Wisdom is Power
By Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Gilead | August, 2022
|Photos: Remix with photo by George Becker (pexels)|
Ongoing experience shows that wisdom is an integral part of strategic power. In its recent determined fight against Palestinian terrorism in Gaza and the West Bank, the Israeli defense establishment's power was proven once again. This feat demonstrates the need to holistically address a range of strategic state-security issues.
Iranian nuclear, the weakening Palestinian Authority, danger of deviating from the status quo on Temple Mount, and steady creep toward a binational state. The State of Israel is facing unprecedented strategic threats, while engaging primarily in pre- and post-election politics – contrary to our enemies’ political stability, which allows them to focus on a strategy that is hostile toward Israel.
The threat posed by Iran – both nuclear and ballistic – is the highest priority. Israel had made a severe error in judgment when it contributed to the United States’ withdrawal from the JCPOA without preparing military-security alternatives, and now, sadly, the decision whether or not it will become a nuclear power in such a way as to jeopardize Israel remains solely in the hands of Iran. The option of an agreement, which is the lesser of two evils, is gradually becoming a thing of the past. Israel, according to the press, is making great efforts to invest in closing the gaps – yet the execution of a military option, however grand, depends on strategic coordination with the Unite States. To put it simply: To remove all aspects of this threat, such coordination must be given top priority. As impressive as the collaboration with the Arab states seems to be, they have made it very clear that they have no intention of forging a binding, NATO-like framework. Ultimately, what Israel needs to do right now, is coordinate with them, under the U.S. banner.
Another dimension of the wisdom required is how to address the situation on Temple Mount. Judging by the media, certain parties interested in changing the status quo on the holy site, perhaps in preparation for the Jewish High Holidays and elections, are growing stronger. If they succeed, Israel could find itself entangled in a religious war with the Muslim world, which would affect its relations with the Arab states, and even the U.S. It is therefore our national duty to take measures to curb this dangerous trend, and adhere to the Jewish law reiterated by the Chief Rabbinate whereby such risky steps should be avoided. If Israel should slip into the kind of conflict that the leader of Hamas had attempted to spearhead, its overall abilities to grapple with the Iranian threat would be compromised.
A positive example of state wisdom is the joint efforts led by the United States to defuse the ticking timebomb around the Karish reservoir, and bring about the signing of a maritime gas utilization agreement between Israel and Lebanon. Such an agreement would enable both countries to enjoy economic prosperity, as opposed to the negative option of an armed conflict.
It is unfortunate that the election campaign, which forms the background for all of the above, fails to focus on strategic matters of the essence. For instance, Israel is gradually and consistently becoming a single state for two nations, in stark contrast to the Zionist vision of the Jewish democratic state. The current state of affairs underscores the extraordinary success of the defense establishment – Israel Security Agency, Israel Defense Forces and Israel Police – based on accurate intelligence – to cause significant damage to terror organizations, thereby substantially lowering the level of terror in Israel. As a result, the Palestinian Authority’s ability to take action in area A, which it controls, has gradually lessened, while it is growing increasingly and dramatically weaker, and uncertain of the future, that is, what would happen on the morning after Abu Mazen’s retirement – which is expected to happen sooner or later. Unless a solution is reached immediately, his retirement would catch us unawares – just as the Iranian threat has aggravated despite accurate intelligence assessments, reaching a level at which its progress no longer depends on others.
The main question is how to prepare for a combined process whereby the Palestinian Authority will grow weaker, Israel’s hold will grow stronger, and Israeli Arab society could disengage out of increasing frustration due to the impending elections campaign. We would likely face a Palestinian front, the hostility of which is ever increasing, with Hamas trying to identify opportunities to start a fire based on national-religious order, especially if such opportunities would be dropped in its lap by explosive issues such as Temple Mount.
Such developments could also have implications on Jordan, the stability of which is a strategic asset for Israel, as it provides a stable security depth. These scenarios may not be acceptable to some, but experience shows that they are real, and it is very important to prepare for them. At this stage, Jordan is facing growing pressure by pro-Iranian parties in Syria, as reported by its local media, and the stability in the West Bank is important for protecting Israel’s security assets.
Add to that the dire and priority need to discuss Israel’s resilience: Health, governability, education, the state of Arab society, etc. Credit is due to the determined decision to appoint a Chief of General Staff who would continue to lead Israel methodically and persistently toward the great challenges the future holds, as his predecessors had done. National resilience is a precondition for the existence of national security.
Authored by Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Gilead, head of the Institute for Policy and Strategy (IPS), Reichman University.
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