JISS Policy Papers are published through the generosity of the Greg Rosshandler Family.
Restoring American Bipartisan Commitment Towards Israel: A Moral Duty and Strategic Necessity
It is possible to restore American bipartisan backing for Israel. Therefore, it is important to avoid being too identified with President Trump, despite Israeli gratitude due to him for many of his policies. Bonds between Israel and American Jewry should be bolstered; bridges should be built to both sides of the aisle in Congress; and US defense establishment support should be solicited. All this, in view of Israel's need to influence decisions in Washington on matters vital to its future.
From the Ocean to the Gulf: Normalization takes Hold
Morocco has maintained open channels with Israel for many years, and it values the unique Jewish contribution to its heritage. A new pattern of normalization with Israel now extends from the Atlantic to the Gulf. Morocco’s coordination with the US also is a vital part of the emerging alignment of forces of stability in the region. Israel now should give this breakthrough a firm grounding in policies beneficial to both peoples.
The Collapse of Palestinian Grand Strategy
The Palestinian quest for an internationally imposed “solution,” which would not require them to negotiate a compromise deal with Israel, has failed. Palestinian leaders may attempt this again after Joe Biden becomes US president, but this will fail yet again, since the collapse of their past strategy is due to much more than the policies of the Trump Administration. Indeed, evolving regional and global realities allow for a new Israeli peace initiative, which can preserve the underlying principles of the Trump outline for peace.
A strategic event with a message to Iran and Biden
The taking out of the senior Iranian nuclear scientist is a blow to the Iranian leadership as much as the killing of Qassem Suleimani was. But it is also a signal to the next administration in Washington. The president-elect will not be able to deal with the Iranian nuclear project like just another diplomatic issue.
Israel’s Role in Helping the Biden Administration Set Policy Towards Iran
Israel should seek to persuade the Biden transition team not to offer Iran any premature concessions; it should outline what would constitute an acceptable, "stronger and longer" deal; find other international actors to support the policy suggested by Israel (possibly France and even Russia); and prepare a viable military option, both to strengthen America’s negotiating hand and as an option in the case of failure to reverse Iran's present course.
China’s Alternative Vision for Gulf Security
Trump's Middle East peace plan and the recent Israel-Arab peace accords limit Chinese influence in the region. Countering this, China is advancing a collective security concept for the region based on the JCPOA. The US and Israel must stymie this Chinese gambit and reinforce the Abraham Accords.
China’s View of the Abraham Accords
China aims to play a more proactive role in the Middle East, maintaining cordial relations with all rival countries. Beijing attaches great importance to its ties with Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Egypt, and therefore has welcomed the Abraham Accords (albeit in lukewarm fashion, because of tensions with the Trump administration).
The Beirut Disaster: A Chance for a Systemic Change in Lebanon?
The current political situation in Lebanon is very problematic. Hizbullah enjoys full freedom of action in a country which long ago became dysfunctional. Hence the importance of lending support to the French effort to bring about systemic change in the Lebanese confessional order. Further descent into chaos and/or growing intervention by Turkey would be even more dangerous for Israel.
Egypt-Jordan-Iraq: Another Middle East Axis in the Making?
Egypt, Iraq, and Jordan seek to develop a regional bloc in the geographical center of the Arab world. But all three countries are poor and dependent in for economic largesse on more wealthy partners, so their regional aspirations and strategies will necessarily be limited.
Israel, Greece, and the Turkish Challenge: Acute Testing Lies Ahead
Israel is unable to get directly involved in eastern Mediterranean hostilities, should they erupt. But it can and should cooperate closely with Greece in intelligence matters and arms acquisition and coordinate political action with Greece in Washington. The US stance largely will determine the practical scope of Erdogan’s ambitions.
Is Yemen Turkey’s Next Stop after Libya?
Ankara's military interventions in Iraq, Syria and Libya as well as its growing presence in the eastern Mediterranean constitutes a radical change in Turkish foreign policy. Its recent success in Libya demonstrates Ankara’s regional heft. Turkey’s next intervention is probably in Yemen.
Security Considerations and National Unity Require Jordan Valley Sovereignty
The American peace plan provides a historic opportunity to break the futile paradigm based on the 1967 lines and ensure Israeli national security for the long term. In terms of security – protecting Israel, stabilizing Jordan, and preventing a terrorist takeover of a future Palestinian entity – and given the supreme importance of national cohesion, it is imperative to focus on the Jordan Valley and the Jerusalem envelope.
Phased Territorial Implementation of the Trump Peace Plan
The Trump Plan is the most realistic route for progress towards the goal of “two states for two peoples.” Therefore, the Israeli national unity government should embrace the Trump plan in its entirety, including negotiations towards establishment of a Palestinian state, and at the same time act (in the first stage) to apply Israeli law to the Jordan Valley and strategically significant areas in the Jerusalem envelope, such as Maaleh Adumim and Gush Etzion. An Israeli consensus exists regarding these areas.
The Struggle for the Mediterranean: The EMGF Stake in the Libyan Civil War
Dramatic gains on the battlefield by the forces loyal to the Turkish-backed "Government of National Accord" in western Libya have given Erdogan a victory, which may endanger the future of the eastern Mediterranean. Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Egypt and Israel must coordinate their policies in response. A tripartite Greek-Cypriot-Israeli summit should be held urgently to annul the GNA-Libyan EEZ agreement, to present an alternative map of the Mediterranean, and to encourage a robust reaction of the EU. The US must be persuaded to pressure Turkey revoke the EEZ MoU (while still letting Erdogan take pride in saving the GNA from
Implementing Elements of the Trump Plan: An Opportunity to Give New Life to the Two-State Option
Rejection of the Trump plan outright, denunciation of any steps towards its implementation, and adherence to the failed Oslo-era paradigm for peace – is certain to condemn all sides to continued conflict.
Israeli Decision-Making During the COVID-19 Crisis
There are four factors to consider when weighing action against the coronavirus: public health, preservation of the economy, civil rights, and the international and regional context. National decision-making must take all four of these elements into account, with emphases shifting over the course of time as circumstances change.
Corona’s Impact on Israeli National Security
Israeli national security is unquestionably weakened by the corona pandemic. Many IDF units are suffering from a shortage of manpower. And the assertion that preoccupation with corona will temper the behavior of Israel's enemies is wishful and mistaken thinking.
Social and Economic Reslience in a Crisis Situation: Strategic Implications
The resilence of Israeli society at a time of national emergency (the corona pandemic) has direct strategic and security implications. Despite the huge budgetary challenge, it is vital to maintain investment in advanced IDF military capabilities, because a nuclear confrontation with Iran is still possible.
Breaking the ‘everybody knows paradigm’
Even if the Palestinians reject Trump's peace plan, it still serves their long-term interests. False, undeliverable expectations – based on the assumption that "everybody knows" what Israel will be forced to concede – eventually need to give way to a more realistic paradigm, which in turn may lead to a better life for both sides.
The Struggle for the Eastern Mediterranean: Israel’s Role following the Berlin Summit on Libya
Everything short of a military confrontation needs to be done, though, to deter Erdogan from establishing a barrier diagonally across the Mediterranean, barring Cyprus, Egypt and Israel from connecting their gas infrastructure to Greece and hence to Europe.
Jordan will not impede the US peace plan
It is convenient for Amman to have Israel retain security control over the Jordan Valley. And this is a rare opportunity to advance and potentially realize Israel's security needs for a cemented border in the east with the support of the world's top superpower.
Through a Different Lens: The Mideast as Seen from Doha
At a recent conference on the Mideast economy in Doha, which included the participation of Israeli scholars, discussions highlighted changes in the regional balance of power. Acceptance of Assad's rule in Syria is growing, but so are questions about how Syria’s rehabilitation will be financed. And some Iranians are signaling that Tehran is willing to make political compromises to alleviate economic pressures.
