A Policy-Oriented Think Tank Addressing Foreign Policy and National Security Issues for a Safe Israel

There are certain times when national security challenges must overcome a divided nation

Israel is facing a series of critical decisions in the national security arena, and the necessary condition for dealing with those challenges is maintaining maximum national cohesion. Therefore, lowering the flames in the current public debates and reaching a compromise is imperative.
2, אלוף (מיל') יעקב עמידרור, , yaakov, yaakov, אלוף (מיל') יעקב עמידרור, wpyamidror@boring-davinci.49-13-81-126.plesk.page, , 2017-09-13 08:28:58, General Amidror is the Anne and Greg Rosshandler Senior Fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS). He was National Security Advisor to Prime Minister Netanyahu and chairman of the National Security Council (April 2011-November 2013). He served for 36 years in senior IDF posts (1966-2002), including commander of the Military Colleges (including the National Defense College, Staff and Command College, and Tactical Command Academy), military secretary to the Minister of Defense, director of the Intelligence Analysis Division in Military Intelligence, and chief intelligence officer of the Northern Command. He is a distinguished fellow at JINSA's Gemunder Center. He is the author of three books on intelligence and military strategy, Reflections on Army and Security (Hebrew, 2002), Intelligence, Theory and Practice (Hebrew, 2006), and Winning Counterinsurgency War: The Israeli Experience (JCPA, 2008)., 9, אלוף משנה (בדימוס) ד"ר ערן לרמן, , EranLerman, eranlerman, אלוף משנה (בדימוס) ד"ר ערן לרמן, wpelerman@boring-davinci.49-13-81-126.plesk.page, , 2017-09-25 11:47:24, Dr. Lerman is deputy director of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS). He was deputy director for foreign policy and international affairs at the National Security Council in the Israeli Prime Minister's Office. He held senior posts in IDF Military Intelligence for over 20 years. He also served for eight years as director of the Israel and Middle East office of the American Jewish Committee. He teaches in the Middle East studies program at Shalem College in Jerusalem, and in post-graduate programs at Tel Aviv University and the National Defense College. He is an expert on Israel’s foreign relations, and on the Middle East. A third-generation Sabra, he holds a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics, and a mid-career MPA from Harvard University.,
February 20, 2023, Jerusalem, Israel: Protestors wave Israeli flags during a demonstration Mass demonstrations against the judicial reform

The Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS), which we head, has repeatedly offered a policy agenda to the governments of Israel in recent years, including a series of recommendations.

The first recommendation has always emphasized the need for maintaining maximum national cohesion. That is imperative for a nation facing a hostile strategic environment. Recent events highlight the importance of national cohesion even more.

Israel is facing a critical point of decision, especially regarding Iran, a determined enemy striving for nuclear weapons, and in the face of its proxies, which are spread out along Israel’s borders, ready for military action against the Jewish State. Now is not the time to deepen Israeli society’s divisions and push parts of the public into dangerous alienation.

The need for social cohesion has been known to decision-makers for years. The political program for the 36th Israeli government that JISS published in 2021 included the statement: “National cohesion is a necessary condition for Israel’s resilience in the difficult security tests it faces.”

To this must also be added the challenges of governance at home, the need to correctly navigate the ship of the Israeli economy within the global economy, and the need to maintain bridges with Diaspora Jewry. How the disputes in Israel are seen by its enemies could harm Israel’s deterrent power. A society ridden by conflict seems weak. We already hear sounds of jubilation in Tehran and other countries in the region. At the same time, the domestic disputes also impact Israel’s relations with its friends and partners in the region and the international arena.

The severity of the current crisis cannot be understated. The escalation we are witnessing in the ideological and political disputes at home, first and foremost around the question of changes in the legal system and also around issues impinging on relations between religion and state, is hitting Israel at the worst time. Erosion in national cohesion – even if it is a byproduct of a legitimate desire to correct deficiencies in the existing order – carries with it the potential for damage to Israel’s security and political interests.

The danger Israel faces stems from a combination of several factors: giving dominance to divisions over unity; the trend toward the erosion in the support for state organs, which embody the statist legitimacy and cohesion; and the severity of the immediate security challenges ahead, chiefly the need to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Projecting a credible military threat requires Israel’s enemies to perceive the country as united and determined. Unfortunately, that is not the impression created under the current circumstances.

Moreover, the escalation in the discourse among the disputing parties could damage relations with the American administration and the ability to adequately plan a response to the Iranian challenge and the expected challenges in the Palestinian arena. Additionally, the expressions of concern abroad, especially among American Jewry, are not helpful.

Under these circumstances, the leadership in Israel – coalition and opposition – must act to calm the spirits, change the dynamic of public discourse, and establish a practical framework for genuine dialogue, one which strives to create as broad a base of agreement as possible for needed legal reform. The initiative of the state’s president, Yitzhak Herzog, offers a framework for constructive dialogue and an outline for a potential compromise on the debated questions.

Despite ideological preferences and sectoral interests, Israel’s leaders must send an unambiguous message regarding the seriousness of the hour and the need to lower the flames of disputes within the public sphere. There are certain times, such as the waiting period before the Six Day War, when common national challenges must override the nation’s divisions.

National cohesion is more important than winning political arguments.


JISS Policy Papers are published through the generosity of the Greg Rosshandler Family.



Photo: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire / Eyal Warshavsky

Picture of פרופ׳ אפרים ענבר

פרופ׳ אפרים ענבר

Professor Inbar is director of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS). He was the founding director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, a position he held for 23 years (1993-2016), and a professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University. He has been a visiting professor at Georgetown, Johns Hopkins and Boston universities; a visiting scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; a Manfred Warner NATO Fellow; and a visiting fellow at the (London-based) International Institute for Strategic Studies. He was president of the Israel Association of International Studies; a member of the Political Strategic Committee of the National Planning Council; chairman of the National Security Curriculum committee in the Ministry of Education; and a member of the Academic Committee of the IDF History Department. He has authored five 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), The Israeli-Turkish Entente (2001), and Israel's National Security: Issues and Challenges since the Yom Kippur War (2008), and edited fourteen collections of scholarly articles. He is an expert on Israeli strategic doctrine, public opinion on national security issues, US Middle East policy, Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy, and Israel-Turkey relations. Inbar holds a M.A and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, after finishing undergraduate studies in Political Science and English Literature at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
    אלוף (מיל') יעקב עמידרור

    אלוף (מיל') יעקב עמידרור

    General Amidror is the Anne and Greg Rosshandler Senior Fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS). He was National Security Advisor to Prime Minister Netanyahu and chairman of the National Security Council (April 2011-November 2013). He served for 36 years in senior IDF posts (1966-2002), including commander of the Military Colleges (including the National Defense College, Staff and Command College, and Tactical Command Academy), military secretary to the Minister of Defense, director of the Intelligence Analysis Division in Military Intelligence, and chief intelligence officer of the Northern Command. He is a distinguished fellow at JINSA's Gemunder Center. He is the author of three books on intelligence and military strategy, Reflections on Army and Security (Hebrew, 2002), Intelligence, Theory and Practice (Hebrew, 2006), and Winning Counterinsurgency War: The Israeli Experience (JCPA, 2008).

    אלוף משנה (בדימוס) ד

    אלוף משנה (בדימוס) ד"ר ערן לרמן

    Dr. Lerman is deputy director of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS). He was deputy director for foreign policy and international affairs at the National Security Council in the Israeli Prime Minister's Office. He held senior posts in IDF Military Intelligence for over 20 years. He also served for eight years as director of the Israel and Middle East office of the American Jewish Committee. He teaches in the Middle East studies program at Shalem College in Jerusalem, and in post-graduate programs at Tel Aviv University and the National Defense College. He is an expert on Israel’s foreign relations, and on the Middle East. A third-generation Sabra, he holds a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics, and a mid-career MPA from Harvard University.

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