How should Israel conduct itself in view of the shift in world order?
By Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Gilead & Dr. Michael Milshtein | March, 2022
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Two weeks into the campaign in Ukraine, this event is unfolding into one of historic proportions, shocking the global architecture that remained intact in its current form since the end of the Cold War. The implications of this crisis are expected to resonate for a long time, potentially leading to the dropping of a "new iron curtain" that will split the world into two political, cultural, and economic poles, at least. Whether Putin achieves his heavy-handed objectives or Moscow is hit by the unprecedented sanctions imposed on it, leading to concessions on its part, life as it was prior to February 24 will never be the same again.
The crisis in Ukraine began at a time when the Middle East – including Israel – was in the midst of strategic agitation in view of the decline in Washington's status as a hegemonic global power, as manifest in its hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan, passiveness in the face of the struggle in the Gulf, and seeming return to the nuclear deal with Iran, while the latter and its allies are boosting their confidence and becoming ever bolder. The Ukrainian crisis is bolstering these same trends: The West is revealing its profound weakness despite the dramatic countermeasures promoted, and the "Resustance camp" is realizing that the destabilization of world order strengthens its members' standing, while damage that of the Sunni states and Israel.
In view of the shift in world order, Israel must combine caution with adjustment to change and curbing of aggravated threats, key among them – the Iranian nuclear program. Tehran feels comfortable in a world where Washington's power is challenged; its views on the necessity of nuclear power are enhanced (a lesson learned from the fate that befell Ukraine), and it is likely to accelerate its progress toward this goal while attempting to gain a new, softer agreement on the matter.
Israel should continue to focus its efforts on Iranian nuclear, and accelerate its force buildup to thwart it. All the while learning a lesson from the crisis in Ukraine whereby the West's ability to counter threats with political or economic tools is feeble, and with military ones – non-existent. At the same time, the fact that Tehran has sided with Moscow should be leveraged politically and diplomatically to demonstrate basic Iranian contempt toward world order.
Israel is facing a complex reality, some of which is changing dramatically, while the rest remains as it was. It must therefore preserve existing assets but also prepare for their destabilization. It is crucial to maintain strategic coordination with Moscow on the northern front, as it enables Israel to have latitude against Iran's force buildup and that of its proxies. The strategic alliance with the United States must be equally zealously safeguarded, although, at the same time, Israel should also cultivate its own independent ability, and learn from the current crisis about the West's limited willingness to intervene in external conflicts (which, in the case of Ukraine, is taking place on Europe's very doorstep!). Furthermore, Israel's strategic valuableness should also be emphasized, as it has strong ties with both fighting parties, as seen in the Prime Minister's visit to Moscow.
In the domestic context – it is imperative to adopt a lenient approach to absorbing Ukrainian Jewish immigrants ("Aluya"). Israel must open its gates to refugees, and broaden its civil assistance to the Ukraine.
And finally, the issue of the Palestinians, which Israel tends or even prefers to ignore, and embodies a future existential threat in the absence of a formed strategy and implementable decision-making. Alongside the focus on the renewed inter-bloc struggle, Iranian nuclear, and internal Israeli issues, decisionmakers must engage in those issues that currently seem to be calm, but are in fact illusive, for they are simmering and, in time, will have implications as equally dramatic as those of the current global crisis, and possibly worse.
Hebrew edition was published March, 6 2022 on Yediot Aharonot
Written by Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Gilead, head of the Institute for Policy and Strategy (IPS) and Dr. Michael Milshtein, senior researcher at the Institute for Policy and Strategy (IPS).
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