Truth-telling to advance peace
By changing the discourse about settlements, the Trump administration is laying the groundwork for realistic negotiation. Even if you think that Israeli settlement should be rolled-back in the context of a sensible peace arrangement, applying the demonizing epithet “illegal” makes for a destructive narrative that distances, not advances, peace.
Escalation with Iran and its satellites is not an empty threat
If it weren't for the Iranian regime's distress, it might decide to tread water until US President Trump was out of office. But its resources are limited, and the possibility that the ayatollahs might attack Israel out of desperation is very real.
Exposing Hezbollah’s lies
Israel successfully thwarted Hezbollah’s and Iran’s attempts to launch suicide drones from the Syrian village of Aqraba, located some 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) from Israel’s border, at vital targets inside the country on Aug. 24. And yet, the transnational Shiite composition of the terrorist squad behind the attempt could portend what we might expect in
How Israel Will Prevent Trump Appeasing Iran
Deadlock between Washington and Tehran won’t easily turn into détente even if Trump and Rohani do find a way to meet in New York. However, even a tentative rapprochement between the US and Iran would severely strain Israel’s close ties with the White House.
Erdoğan is Not Invulnerable
The US, Europe and Israel can force a modification in Erdoğan's conduct on a wide range of issues, including his duplicity on Iran, support for Hamas in Gaza, subversion in Jerusalem, intervention in Libya, aggression towards Cypriot gas explorations, threats to Kurds of Rojava, and repression at home.
The Greatest Necessity: National Cohesion
Israel’s government must nurture a spirit of unity and national purpose by building a policy consensus as broad as possible. This is necessary both in preparation for likely combat operations against Iran and its proxies, and in order to respond wisely to the American peace plan and to intelligently manage conflict with the Palestinians.
Towards an Eastern Mediterranean Security Alliance
Beyond Elounda, Beersheba, Cairo and Jerusalem.
The emerging informal alliance in the eastern Mediterranean is becoming increasingly significant. Egypt’s role, Erdogan's ambitions, energy resources, joint military exercises and coordinated emergency responses contribute to the alliance.
Crisis between Iran and the US: Implications for Israel
Israel needs to be prepared for potentially dramatic consequences, including rapid deterioration towards confrontation on all Israel’s borders. Resilience and readiness to act can serve to deter provocations by Iran’s proxies. Ultimately, only a credible military threat from Israel will indicate to friend and foe alike that in a showdown, Iran will be forced to back down.
Iran’s Struggle to Entrench Itself in Syria
Iran is continually expanding its military, economic and political presence in Syria. Bashar al-Assad’s February 25 visit to Iran was an important marker in these efforts. Assad met with Iranian Leader Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani, who labeled him the “hero of the Arab world.” The presence of Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani and
Egyptian mediation in Gaza is a strategic asset by its own right
It is in Israel's interest to solidify the Egyptian role in Gaza, in the context of "conflict management" as a governing policy concept. Egyptian participation in the efforts to stabilize the situation in Gaza serves as an important component in the vital Egypt-Israel relationship. It also helps erode Hamas' pretensions of Jihad.
The Second Wave?
Much ink has been and is being spilt regarding whether or not current developments in Algeria and Sudan – the second and third most populous Arab states after Egypt – constitute the Second Wave of the “Arab Spring”. But what is clear is that the second and succeeding waves of Arab Uprisings will not look the same as that of 2011.
Will Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ lead to change?
The guaranteed failure of the “deal of the century” is an opportunity for Israel to open the Americans’ eyes to the harsh and complicated reality in our region and lead them to support the strategy of managing the conflict and wait for better times.
Israel’s European Dilemma
Israel should leverage its economic power and take advantage of the EU’s inner divisions, but it would not benefit from a divided Europe ruled by economic nationalists and anti-globalists aligned with Russia. To defend its national interests, Israel must develop ties with “rebellious” European governments, but only as a divide-and-rule tactic meant to break the Brussels consensus, not as a bond with forces that threaten to undermine free trade and the Atlantic alliance.
Iranian-Russian Cooperation in Yemen
The Houthi rebellion in Yemen, with its horrendous consequences for the country's civilian population, is being instigated primarily by Iranian assistance and direction for the rebels, together with Russian growing involvement in the conflict. An end to the fighting therefore depends to a large extent on the willingness of external countries to continue their fomenting of the conflict.
Syria’s Return to the Arab Fold
Arab countries are re-normalizing their relations with the Assad regime, seeking to balance the strong Iranian and Turkish influences in Syria and to achieve some degree of influence in a new Syrian political-strategic structure. This further cements a Russian-oriented strategic architecture in the region. In the long term, this could lead to tensions between conservative Arab states and Israel, if Israel targets the Syrian military and government in the campaign against Iran, or if Israel continues to promote diplomatic recognition of its Golan annexation.
Iranian Economic Failure Spoils 40th Anniversary Celebrations
The Iranian media claimed that millions filled the streets on the 40th anniversary of the Iranian revolution. The opposition, however says that fewer people participated. Iran's nuclear program will not protect the regime against the people's antipathy.
Moscow, the Palestinians, and the Arab Spring that Never Was
Russia seeks to be more involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by presenting it as critical to the stability of the whole Middle East. But the legitimacy that it accords to Hamas rules out deeper Russian involvement from Israel’s point of view.
Iran’s Land Route: A Strategic Threat
Iran is taking advantage of the crises created by ISIS and the Arab Spring to advance its land route project from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea. The American withdrawal from Syria will remove one of the obstacles that stand in Iran’s path, yet Israel has demonstrated its determination to prevent the establishment of this route.
Trump’s Withdrawal from Syria: Not Unexpected and a Victory for the “Astana Three”
The possibility that Iran and Turkey will be emboldened by the American decision, is worrisome. The main counter to that will be robust deterrence from Israel, whose maintenance may increase the likeliness of escalation in Syria and Lebanon, and even more resort to the restraining hand of Russia.
Reasserting Israel’s Deterrence in Gaza
It is necessary for Israel’s political and military leaders to readjust their conceptual framework concerning deterrence, and to engage the public in an open and effective dialogue on the deterrence equations. Also needed is a more specific and accurate capacity to strike fear into Hamas leadership by signaling both willingness and ability to destroy the assets that they value most.
Snubbing Matteo Salvini makes no sense
Despite the fascist roots of Matteo Salvini's "Liga" party, upgrading relations with the current Italian government serves the national interest because it shall help Israel export it's natural gas to Europe as well as break the European consensus on Iran and on Jerusalem's status.
Not Quite that Close: Israel’s Policy towards China
Israel's strategy toward China doesn't conflict with American interests; rather, it serves and reinforces them. Partnering with Beijing can help stabilize the Middle East. Partnering with Asian nations threatened by Beijing can help build a counterbalance to Chinese power.
On Hezbollah’s Intention to Seize Control of the Economic and Monetary Systems in Lebanon
Hezbollah’s leadership has come to realize that harsher US sanctions pose a serious threat to the revolutionary regime in Tehran. It will become increasingly difficult for the regime to finance the full spectrum of its revolutionary ambitions. Hezbollah has therefore had to focus on securing its own sources of funding and providing employment for its members and followers through ever-deeper engagement in Lebanon’s economic and financial spheres of activity.
The Murder of Sheikh Bashir Faisal al-Huwaidi in Raqqa
The killing of prominent Arab tribal leader Sheikh Bashir Faisal al-Huwaidi has serious implications for the US and Kurdish administered part of Syria, in which Raqqa is located. That administration of Syria has many enemies and remains fragile.
Fear Triumphs: On the Nonparticipation of Eastern Jerusalem Arabs in Municipal Elections
Despite the desire of Arabs in eastern Jerusalem for greater integration in Israeli life, their fear of the Palestinian Authority and its agents kept them away from the polls in October. And while seeking pragmatic and constructive integration in Jerusalem, they still adhere to the Palestinian side of the identity axis. Once again, 38% of the capital city's residents remain outside its political arena.
In Praise of Conflict Management
Amidst violent events, it is easy to be tempted to seek decisive "solutions" to the Palestinian problem(s) – in both the PA areas and in Gaza – through drastic military action, or through equally dramatic concessions. But given the lessons of recent history, as well as the unpredictable nature of regional events, it makes sense to adhere to "conflict management" and piecemeal arrangements. This is not as a cowardly choice by hapless political and military leaders, but as a rational choice in irrational circumstances; even more so when the Iranian challenge looms larger than ever on Israel's immediate horizons.
China-Israel Relations: Growing Cooperation Amidst Conflicting Interests
In the past decade, relations between Israel and China have become closer, following a decision in Jerusalem to diversify and expand Israel's ties with emerging powers and countries that do not belong to the European Union and are less identified with the American coalition. The visit to Israel by China's vice president is evidence of the warming of relations between the two countries.
Gaza and the Middle East “Camp of Stability”
Israel's actions (or at times, inaction) concerning the future of the Gaza Strip cannot be isolated from the broader context of the struggle over the entire region's balance of power. Gaza’s dependence on Egypt, and perhaps Cyprus, constitutes a common interest of the “camp of stability” in the Middle East, to curb the influence of both Turkey and Iran, and to deny Abu Mazen the baneful position of a spoiler.
Complications in Russian-Israeli Relations: Israel’s Aerial Freedom of Operation in Syria will be Preserved
Russia's accusations against Israel that it is responsible for the downing of its plane is meant primarily for a domestic audience. Until now, Russia has made sure to behave with restraint in the Syrian arena and to operate based on its strategic interests. One of those interests is the Russian desire to minimize Iranian involvement in Syria.
Iran’s Lies – A Tool for Concealing its Policy Contradictions in Syria
Iran is hiding its efforts to establish a presence in Syria, for both internal and external reasons. This policy involves numerous internal contradictions and to avoid admitting to them, the IRGC and Hezbollah are conducting a propaganda campaign.
After Ahvaz: Iran’s Regime Faces the Consequences of its Subversive Campaigns
While Israel should steer away from overt identification with internal challengers in Iran, this is the time to urge the US. and other like-inded nations to ratchet up the pressure on the regime, explaining to the Iranian people the growing cost of their leaders' ambitions.
As the Middle East Turns: Domestic Unrest, Changing Partnerships, and an Unreliable United States
In the Mideast of today, the US is largely irrelevant, when it is not disruptive, and is certainly not providing clear leadership. With the current disarray in DC, it does not look like this will change any time soon.
The Real Story behind the Repatriation of Syrian Refugees
Russia is actively promoting international involvement in the reconstruction of Syria as a humanitarian effort aimed at creating the conditions for refugees to return, but in practice this will reinforce the foundations of Assad’s rule and territorial control. The US is in no hurry to respond, but the Russian initiative will not remain unanswered.
The Future of Eastern Syria and the Israeli Interest
JISS fellow Dr. Jonathan Spyer travelled in late July to the SDF enclave in eastern Syria. He reports that maintenance of this enclave is critical to keeping a substantial physical obstacle to the Iranian goal of a contiguous corridor from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean.
Is southern Syria heading for ‘Lebanonization’?
The likely emergent picture in Syria, as in Lebanon, is the ongoing consolidation of another IRGC project, in the framework of a weakened and truncated Arab state, along with an ongoing Israeli effort to deter the masters of this project from acts of aggression.
Israel and Europe: Looking Back, Looking Ahead
When dealing with Europe, Israel can leverage its many technology and counter-terror assets, and it should demand diplomatic consistency and evenhandedness from the European Commission and from European governments. Israel should be cautious regarding Europe's Eurosceptic governments and political parties.
Moving the markers
The Clinton-Obama parameters haven’t worked – not for 25 years of peacemaking efforts since Oslo. They have lead to deadlock and much suffering. Let’s give the Trump team credit for taking a fresh look at what is safe, wise, fair and realistic in today’s Israeli-Palestinian reality.
Netanyahu’s Visit to Amman: A Timely Reminder of Jordan’s Strategic Importance
Israel's national interest, and the broader patterns of cooperation among key regional partners in the "camp of stability," require close attention to the needs of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. For decades, it has been, and remains, part of Israel's strategic depth.
Will Israel Once Again Turn its Back on Those Who Have Been on its Side?
Israel may soon face a dilemma. The "arrangement" with Russia as to the future of Syria may stave-off an Iranian presence but will pose an existential danger to the groups of rebels near the border – groups which have worked closely with the IDF to prevent direct friction with hostile elements on the line of contact. It is vital that the solutions to this challenge demonstrate to future partners that Israel does not turn its back on those who have assisted it facing a common threat.
Winning hasbara strategies
The deep “psychological asymmetry” employed by Hamas and Fatah as a strategic weapon against Israel is working. How to handle this? Here are five strategies, including this: Don’t be embarrassed by Israel’s strength. Admit to it. Flaunt it. Better shock-and-awe than shrink-and-whimper.
Under fire but unfazed, Israel plays the waiting game with Iran
Does Israel require that all presence of the Iranians be removed from Syria, down to the last proxy fighter? If so, then conflict between Tehran and Jerusalem is a near inevitability, since there is no chance of Iran acquiescing to this except by coercion. On the other hand, if the Israeli intention is to prevent the Iranians from transferring certain weapons systems into Syria — advanced anti-aircraft systems, ballistic missiles, drones — then conflagration may not be so imminent.
The Arrest of Saleh Muslim: Escalation in Kurdish-Turkish Tensions
How the arrest of this Kurdish leader is handled will indicate the extent to which the Syrian Kurds’ central role in the fight against the Islamic State has accrued some broader political legitimacy for their leadership. This, in turn, has implications for the troubled relationship between the West and Turkey.
The demand for sovereignty over Judea and Samaria is a waste of Zionist energy
The longing for Jewish sovereignty over the historic homeland of the Jewish people is understandable. Nevertheless, the recent attempt to pass a law declaring Israeli sovereignty over the settlements in Judea and Samaria is useless.
Israel is worthy and winning
There are competing narratives about Israel: that it is flying-high, or that it is heading towards disaster. Wise and important actors around the world are coming to the conclusion that the first assertion is true. Israel is an anchor of sanity and a source of ingenuity in an unruly world. Israel’s strategy of vigilance, patience, and looking over the horizon for new partnerships is working.
New storms on the horizon
The recent protests in Iran are very important because they point to the Iranian leadership's economic failures, and the consequent anger harbored by a considerable number of Iranian citizens over their country's investments in far-off countries such as Lebanon and Syria. These investments, they feel, are at their expense.
Netanyahu in India
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits India just half a year after the first historic trip of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Israel (July 2017). These visits reflect the significant expansion in relations between the two countries that has taken place since the establishment of full diplomatic relations in 1992.
Jerusalem is the test of US leadership in the Middle East
The Arab League’s Chairman, Ahmed Abul Gheit, has warned President Trump that recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would do a disservice to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process as well as ignite violence in the Middle-East. Given the absence of a peace process and given the abundance of violence in the Middle-East, Mr. Aboul-Gheit’s warning does not even pass the laughing test.
Cleaning-up and sewing-up eastern Jerusalem
The application of de facto sovereignty and governance on the ground is the core of political action that can keep Jerusalem whole. The struggle for sovereignty in Jerusalem has transitioned from ‘Jerusalem on High’ – high-powered political summits, to ‘Jerusalem of Below’ – the conduct of decent daily life in the city for Arab and Jewish residents alike.
Con artists of Tehran
A recently disclosed ruling by Iran's supreme leader caps the range of Iran's missiles at 2,000 kilometers, a distance that threatens Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt but doesn’t threaten Western Europe. Practically speaking, this ruling is neither new nor truthful. Europe has a good reason to be concerned.