Should Israel Become a Maritime Power?

While Israel’s navy tends to be quite good at what it does, its activity is limited to preventing arms shipments from reaching Gaza, patrolling the country’s Mediterranean coastline, and defending against attack from the sea. Now a group of American and Israeli experts has argued that Israel should develop a true maritime strategy to insure the security of the global shipping routes on which its economy depends. Haviv Rettig Gur explains the importance of the issue in light of the changing U.S.-Israel relationship as well as the American retreat from world leadership in general and from the Middle East in particular:

For a country like Israel, the U.S. is not just an ally, it is a world order. Its navy serves as the de-facto global coordinating and enforcement institution that ensures the security and safety of maritime commerce—a fact of overwhelming significance to a country like Israel, which carries on almost no trade across its land borders and transports 99 percent of its foreign trade by volume via the sea. . . .

[I]t is this America, . . . as it reassesses its capacity and desire to bear so many of the world’s burdens, that is increasingly turning to Israel as an anchor of stability and prosperity that can help mitigate, at least in the limited scope of its regional reach, the fallout from U.S. disentanglement. Can Israel shoulder a larger share of the burden of upholding the global order on which its own safety and prosperity rely? . . .

An upgraded Israeli maritime presence would act as a force multiplier for [the U.S. navy], and vice versa. And that means the two navies must learn to work together far better than they have in the past. . . . The benefits of [greater cooperation] for Israel are obvious. For one thing, ensuring the security of gas fields [off Israel’s coast] gives Israel unprecedented energy independence.

China and India, [meanwhile], may seem out of reach of Israel’s current navy, but these two eastern powers are quickly becoming vital to Israel’s future prosperity. . . . Yet maritime routes eastward pass within striking distance of an increasingly assertive Iran, not to mention Somali pirates and other potential pitfalls for Israeli shipping. If Israel’s economy comes to depend on eastward commerce, it does not stretch the imagination very much to believe that Israel could find itself deploying a meaningful naval force . . . to the Indian Ocean. . . .

Meanwhile, the permanent U.S. naval presence in the Mediterranean, the report notes, has shrunk drastically since the end of the cold war. . . . In other words, there is more at stake here for Israel than mere strategic clarity. The world is changing, and [Israel’s] ability to secure the sea is becoming increasingly vital.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: IDF, Israel & Zionism, Israeli grand strategy, Naval strategy, U.S. Foreign policy, U.S. military

Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy