Academic journal article Parameters

Israel's Uncertain Strategic Future

Academic journal article Parameters

Israel's Uncertain Strategic Future

Article excerpt

Israel's Strategic Future: The Final Report of Project Daniel" was completed in mid-January 2003, several months before the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and transmitted by hand to then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The underlying rationale of "Project Daniel" was the presumption that Israel urgently needs a coherent plan for dealing with existential threats, and that we (The Group) were well-positioned intellectually and professionally to propose such a plan. The project was originally based on an overriding concern for the possible fusion of certain weapons of mass destruction (WMD) capacity with irrational adversaries. Project Daniel concluded, however, that the primary threats to Israel's physical survival were more likely to come from enemies that were not irrational. With this in mind, the members of our study group proceeded to consider a broad variety of complex issues related to deterrence, defense, preemption, and war-fighting.

Combining legal with strategic analyses, The Group linked the concept of "anticipatory self-defense" to various preemption scenarios and to The National Security Strategy of the United States of America (20 September 2002). The study group also closely examined the prospects for expanded strategic cooperation between Washington and Jerusalem, with particular reference to maintaining Israel's "qualitative edge" and associated issues of necessary funding. Project Daniel looked very closely at a recommended paradigm shift to deal with various low intensity and long-range WMD threats to Israel, and also considered the specific circumstances under which Israel should purposefully end its current posture of "nuclear ambiguity." Overall, The Group urged continuing constructive support to the United States-led Global War On Terrorism and stipulated that Israel combine a strengthening of multilayered active defenses with a credible, secure, and decisive nuclear deterrent. This recognizable retaliatory (second-strike) force is recommended to be fashioned with the capacity to destroy some l0 to 20 high-value targets scattered widely over pertinent enemy states in the Middle East--an objective entirely consistent with our explicit assumption that the main goal of Israel's nuclear forces must always be deterrence ex ante, not revenge ex post.

The Group recognized a very basic asymmetry between Israel and the Arab and Iranian world concerning, inter alia, the desirability of peace; the absence of democracy; the acceptability of terror as a legitimate weapon; and the overwhelming demographic advantage of the Arab/Iran world. With this in mind, Project Daniel concluded that non-conventional exchanges between Israel and adversary states must always be scrupulously avoided and that Israel must do whatever is needed to maintain its conventional supremacy in the region. Facing a growing anarchy in world affairs and an increasing isolation in the world community, Israel is strongly encouraged by members of the study group to incorporate its considered recommendations into codified Israel Defense Force doctrine, and to systematically expand Israeli strategic studies into a more disciplined field of inquiry. In the end, Israel's survival will depend largely upon policies of its own making, and these policies will be best-informed by The Group's proposed steps regarding deterrence, defense, war-fighting, and preemption options.

Today, with a steadily advancing nuclear threat from Iran, the preemption option has likely become even more compelling. At the same time, the enormous operational difficulties that would be associated with preemptive destruction of pertinent Iranian nuclear infrastructures suggest that Israel may ultimately have to rely instead upon expanded and improved nuclear deterrence, it is almost certainly such thinking that occasioned Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's public remarks about Israel's nuclear capacity on 11 December 2006. These remarks were assuredly not a "slip of the tongue," as was reported widely in the media. …

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