Israel Cannot Protect Itself with Airpower Alone

Sept. 9 2019

In an in-depth report on the Jewish state’s grand strategy, the scholars at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security argue that “the most important challenge facing any government in Israel is nurturing cohesion in Israeli society.” They also caution that, at present, “high-risk military operations, dicey diplomatic gambles, and ambitious territorial changes” are unlikely to be worth the dangers that accompany them. In particular, “unilateral Israeli withdrawals in the West Bank will not enhance Israel’s security nor improve its international standing.”

So far as military preparedness is concerned, the report criticizes the IDF’s current doctrine of relying on airpower and precision missiles combined with extensive intelligence, which has failed to bring any decisive victories. While the patient containment of Hamas may still be the best strategy for dealing with Gaza, Israel will have to return to its older doctrine—sending ground troops deep into enemy territory—to deal with the graver threats posed by Iran and its proxies, not to mention the unforeseeable dangers that could arise in a notoriously unstable region:

In most clashes [with Hizballah and Iranian forces in Syria], a deleterious dynamic has repeated itself. At first, Israel successfully launches a salvo of firepower based on accurate intelligence gathered over a long period of time; then follows a decline in the quality of targeting intelligence with an attendant reduction in the number of targets that justify a strike; a recovery by the enemy and a continuation of its attacks against Israel; Israeli frustration, leading to attacks on targets with high collateral damage or on useless targets; an immense effort to acquire new quality targets, which can lead to an occasional success but does not alter the general picture; a prolonged war campaign, leading to public anger and frustration; and a limited ground-forces maneuver, not sufficiently effective to bring the enemy to the point of collapse.

Consequently, a return to combat along more traditional lines is inevitable in cases where a ground campaign, aggressively pursued, will render better results than air activity. In such situations it is necessary to maneuver into enemy territory to locate and destroy enemy forces—or to capture them, thus undermining the myth of the self-sacrificing jihadist “resistance.” . . . Only a determined ground effort can break the spirit of the enemy. . . .

Should Israel neglect the capacity to maneuver, its enemies will conclude that Israel’s ability to harm them is limited. Indeed, some of Israel’s enemies today believe that Israel’s fear of ground warfare and its unwillingness to suffer casualties suggests weakness in Israeli society. To restore deterrence, Israel must not shy away from convincingly demonstrating its capacity to carry out a forceful ground offensive.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: IDF, Iran, Israeli grand strategy, Israeli Security

When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount