Academic journal article Middle East Review of International Affairs (Online)

Israel in Face of Evolving Security Challenges

Academic journal article Middle East Review of International Affairs (Online)

Israel in Face of Evolving Security Challenges

Article excerpt

Since its establishment in 1948, Israel has faced numerous security challenges. Ongoing threats to the country's security could potentially lead to a serious crisis or even escalate to a war. Israel's greatest concerns are Iran's nuclear program, Hizballah in Lebanon, and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. In addition, there has been unrest in the West Bank, incidents in the Golan Heights, fighting in Sinai, and uncertainty about Jordan.

Since its establishment in 1948, Israel has faced numerous national security challenges.1 The current Israeli government, as of the writing of this article, under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also had to deal with many national security issues on almost all of Israel's fronts: disputes with the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank, the fragile status quo with Hizballah in Lebanon, tensions with the Hamas in the Gaza Strip, incidents on the border with Syria, and unrest in the Sinai Peninsula. Nonetheless, and in spite of all these concerns, Israel's top priority is undoubtedly Iran and its nuclear program.


Since 1979, there has been an ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran,2 with the latter threatening to destroy Israel. Due to the physical distance between the two countries (over a thousand kilometers), a conventional showdown between the two is not possible. Yet having a nuclear weapon would allow Iran to strike Israel, which would retaliate with its own nuclear weapons, which according to non-Israeli sources are in its possession. This would be among the most severe ramifications, if Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons.

A nuclear armed Iran poses a much greater danger to Israel than to the United States. Although Iran considers the United States "the great Satan" while Israel is "the small Satan," the Jewish state is more exposed to Iran's aggression due to its physical proximity, which is within the range of Iran's surface-tosurface missiles. Due to its tiny size (22,072 square kilometers), Israel is in danger of annihilation from a nuclear strike, while the United States is vast enough (9,826,675 square kilometers) to absorb a nuclear offensive. These differences grant Israel legitimacy-at least from its perspective-to strike Iran as a preemptive defense measure.

According to Yossi Kuperwasser, "Once the Iranians realize that the Americans (or the Israelis) are ready to use force, they will give up the project altogether."3 Yet the United States opted for a nuclear agreement with Iran and has tried to convince Israel that the deal between the P5+1 and Iran was the best solution Israel could hope for. Jerusalem, however, has rejected the terms of the accord, seeking to impose much stricter constraints on Iran and tougher sanctions, which in addition to the decline in oil prices (Iran's revenues rely on oil exports) would severely cripple the Iranian economy. Israel's hope is that such economic hardship would lead to unrest, and perhaps a revolution, in Iran, thus leading to regime change. While this is not expected, neither was the fall of the Soviet Union or the Arab turmoil, for example. Iran would eventually be left with nuclear capability but with a new regime that would invest in domestic affairs and not in nuclear weapons and destabilization of the Middle East.

Despite disagreement on Iran, Israel and the United States should not allow this to interfere with their efforts to stop Iran from producing nuclear weapons, nor should this undermine U.S.-Israel relations. Rather, the two countries could turn the Iranian challenge into an opportunity to strengthen U.S.-Israel relations and face Iran together.

If Iran breaches the signed agreement, this would place pressure on the United States to act, perhaps even militarily.4 On July 29, 2015, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter stated that the military option remained on the table.5 To this end, the United States has developed the MOP, the world's largest nonnuclear bomb, for such a potential calamity. …

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