The past several years have seen remarkable diplomatic achievements for the Jewish state: not only the Abraham Accords, but also, inter alia, close relations with Greece and Cyprus thanks to natural-gas exploration and the IDF’s inclusion in the U.S. military’s Central Command. Eitan Shamir explains how these recent developments grow out of a longstanding Israeli grand strategy set in motion by the country’s first prime minister:
David Ben-Gurion, aware of Israel’s isolation in the region, sought to [ensure] the country’s security by formulating basic tenets that would ultimately serve the country for decades. These included, among other things, a commitment to developing and maintaining Israel’s human qualitative and technological superiority while securing a strong alliance with a superpower. Ben-Gurion believed that through Israeli patience and perseverance, Arab resolve would gradually erode until the monolithic Arab wall facing Israel eventually crumbled.
During this early period, Israel tried to find ways to ease its diplomatic isolation. Ben-Gurion attempted to advance a “periphery alliance” between Israel and moderate pro-Western Muslim countries such as Turkey and Iran, as well as national minorities like the Kurds in Iraq. Israel offered its agricultural expertise to third-world countries in Africa and Asia in a further attempt to build diplomatic bridges. But in view of the confines of the cold war and the fact that Israel was a poor country with little to offer, these attempts came to little. Israel had to rely on its own military power; support from its main ally, France; and more modest support from other Western countries, such as the U.S. and Germany.
But all that has changed dramatically, and the results are precisely what Ben-Gurion hoped for:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu . . . has stated that “a country that exports things that are crucial for the surroundings or for other countries has far more power. . . . Alliances are made with the strong, and in the end peace is made with the strong.”
Israel should give credit to Ben-Gurion’s vision. At a time when Israel was isolated and boycotted, he asserted that Israel could survive if it focused its energy on developing its qualitative edge: science, technology, and above all, its human talent.