many fear. With the loss of his superpower patron, Assad is not likely to sustain a full-scale war against Israel. The recent Palestinian and Jordanian accords with Israel indicate that Syria can no longer veto diplomatic developments in the Arab–Israeli arena, even with regard to weak Arab actors. Assad’s obstructionist capability, though not negligible, is in decline. He can assassinate Arab leaders who do not ‘coordinate’ their moves with him, plot against their regimes, turn on the heat in Lebanon or start a war of attrition on the Golan, but Assad can no longer lay claim to a ‘final arbiter’ or ‘spoiler’ status. Yet the current status quo on the Golan Heights will not be easily challenged militarily by the Syrians as long as the Americans believe that Israel is conducting the negotiations bona fide. Israeli demands for a foothold on the Golan have a good chance of being perceived in Washington as reasonable. Many American Generals and Congressmen have publicly stated their support for a continued Israeli presence on the Golan Heights. Under such circumstances, the Syrian options to harm Israel are limited, though Assad can use force to raise the cost to


The peace process

Israel of maintaining the status quo. In this respect, the ability of the Israeli public to bear pain and persevere is critical. Israeli society has become warweary. But in contrast to an aversion to policing Palestinian-inhabited regions, public opinion polls show that a vast majority of Israelis prefer to keep the Golan, even at a cost. Furthermore, Israel can enhance its deterrent power vis-à-vis Syria by strengthening its relations with Turkey, an old-new key Middle Eastern player that shares many strategic interests with Jerusalem. Israel can also signal greater determination to resist Syrian pressures by hardening its military posture in Lebanon. For several years Syrian targets within Lebanon have been immune to Israeli attacks, despite turning a blind eye to Hizballah attacks on the Israeli security zone in southern Lebanon and on Israeli settlements along the northern border. It should be made crystal-clear to Damascus that violation of the status quo will be very costly. Although Assad’s capacity to tolerate punishment may be high, he is not insensitive to cost. As far as the argument goes that Syria will never relinquish a part of its territory, it is noteworthy that Syria still claims the Alexandretta province from Turkey (handed over by the French in 1939) but dares not militarily challenge the status quo in light of Turkish firmness and military superiority. Nor does the border dispute preclude Syria from engaging in diplomatic and economic relations with its northern neighbor. Quite doubtful is the claim by Shimon Peres and others that only peace with Syria will cement the peace process and pave the way for Israel’s integration in a region that has, in the past, rejected it and treated it as an alien implant.27 If anything, the fragmentation in the Arab world has allowed conflictive or cooperative relations with Israel of varying intensity in the past, and there is no reason to believe that Egyptian, Jordanian, or even Palestinian basic policy toward Israel will change if no Israeli–Syrian peace treaty is signed. Even without such a treaty, several Arab countries (Morocco, Tunisia, Oman and Qatar) have established diplomatic relations with Israel. Even Iraq and Libya have made overtures to Israel with an eye on Washington.

Conclusions The current Israeli government seems intent on relinquishing control over the Golan Heights in exchange for a peace treaty with Syria and still undefined security arrangements. This is a major break with Israel’s traditional insistence on keeping at least part of the Heights. The main reason for the policy change is the adoption of a new security paradigm. Yet realpolitik, not misguided liberal notions and Wilsonian dreams, must remain the conceptual prism through which Israel maintains its survival in the Middle East and formulates its modus operandi in seeking tension reduction with Arab countries. There is insufficient reason to solicitously court a weakened and unrepentant Syria, which has joined the peace process primarily to please Washington. Certainly not at the going price. The status quo seems a much more sensible option, at least for the foreseeable future.


Islamic extremism and the peace process

This chapter offers a strategic analysis of the effects of Islamic extremism in the Middle East on the peace process between Israel and the Arab world.1 Islam is one of the world’s great religions, having greatly contributed to all aspects of human society. The subject of this chapter, however, is the political consequences of a specific version of Islam, the radical, which is not the most prevalent, though certainly a source of danger. As a student of international relations, rather than sociology of religion or Arab culture, I will take the liberty to make a few generalizations. I follow the English author, Ben Jonson, who observed, ‘The fact of twilight does not mean you cannot tell day from night.’ Therefore, I will discuss the political implications of a variety of radical Islamic political entities, focusing on their policy advocacy and capabilities, rather than on their social and theological differences. In the Middle East, the following Islamic entities are involved in campaigns of varying degrees against Israel and the peace process: Iran and Sudan; opposition groups in countries such as Egypt, Jordan and Turkey; and organizations engaged in direct armed conflict with Israel, such as the Hizballah in Lebanon, and the Islamic Resistance Movement, better known as Hamas, and the Islamic Jihad in the Land of Israel (Palestine). While different in many aspects, these actors share a commitment to imposing Islamic law (Shari’a) in their countries, and to demonstrating a principled or religiously motivated opposition to the existence of Israel and the continuation of the peace process. Furthermore, all are known to support or condone extreme and violent methods to achieve their goal. Their emergence is little connected to Arab–Israeli relations, though enmity toward Israel certainly enhances their general appeal. Islamic extremism and those who espouse its ideas are responses to the failure of Arab regimes and societies to cope with the challenges of population growth, urbanization and the management of resources. Indeed, domestic issues are prominent on the political agenda of the proponents of radical versions of Islam, although they maintain a revisionist international outlook.2 First, I will discuss the negative attitudes of Islamic radical groups toward Israel and the peace process. Next, I present an assessment of the long-run potential of the Islamic radicals, as well as their present politico-military capabilities to harm the peace process. I will focus on the capacity of the Islamic


The peace process

radicals to subvert or to intimidate the pro-peace Arab regimes, to wage war and to develop nuclear threats. The chapter ends with some observations on how the activities of Islamic extremists influence the ongoing political debate in Israel on the future of the peace process.

Predispositions and goals Islamic writings, as with holy texts of a religion, can be used for a variety of political purposes. In the case of Muslim extremists, Islamic texts are used to justify the theological rejection of the notion of a sovereign Jewish state in the geographical confines of the Islamic world (Dar-Islam).3 It is true that, in general, Muslims treated Jews whom they ruled benevolently, but this historic precedent does not relate to the emergence of a sovereign Jewish state. For the extremists, such a state is religiously unacceptable and constitutes an affront to God’s worldly order. For example, in its covenant Hamas presents the ArabIsraeli struggle not in national or territorial terms, but as a historically, religiously, culturally and existentially irreconcilable conflict between Islam and Judaism, between truth and falsehood.4 These negative attitudes toward the Jewish state in particular, and Jews in general, are supported by anti-Jewish statements found in the Koran and in classic Islamic texts. A Koranic example of such a sentiment may be found in Sura (2:58): ‘And abasement and poverty were pitched upon them [the Jews], and they were laden with the burden of God’s anger; that, because they had disbelieved the signs of God and slain the Prophets unrightfully; that because they disobeyed, and were transgressors.’5 This verse has served occasionally for the depiction of Jews in negative terms. Jews were described as traitors, breakers of agreements and distorters of sacred texts. For example, in the fourteenth century, a religious decree (fatwa) reiterated the notion that the Jews were the enemy of God since they were ‘branded with the marks of wrath and malediction of the Lord . . .’. In addition, the famous historian Ibn Khaldoun, living in the same century, claimed that the Jews were infected with corruption and deceitful plotting.6 Nowadays, Hamas leaflets refer to the Jews as the brothers of apes, the killers of prophets, bloodsuckers, the descendants of treachery and deceit, who spread corruption in the land of Islam.7 Shaykh Mohammed Fadlallah, the spiritual leader of Hizballah, said that ‘the struggle against the Jewish state, in which all Muslims are engaged, is a continuation of the old struggle of the Muslims against the Jews’ conspiracy against Islam’.8 Another important element of the weltanschauung of Islamic extremists is their antagonism toward the West.9 Peoples colonized by the West generally tend to feel a mixture of resentment and envy toward their previous rulers.10 Radical Islamic ideology, in particular, displays great hostility toward the West, its culture and values.11 According to Bernard Lewis, ‘Islam was never prepared, either in theory or in practice, to accord full equality to those who held other beliefs, and practiced other forms of worship.’12 Islamic fundamentalists are confident that their struggle is for the glory of God, while all their opponents,

Islamic extremism and the peace process


Muslims or infidels, are fighting against God. Their anti-Western outlook is also the result of the belief that the West and its colonialist heritage, as well as its neo-colonialist presence, are corrupting the Islamic way of life. Israel, rightly or wrongly, is seen as an alien extension of the West into the Middle East. Accordingly, the Jewish state is perceived to be a tool in the Western scheme to dominate the region. Islamic and Marxist explanations (the latter is still fashionable in certain Arab intellectual circles) converge in portraying Israel as a ‘lackey of Western imperialism’. In addition to providing for great animosity toward Israel, radical Islamic thinking and fervor support the intellectual framework for protracted conflict, such as the Arab–Israeli dispute. By arming themselves with a long-range historical perspective, radical Muslims can easily explain current failures as temporary setbacks. As noted, Islamic extremist groups have demonstrated a great commitment to achieving prescribed goals with little concern for the methods used. Such attitudes are generally congruent with the rules of the Mideast political game.13 Use of force between states, as well as subversion against neighboring regimes, is an acceptable practice. Islamic extremists have displayed a willingness to pay a high price for their actions, including the loss of many lives. Indeed, jihad, holy war, is often invoked in the service of goal achievement, and those sacrificing their lives in the process are accorded martyr status (shaheed) with special privileges in the afterlife. The objectives of Islamic extremists concerning Israel are very clear. Their goal is politicide. Coined by the late Yehoshafat Harkabi in the 1960s as a description of the PLO’s goal to eliminate Israel, politicide denotes the campaign to destroy a political entity.14 For example, the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Rafsanjani, during his visit to France in September 1994, said that Israel is an illegitimate phenomenon just like the Nazi conquest of France. He added that the Jews should go back to their countries of origin.15 In reaction to the September 1993 Washington Declaration, Shaykh Youssouf Alshami of the Islamic Jihad said that the declaration’s significance was only that a few Palestinians were allowed to return to their homeland. He said, The borders of Palestine are from Ras Nakura (at the Lebanese border) to Rafah, from the sea to the Jordan river . . . did anybody hear before 50 years about a nation called the Jewish people?! . . . the present balance of power cannot last forever, and in politics nothing is impossible.16 A Hizballah tract issued by the group’s office in Beirut reads, ‘Our confrontation with the Zionist entity must end with its obliteration from existence. This is why we do not recognize any cease-fire agreement, any truce, or any separate or nonseparate peace treaty with it.’17 Politicide is a radical goal, somewhat unusual in world politics, but less so in the Middle East. In addition to Israel, Lebanon, Kuwait and Jordan have been, or still are, objects of politicide. In this region, international borders and existing political entities, which were the creations of British and French colonialism, do


The peace process

not command the respect of all Middle Easterners. In accordance with panArabism, which is no less of a transnational ideology than extreme Islam, the Arab countries must unite into a single political structure. Radical Islam does not only challenge the structure of a specific state, but the entire Mideast international order. The Islamic extremists are adamantly opposed to the peace process. This process involves the recognition of the State of Israel and a formal end to the state of war between Arabs and Israelis, in order to bring about a qualitatively different type of relations between the protagonists. The normative aspect of the peace process, which lends legitimacy to the Jewish state, is probably the most disturbing from the radical perspective. Indeed, in a move designed to oppose the October 1991 Madrid peace conference, Iran convened a parallel meeting of Islamic extremist groups. The purpose of the Islamic conference was to reach a joint strategy to fight the peace process. Furthermore, the peace process is anathema because it is American-sponsored and enhances the American presence in the Middle East. For example, the Islamic opposition in Jordan boycotted President Clinton’s address to the Jordanian Parliament, following the ceremony of the signing of the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan. According to Hazam Mansour, the Islamists’ spokesman, ‘Clinton is the enemy of the Arab and the Islamic nation.’18 What Islamic extremists fear is American–Israeli cultural and economic domination of the region, and a subsequent corruption of Islamic values. Because of the great importance they ascribe to linkages between politics and culture, their opposition to the peace process and its perceived politico-cultural implications is high on their agendas. Indeed, the peace process is in their – mostly correct – analysis an expression of the zenith of American power in international affairs and an ebb in the political standing of the failing and corrupt secular elites in the Arab world. In their perception, Israel is being accepted as a fait accompli due to weakness and the Islamists’ inability to eradicate the Jewish state. The religious radicals are fully aware of the deficiencies of the current Arab political systems and the consequences for effective action in the international arena. Yet, precisely because of sensitivity to the political arena, a temporary ceasefire with the Zionist entity, under certain circumstances, is not entirely ruled out by all Islamic extremists. Rafsanjani, in contrast to Hamanai, the ideologue of the revolution, declared that, despite the fact that Iran opposes any agreement with Israel, the Palestinians have a right to decide on this issue, and Iran would not stand in their way.19 There are even voices within Hamas that call for some accommodation. Musa Abu Marzuk, Chairman of its political executive, said that his organization is willing to live in peace with Israel if it returned to the 1967 borders, including with regard to Jerusalem, paid reparations to the Palestinians and held free elections in the territories.20 In February 1996, Hamas even seemed willing to enter into cease-fire negotiations with Israel. Indeed, a truce with Israel does not require too excessive theological creativity. The truce between Mohammed and the Quraish tribe of infidels – later violated – can serve as a precedent.

Islamic extremism and the peace process


To sum up, Islamic radicals have expressed a strong desire to destroy Israel, and to obstruct the American-sponsored peace process. While they are ready to make considerable sacrifices to achieve their goals, there is also a potential for temporarily adjusting to the prevailing power structure. We will turn now to an assessment of their capabilities.

Capabilities This section analyses the ability of the radical Islamic entities to disrupt the peace process by waging war, engaging in low-intensity conflict (LIC), using subversion to replace those leaders who are willing to participate in the peace process or intimidating the ruling elite to adopt anti-peace policies. Conventional war The Islamic states do not yet pose a serious conventional military challenge to Israel, to its neighbors or to the peace process. Sudan is not much of a military power; Iran is rebuilding its military might, but its ability to project power to the Arab–Israeli arena is extremely limited for the time being.21 Moreover, neither Iran nor Sudan is territorially contiguous with Israel. This geographic fact prevents them from waging a conventional, large-scale military attack, or even a war of attrition against Israel. Furthermore, the fighter airplanes in the arsenals of the two states do not have the operational range to attack targets into Israel, and no air refueling is available to extend their range. Yet, Iran can serve, to some extent, as a strategic hinterland for Syria, despite the absence of a common border. We may even envision an Iranian expeditionary force in the event of a Syrian–Israeli war. In fall 1995, Iran received from North Korea the Nodong missile, with a range of 1,000 km. It will allow Iran to attack targets in Israel with conventional warheads and enhance Iran’s capability to project power in the whole region, as well as to interfere in the Arab–Israeli arena. However, despite the rhetoric of the Islamic regime, Iranian foreign policy has been cautious.22 Therefore, intervention of the kinds mentioned is not very likely and, even if played out, of limited military consequence. A conventional war by an Islamic state against one of the Arab states which supports the peace process is also unlikely. The ability of Iran to launch a ground attack against these neighbors of Israel who signed peace treaties is negligible at best. Iran could project military power in the Gulf area, but an outright war against one of the Gulf monarchies because it opened diplomatic relations with Israel is highly unlikely. The nuclear threat Radical Islam poses a threat also in the area of missile and nuclear proliferation. Iran is currently attempting to acquire both capabilities to buttress the country’s hegemony in the Gulf area and to enhance its stature in Central Asia


The peace process

and the Middle East. It renewed the nuclear program started in the days of the Shah but frozen by Khomeini. US Secretary of Defense William Perry expressed his concern that Iran might purchase or steal a nuclear bomb from the ex-Soviet republics ‘in a week, a month, or five years – everything is possible’.23 Furthermore, the US was unable to stop the sale of Russian nuclear reactors and sensitive technology to the Islamic republic. Similarly, the May 1995 renewal of the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT) regime, which is far from being a foolproof security arrangement, would hardly constrain the Iranian efforts in this area.24 In light of the great hostility that Iran has shown to Israel, the possession of such capabilities may elicit Israeli pre-emptive attacks against the Iranian nuclear infrastructure similar to the 1981 air raid against the Iraqi nuclear reactor. Israel has purchased from the United States a number of F-15I jetfighters to allow, inter alia, exactly for such a military option. Such an attack might heighten Arab threat perceptions and have repercussions for the peace. Furthermore, a nuclear Iran would also increase the pressures for enhanced Arab nuclear activities. Revolutionary Iran may decide to be cautious and not initiate a nuclear duel with Israel, which does not challenge Iran’s hegemony in its immediate environment. Yet, the incentive for an Arab nuclear bomb is more of a problem for Israel than a direct Iranian nuclear threat. The absence of such a bomb was one of the reasons for the Arabs to come to terms with Israel, while the introduction of nuclear weapons to an Arab arsenal would have a very destabilizing effect on the Arab–Israeli arena. There are difficult problems – technical and political – in applying the model of the nuclear relations between the Soviet Union and the US to the Middle East.25 Furthermore, Iranian acquisition of a nuclear bomb would put an end to one of the common goals between Israel and all Arab states – the prevention of such a scenario. The fear of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East has been one of the reasons for several Arab countries to lend support to the peace process, which includes a multilateral forum on Arms Control and Regional Security. There were hopes in the US, Israel and in several Arab capitals to use this forum to treat the issue of nuclear proliferation in the region.26 The successful completion of the Iranian nuclear program would also be an affront to the US and its perceived hegemonic role in the region and the world. The American-sponsored peace process may well be affected by a changed evaluation as to American will and capacity to influence the implementation of its preferred policies: counter-proliferation and an Arab–Israeli detente. Low-intensity Conflict (LIC) The Islamic states do engage, however, in a war by proxy against Israel. They support LIC operations conducted by organizations based along Israel’s borders (Lebanon and Gaza) and within Israeli-ruled territories and the Palestinian Authority (PA).27 Such activities are relatively cheap and therefore not too taxing for the Iranian, and even the weak Sudanese, economies.

Islamic extremism and the peace process


At the end of 1992, Hamas signed an agreement of cooperation with Iran. The latter committed itself to train Hamas members and to grant the organization generous financial support.28 Sudan also provides training to Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. Hizballah, in Lebanon, is also under Iranian tutelage and is allowed freedom of action by Iran’s secular ally, Syria. It fights the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and the South Lebanese Army, and occasionally launches Katyusha attacks on Israeli border communities. Moreover, in early 1993, Iran supplied Hizballah with Soviet-made anti-tank Sagger missiles. These significantly increased Hizballah’s firepower and ability to harm Israeli forces and allies. According to then Israeli deputy Defense Minister Mordechai Gur, the Hizballah began to fire shoulder surface-to-air missiles against Israeli helicopters in fall 1994.29 The war of attrition in south Lebanon resulted in twenty-three Israeli casualties in 1995 (twenty-one in 1994, twenty-six in 1993, but only thirteen in 1992) and has become a political burden for the Israeli leadership. Despite the growing sensitivity to casualties in this sector, Israel’s response has generally been low key and limited to strikes at Hizballah targets. The Syrians in Lebanon, who can restrict the activities of the Hizballah, seem immune to Israeli retaliation because of Israel’s desire to project a moderate image toward the Arab world in order to advance the peace process. Indeed, high-ranking officers in Israel’s Northern Command have often complained that the politicians are tying their hands in the struggle against Hizballah.30 Hamas and the Islamic Jihad specialize in terrorist acts against Israeli military and civilian targets: shootings, knifings and suicide bombings. They have also kidnapped IDF soldiers. Terrorist attacks (mostly by Islamic activists) led to sixty-seven Israeli fatalities in 1994, a 15.5 percent increase from 1993. In a short period of two and a half years, following the September 1993 agreement, over 200 Israelis had been killed in terrorist activities. Suicide bombers are by definition undeterred, a fact which makes defense against such acts all the more difficult. A significant portion of the political leadership of these two organizations currently resides in Syria and enjoys considerable freedom of action there. This facilitates contacts with Iran, which has had excellent relations with Syria for many years. The establishment of the PA also enhances their capacity for action, as long as this new entity is unwilling or unable to monopolize the use of force in its territory. Indeed, some of the terrorist acts perpetrated by the two organizations were planned in the area under the PA jurisdiction, and the perpetrators found refuge there. The availability of explosives has also increased since the arrival of the PLO in Gaza and Jericho. The main rationale for the terrorist acts of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad is to keep alive the flames of the Palestinian/Islamic struggle against Israel’s existence; to defy and embarrass the PA; and to provoke Israel to take harsh measures against Palestinians under its or the PA’s jurisdiction. Hamas and the Islamic Jihad also believe that their actions will lead to further Israeli withdrawals, as well as to the derailing of the peace process.


The peace process

From a purely military point of view, terror is not a major problem for Israel, as it does not threaten its basic existence. In the short run, terrorist attacks have a limited impact on the Israeli economy and society, though it can drastically change the mood of the country for short periods of time. The political ramifications of such terrorism for Israel are more complex and are discussed in the next section. The measures needed to combat Islamic terrorism – intelligence and counter-insurgency – are relatively cheap, particularly if compared to large-scale military operations that include the use of the air force and armored units. This strengthens the disposition not to view Palestinian terrorism as a major strategic problem. Subversion Other Islamic groups are actively engaged in subversion against Arab regimes participating in the peace process. Iran and Sudan lend various forms of support to Islamic groups everywhere and make the struggle against them more difficult. The continuous success of the current regimes in prevailing over the Islamic fundamentalists should not to be taken for granted. In recent years, Egypt has been under growing pressure from its radical Islamic opposition. Egyptian Christians (Copts) and foreign tourists have become the targets of terrorist attacks. Such attacks have spread gradually from the south to the north, even reaching the capital, Cairo. They have included attempts on the lives of senior governmental officials, and the Egyptian security forces have also been increasingly harassed by Islamic activists. The consequences of this campaign were felt in economic and political terms. Decline in Egypt’s tourism reached an annual loss of $500,000,000. The regime’s overall stability has been called into question as well.31 The Mubarak regime has undertaken great efforts to contain the Islamic threat at home, including arresting Islamic extremists en masse, actively hunting down and eliminating such radicals, and executing those Islamic activists found guilty of terrorism by the military courts, which have had such matters under their jurisdiction since 1992. Yet, Egypt is plagued with enormous social and economic problems which foster social unrest and enhance support for the Islamic alternative. The ultimate prerequisite for an Islamic takeover is the ability to infiltrate Egypt’s army and the security forces, the mainstay of the current regime, and to organize a successful coup. Egypt, to a lesser extent than other Middle Eastern states, is a ‘one-bullet regime’. Yet, a successful political assassination could bring about a succession struggle and political instability. A successful Islamic revolution in Egypt, the most populous Arab country, would reverberate throughout the region. It would change the Middle East and would probably put an end to the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt – a cornerstone of the current peace process. Such an event in Turkey – although much less likely – would also result in a political earthquake throughout the region. Notably, the Islamic Welfare Party (Refah) was very successful during the March 1994 municipal elections. Refah,

Islamic extremism and the peace process


which, being well financed and mainly supported by disaffected migrants to large cities, obtained 19 percent of the overall vote and won control of twentyseven provincial capitals, including the two largest cities, Istanbul and Ankara. Moreover, in the national elections of December 1995, the Islamic party received a plurality in Parliament and eventually became part of the governing coalition.32 In contrast to Egypt, but closer to the situation in Jordan, the Islamic opposition in Turkey is part of the political system, a position which probably has a moderating effect. Hashemite Jordan also faces a strong fundamentalist opposition; the Islamic Action Front (IAF) is the largest Jordanian opposition group. Thus far, King Hussein has successfully tamed the Islamic opposition.33 By changing the electoral rules before the November 1993 elections, Hussein reduced the Islamic opposition’s parliamentary power from thirty-four seats (received in the April 1989 elections) to twenty-one in the eighty-seat lower house, although they maintained their hold on 15 percent of the popular vote. Subversive groups in Jordan, which seek to overthrow the monarchy, include the Army of Mohammed and the Young Voice of Islam. Their links to the Iranian regime were established at the trials of their activists. The death of King Hussein may bring about a period of domestic instability. If the Muslims take the palace, Jordan would probably revoke its October 1994 peace treaty with Israel and might become a staging area in a revived Eastern Front. The Islamic opposition is openly and vehemently against the peace treaty. Hamza Mansour, its spokesman, even compared the relations with Israel to AIDS.34 The PLO is also challenged by Islamic opposition, which rejects the Oslo agreements: Hamas and the Islamic Jihad.35 Significantly, the tensions between the two have not yet resulted in a civil war, though several clashes between the PA police and Islamic radicals have already occurred. Hamas is believed to have a considerable following in Gaza and in the Hebron area; its network of institutions is involved in providing educational, social and religious services.36 Arafat was not ready to enter a confrontation and has allowed Hamas to keep its arms, while the latter agreed not to display them in public. While several Islamists ran for the Palestinian Council in the January 1996 elections, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad formally boycotted the elections, after which Arafat’s political position seemed to have improved. He was better able to secure a monopoly over the use of force in his nascent entity, but continued to prefer cooptation rather than confrontation.37 A series of terrorist attacks in the winter of 1996 reinforced Israeli demands from the PA to do more to curb Islamic extremists’ freedom of action. As the Israeli pressures on Arafat to rein in Hamas and the Islamic Jihad continue to mount, particularly as a condition for the transfer of additional areas to his control, a showdown between the PA and the Islamic opposition may be in the offing. If the PA fails to demonstrate effective control over the territory under its jurisdiction, Palestinians as well as Israelis will question the wisdom of dealing with Arafat. A politically fragmented Palestinian entity, which is not a


The peace process

far-fetched scenario, will place strains on the Palestinian track of the peace process. Intimidation Islamic radicals do not have to be in power in order to harm the peace process. They can intimidate rulers to refrain from becoming too close to Israel through the use of several means, including attempts on their lives. We are reminded of the assassination of Anwar Sadat and the recent attempt to assassinate Mubarak. Indeed, Mohammed Barjawi, a Hizballah MP in Lebanon, criticized King Hussein for his peace treaty with Israel and added that ‘there will always be somebody to assassinate traitors’.38 Even less radical measures can have a harmful effect on the peace process. The expectations of economic prosperity brought on by the peace process, exaggerated in any case,39 can be significantly curtailed by Islamic terrorist attacks on Israeli and/or Western tourists and businessmen in Egypt, Jordan or the Palestinian-held territories. Instability is not attractive to foreign investment, as demonstrated by the difficulties the PA has faced in realizing the foreign aid commitments of the donor countries and enticing foreign investments for Palestinian industries.40 Additional economic setbacks could further complicate matters, as improvements in the terrible economic conditions in Gaza are an important test of the PLO’s decision to make a deal with Israel. Without significant advances in the standard of living there, the impoverished population may withdraw its support for Arafat and opt for the Islamic opposition. It is noteworthy that the political leaders in Egypt and Jordan were not deflected from their diplomatic course vis-à-vis Israel, despite strong Islamic opposition. Similarly, Turkey has considerably improved its relations with Israel, showing little regard for the anti-Israeli disposition of the growing Turkish Islamic movement.

Impact on Israel A somewhat simplistic analysis of Israeli politics juxtaposes two competing visions concerning the future of the Middle East and Israel’s road to peace; it is actually a multidimensional continuum.41 The most famous proponent for the vision propagated by the Left is Israel’s former Prime Minister Shimon Peres, who wrote a book about the emergence of a peaceful and economically prosperous new Middle East. He wrote, ‘Instead of visions of blood and tears there will rise visions of happiness and beauty, life and peace.’42 Accordingly, the peace process is an important part of this historic process, by including the acceptance of Israel as a member of the emerging new Middle East. It is argued that the new strategic reality is more benign than in the past, therefore allowing Israel to enjoy lower threat perception than in the past.43 The contrasting picture, as seen by the Right, is of a Middle East remaining as a zone of turmoil:44 unstable and war-prone. The Right points out the unbending

Islamic extremism and the peace process


hostility of the Islamic radicals and their rhetoric against the existence of the Jewish state, which evokes traditional existential fears among Israelis. The Left makes efforts to dismiss such fears as a failure in seeing the new emerging reality. The Right also stresses the fragility of the peace treaties and the need to cautiously evaluate the emerging regional trends, and even to slow down the peace process with the Palestinians and the Syrians. The Islamists’ determination to reverse the peace process blends well into these calls for greater caution regarding the calculated risks Israel is taking in attempting to reach formal peace agreements. The Right holds that it is possible that these will be violated by Arab countries under new Islamist leadership. The Right also warns that the peace process will not bring the sort of economic rewards that the Left promises, and thus it is a mistake to expect political stability in the Arab world.45 Past attacks on Israeli tourists in Egypt and the boycott on Israeli products and on contacts with Israelis have reduced the attraction of the peace process in Israel. Similar behavior in Jordan could indicate to Israel the limitations on its attempts to integrate into the region. The rebuttal from the Left is that the growing appeal of Islamist groups can be countered with educational and economic improvement, which will reduce the support of the poor and deprived for the Islamist platform. The Left also argues that a reallocation of resources in the Arab world at the expense of defense expenditures is possible only in the context of a peace process, while massive foreign aid can be mobilized only if the political climate changes in the Middle East. Furthermore, the Left in Israel stresses the urgency of successfully concluding the peace process to pre-empt a possible deterioration in the political standing of the current Arab leaders who are contemplating peace with Israel. Their survival is also dependent upon their ability to provide a better life for their people. Therefore, Israel and the West have an interest in providing economic aid. The emphasis on the importance of economic factors in the peace process and the developing Middle East is the result of two intellectual influences: socialism and liberalism.46 The Labourite leadership, Peres in particular, has socialist ideological roots, which have been gradually replaced or complemented by liberal ideas coming from the US. The terrorist acts perpetrated by Islamic extremists have had mixed effects on Israel. Over the years, the Jewish state has developed social mechanisms which routinize the impact of armed conflict.47 This is a cushion which minimizes the socioeconomic and political repercussions of terror. In the short run, Israeli positions are hardened by terrorist attacks, while in the long run, these attacks have influenced Israeli public opinion in the dovish direction; that is, a greater willingness to withdraw from Israeli-ruled territories.48 Israeli society has become war-weary; it is less willing to pay the price involved in the continuation of the protracted Arab–Israeli conflict. Moreover, increasing terrorism seems to have elevated the costs of holding on to the territories, and an increasing number of Israelis consider withdrawal from part or all of the territories to be a positive step (in the framework of a negotiated settlement). Israelis understand that one reason for the successful terrorist acts is the accessibility of Israeli cities as a


The peace process

result of its control of the territories. It is the Left which claims that separation between Arabs and Jews by withdrawing from heavily Arab-populated areas could minimize the chances of successful terrorist acts. In this respect, Islamic terrorism pushes the Israelis toward greater willingness to part with the territories and to make a deal with the Palestinians. Yet, the emergence of terrorist havens in PA-controlled zones may lead Israelis to reconsider the direction of the peace with the Palestinians. A similar dynamic seems to occur on the Syrian track of the peace process. Hizballah’s costly war of attrition in south Lebanon is bringing about a softer Israeli negotiating position, which makes a deal with Syria closer. Israeli sensitivity to casualties pushes the Left to question the need for a security zone in south Lebanon and to accept a Syrian role in Lebanon. Indeed, Rabin pointed out that an agreement with Syria is needed to put an end to the costly armed conflict in south Lebanon.49 In addition, hints by the Labourite-led government of willingness to cede the Golan Heights have eroded the large majority of Israelis opposing any withdrawal from the strategic plateau. The cumulative effect of terrorism was one factor which undermined the popularity of the Yitzhak Rabin-led government, as well as Rabin’s own reputation as ‘Mr. Security’. The government’s initial line about terror casualties being ‘the victims of peace’ was not well received and was therefore dropped. Support for the Rabin government had fallen to a record low by the winter of 1995.50 Similarly, the series of terrorist attacks in February and March 1996 brought about an erosion in the popularity of Rabin’s successor Peres; and it was easier for the Likud to point out the shortcomings of the Labourite approach toward the Palestinians. Yet, these attacks had only limited influence on the outcome of the elections two and a half months later (May 1996) – an eternity in Israeli politics.51 The nuclear threat emanating from Iran, which the Labourite government has strongly emphasized, has similarly generated mixed responses. The Left sees in the peace a panacea to all regional problems, including nuclear proliferation. The fear of nuclear proliferation also fits well with the dovish predisposition to hurry ‘before the window of opportunity closes’. Furthermore, since Israel is relying less than before on unilateral measures and might not be in a position to eliminate the Iranian nuclear threat on its own, the Labouriteled government hoped to build an international coalition to prevent the fruition of the Iranian nuclear program. Labourite-led Israel wanted the Arabs to join the effort.52 While in favor of international action to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear bomb, the Right claims that the Arabs have a good reason to do so without any Israeli concessions. Furthermore, right-wing politicians are much more skeptical concerning the effectiveness of an international effort and the American willingness to play a leading role. Therefore, the nuclear specter is another indication that existential threats still exist. The possibility of a nuclear bomb in the hands of Islamic extremists is a nightmare for all Israelis. The extremists do not hide their politicide goal, and there are serious difficulties deterring a determined

Islamic extremism and the peace process


opponent with a low sensitivity to cost.53 The chances of stable deterrence in a nuclearized Middle East seem to be slim.

Conclusion Religion is of great political consequence and cannot be easily discarded as a relic of the past, or a haven of the ignorant and poor. Max Weber was wrong in writing about the ‘Entzauberung der Welt’, by which he meant that the modern world is disenchanted and is no longer seeking sacredness. He minimized the impact of religion. Yet, traditional patterns do not fade away easily. Consequently, what we see today is indeed a new version of the impact of religion on politics, but much of its underlying logic is going to remain with us and not disappear. Religion may well be the opium of the people, but Marxist and liberal thinking, which both underscore the importance of economic factors in domestic and international conflict, have proven wrong in heralding the politics of reason. The radical Islamic threat is here to stay and will not disappear as a result of economic and social engineering by the existing corrupt and inefficient secular elites, even if much Western aid is poured into the Middle East. The Islamic fanatics are intent on dismantling the Jewish state, though they cannot presently do much more than harass Israelis and the supporters of the peace process in Arab countries. The greatest damage can be done to the Palestinian Authority, which is the weakest link in the peace process. The potential for great havoc in the near future exists. It lies primarily in a possible Muslim takeover in Egypt and in a nuclear device in Iran. The fortunes of the Muslim radicals are dependent primarily upon the interplay of indigenous developments. Neither Israel nor the West can do much about the regional environment. Determination to defend the well-being of innocent citizens and vital interests can command the respect of Islamic foes, who are capable of adapting in the face of superior power. Moderation on their part regarding Israel, the peace process and the West is a possibility that cannot be totally dismissed, but this can happen only in a domestic environment which makes the Islamic radical platform no longer appealing. Only then, a rather unlikely prospect in the near future considering the tremendous domestic problems confronting Middle Eastern societies, will Islamic extremism cease to be the threat it constitutes today.

10 Arab–Israeli coexistence Causes, achievements and limitations

Many welcomed the May 1999 victory of Prime Minister Ehud Barak, in the hope that it would inject a long-awaited boost to the peace process. Indeed, the prevalent view among observers and policy-makers is that the peace process is back on track following the September 1999 Sharm al-Sheikh summit and the January 2000 renewal of the Israeli–Syrian talks, although they continue to regard the Arab–Israeli peace process as fragile, with lack of progress endangering regional stability. In March 2000 the mood was again one of concern. Such a view underestimates, on the one hand, the force of the regional processes that have pushed the Arab states away from the goal of destroying the Jewish state toward attempts at solving differences primarily by diplomatic means. On the other hand, it has unrealistic expectations for further progress in the peace process and belittles the inherent regional constraints on its development. This chapter reviews first the main reasons for the entrenchment of Israel in the Middle East and for the shift toward its greater acceptance as a regular international player in regional politics. The second section argues that the peace process is quite resilient, and that it has successfully realized most of its potential. The third part clarifies the often forgotten limitations to the peace process which the strategic and cultural realities of the Middle East impose on Arab states’ relations with Israel. It concludes by offering a few policy-relevant observations, and especially advises against impatience and diplomatic hyperactivity.

Israel’s acceptance by its regional foes The visit of Anwar Sadat, the President of Egypt, to Israel in October 1977 signaled a dramatic change in the pattern of Arab–Israeli relations. The Arab world, in particular, was stunned by the move which recognized Israel as a fait accompli. The 1978 Camp David Accords and the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel were not welcomed by most of the Arab countries or by the Palestinians. Peace with Israel violated a basic tenet of Arab consensus and challenged one of the core values in Arab political culture. Therefore, Egypt was for several years ostracized by its Arab brethren. Yet, Egypt, the strongest Arab country, weathered the attempts to isolate it1 and after the 1991 Gulf War most of the Arab world joined it in negotiating peace with Israel. Several factors led to this process.

Arab–Israeli coexistence 143 Futility of attempting to eradicate Israel by force The most important reason for the peace process was the growing realization by Arab political elites of the futility of attempting to eradicate Israel by force. Indeed, since 1973 we see a clear decline in the military intensity of the ArabIsraeli conflict. During the first three decades of its existence, Israel fought and won four large-scale wars, in 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973, involving Israel’s immediate neighbors, as well as expeditionary forces from ‘second-ring’ countries, such as Iraq and Sudan, and even from more remote countries, such as Morocco. Since October 1973, however, no large-scale war has been fought between Israel and an Arab country. After 1979, when Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel, the Arabs lost not only the strongest military force to be mobilized against Israel, but also the ability to wage a two-front assault on Israel (its worst-case scenario). Thus the destruction of Israel by a successful all-out Arab military conventional effort seemed no longer to be a practical goal, despite the fact that limited war and low-intensity conflict were (as was realized earlier), useful tools in bleeding Israel and in pressuring it into territorial concessions.2 Although the strategic significance of the Israeli nuclear posture in Arab eyes is not entirely clear, it probably had a sobering effect on the belligerent Arab states.3 Israel’s nuclear option, coupled with the awareness of Israel’s conventional weapon superiority, certainly constitutes a contributing factor to the strategic calculus which led to the Arab realization that the price of eliminating the Jewish state by war could be extremely high. The new links between Jerusalem and Ankara in the latter part of the 1990s reinforced the notion that Israel is militarily strong and cannot be easily removed from the map. In many Arab quarters there are considerable apprehensions about the combined might of the two, which dramatically changes the regional balance of power in favor of the non-Arab actors.4 The burgeoning Turkish–Israeli economic and military ties have united the two strongest countries in the region, which further buttressed the position of Israel as a powerful regional actor. This relationship is resilient and likely to continue, as it is based on a shared view of the Middle East as a combative neighborhood in which the two countries have a common list of problematic rivals – Iran, Iraq and Syria.

Changes in Arab countries’ foreign policy orientation Parallel to the changing evaluations concerning the chances of destroying Israel, Arab countries have undergone a shift in their foreign policy orientation. They have moved since the 1970s from various degrees of allegiance to Pan-Arab ideology to a foreign policy more openly determined by national status interests. The Pan-Arab longing for supra-state identity and political structure has always served as a legitimizing mechanism for domestic and foreign policy processes in Arab states, but has also constituted a constraint in the open pursuit of each country’s own narrow statist interests. Gradually, Pan-Arabism became less


The peace process

appealing, and at the same time, Arab states were relatively successful in strengthening their statist structures and in crystallizing a particular Arab state identity, whether Iraqi, Jordanian or Syrian.5 Despite the fact that only a few of the existing Arab states seem to be the right and natural focus of ultimate political loyalty, it is these states that have become the most important arena for political action in the Arab world.6 This shift in the focus of regional politics has led to a decline in the salience of the Arab–Israeli conflict and the Palestinian issue, which were central in the Pan-Arab ethos.7 Indeed, Egypt, after the death of Nasser, the most important Pan-Arab advocate, moved toward a more Egypt-centered view of regional politics.8 Thereafter, it could concentrate on retrieving the land it lost in June 1967, without conditioning the return of the Sinai to the resolution of other disputes between Israel and its neighbors. Moreover, the success of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in establishing itself as the voice, par excellence, of Palestinian nationalism, in attracting international attention to the Palestinian issue, and in acquiring modest freedom of action in the Arab arena, allowed, paradoxically, Arab states to limit their commitment to the Palestinian cause. After the PLO reached its own agreement with Israel in September 1993 (at Oslo), the Arab states had even less of a constraint in dealing with Israel according to their own perceived interests. Changes in the Palestinian National Movement An additional contributing factor to the evolution of the peace process is the changes that have taken place in the Palestinian national movement, whose main proponent was the PLO. The PLO’s international status and regional influence peaked in the late 1970s. However, in 1982, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon put an end to the PLO mini-state, resulting in the removal of the PLO leadership and thousands of personnel to faraway Tunisia. (No other Arab state was willing to host the PLO headquarters, indicating the limits to the Arab contribution to the Palestinian cause.) The distance from Palestine made the use of force against targets within Israel a more complicated operation than ever before. The most significant Palestinian action – the Intifada – was not the result of a PLO initiative. Moreover, the Palestinian uprising in the Israeli-ruled territories brought a new leadership to the forefront of the Palestinian struggle – the ‘insiders’ – Palestinians who fought Israeli occupation inside the territories.9 They had impeccable nationalist credentials and were less vulnerable to charges of corruption (of which a large part of the PLO leadership was suspected). Although nominally subordinate to the PLO, the ‘insiders’ believed that their intimate knowledge of the Israeli enemy placed them in a better position to formulate the Palestinian national strategy. The ‘insiders’ have infused a greater sense of realism into the Palestinian national movement in terms of what could be achieved, as well as a certain urgency in dealing with Palestinian problems, which also moderated their demands. The influx of Israeli settlers into the territories and the building of Jewish settlements also led to a realization that

Arab–Israeli coexistence 145 time was not necessarily on the Palestinian side. In concrete terms, these Palestinians advocated accepting Israel in its 1967 lines and negotiating with it to bring about a withdrawal from the occupied territories. They were instrumental in pushing the PLO away from its maximalist position, and its refusal to recognize Israel, into adopting a two-state formula. In November 1988, the PLO finally accepted the UN 1947 Partition Plan (Resolution 181). A major blow to the PLO was its strategic blunder of 1990. At that time it allied itself with Saddam Hussein, who chose to champion the Palestinian cause in order to evoke sympathy in the streets of the Arab world. This move angered the US and cost the PLO the diplomatic and financial support of many important Arab countries. Following the 1991 American victory over Iraq, the US convened the Madrid conference and the PLO had to be content with sending its representatives within a Jordanian delegation. Moreover, the Palestinians no longer demanded that a Palestinian state had to be on the agenda and agreed to a two-stage open-ended process following the outline of the 1978 Camp David Accords, and concentrating first on achieving an interim agreement. Again, the ‘insiders’ were the moving force in moderating the Palestinian demands issued in Tunis. The apprehensions that the leaders of the Intifada, within the Israeli-ruled territories, would take over the Palestinian national movement, coupled with the deep financial crisis of the PLO, led Arafat to the September 1993 Oslo Agreement. There, the PLO recognized Israel, renounced the use of force, and promised the cancellation of the clauses in the Palestinian Covenant which called for the destruction of Israel.10 Growing significance of other threats to the Arab world An important contributing factor to the peace process was the lesson learned by Arab leaders that Israel was not the greatest threat to the Arab world. Hommeini’s Islamic revolution in 1979 triggered, for many, memories of another historic enemy to the Arab people – the Persians; others were frightened by the challenge the Islamic revolution posed to the legitimacy of their regimes. Indeed, most Arab states allied themselves with the aggressor of the first Gulf War (1980–88), Iraq, in order to contain the Iranian-Islamic wave. During this period, the dispute with Israel was secondary.11 The Syrians, who sided with Iran, were allowed to face Israel on their own in 1982. Even the Palestinian uprising in 1987 did not elicit much support, as most of the Arab world was busy parrying the Islamic challenge from Tehran. An initially ostracized Egypt capitalized on the Iran–Iraq War to regain its leading status in inter-Arab affairs, without giving in to the demands that it change its policy vis-à-vis Israel. Its much-needed assistance to Iraq (the provision of manpower, military equipment and instruction), and its association with the US, the victor in the Cold War, brought Egypt’s isolation to an end. In addition, Egypt’s reintegration within the Arab system made its peace treaty with Israel more acceptable to the Arab world. Yet, only a few years later, Arab leaders lived to see their ally make an aboutturn as their fellow Arab, the megalomaniac Saddam Hussein, became intent on


The peace process

hegemonic pursuits and the attainment of the riches of Kuwait. His appeal to the masses in the Arab world was not lost on those in power who felt threatened by the Iraqi actions. The Americans were invited to curtail Saddam Hussein’s aspirations and eventually to reverse the conquest of Kuwait. President Bush was adept at building a military coalition to free Kuwait, and Israel did its best not to spoil the coalition by absorbing thirty-nine Iraqi missiles. Israel, at this junction, and not for the first time, was aligned de facto with many Arab states. For years, the potential for an Israeli alliance was well known to the Hashemites, who shared a common enemy with the Israelis, the Palestinian national movement, and were aided more than once by Israeli military backing.12 The events of September 1970, when Israel’s military moves deterred an expansion of the Syrian effort to invade Jordan, are the best-known example of Israel’s support of the Hashemites. Jordan is indeed the closest Arab country to Israel and even takes part in the Israeli–Turkish alignment. Similarly, some of the small Gulf states see in Israel a distant power able to play a balancing role in the region, particularly against hegemonic ambitions. Domestic politics Another development facilitating the peace process originates in domestic politics. Growing social weariness toward war has forced the political leadership in several countries in the region to redefine their national goals. Populations have grown tired of protracted conflict. This has led to moderate positions and to greater willingness to discuss the possibility of peace by all nations in the region. This was a clear factor in Egypt’s disposition to sign peace treaties with Israel, and influenced the Palestinians to accept more realistic results from their national struggle. Israel likewise is war-weary and has little appetite or desire to police the areas inhabited by Palestinians. Precisely for this reason, Israel is no longer attracted to the notion of ‘Greater Israel’. Hence the redefinition of collective goals in light of newly perceived realities made it possible for the two sides to move closer together. International developments Certain features of the international system were no less important than the regional developments in fostering a greater acceptance of Israel. In the bipolar international system, Israel was aligned with the United States. The alliance with the US was an important component of Israel’s deterrent power in regional politics. The October 1973 American airlift to its embattled ally remained for many years a potent indication of US commitment to the security of Israel. One important Arab strategic goal for years has been to weaken the link between Israel and its superpower ally and to deny the Jewish state international legitimacy.13 The overall robustness of the Jerusalem–Washington relationship and particularly the increased strategic cooperation between the two sides since the 1980s made the Arab goal of putting a wedge between the

Arab–Israeli coexistence 147 two unrealistic. The campaign to isolate Israel in the international community also failed. Moreover, the end of the Cold War was beneficial in strategic terms to Israel. Arab countries were further weakened by the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Arabs no longer had the backing of a superpower, thus limiting their military and diplomatic options. In contrast, Israel continued to be allied with the victor in the Cold War. The two most viciously anti-Israeli countries, Iraq and Iran, became the enemies of the US and subject to American sanctions. The fact that the US emerged as the only global superpower has made the Arab countries more responsive to American preferences, including the acceptance of Israel. The Arab world was further weakened politically by another systemic change – the emergence of a buyers’ market in the world oil economy. Arab oilproducing countries, in particular, lost much political clout due to low oil prices, while the mismanagement of their economies further reduced their international standing.14 Indeed, in 1991, in the aftermath of the Cold War, the Americans capitalized on their victory in the Gulf War and on the trends discussed above by promoting another attempt at continuing the peace process at the October 1991 Madrid conference. This conference initiated a process of bilateral negotiations, as well as the participation of Israel and an unprecedented number of Arab countries to discuss Middle East problems. The Americans brought the Syrians, the Palestinians and the Jordanians to the negotiating table in Madrid, primarily on Israeli terms. No preconditions previously demanded by Syria (for example, an Israeli commitment to withdraw from the Golan Heights and negotiations under the umbrella of a binding international confidence) were met. Indeed, President Assad of Syria was dragged into the peace process out of weakness, following the loss of his Soviet patron and the American demonstration of military might and resolve in 1991. Participation in the peace process was a Syrian adjustment to a new international reality.15 However, overall, the regional processes and the fluctuating perceptions of the political leaders in the Middle East have been shown to have more clout than the global changes and superpower influence. The American efforts to bring about an Israeli–Syrian accord have thus far failed to achieve concrete results. Similarly, the American involvement in the Israeli–Palestinian track has had mixed results. And historically, the main breakthroughs in the Arab–Israeli conflict, namely Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem and the Oslo Agreement, were not due to an American initiative and in fact came to them as a surprise, albeit a pleasant one.

The resilience of the peace process Several regional processes and global dynamics fueled the Arab rapprochement with Israel. The peace process stemmed basically out of Arab weakness. As long as the trends enumerated above continue, even in the absence of progress (usually a euphemism for Israeli concessions), the likelihood of a reversal in the historic accommodation toward Israel is small. To a great extent, the Arab world


The peace process

has crossed the Rubicon in accepting Israel’s existence, not legitimacy, as an almost irrevocable fact, and as a regular international actor in the Middle East. In many ways, the peace process is over, and has been concluded successfully. Israel has had a peace treaty with Egypt since 1979. A reversal to belligerence is unlikely as long as Egypt holds on to an American orientation in its foreign policy. In 1994, Jordan formalized its good relations with Israel by signing a peace treaty. On the Palestinian track, the 1993 Oslo Agreement – in fact a repartition of Palestine – is being implemented, albeit gradually and not without difficulties. The contours of the Palestinian state, its borders and degree of sovereignty remain to be negotiated. The rationale of partition and the establishment of two entities is politically compelling. Since 1993, the Palestinian national movement has never had so much to lose – real control over most Palestinians and exclusive rule over parts of their perceived homeland. The Palestinians have learned from their history that the lip-service paid by Arab countries to their cause is rarely backed by deeds, which leaves them almost alone to face the much stronger Israelis. Thus, while low-level conflict takes place, Arafat seems to be careful so as not to provoke Israel into a large-scale conflict. Moreover, Israel, as a whole, has moved in favor of partition of the Land of Israel. The Likud-led government (1996–99) signed agreements in which land was transferred to the Palestinian Authority (PA) – the January 1997 Hebron Agreement and the October 1998 Wye Plantation Accords. The May 1999 election results clearly show that support within Israeli society for the idea of Greater Israel is minimal (less than 5 percent). Israelis have even reconciled themselves to the emergence of a Palestinian state. Nevertheless, the changes in Israeli attitudes do not make an agreement with the Palestinians inevitable, as even in the case of a Labour-led government there is still no convergence of views between the two societies, particularly on issues of borders, refugees and Jerusalem. Indeed, the expectations that the negotiations between a Barak-led government and the PA on final status issues will be conducted smoothly and will end within a year or so are not very realistic. Barak has in the past voiced strong reservations about the Oslo Agreement and several political forces within his wide coalition are unlikely to support territorial largesse toward the Palestinians. On the Syrian track of the peace process, Assad has so far proved unwilling to move forward. He refused to accept the Golan Heights in exchange for a peace treaty, which would have required him to open up his closed society and which questioned his continuous control over Lebanon. This has been the American evaluation, and even Arab capitals recognize, unofficially, that Assad missed an historic opportunity to make a very favorable deal with Israel.16 Indeed, Rabin offered him the Golan Heights in August 1993 and Peres repeated the offer in January 1996.17 In all probability, even Netanyahu suggested a similar deal, but Assad did not bite the bullet. Barak succeeded in bringing back the Syrians to the negotiating table in January 2000, but he is even more insistent than Rabin on adequate security

Arab–Israeli coexistence 149 arrangements and he has consistently been critical of Labour’s negotiating formula that ‘the depth of the withdrawal from the Golan Heights corresponds to the depth of peace’. His preferred equation has been ‘the depth of withdrawal shall be equal to the quality of peace and the strength of the security and early warning arrangements’.18 It remains to be seen if Assad is ready for peace. Possibly, the talks were only a shield against stronger American and/or Israeli diplomatic and military pressures, but it is remarkable that they have been held at all. In any case, Syria has only limited potential to obstruct Israel’s acceptance in the region. By now it is clear that Syria does not have a veto power in regional affairs, as its opposition to Jordanian and Palestinian attempts to reach separate agreements with Israel proved futile. Indeed, even when Arab states complained that a Netanyahu-led Israel violated the agreements with the PA and that he was not generous enough, territorywise, toward the PA and Syria, we see very little inclination in the Arab world to heed the advice of the radical states to revert to a state of war. Since 1996, Arab summits have called upon Israel to implement its peace commitments and have threatened to freeze their relations with the Jewish state. Yet despite the official rhetoric, in many ways relations between Arab states and Israel are proceeding well. In October 1999, for example, Mauritania, an Arab League member, even decided to have full diplomatic relations with Israel. As such, the belligerence of the status quo ante is thus not a real option in the near future.

The limitations on peaceful coexistence Israel now definitely has better relations with the Arab world than it did a few decades ago. This pattern is likely to continue. Yet, there are limits to what Israel can achieve in its ties with its neighbors. Expectations that Israeli–Arab relations can emulate the type of interaction characteristic of Western Europe or North America are totally unrealistic for several reasons rooted in the strategic and cultural realities of the region. Power politics in the Middle East Basically, the old patterns of regional interaction – power politics – have remained unchanged, despite the removal of the superpower competition in the area.19 The dreams of a new Middle East are just that. President Mubarak in an interview to the Israeli press admitted that the vision Shimon Peres propagated left many Egyptians uncomfortable, reminding the Israeli audience that they live in the Middle East.20 Indeed, the dominant perception of international relations among the political leadership of the Middle East, with the exception of a few in Jerusalem, has remained power politics. This is why Cairo, Damascus and Baghdad fear the Israeli–Turkish entente. Moreover, in the Middle East the use of force is still considered an acceptable and useful tool of foreign policy. Indeed, the region’s Zeitgeist favors violence,


The peace process

‘where guerrillas are lauded, and peacemakers ridiculed’.21 Even peace negotiations are accompanied by violence. For example, Syria does not desist from using the Hizballah in bleeding Israel while it engages in peace negotiations with Israel. The PA is turning a blind eye to Hamas terrorists when it believes it suits its interests. In September 1996, the PA allowed its soldiers to shoot at the Israeli army, while Arafat often threatens Israel with a new Intifada if his demands are not satisfied. Indeed, the emerging Palestinian entity has great potential for developing into a revisionist and predatory state,22 and Mubarak and other Arab leaders have repeatedly warned that in the absence of ‘progress’ there will be a violent eruption. The best we can expect in the region is an armed peace. Egypt, despite its twenty-year-old peace treaty with Israel, continues to arm itself and has developed a large and modern American-equipped army. According to some of its generals, Egypt continues to see Israel as a potential military rival.23 Neither Egypt nor Jordan capitalized on their peace treaty with Israel to reduce defense spending. Despite the Madrid peace conference, Syria used money received from Saudi Arabia (for its anti-Iraq stance in 1991), over $1 billion, to buy arms.24 In fact, armed peace characterizes inter-Arab relations. No Arab state feels that all of its borders are safe and each harbors suspicions against its neighbors. Indeed, all of Israel’s Arab neighbors have legitimate security concerns in regard to their other neighbors. Israel also, despite the reduction in threat perception, continues to arm itself and even leaders on the Israeli Left see the Israeli army as the final guarantee for peaceful relations with its neighbors. Border disputes Generally, borders in the Middle East, which were drawn by colonialist powers, still lack legitimacy. This allows for revisionist policies. Syria never recognized Lebanon as an independent state and was successful in turning it into its satellite. Iraq still has ambitions to annex Kuwait. South Yemen disappeared as an independent state in May 1994 as it was ‘united’ by force with its neighbor – North Yemen. A dissatisfied Palestine could become the source for irredentist claims East and West. Indeed, Arafat’s willingness ‘to sacrifice even the last Palestinian child for placing the Palestinian flag on the walls of Jerusalem’ and his repeated calls for jihad indicate the potential for additional demands· and tensions. As recently as the spring of 1999, the Palestinians renewed their demand that the Jewish state be confined to the borders of the 1947 Partition Plan, in accordance with UN Resolution 181. Non-acceptance of Israel The acceptance of Israel is far from being internalized by Arab societies. Notably, many Arab intellectuals and professionals refrain from supporting the peace process. In stark contrast to their Israeli counterparts (the most ardent

Arab–Israeli coexistence 151 supporters of the peace process), these groups are most critical of the reconciliation with the Jewish state and with a few exceptions boycott any contact with Israelis. In Jordan, the peace treaty with Israel is pejoratively termed ‘the King’s peace’. There, as well as in Egypt, professional associations of lawyers, physicians, journalists and engineers impose sanctions on members who dare talk about normalizing relations with Israel. Public opinion in the Levant clearly indicates that the peace process is limited primarily to regimes, not societies,25 and despite the fact that Arab states are not democracies, their political leaders are sensitive to public opinion.26 Although Israel is viewed in less demonic terms than in the past, fears of Israeli economic domination have replaced the fears of Israeli territorial expansion. For example, the 1994 Casablanca conference, at which dynamic Israelis displayed eagerness to enter into business ventures with the Arabs, backfired; it was misconstrued as an Israeli design to control the Middle East by economic means. Indeed, Israel’s gross national product (GNP) is larger than the GNP of all of its neighbors combined. Paradoxically, Israel’s efforts to integrate into the region have also triggered fears of cultural imperialism. Israel is still seen, not only by the Islamists, but by larger segments of the Arab political and intellectual elite, as an outpost of the West and its colonial legacy in the Middle East. The litmus test of changing attitudes toward Israel in the long run is the education system, where the socialization process of a new generation takes place. Unfortunately, the school curriculum even in the Arab countries that have signed agreements with Israel remains unchanged, propagating anti-Israeli views and rabid anti-Semitic images. The Arab media (usually government-controlled) is replete with language of hate toward all Jews. In contrast, the Israeli Ministry of Education has published a unit for Peace Studies to be taught in grammar schools and searched its books in order to eliminate anti-Arab stereotypes, while new history textbooks are introduced into the state school system, which show greater empathy toward the Palestinians.27 The appeal of radical Islam Another politico-cultural feature of the Middle East which places limits on ties with Israel is the widespread appeal of radical Islam, particularly in Egypt, Jordan and Palestine; there, as elsewhere, radical Islamist groups oppose any reconciliation with the Jewish state. The enmity for Israel and the West is great.28 In the Middle East, Islamic fundamentalism enjoys great support beyond Iran and Sudan – the two Islamic republics – in almost every state in the region, including secular Turkey, and its potential consequences should not be ignored. For the time being, however, the Islamic radicals have only limited ability to obstruct the peace process. Egypt and Jordan have not changed diplomatic course because of the Islamist opposition. Yet the Islamic political influence is a strong domestic constraint on openly pursuing cordial relations with Israel in many countries of the region.


The peace process

Changing circumstances Finally, the peace process, despite its present robustness, is not necessarily a one-way historic development. An abrupt change of direction is possible, although unlikely at this point in time. Scenarios for turmoil include an Islamic takeover in one of Israel’s neighbors. If this happens in Egypt, the most important Arab country, it would be a particularly terrible blow to the peace process and to Western interests. Similarly threatening for Israel is the demise of Hashemite Jordan and its conquest by Palestine, Syria or Iraq. Jordan is a pivotal state in the quest for regional stability. Its disappearance would allow for the reorganization of the eastern front against Israel, in dangerous proximity to the strategic heartland of Israel. The return of Russian influence to the Middle East could also re-energize the radical forces in the region. The realization that change can happen suddenly in the Middle East dictates much caution, which further slows the process of rapprochement between Israel and the Arab world.

Conclusion The first policy-relevant observation concerns the well-intentioned policymaking community, which feels an urge to do good in the Middle East. The situation in the Arab–Israeli conflict has improved considerably, but cannot improve much further. Even if the evolving peace process were to stay its course, the attainment of the types of relations we see among democratic countries may take generations to develop in the Arab–Israeli arena. The security dilemma of all the states in the Middle East dictates that their relationship with their neighbors take the form of armed peace. While the mere nature of politics (the pursuit of national interests) makes Israeli participation in interstate interactions easier, the religious and cultural dimensions of the Arab–Israeli conflict are less amenable to quick change. The recommendation for the diplomats, chasing after dramatic foreign policy successes, is to look elsewhere. Second, foreigners have limited leverage, while the locals have underestimated power to block extra-regional initiatives. Almost all American initiatives to settle the Arab–Israeli conflict have ended in failure. Breakthroughs have belonged to the regional actors and progress comes to fruition only when they are ready for it. The US can play a positive role in compensating the parties for the risks taken, but it cannot impose a Pax Americana. It can also engage in damage limitation when violence erupts. More importantly, America has little to gain nowadays from investing much more energy in an unattainable comprehensive settlement between Arabs and Jews. Actually, year 2000, an election year, could be a good American pretext for not doing anything dramatic and foolish in the Middle East. The third observation revolves around the time factor. The peace process evolved over two decades, as a result of a number of regional developments, primarily the entrenchment of Israel as a strong military and economic power

Arab–Israeli coexistence 153 linked to the US, the winner of the Cold War. De-escalation in protracted disputes takes time, and there may be temporary setbacks. Much of the impatience displayed in several quarters, particularly in the West, seems to be ignorant of the pace involved in historic processes. As long as the direction of the regional and international factors that moved the Arab world into acceptance of Israel is unchanged, the peace process can be considered as viable, and even robust, despite the fact that not all issues have been satisfactorily resolved. Therefore, the widespread feeling of urgency is unwarranted. Fourth, Israel’s leverage versus the Palestinians and other Arab actors is considerable. Only recently did Arafat desist from unilaterally declaring a Palestinian state as a result of Israeli threats. Indeed, Jerusalem can use carrots and sticks to achieve its foreign policy goals. Moreover, it can wait for a better offer in its negotiations with its neighbors. In retrospect, the Arabs have changed their positions more than the Israelis. So far, time has been on the Israeli side and there is little to suggest that the time vector is changing course. Finally, we must remember that power-politics considerations led Arab political elites gradually to accept Israel as a fait accompli. The realpolitik outlook on international relations is going to persist in the Middle East. A strong Israel is, therefore, a prerequisite for the peace process. Weakening it harms that process.

Part V

The new strategic partners

11 Israel’s new strategic partner Turkey

Since Turkey upgraded its diplomatic relations with Israel to ambassadorial level at the end of 1991, the two states have exchanged many high-level state visits. Bilateral trade has grown significantly and the volume of civilian exchanges (tourist, academic, professional, sporting and cultural) has increased dramatically. Most indicative of the emergence of a special relationship is the signing of a series of military agreements between the two states, which led to close cooperation between the two defense establishments. The present Turkish–Israeli entente constitutes a departure from the historic reluctance on the part of modern Turkey to be entangled in Middle Eastern affairs, given its aim to buttress its ties with the West and to strengthen its European identity. The Kemalist regime largely saw Islam and the Arab culture as a barrier to modernization. Moreover, the desire to avoid unnecessary conflict required minimizing interactions with the war-prone Middle East.1 Therefore, Turkey preferred low-profile relations with Israel. Moreover, it did not want to burden itself with links to a regional pariah and thus, with the exception of a short period in the late 1950s, was unresponsive to Israeli overtures. In the 1970s, the dispute with Greece over Cyprus and the world energy crisis provided additional reasons for Turkey to court Arab and Islamic countries and to keep Israel at arm’s length. For its part, Jerusalem has always desired good relations with Ankara, a proWestern regional power in its vicinity. Moreover, cordial relations with an important non-Arab Muslim country such as Turkey could have contributed to the diluting of the Islamic religious dimension in the Arab–Israeli conflict. As early as the late 1950s, Israel made serious efforts to develop good relations with countries such as Turkey, on the periphery of the Arab Middle East, in order to escape the immediate ring of Arab hostility around Israel. Yet only in the 1990s has Turkey changed its policy toward Israel. The entente with Israel was part of a reorientation of Turkey’s foreign policy following the demise of the Soviet Union. The new foreign policy was characterized by a high-threat perception and by greater assertiveness than during the Cold War. It also meant a greater involvement with the Middle East. Relations with Israel were considered useful in facing Turkey’s new security challenges, and the strategic glue between the two states is based on a similar outlook on regional and international affairs.

158 The new strategic partners

Turkey returns to the Middle East In contrast to most Western countries, Turkey emerged from the Cold War with a sense of high-threat perception, which is more typical of countries of the Middle East than of Europe. It perceived itself to be encircled by many areas of instability and threatened by dangerous neighbors. Moreover, the internal threat to the integrity of the Turkish state as a result of the Kurdish insurgency, which was supported by Turkey’s neighbors, was very vivid during the 1990s. These developments led to a widespread fear in Turkish political and military circles of being engulfed in international crises and military conflicts.2 Moreover, after the elimination of the Soviet threat, Turkey’s membership in NATO, the Western military alliance, seemed to be less relevant to its new security environment. Turkey gradually realized that NATO would not always provide effective responses to the security challenges emerging in Turkey’s immediate neighborhood. Parallel to the high-threat perception and the perceived need to devise appropriate responses, Turkey started to consider itself an important actor in global politics, which was a departure from a more modest past self-perception. In the 1990s, Turkey aspired to become more active in the international arena as a result of the changes in its geostrategic situation, a redefinition of Turkey’s role in world politics, and the new opportunities for extending its influence in the former Soviet republics in Central Asia and the Caucasus.3 Foreign Minister ˙Ismail Cem and the Turkish foreign policy elite (bureaucrats and politicians) started to articulate a vision of Turkey as geographically situated at the center of Eurasia and exerting a transcontinental political influence.4 The underlying implication of the geopolitical ‘Eurasia’ concept was the centrality of Turkey in world politics. Turkey portrayed itself as a stabilizing force in its periphery and also regarded itself as the corridor for the passage of energy resources from the Caspian Basin and Central Asia to the Western world. The new activism and self-perception as an important actor in world politics was balanced, however, by traditional caution, as well as by limited resources. One aspect of the new Turkish assertiveness is its growing activism in the Middle East. In the past, Turkey preferred not to be entangled in Middle Eastern disputes, and its foreign policy to this region has largely been reactive and noninterventionist. The relations with its Middle Eastern neighbors have been tense, if not overtly hostile. Despite this reluctance to engage the Middle East, Turkey is linked to the Middle East by history, religion and geography. Islam still plays an important role in Turkey’s culture and identity, while Turkey shares almost 60 percent of its total land borders with Middle Eastern countries: Iran, Iraq and Syria. Thus, Turkey’s detachment from Middle Eastern international politics has never been complete. During the energy crisis in the 1970s Ankara intensified its relations with Arab countries in order to secure oil on convenient financial terms, to attract petrodollars for investment, and to increase exports to oilproducing countries. The 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran led to an increase in

Israel’s new strategic partner


Turkish threat perception and the tensions between the two states increased. In the late 1980s, Turkey had to face a number of additional Middle Eastern challenges: the Kurdish problem and the water disputes with Iraq and Syria over the waters of the Euphrates and Tigris. The Kurdish problem has essentially been a Middle Eastern one, as the Kurds are spread beyond Turkey, primarily in Iran, Iraq and Syria. International events in the aftermath of the August 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait reinforced the perception among Turkish policy-makers that their country cannot disengage itself from the Middle East, even should it wish to do so. Turkey paid a heavy economic price for the military campaign against Iraq and the subsequent sanctions regime. The creation of a Kurdish-controlled safe haven in northern Iraq in March 1991, protected by the United States and its allies, complicated Turkey’s Kurdish predicament. Above all, Ankara feared the disintegration of Iraq and the emergence of an independent Kurdish entity in northern Iraq, adjacent to Turkey’s southeastern border.5 Moreover, since 1991, the disputes over water rights with Iraq and Syria intensified with the opening of the large Atatürk Dam. Baghdad and Damascus have seen this project as allowing Turkey to control the water flow to the downstream riparian countries. Gradually, Turkey began to see itself as a Middle Eastern player. For example, a senior analyst argued, ‘Turkey is the strongest military and economic power in the Middle East.’6 Turkey also wanted to take a part in the Arab–Israeli peace process. It looked for a role in the multilateral talks begun after the October 1991 Madrid peace conference, sent observers to the international force to monitor the Hebron Agreement (January 1997) between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA), and offered its services to facilitate negotiations between Israel and the PA. Moreover, Turkey displayed an unprecedented willingness to employ military force in Middle East scenarios. In 1990, Turkey concentrated troops along the Iraqi border parallel to the massive American deployment south of the Kuwait theatre. In the 1990s, Turkey invaded northern Iraq several times to fight the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan-PKK). In October 1998, it threatened Syria with a military confrontation and forced Damascus to oust the leader of the Kurdish insurgency, Abdullah Öcalan. Two months later, Ankara was also successful in coercing Cyprus not to deploy Russian-made S-300 surface-to-air missiles on the island. In October 2001, Turkey sent military personnel to Afghanistan to help the US-led effort to fight the Taliban regime and Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda organization after the latter’s September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

The rapprochement with Israel One element in Turkey’s foreign policy reorientation and its new approach to the Middle East has been better relations with Israel. A gradual reassessment process of Middle East policies began within the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs as early as the late 1980s.7 Then, Turkey’s low-level relations with Israel


The new strategic partners

and its consistent pro-Arab voting record at the UN were evaluated against an appraisal of the role of Israel in the region and the possible benefits to be accrued from becoming closer to Jerusalem. This led to a quiet upgrading of the level of the diplomatic personnel representing the two countries, which culminated in the decision to raise relations to ambassadorial level at the end of 1991. A parallel reassessment of the policy toward Israel took place in the Turkish military, which led to a clear preference for closer ties with the Israeli defense establishment and its military industries.8 Turkey discovered that its views of the emerging strategic environment overlapped in many ways with Israeli perceptions, an issue addressed in the next section. Upgrading relations with Israel was also facilitated by the disappearance of several inhibiting factors. First, a change in the trends in the political economy of energy sources lessened the political leverage of the Arab bloc, and of the oilproducing states in particular. By the end of the 1980s, the substantial subsiding of fears of energy crises had diminished the weight of Arab objections to better relations with Israel. Second, the Arab–Israeli peace process, reactivated by the Americans in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War, further marginalized the objections of Israel’s regional enemies to third-party ties with Jerusalem. The October 1991 peace conference in Madrid, a formal gathering with Israel to which almost all Arab countries sent senior diplomatic delegations, served as a convenient pretext for formalizing the Turkish interest in a closer relationship with Israel.9 This was true of other countries, too. For example, China and India, both major international players, also capitalized on the changes in the oil market and the better Middle Eastern atmosphere to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel. Similarly, Moscow renewed its diplomatic ties with Jerusalem in 1992, as well as with countries previously in the Soviet orbit. The 1993 Oslo agreement between Israel and the Palestinians reinforced the trend to normalize relations with an increasingly important international actor, intended to tap Israel’s advanced technologies and to profit from Jerusalem’s close links in Washington. During 1992 and 1993, Israel was surprised at the Turkish desire to build a close relationship in the diplomatic and military spheres. Yet, Israeli diplomats immediately sensed the great opportunity and rose to the challenge by becoming a most willing and active partner.10 From an Israeli perspective, the November 1993 visit of Foreign Minister Hikmet Çetin, after several delays, was the diplomatic turning point. It was the first time a Turkish foreign minister had visited Israel. A stream of high-level Turkish dignitaries followed, including prime ministers, defense ministers and foreign ministers, as well as President Süleyman Demirel. The Israelis responded in kind. By the end of the 1990s, high-level visits by both sides became a routine affair. Israel was generally pleased with the Turkish involvement in the peace process. Turkey also helped Israel in the diplomatic arena, particularly in Islamic forums. Moreover, Turkish official statements concerning Israeli policies (on the use of force, settlements and Jerusalem) and its UN voting behavior were less critical during the 1990s than had previously been the case.

Israel’s new strategic partner


Political relations were complemented by the intensification of cultural ties. In the early 1990s, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs actively encouraged and subsidized Israeli cultural and academic forays into Turkey. National museums exchanged exhibitions, and relations in the area of sports greatly improved. Generally, each country became more interested in learning about the other, which was reflected in a greater volume of media coverage, mostly positive.11 The August 1999 earthquake in northwestern Turkey that claimed more than 17,000 lives consolidated ties between the two countries as Israel provided prompt and large-scale aid. The Israeli rescue team saved scores of lives after the quake, instilling in many Turks a belief that existed already in the political spheres – that a strong Israeli–Turkish alliance could benefit both countries. The 1990s also witnessed a considerable increase in economic exchanges between Israel and Turkey, as the political restraints originating in Ankara were relaxed. While bilateral trade totaled $54 million in 1987, the figures rose to $100 million in 1991 and to $1.1 billion in 2000. Another facet of the economic relationship is Israeli tourism to Turkey, which has also increased enormously. Israeli entrepreneurs consider using Turkish partners to penetrate Arab markets more effectively. In turn, Turkey has acquired better access to the American market, since Israeli firms process Turkish products and re-export them dutyfree to the United States. Turkey is also eager to export water to Israel, whose meager resources will be increasingly depleted by fast-growing demand. Water import had become an urgent issue in Israel by 2001 following several years of draught, and in April the Israeli government signed a ten-year agreement to purchase fifty million cubic meters of water annually. Water import is viewed primarily as an interim solution before desalinization, the preferred option, is operational. Israel, like other Middle Eastern states, prefers not to be water-dependent on outsiders. The economic aspect of the bilateral relationship is important, and the growing volume of bilateral trade has been matched by a relative decline in Turkey’s trade with Iran and Arab countries. Yet, Turkey and Israel understand that their bilateral trade is only a small fraction of their total foreign trade (less than 2 percent), and that the well-being of both their economies is dependent primarily upon export growth to larger markets. The Turkish military was a key actor in pushing its country closer to Israel. Both defense establishments feel that there are abundant areas of cooperation. In April 1992, the two defense ministries signed a document on principles for cooperation that was translated into a concrete protocol for cooperation in October 1994, designating specific areas of military cooperation. As early as September 1995, the two air forces reached an agreement to allow training flights in each other’s territory and to train together.12 This exposed the two air forces to types of previously unknown terrain. In 2000, the two air forces started training together, which enhanced the potential of operational cooperation. During the February 1996 visit of the deputy of the Turkish Chief of Staff Gen. Çevik Bir, a central figure in the Turkish–Israeli rapprochement, several additional


The new strategic partners

military agreements were signed.13 The first was in the area of intelligence, which formalized and expanded the previous ongoing cooperation. The two countries decided to act together in the area of electronic surveillance. The main target country was Syria, with Iran as the second priority. Turkey also receives information from Israel on Russian military systems used by its neighbors and has access to information collected by the Israeli intelligence satellite Ofeq. A naval agreement was also reached, permitting access by naval vessels to each other’s harbors, and arranging joint exercises in the Mediterranean. The latter eventually took place off the Israeli coast in January 1998, in the Reliant Mermaid naval search-and-rescue exercise, with US ships also participating. Almost two years later, in December 1999, Israel, Turkey and the United States embarked again on joint naval maneuvers, this time off Turkey’s Mediterranean coast. This exercise and the one conducted in January 2001 were presented again as search-and-rescue drills. Since 1996, a formal common forum for exchange of strategic evaluations convenes biannually in alternate countries. Usually, the director-general of the Ministry of Defense leads the Israeli delegation to these talks, while the deputy chief of general staff heads the Turkish group. The chiefs of staff, their deputies and chiefs of services, as well as many in the senior echelons of the two armies often visit each other. The bilateral contacts generate greater familiarity with the modus operandi of the other military, an atmosphere of professional respect, as well as an ambience of social ease. The cooperation extended also to the area of weapons sales and production. The main strategic rationale has been to lower dependency upon outside suppliers. For Turkey this is a new emphasis, as it encountered difficulties in procuring weapons from its NATO allies (the United States and Germany), particularly due to the suppliers’ sensitivities to Turkey’s human rights record. Moreover, it developed aspirations to acquire advanced military technology that would be commensurate with its newly perceived international status. Oltan Sungurlu, Turkey’s Defense Minister, outlined a new policy in 1996, which encouraged Turkey’s leading companies to enter into the defense industry business in order to lessen Turkey’s dependency on high-tech.14 An important component of the multi-billion-dollar military modernization plans was technology transfer. The cumulative impact of the August 1999 earthquake, followed by two serious economic crises in November 2000 and February 2001, has forced the Turkish government to consider cuts in its budget, including military expenditures. Israeli arms have been attractive due to their high quality and because Jerusalem allows the transfer of military technology to Turkish defense industries. According to Gen. (ret.) Sadi Ergüvenç, ‘Taking into consideration the shortcomings of the new European security architecture, Turkey figures a need to become more self-sufficient in meeting its own military requirements. This is perhaps the most rational explanation for Turkey’s recent rapprochement with Israel.’15 Moreover, Israel appeared to be a more reliable supplier than the United States and the Europeans, who tended to link arms sales to non-security issues, such as human rights.

Israel’s new strategic partner


The largest military deal involves the Israeli upgrading of Turkey’s fleet of fifty-four Phantoms in a contract worth $630 million, finally approved by Ankara in December 1996. The first twenty-six jet fighters were to be upgraded at Israel Aircraft Industry (IAI) and the remaining twenty-eight in Turkey. Part of the deal included the supply of a hundred Popeye-l standoff air-to-ground missiles. At the end of 1997, Turkey decided to increase the order to 200. Then the consortium between the IAI and the Singapore Aerospace Industries won a $75 million contract to modernize Turkey’s forty-eight US-made F-5A/B fighter aircraft.16 Smaller deals were also secured, including the supply of airborne search-and-rescue systems, devices to detect plastic and conventional mines, tank shells, and the production rights for the Galil assault rifle. By early 1998, estimates of total Israeli arms sales to Turkey in recent years reached $1 billion.17 By May 2000, Turkey decided to put its new tank production program on hold due to its cost and to pursue instead the upgrading option. Israel has also been bidding for a deal, worth nearly $900 million, to upgrade 1,000 US-built M-60 tanks. In June 2000 Turkey decided to award the state-owned Israel Military Industries (IMI) the contract to upgrade a first batch of 170 M-60 tanks at a cost of $250 million. Despite the fact that the Americans have contested this deal, negotiations toward finalizing a contract with the IMI continued. In addition, IAI (and the Russian Kamov helicopter manufacturer) competed for a co-production contract worth nearly $4 billion for 145 attack-helicopters. The contract went to the American Bell Helicopter Textron, but, according to Turkey’s Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit, if final negotiations over technology transfer with the company fail, or US Congress denies an export license, his government would reopen talks with the Israeli–Russian team.18 In June 2000, the IAI also lost to the competition for the supply of the Ofeq intelligence satellite to a French firm. Yet, Turkey canceled two large military contracts with France, including the satellite deal, after the French National Assembly passed legislation in January 2001 that labeled as genocide the killing of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the century. This reopened the possibility for IAI to win the satellite bid, should the necessary budgets be available. IAI also lost the multi-billion-dollar contract bid for an Airborne Early Warning system (in conjunction with Raytheon) to the American Boeing company at the end of 2000. A partnership between the Israeli firms IAI and Elbit is still competing for a $500-million unmanned aircraft vehicles (UAVs) contract. In 1997, Turkey secured a preliminary agreement for the co-production of the advanced Popeye-2 (150 km range).19 According to Turkish defense experts, Israel’s missiles and its advanced technology are of special interest to the Turkish defense establishment.20 Indeed, Ankara expressed an interest in coproduction of the Delilah (400 km range) cruise missile, while the Phyton-4 airto-air missile and the Gil and NT-D anti-tank missiles are also on the Turkish acquisition list. The most remarkable element of the security ties is the institutionalization of strategic dialogue at the highest levels and the development of routine working


The new strategic partners

relations between the two defense establishments at various levels. So far, both sides believe that these interactions are extremely mutually beneficial. The changing circumstances with the end of the Cold War led to greater openness in Turkey to the idea of seeking significantly better relations with Israel. The peace process between Israel and its neighbors, reinvigorated following the 1991 Gulf War, made such an idea more palatable. Rapprochement with Israel was sought because of its divergence from the typical Middle Eastern actor. Turkey has been the more eager party in pursuing ties with Israel, perceiving in Israel an advanced modern state with a clear Western outlook and a close ally of the United States. In turn, the Israeli governments actively welcomed the rapprochement with such an important non-Arab Muslim state and a regional power. Within a few years, the degree of intimacy developed with Turkey ranked second only to the closeness of US–Israeli ties.

The Israeli–Turkish strategic partnership The new close cooperation between Ankara and Jerusalem was driven primarily by national security concerns, which lent it a strategic quality. The entente between the two capitals is clearly not a military alliance in the traditional sense; the two states have not defined a casus foederis, the situation that would activate military action on behalf of the other. They both fear entrapment in crises of limited relevance to their own national security, and neither expects the other to participate actively in its wars. While expanding the scope of cooperation is possible, a formal defense pact is unlikely. Nevertheless, the current relationship between Turkey and Israel may be termed a strategic partnership, since it reflects a convergence of views on a wide range of global and regional issues, as elaborated below. The two states publicize their high-level strategic dialogue and the current level of military cooperation has created an infrastructure for common military action in the future. Joint exercises, mutual visits, staff-to-staff coordination and intelligence exchanges increase interoperability. Referring to the January 2001 naval exercise, Ephraim Sneh, the Israeli Deputy Defense Minister, said, ‘There is substance here. It would be naive to say it is just something technical.’21 This potential enhances deterrence, facilitates coercive diplomacy, and is the core for the entente’s strategic implications. The prevalent reading of international relations in the region also focuses on the military component in Israeli–Turkish ties. In both countries, as well as in the rest of the Middle East, military prowess is largely perceived as a crucial element of national power and the most important currency of regional influence.22 In the Middle East, where the dominant prism for understanding international relations is power politics and informal alliances are at least as important as formal-explicit coalitions,23 the interactions between Israel and Turkey, particularly the military dimension, are not perceived as innocent. An alternative paradigm for explaining regional dynamics, one stressing identity and culture, would still conclude that the Arabs will tend to see Turkish–Israeli

Israel’s new strategic partner


closeness as some sort of alliance due to the nature of their past encounters with Turks and Israelis. Furthermore, the liberal vision of international politics, which regards the use of force as no longer relevant and suggests instead that economics become the dominant factor in international politics, was never accepted by other leaders in the region.24 Therefore, the numerous Turkish and Israeli declarations that their alignment was not directed against any third party were usually not accepted at face value. Moreover, Israeli and Turkish statements may be read as confirming an alliance of politics. Upon his return from Israel (November 1993), Foreign Minister Çetin announced that Turkey and Israel would cooperate ‘in restructuring the Middle East’.25 In August 1997, Prime Minister Mesut Yılmaz said that Turkish–Israeli cooperation ‘is necessary to the balance of power’ in the region.26 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu similarly concluded in 1998 that the two states were obliged to forge an ‘axis’ in view of the volatile international security picture.27 Israel’s Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai said, ‘When we lock hands, we form a powerful fist . . . our relationship is a strategic one.’28 So far, Turkey and Israel have reaped strategic dividends separately simply by being grouped together by other regional players and by rendering limited security services to each other. For example, the flights of Israeli aircraft in Turkey have a deterrent value versus Syria, Iraq and Iran, who view Israel’s flights over Turkey as an extension of its strategic reach. During the Iraqi crisis of February 1998, the Turkish ambassador to the United States stated that Turkey would consider allowing Israel to use Turkish airspace for retaliation should Iraq launch missile attacks on Israel. According to General Bir, the military agreement signed between Turkey and Israel paved the way for the resolution of the Turkish–Syrian crisis of autumn 1998.29 Similarly, Turkey’s threats to eliminate the Russian-made S-300 SAMs if deployed in Cyprus were credible, partly due to its Israeli connection.30 The strategic partnership between Turkey and Israel is not a classic balance of power act, as the two countries are militarily stronger than any combination of regional states. This partnership is characteristic of two satisfied (nonrevisionist) powers cooperating primarily to preserve the regional status quo and to fend off common threats.31 The common security prism on international relations in general, and on the Middle East in particular, reinforces the balance of power perspective that brings Turkey and Israel together.

The regional prism Both countries regard the Middle East as an unstable region, which generates considerable security risks. For example, Nüzhet Kandemir, former Turkish ambassador to the United States, described the Middle East as ‘long ravaged by terrorist and extremist tendencies’.32 According to General Bir, Turkey’s new self-perception as a Middle Eastern ‘front country’ facing new threats to its national security is the geostrategic context for understanding best the


The new strategic partners

Ankara–Jerusalem relationship.33 Indeed, a senior military official explained the rationale for the 1996 military accords: ‘We are surrounded on all sides by trouble. We are in the hot seat. It is critical for us to jump outside this circle of chaos and find friends in the region. Israel is the perfect choice.’34 Israel continues to see the Middle East as a source of threat, too. While the evolving Arab–Israel peace process has reduced threat perception from its immediate neighbors, Israel fears threats from more distant countries.35 Moreover, Israel’s army continues to be regarded as the final guarantee for peaceful relations with its neighbors. Prime Minister Ehud Barak argued in August 1999 that: We live in a difficult region and environment, which resembles neither North America, nor Western Europe. In the Middle East there is no pity or esteem towards the weak: He who is unable to defend himself does not get a second chance.36 Turkey and Israel had unhappy encounters with Arabs, the dominant ethnic element in the core area of the Middle East. These have colored their perceptions of the region and could lead to similar, even if not fully coordinated, regional policies. For example, the two states would oppose any attempt coming from Cairo, Damascus or Baghdad to gain hegemony in the Arab arena and/or create an Arab united bloc. In the past, both states pursued policies intended to block pan-Arab impulses. As a result of a balance of power rationale, Israel and Turkey preferred a divided Arab world.

Adversial relations with Syria One shared strategic concern revolves around Syria, the common neighbor and adversary of both countries. Turkey and Israel have similar disputes with Syria. Turkey’s Defense Minister Turhan Tayan, just back from a visit to Israel in May 1997, stated that the two governments share the same position against Syria due to its support for terrorism.37 Despite repeated promises to stop aid to the Kurdish separatist activities, for years Syria hosted the PKK headquarters along with its leader Abdullah Öcalan (until October 1998), and allowed this organization to train in Lebanon – a Syrian protectorate. The Kurdish problem became more acute for Turkey, particularly after the establishment in 1991 of a no-fly zone in northern Iraq, free of Baghdad’s intervention. This provided greater autonomy for the Kurds, the dominant group in this region, as well as a freer hand for the PKK. In January 1996, Turkey’s diplomatic note to Syria, which was leaked to the press, stated that unless Syria terminated aid to the PKK and extradited Ocalan, steps could be taken that might harm Syria’s interests.38 In April 1996, Prime Minister Yilmaz warned Syria of the possibility of punitive measures.39 The greater Turkish assertiveness coincided with the rapprochement with Israel. Similarly, Damascus has hosted the headquarters of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and leftist Palestinian rejectionist groups, which shared the commitment to

Israel’s new strategic partner


destroy Israel and the peace process. Moreover, Syria controls the flow of military equipment from Iran to Hizballah in Lebanon and to a great extent has calibrated the operations against Israeli targets. One manifestation of the Israeli–Turkish strategic cooperation became known in June 2000. Iran complained that Turkey demanded to be informed about the cargo of Iranian aircraft transiting Turkish airspace en route to Syria, insisting on its right to force down Iranian planes suspected of carrying unmanifested cargo to Turkey.40 An additional common dispute is over territory; the Syrians claim the Turkish Hatay province Iskenderun (formerly known as Alexandretta), which was handed over to Turkey in 1939 by France, the mandatory power at that time in Syria. From Israel, Syria claims the Golan Heights, which it lost in the Six Day War in 1967. Finally, both Israel and Turkey quarrel with Syria over water – a scarce resource for Syria and Israel. Syria has complained that upstream Turkey denies it valuable amounts of water. Syrian territorial demands from Israel include control of two of the Jordan’s tributaries, and access to the Lake of Galilee – Israel’s main water reservoir. The parallel disputes with Syria are an incentive for the two countries to coordinate their foreign policies in containing revisionist Syria, while Israeli attempts to reach a peace treaty with Syria evoked concern in Turkey. During the negotiations held by the Rabin government (1992–95), Ankara was unhappy with the suggested ‘carrots’ to Syria: its removal from the American blacklist of states supporting terror and drug-trafficking, and an increase in its share of water from Turkey. The Turkish concern peaked during the winter of 1995 to 1996, when the Shimon Peres-led government attempted to induce Syria’s President Hafez al Assad to close a deal by offering him massive American financial support and by greatly elevating his regional status.41 Indeed, the apprehensions concerning the negotiations with Syria led the Turkish Foreign Ministry Under-Secretary Onur Öymen, during his visit in Israel (January 1996), to demand of Israel greater sensitivity to Turkish interests in the dialogue with Syria. He even described the Israeli policy toward Syria as ‘appeasement’. When Prime Minister Barak revived the Israeli–Syrian talks in the fall of 1999, Turkey clarified its opposition to American military aid to Syria, in the framework of an Israeli–Syrian agreement, before relations between Ankara and Damascus improve considerably. A successful conclusion of the Israeli–Syrian negotiations would have enhanced President Assad’s status in the eyes of the Americans, and would have lowered his fears of Israeli–Turkish cooperation against him, both developments inimical to Turkish interests. President Assad’s position in his dealings with Israel guaranteed that Syria remained an issue of accord rather than discord between Turkey and Israel. Yet should Israel and Syria sign a peace treaty, we cannot expect more than a ‘cold peace’ at best between the two states, parallel to Egyptian–Israeli relations, which amount to an armed peace. Such a state of affairs will continue to be conducive to an Israeli–Turkish entente. Similarly, the Turkish attempts to improve relations with Syria, following the expulsion of Öcalan and the Adana Protocol

168 The new strategic partners signed in October 1998, were only partially successful due to the Syrian refusal to give up its claim to Iskenderun and to its demands for more of the Euphrates’ waters. Ankara would presumably welcome the emergence of a moderate proWestern Syria. Yet, it would need a lot of proof and the passage of many years to convince skeptic Turkey on the issue of Syrian moderation.42

Fear of Islamic extremism Both countries share the need to curb the influence of radical Islam in the region. Turkey has always seen itself as a secular model for development. The competing Islamic religious model offered by Iran undermines the basis of the Turkish contemporary political system and the legitimacy of its secular leadership. The Turkish secular leadership has feared the activities of Iran or even Saudi Arabia within Turkey, which strengthen the domestic Islamic groups. While Iran’s Islamic fervor and its support for terrorism elevated her position on Turkey’s list of opponents, Ankara usually behaved with caution. The relations with the Islamic Republic were strained and were punctuated by mutual accusations. In the late 1990s, Turks wondered whether Iran replaced Syria as its chief enemy. In February 1997, General Bir described Iran as a terrorist state trying to export its anti-secular ideology to Turkey and Central Asian countries.43 Turkey also accused Iran of supporting the Kurdish separatists. Turkey also faces a serious domestic problem, as militant Islamic organizations have been active and segments of its society identify with the Islamist platform of the Welfare Party (Refah Partisi-RP), its predecessors and its offshoots. The RP is largely perceived by Turkey’s political, military and intellectual elites as intent on undermining the secular-democratic order of modem Turkey. As such, it is a serious domestic challenge, which became particularly potent in the 1990s when the RP and its successor, the Virtue Party (Fazilet Partisi-FP), scored surprisingly well in several electoral contests. The constitutional steps taken against the Islamists have not removed their political appeal. There was also concern that radical Islamic organizations active in the Turkish diaspora were channeling financial support for Islamic causes in Turkey.44 Israel, too, has an interest in curbing the influence of radical Islam in the region because Muslim extremists oppose the very existence of the Jewish state, and they act violently against Israeli targets. In the 1990s, Islamic extremism became a major perceived threat for Israel. For Rabin, Iran became Israel’s archenemy as it represented a particularly dangerous fusion of fanatic Islamic hostility to Israel with an active program to develop weapons of mass destruction. Moreover, the Islamic-inspired terrorism of the Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad, once just a military nuisance, became in Israeli eyes a strategic threat. Rabin warned that Iran-backed Islamic fundamentalism could spill beyond the Arab world, especially to countries with Muslim communities.45 These perceptions were shared by all of Rabin’s successors, although suggestions for a more nuanced policy toward Iran were occasionally raised within the defense community.

Israel’s new strategic partner


At the end of the 1990s, Israel also developed domestic fears about the appeal of Islamic extremism among Israeli Arabs. The Islamic movement in Israel was infiltrated by Hamas elements and even participated in isolated terrorist acts during 1999 to 2001. Moreover, since August 2000, the security services have investigated links to Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Such fears were amplified after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States and the ensuing support for bin Laden among Israeli Arabs and the Palestinians. Indeed, both states supported wholeheartedly the American campaign against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and the attempt to destroy bin Laden’s organization. The Turkish and Israeli leadership are also afraid of the growth of radical influence in pro-Western countries, such as Jordan or Egypt, which might destabilize these regimes. Generally, the two states would like the Turkish model toward modernization and democratization to gain the upper hand among the Muslims in the Middle East and in Central Asia.

The threat of weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles Another issue on the common strategic agenda is the spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their means of delivery, primarily long-range surfaceto-surface missiles (SSMs). The 1991 Iraqi missile attacks on Israel developed a greater awareness than previously of a threat to its population centers. Israel was further sensitized to nuclear proliferation in the area in the 1990s, as the magnitude of the Iraqi nuclear program was disclosed, and as Iran intensified its interest in missile and nuclear technology. Israel has regarded the proliferation of missiles capable of reaching its territory and the WMD technology as an existential threat. Israel became painfully aware that it was increasingly difficult to deal with the new situation unilaterally and turned to allies for assistance. For Turkey this is a relatively new concern. In the early 1990s, Turkish officials still displayed a surprisingly nonchalant attitude on this issue. When asked about the ramifications of a nuclear-armed Iraq or Iran, they typically claimed to be NATO members and beneficiaries of an American umbrella.46 This attitude has since been replaced by a higher-threat perception concerning a WMD attack by Iran or Iraq.47 In May 1997, Defense Minister Tayan noted that the WMD programs of its Middle Eastern neighbors (Iran, Syria and Iraq) ‘threaten regional peace’.48 The higher-threat perception was complemented by a more sober evaluation of the problematic NATO and/or American extended deterrence. Turkey also lacked an SSM capability, hampering its deterrence. In the late 1990s, Turkey felt inadequately equipped versus the growing missile capabilities of its neighbors, particularly in light of its claim to be a regional power. The Turkish and Israeli concerns grew significantly following the Iranian tests of the Shihab-3 long-range SSM (1,300 km) in August 1998 and July 2000. Since the August 1998 collapse of the UN-imposed arms control inspections in


The new strategic partners

Iraq, this country has rebuilt its capability to manufacture chemical and biological weapons. The missile tests conducted in July 2000 indicated a reactivation of the capacity to produce long-range SSMs. Syria purchased from North Korea a Scud-D long-range SSM (700 km), tested in September 2000. These developments reinforced the Turkish interest in cooperating with Israel.49 The Turks believed that Israel could help them build a long-range missile capability and showed an interest in acquiring active defense capabilities against theater missiles, particularly the American–Israeli Arrow anti-ballistic missile. This missile is appealing to Turkey because it is the only operational system available (since 2000). Yet, Washington, which has control over the export of the Arrow technology (as stipulated by its agreement to fund most of its development costs), objected to the sale of the missile to Ankara. Israel and Turkey still hope to convince the United States to allow the deployment of an American-produced Arrow in Turkey.

The newly independent republics The collapse of the Soviet order in Central Asia and the Caucasus allowed for the renewal of their political and cultural links with the Middle East. Indeed, they are considered by Israel and Turkey to be part of their more immediate region. Other Middle Eastern states such as Iran and Saudi Arabia similarly see this area as an extension of the Middle East and therefore a natural arena for their presence. While the expectations for the creation of a Turkish zone of influence in this region failed to materialize, Israelis preferred a greater Turkish presence in Central Asia and the Caucasus rather than that of Iran or Russia. This is why Israel favored the linking of the energy resources from the newly independent states (the Caspian Basin) to Turkey, from Baku in Azerbaijan to the Turkish port of Ceyhan in the Mediterranean, rather than to Russia or Iran. This energy project was seen as strengthening Turkey both politically and economically; preventing Russia from reasserting its hegemony in the Caspian Basin; blocking Iranian influence and detracting from the Gulf’s importance as an energy outlet. Israel also sought to forge close ties with newly independent states that had Muslim populations and secular nationalist governments. The new states see relations with Israel as unaffected by the Arab–Israeli conflict, while easing their access to technology and to the West, Washington in particular.50 If they happened to border its foe – Iran – there was an even greater interest. For example, Israeli friendship for Azerbaijan (allied with Turkey) dovetails with Israel’s deepening relationship with Turkey.

The global prism Israel and Turkey share foremost a strong American orientation in their foreign policy. Moreover, there are similarities in their approach to Europe and they remain suspicious of Russian intentions in their immediate region.

Israel’s new strategic partner


The American orientation For the two countries, the United States remains the most important bilateral partner and the cornerstone of their foreign policy. Basically, they want the United States to be actively engaged in world affairs, with a clear strategic vision of the identity of its friends in a turbulent world. Both regard themselves among America’s best friends, having a long record of support for US policies. While both welcomed the American victory in the Cold War, which brought about improvements in their strategic environment, they share the evaluation that in the new era their role as American allies in the region has been affected negatively. With the Soviet threat no longer palpable in the West, they are less needed for the protection of Western interests. Currently, Turkey and Israel have apprehensions (of uneven intensity) of a reduced US presence in the East Mediterranean, as the Americans focus primarily on the Persian Gulf because of its oil. Moreover, both are afraid that the United States might adopt policies in their region that counter their vital interests. Much distrust existed in Ankara, particularly toward the Clinton Administration’s policy on Iraq, fearing its disintegration and the establishment of a Kurdish state in the north as the result of American pressure. Israel questions the effectiveness of the American counter-proliferation efforts in the Middle East – an issue of paramount importance to Jerusalem. It also resents the American attempts to control its arms sales abroad. Israel and Turkey also see the United States as the only country able to influence Russia, China and North Korea to slow down the export of sensitive technologies to Middle Eastern states in the area of missile development and nuclear weaponry. Thus Turkey and Israel are interested in solidifying the American commitment to their security needs (as they define them) and in upgrading their relations with the United States. Turkey realized that Israel was better positioned in Washington, and hoped that Israel’s influence and particularly its lobby could be harnessed to further Turkish interests, such as arms transfers. In 1996, Turkish ambassador to the United States S¸ükrü Elekdag˘ lauded the Jewish lobby and stated that ‘Whenever this lobby has worked for us, Turkey’s interests have been perfectly protected against the fools in the US’.51 In the 1990s, Turkey’s presidents and foreign ministers added the major American Jewish organizations to the agenda of meetings they conduct in the United States. In the late 1990s, Israel conducted a concerted effort to instruct American Jewry on the strategic significance of Turkey. For example, American-Jewish organizations were induced to add Turkey to the itinerary of many high-level missions regularly sent to Israel. These organizations initiated regular interactions with the Turkish authorities and with the Turkish–Jewish community. In July 1999, an American Jewish Committee official noted that the Jewish-American community has decided over the last two to three years that the relationship between Israel and Turkey, and Turkey’s importance on a host of other issues, requires that it become an active friend of Turkey in the United States, particularly in Congress.52


The new strategic partners

The Israeli lobby helped Turkey in Congress with the campaign against the stationing of Russian-made S-300 SAMs in Cyprus, toning down the criticism of Turkey in Congress over human rights issues, and removing sanctions against Azerbaijan. Jewish organizations also engaged in explaining in the United States the importance of the Baku–Ceyhan oil pipeline. They also demanded US support for Turkey during its period of economic duress. The aid lent in Congress created high expectations in Turkey, which Israel and the American-Jewish organizations have tried to lower, while at the same time encouraging Turkey’s diplomats to become more effective in their relations with Congress and the public at large. From an Israeli perspective, its efforts on behalf of Turkey on Capitol Hill also had a negative side, since the better chances for American arms transfers limited the Turkish incentive to buy from Israel. Ambivalent attitudes toward Europe Both countries complain about West European behavior toward them. Turkey suffered from arms embargoes imposed by European states that have shown sympathy to the Kurdish cause. Turkey has been excluded from the European Security and Defense Initiative (ESDI). The EU accepted Turkey’s candidacy for membership only in December 1999, but negotiations for membership in the EU would take years. Israel also experienced European arms embargoes until as recently as 1994, when the UK removed its twelve-year restrictions on arms deals with Israel. Moreover, Israel feels that the Europeans tilt politically toward Arab positions, particularly on the Palestinian issue, and are not sensitive enough to Israel’s security concerns. The European concepts of behavior during conflict and particularly the attitude toward the use of force are different from those of Turkey and Israel. In the relaxed atmosphere of the post-Cold War era, Europeans tend to believe that most military threats have been eliminated. Therefore, the discrepancy between the traditional notions of national security, still prevalent in Turkey and in Israel, and the contrasting developing concepts of national security in Western Europe, reinforce the gulf in perspectives on international relations in general, and specifically on Middle Eastern developments. European criticism of Turkish and Israeli military actions is often viewed at home as unfair and based on a misunderstanding of regional realities. Moreover, Turkey and Israel view Europe’s reservations toward them as partly culturally rooted and linked to religious differences. In European history and consciousness, Jews and Turks (both non-Christian) have evoked negative reactions, although in different ways; Jews have been for centuries the scapegoat of European society, while European folklore is abundant with fears of Turkish aggression. Both sides have noted this cultural parallel. According to one Israeli approach, Israel benefits from the gulf between Europe and Turkey. The tensions with Europe push Ankara further into the Middle East and reinforce the search for regional allies. The dominant approach

Israel’s new strategic partner


argues, however, that long-term Israeli interests are better served by anchoring Turkey in Europe. Negative European attitudes toward Turkey could weaken those elements bound by the Kemalist modernist pro-Western outlook, strengthening the Pan-Turkic and Islamist sectors of Turkish society that are less keen on preserving Turkey’s pro-Western orientation. Israel has a vital interest in preventing Turkey from becoming embroiled in attempts to have its regime changed by Islamic revolutionaries, as had happened in Iran. Indeed, Israel has favored Turkey’s bid to enter the EU. In 1995, it extended diplomatic assistance to Turkey with the long-awaited Custom Union agreement with the EU. Moreover, Turkey’s entrance into the EU extends Europe eastward and brings it closer to Israel. Persistent suspicions of Russia Ankara and Jerusalem retain serious concerns about residual risks from Russian conduct in their neighborhood, despite the improvement in relations with Moscow in the 1990s. Old suspicions and rivalries over the Caucasus and Central Asia still affect Russian–Turkish relations, as well as conflicts over planned energy routes and Russian arms transfers to Cyprus and Iran.53 Similarly, Israeli–Russian differences are considerable. Israel’s main current concerns primarily revolve around the Russian transfer of sensitive technologies for the development of missiles and WMDs to Iran and Iraq. Turkey is not at ease with the expanded Russian–Iranian strategic cooperation. Generally, Turkey and Israel fear a more assertive Russia in the Middle East and the east Mediterranean. So far, Moscow’s Middle East policy seems to cultivate relations with Syria, Iran and Iraq, which are seen as potential allies in curbing American influence in the region. It is no coincidence that both Israel and Turkey see these countries in a similar light.

Conclusion The many similarities in the strategic outlook of Israel and Turkey in the postCold War regional environment strengthen their bilateral relations. They share similar regional concerns regarding Syria, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the challenge of Islamic radicalism, and the geopolitical destiny of Central Asia. These mutual concerns intensified in the 1990s as a result of the end of the Cold War, which allowed for greater freedom of action of the revisionist states in the region, while Turkey adopted a more assertive foreign policy. At the global level, the two states display a strong pro-American orientation in their foreign policy, have a problematic relationship with Europe and are suspicious of Russian aspirations. The parallels outlined here are clear also to the other players in the region who generally see the entente in strategic terms.

12 The Indian–Israeli entente

India and Israel both represent ancient civilizations and share a British colonial past. They were the first states to become independent (in 1947 and 1948, respectively) in the post-World War II wave of decolonization. Both were born out of messy partitions and have since maintained democratic regimes under adverse conditions. Despite the two states’ similarities, it took more than four decades for them to establish a warm relationship with each other including full diplomatic relations, flourishing bilateral trade and strategic cooperation. The strategic aspect of this relationship – a post-Cold War phenomenon – is the focus of this chapter. The rapprochement between India and Israel is an important component of a new strategic landscape in the greater Middle East that includes Central Asia and parts of the Indian Ocean littoral.

Historic background As part of the Asian continent, Israel has been interested from its inception in good ties with Asian states, China and India in particular. Arab hostility made Israel a regional pariah and forced Jerusalem to look beyond its Arab neighbors in search of friends and markets. The margins of the Middle East – Turkey, Iran and Ethiopia – were the primary targets of its periphery doctrine1 but it paid significant attention to Asian states, too. For a while it was quite successful, depicted by its relationship with Burma (Myanmar). Generally, though, making inroads eastward was not easy, given that Asian societies perceived Israel as a largely Western phenomenon and were culturally disparate from Jewish society. India recognized Israel in September 1950, but did not establish full diplomatic relations, allowing only the opening of a consulate in Bombay in 1953. Most of the leadership within India’s then-ruling Congress Party linked the Zionist enterprise to Western colonialism. Israel was even less acceptable to it for having been established out of the partition of Palestine, an unacceptable idea in the Indian context. Moreover, Muslims tended to support the Arab cause, and the Indian government was loath to estrange its Muslim minority. Israel, which courted a non-aligned foreign policy in its early years, was keen to improve relations with New Delhi, one of the Nonaligned Movement (NAM) leaders, but with little success.2 Pressures from the Arab bloc dissuaded India

The Indian–Israeli entente


from accepting Israel’s overtures and led to NAM’s adopting an anti-Israeli policy. Israel’s gradual identification as an American ally during the 1960s further hindered good relations with India, which was highly suspicious of American foreign policy. The limited military assistance Israel rendered to India in its 1962 confrontation with China and the Indo-Pakistani wars (1965, 1971), as well as low-key cooperation between their intelligence services over the years, elicited no change in New Delhi’s approach to the Jewish state. Even the 1979 Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel made no dent in the formal hostility displayed by the Indian political elite against Israel. From 1982 to 1988, India did not even allow full consular relations.3 India’s change in attitude toward Israel took place with the end of the Cold War in 1991. As India reassessed its foreign policy in view of the fall of the Soviet Union – its ally during most of the Cold War – from superpower status, it also reconsidered its relations with Israel, weighing the diplomatic benefits it had derived from downgrading relations with Israel and maintaining a pro-Arab voting record at the UN against the possible benefits to be accrued by becoming closer to Jerusalem, given Israel’s significant role in the Middle East.4 India’s domestic politics also played a role. The Congress Party lost the 1989 elections and did not form a coalition government until after the June 1991 national elections. The ascendance of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Indian political system removed some hesitations about Israel. To the BJP, with its nationalist, Hindu outlook, the Jewish state was not so much a diplomatic burden as a potential ally against Pakistan and radical Islam. Indeed, the BJP convention of October 1991 introduced a clause calling for full relations with Israel. Finally, the economic liberalization initiated by Prime Minister Narasima Rao, which depended heavily on economic and technological interactions with the West, also argued for normalization. Israel was part of the new globalized economy India wished to join.5 Several factors that had inhibited upgrading relations with Israel had also disappeared. First, changes in the energy sector had lessened the political leverage of the Arab oil-producing states. Already by the end of the 1980s, fears of energy crises had subsided substantially. As the oil market became a buyers’ market, the weight of Arab objections to the enhancement of relations with Israel diminished. Second, the Arab–Israeli peace process, reactivated with great fanfare by the United States following the 1991 Gulf War, further marginalized the objections of Israel’s regional enemies to ties of third parties with Jerusalem. The October 1991 peace conference in Madrid, to which almost all Arab countries sent senior diplomatic delegations, served as an opportunity for hitherto reluctant states to develop a closer relationship with Israel. India signaled to Israel its willingness to gradually upgrade its relations, but Israel rejected incremental steps, insisting on full diplomatic relations before India could participate in the multilateral framework initiated at Madrid. New Delhi had many interests in the Middle East (oil, foreign workers, radical Islam)


The new strategic partners

and was highly interested in the multilateral track initiated at Madrid, particularly in arms control and regional security. An official announcement of full diplomatic relations came on 29 January 1992, specifically linked to Prime Minister Rao’s upcoming visit to the United States. India was not the only country to warm toward Israel. Russia, China and Turkey also capitalized on the changed circumstances to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel. Other Asian states, such as Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, renewed their diplomatic ties with Jerusalem during that period. India did not want to lag behind China, which had been gradually improving its relations with Israel since the 1980s. The upgrading of relations was therefore part of a larger, global post-Cold War phenomenon of wanting to normalize relations with an increasingly important international actor which possessed advanced technologies and excellent relations with Washington. Israel took the opportunity to improve relations with countries once in the Soviet orbit (Eastern Europe and Central Asia) and many others previously reluctant to have full-fledged relations with Jerusalem. A stream of reciprocal visits by senior officials attempted to give specific content to the relationship. Israeli President Ezer Weizman’s visit to India in December 1996 signaled the new bilateral warmth. The two states signed various trade agreements and initiated joint agricultural and industrial projects. Direct airline connections were established. By 2002, bilateral trade reached $1.5 billion, seven times larger than the 1992 volume ($202 million). India became Israel’s second largest trading partner in Asia, after Hong Kong. Cultural contacts intensified, with none of the backlash feared from India’s Muslim community. By the late 1990s the two countries had discovered their common outlooks on disputes in their regions, as well as a common strategic agenda.6 The American decision of January 1999 to lift the sanctions it imposed following India’s May 1998 nuclear tests removed a serious obstacle in Jerusalem’s relations with New Delhi, paving the way for achieving even closer ties. September 11 and the War on Terror appeared to create a climate even more conducive to Indo-Israeli collaboration. This closeness was reflected in the historic September 2003 visit of Ariel Sharon to India, the first ever by an Israeli prime minister. The high-profile visit was an opportunity to enhance each other’s understanding at the highest levels and to further promote bilateral defense and trade ties.7

Outlook on regional disputes Both India and Israel have engaged in protracted conflict and waged several major wars against their neighbors: India against China and Pakistan, and Israel against Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Both are continuously challenged by low-intensity conflict and terror, and both have rivals who possess WMDs. India, like Israel, feels beleaguered in its own region. It fears that Pakistan seeks its disintegration and is attempting to engage it in a proxy war by supporting Muslim-separatist terrorism. Furthermore, despite adroit diplomacy to

The Indian–Israeli entente


reduce Sino-Indian tensions, most of the Indian strategic community believes that China’s massive economic progress has threatening national security dimensions.8 Israel’s strategic situation has improved considerably over the past two decades, with the Arab–Israeli peace process and favorable changes in the international system, particularly the emergence of the United States, its long-time supporter, as the hegemonic world power. Nevertheless, its existential fears have not been lessened by the pursuit of WMDs by some of its foes – Iraq (until the 2003 American takeover), Iran, Libya and Syria. Within their respective regions the two states are involved in protracted conflict characterized by complex ethnic and religious components. Both feel that the international community fails to understand their conflicts. New Delhi has seen international pressure on Islamabad to act more determinately against terrorism give way to pressure on New Delhi to make it more worth Pakistan’s while to end terrorism.9 Israelis feel that the burden is on them to make concessions to the Palestinian leadership, under the problematic assumption that the latter must be able to demonstrate achievements to its constituency in order to muster support for ending the violence. Both India and Israel take the position that they will not negotiate as long as their rivals support terrorism, a position that other nations often view as unnecessarily hard. The threat to the two nations is the same: radical offshoots of Islam in the greater Middle East. India regards Saudi Arabia in particular as a hub for Islamic extremism and is wary of the Saudi–Pakistani relationship. For Israel, Islamic radicals in the Arab world and Iran constitute a constant security challenge. The combination of Iran’s hatred and its nuclear potential constitute a clear threat to Israel, in the same way as Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, which could fall into the hands of Islamic radicals, does to India. This explains both states’ support for the development of anti-ballistic missile defense systems. Israel’s remarkable success in deploying the Arrow-2 missile (mostly funded by the United States), along with its advanced research in military technologies, has aroused keen interest in India. India and Israel fear that the Kashmir and Palestinian conflicts could destabilize their regions in a way that would attract unwanted external intervention. Both want the United States in particular to confine itself to the role of mediator in the disputes. To that end, India continues to work with the United States to defuse regional tensions.10 For example, American diplomacy backed by the Indian military persuaded Islamabad to draw back from the 1998 Kargil confrontation and helped reduce tensions in 2002. The two states differ, however, in their global orientations. When the Soviet Union collapsed, India lost its main source of diplomatic support and military technology. Despite the recent improvement of its relations with Washington, New Delhi still prefers a multipolar world in which it can have greater latitude and perhaps play a larger role in international affairs. In contrast, for Israel, the demise of the Soviet Union, an ally of its Arab enemies, was a clear bonus, and American hegemony suits its needs. The United States is the great power most


The new strategic partners

supportive of its positions and most sensitive to Israeli needs in formulating its Middle East policies. Moreover, the existential dangers to Israel did not disappear in the post-Cold War world, and any rising competitor of Washington (e.g. China) is likely to take the Arab side.

The common strategic agenda Defense ties The Indian defense establishment has always been less hostile toward Israel than the Indian government has been. In following Israel’s achievements on the battlefield and in weapons production over the years, the military developed a professional appreciation of Israel’s strategic predicament and military performance. India gradually overcame its inhibitions and engaged in security cooperation with Israel. In March 1995, Israel’s air force commander paid an official visit to India, and his Indian counterpart reciprocated in 1996. Abdul Kalam, at that time Chief of the Indian Defense Research and Development Organization, also made a visit that year. In April 1997 New Delhi sent its first military attaché, marking a new era in the bilateral relationship. Home Minister Krishna Advani said during a well-publicized June 2000 visit to Israel that he aimed for strengthened cooperation in all fields. Yet the evolving relationship is definitely not a military alliance. Neither side wants to be drawn into the regional conflict of the other. Both emphasize that their defense ties are meant only to enhance national self-defense capabilities and stability and are not directed against any third party. Israel does not want to be seen as Pakistan’s enemy,11 and it displays considerable caution in its relations with China. Likewise, India has both political and economic interests in the Arab world, a history of supporting the Palestinians, and a growing Indian diaspora in the Gulf. Its views on Iran, Pakistan’s neighbor, differ from Israel’s. Nevertheless, there are significant overlapping concerns and areas for potential cooperation. Defense ties include weapon procurement, plans for co-producing military equipment, and cooperation in counter-terrorism and low-intensity conflict. Recently, the two states have also developed ties in the area of space activities. Arms and technology transfers India’s quest for the latest military technologies complements Israel’s need to broaden the market for its military products. India’s key indigenous defense projects, such as the Arjoun main battle tank and the light combat aircraft, have incurred significant cost and time overruns. New Delhi encountered difficulties in developing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and various missiles, and with Russia unable to deliver promised weapons on budget and on schedule, it turned to Israel, which has become New Delhi’s second-largest defense supplier after Russia, with France ranking third.

The Indian–Israeli entente


Israeli companies are helping India to upgrade some of its aging Soviet platforms. Israel has developed an excellent record over the years in retrofitting old military equipment of all kinds and sources, and when it comes to Russian equipment it has the advantage of Soviet immigrants who worked as technicians and engineers in the Soviet military industry. While Israeli firms lost out to the Russians in their bid to upgrade India’s Russian-made MiG-21s in 1996, they secured several contracts to supply avionics for the upgraded version. Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) has signed several large contracts with the Indian Air Force (IAF) for projects that include fitting its MiG-21 ground-attack aircraft with laser-guided bombs. Negotiations are reportedly in advanced stages for Israel to provide state-of-the-art fire-control systems and thermal imagers for the Indian Army’s Russian-made T-72 tank fleet, as well as upgrading its armor.12 Israel’s Soltam Systems won the contract to upgrade Soviet 133 mm artillery pieces and is a candidate for upgrading the L-60 anti-aircraft guns for the army. In 1996, India purchased from Israel a sophisticated Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation system, which was installed at the Jamnagar air base. At the end of that year, the IAI’s Ramta Division was awarded $10 million to build two Dvora MK-2 patrol boats in India. In addition, Tadiran Communications, an Israeli company specializing in military communications, is providing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of equipment to New Delhi. Soltam has announced that it will supply tens of millions of dollars worth of artillery (155 mm selfpropelled guns) to the Indian army.13 India’s indigenous efforts to produce UAVs for attack and reconnaissance missions have yielded poor results. In 2001 its defense ministry signed a fixedprice deal with IAI at $7.2 million per UAV. India’s armed forces will need some 100 tactical UAVs in the next five years, in addition to 200 UAVs for lowand high-altitude operations. The 1999 Kargil border conflict highlighted the need for these, because the intrusions could have been spotted earlier if India had had the pilotless spy planes. In the absence of airborne warning-and-controlsystem aircraft, the Indian navy too has relied on UAVs. During 2003 India signed a $130 million contract with IAI for eighteen Heron UAVs; orders for sixteen additional UAVs are expected. IAI and India’s state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) have set up a division in Hyderabad for maintenance and other services.14 After canceling the development of the Trishul anti-missile system in January 2003, India decided to mount the Israeli Barak anti-missile system on ten of its warships. Its navy has mounted seven surface-to-air Barak systems – intended to protect ships against aircraft and stealthy, supersonic sea-skimming missiles – on its warships. A $40 million deal was signed in April for an additional Barak system; another two will be procured by year-end; and ten more over the next five to seven years, bringing the total to twenty.15 In 2003, India’s defense forces submitted a draft proposal to buy $1.5 billion worth of radar systems, which the Indian Ministry of Defense considered favorably. This proposal is separate from the ABM radar systems (such as Arrow-2, Phalcon and Green Pine) that India is already negotiating to buy from Israel.


The new strategic partners

State-owned Bharat Electronics Ltd of India has offered its radar systems, but a senior Indian army official said that these radars are inferior to the overseas manufacturers’ products. Israeli firms such as IAI and Elbit have bid on this project. El-Op has offered to supply transportable radar systems, and IAI subsidiary Elta has also shown interest in this market.16 IAI is also pitching its products to meet the Indian navy’s and air force’s command-and-control requirements and eyeing the contract to upgrade more than 200 MiG-27 aircraft with situation-awareness systems. India renewed its efforts to procure effective air defenses following Pakistan’s 1998 nuclear tests. It has approached Israel on the subject of the airborne Phalcon radar, to be mounted on the Russian-built IL-76 transport aircraft; the long-range Green Pine radar, which is able to identify the launch of missiles at great distances; and the Arrow-2 ABM system. The Phalcon and the Arrow-2, a US–Israeli joint-development system, require American approval, which was granted for Phalcon in May 2003 but is still pending for the Arrow-2. According to Indian defense analysts, the success of US forces fighting Russian-made Iraqi weaponry made Indian military planners think twice about depending heavily on Russia. This means that India is likely to be more interested in Western equipment, including Israeli-made weapon systems. Moreover, according to an Indian Ministry of Defense official, military planners have asked the government to buy electronic warfare equipment only from vendors that do not sell such equipment to Muslim countries.17 This often gives Israel an advantage over American and French competitors. Co-production Co-production plays to Israeli firms’ research and design strength and Indian firms’ manufacturing strength. IAI and HAL already cooperate on several upgrade programs for the IAF involving Russian-origin platforms. Nalini Rajanti Mohanti, Chairman of HAL, cited joint Indian-Israeli upgrades of MiG27 as a prime example of such co-production.18 In September 2002, HAL and IAI reached an agreement to jointly produce an Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH). The ALH is designed for attack, intelligence gathering, and anti-tank and anti-submarine operations. The first customer will be the Indian army, which is expected to order more than 300 ALHs. The state-owned Ordnance Factory Board is in advanced stages of talks with Israel Military Industries (IMI) for joint defense projects that would involve the production of Israeli-designed 130 mm and 155 mm cargo projectiles, 122 mm Grad cargo projectiles, 125 mm advanced tank ammunition and 122 cargo mortars. Similar agreements on technology transfer were reached for the production of artillery. RAFAEL, Israel’s weapon development authority, will provide the technology to produce in India the Spike anti-armor and the Python-4 air-to-air missiles.19 In February 2003, IAI and India’s Mumbai-based NELCO signed an agreement to develop, manufacture and market a range of electronic products, primarily to the Indian Defense Forces.20

The Indian–Israeli entente


Low intensity (terror and penetration) Already in February 1992, Indian Defense Minister Sharad Pawar acknowledged Indo-Israeli cooperation on counter-terrorism. Both states have a long history in counter-terrorism activities. Their cooperation in this area, conducted out of public view, involves the exchange of information on terrorist groups, their finances, recruitment patterns, training and operations, as well as comparing national doctrines and operational experience.21 After 9/11, cooperation on terrorism gained a higher priority on many countries’ strategic agendas, and the West better appreciated India and Israel’s terrorism concerns. Israel and India learn from each other on border security. Facing the challenge of Muslim fundamentalist terrorism springing from camps inside Pakistan, the Indian military aims to develop the ability to quickly deploy troops inside enemy lines for specific missions. New Delhi is also considering the establishment of a 30,000-troop rapid mobility force under the army, reportedly training it at Israeli bases. Israel’s Defense Ministry Director-General Amos Yaron has denied this, but announced on a related issue that the Indian army will be buying Israel’s Tavor assault rifles, making India the first country to buy thousands. India recently concluded a $30 million agreement with IMI for 3,400 Tavor assault rifles, 200 Galil sniper rifles, as well as laser range-finding and targeting equipment.22 As India strives to close its borders to terrorist infiltration, it needs good border-monitoring equipment of the type Israel has developed over the years to meet its own infiltration challenges. Israel has also supplied India with portable battlefield radar and a wide assortment of human-movement-detecting sensors, handheld thermals and night-vision equipment to the Indian armed forces.23 Space ventures The space agencies of the two countries signed a cooperation agreement in November 2002. While the space programs are nominally civilian, they have clear military functions. Israel’s Defense Ministry has solicited investors for its military space program, which is based on a constellation of small, relatively inexpensive, multi-mission satellites that can be launched on demand from fighter planes. When visiting Israel in August 2003, Krishnaswami Kasturirangan, Chairman of the India Space Research Organization, expressed interest in the Israeli concept of small satellites and their employment, adding, ‘Israel has much to offer in terms of cooperative programs for the future.’24 The Israeli Ofeq spy satellite had attracted Indian attention even before this visit.25 Radical Islam Mutual fear of radical Islam, both at home and in their immediate neighborhoods, has cemented Indo–Israeli ties. For India, the 1979 Shi’a revolution in Iran lent legitimacy to the Islamization efforts of General Zia Ul Haq, who took


The new strategic partners

over Pakistan in 1977. It was his regime and developments in Afghanistan that energized the radical Muslims in India’s region. Pakistan has encouraged the activities of extremists when doing so suited its foreign policy goals in Afghanistan and India. While Pakistan’s secular military still calls the shots, the country is gradually becoming radicalized and indeed has the potential for being taken over by radical Islamic rule.26 Although Pakistan is relatively far away, Israel observes the developments there with great concern, especially since Pakistan is a nuclear state. Intelligence reports indicate that Pakistan is the origin of the technology for the centrifuges at the Ispahan uranium enrichment complex in Iran.27 An Islamic regime in Islamabad could give credence to the notion of an Islamic bomb – a tormenting scenario for Israel. India and Israel also share fears of Saudi Arabia and its role in the spread of Islamic fundamentalism. The Saudi royal family finances many Muslim extremist activities, including attacks against Israeli and Indian targets.28 Israel also wants to reduce the international leverage of Saudi Arabia, whose positions are inimical to Israeli interests. It is active in encouraging Washington to exert greater pressure on Riyadh to cease financing organizations such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The Islamic Republic of Iran became Israel’s arch-enemy in the 1990s. With its inflammatory rhetoric and missile and WMD programs, Israel now fears it more than ever. Indeed, for Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Islamic Iran, which was acquiring a nuclear capability and sponsoring terrorism, replaced Iraq as the major enemy in the 1990s.29 By the end of 1999, Iran reached an advanced stage in the development of the surface-to-surface Shahab-3 missile. The twostage missile, tested first in July 1998, was based on the North Korean Nodong, with Russian contractors upgrading its design and subsystems. Its 1,300 km range puts Israel into its striking distance. In July 2003, following a successful test, Iran announced its operational deployment.30 In countering Islamic radicalism, both states developed an interest in Turkey, an alternative model for the Muslim world. Turkey is a secular state facing indigenous and external Muslim radicalism. In the 1990s Turkey and Israel developed a strategic partnership based on a complex set of common regional interests. Turkey was late to respond to Indian overtures due to its historic relations with Pakistan and the growing influence of Islamic circles at home, but the War on Terror, a crucial issue for both states, put the two on the same side of the political fence. They established a joint working group for combating terrorism in September 2003, as a prelude to the visit of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Turkey in the same month. Israel played a minor role in bringing Ankara and New Delhi closer. India and Israel both have Muslim minorities that they fear could become fifth columns. India’s Muslim minority numbers some 140 million, the second largest Muslim community in the world (after Indonesia). Part of this community is well integrated into Indian society, but the rest could potentially be radicalized. Israel’s one million Arabs constitute almost 20 percent of its population.

The Indian–Israeli entente


While most of them are law-abiding citizens, Israel is very worried about the growing appeal of Muslim organizations among them and their links to their Palestinian counterparts. In recent years, it has also witnessed a significant increase in the number of Israeli-Arabs involved in terrorist activities. Indian Ocean The Indian–Israeli nexus has various Indian Ocean implications. It goes without saying that India is an important international actor in the Indian Ocean. In recent years, however, the Indian Ocean has become an area of growing interest for Israel. Historically, Israel has seen the Indian Ocean as the transit route to countries in the East, particularly because it could not use land routes, which were blocked by hostile Arab neighbors. Jerusalem was especially interested in one of the Indian Ocean choke points, the Bab El Mandeb straits, through which all its exports to South and East Asia pass. Israel’s past attempts to establish a military presence in Ethiopia, and, afterwards in Eritrea (following its secession), were made with the straits in mind. Kenya and South Africa, also on the Indian Ocean littoral, have similarly attracted Israel’s attention. Israel successfully established a presence in Oman in the late 1960s, supporting Sultan Qabus’ counter-insurgency efforts in the Dhofar province (at that time Israel and Iran still cooperated in many areas). Oman reciprocated by being almost the only Arab country (the other was Sudan) to support Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s 1977 peace initiative. The 1991 Madrid conference improved already good relations. Israel’s main strategic concern following the removal of Saddam Hussein in 2003 is Iran, along the shores of the Indian Ocean. It has accordingly increased its strategic reach by air and sea. Beginning early in the 1990s Israel developed the capability to project long-distance (greater than 1500 km) air and naval power, procuring from the United States long-range F-15Is and F-16s. The 1999 F-16 deal alone, which included fifty aircraft, mission equipment and a support package, was worth about $2.5 billion. The purchase agreement left open the option for sixty additional aircraft, and Israel is now expanding its air refueling options.31 To parallel its air power, Israel built an ocean-going navy. Israeli Saar-5 corvettes, which are able to stay at sea for long periods of time, have been seen in the Indian Ocean. The three new Israeli submarines are equipped with long-range cruise missile-launching capability. One such missile was tested in the Indian Ocean, generating reports about Indian–Israeli naval cooperation.32 India is not averse to a greater Israeli presence in the Indian Ocean. Indeed, Israel has plans to triple its submarine force and to build additional Saar-5 corvettes. Generally, the Israeli strategic community is increasingly interested in the sea, both to provide depth and for the deployment of a submarine-based nuclear second-strike force.33 Pakistan’s burgeoning missile and nuclear weapon technologies are of concern not only to India, but also to Israel. Indian strategists stress in dialogues with their Israeli counterparts that Pakistan seeks to become a supplier


The new strategic partners

of intermediate-range missiles for such countries as Iran, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Syria, with the Saudis playing a major role in financing such deals. K. Santhanam, Director of the Indian Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses, stated at an Indo-Israeli strategic dialogue that ‘Pakistan will sell missiles to Middle East states through fronts’ and that ‘Syria is interested in obtaining the Ghauri missile’.34 Israeli fears focus primarily on the seepage of nuclear technologies, with governmental authorization or as a rogue operation, to the Arab world and Iran. Pakistan is equally concerned by Israel’s capabilities and its military relations with India, which probably serve as a catalyst for intensifying the intra-Pakistani debate over having relations with Israel. President Pervez Musharraf has made several calls for public discussion of establishing diplomatic relations with Israel, noting that other Arab and Muslim countries have done so.35 Musharraf has sent such signals to Israel. The Jewish state, with no end in sight to its conflict with the Palestinians, is equally interested in normalizing its relations with important Muslim states. Cordial relations with a populous Muslim country such as Pakistan or Indonesia could, like the improved Israeli–Turkish relations, help dilute the Islamic dimension in the Arab–Israeli conflict. Central Asia India has long-standing strategic and cultural links to energy-rich and newly accessible Central Asia.36 Nowadays it describes this region as its ‘extended strategic neighborhood’, where it jockeys with rivals China and Pakistan for influence.37 Israel is interested in this new part of the ‘greater Middle East’. Like India, Israel sells military equipment to Central Asian states and has a modest diplomatic and business presence there. Both Israel and India aim to limit the influence of Iran and Saudi Arabia, the agents for radical Islamization. They prefer the presence of secular Turkey and hope the Central Asian states will emulate the Turkish model rather than the Iranian. Both states also want the flow of oil and gas there to be unimpeded by instability. While there may be differences over the direction of planned pipelines, India and Israel are in agreement as to the desirability of low energy prices. India’s economy needs it, while in Israel’s political assessment, low prices reduce the influence of the Arab world. The Washington dimension New Delhi continues to suspect Washington of being a false friend because of its continued cordiality with Pakistan and China. The nascent American–Indian relationship, particularly after 9/11, has not been enough to bring India into the American fold.38 New Delhi’s links with Jerusalem have the potential to smooth over some of the Indo-US issues. As noted above, New Delhi believed that upgrading its relations with Jerusalem would have a positive effect on the United States’ disposition toward it. The power of America’s Jewish lobby is often exaggerated, but the lobby is

The Indian–Israeli entente


quite effective. It did not take too much convincing to bring it on to India’s side in the 1990s. The American–Jewish organizations were politically astute enough to understand India’s importance to the United States and Israel and the potential advantages of nurturing good relations with the Indian community in America. Cooperation between the two diasporas has the potential to magnify the voices of two communities that are small in number – about 5.2 million Jews and 1.8 million Indians – but highly educated, affluent, and attached to democratic homelands facing what is increasingly viewed as a common enemy. American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the American Jewish Committee, the Jewish Institute on National Security Affairs and the American Jewish Congress nourish ties with India and with the Indian lobby in Washington. Many members of the US–India Political Action Committee, which was formed only in September 2002, are blunt about their desire to emulate American–Jewish groups and are interested in building a long-term relationship. The two lobbies’ relationship is excellent. They are working together on a number of domestic and foreign affairs issues, such as hate crimes, immigration, anti-terrorism legislation, and backing pro-Israel and pro-India candidates. The Jewish–Indian alliance worked together to gain the Bush Administration’s approval for Israel’s sale of the four Phalcon early-warning radar planes to India. Moreover, in July 2003 they were successful in adding to a US aid package for Pakistan an amendment calling on Islamabad to stop Islamic militants crossing into India and to prevent the spread of WMDs.39 Indo-Israeli cooperation on weapon procurement is useful, first, to overcome American hesitations in approving sales of sophisticated equipment to India, not only equipment made in Israel but also US-made equipment such as advanced Patriot missiles. Notably, Washington blocked the sale of Israeli Phalcons to China. Second, India is interested in preventing Pakistan from procuring the latest American military equipment, especially aircraft. Third, India, as well as Israel, is interested in military technology transfer from the United States. While a greater American involvement in the Indian arms buildup could be at the expense of Israeli products and technology, there are enough overlapping interests to maintain collaboration. Another area of Indian–Israeli congruence is US-sponsored international arms control regimes. Both states resisted American pressures to comply with the NonProliferation Treaty (NPT), which is viewed in both capitals as flawed and ineffective. India does not adhere to the 1987 Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and has defied the United States on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) signed in 1996 and the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT). Israel, more vulnerable to American pressures, was ready to experiment with US-backed international arms control regimes, notwithstanding its traditional suspicion of arms control efforts and international institutions. In 1991 it accepted the MTCR, and in 1992 it signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, on which ratification is still pending. Israel also took seriously the Arms Control and Regional Security multilateral talks of 1991 to 1996 and indicated willingness to adhere to a CTBT, which was put on the international arms control


The new strategic partners

agenda in 1993. In 1998, the Israeli government even agreed to move on the FMCT. Israel refused, however, to sign the NPT, and in 1995, when this treaty was extended, the United States tacitly accepted Israel’s claim for being an exception. Israel was able to do all this without compromising its vital interests, but clearly, after flirting with arms control, Israel has again become suspicious of US attempts to bring it under the umbrella of international regimes. Israel and India were relieved when the Bush Administration reversed some of the United States’ arms control fervor. This shift could also alleviate restrictions on missile exports and facilitate the sale of US ABM systems, including the Boeing-produced Arrow-2, to India, Turkey and/or South Korea. A trilateral alliance could result from the new US–Indian–Israeli convergence on strategic issues such as counter-terrorism, missile defense and pre-emption. On an official visit to the United States in May 2003, India’s National Security Adviser, Brajesh Mishra, specifically proposed an anti-terrorism alliance between the three nations.40 ‘Such an alliance would have the political will and moral authority to take bold decisions in extreme cases of terrorist provocation’, Mishra said in an address to the American-Jewish community in Washington. As to US support for this, the outgoing US ambassador to India, Robert Blackwill, often clashed with Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca in his support for Indian–US defense relations and the inclusion of Israel in a strategic triad. If the United States warms to the idea, this trilateral relationship might become attractive to India and Israel as well, if it is well defined.

Conclusion The links between Jerusalem and New Delhi seem to be stable beyond an ephemeral convergence of their interests as sellers and buyers in the arms bazaar. Civilian trade has been booming. Opening up to the huge market in India, which is expected to become a trillion-dollar economy by 2010, has had many economic benefits for Israel. The relationship is similarly beneficial in military and economic terms for India. It seems that both states have found the right approach to putting the bilateral relationship on track and overcoming the potential for discord. As long as these countries continue to face serious national security challenges, the strategic focus of both capitals can only consolidate Indian–Israeli relations. The relationship has wide geostrategic implications beyond the strength it gives these two regional powers. It solidifies the Arab nations’ reluctant acceptance of Israel as a fait accompli and enhances the deterrence capability of India, a status quo power, and therefore stability in South Asia. The diplomatic traffic generated by this relationship also strengthens the links among West, Central and South Asia, giving greater credence to the notion of the Greater Middle East. Indian–Israeli cooperation is also valuable in the US-led War on Terrorism. This is an important reason for Washington to lend support to the Jerusalem–New Delhi entente, similar to the American involvement in Israeli–Turkish relations,

The Indian–Israeli entente


while allaying as much as possible Pakistani fears. Washington has good grounds to encourage Indian–Israeli cooperation, as its own interests in the Indian Ocean will likely grow. The Indian Ocean has gained in geopolitical importance as a number of issues, including WMD, Islamic radicalism, terrorism and narc-trafficking, meet on its littoral. In addition, Washington should capitalize on the Indian–Israeli entente to promote closer cooperation among the Asian democracies, which face comparable security challenges – terrorism, ballistic missiles and WMD – from US rivals. Turkey, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea are prime potential additions to Israel and India in such a comprehensive security architecture.

Part VI

The twenty-first-century challenges

13 Israel’s Palestinian challenge

Israel’s strategic environment improved after the end of the Cold War1 as its international status was enhanced considerably, and the historic process of reluctant acceptance of Israel as a fait accompli within the Arab world continued.2 While the chances for a large-scale conventional confrontation were greatly reduced, two clear security challenges remained at the beginning of the twenty-first century: the nuclear threat from Iran and the low-intensity conflict (LIC) with Hizballah and the Palestinians. The repercussions of Iran becoming a nuclear power and the ways to address this existential threat, as well as the Lebanese theater are addressed in the following chapters. This chapter focuses on the Palestinian challenge. First, it discusses the dim future of the Palestinian Authority (PA), subsequently the nature of the threat it poses, particularly after the electoral victory of Islamic Hamas in January 2006, and ends by examining Israel’s options in dealing with challenges emanating from a Hamas-ruled PA. The chapter is skeptical of the dominant two-state paradigm and advocates the adoption of an open-ended conflict management strategy.

The future of the Palestinian entity All past attempts to solve the conflict between the Zionist and the Palestinian national movements have failed. Yitzhak Rabin’s government overcame the long-time Israeli reluctance to deal with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), and in September 1993 signed the Oslo agreement that led to a repartition of the Land of Israel and the establishment of PA control over most of Gaza and the West Bank, leaving its borders to be negotiated at a later stage. A de facto Palestinian state was established.3 In the year 2000, at the Camp David Summit and the ensuing Taba talks, Ehud Barak’s government offered generous concessions to the Palestinians in an attempt to end the conflict.4 Yet Yasser Arafat refused to reach a historic compromise with the Zionist movement and bring the conflict to a conclusion.5 Instead, he allowed the Palestinians to engage in a terrorist campaign against the Jewish state, violating the basic commitment he made to Rabin in the Oslo agreements to desist from violence. Moreover, given the opportunity of self-rule in 1993, Arafat and the PLO established an inefficient, lawless and authoritarian political system. Arafat’s PA


The twenty-first-century challenges

was a corrupt, Byzantine entity in which he ruled by divide-and-conquer tactics, allowing competition between leaders and even militias, which left him as the ultimate arbiter and dispenser of jobs and remuneration. This decentralized system eventually degenerated into chaos and disorder ( fawdah).6 The system’s main failure lies in the area most critical to state-building – a monopoly over the use of force. The existence of many armed militias defied central authority and preserved a fractured Palestinian community. Arafat’s PA emerged as a ‘failed state’, a category that describes states characterized by an absence of monopoly over the use of force, by delivery of only partial justice, an inability to sustain a legal and regulatory climate conducive to private enterprise, open trade and foreign investment, and by difficulties in meeting the basic needs of the population in terms of health, education and other social services.7 Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) succeeded Arafat and was elected in January 2005 to head the PA. A man with far less political standing than Arafat among the Palestinians, he promised to reform the security organs and enforce law and order. Yet, in order to avoid a confrontation, Abbas incorporated elements of the militias into the official security organs. He failed to consolidate the security services or to appoint new and loyal officers. Indeed, the fawdah has continued unabated. Abbas also missed the opportunity to impose law and order in Gaza following Israel’s withdrawal in the summer of 2005. In contrast to the Fatah-led PA, Hamas leadership acquired popularity by providing welfare and education services to the people, and by establishing a reputation for honesty. Moreover, the armed wing of Hamas has been at the forefront of the extremely popular terrorist campaign against Israel.8 As a result, Hamas reaped electoral victories at the municipal level and in the January 2006 elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council. However, it is unlikely that Hamas will succeed in transcending Arafat’s political legacy, and in imposing a consolidation of the militias under a united Palestinian command. The Fatah-linked militias have no intention of disarming or accepting the new authority, and the violent reactions on their part have already been seen. Yet, while the struggle over control of the organs of force may well bring about sporadic bloody confrontations, it will probably not turn into civil war. The Palestinians have so far shied away from internal war, showing restraint and ipso facto favoring the emergence of a fractured and decentralized polity. Moreover, Hamas has exhibited reluctance to serve as the only ruling party, which is reinforced by its military inferiority versus the Fatah armed groups. A full Hamas takeover of the PA is improbable as long as Hamas lacks the military muscle needed to take on the Fatah militias successfully. Indeed, the outcome of the January 2006 elections was a tenuous power-sharing arrangement between Hamas and Fatah. The Fatah-oriented militias, in coalition with President Abbas and the security services that have remained under his control, balance Hamas, which relies on its own armed wing, and control several foci of civilian power. Hamas may well be able to transform its militia into a governmentsponsored security force in order to facilitate access to weapons and funds and

Israel’s Palestinian challenge 193 eventually its expansion. A stronger militia may bring about a greater assertiveness on the part of Hamas, particularly in Gaza, where the Islamists are stronger than Fatah in terms of popular appeal, as well as in military reach. The Fatah–Hamas political cohabitation is an arrangement that will spare the Palestinians some immediate dilemmas. The cohabitation delays the inevitable clash between the competing visions held by the two sides, allowing a political atmosphere preserving a facade of Palestinian unity. Moreover, Fatah representatives will be sent to deal with the West and with Israel, allowing Hamas to remain ideologically pure in its advocacy of the destruction of Israel. Most important, this arrangement may be sufficient to provide donor states with a good enough excuse to continue to transfer funds to the aiddependent PA. Yet the Fatah–Hamas cohabitation preserves the conditions for chaos and disorder in the PA – the existence of myriad armed gangs with loose central control. The PA seems to continue to exhibit the characteristics of a ‘failed state’. Moreover, Hamas is an unlikely candidate for reforming Palestinian society. It is unlikely to serve as a modernizing agent as it represents a fundamentalist position that regards modernity and Western values as dangerous decadence and as an affront to its version of Islam. If Hamas does take full control, initially in Gaza, it will establish a polity in the image of the Taliban regime, which is inimical to a Palestinian journey into modernity. A Hamastan dooms the Palestinians to backwardness, poverty, and easy recruitment of fanatic terrorists. For Israel, the enhanced role of Hamas in the PA means primarily the continuation of the conflict. The growing influence of the Islamists will inevitably harden Palestinian positions toward Israel, making an agreement more difficult to reach. Ideologically, Hamas opposes the recognition of Israel and is committed to its destruction – politicide.9 There is little reason to believe that empowerment of radical Islamists will lead to moderation and acceptance of Israel. Why should Hamas moderate in office, when its ideology is its raison d’être? The Taliban and Iranian regimes did not; neither did those of Saddam Hussein and Hafiz Assad of Syria. The Hamas offer to put in place a long-term hudna (ceasefire) is primarily intended to gain time to consolidate its grip on power and to prevent attempts to undermine its hold on the PA. The real criterion for gauging the intentions of Hamas is not what its leaders say to Israel and to the West, but what they teach their children about the Jews and their state. Typical of Palestinian behavior, conciliatory statements to the Western press are denied in Arabic.10 Even if Hamas is to undergo a process of moderation, it will be gradual and lengthy. Hamas may accept a truce with Israel, but the competition among the Palestinian armed factions will assure the continuation of terrorist attacks. Fatah factions have criticized the willingness of Hamas to adhere to a long-term truce. Moreover, the growing influence of Hamas in the Palestinian education system is particularly destructive. Hamas will do its best to educate additional generations of Palestinians to regard Jews as those who stole their land and attribute to them characteristics taken from the standard crude anti-Semitic

194 The twenty-first-century challenges motifs. The martyr (shaheed ) will continue to serve as the role model for Palestinian children in kindergartens and schools. These messages already form part of the consensus in Palestinian society, which is mesmerized by the use of force, the cult of death, and the violence that has been a central pillar of the modus operandi of the Palestinian national movement.11

The nature of the threat The stark analysis presented above leads to the inescapable conclusion that the ‘peace process’ has probably ended with Hamas catapulted to a leading position in the Palestinian political system. Many will continue to pay lip-service to the ‘peace process’, but efforts for gradual conflict resolution such as the ‘Road Map’ are likely to fail in the near future. An attempt to skip the built-in gradualism of the ‘Road Map’ and to negotiate a comprehensive agreement has even less chance of success due to the unbridgeable differences between the demands of the two parties, and the inability of a Palestinian leadership to implement a negotiated settlement. ‘Failed states’ lack a strategic address able both to negotiate and ‘deliver’. In all probability, the Palestinians will continue to be dissatisfied and to use various degrees of force against Israel. Israel’s population lives beside a generally young, poor and fanatical population, with relatively easy access to weapons and indoctrinated to hate its Jewish neighbors. Nothing Israel can do will spare it the need to deal with extremely hostile neighbors ready to pay a high price for acting on their hatred. Without access to an arsenal typical of a state, including tanks and jet fighters, the Palestinians will continue to opt for an asymmetric strategy, using terrorist attacks against the stronger party in the strategic equation.12 Terrorism is usually the weapon of the weak, and the chaotic situation in the Palestinian territories provides the best circumstances for the existence of myriad armed organizations, each one of them acting according to its agenda. The continuation of the struggle against the Palestinians presents a most serious challenge as it carries the terrible cost of losing Israel legitimacy in the international arena. The isolation of Israel has been an important component of Arab strategy against the Jewish state, and remains so to this day.13 For a small state such as Israel this is a major challenge. Additional threats emanating from the PA are terrorism, regional escalation and international intervention. The erosion of Israel’s legitimacy Despite the greater degree of international acceptance of Israel today, the state’s mere right to exist is still questioned in the Arab and Muslim world. The call by the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmedinijad, in October 2005 for ‘Israel to be wiped off the map’ was not a lone, out-of-character voice in the region. This sentiment is particularly common to the Palestinians, who try to deny the legitimacy not only of Israeli policies, such as the security barrier,

Israel’s Palestinian challenge 195 targeted killings, or Israeli territorial claims in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem, but also of the country’s mere existence. The Palestinians have continuously engaged in denigrating Israel and undermining its international legitimacy, by making effective use of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and international forums where Arab states muster large majorities.14 Comparisons of Israel to Nazi Germany or to the Apartheid regime in South Africa, morally repugnant as they may be, are common motifs in official Palestinian propaganda. Hamas, nowadays the central political force with a majority in the Palestinian Legislative Council and the party forming the government, has refused to recognize Israel. The majority of Palestinians support this position,15 a fact that calls into question the assumption that the Palestinians are ready to coexist peacefully with their Jewish neighbors. Unfortunately for Israel, the Palestinian interpretation of the conflict is gaining increasing credibility in the media, as well as in political and intellectual circles in the West.16 Israeli ‘new historians’, regardless of their poor scholarship,17 also provide ammunition for the Palestinian case. For many, Israel has become the culprit in the Arab–Israeli conflict and the rationale of the Zionist enterprise in building a Jewish state is questioned. While Israel still has strong bastions of public support, public opinion in most Western countries (America is a clear exception) has shifted in the past decades and is critical of Israel, often taking the Palestinian side. A balanced review of the challenges to Israel’s legitimacy is beyond the scope of this chapter, but there is a long-range danger in creating an international consensus that questions the legitimacy of Israel. A new Zeitgeist in regard to Israel, which accepts the position that the State of Israel was born in sin, delegitimizing its behavior and blaming it for all subsequent negative regional repercussions, would make its elimination expedient for Western regional interests, and even morally acceptable. Gaining a pariah status is problematic for a small state.18 Israel, though strong, is a small nation-state and is thus more dependent for its well-being on the vagaries of the international community than are big powers.19 To some extent, the rise of radical Hamas in Palestinian politics makes Israel’s claim, namely that the root problem in the Arab–Israeli conflict is the unjust rejection of Israel’s very existence, rather than the imaginary and true wrongs it has heaped on the Palestinians, easier to present. So far, Western countries have been adamant in demanding of Hamas recognition of Israel, of the agreements it signed with the PA, and its unequivocal renunciation of violence. Yet it would not be surprising were there to be a process of gradual erosion in Western opposition to Hamas. Its first signs can be detected already. Calling for a dialogue, even with bitter enemies, is often seen as a pragmatic approach. This is exactly the approach the Europeans adopted toward Iran – the critical dialogue. Indirectly, such an approach leading to the acceptance of Hamas as an interlocutor actually lends recognition to a regime intent on destroying its neighbor – Israel. Further radicalization of Arab and Muslim societies may push Western states, European ones in particular, into distancing themselves from Israel.


The twenty-first-century challenges

Terrorism Terror is the weapon of the weak and has served as the main modus operandi of Palestinians.20 One of the main problems associated with the 1993 Oslo Accords was the establishment of a territorial base for terrorists operating against Israel within the PA, in close proximity to Israel. The PA-controlled areas, and particularly the cities, became havens for terrorists. The figures for Israeli casualties are very telling. In the fifteen years preceding the Oslo Accords (13 September 1993) only 254 Israelis were killed by Palestinian terrorists. The respective number of casualties for the seven-year period from Oslo until September 2000 (the beginning of the Palestinian War) was 256, while the number for the period from September 2000 until September 2005 was 1,097. During the Palestinian War, suicide bombers were particularly effective. Since March 2005, mostly in response to Israel’s successful counter-terror measures, most Palestinian terrorist organizations have announced a truce (tahadiye), drastically reducing the number of terror attempts against Israel.21 Yet, following the installation of a Hamas government, the competition between the various militias over publicity and support on the Palestinian streets by perpetrating terrorist acts in Israel will continue.22 Even if a Hamas-ruled PA would prefer a low level of terrorist activities for tactical reasons, allowing Hamas to entrench itself in the PA, Hamas leaders have made it crystal clear that they will not hinder activities against ‘occupation’ and will not stop anybody committing acts of ‘legitimate resistance’.23 The reaction of the newly installed Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyah to the first suicide bombing incident that occurred after he had taken office was, ‘This is a natural reaction to the Zionist aggression.’24 This competition between the various militias, operating in an extremely decentralized political system, could bring about a proliferation of terrorist activities. Terror is, after all, a political theater that plays to an audience.25 Competition may well encourage striking at mega targets, such as oil installations, power plants, civilian air transportation (airfields or carriers), or high-rise buildings, which would attract immense publicity. The PA proximity to such mega-targets encourages a counter-value strategy. Several targets of great importance are within the range of improved Qassam or shoulder-fired missiles and attacking them does not even require the crossing of the security barrier constructed by Israel. An improved Qassam capability (currently with a range of 11 km), and/or the smuggling of Katyushas into the PA will also allow the Palestinians to terrorize Israeli towns and cities. The first Katyusha (with a range of over 20 km) was launched from Gaza on 28 March 2006. Additional unilateral Israeli withdrawals in the West Bank, a measure largely supported by Israelis (whose political attitude is beyond the scope of this chapter), would create additional terrorist havens, and would place new and valuable targets within Palestinian range. Unilateral withdrawals mean a partial loss of Israeli military control of territory and of intelligence. Indeed, the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in August 2005 has facilitated the smuggling of dangerous

Israel’s Palestinian challenge 197 weapons into the PA, and has intensified the need for increased vigilance against terrorists and criminals attempting to infiltrate from Palestinian- and Egyptiancontrolled land and waters into Israel.26 The PA’s resemblance to a ‘failed state’ only strengthens its tendency to produce terrorism. Generally, territories where there is no monopoly over the use of force and where law and order collapses produce conditions conducive to terrorist activities. Indeed, concern about states incapable of exercising their sovereignty in an effective manner has grown in the West, with increasing fears about terrorism, weapons proliferation and pandemics.27 Regional escalation Since the Palestinians have always been aware of their relative weakness vis-àvis Israel, they have sought to enlist the Arab states’ help in armed conflict. One goal of Palestinian strategy has been to provoke Israel into harsh military reactions that would generate a crisis, forcing some Arab governments to take military action. This component in Palestinian strategic thinking was termed ‘the detonation theory’ during the 1960s.28 Such a strategy was partially successful in triggering the June 1967 War, but the 1987 Intifada and the Palestinian terrorist campaign since 2000 failed to elicit a military reaction from Israel’s Arab neighbors. While Egypt and Jordan showed much caution and refused to annul their peace agreements with Israel and take military action, the Palestinian war clearly brought about a deterioration, at least at the formal diplomatic level, in relations with Israel. Similarly, other Arab states in the Maghreb and in the Persian Gulf lowered their level of contact with Israel, in some cases even removing their diplomatic missions from Israel. The Palestinian hope was for more substantial anti-Israeli steps. A further escalation in Palestinian violence against Israel might lead Israel to respond more harshly, which could again serve as a catalyst for international criticism. Realizing that Israel’s acceptance in the region is not necessarily a one-way historic process, Palestinian intransigence keeps the Palestinian problem festering on the Arab agenda, which under certain regional and international circumstances could unleash a regional escalation. Palestinians still entertain notions that provoking Israel to take tough measures might eventually elicit an international crisis with regional ramifications leading to greater involvement in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict of the states in the region. In addition, a Hamas-ruled PA is more susceptible to radical Islamic elements. Al Qaeda has already established a presence in Gaza and the West Bank that could become a launching pad for attacks on Israel, as well as on Egypt and Jordan – two pro-Western states. In addition to such claims by Israeli intelligence sources, Abbas, Chairman of the PA, has confirmed this development.29 Similarly, one can see a Hizballah influence in the Palestinian territories, and one can also expect a much greater Iranian presence, particularly if Tehran becomes the main financial backer of the Hamas government. There is a danger that what has basically been a national terror campaign will be transformed into a transnational insurgency attracting Muslim radicals from other places, similar


The twenty-first-century challenges

to the situation the US experiences in Iraq. Transnational insurgencies can pose daunting challenges for the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).30 A Hamas-controlled PA could also mobilize members of the Islamic movement in Israel to perpetrate terrorist attacks within Israel. The Islamic movement in Israel has many links with Hamas as it has supplied much humanitarian support to the organization in the Palestinian territories. Terrorists carrying Israeli identity cards and driving cars with Israeli license plates enjoy much greater freedom of movement than do Palestinians, and have better access to important Israeli targets. So far, Israeli Arabs, with a few exceptions, have refrained from actively participating in terrorist activities against the Jewish state. A change in their overall passive predilection as a result of Hamas instigation would pose a very serious security challenge. We may even consider the possibility of Hamas becoming the epicenter of a regional alliance between the Islamists in Lebanon (Hizballah), Jordan and Israel. Such an alliance could orchestrate a concerted attack on Israeli targets. Urban centers are in proximity to the Lebanese and Jordanian borders and successful attacks could force Israel to react against Jordan and Lebanon, leading to heightened regional tensions and even escalation. The PA under Hamas could also become the agent for regime change in the Hashemite Kingdom and even in Egypt. The Hamas ideological affinity with the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan and in Egypt makes it a natural ally to these opposition groups, while its nationalistic credentials are also an asset in any potential alignment with Palestinian groups that might be plotting against the regime. The Palestinians border both countries and can supply weapons to antiregime groups. The emergence of a Hamastan in Gaza would become a challenge to Egyptian stability. From an Israeli point of view, the challenges to the pro-Western regimes in Jordan and in Egypt that have signed peace treaties with Israel have grave consequences, and their demise might restore a regional constellation favoring a conventional war against Israel. International intervention The Palestinians, the weaker side in the conflict, have traditionally preferred to involve additional actors in their interactions with Israel in order not to stand alone against the stronger Israeli side. One goal of the Palestinian terror campaign since 2000 has been the internationalization of the conflict with Israel. The 1999 NATO involvement in Kosovo served as the model.31 Such a strategy relieves the Palestinians of the need to negotiate with the hated Israelis. Moreover, an enhanced role on the part of international actors would limit Israeli freedom of action. So far, Israel has been successful in blocking such a development. In addition, its measured use of force in fighting Palestinian terrorism has hitherto not crossed the undefined threshold that might have elicited international intervention. A further breakdown in governmental services and a subsequent deterioration in the socio-economic situation in the Palestinian territories could trigger,

Israel’s Palestinian challenge 199 however, greater international activism. State failure has preceded almost every case of US military intervention between 1960 and 2005. This has also been the overwhelming focus of the fifty-five UN peacekeeping operations over the same period.32 The Palestinians may even capitalize on Israel’s attempts to establish a cordon sanitaire around a Hamas-ruled PA by orchestrating a human disaster in parts of the territories under their control in order to recapture the attention of the international press and international organizations as a prelude to inviting international intervention. They may well organize marches of unemployed and hungry Palestinians attempting to cross the security barrier into Israel. Such a march will put Israel in a difficult dilemma as to whether or not to stop it by using force. The Palestinians could stage ‘massacres’ of Palestinians by Israeli troops, as they did in Jenin during the March 2002 Defensive Shield Operation. Despite the fact that such claims were patently demonstrated as untrue, the initial, extremely negative impression – the result of the media reports on the subject – persisted and elicited calls for international intervention. Similarly, the powerful film clip showing the shooting of the child Mohammed al Dura at the beginning of the Palestinian campaign of terror, which had a huge influence over public opinion, was clearly staged.33 Several European states, France in particular, are frustrated by being sidelined by Israel and the US in the ‘peace process’. They want an enhanced role in the region and may join the pressure to internationalize the conflict. The International Quartet (representatives of the US, EU, Russia and the UN), which was established to promote the ‘Road Map’, is partly a response to the Palestinian desire to add international input to the conflict resolution attempts. It could become the harbinger of an institutional mechanism leading to an enhanced level of international involvement.

Policy options What can be done about the chaotic situation in the PA and the ascendance of Hamas? The international community is currently subscribing to the two-state paradigm (i.e., the establishment of a Palestinian state next to Israel), assuming that such a political arrangement is a recipe for peace and stability. This option will first be briefly examined. Subsequently, a variation on this theme is presented – international trusteeship. Finally, a more realistic conflict management strategy is offered,34 comprising several diplomatic and military components, attempting to minimize the cost of the protracted war and buying time for the potential development of more attractive alternatives. Building a Palestinian state The literature on the ‘failed state’ phenomenon displays a clear tendency to prescribe an increase in efforts toward state-building and strengthening governability as the preferred means of dealing with the problem.35 However, the efforts to end Palestinian chaos have so far failed to produce the desired result. While the


The twenty-first-century challenges

ascendance of Hamas further strengthens the centrifugal trends in Palestinian politics, the international community will probably continue to see the establishment of a Palestinian state as a precondition for stability and coexistence in the region. Yet a transition to statehood requires the achievement of monopoly over the use of force, which probably cannot be achieved without a civil war or at least a military showdown amply demonstrating that the official coercive organs are willing, and able, to exact a high price from organizations or individuals who are unwilling to disarm. Unfortunately, primarily for the Palestinians themselves, such an armed confrontation is not likely in the near future. Furthermore, even if the Palestinians somehow realize the goal of monopoly over force and are successful in establishing a state, it will not necessarily be a state ready to live peacefully next to Israel.36 The proposition that statehood inevitably produces responsible behavior is doubtful, considering the number of leaders who have led their states into abysses. In fact, the efforts to establish a Palestinian state that will at the least attempt to conduct itself like Egypt or Jordan are doomed to failure. The current Palestinian education system and official media incite hatred against Jews, who are blamed for all Palestinian misfortunes, and will inevitably turn a Palestinian state into an irredentist polity, a state dissatisfied with its borders and intent on using force to achieve territorial aggrandizement. Indeed, Palestinian political culture displays extremist views by clinging tenaciously to the ethos of ‘the right of return’ for the refugees. At this historic juncture, Palestinian society, under the spell of a nationalist and Islamic ethos,37 is simply unable to bring itself to a historic compromise with the Zionist movement, which would end the conflict. Palestinian rejectionism has won the day whenever a concrete partition has been on the agenda, the 2000 Camp David proposals being the most telling example. The Palestinians will continue to desist from preventing terrorist activities against Israel, to cling to extreme and unrealistic demands, and to be dissatisfied with all Israeli concessions that fall short of dismantling the Zionist state. The tragedy is that with the progression of history, Israel has less territory to offer to the Palestinians, thereby only increasing their bitterness and despair. The hope that history can be rolled back is an illusion. The liberal belief that replacing poverty with affluence would moderate the Palestinian political agenda is also problematic. It is doubtful that the corrupt Palestinian economic system could produce widespread economic benefits. Massive foreign aid rendered over the previous decade generally failed to filter down to the masses, and the existing lack of law and order is inimical to the creation of a climate that encourages regular economic activity and growth. The ascendance of Hamas in Palestinian politics and continued chaos in the PA are likely to hinder the efforts of the international community to deliver aid to the Palestinians. External economic aid is ‘only as good as the ability of a recipient’s economy and government to use it prudently and productively’.38 Moreover, the steep rates of economic growth needed to match the high fertility rate of the Palestinians are clearly improbable, and actually doom the Palestinians to even greater poverty in the near future. Thus the impoverishment of

Israel’s Palestinian challenge 201 Palestinian society, together with a very high level of hatred toward the Jewish state, guarantees the continued existence of a community extremely hostile toward Israel. International trusteeship The new panacea prescribed by friends of the Palestinians for calming the conflict is international trusteeship, which means the transfer of governmental responsibility in Judea, Samaria and Gaza to a US-led alliance and the introduction of American and/or international forces to keep the peace.39 Well-wishers of the Palestinians have finally understood that it will be impossible to reach a solution to the conflict in the near future and that the Palestinians have great difficulties in building a state. In despair, they suggest a trusteeship to groom the Palestinians for statehood.40 Some European states are showing a similar interest in participating in such an international force in order to enhance their involvement in the region and to help the Palestinians withstand Israeli military pressure. It is not at all clear whether the Americans are prepared for an involvement of this kind. Seemingly, the US will first try to complete its missions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Washington’s top priorities apparently require focusing attention on Iran, a state with nuclear potential and far-reaching consequences for international security, before dealing with Palestinian terror. The assumption of the Israeli Left that solving the Israeli–Palestinian conflict is of the utmost urgency is not shared by the US. Even if it were possible to lure the Americans into taking on the responsibility of ruling the Palestinians, their chances of success would not be great. A historical survey of the past few decades on the use of foreign forces for peacemaking – as opposed to peacekeeping – is not encouraging, to say the least. Peacekeeping forces are put in place after an agreement has been reached between two sides, generally following exhaustion (Bosnia) or the defeat of one side (the Serbs in Kosovo). Moreover, the relative success in former Yugoslavia and East Timor came after large waves of ethnic cleansing that led to reduced friction between the rival populations.41 In the case at hand, the Palestinians, especially the extremists, still have considerable energy and there is no separation between Jews and Arabs in Israel. Furthermore, the proposed foreign forces are to come in place of a bilateral agreement. In addition, peacekeeping forces placed in the Arab–Israeli arena have failed to accomplish their goals a number of times in the past. The UN forces placed on the Egyptian border did not fulfill their role in 1967; they were evacuated upon Egyptian demand, while Israel’s opinion was ignored. UNIFIL (UN Interim Force in Lebanon) forces in south Lebanon were also unsuccessful in providing an efficient buffer and, at times, even cooperated with Israel’s enemies. The upgraded UNIFIL following the 2006 Israel–Hizballah War is unlikely to perform better. American attempts at peacemaking have had similarly questionable results. Willingness to suffer losses in cases not defined as vital to US security is


The twenty-first-century challenges

extremely low.42 The US retreated from Lebanon in 1982 and from Somalia in 1992 due to local resistance. The short military involvement of the US in Haiti in 1994 did not achieve its goal. The US takeover of Afghanistan has not totally eradicated terror centers, and in fact the number of American forces has dropped, due to replacement by soldiers from other countries, without stability being achieved. Similarly, the American experience in Iraq that believes capacity and determination will bring order to various parts of the world, especially hostile Muslim regions, is still questionable. A US military presence in Palestine would undoubtedly face suicide attacks by Hamas and Islamic Jihad and wide support for these organizations by Palestinian society. US forces would lack the good intelligence vital for fighting terror and their deployment could not create a continuous buffer against terrorists. Moreover, international involvement would enable the Palestinians to avoid dismantling the terror infrastructure and spare them the need to negotiate with Israel with regard to demilitarization, limiting their sovereignty. American failure in foiling terror activities would be an unavoidable source of tension between Israel and the US. Predictably, there would also be disagreements over the need for Israeli military action to prevent attacks. Bringing in American forces as a buffer between Palestinians and Israelis would put one of the pillars of Israeli national security – the strategic partnership with the US – at risk. American losses in defending Israel would erode support for the Jewish state. An even worse outcome would be unintentional American casualties resulting from Israeli military raids against terror organizations. So far, the interest in international trusteeship has been limited, but it may gain greater acceptance when it is realized that the ‘Road Map’, the diplomatic plan to which everybody pays lip-service, is leading nowhere. Israel has the diplomatic leverage to oppose the idea of international (American) trusteeship, which would not serve to make the Palestinians cease their terror and reach an interim agreement.

Conflict management Unfortunately, not every protracted conflict has an immediately available solution. In the absence of a negotiating partner ready to make the necessary compromises for reaching a negotiated agreement, the appropriate strategy for Israel is conflict management. The essence of such a strategy is to minimize the cost of armed conflict and preserve freedom for political maneuvering. Its goal is also to buy time, on the assumption that the future may bring about better alternatives. This conflict management strategy requires a set of well-integrated military and diplomatic measures to deal with the Palestinians, with the international arena and with the home front. The main components of the conflict management strategy are: containment of Palestinian terrorism, strategic coordination with the US, aggressive public diplomacy, and careful attention to the home front.

Israel’s Palestinian challenge 203 Containing terrorism Due to the characteristics of the Israeli–Palestinian confrontation, the elimination of terror is not a realistic goal; reducing its effects to a bearable level is. Israel has learned through trial and error how to contain terrorism. Israeli counter-terrorism measures eventually brought the Palestinians to a ceasefire in 2005. Israeli defensive measures, primarily the establishment of a security barrier, had only limited value, while offensive measures were over time more effective in destroying the organizational capabilities developed by the Palestinians to harm Israel. Decapitation of the Palestinian militias, by apprehending their senior officers (the preferred method) or by eliminating them via targeted killing proved to be the best way to paralyze their activities.43 The militias simply could not meet the replacement ratio needed to preserve the operational capabilities. Close cooperation between the intelligence units allowed for a substantial reduction in time of the sensor to shooter circuit. Excellent intelligence and the development of suitable tactics for the use of discriminate force were obviously prerequisites for the IDF’s successful campaign.44 The IDF also perfected its highly discriminate use of force, significantly reducing the number of non-combatants hurt in the course of its operations.45 Israeli military policy was tailored so as not to exact too high a price from the civilian Palestinian population. While the inevitable economic pressure was also intended to increase Palestinian weariness of the conflict with Israel, international aid to the Palestinians and the limited economic activity within the PA were allowed to continue. Israel also supplied water and electricity and allowed limited access to its labor market. Despite the hardships imposed by curfews, sieges and road-blocks, Israel was careful not to take excessively harsh measures that would push the Palestinians into great despair, increasing motivation for violence against Jews. Moreover, the development of a humanitarian disaster was not only morally problematic, but also inimical to Israeli interests to minimize international attention focused on the Israeli–Palestinian confrontation. The collapse of the PA is not an Israeli goal because Jerusalem does not want to be burdened with the responsibility for the welfare of 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.46 In sum, the calibrated use of force and economic pressure has been successful in containing terrorism at a bearable level and in minimizing the chances for regional escalation or international involvement. Such a policy mix is a central element in the conflict management strategy. Obviously, such a strategy requires constant re-evaluation and adjustment in response to the level of terror experienced, and the evolving regional and international dynamics.

Strategic coordination with the US On a political level, Israel has always been very careful to pay attention to the American factor.47 Since the mid-1960s, Israeli leaders have constantly looked toward Washington to gauge its reactions to Israeli policy preferences. This


The twenty-first-century challenges

behavior became more pronounced after the fall of the Berlin Wall. After all, the US is the hegemonic world power in the post-Cold War period with many interests in the Middle East.48 Israel is a small state and is still relatively dependent upon American economic and diplomatic support. Despite Israel’s advanced military industries, the US has remained the major weapon supplier for the IDF. Israel’s freedom of military action against the Palestinians is clearly defined by a continuous US–Israeli dialogue. Moreover, any major Israeli diplomatic initiative needs American imprimatur to get off the ground. Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon first secured the approval of President Bush for his plan to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza before submitting it for formal approval to his cabinet. With Washington by its side, Jerusalem can pay less attention to what other major powers may want to achieve in the Middle East. The US position is cardinal in maintaining a ban on extending aid to the Hamas government in the PA. Moreover, only the US has the diplomatic clout to prevent the internationalization of the conflict. In short, coordination with Washington is vital when living in a tough neighborhood such as the Middle East, where the use of force is part and parcel of the rules of the game. With no end to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict in sight, and with grave security threats looming on the horizon, Israel would be wise to nourish its relationship with the US. Public diplomacy The erosion of Israel’s international legitimacy is one of the main negative consequences caused by the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. Regaining the moral upper ground in the conflict with the Palestinians is extremely important. This requires an aggressive public diplomacy campaign. The details of such a public diplomacy are addressed elsewhere.49 What is important, however, is to clearly identify the Palestinians as the enemies of peace, rather than ‘partners for peace’. Israel’s reluctance to remove the mask of the corrupt and authoritarian Arafat, who turned a blind eye to terror, allowed the Palestinians to deny their basic violations of the ‘peace process’, whose continuation was primarily contingent upon Israeli self-delusion. Portraying Israel as an embattled Western democracy fighting a society obsessed with the use of violence, united by an abysmal hatred toward Jews, and largely a partner to widespread Arab antiWestern sentiments, should be the main motif of the campaign. With Hamas taking control of the PA the task is easier, but Jerusalem needs clarity of purpose, a sophisticated strategy, determination and resources to help the enlightened world judge that Israel is fighting the bad guys. Public diplomacy designed to improve Israel’s international status would complement the other elements in the strategy of conflict management. A better international atmosphere toward Israel would make it easier to operate in Washington. It would also make it easier to block domestic criticism of the harsher aspects of policies toward the Palestinians and maintain social cohesion in Israel, the subject to which we turn next.

Israel’s Palestinian challenge 205 The home front Domestic politics are of great consequence in war and particularly in protracted conflict.50 Therefore, the conflict management strategy has to focus on preserving the social cohesion needed to withstand protracted conflict. Since September 2000, Israeli society has shown remarkable resilience.51 Israeli toughness derived primarily from the understanding that the war imposed on Israel by the Palestinians was a result of Arafat’s intransigence in rejecting Israel’s generous peace offer at Camp David. In Israeli political parlance, the Palestinian terror campaign was a ‘no choice war’.52 Convincing most Israelis that the chances for peace had not been squandered is therefore a prerequisite for social cohesion. Israeli governments must demonstrate a willingness to make concessions in the case of the emergence of a suitable Palestinian partner. Of course, with a Hamas government of the PA most Israelis are convinced that the Palestinians are continuing to cling to ‘politicide’ and that there is not much sense in negotiations with such a political entity. This strengthens the ‘no choice’ sentiment – a principal element in Israel’s resilience.

What next? It has become increasingly clear that a two-state settlement is elusive because of the Palestinian national movement’s inability to accept a historic compromise with the Zionist movement and its failure to establish and maintain a viable state. Even with the best of intentions and much territorial largesse there is nothing Israel can do to bring about a Palestinian state any time soon. What we see in the Palestinian territories is another example of a ‘failed state’, such as Somalia or Haiti. The chaotic situation is likely to continue in the near future. The political good fortune of Hamas is unlikely to change the direction of the main vectors in Palestinian politics dooming the PA to ‘failed state’ status. Israel will have to continue to live with the negative effects of nationalism and Islamic radicalization among the Palestinians for the foreseeable future. There is little Israel can do to improve the lot of the Palestinians and/or to change their behavior and the country is basically left with only a conflict management strategy, designed to minimize the costs of the conflict and to buy time for the emergence of better political options. Only the gradual realization that the PA is a failure will allow the emergence of a new paradigm, ending the illusions of the Palestinian option. The contours of a more stable arrangement replacing the PA seem to be in place. Despite their misgivings, the Egyptians are coming to the conclusion that their return to rule the Gaza Strip, albeit indirectly for the time being, would be a lesser evil than the emergence of a Hamas-led entity there. Their presence and influence can already be felt in Gaza following Israel’s unilateral withdrawal in August 2005. Similarly, the Jordanians may decide that the revisionist Palestinian identity nourished in the West Bank is too threatening to their state to be left unattended, owing to their own demographic predicament created by a high


The twenty-first-century challenges

proportion of Jordanian Palestinians. Resuscitating the idea of a Jordanian–West Bank federation, with the Hashemites at the helm, is not without appeal among Palestinians thirsty for some calm and stability.53 Actually, as many as 47 percent of Palestinians agreed in March 2006 to dissolve the PA.54 Redirecting Gaza toward Egypt and relinking the West Bank to Jordan would probably be a better way to deal with the Palestinian nationalist movement than to try giving it a state. A US role in such a radical departure from the international conventional wisdom would be necessary in order to overcome the inertia of outdated thinking. This requires Israeli efforts to convince the American foreign policy community about the futility of the two-state paradigm and the need to explore new ways to deal with the failure of the PA. A new formula – what may be termed a regional approach – will not necessarily offer a neat solution, or put an end to all violence. Much ambiguity about sovereignty and borders might not be eliminated, but involving responsible states such as Jordan and Egypt is at least a realistic attempt to deal with the consequences of unrealizable political dreams.

14 The need to block a nuclear Iran

With each day, Iran grows closer to acquiring nuclear weapons. Tehran has evaded the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards and has built a militarily significant nuclear program. Iran has resisted all diplomatic pressure to discontinue this program and seems intent on producing highly enriched uranium (HEU), which constitutes the final and critical stage in the construction of a nuclear bomb. In mid-January 2006, Iranians decided to break the IAEA seals on some of their nuclear facilities, signaling Tehran’s determination to proceed with its centrifuge uranium enrichment program. Indeed, Iran announced formally on 11 April 2006 that it has completed the experimental stage of uranium enrichment on its way to fissile material. Official statements by the leaders of Western countries indicate growing exasperation with Iran’s behavior on the nuclear issue and unwillingness to bow to demands that the country abandon its plans to produce fissile material.1 US ambassador to the UN John Bolton expressed a ‘sense of urgency’ on this issue.2 Even Mohammed El Baradei, Director General of the IAEA, said that the world is losing patience with Iran.3 Within the international community, Israel seems most concerned about the prospects of a nuclear Iran. In December 2005, Meir Dagan, Chief of the Israeli Mossad, warned that Iran’s strategic decision to acquire the technological basis to become a nuclear power would be realized within a few months.4 The Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, offered a similar evaluation on 4 December 2005, while a few days earlier the Chief of the IDF Intelligence Department, Maj. Gen. Aharon Zeevi (Farkash), had warned that March 2006 constituted the ‘point of no return’, indicating that after such a date, any diplomatic efforts to curtail the Iranian nuclear program would be pointless. No explanation of the term ‘point of no return’ was offered, leaving it unclear, although it probably refers to a certain measure of nuclear technological ripeness. This chapter reviews Iran’s nuclear program and presents its strategic rationale. It subsequently analyzes the nature and the magnitude of the Iranian nuclear threat. It ends with a review of the available options for halting the country’s nuclear program, including the wisdom of a military strike aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear effort.


The twenty-first-century challenges

The Iranian nuclear program The Iranian nuclear program began during the reign of the Shah, reflecting Iran’s perception of itself as a great power and an ancient civilization with hegemonic aspirations in its region.5 After a period of suspension by the Islamic republic, the program was resumed. Despite the cover-up attempts, a great deal of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure is known. Many known Iranian nuclear activities are suitable for military nuclear applications, and some activities have little or no suitability for any other purpose.6 Iran has been constructing a reactor at Arak moderated by heavy water and fueled with natural uranium, a type highly suitable for producing weapon-grade plutonium. This fissile material comprises the core of any nuclear bomb. Iran has also built a uranium conversion facility at Isfahan, to convert uranium core concentrate (Yellowcake) into the uranium hexafluoride (UF6) gas suitable for enrichment at the centrifuge enrichment plant in Natanz. Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) is also fissile material.7 There are additional indications that Iran has worked on plutonium separation and on a bomb design. Technology transfer from China, Russia, and especially Pakistan, complemented by purchases of nuclear-relevant components in Western Europe, provided the technical and engineering knowhow for the Iranian nuclear scientists to make progress along the nuclear path. While Iran’s rate of progress is disputed among intelligence services, it could clearly become a nuclear power in the near future. The timetable for assembling a nuclear device is influenced by Iran’s capability to cross two thresholds: the production of a sufficient amount of fissile material for the bomb’s core and the bomb design itself. Work on the two enterprises can be undertaken concurrently. The Islamic Republic of Iran has invested tremendous political capital and vast resources in going nuclear. This behavior has added strain in its relations with the United States. The tense relationship was reinforced by the hostility displayed by radical Islamic elements of the regime. Tehran’s overall antiAmerican foreign policy has resulted in the inclusion of Iran in President George W. Bush’s ‘Axis of Evil’ list in January 2002. The Iranian sense of vulnerability and threat perception increased following the American military presence in Afghanistan, on Iran’s eastern border, and the US invasion of Iraq, on its western border. The two invasions caused Tehran to feel encircled by the United States and more exposed to a potential American attack. Tehran’s assiduous attempts to augment its deterrence stem from its fear of attacks on the part of an imperially disposed America and/or its Middle East allies. In addition, Iran shares a border with Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation since 1998. These factors provide Iran with an additionally strong incentive for walking the nuclear path. From an Iranian perspective, the North Korean example is also a compelling one. While the United States did not hesitate to invade Iraq, which it believed to be striving toward weapons of mass destruction (WMD), it refrained from attacking North Korea that abrogated the 1994 Agreed Framework with Washington, defiantly withdrew from the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty, and announced

The need to block a nuclear Iran


its possession of a nuclear deterrent. The fact that North Korea was much closer to producing a nuclear bomb than Iraq seemed to have constituted a critical difference that moderated the American response to a similar challenge.8 North Korea’s more developed nuclear program provided a modicum of deterrence. While the regional context (i.e., the proximity of great powers such as China, Russia and Japan) probably played no less of a role in determining the US reaction, Iran may have learned the lesson that the nuclear bomb can serve as a good insurance policy against outside intervention. Accelerating its nuclear program seems the most appealing option for Iran. The country has admitted that it has clandestinely produced small amounts of fissile material (plutonium). It might succeed in acquiring sufficient weapon grade plutonium or HEU, and has probably worked for some time on assembling a deliverable nuclear weapon – though it may stop short of actually testing a nuclear device. Iran could therefore rely on interested intelligence agencies and attentive observers to surmise that a weapons capability exists or could quickly be realized. Nuclear opaqueness, which is not an Iranian invention, has its strategic benefits.9 It is highly unlikely that Iran will adopt a policy of nuclear reversal reminiscent of South Africa, Argentina or Brazil.10 Its security predicament is very different from the strategic environments of Sub-Saharan Africa or Latin America that allowed nuclear abstinence. Moreover, the stakes of the ruling elite in Iran in the nuclear program are inextricably connected to its political and even physical survival, with an infinitely greater intensity than in the other states mentioned. The regime in Tehran may well have come to the conclusion that the speedy and successful culmination of nuclear efforts could serve as a guarantee to its future at home. Destabilizing the regime of a nuclear state, which may lead to chronic domestic instability, civil war or disintegration, is a more risky enterprise than undermining a non-nuclear regime. In light of the growing widespread concern about its nuclear aspirations, Tehran’s best option is to continue negotiations with various representatives of the international community. Even after the Iranian matter is brought to the UN Security Council (UNSC), diplomatic negotiations are likely to continue in order to determine the reaction of the UNSC. This amounts to a temporary stalemate. Tehran will try to buy time as discussions drag on or are temporarily suspended between rounds to allow for additional consultations. Hassan Rowhani, who headed the Iranian negotiating team with the Europeans, revealed how Tehran played for time to dupe the West after its secret nuclear program was uncovered by the Iranian opposition in 2002.11 Such an Iranian strategy of ‘talk and build’ capitalizes on European and American reluctance to escalate. Deciding that negotiations are useless requires alternative action, which is not an enticing option. Essentially, inconclusive talks preserve a status quo, a tense stand-off in which Iran can go on with its opaque, though no longer clandestine, nuclear program. Indeed, a strategy of ‘talk and build’ accompanied by temporary concessions postpones diplomatic and economic pressures and, most importantly,


The twenty-first-century challenges

preventive military strikes by the United States. Tehran is undoubtedly watching the developments in Korea, and insufficient American determination to put an end to the Korean nuclear program will encourage Iranian procrastination. Moreover, Iran’s sense of vulnerability is accompanied by an evaluation that a US embroiled in Iraq is weak, while the higher energy prices enhance the Iranian hand in international negotiations. Iran’s nuclear program was initiated with the intention of acquiring hegemony in the region and the ability to play the role of a great power in world affairs. Nowadays, it also seems to be designed to provide a strategic response to American political and cultural hegemony in world affairs. Tehran wants to be able to continue to oppose American policies and to deter possible American action against the radical Islamic regime. Similarly, it wants to block the influence of American culture, which is perceived as decadent and particularly dangerous.12 Yet Iran’s current nuclear appetite also stems from theological motivations. Some Ayatollahs also view an Iran armed with nuclear weapons as an instrument in Allah’s hand to impose Islam upon the entire world, believing that they, the Ayatollahs, have been chosen by Allah to carry out His mission.13 President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reported having a vision when defending Iran’s right to master nuclear technology at the UN General Assembly in the fall of 2005. This ideological dimension of the Iranian nuclear rationale is quite troubling. Indeed, a stalemate that permits Iran to move forward with its nuclear program would pose grave threats to regional security as discussed below.

The nature of the threat The Islamic Republic of Iran is the greatest, most urgent threat to regional order in the Middle East and a challenge to American hegemony in world affairs. Iran is a revisionist state trying to export its Islamic revolution, a mission intertwined with the nationalistic aspirations for grandeur rooted in a historic awareness of being an ancient civilization. In its behavior, revolutionary Iran largely conforms to what Yehezkel Dror termed a ‘crazy state’.14 Such a state is characterized by far-reaching goals in its foreign policy, a propensity for high-risk policies, intensive commitment and determination to implement these policies, and unconventional diplomatic style. If Iran becomes nuclear, these foreign policy features will probably be even more pronounced. Iran actively supports the insurgency in Iraq against the establishment of a stable, pro-American regime. Tehran encourages radical Shi’a elements in Iraq in order to promote the establishment of another Islamic republic and foments trouble in the Shi’a communities in the Gulf States. It opposes a more liberal regime that could potentially serve as a catalyst for democratization in the area. Iran is allied with Syria, another radical state with an anti-American predisposition, and seeks to create a radical Shi’a corridor from Iran to the Mediterranean. Moreover, Tehran lends critical support to terrorist organizations such as Hizballah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad.15 According to the US State Department, Iran is the most active state sponsor of terrorism.16

The need to block a nuclear Iran


A nuclear Iran would be less deterred to encourage Islamist groups in Turkey – an alternative secular model for development in the Muslim world. Iran may be tempted to tip the balance in favor of the Islamists in the current identity crisis in Turkey. A nuclear Iran will also be more influential in Central Asia. It may well change the pro-Western orientation of several elites in this important region. Iran’s nuclear program coupled with long-range delivery systems, in particular, threatens regional stability in the Middle East. Iran possesses the Shehab-3 long-range missile (with a range of 1,300 km) that can probably be nucleartipped and is working on extending the range of its ballistic arsenal. American allies, such as Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Gulf States, are within range, as well as several important US bases. Maj. Gen. Zeevi reported that Iran has also acquired twelve cruise missiles with a range of up to 3,000 km and with an ability to carry nuclear warheads.17 Further improvements in Iranian missiles would initially put most European capitals, and eventually the North American continent, within range of a potential Iranian attack. Iran has an ambitious satellite launching program based on the use of multi-stage, solid propellant launchers, with intercontinental ballistic missile properties to enable the launching of a 300-kilogram satellite within two years. If Iran achieves this goal, it will put many more states at risk of a future nuclear attack.18 The nuclear ambitions of the Islamic Republic of Iran are, of course, a challenge to the international nuclear non-proliferation regime (NPT). A nuclear Iran might well bring an end to this regime and to American attempts to curb proliferation in the Middle East and in other parts of the world. Indeed, the emergence of a nuclear-armed Iran would have a chain-effect, generating further nuclear proliferation in the immediate region. Middle Eastern leaders, who invariably display high-threat perceptions, are unlikely to look nonchalantly on a nuclear Iran. States such as Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and, of course, Iraq would hardly be persuaded by the United States that it can provide a nuclear umbrella against Iranian nuclear blackmail or actual nuclear attack. American-extended deterrence is very problematic in the Middle East.19 Therefore, these states would not resist the temptation to counter Iranian influence by adopting similar nuclear postures. The resulting scenario of a multipolar nuclear Middle East would be a recipe for disaster. This strategic prognosis is a result of two factors: (1) the inadequacy of a defensive posture against nuclear tipped missiles; and 2) the difficulties surrounding the establishment of stable nuclear deterrence in the region. Missiles are the most effective means of delivering nuclear weapons. While the United States is developing a Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system and Russia claims to have a missile intercept capability with its S-300 missile system, only Israel possesses a serious capability to parry a nuclear missile attack. Israel has developed a defensive layer around the Arrow-2 anti-ballistic missile, which is designed to intercept the family of Scud missiles. This program, which began in the late 1980s, benefited from generous American


The twenty-first-century challenges

funding and amounts to the only deployed operational anti-ballistic missile system so far in the world.20 Since 2000, Israel has deployed several operational batteries of Arrow missiles. The interception range is about 150 km from Israel’s borders. Yet, no defense system is foolproof. The Arrow-2 provides a certain measure of protection, but it is a first generation weapon system, and even its developers do not claim a one hundred percent interception rate. Moreover, it is not clear how the Arrow would function if enemy missiles were equipped with countermeasures or if the enemy were to use saturation tactics.21 Israel has hitherto had the upper hand in the regional technological race, but there are no assurances that this will always be so. The difficulties that Israel faces in dealing with Katyushas, Qassams and tunnels show that Israeli ingenuity may not come up with immediate adequate responses. This is true of the United States as well. Even if defensive solutions are eventually devised, there may be windows of vulnerability, which could be of catastrophic dimensions in a nuclear scenario. All Middle Eastern states are so far defenseless against Iranian missiles. Indeed, as the Iranian nuclear program progresses, one can clearly detect a rise in threat perception on the part of most Arab states in the region. Several states within Iranian range, such as Turkey and India, have shown interest in purchasing the Israeli BMD system, whose export requires American approval. However, at present, while Israel is partly protected from Iranian nuclear missiles, the rest of the region remains vulnerable to such a threat. The Iranian nuclear threat is also to be taken seriously in light of the difficulties of achieving a stable deterrence with Tehran.22 Unfortunately, there are scholars who belittle such fears by releasing optimistic evaluations regarding a potentially stable ‘balance of terror’ between Israel and Iran, modeled on the relationship between the two superpowers during the Cold War. Such a bilateral relationship, where the two sides deter each other, cannot be easily emulated in the Middle East. A ‘balance of terror’ between two nuclear protagonists is never automatic, and could not be taken for granted even between the United States and the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, the situation in the Middle East is even less stable. A second-strike capability, which allows a state to respond in kind after being subjected to a nuclear attack, is critical in establishing credible deterrence. During the Cold War, submarines constituted the platform for any second-strike capability; the difficulty in locating them under water rendered them less vulnerable to an enemy first-strike attack. Indeed, the Soviet Union and United States relied on the survivability and mobility of submarines, characteristics that would enable them to carry out a second strike with nuclear-tipped missiles. While the superpowers possessed large submarine fleets, it is doubtful that any Middle Eastern power owns enough submarines equipped to do the job. Israel’s current fleet includes three Dolphin-class submarines, to be augmented by the end of the decade by two additional vessels recently purchased in Germany. However, it is not clear whether the Israeli submarines carry enough punch to deter adversaries. In this context, it is important to note that no fleet can ever be fully

The need to block a nuclear Iran


operational. Some vessels are in port for maintenance, while others are en route to the designated area of operations or on their way back to the home port. Furthermore, the most appropriate launching area in the Indian Ocean is far away from Israel.23 More significant is the fact that maintaining a second-strike capability is an ongoing process requiring continuous improvement, which depends to a large extent on the adversary’s actions. Such a process is inherently uncertain and ambiguous. Moreover, before an initial ‘effective’ second-strike capability is achieved, a nuclear race may create the fear of a first-strike nuclear attack, which might in itself trigger a nuclear exchange. This is all the more probable because adequate warning systems cannot be erected when the distances between enemies are so small, as is the case in the Middle East. The influence of haste and the need to respond quickly can have extremely dangerous consequences. The discussion above has focused on the problems of establishing bilateral nuclear deterrence between Iran and Israel. In a nuclear multipolar environment, achieving stable deterrence would be even more difficult. Deterrence may work in part because a threat is transmitted correctly and not misread by the enemy. Yet, Middle Eastern countries have not established any hotlines or special communication links with Iran and/or each other, which could have serious consequences in a nuclear crisis. In the Middle East, communication is not only a technological problem, but is also a political problem, as several states have refrained from establishing diplomatic links with a number of regional capitals. Middle Eastern powers would also have to establish early warning systems searching in all directions. Moreover, the requirements for an ‘all-directions’ second-strike force are very complicated. In addition, the rather rudimentary nuclear forces in the region would be likely to be prone to accidents and mistakes. The newly acquired nuclear arsenals would lack the sophisticated technology of the great powers, which reduces such mishaps through devices for locking, fusing, remotely controlling and releasing nuclear warheads from afar. Nuclear arms in the hands of several Middle East powers would actually increase the possibility of pre-emptive strikes and catalytic wars. While it may be argued that Middle East leaders behave rationally, many of them engage in ‘brinkmanship’ leading to miscalculation. Even of greater consequence, their sensitivity to costs and their attitudes to human life hardly conform to Western values. Iranian leaders have said that they are ready to pay a heavy price for the destruction of the Jewish state. For example, on 14 December 2001, the Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani declared that the use of a nuclear bomb against Israel would destroy the Jewish state, producing only ‘damages in the Muslim world’.24 Moreover, while Arab leaders issued similar statements in the past, the historical animosity between Persians and Arabs could also produce motivations to use nuclear weapons under extreme circumstances. Strong mutual mistrust, a basic feature of Middle Eastern political culture, creates a psychological environment that is conducive to rigidity and inflexibility. These are highly dangerous qualities in a nuclear situation, where it is important to leave the enemy a way to retreat, what Thomas Schelling calls


The twenty-first-century challenges

the ‘last clear chance’.25 The ‘dialectics of the antagonists’26 in the Middle East can hardly turn a ‘balance of terror’ into a ‘balance of prudence’, in which each adversary exerts maximum caution and consideration, permitting coexistence. Nuclear deterrence is probably harder to achieve than deterrence theorists had believed, because there is great variation in how people calculate their interests and react to threats. Furthermore, as the nuclear taboo is eroding at the interstate level, Iran, or a faction, or even individual officials in the government may decide to pass a nuclear device to a terrorist organization, such as Hamas or Hizballah, to be used against Israel or a ‘heretic’ (Muslim or Christian) regime.27 This possibility is intensified by the fact that the weapons are apparently institutionally under the control of hardliners even in the context of the Iranian government, such as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The ‘crazy state’ posture may be conducive toward Iranian nuclear largesse to other radical Islamic groups operating outside the Middle East. The Iranians have used proxies to carry out attacks against their enemies in the past. An indirect mode of operation would put many capitals in the world in danger and make Iran a somewhat less likely subject to retaliation. In any case, a nuclear Iran might provide emboldened global jihadist terrorist groups a haven where they think they are immune to Western reach. A nuclear Iran would also enhance Iranian hegemony in the strategic energy sector, by its mere location along the oil-rich Persian Gulf area and the Caspian Basin. These two adjacent regions form the ‘energy ellipse’, which holds over 70 percent of the world’s proven oil and over 40 percent of natural gas reserves.28 Giving revolutionary Iran improved ability to intimidate the governments controlling parts of this huge energy reservoir would further strengthen Iran’s position in the region and world affairs. Such a position would also make Iran’s containment even more difficult and would necessarily embolden Islamic radicals everywhere. For Israel, a nuclear Iran constitutes an existential threat. The tripartite combination of a radical Islamic regime, long-range missile capability and nuclear weapons is extremely perilous. Due to its small and dense population, Israel is exceedingly vulnerable to a nuclear attack. In December 2005, Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon termed the Iranian program ‘a grave threat’, stressing that Israel ‘cannot accept a nuclear Iran’.29 This statement is a reflection of a longheld high-threat perception of a large part of Israel’s strategic community. Indeed, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (1992–95) already perceived Islamic Iran, which was engaged in acquiring a nuclear capability and in sponsoring terror, as Israel’s arch-enemy,30 while all his successors maintained this assessment. While Israel was pleased with the change of tone in Tehran toward the United States after Ayatollah Mohammed Khatami was elected as President in 1997, Tehran continued to retain its anti-Israeli policy.31 Iranian President Ahmadinejad, elected in June 2005, has contributed to Israel’s fears by issuing a series of inflammatory statements. On 26 October 2005, he called for ‘Israel to be wiped off the map’. On 14 December 2005, in a speech that was televised live, Ahmadinejad denied that the Holocaust had ever

The need to block a nuclear Iran


happened, suggesting that Israel’s Jews be relocated to Europe or even to Alaska. Such statements from high-ranking officials cannot be dismissed as pure rhetoric; they reflect a policy preference. An Iran strengthened by a nuclear arsenal may pursue such a policy. In summary, an Iranian nuclear bomb would bring about additional nuclear proliferation in the region, enhance the power of a ‘crazy state’, and embolden Islamic radicals elsewhere. In addition, the technological uncertainties of a defensive system and the possibility of establishing stable nuclear deterrence lead to the inescapable conclusion that regional security is best served by denying Iran a nuclear bomb.

Blocking Iran’s nuclear aspirations There are several ways to deal with the Iranian nuclear challenge. These options are discussed below. Diplomacy For many years, Iran deceived the IAEA, violating the safeguards agreement and failing to report the full scope of its nuclear activities. Finally, Iran was asked to freeze its uranium enrichment program, and to sign the Additional Protocol to the safeguards agreement with the IAEA, allowing for more intrusive international supervision. A high-profile visit by the foreign ministers of France, Germany and the United Kingdom (EU-3) in October 2003 signaled the European attempt to apply heavy diplomatic pressure. For two years, the Europeans conducted negotiations with Iran in an attempt to reach an agreement. The European approach, which Washington decided to go along with for a while, was to create a political atmosphere that delegitimized the Iranian quest for a nuclear bomb and to provide incentives for Iran to cooperate on the nuclear issue. Yet, after several suspensions in the talks with the Europeans, the Iranians have rejected the European ‘carrots’ offered to them. In all probability, the West has nothing to offer that can dissuade Iran from going nuclear, particularly since the nuclear program is viewed as the best insurance policy for the current leadership and is probably the single most popular policy associated with this regime. Iran is a clear case where all means of persuasion, short of the use of force, are ineffective. ‘Soft power’ has its limitations.32 The United States probably decided to go through the motions required by the Europeans in order to secure European support for a tougher approach once diplomacy has run its course. The United States even lent its support to the Russian offer to conduct the enrichment of Iranian uranium on its soil for the same reason. Washington preferred to raise the issue of Iran at the UNSC in order to impose economic sanctions and eventually secure international legitimacy for military action against the nuclear installations. Iran’s intransigent behavior and growing impatience on the part of the international community, combined with US pressure, convinced the IAEA to finally


The twenty-first-century challenges

recognize Iran’s non-compliance with its treaty obligations in September 2005, although the Board of Governors of the IAEA that met again in November 2005 postponed the referral of the Iranian case to the UNSC in order to allow more time for negotiations. This postponement served Iranian interests in gaining time within its ‘talk and build’ strategy. Only in February 2006 did the United States finally win approval from all key players in the IAEA, especially Russia and China, to send the issue of Iran’s highly suspect nuclear program to the UNSC. In an attempt to galvanize an international coalition in favour of sanctions, Washington announced at the end of May 2006 its new readiness to enter negotiations with Iran on the nuclear issue, on condition that Tehran suspends Uranium enrichment. Economic sanctions As the diplomatic option is being exhausted and in the absence of a clear unequivocal nuclear reversal on the part of Iran, the United States will try to prod the UNSC into eventually imposing a strict set of sanctions against Tehran that include economic and political isolation combined with a military quarantine tightly controlling what flows in and out of Iran. While the Europeans may join the United States in mandating and applying sanctions, China and Russia, which have veto power in the UNSC, are less likely to cooperate in engineering an American-sponsored campaign against Iran. They have their own economic interests in Iran and want to play a role in the region rather than defer to American leadership. Eventually, the UNSC may decide on sanctions, whose content effectiveness is primarily dependent upon the need to forge an international consensus.33 Clearly, China and Russia have no strategic interest in a nuclear Iran and would eventually join the sanctions, but they prefer Iran to respond to their proposals rather than to American initiatives. There are also a number of specific factors discouraging countries from supporting sanctions against Iran, ranging from fear of Tehran’s sponsorship of terrorism to economic costs, or desire to gain Iranian cooperation on other issues. US sanctions against Iran have also long been in place without forcing Tehran to change policy. While economic sanctions would certainly hurt the Iranian economy, which is greatly dependent upon refined oil products,34 economic pressures are not the best means to stop Iran going nuclear. The international studies literature displays serious skepticism regarding the effectiveness of economic sanctions.35 Often, such sanctions merely serve to make a point and to keep an issue alive in the absence of the political will to take military measures to remedy the situation. Moreover, in the past, societies and regimes have demonstrated great resilience in the face of economic sanctions and capacity to withstand pain. Islamic Iran, which seeks a nuclear bomb primarily to gain regional hegemony and to allow it to oppose a Pax Americana, is ready to pay a high price for its foreign policy orientation. Actually, external pressure has been used more than once as a focal point for rallying domestic support for the embattled regime. Another major problem with economic sanctions is that it takes time to

The need to block a nuclear Iran


put them in place and to make them felt in the target country. In the case of Iran, time is of critical importance, particularly if Iran wants to present the world with a nuclear fait accompli. Indirect pressure on Iran The Iranian challenge could also be dealt with by adopting an indirect strategy. This might require focusing on Syria – the weak link in Iran’s strategic outreach – possibly even leading to the demise of that regime – and on Iran’s client Hizballah group in Lebanon. The Ba’ath regime is under increasing international and domestic pressure. Cornering Tehran’s regional allies will weaken and isolate Iran, possibly making the Islamic republic more susceptible to Western pressures. Another aspect of the indirect approach on the nuclear issue, though in this case dealing with Iran itself, would be to encourage regime change in Tehran. This is particularly difficult in police states, such as Iran, where suppression is effective in paralyzing any meaningful political opposition. Nevertheless, such situations are not stable, and Iran has a history of popular uprisings.36 If it is true that human beings prefer to live in freedom than in fear and that many are ready to take personal risks to realize this dream,37 Iran could be ripe for removing the yoke of the mullahs. Being more advanced than Arab states according to almost every socio-economic criterion, Iran could be a better candidate for democratization. American diplomacy aimed at strengthening the dissenting voices in Iran might be successful in fostering an effect similar to the one that brought about the Soviet Empire’s disintegration.38 The indirect strategy is advantageous, as it rests on regional and domestic dynamics while minimizing a popular Iranian antagonism toward the American activist approach. Yet even if it were to be successful, such a strategy may again take too much time. International procrastination and past diplomatic failures to delay the Iranian program may leave no other choice but the military option to prevent a nuclear Islamic Republic of Iran. Coercive measures Covert operations to block the Iranian nuclear program, if ever used, have clearly failed. US ambassador John Bolton declared in 30 October 2003, when serving as Under-secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, that the United States was actively seeking to curb proliferation. ‘Rogue states such as Iran, North Korea, Syria, Libya and Cuba, whose pursuit of weapons of mass destruction makes them hostile to US interests, will learn that their covert programs will not escape either detection or consequences’, he warned. While we will pursue diplomatic solutions whenever possible, the United States and its allies must be willing to deploy more robust techniques, such as the interdiction and seizure of illicit goods, the disruption of procurement networks, sanctions, or other means.39


The twenty-first-century challenges

While Israel was more taciturn about the issue, as threat perception increased, Prime Minister Sharon decided in November 2003 to place the responsibility for an integrated strategy to prevent the nuclearization of Iran in the hands of the Mossad.40 Its head, retired Maj. Gen. Dagan, who has a rich history in combating terror, was appointed in September 2002 to hone the skills of this organization in covert operations. The declarations of Israeli senior officials in the winter of 2005 to 2006 indicated greater alarm than before, meaning, inter alia, that whatever means were taken failed to achieve the intended results. One variant of covert operations is to focus on the highly skilled elements of those working for the Iranian program. The Iranian nuclear program has a limited number of scientists whose contribution is critical to its successful completion. The interested intelligence services have probably already identified the key scientists who keep it moving. Removing these scientists would also affect the possibility of renewing the nuclear efforts in case a freeze of the Iranian program were to take place. Therefore, serious offers of refuge and a professional career in the West should be extended to these scientists. Alternatively, they should be intimidated from further cooperation with the Iranian nuclear program. It would not be impossible to organize a well-orchestrated campaign to do so against those who prefer the patriotic option of continuing to serve their state. In fact, the mere beginning of such a campaign of carrots and sticks may deter others from cooperating with the Iranian nuclear program and hasten their exit from Iran. Another coercive option is a blockade on Iranian oil exports to signal to Iran that the United States and the West mean business. With oil selling at over $60 per barrel (February 2006), oil exports are the source of enormous wealth used by the ayatollahs to buttress the regime and pursue its nuclear program. Denying a hefty income constitutes a threat to the regime. A blockade may indeed escalate into a tanker war as witnessed in the last years of the Iraq–Iran war, which ended in Iran backing down.41 In the first decade of the twenty-first century, the US Naval and Air Forces can police the Hormuz Straits in order to prevent Iranian oil from reaching the market. While smuggling oil would still be possible, most Iranian oil exports would be affected. Concern about the overall effect on oil markets and supply would be a major factor deterring such a strategy, but this approach may well be the only alternative to either a direct attack or accepting Iran’s possession of nuclear weaponry. The final option is the use of force. Presumably, the United States already has contingency plans and training assets for an attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities.42 Israel conducted such a strike in 1981 against Iraq’s nuclear reactor, which effectively ended Saddam Hussein’s nuclear potential. In a similar fashion, prior to concluding the 1994 Agreed Framework with Pyongyang, the Clinton Administration contemplated surgical strikes to end the North’s nuclear weapons program. While it is probably true that intelligence services cannot provide military planners with a full and comprehensive picture of the Iranian nuclear program,

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what we know seems to be enough to allow identification of the main targets. The military capability to hit all targets is important, but a partial destruction would be enough to cripple Iran’s ability to build a nuclear bomb in the near future. Moreover, no large-scale invasion is needed in order to do the job, but only a sustained bombing campaign with commando strikes. While Iran has spread out its nuclear facilities and built a large part of the nuclear complex underground in order to protect it from conventional air strikes, technological advances in penetration of underground facilities and increased precision might allow for total destruction. The difficulties in dealing a severe military blow to the Iranian nuclear program are generally exaggerated.43 A detailed analysis of the military option is beyond the scope of this chapter, but the American military definitely has the muscle and sophistication needed to perform a pre-emptive strike in accordance with its new strategic doctrine, as well as the capability for a sustained air campaign, if needed, to prevent the reparation and reconstruction of the facilities targeted. American declarations on this issue indicate a willingness to consider all options. In January 2005, US Vice-President Dick Cheney expressed concern that Israel might attack Iran, ‘Given the fact that Iran has a stated policy that their objective is the destruction of Israel, the Israelis might well decide to act first, and let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterwards’, he said.44 This statement actually legitimized such action and subtly threatened the Iranians that the United States might not be able to stop Israel from acting unilaterally. In August 2005, on the eve of a trip to Europe, President Bush insisted that he wanted a peaceful, diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear problem but refused to rule out military action.45 On several occasions, Bush repeated this viewpoint.46 Several US senators also recognized that a military strike on Iran must be a foreign policy option.47 Despite the difficulties faced by the administration with regard to its Iraq policy, American public opinion could conceivably be enlisted to back a military strike on Iran if a clear-cut case is made that all other options have been exhausted in the quest to prevent a very dangerous development, especially in the period following a US withdrawal from Iraq. The changing atmosphere toward Iran in Washington’s corridors of power affects the national mood. Indeed, a Los Angeles Times poll of 27 January 2006 indicates that 57 percent of Americans would back an attack on Iran if defiance persists.48A Pew Research Center poll, released on 7 February 2006, showed that public concern over Iran’s nuclear program has risen dramatically in the past few months. Twentyseven percent of Americans cite Iran as the country that represents the greatest danger to the United States. In October 2005, just 9 percent pointed to Iran as the biggest danger to the United States, while there was far more concern over Iraq, China and North Korea.49 Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) believe that Iran’s nuclear program is a major threat to the United States, placing it on a par with North Korea’s nuclear program, and far ahead of China’s emerging power among possible threats to the United States. Overwhelming numbers believe that if Iran were to develop nuclear weapons it would likely launch attacks on


The twenty-first-century challenges

Israel (72 percent), and the United States or Europe (66 percent). There is even greater agreement that a nuclear-armed Iran would be likely to provide nuclear weapons to terrorists (82 percent).50 Even if these trends do not hold for long, second-term presidents such as Bush are less susceptible to the vagaries of public opinion. The personality of the current president and his worldview well suit such an approach. The American perceptions of Iran reflect a global phenomenon. A major BBC World Service poll exploring how people in thirty-three countries view various countries found not a single country where a majority has a positive view of Iran’s role in the world (with the exception of the Iranians themselves).51 Indeed, the United States is not alone in considering the use of force. British Prime Minster Tony Blair warned that the West might have to take military action against Iran after worldwide condemnation of Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s call for Israel to be ‘wiped off the map’.52 France also seems to realize that use of force may be necessary.53 Washington has been trying to gain Ankara’s support for US policy toward Tehran’s nuclear program. By one report, CIA Director Porter Goss visited Ankara in December 2005 and asked Turkey to help the United States deal with the Iranian nuclear issue.54 As the threat perception in Turkey increases, the country is more likely to cooperate. If military action is to be taken, the timing of an attack must be sensitive to collateral damage, particularly after the nuclear program has reached a stage where nuclear radiation and contamination might occur. Moreover, it would be preferable for the attacks to precede the consummation of the Russian sale of thirty Tor-M1 air defense systems to Iran (to be delivered in the 2006 to 2008 period), as well as upgrades of the Mig and Sukhoi fighter jets used by Iran. This $1 billion arms deal will bolster Iran’s capabilities to exact a higher price from the adversary’s pre-emptive strike.55 However, in reality, military action may not prove necessary. An ultimatum that includes an unequivocal American threat to use force might be enough to convince the Iranians to freeze their nuclear program and wait for better times to complete it. Such an ultimatum could be accompanied by force concentration along the borders of Iran (in Afghanistan and in Iraq), naval maneuvers in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean, and reconnaissance flights over Iranian air space. The threat of military force should be preceded by intensive American efforts to explain the danger of a nuclear Iran and active public diplomacy to gain international approval for military action. Israel and Turkey can add to this atmosphere by, for instance, conducting civil defense and military drills. Since Iran practices brinkmanship as a regular part of its policy, only the threat of imminent American military action will define the boundary that the Iranian leadership does not want to cross. This series of steps is exactly what most Arab states in the region expect. None of them wants a nuclear Iran, as it threatens them and their interests. It is worth remembering the support most Arab states lent to Baghdad during its long war with Tehran (1980–88). Indeed, the danger to the Arab world is more immediate than it is for the United States or perhaps even Israel. Only the actual use

The need to block a nuclear Iran


of nuclear weapons by Iran would endanger Israeli or American forces, while the mere possession of such weapons – and their use for leverage and intimidation – could force Arab countries to submit to Tehran’s demands. Consequently, most Arab leaders – except for those in Syria – hope to see the hegemonic superpower take a resolute stand on the matter. Whatever public reaction may surface in the region, in private the majority will savor such an American demonstration of leadership and determination in obstructing the Iranian nuclear program. If the United States does not act in accordance with its international responsibilities as a superpower, Israel will have to face the difficult choice of how to respond. Since June 1981, Israel’s position has been that a military nuclear program implemented by a hostile state constitutes a casus belli warranting pre-emptive action. With more to lose if Iran becomes nuclear, Israel would have more incentive to strike than the United States. Israel can undertake a limited pre-emptive strike.56 Israel certainly commands the weaponry, the manpower and the guts to effectively take out key Iranian nuclear facilities. Capable of carrying as much ordnance as a World War II heavy bomber, the F-15I can also deploy precision-guided munitions and penetrate enemy air space at low levels and high speeds. Israel’s submarines can launch cruise missiles at long distances, and its commandos have a very good record of operating at great distances from home. The air-strike route is of course problematic, as Israeli airplanes would have to fly over Arab airspace. Although Israel and Turkey have a well-developed strategic relationship, it is unlikely that an AKP-ruled Ankara would allow the use of its airspace in an attack on Iran, but damaged Israeli aircraft or gunneddown Israeli air crews would have a chance of landing or surviving in Turkey or in the Kurdish areas of Iraq.57 While it would be very difficult for Israel to carry out a sustained air campaign, creative solutions could be devised to increase Israeli projection of power at distances of over 1,000 km. Israel’s leaders are likely to enjoy domestic support in the event that Israel decides to launch military strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities. Such support may erode, however, if the military operations are unsuccessful and if the toll of casualties is very high. Any decision to use force must take into consideration the Iranian reaction to a military strike and prepare for it. The Iranians can interfere with the flow of oil from the Gulf, and launch a counter-attack with ballistic missiles (probably using conventional warheads) against its neighbors and Israel. They can also instigate Shi’a revolutions in the Gulf States and use proxy terrorist organizations to attack the United States and its allies, in particular Israel. The Gulf States are likely to prefer facing any Iranian challenge before it goes nuclear. Probably, the West can bear the limited cost likely to be exacted by Iran. The cost issue is not really relevant for Israel, because it will suffer the wrath of Iran even if the United States alone bombs the Iranian installations. Conventional missile attacks on America’s allies are unlikely to cause much damage, although they could partly paralyse their economic activities. The


The twenty-first-century challenges

results would probably resemble those of the Iraqi missile attacks on Israel and Saudi Arabia in 1991. Acts of terrorism could create greater damage, although more intensive intelligence efforts and higher alerts of the internal security forces could limit the effectiveness of such operations. In any case, military strikes against Iran need to be accompanied by pre-emptive measures against terrorist cells and Iranian personnel involved in supporting and activating terrorist activity. Damaging oilfields and installations in the Gulf, as well as meddling with the oil flow, is a major affront to the well-being of the international community and would put Iran in conflict with most of the world. Interruptions in the export of Iranian petroleum would also negatively affect the Iranian economy and subsequently the regime survivability. In any case, an Iranian decision to attack the oil routes, before the state has acquired the bomb, might be deterred by a clear American commitment to use its military power to assure the security of these routes. However, even without such a commitment, America would act if confronted by Iranian attempts to block the Hormuz Straits. While revolutionary Iran may become bold and adventurous with a nuclear arsenal at its disposal, before acquiring such awesome weapons it is unlikely to estrange the whole international community by causing serious damage to the supply of a critical commodity such as oil. The determination of the West, displayed by the use of force against Iran’s nuclear installations, might even have a paralyzing effect on the regime. In any case, to counter a scenario where Iran brings about serious supply shortages in oil supply, the US can exploit its Strategic Petroleum Reserve, as well as the oil strategic reserves of its allies to allow for replacement of the Iranian crude oil output in the world oil markets for some time.

Conclusion A nuclear Iran poses a serious threat to the Middle East. Moreover, a nuclear bomb in the hands of such an extremist regime may have widespread repercussions far beyond the region. Iran’s deeply rooted ideological hostility toward Israel coupled with its emerging military capabilities places the Jewish state in a particularly vulnerable spot. Diplomacy is doomed to fail and economic sanctions are usually ineffective, leaving only the threat to use force and the actual use of force as viable options to delay the completion of the Iranian nuclear program. Resolute action against Iranian nuclear installations involves many risks, but inaction, it seems, will have far more serious repercussions. If the United States refrains from action, Israel will face the difficult decision of whether to act unilaterally. While less suited to do the job than the United States, the Israeli military is capable of reaching the appropriate targets in Iran. It remains to be seen whether Jerusalem will be forced to act in accordance with its strategic doctrine. If, despite local and/or international efforts the Islamic Republic of Iran succeeds in emerging with a nuclear arsenal, however, it will not be the end of the current crisis, but rather the beginning of a new and far more dangerous one.

15 Israel’s strategic mistakes in the 2006 Lebanon War

Israel’s political and military leadership was ill-prepared for the war against Hizballah in the summer of 2006. The policy adopted following the unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000 was characterized by low-profile containment, the hope being that Israel’s deterrence would suffice in order to prevent an escalation. Former Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer addressed Israel’s reluctance to deal militarily with the Hizballah threat, explaining that the launching of the Palestinian terrorist campaign against Israel in September 2000 had reinforced Israel’s Lebanese policy and its desire to refrain from opening up a second front. Moreover, Israel feared that an encounter with Lebanon could bring about an escalation with Syria. A secondary consideration was the economic blooming of the North and of its tourist industry. A war would bring a halt to the development and return the North to its pre-2000 state, when the region was subject to repeated Katyusha attacks.1 Yet, Israel’s deterrence failed and various Hizballah provocations over the years, such as the abduction of Israeli soldiers, Katyusha attacks on Israel’s northern settlements, and terrorist attacks across the border, elicited only restrained responses on the part of Israel.2 This is not to suggest that Israeli officials did not take Hizballah seriously. While, after the Lebanon withdrawal, Israeli officials considered the group to be a nuisance, in recent years they acknowledged Hizballah to be a strategic threat.3 In July 2003, outgoing IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz, who subsequently became defense minister, cautioned of the growing Hizballah threat.4 His successor, Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon (July 2002 to June 2005), warned that much of northern Israel was vulnerable to Hizballah’s missiles.5 Politicians and former intelligence officers also said that they had warned the government.6 Still, many IDF leaders believed that minimal force if not diplomacy could minimize the threat. Chief of Northern Command Maj. Gen. Udi Adam, for example, said, ‘There is nothing that can be solved just by the military . . . . There is a need for a diplomatic solution’, adding, ‘I do not believe that anyone wants to go back into Lebanon.’7 Restraint ended, however, on 12 July 2006, when the Hizballah attacked an Israeli patrol along the border and abducted two soldiers, just nineteen days after the abduction of an Israeli soldier along the Gaza border by Palestinian militants, creating a domestic political crisis. Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert


The twenty-first-century challenges

and Defense Minister Amir Peretz, both rather new in their positions, decided to react forcefully following a few telephone exchanges, which also included Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz.8 The decision of the Israeli political leadership to cease its low-profile containment policy and react forcefully seemed appropriate, chiefly for the purpose of enhancing deterrence. Yet, aside from several accomplishments, primarily in the air campaign, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) conducted a rather clumsy war, displaying many deficiencies at strategic, operational, logistical and even tactical levels. The war ended on 14 August 2006, in accordance with United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1701. This ending was something of a surprise, particularly since Israel’s leadership was cognizant of the fact the IDF performance had implications beyond the south Lebanon arena; as Chief of Staff Halutz said during the first days of the war, ‘The way we finish this will have ramifications for the entire Middle East’, adding that the Syrians, the Palestinians and the Iranians were all watching.9 This chapter focuses on the strategic level of Israel’s conduct during the war. Israel’s political and military leaders displayed strategic blindness on several accounts, denying the IDF a victory in an important war, and squandered a key opportunity to destroy the bulk of Hizballah’s military presence in southern Lebanon, settle regional scores, enhance Israel’s deterrence and strengthen its alliance with the US. The following sections present seven strategic errors resulting from the lack of strategic clarity displayed by Israel’s highest political and military echelons. The leadership operated in accordance with several strategic misconceptions. This faulty mode of operation was ultimately responsible for Israel’s failure to deal effectively with a relatively small military organization such as Hizballah, a development that was widely perceived. The strategic mistakes fall into four categories: lack of preparations, unrealistic goals, conduct of war and its ending. These are subsequently addressed.

Failure to prepare Before the war, Israel had unrealistic expectations regarding the future of armed conflict with Hizballah. The need for a large-scale conventional military campaign in southern Lebanon was obviously not foreseen. This evaluation conformed to the prevailing conventional wisdom that a large-scale conventional war along Israel’s borders was highly unlikely and that Israel would in the near future primarily wage small wars. The biography of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (2001–06) might have contributed to Israel’s reluctance to consider a large-scale campaign in southern Lebanon. Sharon’s responsibility for the ill-fated 1982 Lebanon War and the subsequent imbroglio was, for many, a stain in his political career. In 1983, the Kahan Commission found Sharon negligent for his failure to predict and stop a Lebanese militia’s massacre of Palestinian refugees at Sabra and Shatilla.10 His subsequent attempts to rehabilitate his image during his premiership discouraged further involvement in Lebanon. Sharon had long been an influential figure in

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Israel, and his preferences probably influenced the thinking of the defense establishment following his election as prime minister in 2001. Inattention by the General Staff of the IDF reflected Israeli assumptions about the unlikelihood of any land war on its borders. Maj. Gen. Udi Adam complained that the highest military forum hardly discussed the Lebanese front.11 Halutz did not even mention Hizballah in his strategic briefing to the Hertzliyah conference in January 2006. Moreover, the IDF failed in its military buildup before the war. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz (November 2002 to March 2006) decided to reduce the duration of military service for conscripts by four to eight months, a decision that was to take effect in March 2007. He also initiated a new law shortening reserve duty and reducing training time. According to Maj. Gen. Benny Ganz, Chief of Israeli Ground Forces, allocations for training reserve units have been cut by NIS 3.5 billion (USD 0.8 billion) since 2001.12 As a result of budgetary constraints, the IDF reduced the magnitude of tank formations, while there was increasing pressure to dismantle the production line of the Merkava tank, under the assumption that land warfare was unlikely. Procurement priorities were also influenced by this evaluation. Weapons systems such as TROPHY, providing tanks with protection from missiles, were not installed and bunker buster bombs for the IAF were not purchased due to budgetary constrictions.13 Both could have been very useful in the summer of 2006. Only a number of special forces received minimal training in the framework of plans to fight in southern Lebanon. Furthermore, the heads of military intelligence refrained from transferring the data collected on the positions of the Hizballah in southern Lebanon (the ‘nature reserves’) to the units in the field.14 Further underlying Israel’s lack of preparation was the failure of its leadership to acknowledge the operation against the Hizballah to be a war rather than a retaliatory raid or more limited military reaction. The government never declared a state of emergency, nor did it enact its wartime administrative and legal powers. The military leadership was similarly slow to realize that it had a war on its hands, leading inter alia to a delay in the mobilization of reserves. The second serious error was the failure on the part of Israel’s leadership to understand the strategic significance of the cumulative effect of numerous Katyusha strikes. Rockets of this type have generally been viewed as weapons of little consequence due to their immense inaccuracy and relatively small warheads. In the initial stage of the war, Halutz remarked that ‘short range rockets are not a decisive weapon’.15 The leadership’s nonchalant attitude toward the Qassam rockets fired continuously by the Hamas in Gaza reflected a similar underestimation. Israel’s strategic culture has always displayed little concern for civil defense and this remained true even after the Iraqi missile attacks of 1991. In the summer of 2006, Israel’s population in the North was ill-prepared to withstand a massive barrage of rockets. During the war, the IDF’s Home Front Command, designed primarily to provide passive defense, was much criticized, and after the war its very existence was questioned. Active defense was similarly neglected. Israel’s failure to allocate sufficient funds toward the


The twenty-first-century challenges

development of an adequate defense system, providing protection against the type of threat posed by the Hizballah, was a strategic mistake. Israel’s military industries mastered several technological responses to the threat posed by short missiles, but the government refrained from turning them into operational systems. Only after the war, in February 2007, did the Ministry of Defense approve the development of defensive weapon systems against short and intermediate missiles.16 Indeed, protecting the home front was not part of the IDF’s initial strategic planning for the 2006 War and was not even mentioned in the document on strategic goals submitted to the government at the beginning of the hostilities.17 Over the course of several years, Israel neglected to collect intelligence regarding the Hizballah’s short-range Katyushas, reflecting a similar lack of concern and dooming any military response.18 Only in the last stages of the war did the attempt to limit the Katyusha salvos turn into an operational goal, and senior officers only pursued this goal half-heartedly. Chief of the Northern Command Maj. Gen. Udi Adam was skeptical as to whether military measures could succeed in stopping the rocket fire.19 Most of the short-range Katyushas indeed fell in empty fields and caused little damage. But when 4,000 such rockets were launched, 25 percent of them hitting urban areas, the whole of northern Israel, its main port, refineries and many other strategic installations were paralyzed and in danger of destruction.20 Over one million Israelis lived in bomb shelters and about 300,000 left their temporarily homes and sought refuge in the south. Eventually, the Katyushas became the main criterion for defining victory in the war. There was no need for great military expertise to discern that the IDF’s inability to drastically lower the number of Katyusha launches in the last stages of the war (approximately 200 per day) constituted an unequivocal failure. Prime Minister Olmert was very wrong in stating on 3 August 2006 that the war could not be measured by counting the number of missiles falling on Israel.21 The continuous barrage of Katyushas at Israel’s northern cities ultimately granted Hizballah the claim to victory.

Strategic misconduct during the war Over-reliance on airpower during the war was a third strategic error. While the IDF has always invested heavily in airpower, until the 1990s it held that a decisive victory required a land maneuver. Yet, following the 1991 Gulf War, airpower became ‘an unusually seductive form of military strength’.22 It was additionally tempting for Israel’s leaders to use Israel’s unmatched air force in the region. The Israeli Air Force (IAF) offers spectacular destruction with almost no Israeli casualties. Airpower was also associated with the emphasis on new technologies that characterize the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA), a transformation in the nature of warfare.23 Maj. Gen. (res.) Eitan Ben-Eliyahu, former Chief of the Air Force, admitted that the fixation with new technologies and RMA was addictive and obscured clear thinking.24

Israel’s mistakes in the 2006 Lebanon War


The IAF convinced the political level that it could successfully expand its military role beyond the traditional air missions and cope effectively with an array of security challenges. In parallel, the IDF developed a doctrine for combating Low Intensity Conflict (LIC) threats with a combination of airpower and special forces.25 Thus the IAF was increasingly involved in the small war fought by the IDF against the Palestinians and the expansion of its role was generally well received. MK Yuval Steinitz, former Chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Security and Foreign Affairs, was one of the few in Israel who questioned the wisdom of giving airpower such a high priority, on both a budgetary and a doctrinary level.26 His doubts about the effectiveness of an exclusively airpower response to the numerous Katyushas deployed by Hizballah remained a lone voice. While the air force was efficient in destroying Hizballah’s long-range missiles and their launchers, it was incapable of suppressing the short-range Katyushas south of the Litani River.27 The fact that only ground forces were likely to deal effectively with this threat was not fully grasped by Israel’s military leadership. Halutz, Chief of Staff during the 2006 War, was a pilot who had served as commander of the IAF (April 2000 to July 2004). His enthusiasm for airpower was unequivocal. In an interview in 2000, he stated that airpower was the dominant component in the IDF’s menu of responses. He even specified that in the event of an escalation along the Lebanese border, the air force would become the main, if not the sole, military player in providing the appropriate operational responses.28 In recent years we have seen a greater number of air force officers taking positions in the IDF outside the ranks of the IAF, a positive development due to the high quality of these individuals. The influx of air force officers, however, has affected the general thinking in the IDF and created an atmosphere that is favorably inclined toward the use of airpower. During the 2006 War, Halutz was known to oppose a ground incursion into Lebanon. Such a move, he said, would only be carried out as a last resort.29 The IDF’s contingency plan for dealing with an escalation along the northern border as a result of an abduction of its soldiers by Hizballah was air-centric, but included the use of special forces inside Lebanon. Halutz preferred to implement the air missions alone and not to risk even commando missions.30 When Olmert and Peretz decided to send special ground forces into Lebanon on 19 July in an effort to deal with the Katyusha threat, Halutz followed orders, but believed that Israel had not fully capitalized upon the air strikes’ potential.31 He resisted a large-scale land operation almost to the very end of the war.32 His hesitation, combined with the reluctance of the political leadership to employ infantry battalions, enabled Hizballah to continue to fire Katyusha rockets into Israel for the entire month. Notwithstanding the above criticism, it is probably true that the air campaign would have been considered a success if the war had been stopped after a few days. Israel reacted forcefully and exacted a high price for Hizballah’s provocation with little damage to itself. This course of action was in keeping with Maj. Gen. (res.) David Ivry’s advice to the defense minister during the first days of the war.33


The twenty-first-century challenges

However, the war continued unabated, ground forces were gradually involved, and the Katyusha salvos persisted, resulting in an entirely different strategic outcome. The reluctance to commit ground troops also stemmed from the exaggerated fear of casualties – a fourth strategic misconception. Indeed, Maj. Gen. Elazar Stern, Head of the IDF’s Manpower Branch, complained after the war that the IDF had displayed ‘over-sensitivity’ to loss of life and disclosed the fact that one of the battles during the war had been called off because of a few casualties.34 Similarly, Maj. Gen. (res.) Yoram Yair, who headed one of the inquiry committees established by the IDF after the war, criticized the IDF’s insufficient determination to complete military missions due to casualties, pointing out that the advice to ‘fight cautiously’ was given too often.35 The reluctance to commit ground troops to battle betrays a terrible gap between Israel’s leadership and its people. Israel’s political leaders mistakenly believe that Israeli society is tired of the protracted conflict and unwilling to pay the price of continuous war. Ehud Olmert, in his capacity as Vice Prime Minister, said in a well-known speech in June 2005: ‘We are tired of fighting, we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies.’36 These remarks reflect a sense of weariness at a leadership level. Decision-makers in the Oslo process, particularly Yitzhak Rabin, were also motivated by such sentiments and by a similar misperception of Israeli society.37 The government’s May 2000 decision to withdraw from Lebanon was an additional manifestation of the same syndrome. This misperception extended to the highest military echelons. At the beginning of 2004, the Chief of Staff at the time, Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon, asserted that the weakest link in Israeli national defense has been the public’s lack of stamina.38 Similarly, the Chief of the Northern Command, Maj. Gen. Benny Ganz, admitted that while worrying about the missiles possessed by Hizballah, he was more concerned about the ability of Israeli society to withstand the pressures of war.39 This mood, which has prevailed among Israel’s political leadership since the 1990s, affected the military leadership during the recent war against Hizballah, and casualty aversion became a main feature of Israel’s military modus operandi. Academics have argued that Israel, like other Western democracies, has difficulties waging war because of casualty aversion. However, such an assumption about the Western style of war, at times described as ‘post-heroic’ warfare, is not grounded in fact.40 Actually, many studies show that casualty phobia is not a dominant characteristic of the US general public. On the contrary, the American political leadership can tap into a large reservoir of support for military campaigns that entail a high human price, provided that those operations have a chance to succeed. The public is ‘defeat-phobic’, not ‘casualtyphobic’. Moreover, mounting casualties are bearable if the goals of the military missions are seen as politically important.41 This is patently true of Israel as well. While the need to avoid reckless loss of human life is self-evident, Israeli society has in fact shown great resilience in war. Israeli society has repeatedly demonstrated high staying power even in

Israel’s mistakes in the 2006 Lebanon War


wars of attrition, particularly during the terror campaign initiated by the Palestinians in September 2000.42 In fact, in a recent poll, the Israeli public, sensing its own strength, disagreed overwhelmingly with the statement ‘Palestinian terror will break Israeli society’.43 In the summer of 2006, given the clear threat posed by Hizballah, there was enthusiastic public backing for offensive operations, even when military casualties were inevitable. The Israeli home front exhibited determination and willingness to carry the brunt of the battle. A huge majority of Israelis lent full support to the war. They wanted an unequivocal victory and were ready to pay a high price for achieving it, including those who were living in bomb shelters. Even parents who had lost children in the war backed the operation’s expansion. Moreover, despite the widespread perception that the IDF had not done very well in the war in Lebanon, there was no drop in the motivation of new recruits to serve in combat units. Brig. Gen. Nissim Barda, Head of Planning in the IDF’s human resources branch, said in November 2006: ‘There is no drop and if anything there may even be a slight increase.’44 Actually, according to Barda, recruits preferred to serve in the units that suffered casualties. Strategically, Israel’s reluctance to commit troops to battle is counterproductive because it signals weakness. The widespread perception within the Arab world that Israeli society is extremely sensitive to the loss of human life invites aggression. It was largely this perception that motivated the Palestinians to start a terror campaign against Israel in September 2000. This view is also the basis of the ‘spider web’ theory concerning Israel, propagated by Hizballah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah, namely that Israel’s emphasis on the value of human life as well as its self-indulgent Western values render it weak and vulnerable. The fear of military casualties and the subsequent hesitation on the part of Israel’s leadership to conduct military operations also constitute a violation of the basic social contract around which a state is built. In accordance with the social contract, citizens give up some of their liberties and are prepared to be taxed in exchange for the state’s commitment to provide them with security. The state is a social institution whose raison d’être is to provide its members with security by using its coercive apparatuses, such as the police and the military. The Zionist rationale was founded in the desire to end the helplessness of the Jew in the diaspora by building a Jewish state whose main function was to defend its Jewish citizens – by force if necessary. Recently, we have seen an incredible inversion of the Zionist and the statist rationale. There is greater tolerance for civilian casualties than for military losses. While foolproof defense is not always a realistic goal, the Jewish state seems to be having difficulty in fulfilling its most basic function – providing its citizens with security. Israel’s public efforts to calm Syria during the war were ill-advised as well and constituted the fifth strategic error. Israel’s leaders stated repeatedly that Israel had no intention of expanding its military activities to target Syria. For example, Prime Minister Olmert said that Syria is outside the realm of military operations.45 Defense Minister Peretz told both the press and the cabinet that Israel had no intention of broadening the war to include Syria.46 Later, he even


The twenty-first-century challenges

called to renew peace negotiations with Syria.47 Head of Operations in the General Staff Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkott pointed out that Hizballah was ‘shooting Syrian missiles at us’, but that attacking Syria was not under consideration.48 Instead of putting pressure on Damascus to stop its shipments of arms to Hizballah – weapons that have caused great pain in Israel and allowed the organization to resist the central Lebanese government – Israeli leaders went out of their way to communicate to Syria that Damascus can continue bleeding Israel by proxy with no fear of paying a price for its aggressive behavior. Israel even spared the Syrians the need to guess the consequences of their policies. Fear of escalation clouded the strategic judgment of Ehud Olmert’s government. Olmert rejected the advice offered by Mossad Chief Maj. Gen. (res.) Meir Dagan on the first day of the war, to add Syrian targets to the list of targets prepared by the Israel Air Force.49 Olmert and his colleagues overlooked the fact that in the past, escalation had been an effective tool in coercing Israel’s rivals to accept its conditions. Israel’s leadership could have emulated that of Turkey in October 1998, when Ankara’s forceful ultimatum and unequivocal determination to use massive force against Syria proved sufficient in order to coerce Hafiz Assad to cease long-time Syrian support for the Kurdish terrorist organization, the PKK. The international constellation of 2006 rendered Syria susceptible once again to military pressure. In addition to its support of Hizballah, Damascus continued to house the headquarters of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad, despite past promises to the US to close down their offices. Syria also disrupted American and French attempts to restore Lebanon’s independence, particularly after Rafik Hariri’s murder in February 2005. Washington was well aware that Bashar Assad’s regime allowed the infiltration of insurgents into Iraq from its territory, and President Bush also made it clear that he held Syria to blame for the crisis in the summer of 2006. At the G8 meeting in Russia on 17 July 2006, an open microphone recorded him saying that what was needed was to influence ‘Syria to get Hizballah to stop doing this shit’.50 Even French President Jacques Chirac concluded that there was no reason to enter into a dialogue with Syria and that his country’s position was identical to that of the US.51 Significant anti-Hizballah sentiments emerged in the Arab world as well and anger was expressed at Hizballah and its allies, Syria and Iran, for destabilizing the region and plunging it into a crisis. By refraining from attacking Syrian targets, Israel missed a possible opportunity to eliminate Syria’s long-range missile capability that threatens most of Israel and could potentially cause considerable damage. Syria was militarily weak and unable to engage Israel in a conventional war. In addition, as it demonstrated in Lebanon, Israel’s air force had the ability to paralyze longrange missiles (in contrast to short-range Katyusha rockets). The risks of regional escalation were minimal. Iran was in no position to intervene directly. Moreover, it had been trying to buy time to complete its nuclear project and was unlikely to provide a pretext for speeding up the international processes geared to bring a halt to its nuclear ambitions.

Israel’s mistakes in the 2006 Lebanon War


A successful campaign against Syria could have weakened Hizballah and possibly strengthened the Lebanese government. It could have clearly signaled Israel’s determination to deal with terrorist threats and with Iranian proxies, enhancing Israeli deterrence. Such a campaign would have also diminished the influence of Iran in the region. Furthermore, it would have diminished Iran’s ability to retaliate in the event that its nuclear installations were attacked. No less significantly, such a campaign could have served as a lesson to all radicals who advocate terror against militarily superior powers. Indeed, the Palestinians, who have been strongly influenced by Hizballah’s past successes, would have calibrated their goals accordingly. Finally, the US would have been pleased to see Damascus taking a beating.52

Unrealistic goals The stated political goals of the military campaign in the summer of 2006 were unrealistic, constituting the sixth strategic mistake. Israeli political and military leaders erred in believing that Israeli pressure on Hizballah and the weak Lebanese government could generate a political process whereby Hizballah would be weakened and the Lebanese army would achieve a monopoly over the use of force in Lebanon.53 From the earliest stages of the war, Israeli leaders insisted that they could force Lebanon to become a regular state and act accordingly, and that Israel’s army would crush Hizballah’s Lebanese state-within-astate. Israel’s use of force was seen by Prime Minister Olmert as instrumental in implementing UNSC Resolution 1559, which called for strengthening the central government of Lebanon and disbanding the Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias.54 Olmert stated that the military operation constituted ‘an almost unique opportunity to change the rules in Lebanon’.55 Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni declared that the goal of the Lebanon War was ‘to promote a process that will bring about a long-term and fundamental change in the political reality’ and to create a regime in Lebanon that would be responsible for its entire territory.56 She said that the harder the IDF hit Hizballah, the easier it would be later for the Lebanese government and the world to implement UNSC Resolution 1559.57 Defence Minister Peretz concurred: ‘There is no intention of ending the campaign without the reality changing in Lebanon.’58 The IDF’s formulation of the campaign’s goals included ‘forcing the Lebanese government . . . to realize its state responsibility, including security control of southern Lebanon’.59 Indeed, from the very first day, Halutz suggested attacking the Lebanese infrastructure so as to achieve Lebanese governmental pressure on Hizballah.60 Brig. Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, former Director of Research at the IDF Intelligence Branch, believed that Israeli use of force had the potential to bring about strategic change within Lebanon and that ‘the idea of transforming Lebanon into a responsible state was significantly advanced [by the war]’.61 This line of thinking was already present in the IDF during the tenure of the previous Chief of Staff, Yaalon.62 It is also reminiscent of the pipe-dreams of the Israeli invasion of 1982.


The twenty-first-century challenges

Quite incredibly, the Israeli elite actually believed that something could be done to overcome the historical, social and religious rifts that divide Lebanese society. Lebanon has been repeatedly dragged into political and military clashes due to a deep and long-standing identity crisis.63 In 1982, Israel attempted to restore Christian hegemony in Lebanon and to build a new political order there, without success. By 2006, after almost four decades of experience with the affairs of its northern neighbor, Israel should have realized that it cannot ‘fix’ Lebanon. This, of course, is true of other attempts at political engineering in the Middle East. All outside intervention intended to change the situation of the Palestinians is similarly unlikely to succeed.64 Even the incomparably stronger US has proven incapable of building a new Iraq. Its meager achievements in Iraq and Afghanistan testify to the inhabitants’ resistance to changing old habits. In the contemporary Middle East, use of force is mostly effective when directed at disrupting military capabilities, not in creating a new political environment.65 On the Palestinian front, the IDF wisely adopted a strategy of denial rather than attempting to mold the Palestinian Authority into a friendly political entity. Similarly, Israel should have adopted a more modest goal in its use of force in the summer of 2006, focusing on neutralizing the rival’s ability to harm Israel instead of changing the Lebanese reality. Indeed, Israel’s military intervention in the summer of 2006 hardly changed the status quo in Lebanon. During 2007, the domestic political crisis continues to dominate Lebanese politics. A similar unrealistic primary war aim was the release of the Israeli abducted soldiers from Hizballah captivity. Prime Minister Olmert announced in his speech to the Knesset (17 July 2006) that Israel would insist on the return of the abducted soldiers before ending military operations – a pledge he repeated several times.66 By the end of the war, it was clear that Israel was not able to achieve even the transfer of the abducted soldiers to the Lebanese authorities.

Mistaken exit strategy The seventh strategic error was Israel’s exit strategy from its war in Lebanon, which focused on a UN resolution and the deployment of a strong peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon. Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs suggested replacing the ineffective United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), deployed there since 1978, with another international force, albeit one ‘more robust’ and better equipped.67 Livni said that preventing Syria’s transfer of arms to Hizballah,68 the total disarmament of the group, and a complete overhaul of the UN forces in southern Lebanon were among Israel’s requirements for a cease-fire. Livni made these demands in a meeting with a visiting UN delegation. While not ruling out the idea of an international presence in southern Lebanon to help the Lebanese army gain control of the area, Livni made it clear that Israel did not see the current UNIFIL as the vehicle for such a force. Israel’s ‘past experience with UNIFIL was not satisfactory’, she said at a press

Israel’s mistakes in the 2006 Lebanon War


conference after meeting with the delegation. Livni expressed her preference that the Lebanese army move its forces southward and exert its authority over the whole country. However, she said that for a limited time there may be a need to strengthen the Lebanese army with a UN force.69 According to Livni, the UN contingent was expected to have significant coercive military capability, enabling it ‘to control the passages on the Lebanese–Syrian border, to aid the Lebanese Army in deploying properly, and to fully implement UNSC Resolution 1559, particularly in disarming the Hizballah’.70 Livni also saw the UN military involvement as facilitating the enforcement of Lebanese sovereignty through the implementation of UNSC Resolution 1559. She welcomed UNSC Resolution 1701 that allowed for an even stronger force to be deployed if necessary. Olmert initially preferred the Lebanese army to deploy its forces in southern Lebanon. In a meeting with Israeli diplomats on 18 July, he said that the idea of an international force was ‘a good headline’, but that Israel’s experience ‘shows that there is nothing behind it’. Yet, soon after learning about the weakness of the Lebanese army, he agreed to a UN force. The same line of thinking was shared by the military; for example, Brig. Gen. (res.) Kuperwasser claimed that a UN-imposed arms embargo could be effective.71 This dangerously naive new faith in the UN, an ineffective institution, was also reflected in Jerusalem’s involvement in drafting the UN resolution. It was actually the first time in the history of the wars waged by Israel that Jerusalem had waited for the UN to call for a cease-fire in order to end a war. Moreover, the hope that such an international contingent could assure the demilitarization of southern Lebanon and the enforcement of an arms embargo against Hizballah in accordance with UNSC Resolution 1701 was totally unfounded. It is already clear that even the European troops participating in the ‘new’ expanded UNIFIL had no intention of using their weapons to implement the UN Resolution. The UN mandate determines that in the event that UNIFIL personnel come across caches of weapons or gunmen, they are to call upon the Lebanese army to deal with the situation. Indeed, then UN secretary-general Kofi Annan advocated ‘flexibility’ in the deployment of UNIFIL along the Syria–Lebanon border, meaning that UNIFIL would not bother Hizballah too much.72 As expected, Syria has continued to funnel arms to the Shi’a Hizballah militia in defiance of international demands, thus undermining hopes for peace and stability in Lebanon. Walid Jumblatt, a long-time leader of the minority Druze community, said in Washington: ‘As long as the Syria–Lebanon border is not being monitored effectively, the flow of weapons will continue and there will be instability.’73 John R. Bolton, US ambassador to the United Nations, said at a Security Council meeting that Syria and Iran – Hizballah’s two main sponsors – were ‘actively trying to destabilize the democratically elected government of Lebanon’ by rearming Hizballah.74 Israel has similarly complained several times that both the Lebanese government and the beefed-up UN peacekeeping force now installed in southern


The twenty-first-century challenges

Lebanon have failed to carry out key parts of the accord that ended the fighting in the summer of 2006, including disarming Hizballah and enforcing an arms embargo. According to Israeli military sources, by November 2006, Hizballah had replenished nearly half of its pre-war stockpiles of short-range missiles and small arms.75 In December 2006, Mossad Chief Meir Dagan told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Syria is arming Hizballah at a rapid rate and is working to overthrow the Lebanese government and destabilize the American presence in the region.76 Thus the UNIFIL force deployed in southern Lebanon has had no impact on Hizballah’s rearmament or on Lebanese domestic politics. Notably, the presence of the renewed multinational UNIFIL force in Lebanon has been a source of tension between Israel and some of the participating European states. The French government denounced Israeli flights over Lebanon to monitor what Israeli defense officials said were continuing violations of the arms embargo by Hizballah. On 19 October 2006, the French commander of UNIFIL even threatened to shoot at Israeli planes if they came too close to his troops.77 A few days later, the Germans complained that Israeli planes had taken aim at one of their ships78 – an incident that generated quick efforts by both states to limit its potential repercussions. This phenomenon is a replay of past events that poisoned Israeli–Scandinavian relations, among others. Israel’s experience with UN forces and observers along its borders has generally been disappointing. Therefore, Israel’s eagerness to have a UN presence on its northern border is strange at best. The presence of an international force will primarily interfere with Israel’s freedom of action against Hizballah, especially as the organization continues to rebuild its military capabilities in southern Lebanon. Worse still is the fact that this unjustifiable Israeli diplomatic naivety may yet lead to the introduction of an international force in the West Bank and/or Gaza, a move that would be extremely detrimental to Israel’s interests.79

Conclusion When the war broke out in the summer of 2006, Israel enjoyed overwhelming military superiority and favorable political conditions. However, a series of strategic follies and operational deficiencies resulted in a faltering, indecisive war. Israel could have administered a serious blow to Hizballah from the air during the first few days of the war, or alternatively, destroyed most of Hizballah’s military presence in southern Lebanon by means of a creative, large-scale land invasion. Unfortunately, Israel’s political and military leadership had no clear concept of what victory over Hizballah entailed. Israel squandered an important opportunity to settle regional scores. Iran’s apparent efforts to expand the Shi’a influence in Lebanon by strengthening Hizballah were left unchecked. Similarly, Syria’s potential for mischief in Lebanon and Iraq remained untouched. Damascus, an Iranian ally, issued military threats against Israel, statements the likes of which had not been heard for several years. The Palestinians also watched

Israel’s mistakes in the 2006 Lebanon War


Hizballah and gained hope that they too could withstand Israel’s superior military power. Radicals in the Middle East were generally emboldened. The war in Lebanon was also a missed opportunity to gain points with the US and to strengthen Israel’s image as a powerful and useful ally in the Middle East. All of the above developments did not augur well for Israel’s deterrence. Israel lives in a tough neighborhood in which military might is the final guarantee for survival. Hopefully, Israeli leadership will be better prepared with appropriate military and diplomatic strategies for attaining a clearly defined victory in the next round. A government-appointed inquiry committee is studying the war and is expected to present its final findings in the summer of 2007. Chief of Staff Halutz has initiated an intensive and comprehensive inquiry process and resigned. In the past, the IDF has proved its capacity to learn from its mistakes and improve. Some deficiencies can be easily corrected. Increases in the defense budget could provide the means to implement some of the lessons learned; for example, longer training for reserve units and procurement of better weapons systems. Some of the war lessons may take longer to digest and their application is less certain. This is particularly pertinent with regard to the quality of strategic thinking, which first appeared in the 1990s.80 Increased apprehensions about the economic cost and the use of building a strong military force, as well as a proclivity to greater trust in and cooperation with other international actors, have spread among Israel’s political leadership and its defense and foreign affairs establishment. Postmodern notions have also blurred the strategic clarity of many high-level officials. Getting rid of such misconceptions, which are congruent with the prevalent mood in many Western states, is not an easy task. Despite the sobering experiences since September 2000, the wishful thinking that motivated the Oslo process is not yet dead in Israel. The failures in the 2006 war against Hizballah may contribute to a further awakening from recent illusions. Even the best military machine cannot guarantee good results if improperly employed. Despite the strategic misconduct, the war demonstrated that Israel is a strong state. It has the spirit to fight and its soldiers won each encounter with Hizballah. The home front displayed great resilience, while its economy continued to boom. Hopefully, Israel’s leadership will be better prepared with appropriate military and diplomatic strategies for attaining a clearly defined victory in the next round.


1 Israeli strategic thinking after 1973 1 H. Sicherman, ‘The United States and Israel: A Strategic Divide?’, Orbis, summer 1980, vol. 24, 381–94. 2 B. Lewis, ‘Settling the Arab–Israeli Conflict’, Commentary, June 1977, vol. 63, 53. 3 This paper does not deal with the government headed by Golda Meir in the period until June 1974, since her government had little impact on Israeli thinking thereafter. 4 See I. Navon, ‘The Changes in the Israeli Position Toward the Arab–Israeli Conflict’ in A. Hareven and Y. Padan (eds) Between War and Settlements (Hebrew), Tel Aviv: Zamora Bitan, Modan, 1977, p. 158. Navon, served in the 1974 to 1977 period as chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for Security and Foreign Affairs. 5 For Israel’s military doctrine before 1967 see Michael Handel, Israel’s Political–Military Doctrine, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Occasional Papers Series, 1974. It has never been maintained that a preventive or pre-emptive strike was to be the automatic Israeli response to a major Arab military threat. The international situation has always been one of the most important considerations. Ben-Gurion waited until October 1956 for favorable political conditions before launching the preventive attack. In 1967, Eshkol and Rabin waited three weeks, until a positive political climate emerged, before giving the order to strike. In 1973, Golda Meir decided against a pre-emptive air strike and here, too, the reason was of a political nature: the fear of probable American displeasure at such a step. 6 Maj. Gen. I. Tal, ‘Israel’s Defence Doctrine: Background and Dynamics’, Maarachot, December 1976, vol. 253, 6. Tal served in the October War as deputy Chief of Staff. 7 It was Clausewitz’s conviction that defense was the ‘stronger form’ of war. See C. V. Clausewitz, On War, edited and translated by M. Howard and P. Paret, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1976, pp. 357–66. Henry Kissinger has also has observed, ‘Conventional warfare favors the defense. It has been truly remarked that but for the development of nuclear weapons, the defense would long since have achieved ascendancy over the offense. Even in World War Two the attacker generally required a superiority of three to one’, ‘Limited War: Conventional or Nuclear’, Daedalus, vol. 90, fall 1960, 809. For a historical outline of favorable ratios of defense, see B. H. Lidell Hart, Deterrent or Defence, London: Stevens & Sons, 1960, pp. 97–110. 8 N. Safran, Israel: The Embattled Ally, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1978, p. 315; S. Rosen and M. Indyk, ‘The Temptation to Pre-empt in a Fifth Arab–Israeli War’, Orbis, summer 1976, vol. 20, 265–86; W. Tuohy, ‘Israeli Military Seem Stronger Than Ever’, Los Angeles Times, 9 February 1976. 9 ‘Interview with Gur’, Bamahane, 26 June 1974. See reports of his declaration in Maariv and Haaretz of the same day.



10 Y. Allon, ‘Israel: The Case for Defensible Borders’, Foreign Affairs, October 1976, vol. 55, 44. Secure borders were those borders which allow the defender not to recur to a pre-emptive strike. See D. Horowitz, Israel’s Concept of Defensible Borders, Jerusalem Papers on Peace Problems, no. 16, 1975. 11 Interview in Die Presse (Wien), 6 February 1975, p. 3. This section received publicity in Israel. See Maariv. Jerusalem Post and Al Hamishmar of the same date. 12 Author’s interview with Allon, 4 June 1979. 13 S. Peres, Tomorrow is Now, Jerusalem: Mabat, 1978, p. 236. 14 Rabin and Sadat NBC Interview, 5 April 1975; see also D. Goldstein, ‘Interview of the Week with Rabin’, Maariv, 18 April 1975. 15 Y. Charif, Maariv, 2 September 1974. 16 M. Kalb and B. Kalb, Kissinger, Boston, MA: Little Brown, 1974, p. 460. 17 Rabin related Israel’s success in holding on to the territories conquered in 1967 to the Israeli waiting period, which enabled the futile attempts of the US to rectify the situation by diplomatic means. This justified Israel’s subsequent military action; see Y. Rabin, ‘The Six Day War – Characteristics and Achievements’, Maarachot, June 1977, vol. 256, 4. On the other hand, during the attrition war in 1969 to 1970, Rabin was one of the most vocal proponents of escalation against Egypt, because he perceived this to be the American desire. See Rabin, Memoirs, Tel Aviv: Maariv Book Guild, 1979, pp. 273–91. 18 Inter alia, see his interview to Newsweek, 18 December 1974, when in response to a question concerning an Israel pre-emptive strike, he said, ‘Based on my talks with Israeli leaders, I do not believe that any responsible Israeli leader operates on this assumption. They know that if a war starts it may start events of incalculable consequences . . . I do not believe that any Israeli leader would deliberately engage in such a reckless course’ (p. 8). This excerpt was included in the Selected Documents, No. 4, The Department of State, ‘US Policy in the Middle East: November 1974–February 1976’, Washington, DC: GPO, 1976. Its conclusion in this publication indicates its importance to the Americans. 19 ‘Interview with Gur’, Bamahane, Edition for Reservists Abroad, no. 2, September– December 1976. 20 D. Goldstein, ‘An Interview with Rafael Eitan’, Maariv, 16 April 1976. 21 Lt. Gen. Elazar, the IDF Chief of Staff during the October War, emphatically said, ‘In the October War, it was proved once more that the defense is the stronger form of combat: inferior forces, well deployed in defensive positions, are able to stop the advance of superior forces’. D. Elazar, ‘The Yom Kippur: Military Lessons’ in L. Williams (ed.) Military Aspects of the Israeli–Arab Conflict, Tel Aviv: University Publishing Projects, 1975, p. 249. 22 Tal, ‘Israel’s Defense Doctrine’, 3. For the patterns of superpower intervention in the Middle East see Y. Evron, ‘Great Powers’ Military Intervention in the Middle East’ in M. Leitenberg and G. Sheffer (eds) Great Power Intervention in the Middle East, New York: Pergamon Press, 1979, pp. 17–45. 23 Peres, Tomorrow is Now, pp. 249–50. 24 Gur’s presentation in Williams Military Aspects, p. 199. For an advocacy of an ‘offensive defense’, that is, a strategy combining defensive and offensive options, see S. Amiel, ‘Deterrence by Conventional Forces’, Survival, March–April 1978, vol. 20, 58–65. 25 D. Goldstein, ‘Interview with Rabin’, Maariv, 25 September 1974. Peres also talked about the emphasis on a fast, decisive victory, Haaretz, 29 September 1974. 26 Peres’ opening address in Williams, Military Aspects, pp. 10–11; his Tomorrow is Now, pp. 249–50. 27 Interview with Goldstein op. cit., emphasis added. 28 Gur’s remarks in favor of a pre-emptive strike were also a reply to Dayan’s lecture to an officers’ convention in April 1974. Dayan had claimed that the period of pre-


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emptive strikes was over. Gur believed such talk could destroy the morale of the IDF. Interview with Gur, 29 June 1979. D. Horowitz, ‘The Israeli Concept of National Security and the Prospects of Peace in the Middle East’ in G. Sheffer, (ed.) Dynamics of a Conflict, Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1975, p. 261. Horowitz, ‘Concept of National Security’, p. 262. See also K. Subrahmanyam, ‘The Lessons of the 1973 Arab–Israeli War’, The Institute or Defence Studies and Analysis Journal, January 1974, vol. 6, 416–42. The Rabin government rejected, however, the suggestion to station UN forces on its Lebanese border as well. Israel did not fear a Lebanese attack and preferred not to curtail its freedom of action in that region. J. Churba, The Politics of Defeat, New York: Cyreo Press, 1977, p. 127. See also Horowitz, ‘Concept of National Security’, pp. 259–60. Rabin, Memoirs, p. 488. See A. M. Cordesman, ‘How Much is Too Much?’, Armed Forces Journal, October 1977, 36–7. The analysis is unfriendly to Israel, but the figures for the Israeli planned buildup seem to be accurate. Interestingly, Peres quoted Cordesman’s figures in his book Tomorrow is Now. D. Vital, The Inequality of States, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967, pp. 60–1. Gur said in a radio interview, ‘One of the main lessons learned after the war was that it is necessary to increase the quantitative aspect of the IDF. Masses have great importance, as the war has shown’, Maariv, 27 October 1974. For an analysis of quality versus quantity, see M. Handel, ‘Numbers Do Count: The Question of Quality Versus Quantity’, The Journal of Strategic Studies, September 1981, vol. 4, 225–60. In the October War, Israel did not have enough troops to launch simultaneous counter-offensives on the Golan and in Sinai. For an analysis of Israel’s dilemma then, see C. Bartov, Dado – 48 Years and 20 Days, Tel Aviv: Maariv Book Guild, 1978, Part II. Peres, Tomorrow is Now, p. 54. Rabin, Memoirs, p. 505. For an outline of the defensive requirements and capabilities of the new technologies, see S. Amiel, ‘Defensive Technologies for Small States’ in Williams, Military Aspects, pp. 18–20. For an analysis of the defensive implications see, inter alia, J. Digby, Precision Guided Weapons, Adelphi Paper no. 118, London: 11SS, summer 1975; A. Wohlestetter, ‘Threat and Promises of Peace: Europe and America in the New Era’, Orbis, winter 1974, vol.17, 1107–44; J. Mearsheimer, ‘Precision-guided Munitions and Conventional Deterrence’, Survival, March–April 1979, vol. 21, 68–76. See also Gur’s response to a question on the impact of the new technologies in Williams, Military Aspects, pp. 202–3; Amiel, op. cit. Amiel served as the director of long-range planning at the Israeli Ministry of Defense. Gur, ‘The IDF: Continuity and Renewal’, p. 6. Peres, Tomorrow is Now, p. 55. The other two efforts were directed toward increasing and upgrading the manpower available to the IDF, and toward supplying the IDF with appropriate weapons. For the fortifications plans see Z. Schiff, ‘The Defense and the Fortification System’, Haaretz, 30 October 1974. Gur said, ‘Among the outstanding changes following the Yom Kippur War is strengthening the partnership of the territorial defense in the overall war waging system’, M. Gur, ‘IDF – Continuity and Renewal’, Maarachot, March–April 1978, vol. 261/262, 6. For an early exposition of the rationale for the spatial defense see Y. Allon, Curtain of Sand (Hebrew), Tel Aviv: Hakibbutz Hameuhad, 1968, pp. 65–8. For a contemporary reformulation of the doctrine see D. Noy, ‘Territorial Defense and National Security’, Mibnifim, December 1977, vol. 39, 243–55. For the organizational structure and command line of the spatial defense see Z. Schiff and E. Haber, Israel, Army and Defense: A Dictionary, Tel Aviv: Zmora, Bitan, Modan, 1976, 158.



45 Newsweek, 24 May 1976. 46 Author’s interview with M. Netzer, Coordinator of Settlement and Civil Defense, Ministry of Defense, 29 August 1979. 47 Ariel Sharon’s Address to the International Symposium on Strategic Problems at Tel Aviv University, ‘Israel’s Strategic Problems in the 1980s’, 14 December 1981. It is referred to as ‘Address’. Israeli strategic thinking has never been given a formal institutionalized formulation. Therefore, the notion of ‘doctrine’ is not suitable to describe the Israeli concepts of national security. 48 Address, p. 8 (emphasis added). 49 Ibid., p. 1. 50 See M. Begin’s autobiographies, White Nights. The Story of A Prisoner in Russia, London: Macdonald, 1957; The Revolt, New York: Dell Publishing, 1978. 51 Address, p. 6. 52 For an exposition of the ‘periphery doctrine’, see A. Eban, ‘Reality and Vision in the Middle East’, Foreign Affairs, July 1965, vol. 43, 632, 4–5. 53 Israel has tried to emphasize its importance as a strategic asset to the West, particularly since 1973. The US agreed to sign a Memorandum of Understanding on Strategic Cooperation in December 1981 in order to compensate Israel for the American sale of AWACs and F-15s to Saudi Arabia. The Americans consistently lowered the public profile of the Memorandum and diluted the Israeli–American cooperation it had outlined. The US was uncomfortable with the Memorandum because if preferred not to attract more attention to its ties with Israel. Indeed, at the first opportunity, the US retreated from the vague obligations contained in the Memorandum. Following the Israeli decision to extend Israeli law to the Golan in December 1981, the US suspended the implementation of the Memorandum. 54 Address, p. 6. 55 K. J. Holsti, International Politics, 2nd edn, London: Prentice Hall International, 1974, pp. 313–14. Fluctuations in the motivation of the challenger of the status quo are also an important factor. Lower motivation obviously requires less deterrence. 56 For this category of states see Y. Dror, Crazy States, Lexington: D. C. Health, 1973. 57 Between April 1974 and May 1977 only 27.6 percent of the attacks against targets in Lebanon were air strikes, while during the June 1977 to May 1982 period air strikes consisted of 57.1 percent of the Israeli activity there. The raw data were supplied by the IDF spokesman. The March 1978 Litani operation was excluded from the compilation. 58 Rabin’s government refused to get involved in the Lebanese morass beyond supplying and training the Christian militias, and insisting upon a Syrian free zone in southern Lebanon. In contrast, in June 1982 the Israeli goals were to expel the PLO and Syrian forces from Lebanon and to create a new ‘stable order’ there. 59 Maariv, 18 February 1982; 23 May 1982. Lt. Gen. Eitan was more specific as to Israel’s weapon procurement plan in an interview to Israeli television on the eve of Israel’s Independence Day, 27 April 1982. No additional units are planned, but the current units will complete their procurement programs. Only the air force will slightly increase its order of battle. Following those weapons acquisitions, new weapons will be purchased only for substituting older weapon systems to be phased out of service. Sources in the Finance Ministry confirmed this trend. 60 Address, p. 8. 61 Maariv, 30 March 1982. 62 D. Horowitz, Defensible Borders. p. 9. 63 Maariv, 28 June 1974. 64 Rabin, Memoirs, p. 503. 65 Ibid. 66 S. Dinitz to Time, 18 May 1981, 2. Dinitz served as Israel’s ambassador in Washington, from 1973 to 1979.



67 Maariv, 18 November 1976. 68 Sharon had already insisted in 1975 that any Arab installation preparing a nuclear bomb would have to be wiped out, New York Times, 8 February 1975. 69 Since 1975, Israel has officially favored a NWFZ reached after negotiations among the Middle Eastern nations. See ‘The Official Israeli Position’, New Outlook, May 1982, 68–72. 70 See A. Perlmutter, ‘The Israeli Raid on Iraq: A New Proliferation Landscape’, Strategic Review, winter 1982. 71 Egypt ratified the NPT in January 1981. This opened the way for Western nuclear cooperation with Egypt. See Approving the Proposed Agreement for Nuclear Cooperation With Egypt: Report September 1981, House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Washington, DC: US GPO, 1981. 72 In contrast to other countries, the consensus in national security matters in Israel is broad. It relates to the source of threat and to the means to deal with it. The national consensus is based on the perception of the existence of an Arab politicide drive. There is practically no problem in drafting Israelis into the regular army and the reserves. Further, there is legitimacy for the use of various degrees of force in the absence of peace. 73 It was explained that the June 1982 invasion of Lebanon prevented a planned PLO destruction campaign in the Galilee and delayed or even prevented a general war the Syrians were preparing for. See the report of Sharon’s speech to the Staff and Command College, Maariv, 7 July 1982; and Y. Erez, ‘Interview with Amir Drori – the Commander of the Northern Command’, Maariv, 30 July 1982. 74 Address, p. 6. 75 Ibid., p. 7. 76 For Sharon’s position, see Address, p. 7. For Eitan’s position, see Z. Schiff, ‘A Revolution in Territorial Defense’, Haaretz, 14 April 1976. 2 The American arms transfer to Israel 1 For changes in the arms market see R. E. Harkavi, The Arms Trade and International Systems, Cambridge: Ballinger, 1975. 2 For the exact breakdown of American aid to Israel (1967–78) into economic and military aid, as well as the amounts of loans and grants, see P. Rivlin, ‘The Burden of Israel’s Defense’, Survival, July–August 1978, vol. 20, table 4, 128. 3 D. Goldstein, ‘Interview of the Week with Shimon Peres’, Maariv, 12 July 1974. 4 I. Rabin, Memoirs (Hebrew), Tel Aviv: Maariv Book Guild, 1979, p. 476. 5 Ibid., p. 498. 6 B. Gwertzman, ‘US Decides to Sell Some Arms to Israel that It Blocked in the Past’, New York Times, 12 October 1976, 12. The deal included laser-guided bombs, missile-armed helicopters, night-fighting equipment, stepped-up delivery of M-60s, TV-guided bombs and ATWs. 7 For an account of the political process leading to the peace treaty see M. Dayan, Breakthrough, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1981; E. Haber, Z. Schiff and E. Yaari, The Year Of The Dove, New York: Bantam Books, 1979. 8 Rabin, out of office, commented on the coming Begin–Carter meeting: ‘I do not suppose that a prime minister of Israel can talk to the President of the USA without dealing with the basic Israeli requests for the needed arms. Yet, I do not believe that this topic should be central in the Begin–Carter talks’. D. Goldstein, ‘Interview of the Week with MK Itzhak Rabin’, Maariv, 15 July 1977. 9 Interview with Maj. Gen. A. Adan, Military Attaché in Washington (1974–77). 10 Haaretz, 28 January 1975. Examples of such firms are Raytheon and Northrop. 11 S. Peres, Tomorrow Is Now (Hebrew), Jerusalem: Mabat, 1978, p. 56. The Matmon B Weapons Procurement Plan was presented by Peres in June 1974 and in October 1975 he submitted a revised list of Israeli requirements.



12 Rabin, Memoirs, p. 476; E. Sheehan, The Arabs, Israelis and Kissinger, New York: Reader’s Digest Press, 1976, p. 21. Kissinger similarly hoped that a well-supplied Thieu would be more flexible about a cease-fire in Vietnam. M. Kalb and B. Kalb, Kissinger, Boston, MA: Little Brown & Company, 1974, p. 389. 13 A. H. Cordesman, ‘How Much Is Too Much?’, Armed Forces Journal, October 1977, 36–7. The analysis is not friendly to Israel, but the figures for the Israeli-planned buildup seem to be accurate. Interestingly, Peres quoted Cordesman’s figures in his book, Tomorrow Is Now. 14 Interview with Gur. American sources evaluate that the Israelis prepared stocks for thirty days of fighting. Cordesman, ‘How Much Is Too Much?’, 37. 15 The discussion in this section is largely based upon interviews with Rabin, Peres, Adan and Asher Ben Natan, political advisor to the Minister of Defense (1975–77). 16 See inter alia C. A. Robinson, ‘Israel Arms Export Spur Concern’, Aviation Week and Space Technology, 13 December 1976, 14–17. 17 Interview with Adan. The acceptable Israeli ratio was 3 to 1. 18 Cordesman, ‘How Much Is Too Much?’, 35. 19 Interview with Peres. 20 Interview with Adan. 21 Rabin, Memoirs, pp. 498–9. In contrast, there were Israelis who simply attempted to extract as much as possible from the US disregarding the ‘credibility’ issue. For example, Asher Ben Natan remarked, ‘There is no shame in receiving a negative American reply’. (Interview with Ben Natan.) 22 Rabin, Memoirs, p. 498. 23 D. Goldstein, ‘Interview of the Week with MK Yitzhak Rabin’, Maariv, 15 July 1977. 24 Interview with Adan. 25 D. Vital, The Inequality of States, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967, ch. 4; R. L. Rothstein, Alliances and Small Powers, New York: Columbia University Press, 1968, p. 20. 26 See the report of Rabin’s speech to the Knesset. Maariv, 11 March 1976. 27 Interview with Peres. 28 Interview with Adan. 29 Interview with Ben Natan. For example, Israel had already requested the Lance surface-to-surface missile in 1970, two years before its deployment in Europe. Z. Schiff, ‘The Lance’, Haaretz, 26 January 1976. The US agreed to provide the missile in November 1974 (Aviation Week and Space Technology, 18 November 1974, 17). It was finally supplied in winter 1976. The Pershing requested in 1974 was not yet in production. This confirms a certain Israeli pattern of making early demands for advanced weapons. 30 See ‘Staunch Friends at Arms Length’, Time, 31 January 1977. Part of the article was based upon an interview with Peres. See also S. Segev, ‘The Israeli Technological Return for American Aid’, Maariv, 17 December 1976. 31 For Rabin’s apprehensions of an imminent war see Haaretz, 8 August 1974; Maariv, 24 April 1975; Haaretz, 5 September 1975 (a few days following the signing of the Sinai 2 agreement!); Maariv, 26 February 1976. Peres also believed that the danger of war was close (Haaretz, 28 July 1974). Even following Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem, Peres continued to fear an imminent war (Peres, Tomorrow Is Now, p. 226). Gur shared this distrust. On the eve of Sadat’s arrival in Jerusalem, he even publicly demanded that Israel prepare for an Egyptian attack. 32 Interview with Simcha Dinitz, ambassador to the US (1973–79). 33 Rabin, Memoirs, pp. 438–40. 34 Ibid., p. 494. 35 Ibid., p. 519. 36 Interview with Peres.



37 Rabin, Memoirs, pp. 494–5. 38 Ibid., p. 504. Rabin suspected that this controversial Israeli demand was motivated by the desire to torpedo the deal and to allow the Israel Aircraft Industry to develop its own airplane – the Arieh (ibid., p. 505). 39 Ibid., p. 505. 40 For the official history of the Israeli defense complex see Y. Evron, The Israel Defense Industry, Tel Aviv: Publishing House, Ministry of Defense, 1980. 41 D. Kochav, ‘The Economics of Defense’ in Louis Williams (ed.) Military Aspects of the Israeli–Arab Conflict, Tel Aviv: University Publishing Projects, 1975, pp. 182–3. 42 Israel also produced C2 systems, ECM and a variety of PGM. Peres, Tomorrow Is Now, p. 59. For a review of some of the products the Israeli defense industry had for sale, see ‘Special Israel Advertising Section’, Aviation Week and Space Technology, 14 June 1976. 43 Peres, Tomorrow Is Now, p. 58; See also A. Lorever, ‘To Develop Modern Weapon Systems or to Purchase Them?’, Maarachot, November 1978, no. 266, 48–9. 44 The critics were in the military and in the Finance Ministry. 45 Interview with Rabin. 46 Interview with Maj. Gen. Israel Tal. He was the one in charge of the development of the Merkava and was involved in local production projects. 47 International Defense Review, 10 February 1977, 160. 48 Interview with Ben Natan. 49 Y. Elitzur, ‘The Arieh Will Not Fly in the 80s’, Maariv, 21 April 1978. 50 Interview with Tal. 51 D. Goldstein, ‘Interview of the Week with Prime Minister Rabin’, Maariv, 18 April 1975. 52 Maariv, 6 March 1977. 53 Peres, Tomorrow Is Now, p. 59. 54 Y. Elitzur, ‘The Israeli Arms Industry Is “Bombed” in Washington’, Maariv, 31 December 1976. 55 Maariv, 27 June 1974. 56 Rabin, Memoirs, p. 515. This topic was raised by Israeli officials with the Secretary of the Treasury when he was in Israel (Haaretz, 5 March 1976). 57 Maariv, 10 September 1979; 14 September 1979. 58 Haaretz, 18 March 1977; Davar, 11 May 1977. 59 Maariv, 23 June 1976. 60 In 1976, the Israeli defense complex supplied only one-third of the IDF total procurement (Kochav, ‘The Economics of Defense’, p. 182). 61 For a refutation of this claim see J. Churba, The Politics of Defeat, New York: Cyrco Press, 1976, pp. 114–16. 62 During the decade of the 1970s, four states accounted for 87.5 percent of the value of the global arms transfer: the United States (45 percent), the Soviet Union (27.5 percent), France (10 percent) and Britain (5 percent). When the West is added in, the figure goes up to 94.3 percent. A. J. Pierre, ‘Arms Sales: The New Diplomacy’, Foreign Affairs, winter 1981–82, vol. 61, 268–9. Israel is conspicuously missing from the above list of major weapon exporters. 63 D. Goldstein, ‘Interview of the Week with Gavriel Gidor, the Executive Director of the IAI’, Maariv, 31 March 1980. 64 Rabin on Israeli TV, 1 December 1981. Rabin emphasized that even during Begin’s tenure as prime minister this pattern continued. 65 In a speech to party activists in Jerusalem. Haaretz, 29 April 1975. 3 Israel’s small war: the military response to the Intifada 1 See E. E. Azar, P. Jureidini and R. McLaurin, ‘Protracted Social Conflict: Theory and Practice in the Middle East’, Journal of Palestine Studies, autumn 1978, vol. 6, 41–60.



2 For the term ‘compound conflict’ see S. Sandler, ‘The Protracted Arab–Israeli Conflict: A Temporal–Spatial Analysis’, Jerusalem Journal of International Relations, 10 December 1988, 55. 3 For the classic trichotomy of the sub-conventional, conventional and non-conventional categories in the spectrum of violence, see Y. Harkabi (ed.) On Guerrilla, Tel Aviv: Maarachot, 1971, introduction. 4 For an early treatment, see C. E. Calwell, Small Wars: Their Principles and Practice, London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1906. For low-intensity conflict, see S. C. Sarkesian and W. L. Scully (eds) American Policy and Low-intensity Conflict, New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1981. For an elucidation of the small-war concept see S. A. Cohen and E. Inbar, ‘A Taxonomy of Israel’s Use of Force’, Comparative Strategy, April 1991, vol. 10, 128–9. 5 This section relies on E. Inbar, War and Peace in Israeli Politics: Labour Party Positions on National Security, Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1991, ch. 6. 6 See T. C. Shelling, Arms and Influence, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1966, ch. 1. 7 M. Arens, ‘The Termination of Wars’, Maarachot, March–April 1984, nos 292–3, 3. For the Israeli leadership’s views on war, see E. Inbar, ‘The “No Choice War” Debate in Israel’, Journal of Strategic Studies, March 1989, vol. 12, 22–37; and E. Inbar, ‘Attitudes Toward War in the Israeli Political Elite’, Middle East Journal, summer 1989, vol. 44, 431–45. 8 D. Sagir, ‘Jordan Will Return’, Haaretz (in Hebrew), Israel’s Fortieth Year Magazine, May 1988, 26; for Israeli decision-making, see L. Brownstein, ‘Decision Making in Israeli Foreign Policy: An Unplanned Process’, Political Science Quarterly, summer 1977, 256–68; and Y. Ben-Meir, National Security Decision Making: The Israeli Case, JCSS Study no. 8, Jerusalem: Jerusalem Post and Westview Press, 1986. For a decision-making model stressing gradual and incremental changes, see C.E. Lindblom, ‘The Science of “Muddling Through”’, Public Administration Review, spring 1959, vol. 19, 79–88. 9 Z. Schiff and E. Yaari, Intifada (in Hebrew), Tel Aviv: Schocken, 1990, pp. 104–5. 10 Ibid., pp. 67–8. 11 See Rabin’s interview in Haaretz, 29 December 1987, A1. 12 Bemachane (in Hebrew), 30 December 1987, p. 5. 13 S. Mishal with R. Aharoni, Speaking Stones: The Words Behind the Palestinian Intifada (in Hebrew), Tel Aviv: Hakibbutz Hameuchad and Avivim, 1979, p. 38. 14 For the English transcript, see Y. Rabin, ‘We Have Our Priorities’, Spectrum, April 1988, vol. 6, 11. This is a Labour Party organ. 15 For the ‘evoked set’, see R. Jervis, Perception and Misperception in International Politics, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1976, pp. 213–16; for the term ‘politicide’, see Y. Harkabi, Fedayeen Action and Arab Strategy, Adelphi Papers, no. 53, London: International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1969, p. 11. 16 This interview with Yitzhak Rabin was carried on Israeli television, 13 January 1988. For the transcript, see Journal of Palestine Studies, spring 1988, vol. 17, 153. 17 Ibid., pp. 153–4. 18 For the policy of beatings see I. Rosen, ‘Interview with Elkana Har-Nof’, Maariv, 19 September 1990, B9. Har-Nof served as the head of Rabin’s office. 19 Haaretz, 9 October 1988, A1. 20 Y. Tunik, ‘Interview with Maj Gen Mitzna’, Bemachane, 17 February 1988, 64. 21 By mid-1988 Israel realized that the lengthy legal process involved in deportations reduced the deterrent power of such a step. 22 ‘Interview with Rabin’, Spectrum, 6 March 1988, 9. 23 ‘Interview with the Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin’, Bemachane, 30 March 1988, 17.



24 G. Cohen, ‘Interview with the Minister of Defense, Yitzhak Rabin’, Davar, 29 September 1989, 16. 25 ‘Interview with the Defense Minister’. 26 Rabin, ‘We Have Our Priorities’, 11. 27 Ibid. 28 For the two basic forms of warfare, annihilation and attrition, see H. Delbruck, A History of the Art of War 4, Westport, CO: Greenwood, 1985, pp. 293–315; also G. A. Craig, ‘Delbruck’ in P. Paret (ed.) Makers of Modern Strategy: From Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University, 1986, pp. 326–53. 29 See e.g., Sagir, ‘Jordan Will Return’; ‘Interview with the Defense Minister, Yitzhak Rabin’. 30 J. Greenberg, ‘From Bad to Worse’, Jerusalem Post, 17 February 1989, 4. See the statement of the Chief of Staff Dan Shomron to the Parliamentary Committee National Security and Foreign Affairs in Maariv, 17 May 1988, A3; D. Shilon, ‘With Dan Shomron’, Haaretz, 17 March 1989, B-2. 31 Schiff and Yaari, Intifada, p. 296. 32 Ibid., p. 276; see also A. Shalev, The Intifada, Tel Aviv: Papyrus, 1990, p. 203. 33 Y. Rabin, lecture at the Jaffee Center of Strategic Studies, 7 December 1989. 34 Ibid.; see also the interview with Rabin, New York Times, 5 December 1989, A3. 35 Haaretz, 4 September 1989, A2. 36 Jerusalem Post, 8 December 1989, 4. 37 New York Times, 5 December 1989, A3. 38 Ibid. 39 Y. Rabin, televised interview 14 July 1988, quoted in Shalev, Intifada, p. 114. 40 Y. Rabin, quoted in Haaretz (in Hebrew), 5 January 1990, A6. 41 S. Metz, ‘Foundations for a Low-intensity Conflict Strategy’, Comparative Strategy, 1989, vol. 8, no. 2, 271. 42 B. Kimmerling, The Interrupted System, New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1985. 43 Supplement presented by the Prime Minister’s Conference on Jewish Solidarity with Israel, Jerusalem Post, 24 March 1989, 3. 44 Y. Rabin, interview on Israeli television, 13 January 1988, transcript, Journal of Palestine Studies, spring 1988, vol. 17, 151. 45 M. Arens, quoted in Haaretz, 27 June 1990, A3. 46 Maariv, 6 June 1990, A1. 47 Israeli television, 25 September 1990. 48 B. Posen, Sources of Military Doctrine, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1984, pp. 49–50. 49 F. Kitson, Low Intensity Operations, London: Faber and Faber, 1971, pp. 199–200. 50 S. C. Sarkesian, ‘American Policy and Low-intensity Conflict’ in American Policy and Low-intensity Conflict, p. 11. 51 Y. Rabin, quoted in Spectrum, February 1988, vol. 6, 10. 52 Kitson, Low Intensity Operations, p. 92. 53 Z. Schiff, ‘Finally There Is Initiative’, Haaretz, 10 October 1989, B1. 54 Z. Schiff, ‘To Shorten the Service of the Girls’, Haaretz, 17 April 1990, B1. 55 E. Rosen, ‘A Draw’, Maariv, 8 December 1989, B3. 56 D. Sagir, ‘The Kibbutznik Is Again in Uniform’, Haaretz, 14 November 1989, B3. 57 Haaretz, 4 April 1990, A5. 58 ‘Interview with Rabin’, Spectrum, March 1988, vol. 6, 9. 59 Haaretz, 26 June 1990, A1. 60 D. Sagir, ‘The Evolution of Instructions’, Haaretz, 21 February 1989, B1. 61 The British train their units for about nine months before deployment. See D. A. Charters, ‘From Palestine to Northern Ireland: British Adaptation to Low-intensity Operations’ in D. A. Charters and M. Tugwell (eds) Armies in Low-intensity Conflict, London: Brassey’s, 1989, p. 207.



62 For a very critical review of the types of ammunition and regulations governing opening fire, see Opening Fire by the Security Forces in the Territories, Jerusalem: Betzelem, July 1990. 63 See Kitson, Low Intensity Operations, p. 50. 64 It first held an exercise for such a contingency in November 1989. See Haaretz, 21 November 1989, A-3. 65 D. Shilon, ‘With Dan Shomron’, Haaretz, 17 March 1989, B2. 66 There has been a slight but consistent increase in hostile activities by Israeli Arabs since the beginning of the Intifada. Following severe disturbances in the Israeli Arab sector it was disclosed that contingency plans exist for IDF participation in the maintenance of law and order in Israel proper. See Haaretz, 22 May 1990, p. 1. 4 The ‘no choice war’ debate in Israel 1 For the developments leading up to the 1982 War in Lebanon see A. Yaniv and R. J. Lieber, ‘Personal Whim or Strategic Imperative: The Israeli Invasion of Lebanon’, International Security, fall 1983; E. Inbar, ‘Israel and Lebanon: 1975–1982’, Crossroads, spring 1983, vol. 10; I. Rabinovich, The War in Lebanon 1970–1985, rev. edn, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1986, pp. 89–122. 2 For the gradual break in the national consensus see S. Feldman and H. ReehnitzKijner, Deception, Consensus and War: Israel in Lebanon, JCSS Paper no. 27, October 1984; D. Horowitz, ‘Israel’s War in Lebanon: New Patterns of Strategic Thinking and Civilian–Military Relations’, Journal of Strategic Studies, September 1983, vol. 6, 85–8. 3 See S. N. Eisenstadt, The Internal Repercussions of the Lebanon War, Policy Studies no. 17, The Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, August 1986; see also O. Seliktar, New Zionism and the Foreign Policy System in Israel, London: Croom Helm, 1986, pp. 219–74. 4 M. Shamir, ‘Realignment in the Israeli Party System’, in A. Arian and M. Shamir (eds) The Elections in Israel 1984, Tel Aviv: Ramot, 1986, pp. 276–7. 5 The population upon which this work concentrates is the Knesset and the government members in the 1980s. Most attention is given to the leadership of the Israeli parties. Their statements in the Knesset, in the newspapers and/or their writings are the sources used. Of course, there is a different weight to a heated debate in the Knesset than to what was submitted for publication, which allows second thoughts and a more discriminating use of words. The second form of expression is preferred in the source of material for this chapter. It is true that words used by the politicians do not necessarily reflect their thoughts. This is an unsolved methodological problem. Hopefully, awareness of the problem as well as sensitivity to the personalities and to the nuances in their statements can ameliorate the situation. Some of the politicians covered in this work were active before the 1980s. The scope of this chapter does not allow comparisons to previous periods. Their statements originating before 1982 are used carefully in order to shed light on events that happened in the 1980s. 6 On the use of limited force see D. Horowitz, ‘The Control of Limited Military Operations’, in Y. Evron (ed.) International Violence: Terrorism, Surprise and Control, Jerusalem: The Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations, The Hebrew University, 1979, pp. 258–76. 7 A preventive strike is launched to destroy the potential threat of the enemy, while a pre-emptive strike is launched in anticipation of immediate enemy aggression. To some extent, this is a post facto distinction. 8 R. Eitan, A Soldier’s Story (Hebrew), Tel Aviv: Maariv Library, 1985, p. 117. For similar views of another Techia party leader, Yuval Neeman, see his A Sober Policy (Hebrew), Ramat Gan: Revivim, 1984.



9 M. Arens, ‘The Ending of Wars’, Maarachot (Hebrew), March–April 1984, nos 292–3, 4. See also his remarks in Security Borders, CSS Papers no. 2, 2 August 1978, p. 9. For a systemic explanation of the existence of wars see K. N. Waltz, Man, the State and War, New York: Columbia University Press, 1954. 10 A. Rubinstein, From Herzl to Gush Emunim and Back (Hebrew), Tel Aviv: Shocken, 1980, p. 103. 11 See his remarks in Security Borders, p. 12. 12 S. Peres, ‘Strategy for an Interim Period’, International Security, winter 1978, vol. 2, 11. This is a translated part of his book Tomorrow is Now (Hebrew), Jerusalem: Mabat, 1978. 13 For this aspect of the attitudinal prism of the Israeli political elite see M. Brecher, The Foreign Policy System of Israel, London: Oxford University Press, 1972, pp. 233–44. For this basic sense of insecurity see also J. Y. Gonen, A Psycho-History of Zionism, New York: Meridian, 1975, ch. 2. 14 Seliktar, New Zionism and the Foreign Policy System of Israel, p. 165. 15 Parliament Minutes (PM), p. 2957, 29 June 1982. (Unless specified, the emphases in the quotations throughout this chapter are mine.) 16 PM, p. 2737, 8 June 1982. 17 PM, p. 2965, 29 June 1982. For similar statements of other Likud MKs see, inter alia, PM, p. 1195, 1 February 1983. 18 PM, p. 2935, 29 June 1982. The war had been obviously planned by Sharon earlier; see Z. Schiff and E. Yaari, The War in Lebanon (Hebrew), Tel Aviv: Shocken, 1984. 19 M. Waltzer, Just and Unjust Wars, New York: Basic Books, 1977, p. 19. 20 PM, p. 2642, 11 May 1982. 21 PM, p. 2413, 18 May 1982. 22 PM, p. 2161, 3 May 1982. For similar statements of Labour MKs see, inter alia, PM, p. 2203, 16 May 1982. 23 PM, p. 3624, 8 September 1982. 24 Mordechai Tzipori seemed to be the first to suggest the need for a definition of Israel’s war objectives in 1977. He served then as the deputy Minister of Defense in the first Likud government. According to Ezer Weizman, the Minister of Defense at that time, nothing came out of his deputy’s initiative due to widespread resistance to the idea of defining war objectives. See his The Battle for Peace (Hebrew), Jerusalem: Edanim, 1982, p. 37. A similar reluctance to discuss the strategic goals of wars is discerned also in the high echelons of the IDF; see I. Wald, The Curse of the Broken Vessels (Hebrew), Tel Aviv: Shocken, 1987, pp. 16–23. This reluctance is another aspect of the basic weaknesses and flaws in the decision-making in the area of national security. For an analysis of this area see Y. Ben-Meir, National Security Decision Making: The Israeli Case, JCSS Study no. 8, Jerusalem: Jerusalem Post Press, 1986. 25 Few in the political elite refrained from using this term. One example is Likud MK Yosef Rom who rejected the validity of the ‘no choice’ terminology on grounds similar to those mentioned above; see PM, p. 2211, 16 May 1983. 26 For a discussion of the issue of just war see Waltzer, Just and Unjust Wars. For an attempt to categorize Israeli wars according to the ‘no choice war’ dimension, incorporating also the just war criteria, see A. Yariv, ‘No Choice War – War By Choice’, in A. Yariv (ed.) War By Choice (Hebrew), JCSS Books, Tel Aviv: Hakibbutz Hameuchad Publishing House, 1985. 27 PM, p. 2946, 29 June 1982. 28 M. Bar-On, Peace Now (Hebrew), Tel Aviv: Hakibbutz Hameuchad Publishing House, 1985, p. 141. Bar-On served in the early 1980s as MK representing the Movement for Civil Rights. He was an activist in and quite often a spokesman for Peace Now. 29 Y. Tzur, ‘The Essence of the Debate’, in The Lebanon War – Between Protest and


30 31 32 33 34 35 36

37 38 39 40

41 42 43 44 45

46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58


Compliance (Hebrew), Tel Aviv: Hakibbutz Hameuchad Publishing House, 1983, p. 165. Ibid., p. 169. Bar-On, Peace Now, p. 141. A. Eban, ‘The Six Day War: An Opportunity, But No Solution’, Monthly Review (Hebrew), 1987, vol. 34, nos 3–4, 13. For the art of commitment see T. C. Schelling, Arms and Influence, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1976, pp. 35–90. The discussion on Menachem Begin’s position is based on his well-publicized address to the Staff and Command School of the IDF. For a transcript of his speech see, inter alia, ‘A “No Choice War” or a “War by Choice” ’, Maariv, 20 August 1982. Ibid. For his preference for an activist policy see A. Naor, Cabinet at War (Hebrew), Tel Aviv: Lahav, 1986, p. 21. Naor, a former disciple of Begin, served for a long period as the Likud-led government’s secretary. For the revisionist preference for the use of force in changing history see Y. Shavit, The Mythologies of the Zionist Right Wing (Hebrew), Beit Berl: Beit Berl and Moshe Sharett Institute, 1987, pp. 225–8; E. Luz, ‘The Moral Price of Sovereignty: The Dispute About the Use of Military Power Within Zionism’, Modern Judaism, February 1987, 64–9. When defending Israel’s July air strike on the Iraqi nuclear reactor, Begin also used this term. He went to great lengths to explain self-defense; see PM, p. 85, 5 August 1981. Eitan, A Soldier’s Story, p. 209. Y. Rabin, The War in Lebanon (Hebrew), Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1983, vol. 7, p. 45. For a discussion of the two approaches see Zvi Lanir, ‘The Political Goals and the Military Objectives in Israel’s Wars’, in War By Choice, pp. 117–42. For the changes in the Israeli strategic thinking in the 1970s and in the 1980s see E. Inbar, ‘Israeli Strategic Thinking After 1973’, Journal of Strategic Studies, March 1983, vol. 6; see also Horowitz, ‘The War in Lebanon’, p. 95. Inbar, ‘Israeli Strategic Thinking After 1973’, 49; see also Naor, Cabinet at War, pp. 7, 81, 93. Rabin, The War in Lebanon, p. 45. Tzur, ‘The Essence of the Debate’, 165. Rabin, The War in Lebanon, p. 45. For the formalist position of Peres in the case of the normatively problematic preventive war of 1956 see his Tomorrow is Now, pp. 249–50; for Rabin’s justification of the war in Lebanon, as well as all the other Israeli wars, see his The War in Lebanon, pp. 19–45. PM, p. 1194, 1 February 1983. Peres, Tomorrow is Now, p. 249. C. Bar-Lev, ‘The War and Its Aims as Reflected in IDF’s Wars’, Maarachot (Hebrew), October/November 1978, no. 266, 3. Maariv, 29 October 1986. See D. Horowitz, ‘The Control of Limited Military Operations’. Y. Rabin, ‘Political Illusions and Their Price’, in The Lebanon War – Between Protest and Compliance, p. 13. Rabin, The War in Lebanon, p. 33. H. Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations, 4th edn, New York: A. A. Knopf, 1968, p. 10. Y. Rabin, Memoirs (Hebrew), Tel Aviv: Maariv Library, 1979, pp. 253–4, 261, 263. PM, p. 3424, 9 August 1982. PM, p. 3502, 12 August 1982. Yediot Acharonot, 14 April 1981. Neeman, A Sober Policy, pp. 111–13; see also PM, p. 2743, 8 June 1982.

248 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75


Neeman, A Sober Policy, p. 187. Ibid., p. 186. Ibid., p. 59. Ariel Sharon’s Address to the International Symposium on Strategic Problems at Tel Aviv University, ‘Israel’s Strategic Problems in the 1980’s’, 14 December 1981. It was widely publicized. See, inter alia, Maariv, 18 December 1981. For the changes in Israeli foreign policy see Inbar, ‘Israeli Strategic Thinking After 1973’, 46–8. Eitan, A Soldier’s Story, p. 332. Ibid., p. 286. Ibid., p. 209. PM, p. 2620, 20 June 1983. A. Oren, ‘1967 With Minor Rectifications’, Al-Hamishmar, 27 October 1978. Begin, ‘No Choice War – War By Choice’. For such considerations concerning the use of force see Naor, Cabinet at War, pp. 45, 48; PM, p. 2746, 8 June 1982; S. Nakdimon, Tammuz in Flames (Hebrew), Tel Aviv: Edanim Publishers, 1986, p. 196; Begin, ‘No Choice War – War By Choice’. Y. Shavit, ‘Between Ideology and Power’, in The Lebanon War – Between Protest and Compliance, p. 161. See Y. Harkabi, Fateful Decisions (Hebrew), Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1987, pp. 96, 125–6. See also note 36 above. See Schiff and Yaari, The War in Lebanon; also Naor’s account does not indicate that Begin was fully aware of the war’s objectives. M. Tzipori, ‘Use Stratagems in War’, in Z. Ofer and Maj. A. Kober (eds) The Price of Power (Hebrew), Tel Aviv: Maarachot, 1984, p. 209. M. Arens, ‘The Termination of Wars’, Maarachot (Hebrew), March–April, 292–3, 3.

5 Israel and the Gulf War 1 R. J. Lieber, ‘Oil and Power After the Gulf War’, International Security, summer 1992, vol. 17, no. 1, 160–2. 2 On his personality, see E. Karsh and I. Rautsi, Saddam Hussein: A Political Biography, London: Brassey’s, 1991. 3 FBIS Daily Report, Near East and South Asia, 3 April 1990, pp. 32–3. 4 Jerusalem Post, 27 August 1990, 1. 5 M. Arens, Broken Covenant (Hebrew), Tel Aviv: Yediot Aharonot, 1995, p. 163. 6 For the evoked set concept, see R. Jervis, Perception and Misperception in International Politics, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1976, pp. 213–16. 7 Arens, Broken Covenant, p. 163. For US apprehensions, see J. A. Baker III with T. M. DeFrank, The Politics of Diplomacy: Revolution, War and Peace, 1989–1992, New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1995, pp. 277, 300. 8 For an analysis of the behavior of the Arab states during the crisis, see B. MaddyWeitzman, ‘Continuity and Change in the Inter-Arab System’, in G. Barzilai, A. Klieman and G. Shidlo (eds) The Gulf Crisis and Its Global Aftermath, London: Routledge, 1993, pp. 33–50. 9 Y. Shamir, Summing-Up (Hebrew), Tel Aviv: Edanim, 1994, pp. 264–5, see also his interview to the Jerusalem Post, 23 August 1990, 1. 10 Jerusalem Post, 30 November 1990, 1. See also Arens, Broken Covenant, p. 162. 11 Arens, Broken Covenant, p. 163. See also L. Zittrain Eisenberg, ‘Passive Belligerency: Israel and the 1991 Gulf War’, Journal of Strategic Studies, September 1992, vol. 15, no. 3, 306. 12 Arens, Broken Covenant, pp. 177, 181 (see also the discussion below of the Jordanian angle).

Notes 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53


Yediot Aharonot, 7 Days Magazine, 5 January 2001, 15–20. Arens, Broken Covenant, p. 183. Davar, 10 August 1990, 1. Jerusalem Post, 25 September 1990, 1. Haaretz, 7 November 2000, A1. Maariv, 30 December 1990, 1. Yediot Aharonot, 11 January 1991, 2. Arens, Broken Covenant, pp. 160–1, 164, 185–6. G. M. Steinberg, ‘Israeli Responses to the Threat of Chemical Warfare’, Armed Forces & Society, fall 1993, vol. 20, no. 1, 85–101. Arens, Broken Covenant, p. 168. New York Times, 10 January 1991. A. Susser, Jordan: Case Study of a Pivotal State, Policy Papers 53, Washington, DC: Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2000, pp. 69–90. Arens, Broken Covenant, pp. 158–61. M. Zak, King Hussein Makes Peace (Hebrew), Ramat Gan: BESA Center for Strategic Studies and Bar-Ilan University Press, 1996, pp. 35–6. Shamir, Summing-Up, p. 265. Iraqi military presence in Jordan has traditionally been an Israeli ‘red line’. See M. Bar, Red Lines in Israel’s Deterrence Strategy (Hebrew), Tel Aviv: Maarachot, 1990, pp. 97–9. Jerusalem Post, 25 December 1990, 1. For Jordanian perceptions of the situation, see Susser, Jordan: Case Study of a Pivotal State, pp. 72–4. Zak, King Hussein Makes Peace, pp. 49–50. G. Barzilai, ‘Israel’, in Middle East Contemporary Survey: 1990, Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1993, p. 444. Baker, The Politics of Diplomacy, p. 385. Shamir, Summing-Up, p. 268. Arens, Broken Covenant, p. 178. Ibid., p. 161. Ibid., pp. 184–5. Ibid., p. 167. Ibid., pp. 168–70. Ibid., p. 189. Baker, The Politics of Diplomacy, p. 385. The third member of the American delegation was National Security Council staffer Merrill Ruck. Arens, Broken Covenant, p. 188. Ibid., p. 224. Ibid., pp. 196–7. R. Ben-Yishai, ‘Interview with the Chief of Staff, Lt Gen. Ehud Barak’, Yediot Aharonot, 29 September 1999. D. Shomron, ‘Personal Report on the Gulf War’, Yediot Aharonot, 8 September 1991. D. A. Welch, ‘The Politics and Psychology of Restraint: Israeli Decision Making in the Gulf War’, International Journal, spring 1992, vol. 46, 341. Shamir, Summing-Up, p. 263. L. Freedman and E. Karsh, The Gulf Conflict, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993, p. 106. See Shamir, Summing-Up, pp. 271–2; Arens, Broken Covenant, pp. 197–200, 208, 215–17, 229–30. Arens, Broken Covenant, p. 206. Ibid., p. 226. Ibid., pp. 229–30. For such a line of thinking, see R. Ned Lebow, ‘What’s So Different About Counterfactual’, World Politics, July 2000, vol. 52, 550–85.

250 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86


Welch, ‘The Politics and Psychology of Restraint’, 353. Baker, The Politics of Diplomacy, p. 387. Ibid. M. Gordon and B. Trainor, The General’s War, Boston, MA: Little, Brown, 1994, p. 224. C. Powell, My American Journey, New York: Random House, 1995, p. 488. Baker, The Politics of Diplomacy, p. 388. Arens, Broken Covenant, p. 203. R. Pedahtzur, ‘The Gulf War in Israeli Eyes’, Maarchot (Hebrew), June–July 1993, no. 330, 14. Maariv, 1 February 1991. Yediot Aharonot, 19 June 1991, 4. Arens, Broken Covenant, pp. 204, 212–13. Baker, The Politics of Diplomacy, pp. 388–9. For the details, see Eisenberg, ‘Passive Belligerency’, 314–15. Baker, The Politics of Diplomacy, p. 390 Arens, Broken Covenant, p. 208. Maariv, 1 February 1991. For similar results, see Haaretz, 28 January 1991. See also Y. Ben-Meir, ‘The Israeli Home Front in the Gulf War’, in J. Alpher (ed.) War in the Gulf: Implications for Israel, Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1992. G. Barzilai, ‘Society and Politics in War: The Israeli Case’, in Barzilai, Klieman and Shidlo, The Gulf Crisis and its Global Aftermath, pp. 140–1. G. Simmel, Conflict, New York: Free Press, 1955. See Stuart Cohen ‘The (Non-) Legacy of the 1991 Gulf War’, in A. Bacevich and E. Inbar (eds) The Gulf War of 1991 Reconsidered, London: Frank Cass Publishers, 2002, pp. 90–117. For a review of Israel’s predicament in this decade, see Chapter 7 in this volume. For the Soviet role, see A. Z. Rubinstein, ‘Moscow and the Gulf War: Decisions and Consequences’, International Journal, spring 1994, vol. 39, 302–28. E. Inbar, ‘Arab–Israeli Coexistence: The Causes, Achievements and Limitations’, Israel Affairs, spring–summer 2000, vol. 6, nos 2–3, 260–1. Baker, The Politics of Diplomacy, p. 274. Ibid. Shomron, ‘Personal Report on the Gulf War’, 4. Zak, King Hussein Makes Peace, pp. 50–1. E. Inbar and S. Sandler, ‘Israeli Deterrence Strategy Revisited’, Security Studies, winter 1993–94, vol. 3, no. 2, 330–58. See S. Feldman, ‘Israeli Deterrence’, in Alpher, War in the Gulf. N. Schwartzkopf, It Doesn’t Take a Hero, New York: Bantam Books, 1992, p. 373. Baker, The Politics of Diplomacy, p. 385. A. Baram, ‘Israeli Deterrence, Iraqi Responses’, Orbis, summer 1992, vol. 36, no. 3, 398–9. T. A. Keaney and E. A. Cohen, Revolution in Warfare? Air Power in the Persian Gulf, Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1995, p. 72. E. Inbar, Rabin and Israel’s National Security, Baltimore, MD and Washington, DC: Johns Hopkins University Press and Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 1999, pp. 125, 138.

6 Contours of Israel’s new strategic thinking 1 For studies of small states, see, inter alia, D. Vital, The Inequality of States, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967; M. Handel, Weak States in the International System, London: Frank Cass, 1981; E. Karsh, Neutrality and Small States, London: Routledge, 1988.



2 For such a doctrine that had adherents in Norway, Sweden, and particularly in Denmark before World War 1, see Handel, Weak States in the International System, p. 77. 3 For internal versus external balancing, see K. N. Waltz, Theory of International Politics, Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing, 1983, p. 168; for a review of the literature on alliances, see G. H. Snyder, ‘Alliances, Balance and Stability’, International Organization, winter 1991, vol. 45, 121–42. 4 Y. Sarid speaking at a colloquium on Sharet at the Hebrew University, 21 November 1994. For the Sharet–Ben-Gurion dispute over foreign and national security policies, see M. Brecher, The Foreign Policy System of Israel, London: Oxford University Press, 1972, pp. 251–90; G. Sheffer, Resolution vs. Management of the Middle East Conflict, Jerusalem Papers on Peace Problems, no. 32, Jerusalem: Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations, Hebrew University, 1980. 5 For works on Israel’s security thinking, see M. I. Handel, Israel’s Political–Military Doctrine, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Occasional Papers, July 1973; I. Tal, ‘Israel’s Doctrine of National Security: Background and Dynamics’, Jerusalem Quarterly, summer 1977, vol. 4; Y. Ben Horin and B. Posen, Israel’s Strategic Doctrine, Paper no. 4–2845-NA, Santa Monica, CA: Rand Corporation, 1981; E. Inbar, ‘Israeli Strategic Thinking After 1973’, Journal of Strategic Studies, March 1983, vol. 6, 36–59; D. Horowitz, ‘The Constant and the Changing in Israeli Strategic Thinking’ in J. Alpher (ed.) War by Choice (Hebrew), Te1 Aviv: Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 1985, pp. 58–77; and A. Levite, Offense and Defence in Israeli Military Doctrine, JCSS Study no. 12, Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1989. 6 D. Ben-Gurion, ‘Israel Among Nations’, Government Yearbook 5713 (Hebrew), Jerusalem: State of Israel, 1952/53, quoted in Brecher, The Foreign Policy System of Israel, p. 265. 7 In a speech to party activists in Jerusalem, Haaretz, 29 April 1975. 8 For the Israeli leadership’s perceptions of the international environment, see Brecher, The Foreign Policy System of Israel, pp. 251–369. For a discussion of the impact of Jewishness on Israel’s foreign policy, see ibid., pp. 229–43; A. S. Klieman, Israel and the World After 40 Years, Washington, DC: Pergamon Brassey’s, 1990, pp. 52–7; E. Inbar, ‘Jews, Jewishness and Israel’s Foreign Policy’, Jewish Political Studies Review, fall 1990, vol. 2, 165–83. 9 Klieman, Israel and the World After 40 Years, pp. 91–3. 10 See M. Brecher, Decisions in Israel’s Foreign Policy, London: Oxford University Press, 1974, pp. 111–71; U. Bialer, Between East and West, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990. 11 For the early search for allies, see A. Yaniv, Deterrence Without the Bomb: The Politics of Israeli Strategy, Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1987, pp. 48–55. 12 Senator William Fulbright and Under-Secretary of State George Ball were among the proponents. For a critical analysis of an American–Israeli defense treaty reflecting official thinking, see Y. Evron, ‘Some Political and Strategic Implications of an American–Israeli Defense Treaty’, in H. Shaked and I. Rabinovich (eds) The Middle East and the United States, New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books, 1980, pp. 371–94. 13 E. Inbar, Outcast States in the World Community, Monograph Series in International Affairs, Denver: University of Denver Press, 1985. 14 ‘Israeli Strategic Thinking After 1973’, 41–5. 15 For Israel’s nuclear program and policy, see L. S. Spector, The Undeclared Bomb, Cambridge, MA: Ballinger, 1988; L. R. Beres (ed.), Security or Armageddon: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy, Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1986. The most comprehensive discussion is Y. Evron, Israel’s Nuclear Dilemma, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1994. 16 For the evolvement of Labour’s thinking on security matters, see E. Inbar, War and


17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42


Notes Peace in Israeli Politics, Labour Party Positions on National Security, Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1991. Addresses by Yitzhak Rabin and Mordechai Gur, in Yehudah Mirsky and Ellen Rice (eds) Towards a New Era in US–Israel Relations, Washington, DC: The Washington Institute, September 1992, pp. 1–2, 29–30. Ibid., p. 2. S. Peres with A. Naor, The New Middle East, New York: Henry Holt, 1993, p. 46. ‘Interview with Ezer Weizman’, Spectrum, 6 June 1988, 10. This is the Labour Party’s monthly journal published in English. Haaretz, 3 January 1994. Rabin’s address when presenting his new government, Knesset Minutes, 13 July 1992. Speech delivered by Yitzhak Rabin to graduates of the National Security College, 12 August 1993, Official Text, 3 (emphasis in original). See Y. Beilin, Israel-40 Plus, Tel Aviv: Yediot Aharonot, 1993. Haaretz, 10 October 1994 (emphasis added). See ‘Interview with Prime Minister Rabin’, Bamahaneh, 23 September 1992, 9. Ibid. See also statements of the Israeli Air Force Commander H. Bodinger, Haaretz, 15 June 1992. ‘Interview with Rabin’, Maariv, Shabbat Supplement, 24 June 1994; see also the report of his remarks to the Knesset Committee for Security and Foreign Affairs, Haaretz, 15 March 1995. Peres, The New Middle East, p. 83. For the role of common aversions in collaboration, see A. Stein, ‘Coordination and Collaboration: Regimes in an Anarchic World’, International Organization, spring 1982, vol. 36, 304–11. See the report of Rabin’s speech to the Knesset in Haaretz, 21 January 1993. Peres, The New Middle East, p. 77. Haaretz, 1 December 1994; see also Beilin’s speech in the Knesset on this issue, Haaretz, 17 February 1993. For the transcript of Shimon Peres speech, see Haaretz, 2 June 1989. For an elaborate argument about the changing nature of power, see S. Brown, ‘The Changing Essence of Power’, Foreign Affairs, January 1973, vol. 52, 286–99. S. Peres, ‘The New Middle East in a Brave New World’, Jerusalem Post, 8 December 1989. Peres, The New Middle East, p. 78. S. Peres, ‘The Knife and the Missile’, Maariv, Shabbat Supplement, 26 March 1993, 10. Rabin’s address when presenting his new government, Knesset Minutes, 13 July 1992. See Haaretz, 29 June 1994. ‘Policy Statement by PM Yitzhak Rabin to the Knesset’, 3 October 1994, Official Transcript. For the relations between economic ideas and international relations, see R. Gilpin, ‘Three Models of the Future’, International Organization, winter 1975, vol. 29, 37–63. For Israeli views on the increased importance of technology in the future battlefield, see Z. Bonen, ‘The Impact of Technological Developments on the Strategic Balance in the Middle East’, in S. Gazit and Z. Eytan (eds) The Middle East Military Balance, 1993–1994, Boulder, CO: Westview Press for the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, 1994, pp. 148–63; A. Levran, The Strategic and Military Implications of the Second Gulf War, BESA Studies in Mideast Security, London: Frank Cass, 1996. Peres, The New Middle East, pp. 77–8.



44 Horowitz, ‘The Constant and the Changing in Israeli Strategic Thinking’, 74–5; see also Yair, The Demilitarization of Sinai, Jerusalem Papers on Peace Problems no. 11, Jerusalem: The Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations, Hebrew University, 1975; D. Horowitz, Israel’s Concept of Defensible Borders, Jerusalem Papers on Peace Problems, no. 16, Jerusalem: The Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations, Hebrew University, 1975; Inbar, ‘Israeli Strategic Thinking After 1973’, 41–2. 45 M. Gur, Official Transcript, 13 September 1994. 46 Haaretz, 16 November 1993. 47 Official Transcript, 13 September 1994. 48 A. Kaspi, ‘Interview Amnon Shahak’, Al Hamishmar, 25 April 1993. 49 Bamachane, 25 May 1994, 33. 50 Yediot Aharonot, 22 April 1994, 3. 51 For the rise of statism as the main component of the Israeli civil religion, see C. S. Liebman and E. Don-Yehiya, Civil Religion in Israel, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983, pp. 81–122. 52 E. Inbar, ‘The “No Choice War” Debate in Israel’, Journal of Strategic Studies, 12 March 1989, 22–37. The author’s interviews with sixty-seven members of the Knesset during the summer of 1990 reinforce this finding. 53 G. Goldberg, G. Barzilai and E. Inbar, The Impact of Intercommunal Conflict: The Intifada and Israeli Public Opinion, Policy Studies no. 43, Jerusalem: The Leonard Davis Institute, The Hebrew University, February 1991. 54 E. Inbar, ‘Israel’s Small War: The Military Response to the Intifada’, Armed Forces and Society, fall 1991, vol. 18, 29–50. 55 Haaretz, 27 January 1993. 56 For a discussion of Israeli deterrence in the context of the peace process, see E. Inbar and S. Sandler, ‘Israeli Deterrence Strategy Revisited’, Security Studies, winter 1993–94, vol. 3, 346–8. 57 For an analysis of such a strategy, see J. Gross Stein, ‘Reassurance in International Conflict Management’, Political Science Quarterly, fall 1991, vol. 106, 431–51. 58 Haaretz, 11 November 1992. 59 Haaretz, 13 December 1992. 60 For a recent complaint, see Maariv, Shabbat Supplement, 27 January 1995, 19. 61 For the changing interactions between the IDF and Israeli society, see S. A. Cohen, ‘The Israel Defence Force (IDF), From a “People’s Army” to a “Professional Military” – Causes and Implications’, Armed Forces and Society, winter 1995, vol. 21, 237–54; and his ‘How Did the Intifada Affect the IDF’, Conflict Quarterly, summer 1994, vol. 14, 7–22. 62 S. A. Cohen, ‘ “Masqueraders” in the Israel Defense Forces, 1991–1992: The Military Unit and the Public Debate’, Low-Intensity Conflict & Law Enforcement, autumn 1993, vol. 2, 293–6. 63 For a similar argument about the decline of Western armies and consequent restraint, see P. Venesson, ‘Peace and Paralysis: Decline of Western Military Elites and Non-Intervention in International Politics’, paper presented for delivery at the Sixteenth World Congress of the International Political Science Association, Berlin, 21–25 August 1994. 64 I. Rosen, ‘The Security Zone: The Price is Too High’, Maariv, Shabbat Supplement, 27 July 1993, 8. See also E. Rabin, ‘We Have Seen This Movie Several Times Already’, Haaretz, 12 July 1993. 65 Z. Schiff, ‘The Children Are Too Tired’, Haaretz, 8 February 1995. 66 See M. Hofnung, Israel’s Security Needs Versus The Rule of Law (Hebrew), Jerusalem: Nevo, 1991. 67 Yediot Aharonot, 3 September 1993, 4. 68 For a study on the serious impact on wives of traumatized soldiers, see Z. Solomon

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 4 4 4 4 4 4


69 70 71

72 73 74

75 76 77

78 79 80 81 82

83 84 85 86 87 88 89

90 91 92 93

Notes et al., ‘From the Battlefront to the Homefront: Research on Secondary Traumatization’, Refuah (Hebrew), June 1993, vol. 124, 750–6; Y. Neria, Life in the Shadow of War – Psychological Aspects (Hebrew), Jerusalem: The Leonard Davis Institute, The Hebrew University, April 1994. A. Segev, ‘Interview with Reuven Gal’, Haaretz, 11 October 1994. Haaretz, 22 March 1995. Goldberg et al., The Impact of Intercommunal Conflict; G. Barzilai and E. Inbar, ‘Do Wars Have an Impact? Israeli Public Opinion After the Gulf War’, Jerusalem Journal of International Relations, March 1992, vol. 14, 48–64; A. Arian, Israeli Security and the Peace Process: Public Opinion in 1994, JCSS Memorandum no. 43, Tel Aviv: JCSS, Tel Aviv University, March 1994. M. Howard, ‘The Forgotten Dimension of Strategy’, Foreign Affairs, summer 1979, vol. 57, 975–86. S. Rosen, ‘War Power and the Willingness to Suffer’, in B. M. Russett (ed.) Peace, War and Numbers, Beverly Hills, CA: Sage, 1972, pp. 167–83. This is an issue as yet unstudied in Israeli society. For a preliminary study of changes in American society and the impact on foreign policy, see J. Citrin, E. B. Haas, C. Muste and B. Reingold, ‘Is American Nationalism Changing? Implications for Foreign Policy’, International Studies Quarterly, March 1994, vol. 38, 1–31. Rabin’s public lecture to the Forum for Security, Judaism and Society, 8 January 1995. See also A. Ben, ‘Preference for the Rear’, Haaretz, 20 July 1993. Maariv, 16 April 1994. For a more extensive discussion, see E. Inbar, ‘Attitudes Toward War in the Israeli Political Elite’, Middle East Journal, summer 1990, vol. 44, 431–45. We also witness a recent Israeli intellectual vogue to question the morality of the Zionist enterprise and the use of force needed to establish and defend the Jewish state. For a report on this trend, see C. Ben-David, ‘Heroes Under Attack’, Jerusalem Report, 29 December 1994, 12–17. Ibid., 442. Ibid., 442–3. Peres, The New Middle East, p. 58. Haaretz, 25 December 1994. Indeed, the rise of Third World arms producers in the new international system allows recipient countries to procure arms with less political dependency upon their suppliers, giving such countries the ability to pursue their ambitions more freely. See A. Gupta, ‘Third World Militaries: New Suppliers, Deadlier Weapons’, Orbis, winter 1993, vol. 37, 57–68. Haaretz, 17 February 1993. Interview to Bamahane, 5 January 1994, 11. Davar, 17 January 1992, 18. A. Sharon, ‘The Oslo Agreement: A Seed for War’, Yediot Aharonot, Shabbat Supplement, 2 February 1994, 3; for Natanyahu’s statement, see Davar, 17 February 1993. See Haaretz, 1 November 1994, 4; Maariv, 16 December 1994, 3. See ‘Interview with PM Rabin’, Bamahaneh. Ben, ‘Preference for the Rear’. For a critical analysis of the active defense option embodied in the Arrow, see R. Pedatzur, The Arrow System and the Active Defense Against Ballistic Missiles, Memorandum no. 42, Tel Aviv: Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, Tel Aviv University, October 1993. See Bodinger’s preference for an American system to save costs and to utilize the American aid funds, Davar, 15 June 1992, 2. Haaretz, 21 January 1993. Haaretz, 30 April 1993. P. J. Garrity, ‘Implications of the Persian Gulf War for Regional Powers’, Washington Quarterly, summer 1993, vol. 16, 156–7.

Notes 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110


Peres, The New Middle East, p. 83. Mirsky and Rice, Towards a New Era in US-Israeli Relations, p. 31. Peres, The New Middle East, pp. 61–4. Jerusalem Post, international edn, 4 June 1994, 2; see also A. Ben, ‘Full Withdrawal in Exchange for Comprehensive Regional Peace’, Haaretz, 22 June 1994. Peres, The New Middle East, p. 64. See also the interview with Peres, Haaretz, 11 February 1993. See the address by Shimon Peres at the signing of the CWC in Paris, 13 January 1993, in E. Inbar and S. Sandler (eds) Mideast Security: The Prospects for Arms Control, BESA Studies in Mideast Security, London; Frank Cass, 1995, pp. 251–4. Haaretz, 16 November 1993. E. Inbar, ‘Israel and Arms Control’, Arms Control, September 1992, vol. 13, 217; G. M. Steinberg, ‘Middle East Arms Control and Regional Security’, Survival, spring 1994, vol. 36, 126–31. For the work of ACRS, see S. Feldman, ‘Progress Toward Middle East Arms Control’, in The Middle East Military Balance, 1993–1994, 182–210. A. Ben, ‘A Dispute Over Clinton’s Initiative’, Haaretz, 28 December 1993; A. Ben, ‘Minimizing the Peace Risks’, Haaretz, 11 February 1994; R. Adelist, ‘What Do We Do with it?’, Hadashot, Weekend Supplement, 22 October 1993, 1–3. Yediot Aharonot, 21 January 1993. Yediot Aharonot, 16 November 1993; Haaretz, 13 November 1993. Haaretz, 8 November 1994. Peres, The New Middle East, p. 80. Z. Schiff, ‘Problems of Military Might’, Haaretz, 8 July 1994. Haaretz, 20 November 1992. Haaretz, 19 May 1994.

7 Israel’s strategic environment in the 1990s 1 B. Rubin, ‘The Arab–Israeli Conflict is Over’, Middle East Quarterly, September 1996, vol. 34, 3–13; A. Sela, The Decline of the Arab–Israeli Conflict. Middle East Politics and the Quest for Regional Order, Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1998; E. Inbar, ‘Arab–Israeli Coexistence: The Causes, Achievements and Limitations’, Israel Affairs, summer 2000, vol. 6, nos 3–4, 256–70. 2 E. Inbar, Outcast Countries in the World Community, University of Denver, 1985, pp. 41–53. 3 S. Feldman, The Future of U.S.–Israeli Strategic Cooperation, Washington, DC: Washington Institute, 1996. 4 Defense News, 4 October 1999, 25. 5 S. Huntington, ‘The Lonely Superpower’, Foreign Affairs, March–April 1999, vol. 78, no. 2, 35–49. 6 E. Inbar, Rabin and Israel’s National Security, Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD: Wilson Center Press and Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999, p. 129. 7 For Israeli arms control policies, see G. Steinberg, ‘Israel and the Changing Global Non-proliferation Regime: The NPT Extension, CTBT, and Fissile Cut-off’, Contemporary Security Policy, April 1995, vol. 16, no. 1, 70–83; S. Feldman, Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control in the Middle East, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1996; E. Inbar, ‘Contours of Israel’s New Strategic Thinking’, Political Science Quarterly, spring 1996, vol. 111, no. 1, 41–64. 8 For US–Korean relations, see B. Kux, ‘The North Korean Nuclear Crisis – A Review Essay’, Security Studies, autumn 1998, vol. 8, no. 1, 239–63. 9 For the policy of dual containment, see P. Clawson, ‘The Continuing Logic of Dual Containment’, Survival, spring 1998, vol. 40, no. 1, 33–47. 10 For an assessment of the Caspian oil situation see A. M. Jaffee and R. A. Manning,



12 13 14 15 16 17 18

19 20 21 22


24 25

26 27


‘The Myth of the Caspian “Great Game”: The Real Geopolitics of Energy’, Survival, winter 1998–99, vol. 40, no. 4, 112–31. For a review of the demographic and economic conditions in the Arab world after 1991, see E. Kanovsky, The Economic Consequences of the Persian Gulf War: Accelerating OPEC’s Demise, Policy Papers no. 30, Washington, DC: Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 1992; M. Faour, The Arab World After Desert Storm, Washington, DC: US Institute for Peace Press, 1993, pp. 15–32; A. R. Abootalebi, ‘Middle East Economies: A Survey of Current Problems and Issues’, MERIA, September 1999, vol. 3, no. 3. P. R. Kumaraswamy, India and Israel: Evolving Strategic Partnership, BESA Security and Policy Studies no. 40, Ramat Gan: BESA Center for Strategic Studies, BarIlan University, September 1998. Rabin’s address when he presented his government, Knesset Minutes, 13 July 1992. Speech by Yitzhak Rabin to graduates of the National Security College, 12 August 1993, Official Text, p. 3 (emphasis in original). See Y. Shamir, Summing-Up (Hebrew), Tel Aviv: Eidanim, 1994, pp. 271–2; M. Arens, Broken Covenant (Hebrew), Tel Aviv: Yediot Aharonot, 1995, pp. 193–235. A. Baram, ‘Israeli Deterrence, Iraqi Responses’, Orbis, summer 1992, vol. 36, no. 3, 398–9. E. Inbar and S. Sandler, ‘Israel’s Deterrence Strategy Revisited’, Security Studies, winter 1993–94, vol. 3, no. 2, 330–58. For UNSCOM’s performance, see S. Ritter, Endgame: Solving the Iraq Problem – Once and for All, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999; R. Butler, The Greatest Threat: Iraq, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and the Growing Crisis of Global Security, New York: Public Affairs, 2000. H. Ram, ‘Exporting Iran’s Islamic Revolution: Steering a Path between Pan-Islam and Nationalism’, in B. Maddy-Weitzman and E. Inbar (eds) Religious Radicalism in the Greater Middle East, London and Portland, OR: Frank Cass, 1997, pp. 7–24. For an evaluation of the Iranian nuclear program, see M. Eisenstadt, ‘Living with a Nuclear Iran?’ Survival, autumn 1999, vol. 41, no. 3, 124–48. ‘Interview with PM Rabin’, Bamahane, 23 September 1992, 9. See also S. A. Cohen, ‘Israel’s Changing Military Commitments, 1981–1991’, Journal of Strategic Studies, September 1992, vol. 15, no. 3, 330–50. See A. Nachmani, ‘The Remarkable Turkish–Israeli Tie’, Middle East Quarterly, June 1988, vol. 15, no. 2, 19–30; N. Lochery, ‘Israel and Turkey: Deepening Ties and Strategic Implications, 1995–98’, Israel Affairs, autumn 1998, vol. 5, no. 1, 45–62; E. Inbar, The Israeli–Turkish Entente, London: King’s College Mediterranean Studies, 2001. For the greater assertiveness in Turkish foreign policy, see K. Kirisci, ‘The End of the Cold War and Changes in Turkish Foreign Policy Behaviour’, Dis Politika, 1993, vol. 18, nos 3–4, 1–43; For Turkey’s relations with the Middle East in the post-Cold War era, see H. J. Barkey (ed.), Reluctant Neighbour: Turkey’s Role in the Middle East, Washington, DC: US Institute for Peace Press, 1996. E. Inbar, ‘The Strategic Glue in the Israeli–Turkish Alignment’, in B. Rubin and K. Kirisci (eds) Turkey in World Politics. An Emerging Multiregional Power, Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2001. R. A. Hinnebusch, ‘Assad’s Syria and the New World Order: The Struggle for Regime Survival’, Middle East Policy, 1993, vol. 2, no. 1, 1–14. For a review of the Israeli–Syrian talks, see I. Rabinovich, The Brink of Peace: Israel and Syria, 1992–1996 (Hebrew), Tel Aviv: Miskal, 1998. For the Palestinian road to Oslo, see B. Rubin, Revolution until Victory? The Politics and History of the PLO, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994. Interviews with Egyptian and Jordanian high officials. See also D. Pipes, ‘Assad Isn’t Interested’, Jerusalem Post, 29 August 1999, 6.



28 For the tensions between the two countries, see F. A. Gerges, ‘Egyptian–Israeli Relations Turn Sour’, Foreign Affairs, May–June 1995, vol. 74, no. 3, 69–78. 29 U. Sagie, Lights Within the Fog (in Hebrew), Tel Aviv: Miskal, 1998, p. 172. 30 For an account and analysis of the ACRS talks, see B. W. Jentleson and D. D. Kaye, ‘Security Status: Explaining Regional Security Cooperation and Its Limits in the Middle East’, Security Studies, autumn 1998, vol. 8, no. 1, 205–38. 31 Haaretz, 19 August 1999, A1. For the Egyptian chemical and biological weapons’ programs, see D. Shoham, ‘Chemical and Biological Weapons in Egypt’, NonProliferation Review, spring–summer 1998, vol. 5, no. 3. 32 Middle East News Line, 2 January 2001. 33 Interviews with senior IDF officers. 34 Sagie, Lights Within the Fog, pp. 17–18; for the 1999 similar evaluation, see Haaretz, 16 September 1999, A3. 35 E. Karsh, ‘The Rise and Fall of Syria’s Quest for Strategic Parity’, in Defence Yearbook, 1991, London: RUSI and Brassey’s, 1991, pp. 197–216. 36 For the poor state of the Syrian economy, see S. Plaut, ‘The Collapsing Syrian Economy’, Middle East Quarterly, September 1999, vol. 6, no. 3, 3–14. 37 Jerusalem Post, 15 September 1999, 1. 38 For an analysis of the Palestinian armed forces, see G. Luft, The Palestinian Security Services: Between Police and Army, Research Memorandum no. 36, Washington, DC: Washington Institute, November 1998. 39 For the persistence of the old rules of the game in the Middle East, see M. Singer and A. Wildavsky, The Real World Order: Zone of Peace/Zones of Turmoil, Chatham: Chatham House, 1993; L. C. Brown, ‘The Middle East After the Cold War: Systemic Change or More of the Same?’, in G. Downs (ed.) Collective Security Beyond the Cold War, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994, pp. 197–216; E. Karsh, ‘Cold War, Post-Cold War: Does It Make A Difference for the Middle East?’, in E. Inbar and G. Sheffer (eds) The National Security of Small States in a Changing World, London and Portland, OR: Frank Cass, 1997, pp. 77–110. 40 See I. O. Lesser, B. R. Nardulli and L. A. Arghavan, ‘Sources of Conflict in the Greater Middle East’, in Z. Khalilzad and I. O. Lesser (eds) Sources of Conflict in the 21st Century: Regional Futures and US Strategy, Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 1988, pp. 171–229. 41 For Arab attitudes toward Turkish–Israeli relations, see O. Bengio and G. Ozgan, ‘Old Grievances, New Fears: Arab Perceptions of Turkey and Its Alignment with Israel’, Middle Eastern Studies, April 2001, vol. 37, no. 2, 50–92; see also N. E. El Shazly, ‘Arab Anger at New Axis’, The World Today, January 1999, vol. 55, no. 1, 25–7. 42 D. L. Byman and J. D. Green, ‘The Enigma of Political Stability in the Persian Gulf Monarchies’, MERIA, September 1999, vol. 3, no. 3, 2. 43 A. Garfinkle, ‘Israel and Palestine: A Precarious Partnership’, Washington Quarterly, summer 1997, vol. 20, no. 3, 3–22; E. Inbar and S. Sandler, ‘The Risks of Palestinian Statehood’, Survival, summer 1997, vol. 27, no. 3, 23–41. 44 A. Levran, Israeli Strategy after Desert Storm: Lessons of the Second Gulf War, London and Portland, OR: Frank Cass, 1997, pp. 125–33. 45 For an analysis of the military capabilities in the region, see A. H. Cordesman, Perilous Prospects: The Peace Process and the Arab–Military Balance, Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1996. See also S. Brom and Y. Shafir (eds), The Middle East Military Balance 1999–2000, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press for BCSIA Studies in International Security and Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, 2000. 46 Inbar, Rabin and Israel’s National Security, p. 165. 47 Yediot Aharonot, 13 August 1999, 3.



8 Israeli negotiations with Syria 1 For Assad’s Weltanschauung and his fear of the United States, see P. Seale, Assad, London, 1988. 2 Y. Olmert, Toward a Syrian-Israeli Peace Agreement, Research Memorandum 25, Washington, DC, 1994. 3 E. Inbar, ‘Israel’, in A. Ayalon (ed.) The Middle East Contemporary Survey 1992, Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1995, pp. 499–514. 4 For Labour’s positions on the Palestinian issue, see E. Inbar, War and Peace in Israeli Politics, Labour Party Positions on National Security, Boulder, CO: Lynne Reiner, 1991. 5 Ibid., pp. 86–7, 93–4. 6 Haaretz, 10 September 1992. 7 Yediot Aharonot, 2 December 1992. 8 A. Ben, ‘All Started with a Dinner at Djerejian’, Haaretz, 19 September 1994. 9 Haaretz, 16 November 1993; 20 January 1994. 10 Maariv, 22 April 1994. 11 New York Times, 18 May 1994. 12 Haaretz, 15 July 1994. 13 Haaretz, 28 July 1994. 14 Haaretz, 31 October 1994. 15 Haaretz, 11 December 1994. 16 A poll conducted by Modiin Ezrahi at the end of November 1994 for the BESA Center for Strategic Studies (part of a multi-year project on Public Opinion and National Security) showed that 64.4 percent opposed a total withdrawal from the Golan in the context of a peace treaty with Syria, with only 23.2 percent supportive of such an arrangement. Stationing American troops on the Golan in the context of an Israeli withdrawal and an Israeli–Syrian peace treaty is even less popular: almost 70 percent of Israelis oppose it. See Maariv, 7 December 1994. 17 E. Inbar, ‘Contours of Israeli New Strategic Thinking’, Political Science Quarterly, 1996, vol. 111, no. 1, 41–64. 18 See, inter alia, Shimon Peres in Haaretz, 30 January and 23 September 1994. See also a Peace Now advertisement in Haaretz, 19 September 1994. 19 Haaretz, 10 October 1994. 20 For the persistence of the old rules of the game in the Middle East see M. Singer and A. Wildavsky, The Real World Order, London: Chatham House, 1993; L. Carl Brown, ‘The Middle East after the Cold War and the Gulf War: Systemic Change or More of the Same?’, in G. Downs (ed.) Collective Security Beyond the Cold War, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994. 21 See B. Korany, P. Noble and R. Brynen (eds), The Many Faces of National Security in the Arab World, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1993. 22 For Assad’s statements, see, for example, Haaretz, 2 December 1994. 23 E. Zisser, ‘Assad Inches Toward Peace’, Middle East Quarterly, September 1994, vol. 1, 37–44. See also his ‘Syria and Israel: Toward a Change?’, in E. Inbar (ed.) Regional Security Regimes, Israel and Its Neighbors, New York: Albany, 1995. 24 E. Karsh, Soviet Policy Towards Syria Since 1970, London: Frank Cass, 1991, pp. 17–19. See also M. Zuhair Diab, ‘The Prospects of Peace Between Israel and Syria: A Syrian View’, in E. Karsh and G. Mahler (eds) Israel at the Crossroads, London: I. B. Tauris, 1994, ch. 8. 25 A. Perlmutter, Modern Authoritarianism, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1981. 26 See E. Kanovsky, “Middle East Economies and Arab–Israeli Peace Agreements’, Israel Affairs, summer 1995, vol. 4, no. 1, as well as B. Zilberfarb, ‘The Effects of the Peace Process on the Israeli Economy’, Israel Affairs, autumn 1994, vol. 111, no. 1, 84–95.



27 Haaretz, 30 January 1994; see also M. Muslih, ‘Dateline Damascus: Assad Is Ready’, Foreign Policy, fall 1994, vol. 96, 152. 9 Islamic extremism and the peace process 1 For studies of radical Islam, see, inter alia, E. Sivan, Radical Islam: Medieval Theology and Modern Politics, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1985; D. Menashri (ed.) The Iranian Revolution and the Muslim World, Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1990; J. Piscatori (ed.) Islamic Fundamentalism and the Gulf Crisis, Chicago, IL: American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1991; Z. Abu-Amr, Islamic Fundamentalism in the West Bank and Gaza, Bloomington: Indiana Univeristy Press, 1994; G. Ben-Dor, ‘The Uniqueness of Islamic Fundamentalism’, in B. Maddy-Weitzman and E. Inbar (eds) Religious Radicalism in the Greater Middle East, London: Frank Cass, 1996, pp. 239–52. The notions ‘Islamic radicalism’ and ‘extremism’ refer to the nature of the goals and the means of the political entities discussed in this chapter and are used interchangeably. Fundamentalism refers primarily to theological issues and is beyond the scope of this chapter. 2 P. W. Rodman, ‘Co-opt or Confront Fundamentalist Islam’, Middle East Quarterly, December 1994, vol. 1, no. 4, 64. 3 R. Israeli, Fundamentalist Islam and Israel, Lanham: University Press of America, 1993. 4 R. Israeli, ‘The Charter of Allah: The Platform of the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas’, Israel Affairs, autumn 1995, vol. 2, no. 1, 273–93. 5 The Koran Interpreted, trans. A. J. Arberry, New York: Macmillan, 1979, p. 36; see also M. Maoz, The Image of the Jew in Official Arab Literature and Communications Media, Jerusalem: Shazar Library, 1976, p. 9. 6 Maoz, The Image of the Jew in Official Arab Literature and Communications Media (note 5), pp. 9–10. 7 E. Webman, Anti-Semitic Motifs in the Ideology of Hizballah and Hamas, Tel Aviv: The Project for the Study of Anti-Semitism, Tel Aviv University, 1994, pp. 18–19. 8 M. Kramer, ‘The Jihad Against the Jews’, Commentary, October 1994. For Hizballah, see E. Zisser, ‘Hizballah in Lebanon – At the Crossroads’, in B. MaddyWeitzman and E. Inbar (eds) Religious Radicalism in the Greater Middle East, pp. 90–110. 9 For the Muslim historical and psychological perception of the West, see G. E. Fuller and I. O. Lesser, A Sense of Siege: The Geopolitics of Islam and the West, Boulder, CO: Westview Press/A Rand Study, 1995, pp. 27–80. 10 O. D. Mannoni, Prospero and Caliban: The Psychology of Colonization, New York: Praeger, 1964. 11 B. Lewis, ‘The Roots of Muslim Rage’, The Atlantic, September 1990, 47–60. 12 Ibid., 56. 13 For a recent treatment of the rules of the game in the Middle East, see Y. Evron, ‘Gulf Crisis and War: Regional Rules of the Game and Policy and Theoretical Implications’, Security Studies, autumn 1994, vol. 4, no. 1, 115–52. 14 Y. Harkabi, Fedayeen Action and Arab Strategy, Adelphi Paper no. 53, London: IISS, 1969. 15 Haaretz, 13 September 1994, A7. 16 al-Quds, 26 July 1994. 17 The Middle East, February 1992, 13. 18 G. Bechor, ‘The Voices of Allah’, Haaretz, 26 October 1994, B2. 19 al-Quds, 8 June 1994. 20 al-Quds, 24 April 1994. 21 For their order of battle see the recent volumes of Military Balance, London: IISS.



22 See H. Ram, ‘Exporting Iran’s Islamic Revolution: Steering a Path between PanIslam and Nationalism’, in B. Maddy-Weitzman and E. Inbar (eds) Religious Radicalism in the Greater Middle East, pp. 7–24. 23 Haaretz, 6 January 1995, A1. For the Iranian motivations, see S. Chubin, ‘Does Iran Want Nuclear Weapons?’, Survival, spring 1995, vol. 37, no. 1, 86–104. 24 For the weaknesses of the NPT, see G. Steinberg, ‘Arms Control in the Middle East: Global Regimes vs. Regional Dynamics’, in E. Inbar (ed.) Regional Security Regimes: Israel and Its Neighbors, Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1995, pp. 175–97. 25 E. Inbar, ‘The Nuclear Mirage in the Middle East’, Midstream, March 1981, vol. 27, no. 3, 3–6; Y. Evron, Israel’s Nuclear Dilemma, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1994. 26 Egypt tried to force the issue by insisting on an Israeli adherence to the NPT, before its extension, instead of waiting for the establishment of a regional structure. For the chances of establishing such a regional security arrangement, see E. Inbar and S. Sandler, ‘The International Politics of a Middle Eastern Arms Control Regime’, in E. Inbar and S. Sandler (eds) Middle Eastern Security: Prospects for an Arms Control Regime, London: Frank Cass, 1995, pp. 173–5. 27 For their terrorist activities, see A. Kurtz et al. (eds) Islamic Terror and Israel (Hebrew), Tel Aviv: Papyrus and JCSS, Tel Aviv University, 1993; M. Burkin, ‘Terrorist Activity from Lebanon and the Threat to Northern Israel’, in The Middle East Military Balance 1993–1994, Boulder, CO: Westview Press for the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, 1994, pp. 131–47. 28 M. Litvak, ‘The Hamas Movement: A Different Palestinian Identity’, in D. Menashri (ed.) Islamic Fundamentalism: A Challenge to Regional Stability, Tel Aviv: Dayan Center, Tel Aviv University, 1993 p. 68. 29 Haaretz, 1 November 1994, A3. 30 E. Rabin, ‘We Have Played This Game Several Times’, Haaretz, 12 July 1993; R. Ben-Yishai, ‘Lebanon: Why Does Israeli Government Show Restraint?’, Yediot Aharonot, 12 August 1994. For the general Israeli reluctance to use force because of the peace process, see E. Inbar and S. Sandler, ‘Israel’s Deterrence Strategy Revisited’, Security Studies, winter 1993/94, vol. 3, no. 2, 346–8. 31 See, inter alia, B. Rubin, Islamic Fundamentalism in Egyptian Politics, New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1990; E. Podeh, ‘The Struggle of the Egyptian Regime against the Islamic Challenge’, Maarachot (Hebrew), June 1994, vol. 36, no. 4, 40–8; and his ‘Egypt’s Struggle against the Militant Islamic Groups’, in B. Maddy-Weitzman and E. Inbar (eds) Religious Radicalism in the Greater Middle East, pp. 43–61. 32 For their political program and anti-Western attitudes, see the interview with the Secretary-General of the party, O. Asilturk, Turkish Daily News, 22 November 1994, Section Two, l; see also A. Lapidot, ‘Islamic Activism in Turkey Since the 1980 Military Takeover’, in B. Maddy-Weitzman and E. Inbar (eds) Religious Radicalism in the Greater Middle East, pp. 62–74. 33 L. Tal, ‘Dealing with Radical Islam: The Case of Jordan’, Survival, autumn 1995, vol. 37, no. 3, 139–56; See also G. Kramer, ‘The Integration of the Integrists: A Comparative Study of Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia’, in G. Salame (ed.) Democracy Without Democrats?, London: I. B. Tauris, 1994, pp. 200–26. 34 Bechor, ‘The Voices of Allah’. 35 For the relations between the PA and Hamas, see M. Klein, ‘Competing Brothers: The Web of Hamas–PLO Relations’, in B. Maddy-Weitzman and E. Inbar (eds) Religious Radicalism in the Greater Middle East, pp. 111–32. 36 There are great difficulties in polling Palestinians. According to the poll results of the Center for Palestine Research and Studies (Nablus) released on 31 May 1994, support for Islamic groups in Gaza is approximately 20 percent. 37 Arafat allowed Hamas to open an information office and to publish a magazine, and released many Hamas activists from prison. See Haaretz, 29 January 1996, A5.



38 Haaretz, 28 October 1994, A3. 39 E. Kanovsky, Assessing the Mideast Peace Economic Dividend, BESA Mideast Security and Policy Studies no. 15, Ramat Gan: BESA Center for Strategic Studies, 1994. 40 Z. Schiff, ‘After Nezarim’, Haaretz, 15 November 1994, B1. 41 For the continuum in Israeli attitudes on national security and the Arab–Israeli conflict, see E. Inbar and G. Goldberg, ‘Is Israel’s Elite Becoming More Hawkish?’, International Journal, summer 1990, vol. 45, no. 3, 632–5; E. Inbar, War and Peace in Israeli Politics, Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1991. 42 S. Peres with A. Naor, The New Middle East, New York: Henry Colt, 1993, p. 46. 43 For reduced threat perception and other components of the new Israeli strategic thinking, see E. Inbar, ‘Contours of New Israeli Strategic Thinking’, Political Science Quarterly, spring 1996, vol. 111, no. 1, 41–65. 44 For this term see M. Singer and A. Wildavsky, The Real World Order: Zones of Peace/Zones of Turmoil, Chatham, NJ: Chatham House, 1993. For Benjamin Netanyahu’s view, see his A Place Among the Nations (Hebrew), Tel Aviv: Yediot Aharonot, 1995. 45 Kanovsky, Assessing the Mideast Peace Economic Dividend. 46 For the relations between economic ideas and international relations, see R. Gilpin, ‘Three Models of Future’, International Organization, winter 1975, vol. 29, no. 1, 37–63. 47 B. Kimmerling, The Interrupted System, New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1985. 48 G. Goldberg, G. Barzilai and E. Inbar, The Impact of Intercommunal Conflict: The Intifada and the Israeli Public Opinion, Policy Studies no. 43, Jerusalem: The Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations, The Hebrew University 1991; A. Arian, Security Threatened: Surveying Israeli Opinion on Peace and War, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press and the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, Tel Aviv University, 1995. 49 Haaretz, 30 September 1994, A3. For the Syrian track, see E. Inbar, ‘Israeli Negotiations with Syria’, Israel Affairs, summer 1995, vol. 1, no. 4, 89–100. 50 See the poll results in Maariv, 6 January 1995, l; Yediot Aharonot, 10 March 1995, l. 51 The analysis of the elections is beyond the scope of this chapter. Netanayahu’s razorthin victory is primarily related to more effective campaigning and organization, and to a better ability to capture the center of the Israeli political map than Labour. 52 E. Inbar and S. Sandler, ‘The Changing Israeli Security Equation: Toward a Security Regime’, Review of International Studies, January 1995, vol. 21, no. 1, 41–59. 53 See Inbar and Sandler, ‘Israel’s Deterrence Strategy Revisited’, 342–3; G. Ben-Dor, ‘Arab Rationality and Deterrence’, in Aharon Klieman and Ariel Levite (eds) Deterrence in the Middle East, JCSS Study no. 22, Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1993, p. 97; A. Garfinkle, ‘An Observation on Arab Culture and Deterrence: Metaphors and Misgivings’, in Inbar, Regional Security Regimes, pp. 201–29. 10 Arab–Israeli coexistence: causes, achievements and limitations 1 For the process of Egyptian reintegration within the Arab regional system, see A. E. Hillal Dessouki, ‘Egyptian Foreign Policy Since Camp David’, in W. B. Quandt (ed.) The Middle East: Ten Years After Camp David, Washington, DC: The Brookings Institute, 1988, pp. 102–5. 2 See S. Shamir, ‘Arab Military Lessons from the October War’, in L. Williams (ed.) Military Aspects of the Israeli–Arab Conflict, Tel Aviv: University Publishing Projects, 1975, p. 175; B. Lewis, ‘Settling the Arab–Israeli Conflict’, Commentary, June 1977, vol. 63, 53. 3 For Arab perceptions, see A. E. Levite and E. B. Landau, Israel’s Nuclear Image: Arab Perceptions of Israel’s Nuclear Posture (Hebrew), Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University, 1994.



4 See, inter alia, N. E. El Shazli, ‘Arab Anger at New Axis’, World Today, January 1999, vol. 55, no. 1, 25–7. 5 F. Ajami, ‘The End of Pan-Arabism’, Foreign Affairs, winter 1978–79, vol. 57, no. 2, 355–73; R. Owen, State, Power and Politics in the Making of the Modern Middle East, London: Routledge, 1992; G. Ben-Dor, State and Conflict in the Middle East, New York: Praeger, 1983. 6 R. S. Humphrey, Between Memory and Desire: The Middle East in a Troubled Age, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999, p. 81. 7 A. Sela, The Decline of the Arab–Israeli Conflict: Middle East Politics and the Quest for Regional Order, Albany; SUNY Press, 1988. 8 M. N. Barnett, Dialogues in Arab Politics: Negotiations in Regional Order, New York: Columbia University Press, 1998, p. 198. 9 H. Cobban, ‘The PLO and the Intifada’, in R. O. Freedman (ed.) The Intifada, Miami: Florida International University Press, 1991, pp. 70–106. 10 For the PLO’s long road to Oslo, see B. Rubin, Revolution Until Victory: The Politics and History of the PLO, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994. 11 P. C. Noble, ‘The Arab System: Pressures, Constraints, and Opportunities’, in B. Korani and A. E. Hillal Dessouki (eds) The Foreign Policies of Arab States: The Challenge of Change, Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1991, pp. 81–2. 12 The most comprehensive work on Israeli–Jordanian relations is M. Zak, Hussein Makes Peace (Hebrew), Ramat-Gan: Bar-Ilan University Press, 1996. 13 E. Inbar, Outcast Countries in the World Community, Denver: University of Denver, 1985. 14 For a review of the demographic and economic conditions in the Arab world after 1991, see E. Kanovsky, The Economic Consequences of the Persian Gulf War: Accelerating OPEC’s Demise, Policy Papers no. 30, Washington, DC: Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 1992; and Muhammad Faour, The Arab World After Desert Storm, Washington, DC: US Institute for Peace Process, 1993, pp. 15–32. 15 R. A. Hinnebusch, ‘Assad’s Syria and the New World Order: The Struggle For Regime Survival’, Middle East Policy, 1993, vol. 2, no. 1, 1–14. 16 Interviews with Egyptian and Jordanian high officials. See also D. Pipes, ‘Assad Isn’t Interested’, Jerusalem Post, 29 August 1999, 6. 17 For a review of the Israeli–Syrian talks, see I. Rabinovich, The Brink of Peace: Israel and Syria, 1992–1996 (Hebrew), Tel Aviv: Miskal, 1998. 18 Foreign Minister Ehud Barak’s speech in the Knesset, 25 December 1995 (Israel Information Service Gopher). This is the formula he has used ever since. 19 For the persistence of the old rules of the game in the Middle East, see M. Singer and A. Wildavsky, The Real World Order: Zone of Peace/Zones of Turmoil, Chatham, NJ: Chatham House, 1993; L. C. Brown, ‘The Middle East After the Cold War: Systemic Change or More of the Same?’, in G. Downs (ed.) Collective Security Beyond the Cold War, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994, pp. 197–216; E. Karsh, ‘Cold War, Post-Cold War: Does It Make A Difference for the Middle East?’, in E. Inbar and G. Sheffer (eds) The National Security of Small States in a Changing World, London: Frank Cass, 1997, pp. 77–106. 20 Maariv, Shabbat Supplement, 1 September 1995, 3. 21 D. C. Byman and J. D. Green, ‘The Enigma of Political Stability in the Persian Gulf Monarchies’, MERIA, September 1999, vol. 3, no. 3. 22 E. Inbar and S. Sandler, ‘The Risks of Palestinian Statehood’, Survival, summer 1997, vol. 37, no. 2, 23–41. 23 For the tensions between the two countries, see F. A. Gerges, ‘Egyptian–Israeli Relations Turn Sour’, Foreign Affairs, May–June 1995, vol. 74, no. 3, 69–78. 24 For an analysis of the military capabilities in the region, see A. H. Cordesman, Perilous Prospects: The Peace Process and the Arab–Military Balance, Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1996.



25 See H. Khashan, ‘Polling Arab Views on the Conflict with Israel’, Middle East Quarterly, June 1995, vol. 2, no. 2, 3–13. 26 Barnett, Dialogues in Arab Politics, pp. 44–5. 27 See E. Bronner, ‘Israel’s History Textbooks Replace Myths with Facts’, New York Times, 14 August 1999, Al, 5. 28 See, inter alia, Emmanuel Sivan, Radical Islam: Medieval Theology and Modern Politics, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1985; G. E. Fuller and I. O. Lesser, A Sense of Siege: The Geopolitics of Islam and the West, Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1995. 11 Israel’s new strategic partner: Turkey 1 K. Karpat, Turkey’s Foreign Policy in Transition, Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1975, pp. 108–11; S. Özel, ‘Of Not Being a Lone Wolf: Geography, Domestic Plays, and Turkish Foreign Policy in the Middle East’, in G. Kemp and J. G. Stein (eds) Powder Keg in the Middle East, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1995, pp. 161–94. 2 See, inter alia, S ¸ . Elekda˘g, ‘2.5 War Strategy’, Perceptions, March–May 1996; S¸. Ergüvenç, ‘Turkey’s Security Perceptions’, Perceptions, June–August 1998; M. Mufti, ‘Daring and Caution in Turkish Foreign Policy’, Middle East Journal, winter 1998, 33–41. 3 Mufti, ‘Daring and Caution in Turkish Foreign Policy’, 32–50; A. Makovsky, ‘The New Activism in Turkish Foreign Policy’, SAIS Review, winter–spring 1999, 92–113. 4 Turkish Probe, 10 May 1998, 15. 5 A. L. Karaosmano˘glu, ‘Turkey: Between the Middle East and Western Europe’, in K. H. Karpat, (ed.) Turkish Foreign Policy, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1996, p. 14. 6 S. Tas¸han, ‘A Review of Turkish Foreign Policy in the Beginning of 1998’, Dis¸ Politika, 1998 vol. 22, nos 1–3, 22. 7 Interview with Barlas Özener, ambassador of Turkey to Israel (1995–99), 24 August 1998. 8 Interviews with Turkish senior officers. 9 Interview with Özener. 10 Interview with Uri Gordon, Israel’s chargé d’affaires (1990–92) and ambassador to Ankara (1992–94), 6 May 1998; interview with Eytan Bentsur, Director-General of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 13 February 2000. 11 A. Lewin, ‘Turkey and Israel: Reciprocal and Mutual Imagery in the Media, 1994–1999’, Journal of International Affairs, fall 2000, 239–51. 12 Interview with Maj. Gen. (ret.) David Ivry, National Security Advisor, 30 November 1999. 13 Haaretz, April 1996. 14 Jane’s Defence Weekly, 3 July 1996, 40. 15 Ergüvenç, ‘Turkey’s Security Perceptions’, 41. 16 Defense News, 5–11 January 1998, 2. 17 ‘Turkey, Israel, Tanks and Spies’, Foreign Report, 10 February 1998. 18 Defense News, 21 August 2000, 18. 19 Turkish Daily News, 4 December 1997. 20 Defense News, 20–26 October 1997, 14. 21 Jerusalem Post, 18 January 2001, 2. 22 E. Inbar, ‘Contours of Israel’s New Strategic Thinking’, Political Science Quarterly, spring 1996, 42–45; A. Hashim, ‘The State, Society and the Evolution of Warfare in the Middle East: The Rise of Strategic Deterrence?’, Washington Quarterly, autumn 1995, 54–5; A. L. Karaosmano˘glu, ‘The Evolution of the National Security Culture in Turkey’, Journal of International Affairs, fall 2000, 199–201.



23 Y. Evron, ‘Gulf Crisis and War: Regional Rules of the Game and Policy and Theoretical Implications’, Security Studies, autumn 1994, 125. 24 M. N. Barnett, Dialogues in Arab Politics: Negotiations in Regional Order, New York: Columbia University Press, 1998, pp. 229–31. 25 Newspot, 18 November 1993. 26 Newsweek, 11 August 1997. 27 Turkish Daily News, 3 September 1998. 28 Near East Report, 26 January 1998, 6. 29 Ç. Bir, ‘Reflections on Turkish–Israeli Relations and Turkish Security’, Policywatch, 422, 5 November 1999, 1. 30 Interview with Cypriot officials. Turkish planes that trained in Israel were suspected of exercises that simulated attacking SAM sites. In November 1998, two Israeli Mossad agents were caught with surveillance equipment in Cyprus, fueling rumors about Israeli assistance to Turkey. 31 For such a rationale in creating alliances, see R. L. Schweller, ‘Bandwagoning for Profit: Bringing the Revisionist State Back In’, International Security, summer 1994, 79; balancing threats as the main reason for alliance formation was suggested by S. M. Walt, The Origins of Alliances, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1987. 32 (18 November 1996) Available online at: 33 Bir, ‘Reflections on Turkish–Israeli Relations’, 1. 34 Turkish Daily News, 5 June 1996, A4. 35 Inbar, ‘Contours of Israel’s New Strategic Thinking’, 47. 36 Yediot Aharonot, 13 August 1999, 3. 37 Turkish Daily News, 4 May 1997, 2. 38 Milliyet, 18 February 1996. 39 Milliyet, 23 September 1996. 40 Haaretz, 13 June 2000, A3. 41 For this chapter in Israeli–Syrian relations, see I. Rabinovitch, The Brink of Peace: Israeli–Syrian Negotiations, Princeton, NU: Princeton University Press, 1998. 42 K. Kiris¸ci, ‘Turkey and the Muslim Middle East’, in A. Makovsky and S. Sayari (eds) Turkey’s New World: Changing Dynamics in Turkish Foreign Policy, Washington, DC: Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2000, p. 47. 43 Turkish Daily News, 21 February 1997, l. 44 M. Heper and A. Güney, ‘The Military and the Consolidation of Democracy: The Recent Turkish Experience’, Armed Forces and Society, summer 2000, 640. 45 E. Inbar, Rabin and Israel’s National Security, Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999, pp. 138–9. 46 Interviews with senior officials. 47 D. B. Sezer, ‘Turkey’s New Security Environment, Nuclear Weapons and Proliferation’, Comparative Strategy, April–June 1995, 149–72. 48 Turkish Daily News, 4 May 1997, 2. 49 I. O. Lesser, NATO Looks South: New Challenges and New Strategies in the Mediterranean, Santa Monica: RAND, 2000, p. 31. 50 B. Aras, ‘Post-Cold War Realities: Israel’s Strategy in Azerbaijan and Central Asia’, Middle East Policy, vol. 5, no. 4, 69. 51 Elekda˘g, ‘2.5 War Strategy’. 52 Turkish Daily News, 29 July 1999. 53 D. B. Sezer, ‘Turkish–Russian Relations a Decade Later: From Adversity to Managed Competition’, Perceptions, March–May 2001, 79-98.



12 The Indian–Israeli entente 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26

Israel’s first premier, David Ben-Gurion, developed the periphery doctrine. For its implementation, see A. S. Klieman, Israel and the World After 40 Years, Washington: Pergamon Brassey’s, 1990, pp. 92, 168–9, 236. Y. Shimoni, ‘India: The Years of Estrangement’, in M. Yager, Y. Govrin and A. Oded (eds) Ministry for Foreign Affairs: The First Fifty Years (Hebrew), Jerusalem: Keter, 2002, pp. 539–40. M. Yager, ‘Fundamental Factors in Asia–Israel Relations’, in Yager, Govrin and Oded (eds) Ministry for Foreign Affairs, p. 534; G. Bachar, ‘The Normalization in Indian–Israel Relations’, ibid., p. 543. M. Yager, ‘How Was Normalization Achieved in Indo–Israeli Relations?’, Nativ (Hebrew), January 2003, 1–11; Bachar, ‘The Normalization in Indian–Israel Relations’, 543–49. P. R. Kumaraswami, ‘India–Israel: Emerging Partnership’, Journal of Strategic Studies, December 2002, 198. P. R. Kumaraswami, Israel and India. Evolving Strategic Partnership, Mideast Security and Policy Studies no. 40, Ramat Gan: Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, September 1998. A. Waldman, ‘The Bond between India and Israel Grows’, New York Times, 9 September 2003. S. P. Cohen and S. Ganguly, ‘India’, in R. Chase, E. Hill and P. Kennedy (eds) The Pivotal States. A New Framework for US Policy in the Developing World, New York: Norton, 1999, pp. 50–1. K. Shankar Bajpai, ‘Untangling India and Pakistan’, Foreign Affairs, May–June 2003, 114. Ibid., 125. See P. R. Kumaraswami, Beyond the Veil: Israel–Pakistan Relations, JCSS Memorandum no. 55, Tel Aviv: Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, 2000. R. Dutta, ‘India, Israel Have Big Plans’, The Pioneer, New Delhi, 21 January 2003. ‘Israeli Company Targets Arms Sales to India’, Press Trust of India (PTI), BBC Monitoring South Asia, New Delhi, 5 February 2003. V. Raghuvanshi, ‘India Relies on Israel for UAV Needs’, Defense News, 24 February 2003. V. Raghuvanshi, ‘India Imports Naval Missile Defences’, Defense News, 23 May 2003. V. Raghuvanshi, ‘India’s Military Seeks $1.5 Billion in Radar Gear’, Defense News, 20 June 2003. V. Raghuvanshi, ‘India Eyes Pakistan Providers’, Defense News, 12 May 2003. B. Opall-Rome, ‘Israel, Russia Establish Intellectual Property Deal’, Defense News, 17 March 2003. V. Raghuvanshi, ‘India’s Ordnance Board Looks Overseas’, Defense News, 26 May 2003; and his ‘India Strives for Missile-Building Hub’, Defense News, 24 February 2003. ‘IAI, Indian Firm Start Venture’, Defense News, 17 February 2003. Statesman (New Delhi), 28 February 1992, quoted in Kumaraswamy, Israel and India; remarks of Maj. Gen. Uzi Dayan, National Security Advisor, in A. Navon, ‘The Indian Knot’, Maariv, Weekend Magazine, 20 September 2002. V. Raghuvanshi, ‘India to Create Strike Force’, Defense News, 12 May 2003. ‘India, Israel Defense Ties to Get a Boost’, PTI, Hindustan Times, 22 May 2003. B. Opall-Rome, ‘Israel Seeks Partners for Military Space’, Defense News, 18 August 2003. ‘India Acquires Green Pine Radars from Israel’, Times of India, 28 June 2002. For a balanced appraisal, see S. P. Cohen, ‘The Jihadist Threat to Pakistan’, Washington Quarterly, summer 2003, 7–26.



27 Z. Schiff, ‘The Discovery of the Shehab-3’, Haaretz, 23 July 2003. 28 For an exposition of Saudi mischief, see D. Gold, Hatred’s Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism, New York: Regnery Publishing, 2003. 29 ‘Interview with PM Rabin’, Bamahane, 23 September 1992. See also S. A. Cohen, ‘Israel’s Changing Military Commitments, 1981–1991’, Journal of Strategic Studies, September 1992, 330–50. 30 For an evaluation of the Iranian nuclear program, see M. Eisenstadt, ‘Living with a Nuclear Iran?’, Survival, autumn 1999, 124–48, and more recently, D. Frantz, ‘Iran Closes in Ability to Build a Nuclear Bomb’, Los Angeles Times, 4 August 2003. 31 B. Opall-Rome, ‘Israel Expands Refueling Options’, Defense News, 12 May 2003. 32 ‘India Assisting Israeli Navy’, Times of India (online version), 17 June 2002. 33 See Maj. Gen. (ret.) S. Erel, ‘The Sea as Strategic Depth’, Maarachot, April 2003, 46–9; and Z. Almog, ‘Strategic Depth Must Be Sought in the Sea’, Haaretz, 26 June 2003. 34 Lecture at the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies, Bar-Ilan University, 24 April 2002. The Ghauri, developed in the 1990s with Chinese help, has a range of up to 1,500 km and can be tipped with a nuclear warhead. In 1998 Pakistan carried out a successful flight test of the Ghauri, and Islamabad is working on longer-range models of the missile. 35 ‘Musharraf Calls for a Debate on Relations with Israel’, Haaretz, 30 June 2003. 36 Cohen and Ganguly, ‘India’, in Chase, Hill and Kennedy (eds) The Pivotal States, p. 40. 37 O. Oliker, ‘Conflict in Central Asia and South Caucasus’, in O. Oliker and T. S. Szayna (eds) Faultlines of Conflict in Central Asia and the South Caucasus, Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2003, pp. 225–6. See also M. S. Roy, ‘India’s Interests in Central Asia’, Strategic Analysis, March 2001, 2273–89. 38 Cohen and Ganguly, ‘India’, 54. For recent analyses of US–Indo relations, see T. C. Shaffer, ‘Building a New Partnership with India’, Washington Quarterly, spring 2002, 31–44; and R. M. Hathaway, ‘The US–India Courtship’, Journal of Strategic Studies, December 2002, 6–31. 39 See L. Ramer, ‘Pro-Israel Activists Seeking Allies Among Immigrants from India’, Forward, 11 October 2002; and A. Cooperman, ‘India, Israel Interests Team Up’, Washington Post, 19 July 2003. 40 ‘India’s Top Security Official Moots India–US–Israel Anti-terror Axis’, New Delhi (AFP), 10 May 2003. 13 Israel’s Palestinian challenge 1 E. Inbar, ‘Israel’s Strategic Environment in the 1990s’, Journal of Strategic Studies, March 2002, vol. 25, no. 1, 21–38. 2 E. Inbar, ‘Arab–Israeli Coexistence: Causes, Achievements and Limitations’, Israel Affairs, summer 2000, vol. 6, nos 3–4, 256–70. 3 See D. Tschirgi, ‘Palestine 2003: The Perils of De Facto Statehood’, in T. Bahcheli, B. Bartmann and H. Srebnik (eds) De Facto States. The Quest for Sovereignty, London: Routledge, 2004, pp. 187–209. 4 For misguided Israeli policies during the Oslo process and the Israeli psyche, see E. Karsh, Arafat’s War: The Man and his Battle for Israeli Conquest, New York: Grove Press, 2003; and K. Levin, The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of People Under Siege, Hanover, NH: Smith & Krauss Publishing, 2005. For an analysis of the peace process from Oslo to the Camp David Summit, see D. Ross, The Missing Peace, New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2004. 5 For an insightful analysis of the Palestinian leader, see B. Rubin and J. C. Rubin, Yasser Arafat: A Political Biography, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. 6 For a daily documentation of the disregard of law and order in the Palestinian




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territories, see the website of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, www. For an analysis of this phenomenon, see R. I. Rothberg (ed.), When States Fail: Causes and Consequences, Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univeristy Press, 2004. Interestingly, the writings on ‘failed states’ fail to include the PA in such a category. See ‘Europe and the Middle East: Collapsed, Failed, Failing, and Weak States, 2003’, in R. I. Rotberg (ed.) When States Fail; ‘Development Effectiveness in Fragile States’, p. 48. Available online at:,2688,en_2649_33693550_ 1_1_1_1_1,00.html. For more on this organization, see S. Mishal and A. Sela, The Palestinian Hamas: Vision, Violence and Coexistence, New York: Columbia University Press, 2000. For its post-election strategy, see E. Yaari, ‘Inside the Hamas Strategy. Fight Delay’, The New Republic Online, 13 February 2006. On the phenomenon of religious violence, see M. Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise in Religious Violence, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of Callifornia Press, 2003. This term describing the goal of destroying the Jewish state was coined by Yehoshafat Harkabi. See his Fedayeen Action and Arab Strategy, Adelphi Paper no. 53, London, 1969, p. 1. See inter alia. Available online at: new.htm#b230306; ‘The Forked Tongue of Hamas: How It Speaks Differently to Western and Arab Media’, IMRA. Available online at: (accessed 11 April 2006). See Y. Sayigh, Armed Struggle and the Search for State: The Palestinian National Movement, 1949–93, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997; A. N. Kurz, Fatah and the Politics of Violence, Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 2005; M. Hatina, ‘The “Ulama” and the Cult of Death in Palestine’, Israel Affairs, January 2006, vol. 12, no. 1, 29–51. For asymmetric strategy, see I. Arreguin-Toft, ‘How the Weak Win Wars: The Theory of Asymmetric Conflict’, International Security, summer 2001, vol. 26, no. 1, 93–128. For an early study of the attempts to isolate Israel, see E. Inbar, Outcast Countries in the World Community, Monograph Series in World Affairs, Denver: University of Denver Press, 1985. See G. Steinberg, ‘Soft Powers Play Hardball: NGOs Wage War Against Israel’, Israel Affairs, October 2006, vol. 12; and E. Gilboa, ‘Public Diplomacy: The Missing Component in Israel’s Foreign Policy’, Israel Affairs, October 2006, vol. 12, no. 4. According to a poll conducted in March 2006, 59 percent of Palestinians believe Hamas should not recognize Israel. See PSR Poll no. 19, 16–18 March 2006, Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research (PSR). Denial of Israel’s right to exist has been widespread among Palestinians. For example, almost two-thirds of Palestinians held this position at the height of the Oslo process in October 1995, when the general atmosphere was of great optimism about the peace process. The poll was conducted by the Jerusalem Institute for Communications. See the report of it in Haaretz, 15 October 1995. For a recent example of this phenomenon, see J. J. Mearsheimer and S. Walt, The Israeli Lobby and US Foreign Policy. Available online: Research/wpaper.nsf/rwp/RWP06–011. E. Karsh, Fabricating Israeli History: The ‘New Historians’ (expanded version), London: Routledge, 2000. On the effects of isolation, see Inbar, Outcast Countries in the World Community; and D. Geldhuysen, Isolated States: A Comparative Analysis, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990. G. Sheffer, ‘The Security of Small Ethnic States: A Counter Neo-realist Argument’, in E. Inbar and G. Sheffer (eds) The National Security of Small States in a Changing


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World, London: Routledge, 1997, pp. 9–40; and D. Vital, ‘Minor Power/Major Power Relations and the Contemporary Nation State’, in Inbar and Sheffer (eds) The National Security of Small States in a Changing World, pp. 197–214. See, inter alia, Y. Alexander and J. Sinai, Terrorism: The PLO Connection, New York: Crane, Russak & Co., 1989. For the Israeli counter-terror campaign, see D. L. Byman and A. Dicter, ‘Israel’s Lessons for Fighting Terrorists and Their Implications for the United States’, Saban Centre Analysis, March 2006, no. 8. For the role of competition in increasing motivation of Palestinian terrorist organizations, see M. M. Bloom, ‘Palestinian Suicide Bombing: Public Support, Market Share and Outbidding’, Political Science Quarterly, spring 2004, vol. 19, no. 1, 69–82. See inter alia. Available online at:⁄4 worldNews&storyID1⁄42006–0323T144925Z_01_L23127773_RTRUKOT_0_TEXT0. xml&related1⁄4true&src1⁄4cms. A. Regular, ‘Abu Mazen Condemned the Attack; Haniyah: It Is a Natural Response’, Haaretz, 2 April 2006. W. Laqueur, Terrorism, New York: Crane, Russak & Co., 1977, p. 109; I. O. Lesser, B. Hoffman, J. Arquilla, D. Ronfeldt and M. Zanini, Countering the New Terrorism, Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 1999, p. 13. B. Opall-Rome, ‘Israel Navy Boosts Layers of Anti-terror Defenses’, Defense News, 23 January 2006, 10. See F. Fukuyama, State-Building: Governance and World Order in the 21st Century, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2004; C. A. Crocker, ‘Engaging Failing States’, Foreign Affairs, September–October 2003, vol. 82, no. 5, 32–44; K. Menkhaus, Somalia: State Collapse and the Threat of Terrorism, Adelphi Paper no. 364, London: Routledge, 2003; S. Patrick, ‘Weak States and Global Threats: Facts or Fiction’, The Washington Quarterly, spring 2006, vol. 29, no. 2, 27–54. See E. Yaari, Fatah (Hebrew), Tel Aviv: Hebrew Publishing., 1970, pp. 125–6. M. Freund, ‘Beware: Al-Qaeda Is Targeting Israel’, Jerusalem Post, 8 March 2006. For the distinction between a national and a transnational insurgency, see P. Staniland, ‘Defeating Transnational Insurgencies: The Best Offense Is a Good Fence’, The Washington Quarterly, winter 2005–6, vol. 29, no. 1, 21. See, inter alia, ‘Kosovo as a Model’, Arab News, 14 December 2003. Available online at: www.aljazeer-info/Opinion%20editorials/2003%20Opinion%20Editorials/ December/14%20o/Kosovo% 20as%20a%20Model,%20Arab%20News.htm; H. Keinon, ‘Israel Lobbies Against a UN Force’, Jerusalem Post, 12 December 2000. Patrick, ‘Weak States and Global Threats: Facts or Fiction’, 45. N. Poller, ‘Myth, Fact, and the al-Dura Affair’, Commentary, September 2005, vol. 120, no. 2, 23–30. For a grand strategy for Israel which deals not only with the Palestinian issue, see Y. Dror, ‘A Breakout Political-security Grand-strategy for Israel’, Israel Affairs, October 2006, vol. 12, no. 4. For an exception, see J. Herbst, ‘Let Them Fail: State Failure in Theory and Practice: Implications for Policy’, in Rothberg (ed.) When States Fail, pp. 302–18. See E. Inbar and S. Sandler, ‘The Risks of Palestinian Statehood’, Survival, summer 1997, vol. 32, no. 2, 23–41. For the growing Islamic discourse in Palestinian politics, see H. Frisch, The Islamic Dimension in Palestinian Politics, BESA Mideast Security and Policy Studies no. 61, Ramat Gan: BESA Center for Strategic Studies, September 2005. N. Birdsall, D. Rodrik and A. Subramanian, ‘How to Help Poor Countries’, Foreign Affairs, July–August 2005, vol. 84, no. 4, 143. M. Indyk, ‘A Trusteeship for Palestine’, Foreign Affairs, May–June 2003, vol. 82, no. 3, 51–66.



40 For an analysis of this mechanism, see R. Caplan, A New Trusteeship? The International Administration of War-torn Territories, Adelphi Paper no. 341, London: Routledge, 2002. 41 For a sober analysis of peacekeeping, see D. C. Jett, Why Peacekeeping Fails, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1999. 42 For a discussion of the literature on this subject, see C. Gelpi, P. Weaver and J. Reifler, ‘Success Matters: Casualty Sensitivity and the War in Iraq’, International Security, winter 2005, vol. 30, no. 3, 10–17. 43 See S. R. David, ‘Fatal Choices: Israel’s Policy of Targeted Killing’, in E. Inbar (ed.) Democracies and Small Wars, London: Routledge, 2003, pp. 138–58. 44 See S. Catignani, ‘The Strategic Impasse in Low-intensity Conflicts: The Gap between Israeli Counter-insurgency Strategy and Tactics during the Al-Aqsa Intifada’, Journal of Strategic Studies, February 2005, vol. 28, no. 1, 63–70. 45 The average number of innocent victims killed in targeted killings went down during the 2002 to 2005 period from four casualties to practically zero per incident. See ‘Interview with Maj. Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky, Deputy Chief of the IDF’, Defense News, 27 March 2006, 22. 46 The figures for the Palestinian population are usually inflated. See B. Zimmerman, R. Seid and M. L. Wise, The Million Person Gap: The Arab Population in the West Bank and Gaza, BESA Mideast Security and Policy Studies no. 65, Ramat Gan: BESA Center for Strategic Studies, February 2006. 47 The literature on US–Israeli relations is voluminous. See, inter alia, A. Ben-Zvi, The United States and Israel: The Limits of the Special Relationship, New York: Columbia University Press, 1993; or A. Ben-Zvi, Decade or Transition: Eisenhower, Kennedy and the Formation of the American–Israeli Alliance, New York: Columbia University Press, 1998. 48 See S. David, ‘American Foreign Policy towards the Middle East: A Necessary Change’, Israel Affairs, October 2006, vol. 12, no. 4. 49 See Gilboa, ‘Public Diplomacy: The Missing Component in Israel’s Foreign Policy’. 50 M. Howard, ‘The Forgotten Dimension of Strategy’, Foreign Affairs, summer 1979, vol. 57, no. 5, 975–86. 51 See A. Kober, Israel and Wars of Attrition, BESA Mideast Security and Policy Studies no. 62, Ramat Gan: BESA Center for Strategic Studies, September 2005; and M. Elran, Israel’s National Resilience: The Influence of the Second Intifada on Israeli Society (Hebrew), Memorandum no. 81, Tel Aviv: Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, January 2006. 52 For a discussion of this term, see E. Inbar, ‘The “No Choice War” Debate in Israel’, Journal of Strategic Studies, March 1989, vol. 11, no. 1, 25–8. 53 D. Diker and P. Inbari, ‘Re-energizing a West Bank–Jordan Alliance’, Middle East Quarterly, spring 2006, vol. 13, no. 2, 29–36. 54 Palestinian Centre for Public Opinion, Poll no. 151, 26 March 2006. Available online at: 14 The need to block a nuclear Iran 1 See, inter alia, I. Cobain and I. Trainor (4 January 2006), ‘Secret Services say Iran is Trying to Assemble a Nuclear Missile’, Guardian. Available online at:,12858,1677542,00.htm; H.L. Krieger, ‘Vienna Envoy: EU Could Impose Iran Sanctions if UN Doesn’t’, Jerusalem Post, 1 January 2006, 1; ‘Alpogan: Turkey Against Iran Obtaining Nuclear Weapon Capability’, New Anatolian, 26 January 2006, 3; ‘Stop Iran’, Defense News, 16 January 2006, 20; see also:–43BD-9C68-C42A5338 D385.html; html;


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Article%2FShowFull; shtml. ‘Sense of Urgency Cited by Bolton on Iran A-bomb’, Sun, 12 April 2006. U. Mahnaimi and S. Baxter, ‘Israel Readies Forces for Strike on Nuclear Iran’, The Times, 11 December 2005; (9 December 2005) ‘El Baradei: World’s Patience Running Out Over Iranian Nuke Program’, USA Today. Available online at: news/world/2005–12–09-iran-nuke_x.htm?csp=34; newsweek/. ‘Dagan: Iran Will Become Independent in its Nuclear Program Within Months’, Haaretz, 28 December 2005, A12. For the quest for nuclear weapons of the Islamic Republic, see P. Clawson and M. Rubin, Eternal Iran: Continuity and Chaos, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005, pp. 139–46; for a background and chronology of the nuclear program, see For a comprehensive review of the nuclear program, see J. Cirincione, J. B. Wolfsthal and M. Rajkumar, Deadly Arsenals: Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Threats, Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2005, 2nd ed, pp. 295–314. See also the fact sheet at; and D. Frantz, ‘Iran Closes in Ability to Build a Nuclear Bomb’, Los Angeles Times, 4 August 2003. Natural uranium consists mostly of the uranium-235 isotope, with about 0.7 percent by weight of uranium-235. The uranium-235 isotope is fissionable material. Enriched uranium is uranium whose uranium-235 content has been increased through a process of isotope separation. The fissile uranium in nuclear weapons usually contains 85 percent or more of uranium-235, known as weapon-grade. For estimates of Korean capabilities, see J. D. Pollack, ‘The United States, North Korea, and the End of the Agreed Framework’, Naval War College Review, summer 2003, vol. 56, 11–49. For such a posture, see B. Frankel (ed.), Opaque Nuclear Proliferation: Methodology and Policy Implications, London: Frank Cass, 1991. For an analysis of denuclearization, see A. E. Levite, ‘Never Say Never Again: Nuclear Reversal Revisited’, International Security, winter 2002–3, vol. 27, no. 3, 59–88. P. Sherwell, ‘How We Duped the West, By Iran’s Nuclear Negotiator’, Daily Telegraph, 5 March 2006. For the roots and character of anti-Western ideologies, see I. Buruma and A. Margalit, Occidentalism. The West in the Eyes of Its Enemies, London: Penguin Books, 2004. M. Kedar, ‘Nucleotheism’, Jerusalem Post, 14 December 2005, 13. See Y. Dror, Crazy States, Lexington, MA: Heath Lexington, 1973, ch. 2. For an early reference to ‘rogue states’, see A. Lake, ‘Confronting Backlash States’, Foreign Affairs, March–April 1994, vol. 73, no. 2. For the rationale of state-supported terrorism and for Iran’s links to the Hizballah, see D. Byman, Deadly Connections. States that Sponsor Terrorism, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005, pp. 21–52, 79–116. (24 April 2004) ‘Patterns of Global Terrorism – 2003’, US Department of State. Available online at: ‘Ze’evi: US–Iran Diplomatic Process Stuck in the Mud’, Jerusalem Post, 21 December 2005, 2. Uzi Rubin, the father of the Israeli Arrow missile program, noted that Iranian capability to launch a satellite – an ability that Iran is aggressively pursuing – amounts to the country’s possession of intercontinental missiles. See J. Stahl (9 December 2005), ‘Iran’s Space Launch Program May Put US at Nuclear Risk’, CNS News. Available online at:\ForeignBureaus\archive\ 200512\FOR20051209e.html. K. J. McInnis, ‘Extended Deterrence: The US Credibility Gap in the Middle East’, Washington Quarterly, summer 2005, vol. 28, no. 3, 169–86.



20 For the Arrow program, see U. Rubin, ‘Meeting the “Depth Threat” in Iraq – The Origins of Israel’s Arrow System’, Jerusalem Issue Brief, Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs, 5 March 2003, vol. 2, no. 19. The United States and Israel have also shown interest in the Boost Phase Intercept option (BPI), when missiles are slow and have a big electronic signature. This option is particularly appealing if the missile carries a nuclear warhead that could explode immediately after launch in the vicinity of the launcher. This weapon system is still in a development stage, and it is not clear if it will be operational by the time Iran goes nuclear. 21 For American difficulties in erecting a missile defense system, see J. Singer, ‘MDA War Game Highlights Missile Defence Complexity’, Defense News, 6 February 2006, 18. 22 For the formative argument that nuclear deterrence is context-dependent, see A. Wohlstetter, ‘The Delicate Balance of Terror’, Foreign Affairs, January 1959, vol. 36, no. 1, 211–34. For an application of this argument to the Middle East, see Y. Evron, ‘Nuclear Weapons in the Middle East’, in A. Arian (ed.) Israel: A Developing Society, Assen: Van Gorcum, 1980, pp. 105–26. For a similar argument about the Indian subcontinent, see S. P. Kapur, ‘India and Pakistan’s Unstable Peace: Why Nuclear South Asia Is Not Like Cold War Europe’, International Security, fall 2005, vol. 30, no. 2, 125–52. The counter-argument that nuclear proliferation might bring stability is extremely problematic. For a recent formulation of this thesis, see K. N. Waltz, ‘For Better: Nuclear Weapons Preserve an Imperfect Peace’, in S. D. Sagan and K. N. Waltz The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: A Debate Renewed, New York: W. W. Norton, 2003. 23 One reason for the Israeli interest in cooperation with India is to facilitate a naval presence in the Indian Ocean. See E. Inbar, ‘The Indian–Israeli Entente’, Orbis, winter 2004, vol. 48, no. 1, pp. 99–100. 24 ‘Rafsanjani says Muslims Should Use Nuclear Weapons Against Israel’, Iran Press Service. Available online at: rafsanjani_nuke_threats_141201.htm. 25 T. C. Schelling, The Strategy of Conflict, 4th edn, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997, p. 37. 26 Raymond Aron uses this phrase to emphasize that the dialogue between the participants in a conflict establishes the meaning of the action. See his War and Peace: A Theory in International Relations, Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1966, p. 167. 27 The author thanks Steven David for bringing this point to his attention. For a balanced discussion of nuclear terrorism, see R. M. Frost, Nuclear Terrorism After 9/11, Adelphi Paper no. 378, London: IISS and Routledge, December 2005. 28 The term ‘energy ellipse’ was coined by G. Kemp and R. E. Harkavy, Strategic Geography and the Changing Middle East, Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1997, p. 113. 29 Jerusalem Post, 1 December 2005, 1. 30 ‘Interview with PM Rabin’, Bamahane, 23 September 1992, 9. For Rabin’s attitude toward the introduction of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, see E. Inbar, Yitzhak Rabin and Israel’s National Security, Washington, DC: Wilson Center and Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999, pp. 118–24. 31 For Iranian attitudes toward Israel see D. Menashri, ‘Iran, Israel and the Middle East Conflict’, Israel Affairs, January 2006, vol. 12, no. 1, 107–22. 32 For the notion of ‘soft power’, see J. S. Nye, Soft Power. The Means to Success in World Politics, New York: Public Affairs, 2004. 33 See F. Stockman, ‘US and Allies Eye Sanctions on Iran’, Boston Globe, 21 February 2006. 34 M. Levine, A. Turkeltaub and A. Gorbansky, ‘3 Myths About the Iran Conflict’, Washington Post, 7 February 2006, A21. 35 See R. A. Pape, ‘Why Economic Sanctions Do Not Work’, International Security, fall


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47 48

49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57


1997, vol. 27, no. 3, 90–136; J. F. Blanchard and N. M. Risman, ‘Asking the Right Question: When Do Economic Sanctions Work Best?’, Security Studies, autumn 1999–winter 2000, vol. 9, nos 1–2, 219–53. Clawson and Rubin, Eternal Iran, p. 158. N. Sharansky, The Case for Democracy, New York: Public Affairs, 2004. A. Milani, ‘US Foreign Policy and the Future of Democracy in Iran’, Washington Quarterly, summer 2005, vol. 28, no. 3, 41–56. J. Bolton. (30 October 2003), ‘The New World After Iraq: The Continuing Threat of Weapons of Mass Destruction’, US Department of State. Available online at: Haaretz, 24 November 2003, A5. B. Rubin, Cauldron of Turmoil: America in the Middle East, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1992, pp. 102–9. S. M. Hersh (17 April 2006), ‘The Iran Plans – Would President Bush Go to War to Stop Tehran from Getting the Bomb?’, The New Yorker. Available online at: See, inter alia, E. N. Lutwak, ‘In a Single Night’, Wall Street Journal, 8 February 2006. (12 January 2005), ‘Cheney: Iran at “Top of List of Trouble Spots” asks Israel to Carry Out the Attack’, Center for Research on Globalization. Available online: (18 February 2005), ‘Bush Declares Solidarity with Europe on Iran’, MSNBC. Available online at: ‘All Options Are on The Table’, President George W. Bush on Iran, Disarmament Diplomacy, August 2005, vol. 12. From Y. Deckel (11 August 2005), ‘Interview of the President by Israeli Television Channel 1’, Israeli TV Channel 1, Bush Ranch, Crawford, Texas. Available online at: C. Giacomo, ‘US Senators Say Military Strike on Iran Must be an Option’, Reuters, 15 January 2006. (27 January 2006), ‘57 Percent Back a Hit on Iran if Defiance Persists’, LA Times, based on LA Times poll. Available online at: nationworld/nation/la-na fornpoll27jan27,0,5687029.story?coll =l a-home-headlines (and another presentation of BBC poll results: a rchives/bbcpoll06–3.html). Iran a Growing Danger, Bush Gaining on Spy Issue, Washington, DC: Pew Research Center, 7 February 2006. Available online at: php3?ReportID=269. Ibid. See–3.html. P. Webster (28 October 2005), ‘Blair Hints at Military Action after Iran’s “Disgraceful” Taunt’, Times Online. Available online at: 0,,251–1846793,00.html. Interviews of the author with senior French officials, February 2006. Cumhuriet, 13 December 2005. L. Pronina, ‘Russian Arms Sale to Iran Draws US Scrutiny’, Defense News, 12 December 2005, 6. N. Guttman, ‘Yaalon: Israeli Can Hit Iran’s Nuke Sites’, Jerusalem Post, 10 March 2006, 1. E. Inbar, The Israeli–Turkish Entente, London: King’s College Mediterranean Program, 2001, ch. 2.



15 Israel’s strategic mistakes in the 2006 Lebanon War The author acknowledges the useful comments by Stuart Cohen, Avi Kober and Shmuel Sandler and the valuable research assistance of Ian Bomberg, Sara H. Krulewich and Tamara Sternlieb. 1 G. Alon, ‘To Make Sure that the Dwarf does not Drag us into a War against Syria’, Haaretz, 24 July 2006, B3. 2 For a chronology of Hizballah activities against Israel, see Terrorism-+Obstacle+to+Peace/Terrorism+from+Lebanon-+Hizbullah/Incidents%20 along%20Israel-Lebanon%20border%20since%20May%202000. 3 See E. Zisser, ‘Hizballah and Israel: Strategic Threat on the Northern Border’, Israel Affairs, January 2006, vol. 12, no. 1, 86–106. 4 A. Ringel-Hoffman, ‘Time Works Against Us’, Yediot Aharonot, 5 July 2002, Shabbat Supplement, 4–7. 5 A. Shavit, ‘Colleagues Undermine You’, Haaretz, 8 August 2003, Shabbat Supplement, 24. 6 For example, see the interview with MK Yuval Steinitz, Defense News, 29 January 2007; and the comments of former intelligence branch of the IDF chief Maj. Gen. A. Zeevi-Farkash, Channel 2 (Israel), 5 November 2006. 7 Jerusalem Post, 21 July 2006, 1. 8 I. Kfir, The Earth Has Trembled (Hebrew), Tel Aviv: Maariv, 2006, pp. 21, 23. Olmert claimed that he had planned a forceful reaction already two months before the abduction took place. It is not clear what kind of planning was involved at this earlier stage. In any case, his government decided at the end of May 2006 on a budget cut of NIS 510 million (ci. $125 million), which does not indicate preparations for a large-scale campaign. Moreover, the government made no diplomatic preparations for a large-scale conflict in the north. Similarly, the home front was not alerted to such a possibility. 9 Jerusalem Post, 17 July 2006, 1. 10 ‘Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Events at the Refugee Camps in Beirut’ (‘The Kahan Commission’), 8 February 1983. Available online at: %201947/1982–1984/104%20Report%20of %20the%20Commission%20of%20Inquiry %20into%20the%20e. 11 O. Shelah and Y. Limor, Captives of Lebanon (Hebrew), Tel Aviv: Miskal, 2007, p. 128. 12 Haaretz, 29 November 2006, A3. 13 Kfir, The Earth Has Trembled, p. 178. 14 Haaretz, 4 November 2006, B3. 15 Shelah and Limor, Captives of Lebanon, p. 160. 16 According to the plan, RAFAEL’s ‘Iron Dome’ and ‘Magic Wand’ systems will be used to defend against Qassam rockets, short-range Katyushas and medium-range Iranian-made ‘Zelzal’ missiles, while ‘Arrow’ missiles will protect Israel from Syrian and Iranian long-range missiles. 17 Schiff, ‘Let us be Realistic’, B4. 18 Haaretz, 16 February 2007, 1. 19 Jerusalem Post, 21 July 2006, 1. 20 For a detailed analysis of the Katyusha attacks, see U. Rubin, The Rocket Attacks on Israel During the 2006 Lebanon War, Mideast Security and Policy Studies, Ramat Gan: The Begin–Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, June 2007, no. 71. 21 Kfir, The Earth Has Trembled, p. 189. 22 E. Cohen, ‘The Mystique of US Air Power’, Foreign Affairs, January/February 1994, vol. 73, no. 1, 109–24. 23 Adm. B. Owens, with E. Offley, Lifting the Fog of War, New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2000.



24 In a public lecture at Tel Aviv University on 19 December 2006. Only lone voices in the IDF have voiced strong criticism of the search for high-tech solutions, accusing their organization of ‘worshipping’ technology, harming the development of nontechnological responses and causing an unbalanced order of battle. See, inter alia, Col. Dr. M. Finkel, ‘The Rites of Technology in the IDF – Return the Balance to the Land Build-up’, Maarachot, June 2006, no. 407, 40–5. 25 See S. Gordon, The Vulture and the Snake, Mideast Security and Policy Studies, no. 39, Ramat Gan: Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, Bar-Ilan University, July 1998. 26 MK Dr. Y. Steinitz advocated giving the navy and missiles a larger role. See his ‘The Sea as Israel’s Strategic Depth’, Maarachot, May 2002, no. 383; and his ‘It is Missiles’, Maarachot, December 2005, nos 403–404, 70–4. 27 The area south of the Litani River was not the responsibility of the IAF but of the Northern Command, and the IAF was not given the job of dealing with the shortrange rockets south of the river. 28 The Air Force Organ, No. 132, May 2000. 29 Jerusalem Post, 20 July 2006, 1. 30 Kfir, The Earth Has Trembled, p. 293. 31 Ibid., p. 114. 32 For an account of the discussions in the General Staff, see Haaretz, 23 January 2007, A1–2. 33 Kfir, The Earth Has Trembled, p. 159; see also D. Ivry, ‘The Implications of Limited Conflicts on the 2006 Lebanon War’, in A Collection of Articles (Hebrew), Tel Aviv: The Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies, December 2006, pp. 7–8. 34 Haaretz, 4 November 2006, A3. 35 Haaretz, 18 October 2006, A3. 36 Remarks by Israel’s Vice-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Israel Policy Forum Tribute Dinner, 9 June 2005. Available online at: 37 E. Inbar, Yitzhak Rabin and Israel’s National Security, Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999, pp. 161–2. 38 Y. Marcus, ‘On Stamina and Strategic Myopia’, Haaretz, 13 January 2004, B1. 39 ‘The Chief of the Northern Command: The Struggle of the Right is More Dangerous than the Hizballah Missiles’, Globes, 11 January 2005. 40 For ‘post-heroic warfare’ see, E. Luttwak, ‘Toward Post-heroic Warfare’, Foreign Affairs, May/June 1995, vol. 74, no. 3, 109–22; and his ‘A Post-heroic Military Policy’, Foreign Affairs, July/August 1996, vol. 75, no. 4, 33–44. 41 See P. Weaver and C. Gelpi, Choosing Your Battles: American Civil–Military Relations and the Use of Force, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004, p. 97; and C. Gelpi, P. Weaver and J. Reifler, ‘Success Matters: Casualty Sensitivity and the War in Iraq’, International Security, winter 2005/6, vol. 30, no. 3, 7–46. 42 A. Kober, ‘From Blitzkrieg to Attrition: Israel’s Attrition Strategy and Staying Power’, Small Wars and Insurgencies, June 2005, vol. 16, no. 2, 216–40; M. Elran, Israel’s National Resilience: The Influence of the Second Intifada on Israeli Society (Hebrew), Tel Aviv: Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, Memorandum no. 81, January 2006; N. Morag, ‘The Economic and Social Effects of Terrorism: Israel, 2000–2004’, MERIA, September 2006, vol. 10, no. 3. For an analysis of Israeli society during the 1991 Iraqi missile attacks, see Z. Solomon, Coping with WarInduced Stress: The Gulf War and the Israeli Response, New York: Plenum Press, 1995. 43 Only 15 percent agreed with the statement ‘the Palestinians are correct in their belief that additional terror pressure on Israel will cause a breakdown of Israeli society’, while 68 percent thought it was wrong (other responses received 17 percent). A ‘Maagar Mochot’ poll reported by Israel’s Radio on the program ‘It’s All Talk’, 28 December 2006.



44 Y. Katz, ‘No Drop in Motivation for Combat Service’, Jerusalem Post, 19 November 2006. 45 Channel 7 News, 26 July 2006. 46 Jerusalem Post, 28 July 2006, 1. 47 MSN News, 15 August 2006. Available online at: Military/State/200608. 48 Jerusalem Post, 19 July 2006, 1. 49 Kfir, The Earth Has Trembled, p. 22. 50 51 Haaretz, 30 November 2006, A4. 52 Author’s interviews with US senior officials, September 2006. 53 For the IDF document defining the goals of the campaign, which was presented to the government, see Z. Schiff, ‘Let Us Be Realistic’, Haaretz, 20 October 2006, B4. 54 Statement of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to the Knesset, 17 July 2006, official transcript, p. 2. 55 The Prime Minister’s Statement to the Heads of the Municipal Authorities, 31 July 2006, official transcript, p. 4. 56 See her joint press conference with EU Envoy Javier Solana on 19 July 2006, and her statement to the Knesset on 8 August 2006. See also Jerusalem Post, 24 October 2006, 3. 57 Jerusalem Post, 20 July 2006, 1. 58 Jerusalem Post, 17 July 2006, 2. 59 Schiff, ‘Let us be Realistic’, B4. 60 Kfir, The Earth Has Trembled, p. 22. 61 ‘Interview with Yossi Kuperwasser’, Hatzofe, 20 October 2006, Shabbat Supplement (Hashavua), 7–8. 62 See his ‘Interview with Ari Shavit’, Haaretz, Weekend Supplement, 15 September 2006, 16–17. 63 See, inter alia, T. Najam, Lebanon: The Politics of a Penetrated Society, New York: Routledge, 2007. 64 E. Inbar, ‘Israel’s Palestinian Challenge’, Israel Affairs, October 2006, vol. 12, no. 4, 823–42. 65 For a discussion of attaining goals, see A. Kober, ‘Israeli War Objectives into an Era of Negativism’, Journal of Strategic Studies, June 2001, vol. 24, no. 2, 176–201. 66 Jerusalem Post, 18 July; 1 August 2006. 67 On 13 July 2006, a task force at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had already formulated a ‘diplomatic exit’ to the war based upon a new UNSC resolution and an international force in southern Lebanon. See A. Eldar, ‘How We Gave In’, Haaretz, 1 October 2006, B3. 68 See her speech to the Knesset on 8 August 2006, official transcript, p. 2. 69 Jerusalem Post, 19 July 2006, p. 2. 70 ‘Interview with Yossi Kuperwasser’, p. 7. 71 Ibid. 72 Haaretz, 31 August 2006, 1. 73 D. Sands, ‘Syria still arming Hizballah, Politician Says’, Washington Times, 1 November 2006. Available online at:– 100116–5406r.htm. 74 Ibid. 75 E. Shanon and T. McGirk, Time, 24 November 2006. Available online at:,8599,1562890,00.html. 76 ‘Mossad: Syria Arming Hizballah Rapidly’, Ynet, 18 December 2006. Available online at:,7340,L-3341518,00.html. 77 Y. Benhorin, ‘UNIFIL Won’t Shoot at IDF Planes’, Yediot Aharonot, 20 October 2006, 1.



78 Jerusalem Post, 28 October 2006, 1. 79 One of the goals of Yasser Arafat in initiating a terror campaign against Israel in September 2000 was the internationalization of the conflict in accordance with the Kosovo model. Later on, pro-Palestinian political circles realized the Palestinians’ difficulty in establishing a modern political entity and therefore advocated the establishment of an international mandate over Palestinian territories and the dispatch of an international force in order to enforce the peace. See M. Indyk, ‘A Trusteeship for Palestine’, Foreign Affairs, May/June 2003, vol. 82, no. 3, 51–66; S. Ben-Ami, ‘Internationalizing the Solution: Multilateralism and International Legitimacy’, PalestineIsrael Journal, vol. 13, no. 4, 2007, 9–14. For a sober analysis of peacekeeping, see D. Jett, Why Peacekeeping Fails, New York: Palgrave, 1999. 80 E. Inbar, ‘Contours of Israeli New Strategic Thinking’, Political Science Quarterly, spring 1996, vol. 111, no. 1, 41–64.


aircraft 29, 30, 32, 33, 73, 178, 179; Lavi 101 airspace 73; Jordan 78 Al Qaeda 197 Allon, Y. 5, 12 Aloni, S. 57 America 171; financial support 167; see also United States of America American Air Force 73, 76 American–Israeli Defense Treaty 86–7 American Jewish community 171, 185 American tripwire 9 ammunitions: arms 31; Israel Defense Forces (IDF) 50 Arab 7, 82; arsenals 16; countries 10; forces 3; military offensive 8; oil 126 Arafat, Y. 114, 191, 192 Arens, M. 56, 74, 75, 77, 79, 101–2; Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) 46; perspective 40–1 Arieh 33; project 33–4 arms: ammunition 31; embargo 31; India/Israeli co-production 180; industry 27; market 24; production 35; sales 27; transfer 26, 30 army: Israeli 3; Syrian 6, 59; see also military Arrow technology 170 arsenal, Soviet Union 29 Assad, H. 120, 121, 147 assassinations 138 attrition, warfare 44 attritional approach 45 authority: arrests 43; Intifada 45; Palestine 52 Axis of Evil (Bush) 208 Baker, J. 76, 82–3 Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) 211

Barak, E. 166; evaluation 96 Bar-Lev, C. 57, 62, 63 Begin, M. 4, 34, 60, 65; government 14, 23, 25; no choice war 61 Beilin, Y. 89; and Peres, S. 121 Ben-Gurion, D. 86 bipolarity, international systems 81 Bir, General 161, 165, 168 Bolton, J. (US ambassador) 217, 233 Border Police: Green Line 41, 42, 47 Bush, G. 146 Camp David Accords 111, 142, 145 Carter, President 26, 27, 30, 33 casus belli 4, 5, 16, 17, 19; military doctrine 17 Central Asia 106, 184 Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) 74 chemical weapons, Iraq 74, 107–8 Cheney, R. (US Vice-President) 219 Chirac, J. 230 civilian population, responsibility for 43 civilians 43–4 Clausewitzian approach 61, 62, 64, 65, 66, 67 coalition 4 Cold War 103, 116, 145, 147 colonialism 131–2 Command and Staff College, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) 49 command level, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) 48–9 commando units, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) 50 Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) 99 conflict 63; Arab–Israeli 39; defense minister’s role 40; military superiority 40; Rabin 40; use of force 40–1



Congress Party, India 175 contingencies: Sharon, A. 18 crazy state (Dror) 210, 214 credibility 28 Cyprus, Greece 157 defeat, military 7–8 defense budget: Rabin 46 defense industry 32, 33, 35, 87; interest group 34 defensive measures 21–2 defensive nihilism 85 defensive posture, Israel 4 demilitarization 8, 9 Desert Storm 124 deterrence, result of erosion 41 deterrent power 8, 21 Diaspora 89 Dolphin-class submarines 212, 221 Eastern Front 112 Ecevit, B. 163 economic sanctions: Iran 216–17 economic targets: Syria 8 economy, oil 106 Egypt 3, 142; Peace Treaty 17, 143 Egyptian–Israeli Peace Treaty 3 Eitan, Lt. Gen. R. 6, 8, 56, 64–5 equipment: Israel Defense Forces (IDF) 51 establishment, military 11 Europe, attitudes towards 172–3 extremists 130; groups 131; Islamic 131 F-15 29 F-16 33; models 104 Fatah–Hamas political cohabitation 193 fawdah 192 financial aid 33; American 34 financial support: America 167 Ford, President 34 freedom: action 43–4 fundamentalism 151 Galilee: Operation Peace 55, 65 Gaza 205, 223 Golan Heights 15, 100–1, 111, 119, 121, 122–3, 124, 127 government 18; Begin, M. 14, 23, 25; nuclear reactor 16; Rabin, Y. 4, 12, 94 Green Line: Border Police 47 gross national product (GNP) 151 Gulf, oil 72 Gulf War 52, 83, 84, 108, 116, 124, 142,

160; crisis 82; factor influencing 78; strategic implications 81–4 Gur, B. 4; and Rabin, Y. 96 Halutz, D. 224, 227 Hamas 198, 199; terrorists 150 Hassan R. 209 Hizballah 127, 130, 131, 135, 140, 191, 223, 225; Syria 113 hostility, Arab 3 Hussein, S. 76, 108, 113, 146; Kuwait 71; regime 82; weapons 71 India: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) 175; Congress Party 175; unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) 178, 179 Indian–Israeli entente 174–87 Indian–Israeli space ventures 181 Indian Ocean 183–4 integrated policy: military aspects 44; Rabin, Y. 44 Intelligence Branch, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) 49 interest group, defense industry 34 international coalition: Iraq 72 international power 7 international systems: bipolarity 81 Intifada 39, 44, 95, 97; activists 45; authority 45; beginning 41; characteristics 39; Israel Defense Forces (IDF) 48; media 42; Palestinian 93; Rabin, Y. 44, 45; reservists 48; social consciousness 51; sui generis 39; violence 39 Iran 207–22; economic sanctions 216–17; Iraq 97; nuclear weapons 207 Iranian nuclear program 208–10 Iranian scientists 218 Iranian uranium 215 Iraq: chemical weapons 74, 107–8; international coalition 72; invasion 159; invasion of Kuwait 123; Iran 97; missile attacks 97, 98; oil fields 71 Islam, radical 133–4, 181–3, 187 Islamic Resistance Movement 129 Islamic Welfare Party (Refah) 136–7 Israel: invincibility 7; military 3, 6, 7; pressure of war 228; United States of America (USA) 79–81; wars 56–61 Israel Aircraft Industry (IAI), Aravas 32 Israel Defense Forces (IDF) 55, 91, 95, 96, 135; ammunition 50; command level 48–9; Command and Staff College 49; commando units 50; equipment 51;

Index 279 Intelligence Branch 49; Intifada 48; manpower 47–9; multi-year work plan 45; operations 50–1; organizational dynamics 47; political leadership 54; regulation of opening fire 50–1; training 49; victory 51–4 Israeli Air Force (IAF) 29, 73, 78, 97 Israeli Barak anti-missile system 179 Israeli response (Intifida): riots 42; stage four 46–7; stage one 41–2; stage three 43–6; stage two 42–3 Israeli–Turkish strategic partnership 164–5 Jerusalem 110, 143; Washington 103, 104, 106, 146 Jewish state 130, 131 jihad 150 Jonson, B. 129 Jordan: airspace 78; Peace Treaty 88; relations with Israel 75 Jordan Valley 22 jus ad bellum 59 Katzav, M. 57 Katyushas 196, 223, 226 Kfirs 33, 34 Kissinger, H. 6; and Rabin, Y. 30 Knesset, Rabin, Y. 99 Korean nuclear program 210 Kurds 166, 168 Kuwait 72, 76, 101; Hussein, S. 71; invasion 123; liberation 72; occupation 72 Labour Knesset 92 Labour Party 93 Lavi, aircraft 101 leadership 88 Lebanon 58–9, 63, 64, 94, 115, 121, 232, 233, 234; SAM system 19; war 61 Levy, D. 74, 77 Lewis, B. 130 liberation: Kuwait 72 Litani Operation 57 Litani River 21 low-intensity conflict (LIC) 133, 134–6 lower level commanders 27 Mahmoud Abbas 192 Mahmoud Ahmedinijad 194, 210, 214, 220 manpower 12, 47–9; Israel Defense Forces (IDF) 47 martyr (shaheed) 194 media: Intifada 42

Mediterranean Sixth Fleet 35 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) 15, 104; Sinai 2 agreement 25 Merkava tank 32–3, 34, 225 Middle East 7, 14, 91, 121, 149; intellectual influences 139; politics 73 military: attack 73; defeat 8; establishment 11; indigenous production 31–5; Israel 3, 6, 7, 11, 12; quantitative growth 18; Russia 162; status quo 18; support 3; Turkey 161 military doctrine, causus belli 17 military goals, unrealistic 231–2 military offensive, Arabs 8 military strength: weapons 24 military superiority: conflict 40 military threat: settlements 55 Ministry of Defense 28, 30 Mintzna, Maj.Gen A. 42–3 missile attacks: Iraq 98; weapons 83–4 Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) 100 mobilization 12 modus operandi 128 Mofaz, S. Lt. Gen. 223 Mossad 83 movement, Peace Now 59 multi-year work plan, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) 45 Musharraf, President P. 184 Nachmias, A. 57 nationalism, Palestinian 75 Netanyahu, B. 165 night vision equipment 29 no choice war 55, 58–61; Begin, M. 61; interpretations 59, 60; Rabin 61 Nodong missile 105 Nonproliferation Treaty of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) 20, 88 North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) 158, 162 North Korean nuclear programs 105 nuclear non-proliferation regime (NPT) 211 nuclear program 20; North Korea 105 nuclear reactor 16, 20 nuclear weapons: Iran 207 Nuclear Weapon Free Zone (NWFZ) 20 October War (1973) 4, 10, 12, 15, 26–7, 32; post-period 6 oil: Arabs 126; economy 106; Gulf 72 oil fields: Iraq 71



oil states: Arab 3 Olmert, E. 232 Operation Peace for Galilee 65 operative goal: Rabin 44 organizational dynamics, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) 47 Oslo Agreement (1993) 147–8, 160, 191, 196 Pakistan 178, 182, 184 Palestinian Authority (PA) 52, 114, 135, 137, 149, 159 Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) 66, 111, 144–5 Palestinian state: building 199–201; economy 200, 203; trusteeship 201, 202 Palestinians 52, 94; Rabin, Y. 43; violence 53 pan-Arabism 143–4 pariah state 26, 33 Pax Americana 84, 104, 152 Peace Now movement 59 peace process: Rabin 46 Peace Treaty: Jordan 83, 88 Peres, S. 5, 28, 31, 34, 36, 46, 56, 62, 86, 89, 97, 102, 111, 120, 128, 138, 149; and Beilin, Y. 121; and Rabin, Y. 91 political leadership: Israel Defense Forces (IDF) 54 political power: Arab 3 politics 138; Israeli 52; Middle East 73 pre-emptive attack 4; Israeli 9 pressures, American 3 private stockpiles 27 procrastination 30 procurement: plans 28; weapon 35 production: arms 35 quantitative growth, military 18 quantitative imbalance 21 R&D: weapons 102 Rabin, Y. 4, 8, 42, 63, 89, 90, 93, 94, 109, 112, 115, 120; Border Police 42; conflict 40; death 102; defense budget 46; goals 42; government 12, 94; and Gur 96; integrated policy 44; Intifada 44, 45; and Kissinger 30; Knesset 99; no choice war 61; operative goal 44; Palestinian aspirations 46; Palestinians 43; peace process 46; and Peres, S. 91; preparedness 32; unit cost projects 32; violence 45 radical groups, Islamic 129–30

radical Islam 181–3, 187 Reagan Administration 15 realpolitik 99, 119, 128, 153 red line 19 Reliant Mermaid 110 Republican Congress 122 requirement: weapons 24 reservist: Intifida 48; training programs 48 retalitory policy 26 Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) 83 riots, Israeli response 42 Rubinstein, A. 56 Russia 173, 178–9; military 162 safety valve: Sharon, A. 19 salami tactics 21 SAM system 100; Lebanon 19 Sarid, Y. 85 Saudi Arabia 64; airspace 73; India 177 scientists: Iran 218 secure borders policy 20 self-help system: Waltz, K. 85 settlement policy, Israel 12 settlements: military threat 55 Shamir, Y. 65, 77–8 Sharon, A. 17, 64, 176, 204, 224; contingencies 18; global perspective 64; safety valve 19 Shehab-3 211 Shem-Tov, V. 59 Shomron, D. 42, 73, 78 Sinai 2 agreement 10, 26 Sinai Campaign 63 Sinai Desert 13, 125 Six Day War 6, 63 Sneh, E. 164 social consciousness, Intifada 51 society 21, 51 Soviet Union 14, 90, 106, 147; arsenal 29; Yugoslavia 123 space ventures: India-Israeli 181 state: Israel 65–6, 132; Jewish 130, 131 strategic cooperation 15 strategic thinking 3–23 submarines 212, 221 Syria 3, 92, 110, 115, 166–8, 229, 230; army 6; economic targets 8; Hizballah 113 Tadiran 35 technology 28 Tehran, Small Satan 109 terrorism 196–7, 203; effect 140

Index 281 terrorists, Hamas 150 training: Israel Defense Forces (IDF) 49 training programs, reservist 48 Turkey 163, 168, 171; military 161 Turkish Ministry of Foriegn Affairs 159–60 Tzur, Y. 62, 63; Labour leader 59 UNIFIL force, Lebanon 234 United Kingdom (UK) 172 United Nations (UN) 9, 22 United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution (1701) 224 United States of America (USA) 9, 31, 79–81, 87; Israel 79–81; weapons 25, 29 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs); India 178, 179 US–Indian–Israeli alliance 186 US–Israeli Defense Treaty 101

Waltzer, M. 57 war: Lebanon 61; pressure 228 War of Attrition 63 war by choice 58; interpretations 60 warfare 47; chemical 74; strategy of attrition 44; sui generis 43 Washington 184; Jerusalem 4–5 water 167 weapons 10; Americans 25; chemical 74, 83, 107–8; dirty 27; experiments 105; Hussein, S. 71; Iraq 74, 107–8; main parameters in relationships 24–7; military strength 24; missile attacks 83–4; procurement program 17, 18, 35; R&D 102; requirement 24; smart 92; sole donor-recipient 24; systems 17; transfer 10; USA 25, 29 weapons of mass destruction (WMD) 103, 116, 169

victory: Israel Defense Forces (IDF) 51–4 violence: Intifada 39; Palestinians 53; Rabin 45

Yom Kippur War 5 Yugoslavia, Soviet Union 123

Waltz, K.: self-help system 85

Zionism, entity 132