How Israel Should Respond to the New American National Security Strategy

December 27, 2017 | Amos Yadlin and Avner Golov

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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