The Administration’s National Security Strategy Shares Much, but Not Everything, with the Israeli Outlook

December’s official document outlining the overall U.S. approach to matters of security and international relations incudes a relatively short section on the Middle East. Shimon Arad analyzes the section and its implications for Israel:

In a distinct deparure from the perspective of the Obama administration, the document does not view the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a major cause of the region’s problems. Nevertheless, the strategy reaffirms the Trump administration’s commitment to facilitating a comprehensive peace agreement, which it believes can serve the wider interest of promoting a favorable regional balance of power by increasing Israeli-Arab cooperation in confronting common threats. . . . [It also] breaks from the previous administration’s perception of Iran as part of the solution to regional instability, instead squarely defining Tehran as a major contributor to the region’s problems. American leadership is [now] working to contain and roll back Iran’s malign influence and nuclear ambitions. This is a primary Israeli interest. . . .

The strategy also marks a clear change in the way the U.S. administration understands Israel’s place in the region. Gone are the assumptions held by previous administrations that support for Israel comes with high costs from the Arab world, and that resolving the Palestinian conflict is key to improving U.S. standing in the region. This opens the way for Israel to play a more substantial role in advancing American interests in the Middle East. . . .

The Trump administration’s perception of Russia and China as global power rivals [also] needs to be appreciated by Israel at the regional level. While this perception is not far off from Israel’s own assessment of Russian and Chinese involvement in the region, Jerusalem must ensure that its dealings with these powers are transparent to, and coordinated with, the U.S. administration.

From Israel’s perspective, a major gap in the strategy is the lack of any reference to Hizballah. Though [it is a key instrument of] Iranian influence, Hizballah has developed into a significant regional player in its own right. The U.S. needs a clear policy toward Lebanon that explicitly addresses Hizballah’s domestic power and foreign interference.

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More about: Donald Trump, Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy, US-Israel relations

No, Israel Hasn’t Used Disproportionate Force against Hamas

Aug. 15 2018

Last week, Hamas and other terrorist organizations in Gaza launched nearly 200 rockets and mortars into Israel, in addition to the ongoing makeshift incendiary devices and sporadic sniper fire. Israel responded with an intensive round of airstrikes, which stopped the rockets. Typically, condemnations of the Jewish state’s use of “disproportionate force” followed; and typically, as Peter Lerner, a former IDF spokesman, explains, these were wholly inaccurate:

The IDF conducted, by its own admission, approximately 180 precision strikes. In the aftermath of those strikes the Hamas Ministry of Health announced that three people had been killed. One of the dead was [identified] as a Hamas terrorist. The two others were reported as civilians: Inas Abu Khmash, a twenty-three-year-old pregnant woman, and her eighteen-month daughter, Bayan. While their deaths are tragic, they are not an indication of a disproportionate response to Hamas’s bombardment of Israel’s southern communities. With . . . 28 Israelis who required medical assistance [and] 30 Iron Dome interceptions, I would argue the heart-rending Palestinian deaths indicate the exact opposite.

The precision strikes on Hamas’s assets with so few deaths show how deep and thorough is the planning process the IDF has put in place. . . . Proportionality in warfare, [however], is not a numbers game, as so many of the journalists I’ve worked with maintain. . . . Proportionality weighs the necessity of a military action against the anguish that the action might cause to civilians in the vicinity. . . . In the case of the last few days, it appears that even intended combatant deaths were [deemed] undesirable, due to their potential to increase the chances of war. . . .

The question that should be repeated is why indiscriminate rocket fire against Israeli civilians from behind Gazan civilians is accepted, underreported, and not condemned.

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More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, IDF, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict