How Israel Should Respond to the New American National Security Strategy

Dec. 27 2017

After broadly praising the National Security Strategy recently released by the White House, Amos Yadlin and Avner Golov identify some lacunae—particularly with respect to Iran—that affect Israel, and urge Jerusalem to work with Washington to see that they are filled.

[T]he document . . . does not describe specific steps to convert the administration’s declared strategy into coherent policy. Thus, one source of concern is that [its] approach may not be fully translated into action, and, as a result, Iran will be allowed to broaden its influence in the region further without much interference. This gap will likely be examined in the talks among the various branches of the administration, . . . particularly in the field of military strategy. [Therefore], in the short term, Israel might in fact influence the formation of American policy. . . .

[Jerusalem should work with Washington to] draft a coordinated American-Israeli strategy against Iran that will ensure the implementation of the principles described in the National Security Strategy, while also protecting Israeli interests. This joint strategy should include an agreement . . . that [outlines] principles for coordinated action in the event of various Iranian breaches of the nuclear deal, to which Israel is not a party. Such a “parallel agreement” should guarantee Israel’s independent ability, as a last resort, to stop Iran from crossing the nuclear threshold. . . . In addition, Israel and the United States must coordinate their moves against Iranian threats that are not linked to the nuclear program—particularly the proliferation of terror and weapons in the Middle East, and growing Iranian influence in Syria.

The American response to the Iranian threat as outlined in the National Security Strategy is described in defensive terms: its objective is to neutralize Iranian activity, mainly through a united front [made up of Israel and anti-Iranian Arab states] to create a regional balance of power. In other words, it focuses on curbing Iran and containing the damage it causes, and on cooperating with the pro-American players in the region as a precondition for achieving these objectives.

America and Israel, Golov and Yadlin conclude, must prepare for the possibility that efforts to form such a coordinated regional alliance will fail, which is especially likely, in their view, if Saudi-Israeli rapprochement proves impossible.

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More about: Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israel-Arab relations, U.S. Foreign policy


Maintaining Security Cooperation with the PA Shouldn’t Require Ignoring Its Support for Terror

In accordance with legislation passed last year, the Israeli government has begun to deduct from the tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA) an amount proportional to what the PA pays to terrorists and their families. Last year, a similar law went into effect in the U.S., suspending all payments to the PA so long as it continues its “pay-for-slay” policy. The PA president, Mahmoud Abbas, has retaliated by refusing to accept any tax revenue collected by Israel—raising concerns that the PA will become insolvent and collapse—while insisting that payments to terrorists and their families are sacrosanct. To Yossi Kuperwasser, Abbas’s behavior amounts to mere extortion—which has already worked on the Europeans to the tune of 35 million euros. He urges Israel and the U.S. not to submit:

Abbas [believes] that influential Israeli and European circles, including the security establishment, view strengthening the Palestinian Authority, and certainly preventing its collapse, as being in Israel and Europe’s best interests. They will therefore give in to the pressure he exerts through the creation of an artificial economic crisis. . . .

[T]he PA leadership’s insistence on continuing wage payments to terrorists and their families, even at the price of an artificial economic crisis, shows once again that . . . the Oslo Accords did not reflect a substantive change in Palestinian national aspirations or in the methods employed to achieve them. . . . If paying wages to terrorists (including the many terrorists whose attacks took place after the Oslo Accords were in force) is the raison d’être for the PA’s establishment, as Abbas seems to be saying, . . . one cannot help asking whether Israel has to insist on maintaining the PA’s existence at any price.

True, Israel cooperates on security issues with the PA, but that serves the interests of both sides. . . . The short-term benefits Israel gains from this security cooperation, [however], are of less value than the benefits enjoyed by the Palestinians, and worth even less when measured against the long-term strategic damage resulting from Israel’s resigning itself to the constant incitement, the promotion of terror, and the political struggle against Israel carried out by the PA. Israel should not do anything to hasten the PA’s breakdown, because it has no desire to rule over the Palestinians and run their day to day lives, but it also should not feel more obligated to the PA’s continued existence than do the Palestinians themselves, thereby leaving itself open to continuous extortion.

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More about: Israeli Security, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror