Should Israel Become a Maritime Power?

Sept. 6 2016

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

In the Aftermath of a Deadly Attack, President Sisi Should Visit Israel

On June 3, an Egyptian policeman crossed the border into Israel and killed three soldiers. Jonathan Schanzer and Natalie Ecanow urge President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to respond by visiting the Jewish state as a show of goodwill:

Such a dramatic gesture is not without precedent: in 1997, a Jordanian soldier opened fire on a group of Israeli schoolgirls visiting the “Isle of Peace,” a parcel of farmland previously under Israeli jurisdiction that Jordan leased back to Israel as part of the Oslo peace process. In a remarkable display of humanity, King Hussein of Jordan, who had only three years earlier signed a peace agreement with Israel, traveled to the Jewish state to mourn with the families of the seven girls who died in the massacre.

That massacre unfolded as a diplomatic cold front descended on Jerusalem and Amman. . . . Yet a week later, Hussein flipped the script. “I feel as if I have lost a child of my own,” Hussein lamented. He told the parents of one of the victims that the tragedy “affects us all as members of one family.”

While security cooperation [between Cairo and Jerusalem] remains strong, the bilateral relationship is still rather frosty outside the military domain. True normalization between the two nations is elusive. A survey in 2021 found that only 8 percent of Egyptians support “business or sports contacts” with Israel. With a visit to Israel, Sisi can move beyond the cold pragmatism that largely defines Egyptian-Israeli relations and recast himself as a world figure ready to embrace his diplomatic partners as human beings. At a personal level, the Egyptian leader can win international acclaim for such a move rather than criticism for his country’s poor human-rights record.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: General Sisi, Israeli Security, Jordan