Israel: Challenges to Identity, Democracy, and the State

By Clive Jones; Emma C. Murphy | Go to book overview

4

A place among the nations

Introduction

Foreign policy in Israel has always remained subordinate to the demands of ensuring national security. Having been involved in six major conventional conflicts in its half century of existence (in addition to innumerable border clashes of varying intensity), the culture of national security remains central to the conduct of Israel's foreign policy. Maintaining a powerful military, as well as ensuring strong ties with Washington, have become the enduring themes of Israel's search for security. It is an approach determined by the logic of a security dilemma particular to a state that lacks substantial human resources, strategic depth and, until recently, any tangible regional alliance.

Despite the seismic shifts in the contours of the international system since 1991, the old mantra that 'Israel has no foreign policy, only a defence policy' remains the dominant prism through which the Jewish state views its immediate external environment. It would be churlish to ignore the formal peace treaties Israel has signed with Jordan and Egypt, or, more immediately, the recognition of Palestinian national rights, however circumscribed, under the Oslo Accords. But equally, Israel's burgeoning strategic relationship with Turkey, its concerns expressed forcefully over the acquisition-real or otherwise-of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) by Baghdad and Tehran, as well as the continued importance placed upon the special relationship with the United States, delineate a continuity of thinking seemingly immune from changes in the broad arena of global politics. 1 While Israeli foreign policy has become synonymous with the external demands of national security, this fails to capture the domestic context of foreign policy decision-making peculiar to the Jewish state. This is important because, since the 1980s, the consensus among Israelis over what constitutes national security began to fragment under the impact of Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and the outbreak of the Palestinian Intifada in 1987, events that were entwined with the fate of the territories captured and occupied by Israel in the June 1967 war. 2

As discussed in Chapter 2, a popular consensus over the strategic threat faced by Israel among a hostile Arab world held in abeyance ideological

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Israel: Challenges to Identity, Democracy, and the State
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Tables ix
  • Preface xix
  • Glossary xxiii
  • 1 - The Weight of History 1
  • 2 - Political Structures and Social Processes 31
  • 3 - Trials, Triumphs and Tigers 61
  • 4 - A Place Among the Nations 91
  • 5 - Conclusion 123
  • 6 - Epilogue 133
  • Select Bibliography 137
  • Index 143
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