Israel After 71 Years: Reading its Strategic Positioning
Israel has marked lately the 71st anniversary of its establishment, with an overwhelming feelings of pride and power, for the state believes that it has reached its best strategic status since its establishment. However, facts reveal the continued presence of challenges and risks, which may increase in the future to hit its survival foundations, i.e., its security, economy and settlement blocs.
This article tries to extensively review Israel’s strategic positioning, in terms of its strategic achievements and potential risks.
Israeli strategic achievement can be summed up in nine points:
1. The largest congregation of world Jewry: Israel managed to achieve a central Zionist objective, becoming the largest congregation of world Jewry. As it was celebrating the 71st anniversary of its establishment, it was also announcing that its population has reached 6.74 million Jews, constituting 46.5% of world Jewry.
2. Military superiority: Israel won most of its wars with the Arabs, and has taken over most of Palestine, and the Golan Heights. The Israeli army is ranked among the top in the world, it has the world’s most advanced weapons especially by having full US support and cooperation, and has an advanced weapon industry that manufactures most kinds of weapons and ammunition. The Israeli nuclear arsenal exceeds 200 nuclear weapons granting it strategic superiority, not to mention the unlimited military support, especially from the US.
3. A stable political system: Despite the vexations between Israeli political parties, their multiplicity and numerous leanings; right, left and religious, they generally agree on the basics and the general framework of the Zionist project. They have been capable of managing their differences within an effective political system, and are still capable of tactically and strategically managing the general Zionist track. They maintain a Westerly acceptable secular general appearance, while maintaining an effective national and religious core that practices all forms of aggression against the Palestinian people.
4. An advanced economy: Israel has achieved advanced economic conditions similar to those in European countries and founded an attractive environment for Jewish settlement. In 2018, Israel’s Gross National Product has reached $369 billion, and its Gross Domestic Product per capita $41,560.
5. Industrial, scientific and technological advancement: Israel has become significantly superior in Hi-Tech sectors, and is considered among its leaders worldwide. Israeli Hi-Tech exports grew to a total of $50.5 billion in 2018, and they include electronic components, computing services and software, telecommunication services, aircraft, medical and surgical equipment, artificial intelligence… and others
6. International support and unprecedented global influence: Israel has managed to impose itself (With US and Western support) on the international scene. It has reinforced its “legitimacy” and its political relations, in particular, after the Oslo Accords and the peace process. It has maintained also its position as a state above the law, practicing with impunity all forms of occupation, oppression and siege against the Palestinian people, backing it a US “veto” and western support that face any attempts to impose resolutions on it. Consequently, it was able to avoid and ignore hundreds of international resolutions supporting Palestinian rights. Moreover, many countries now consider a relation with Israel a key to US satisfaction.
7. Management of the peace process: Israel has succeeded in investing in the peace process agreements, especially in the Oslo Accords signed with the Palestinians, to its favor. Dozens of states forged political relations with Israel, which was able to neutralize major Arab forces and a large part of the Palestinian factions out of the conflict zone. At the same time, it continued the Judaization and settlement projects in the West Bank (WB), especially in Jerusalem… hence emptying the “two-state solution” of its contents and attempting to close the Palestinian dossier and impose what is known as “the deal of the century,” in cooperation with the US.
8. The reduction of the Palestinian national project and the transformation of the Palestinian Authority (PA) into a functional tool: The PA that was established in the hope that someday it becomes an independent Palestinian state within the borders of 4 June 1967, has become a functional entity that serves the occupation more than the aspirations of Palestinians. It spends large sums of money on its security forces that coordinate with the occupation and chase resistance forces, while linking its economy to the occupation itself.
9. Penetrating the Arab and Islamic environment: Especially with respect to declared and undeclared official relations with Arab and Muslim countries. Rather, many countries stared running in the normalization process, building relations and being responsive to the “deal of the century,” before Israel even paying any of the prices that it should for the sake of the peace process.
Challenges and Risks
Israel is exposed to a number of challenges and risks, which may develop in the medium to long term into a “serious threat.”
1. The steadfastness of the Palestinian people in their land and the increase in- the Palestinian population in Historic Palestine: The number of Palestinians has exceeded that of the Jews, and it is expected that the difference between them will reach 300 thousand within five years. This “demographic bomb” poses a great challenge to the Zionist project and the future of the conflict over the identity of the occupied land.
2. The growing strength of the Palestinian resistance: Despite the commitment of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the PA to the peace process, the resistance forces have maintained a popular majority that opposes the peace process and Oslo Accords. As the combat and missile capabilities of the Gaza Strip (GS) developed, where more than 60 thousand fighters are based, having now a three-war expertise with Israel, and as the strip has stood steadfast while facing the 12-year Israeli-enforced blockade, it is now considered a resistance base and a global inspiration. This is in addition to the high performance of the resistance in WB, despite the great difficulties it faces.
3. The continuation of the anti-Israel popular, Arab and Islamic environment: and Israel’s failure to become a natural entity in the region. Most normalization attempts with Israel remain within official circles and are imposed on the people of the region. This means that any regional change reflecting the aspirations of the people will return Israel to square one, surrounded by a hostile environment, which—in case the power balance developed—will become in the medium to the long term a “serious threat.”
4. The peace process crisis: Throughout the past period, Israel has succeeded in managing the peace process to its benefit, however, its governmental arrogant and greedy behavior has blocked the way for any “reasonable” agreement, within the standards of the pro-peace Palestinian and Arab parties. Consequently, the failure of the peace process would open the door for the Palestinian people to reunite in choosing the resistance and annulling past Israeli gains.
5. The continuation of foreign threats, including the “Iranian threat,” the resistance forces in the countries surrounding Palestine, and the chances of new wave of revolutions in the region, are all strategic threats to Israel. In addition, the pro-resistance popular environment is considered strong in the countries surrounding Israel, and in other Arab and Muslim countries.
6. The Israeli society crises: The Israeli society has been able to absorb immigrants from more than one hundred countries, speaking dozens of languages, and it has also been relatively successful in managing their differences. However, there are some gaps in this society that may widen, especially when security and economic conditions deteriorate, and consequently there would be a growing desire to leave the “Promised Land” to better places. Furthermore, there are real differences regarding the eastern and western origins of the Jews, and regarding belonging to Israel, and religious and secular affiliation. There are as well widespread manifestations of corruption and disintegration, a desire for a life of luxury and pleasure, in addition to the fact that the quality of the Israeli “fighter” has deteriorated, and “Israel’s establishing generation” has gone.
7. Palestinians abroad have preserved their national identity, and more than three quarters of them are living in the strategic environment surrounding Israel. They have rejected various forms of naturalization and developed institutions and societies that affirm their right of return and the liberation of Palestine.
8. Despite the wide international Israeli influence, there are internationally increasing popular trends that sympathize with the Palestinian right. There is an increasing negative popular impression about Israel even in the US and other western countries. The BDS movement is on the rise, which is a growing concern to Israel.
In general, the state of power of the Zionist project is unprecedented, but the challenges and risks it faces are big and real, and they may even start to counter the balances in the foreseeable medium term. (Al-Zaytouna Centre, Beirut)