The Influence of Regional Military Threats on Israeli Security
August 30, 2010
The beginning of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks highlights the uncertainties affecting Israel’s security – both at present and in the future. The Burke Chair has prepared a new analysis of the overall pattern of regional threats that affect Israel’s security interest, of which the peace talks are only part.
This briefing is entitled The Influence of Regional Military Threats on Israeli Security: Playing Three Dimensional Chess Without Rules. It is available on the CSIS web site at https://csis-website-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/legacy_files/files/publication/100830_IsraelThreatPerceptFinal.pdf.
It is clear from this briefing that Israel does face security risks in reaching a peace settlement with the Palestinians, and cannot totally disregard the possible threat from moderate Arab states, or from the conventional forces of long-standing enemies like Syria.
At the same time, however, the security risks for Israel in pursuing the peace process are far smaller than the risks of not pursuing it. It is clear that the main direct threat to Israel now comes from non-state actors like Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad; from Syrian use of proxies and asymmetric warfare, from Iran, and from the growth of extremism and terrorism in the region.
It is also clear that these are the main threats to moderate Arab states, as well as Israel. This illustrates the fact that Israel now shares many of the same security priorities as key states like Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. It shows that steps that reduce the tensions between these states and Israel can serve Israel’s deeper security interests as well as those of the US and Arab states.
More broadly, this analysis shows the degree to which Israel, key Arab states, and the US face a common threat from strategic competition with Iran. It may not be possible to create any formal structure of cooperation that reflects this common interest, but it is not meaningful to talk about an Arab-Israeli conflict in the past sense of the term. Another round of low level fighting can always occur, but a major Arab-Israeli conflict is neither probably nor an existential threat to either side. The key threats are Iran’s ambitions, its nuclear program, and threats from extremists and non-state actors.